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24 March 2007

the gifts we give each other.

red cowboy boots

Every day, I feel blessed.

I have my health (thanks to discovering that I have celiac disease), I have work I love to do (you are reading it here), and I have the love of my life, the most adorable, gentle man I have ever met. How I found the Chef and a book deal in the same year is beyond me. Truly, every day, I count my blessings.

But some days, it seems, are more blessed than others.

Last week, I put up a post about eating a plum. Oh, it was more than that, of course. I wrote about the low-key but vibrant wedding that the Chef and I are planning, and the rings that we found, spontaneously, at Pike Place Market. They cost us less than $40, and we are thrilled. When I wrote that piece, I wrote it from my heart, which was spilling over with happiness. In a particular way, I wrote it for myself, and for the Chef, as a memory of that magic, mundane day. But I also wrote it as a way of giving back, to all of you who have sent us good wishes and come by here every day, to see what we are eating and how we are loving each other. It was a thank you, really.

I had no idea that I would be saying a huge thank you, an astounded thank you, just a week later.

You see, in the middle of that post, I put a link to a pair of red cowboy boots. As I wrote then, "...honestly, it’s not going to be a fancy wedding. We’re going to have paper plates and cups, blankets arrayed on the grass for instant picnics, and bouquets from the farmers’ market. No favors in matching colors, no garter or throwing of the bouquet. The rehearsal dinner will be a barbeque in our backyard, with both families and our closest friends eating burgers and potato salad. The day before, we’re having a miniature golf tournament. There will be no monogrammed cuff links or tuxedos, or matching bridesmaid dresses. I would wear red cowboy boots to my wedding, if the pair I want wasn't so darned expensive."

I have always loved red cowboy boots. There's something so alive, so declarative, so fierce about them. Somehow, when I imagined getting married, I always pictured myself in red. It's my color, the color of blood and laughter (you should see my cheeks after a belly laugh) and passion and life and summer flowers and everything that is vibrant and alive to me. I love red. But when the Chef asked me to marry him, he asked if I would wear white. It's an allusion, you see, to a song we will have played at our wedding. Of course, I said yes. But what about the red?

So when I saw those boots, I imagined myself in them. That's why I put up a link in the post. Because I wanted people to see the kind of day I would have if I could afford those dream boots.

Those red cowboy boots are sitting on the floor behind me as I write.

You see, in one of the most astounding acts of kindness ever given to me, one of you readers bought me the cowboy boots the next day.

I still have the shivers, thinking of this.

She wrote to me (and she has given me permission to publish this):

"Shauna – I LOVED your recent post about your low-key wedding make me smile every day and I think the way you live your life and look at the world is just fantastic.

However, as a soon to be published writer of a gluten-free book and a [former] teacher, I realize that in our society you are not blessed with monetary wealth to the degree that you should be. If you were paid in an amount that directly reflected your value as a person and the beauty of what you create, you would be richer than you can imagine....It pains me to think that someone who gives so much should have to marry her sweetheart wearing anything other than the exact shoes that make her heart sing....

Enjoy them on that day (if you want to) and for years to come. I felt all warm and smiley and excited just thinking about doing this … I got the idea when I read your blog entry today and followed the link … and from the excitement I felt I knew that I just had to do this for you. It made me so happy to give you something, because you never ask for anything from your readers, you just share and share and create more and more beauty each day. Here is the universe bringing something back to you. You deserve it.

Someday I will come up with my sweetheart and dine at the Impromptu Wine Bar and say hello.

Take Care,


It has been a week since she sent me this email, and I still have not found the words. Astounded? Astonished? Dancing with pleasure? Humbled? Thrilled to my toes? Those aren't even close.

It grew even more difficult to convey my gratitude when I found out what Kristin does for a living. I assumed that she had some extra cash, a comfortable life with lots of spending money. (Those boots were expensive!) But that's not the story, either. You see, it turns out that Kristin is a policewoman. A uniformed cop. And she tells me that I am not paid what I am worth? My goodness.

