Watermelon Baskets & Family time {Naturally Gluten-free}

It's been a couple months since my last blog post and for that I apologize. Rest assured, I have not forgotten about my faithful followers! I want you to know that you can access me at any time if you have a question about certain allergy or dietary restrictions. Feel free to contact me via email, on Facebook or Twitter and I will respond as soon as I can!

There are a few reasons I have been absent from my blog lately. Firstly, we had a nice visit with my parents and Grandma who drove up from Florida (my special guests in today's video!). It was a little chilly for them, but we did manage to have some day trips and had a nice visit with them (more pictures to follow).

Family at Gregory Drive Alliance Church
My last post focused on our new adventure with homeschooling which continues to be a wonderful, but certainly time-consuming task to say the least! And since that post we've added another passion/responsibility to the mix...I accepted the position of music/worship leader at our church! Music is such a huge part of total worship and lyrics set to music stick with us in a way that nothing else in this world can...it's an integral part of worshiping with our fellow Christians. Between preparation and rehearsal time, it has added a good amount of extra work to my already full schedule, but because it is a passion of mine, it has already been so fun working with my pastor, the singers and musicians each week. Yes, I feel inadequate. Yes, I get stressed at times, but I know God is with me and all involved, I have the full support of my family through encouragement and prayer and I can't wait to see what God has in store as we move forward! I'm sure there will be more on that later, but if you don't hear from me on here for larger spans of time, you will know why.

Ryan, Kaiden and Kaleb ready for the Maid of the Mist!
To round out our Summer months, we had some other visitors from Florida...our nephew, Ryan along with his Mom! They always try to take a summer vacation together and this year their plans brought them to Niagara Falls. Since we're only a few hours away, we joined up with them and had a really nice day doing some of the special things everyone should experience when visiting that beautiful area! For our dinner that night, we ate at Spicy Thai, this amazing little "hole-in-the-wall" restaurant in St. Catherines, just a short drive from Niagara Falls. The restaurant itself isn't much to look at and the neighborhood looked a little sketchy at first, but the food was delicious! They provide a completely separate Gluten-free menu and the server (while a little over the top on personality...to put it nicely) was very knowledgable about what we could eat. I highly recommend this place if you are in the area.

Finally, we had a last-minute trip down to Chicago in October to meet our adorable new little nephew, Kenton. The boys decided that instead of a big birthday celebration, we should instead take the time to spend a weekend with their Uncle Kyle and Aunt Hannah and, of course, get LOTS of cuddles from this new little bundle who made his appearance in September of this year. Uncle Kirk sure knows how to make a good "baby burrito"...he's still got the touch! Kirk and the boys baysat so that Hannah and I could have a nice morning out for tea and visiting. It was so nice to get to know my sister-in-law a little bit better and, as you can see, the boys really enjoyed their job! Before we headed home, we had the privilege of visiting the church where Kyle is an associate pastor, Golf Road Baptist Church. He did a fantastic job leading worship that Sunday and it was great to see him in his element. You would never know it from the picture below, but Kaleb had been sick all Saturday night...he's such a trooper!

Meeting Baby Kenton for the first time and getting quality time with new parents, Kyle and Hannah!

Just a few months back we celebrated Kirk's 39th with this family-favorite dessert and the birthday celebrations continue! Once we move into the Autumn months, that's when our own little house gets busy...both our boys have their birthdays in October and November and yours truly's day is in November as well. I almost gave birth to Kaiden on my birthday...he was supposed to be a Christmas baby, but due to some complications there at the end of the pregnancy, we had to induce and he was born a week after I turned 28. I just celebrated birthday number 38 which means...you guessed it...Kaiden turned 10 this year! SO very hard to believe. Since my family was here in September we decided to celebrate both boys' birthdays a little early and share with you the birthday tradition I grew up with...the Watermelon Basket! I hope you enjoy watching this video, starring my parents, making what I looked forward to each year as we gathered with family to celebrate.

Large ripe Watermelon with a bit of a flat side so it will sit well (you can always "grade" it with a knife to keep it from rolling around)
A large Knife that doesn't bend
A Sharpie Pen
A "Melon Baller"
An assortment of your favorite fruits, balled and/or cut up

-With the Sharpie, mark out your guide. Make sure to give yourself room to tweak your design.
-Using the knife, begin cutting in the middle and around the side edge of the basket and reserve the cut sections for melon balling. Leave the handle for last as you don't know what your rind will be like. (A thinner rind will call for a wider handle so it doesn't break)
-Finish carefully cutting around your guide and fine-tune any edges.
-Use the melon baller to scoop out under the handle and throughout the rest of the watermelon. Feel free to use this on any other melons you are serving.
-After scooping out all melon balls, return them to the watermelon basket alone or with some of the other fruit. Adding the other fruit can give a nice colorful finished display!
-Arrange all your different kinds of fruit with serving spoons and allow each person to design their own fruit sundaes and then enjoy!