Goodness. Maybe that's the only word for all this.

There is such goodness in this world.

Thank you, Kristin. For the rest of my life — at my wedding, on the book tour, on our honeymoon in Italy, and all the adventures yet to come — I will be wearing those red cowboy boots. And every time, I will be telling the story of your kindness.

And as you might imagine, those of you reading, I have invited Kristin and her sweetheart to our wedding. The Chef immediately agreed. I hope that she will be dancing with us in July.

Thank you.

* * *

One email like that would be more than enough for a day. However, I put up that piece, I received a bombardment of beautiful comments and an equal number of lovely letters. That day, I did nothing but read and sit at the computer, open-mouthed. Truly, I don't know what to say.

One, in particular, however, left me sobbing. The following letter has changed my life, in ways I cannot (nor will not attempt to) explain. I know that, if you read it, this letter will change your life too.

The author of this letter has chosen to remain anonymous, but she has given me permission to print this.

Please, read this letter. Not all gifts come wrapped in boxes. Sending this to me was one of the kindest acts this writer has ever performed. And she didn't even know it.

"Hi Shauna,

I came across your blog when doing research for a friend diagnosed with Celiac, around the time you started writing about the Chef. I keep coming back because of your love story, and the amazement you describe when you talk about your relationship with the Chef, resonates so deeply with me. I just feel compelled to let you know that I know that feeling. I don't have the way with words that you do -- but I want to try to explain -- I just feel compelled to, I hope you don't think that's odd!

My first taste came when I met and fell in love with Mike -- a man who made me laugh so hard my ribs ached, and who had a way of looking at me that made one eye crinkle up and it made me melt. I swear I fell in love with him and knew I'd marry him on our first date -- at a quiet cocktail lounge in the West Village. I remember sipping my drink (an apple martini -- how 2000!) and listening to his stories and his jokes... I had never been so content to listen to someone talk about places I'd never been and people I'd never met. And then he stopped short -- midsentence -- and said, "I talk too much." I laughed -- no, no -- keep going. And he said, "I want to know everything about you... tell me your story." I eeked out a few awkward basics, and for each one, he greeted it with such acceptance and wonder and he made me feel like anything I had to say about where I came from and where I grew from was important, and sacred... funny and meaningful.

That was in early 2000. In June of 2001, we returned to that same cocktail lounge and he proposed to me. Of course, I said -- "yes." (but no tatoo, thank you!)

In September of 2001, I lost my wonderful Mike in the terrorist attacks in New York... 5 months before we were to be married. I have no words to tell you the feeling of that day, and the days and weeks and months following. After a routine morning -- a leisurely walk with the dog together (what a crystal blue day it was), a latte enroute to the subway, a quick and rushed kiss goodbye to make it to work on time -- and I was alone, and Mike was gone.

Acquaintances sometimes have a strange curiousity about my story, although they'd never ask questions of me for fear of hurting me, I suppose. Sometimes I just wish they would; because it helped (helps) to talk about him. Instead, they would ask my big brother, and he has become the narrator of my story, it seems... recounting that day and my panicked phone call to him (when I could finally get through.) The way he walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (against the sea of people walking away from the city) to find me and help me... and the way I collapsed on the sidewalk after having to call Mike's parents to tell them he had not been heard from. My brother picked me up out of my crumpled, crying heap and almost chanted, breathless and shaky, in my ear, "You are strong. You are strong. You are strong."... over and over ... because, as he remembers, he had no idea what else to say and it was the first thing that came to mind. After all, what do you say to your little sister when something so unthinkable has shattered everything, and you are the only one there in the moment to pick up her pieces?

He and I walked the city and checked every safe list, every makeshift triage, every hospital.... strangely, I don't remember this at all. I don't remember where we went, or what I saw or who I spoke to. I don't remember coming back to my apartment that night... but I do recall sitting on the couch, staring at the muted TV, while my brother made all the phone calls I could not bear to make.

My brother called our parents to update them because I couldn't... sitting near him I could hear my mom's wail come through the phone. I couldn't bear to speak with them myself just then... I couldn't bring myself to listen to my own father cry upon hearing that his 28 year old daughter was likely a sudden widow -- before she even got married. That Mike -- the one he could talk sports with, the one who liked to help with the yard, the one who brought good beer when he visited, the one who asked him for my hand in marriage "as any good guy should out of respect to a father" -- was probably gone.

I do remember in the days and weeks after, there was an almost magnetic attraction between people who had lost loved ones. I would be on the subway, lost in my own thoughts... when someone would put their hand on my arm and say, "Who did you lose?" The lump in my throat would make it difficult to speak; and I would just say, "Mike." I'm sure they were looking for a response that was some label -- brother, friend, husband, co-worker.... but to me, Mike was Mike.

Mike's remains -- fragments, really -- were identified with DNA taken from his toothbrush. That toothbrush that had seemed so symbolic and meaningful the first time he left it -- made him a fixture in my apartment and served as the first suggestion of permanency between "us." Soone after he left it there, "my" apartment became "our" apartment.

I couldn't bear to be there. My best friend took an unpaid leave from her job in Atlanta to come and move in with me for a month. She slept in my bed with me just so I didn't have to feel the emptiness of "his side"... she walked my dog when I couldn't gather myself enough to get dressed... she force fed me nutritious food and quite honestly, even completed my work for me so that I wouldn't lose my job, which believed I was "working from home" for a while. When I received the phone call about Mike's remains; and allowed my mascara-ed tears to ruin her shirt. She helped me synch with her deep breaths when I thought I would choke crying... "In... and out.... in... and out... that's it, Aim..."

She took half of what I was carrying saying, "it's not as heavy if we both carry some."

Have you ever known such a gift? It is humbling.

Eventually, I was able to function -- almost normally on the surface. But as you can probably imagine, I spent the next couple of years post-9/11 grieving profoundly... trying to understand why, missing Mike terribly... trying NOT to allow fear and grief and anger to make me less amazed at the world around me, what it offered, and what I could offer to it.

In 2003, I was slowly moving on, but quite certain I'd never find what I had with Mike. I would "settle", I decided, for dating... for working... I bought fabulous shoes and acted all Carrie Bradshaw...

And then... I met Matt in December of 2003. He changed everything.

Everything you write about the Chef is how I feel about Matt. And, how I felt about Mike -- and how I thought I'd never feel again when I lost him. How incredible, how amazing... that I was blessed with this feeling twice.

To sum up Matt is so hard.... one way to describe him is to tell you how he reacted to being with someone who'd experienced the loss I had. He never thought twice of the framed picture I have of Mike and I in my apartment. He allowed me to talk about him -- ASKED about him sometimes, even. He came to dinner with me when Mike's parents were in town. He remembered his birthday, the passing of our "wedding date" that never happened... he allowed me my space, my memories, and my grief. He suggested that a candle be lit and a prayer be said in Matt's memory on our own wedding day. He is patience and compassion personified.

In a way, it reminds me of the acceptance you felt when the Chef recognized, acknowledged your need to be gluten-free. It was a sense of taking me "as I am", and seeing what I could offer despite (or maybe because of) everything.

He helped me realize that loss doesn't mean you don't love again. And that the "second gift", so to speak, doesn't have to be any less sweet, surprising, wonderful, as the first.

Sometimes, in my dating days, it felt as if everyone I went out with treated me with kid gloves... afraid I was too fragile, too broken... maybe wishing I'd get over it already... hoping they'd be the one to help me forget and move on. Matt never required that I "forget" or "move on"... only that I live in the moment with him. Rather than treating me like I was the "young and frail almost-widow", he treated me like a strong, capable woman who had overcome a lot and was still positive... still looking to love and be loved... still able to be open, and still able to live fully.