When I was young my brother and I had a wheat intolerance and my diligent mother was also trying to give us a good healthy start in life by keeping the foods we consumed free from refined sugars, milk, artificial colors and preservatives. Therefore, in our household growing up, a treat was most likely a bowl of fresh fruit!

The watermelon basket was born out of my parents' desire to make this treat a little extra special for our big day. Like I said in the video, tradition is what YOU and your families make together! The watermelon basket and fruit sundaes were our tradition and our extended family was very happy to join in. Of course, most people associate a cake with their birthday celebrations. but what if you or a family member has an intolerance or allergy? Or a VARIETY of allergies? How do you still make their birthday celebration special? The simple answer is, whatever you prepare, just somehow make it special. I guarantee your family member will appreciate it even if it's not necessarily "the norm."

Do I look excited???
I happen share my birth date with 2 other family members, and while some might find it hard to share, we rather enjoyed having this special bond. My Great Grandpa, William Meier was born on November 11th way back in 1891! In 1951 my Aunt Lois was the very pretty special birthday gift for Great Grandpa (So special that she named her son after him) and then along I came in 1975 to finish off the trio.

Aunt Lois, me and Great Grandpa Meier. William (Lois' son) on the left.
Oh my word, I had such fly-aways! Mom always called them "Trixie Curls."
Blowing out our candle!
Mom put little candles around the edge of this basket for my brother's birthday.
Dad, always helping!
Every year was pretty special when our birthdays rolled around, but in 1991 we had a week-long celebration with friends and family. You see, somehow we managed to have three milestone birthdays that year...my Sweet 16, Aunt Lois' 40th and Great Grandpa's 100th! Great Grandpa always had an amazing sense of humor and an even more amazing memory...he could talk about things from his childhood, give details about his first car, recount some of the inventions he saw in his long lifetime...I loved spending time with him. That birthday in 1991 would be the last one we shared on this earth because soon after, he developed prostate cancer and the Lord took him home in the Spring of 1992. My 17th birthday was a little bit sad in his absence, but the memories are always there. I am thankful for the time we had with him as I know it's pretty rare to have a great grandparent around for that long. I hope my boys understand how blessed they are to still have 2 great grandmothers still living.

Frances Meier and Rita Babkirk, age 93
My parents and grandma have already arrived back to the warmth of Florida. My Grandma had wanted to have one more trip up to Michigan to visit her "baby brother" and some other family, but before that they spent a week with us here in Chatham. The boys were so excited to have the visit and I was really happy that Grandma got to see our home. Her knees are pretty bad so her time was spent on our main floor, but that didn't keep her from playing some rousing air hockey matches with her 2 great grandsons! She shows no mercy and the boys really enjoyed taking her on!

Ok, getting back to the watermelon basket...

Happy Boy! Kaleb LOVES his watermelon!!!
You can serve the fruit up by itself in little fancy bowls or you can add anything your family prefers. Because my Grandpa Meier was diabetic we usually had our Banana Pudding on hand and if there are no dairy or nut restrictions in your family to consider, feel free to add ice cream with nuts on top! Make them yours...make it YOUR tradition and have fun with it!

Fruit Sundaes!
I have several friends and acquaintances who must feed themselves and/or their children well, while avoiding not just one, but several ingredients. There's one little girl in particular I know who cannot ingest gluten, eggs, nuts or soy! Honestly, the nut thing really throws me when it comes to ingredient alternatives. We are a pretty safe house when it comes to healthy eating, but we are definitely NOT a nut-free home! There are so many delicious eats you can create with certain nuts, such as almonds and cashews, (like replacing flour in these Zucchini Brownies!) but it's also a very serious allergy and one you don't want to mess with it! The watermelon basket is a fairly easy and special tradition to adopt for someone with a variety of dietary restrictions. Of course fruit allergies exist as well, but just avoid the ones you can't have and enjoy what can.
(My mom happens to have an unfortunate allergy to apples, but she enjoys all kinds of other fruits!)

You can also cut into the basket edge and make your own design...be creative if you have the time!

hope you enjoyed this "recipe" and that you incorporate it into your family celebrations, whether for a birthday or other exciting time of the year. I really appreciate all the times my parents made this for me growing up and I just might try it on my own sometime soon. :-)

Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and encourage others who may be struggling with dietary restrictions to do the same.

Treat yourself well,

Do you share your birth date with any other family members?
We share many! Aunt Lois' daughter, Jennie, shares a birthday with my Mom...we just swapped! Mom and Lois have an older sister, Karen, who adopted triplets and their birthday was the same as Grandpa Meier's. Our little niece, Chloe shares a birthday with my brother and their day is just one day after her brother, Cameron's birthday and a day before Kaleb's. Yeah, Autumn is a busy time. :-)

Have you adopted any birthday treat traditions that veer from the traditional birthday cake?
Kirk has the Berry Trifle as his birthday treat, Kaiden usually has an ice cream sandwich cake (which I had a huge fail on this year...kids can be amazingly gracious), and last year Kaleb had a strawberry shortcake cake! Kaleb is very happy with strawberries...Kaleb is basically happy with ANY fruit!