Sometimes Matt will look at me in a way that wraps me in warmth and acceptance and kindness... he makes me feel equal, whole... with him, I was never damaged goods... and to boot, he has a really cute British accent. :)

It seems silly for me to share all this with you. But I guess your posts about the Chef -- and today's about your planning your wedding -- made me remember. Made me think. And made me so grateful for the gifts I've been given that I needed to share. The way that your posts make me well up with joy and recognition made me want to tell you that I KNOW, gosh do I really, really KNOW the feelings you describe. There was a time when I never thought I'd know them again, and now I do...

And, we are expecting our first baby -- due in September. If that doesn't make you amazed with the world, I don't know what would....

I wish you and the Chef all the happiness in the world as you celebrate the incredible gift of each other."

There are no words.

Thank you.

buttermilk currant scones

Buttermilk Currant Scones, adapted from The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook

Daily, I am astounded by the generosity of this community. The mere existence of food blogs is a beautiful gift. How else would we be able to peek into each other’s kitchen, grab a whiff of baked goods, and gather ideas for our own meals? Without food blogs, we would have to buy cookbooks, all the time. My wallet, alone, thanks you all for doing the work you do.

A few weeks ago, I checked The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook out of the library. Filled with fascinating recipes, this book is a compendium of great ideas from some of the country’s best bakers, including our own David Lebovitz. Every page intrigued me, including recipes for warm pear tart, five-spice angel cake, and applesauce gingerbread. I was so excited by the idea of chocolate budini — a flourless Italian pudding — that I showed it to the Chef, and he promptly put his own version of it on the March menu. Reading a book like this may seem like cruel torture for someone who is gluten-free, but it is the opposite. Whether we use gluten-free flours or all-purpose white, we are baking. And in many ways, I feel like a far more creative, involved baker now than I did when I could just dump some wheat flour in a bowl and go from there.

Even before I went gluten-free, I had never attempted scones. They felt too daunting, a task for a more experienced baker than I considered myself. Now, I don’t let anything stop me. In fact, I awoke one Sunday morning, read the paper with the Chef in bed, and then turned to him and said, “I’m going to go make us some scones.”

After eating these, he said that he felt blessed.

Buttermilk Currant Scones

1 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1 cup almond meal
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup cornstarch
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup currants
several pinches of turbinado sugar

Combine all the dry ingredients together and stir them well. Sift them into a large bowl. Set aside.

Cut the butter into small pieces, dropping the pieces into the flour mixture as you cut. The pieces should be no larger than your thumbnail. Once you have cut all the butter, combine the butter pieces and dry ingredients with a pastry fork (or your fingers). Once they are all blended well, and the mixture feels like bread crumbs, then you are done.

Combine the buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid in. Slowly, stir the liquid in a counter-clockwise pattern, from the center out, until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet. When everything feels combined for the first time, stop. Add the currants.

Put the dough into the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. This is important.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Take the scone dough out of the refrigerator. Divide the dough in half with your hands, and then divide it again, until you have a ball about the size of the palm of your hand. Flatten the ball, slightly, and shape it into a scone-like shape. (That might mean something different to each person.) Sprinkle the top with a bit of turbinado sugar, and put that scone onto parchment paper (or silicone mat) on top of the baking sheet. Repeat until you have finished with all the dough.

Slide the baking sheet into the heated oven and bake the scones for fifteen to eighteen minutes. (In our oven, it was more like eighteen.) The scones are done when you can put in a toothpick and have it come out clean, as well as when the top is warm and browned. Allow the scones to cool for about five minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes about eight scones.


At 12:31 AM, Blogger Cerebrum said...

Wow. To all of that. Shauna, you are blessed - and you deserve it.

At 1:42 AM, Blogger Beccy said...

Shauna, I'm delighted you got your red cowboy boots, what a lovely gift. I hope Kirsten can make it to your wedding.

As for the other letter, it made me weep but it is good to see something strong and positive come out of such pain. Thank you to you and the writer of the letter for sharing it.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger MappyB said...

Cheers to the spirit you'll have in your red boots! What a generous gift.
Thank you for posting the second email, I wept through half of it and am amazed at the strength and support of those around her during her tragedy. Cheers to the blessings she has been given as well. Thank you.

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Mrs. G.F. said...

*sigh* Beautiful, emotional, and amazing. Both of those emails. Comments aren't enough, but that is all we can do.

I guess this proves the point, you get back what you give out, tenfold.

(And, of much lesser importance, the scones. My mother-in-law taught me her own recipe, this might give me the courage to try and change them to gluten free...they were so good.)

At 7:03 AM, Blogger nika said...

I too am one of the weeping ones (I am sure your making people all across the world cry right now :-).

I am so thankful that person shared her story and that you posted it.

I am thinking of her today.

Kristin is obviously a very special person that is real and connected in a way that enviable. Most of us just read and internalize without acting.

At 9:37 AM, Blogger terry said...

wow. i'm just speechless over all of this (well, not the scones).

beautiful. absolutely beautiful.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said...

What great stories - both of them! I also just wanted to say bravo to you on the wedding plans! We were planning something similar - casual, picnic style in a park - but we wound up just eloping. To Whidbey Island actually, though we live in San Diego! Thanks for sharing - all of it, and congratulations!

At 12:53 PM, Blogger beastmomma said...

Just wanted to say ditto to everything that has been said.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Emily said...

See - there is the universal law at work. I'm so happy that 1)something so sweet happened to you and 2)that your writing elicits such strong emotions from your readers.

People want to say food is just food and it isn't. Look how it brings such unlikely, happy things together.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Jean Layton-GF Dr. Mom said...

You have done it again. Once more I was sitting at my computer crying as I felt the loss of that beautiful widow. May your boots bring all your happiness into focus on your wedding day.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger celticjig said...

Sometimes it takes someone else's emotions to let mine come out. Thanks for sharing. I think I have stopped crying now. It makes me even more grateful for the man that fell into my lap last summer. Make sure you break those boots in before the wedding!

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Christan = ) said...

**sniff, sniff**
That was just beautiful, totally beyond words.

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Bengali Chick said...

Shauna, I can't stop crying. I feel blessed to have found your blog.

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Tea said...

You're right, my friend, there are no words besides "thank you."

Thank you, and your two amazing readers, for sharing such stories. It is inspiring to read about such generousity, strength, compassion, love, and ultimately hope.

I'm a big believer in red shoes, as you know. May your new ones take you wonderful places.

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Stargirl said...

Stunning. That is the only word I have for this piece. Thank you.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I was thinking about posting a thank you for your lovely blog today anyhow, but after today's post I had to say something.

My husband is allegic to soy and what you write speaks to me and the road we have taken to make him healthy. That was the original thank you. Thank you for letting us know that we are not alone.

Then, there are your lovely posts about your love. Which reminds me of my husbands and mine. Your post today had me crying, from both emails.

Live life to the fullest with the Chef and in your red boots. Thank you so much.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

A book tour ?!? There is going to be a book tour ?!?!? I can't wait ! Please come down the west coast to Santa Barbara ! You know you have a free place to stay. I would be honored to show you my city.

And once again, you're welcome.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Lynn Barry said...

Pay it forward...what a beautiful gesture of unconditional loving friendship. The best kind. HUGS PS thanks for sharing.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger nicole said...

This is such a wonderful story!

I love that you are so experimental -- out of necessity, of course, but also out of creativity. I realized recently that one of the reasons I started getting into cooking/baking at a young(ish) age was because my dad, who had high cholesterol, went on a mostly fat-free diet. He loved sweets, so I adapted many recipes to accommodate his lifestyle -- and found that I had so much fun challenging myself.

Also - you must go to Tuscany when you're in Italy! I ate so well there, and it is so, so beautiful. Plus, the wine.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

And I just finished reading that amazing letter. Wow. I knew it deserved some time and thought, and I was in a hurry last night, so I saved it for today. I disagree with the writer that she doesn't have "your way with words" - I felt everything that she wrote just as I feel the love in your posts. Dear Letter Writer from NYC - if you are reading this - thank you for sharing your story. It was beautiful and poignant and deserved to be told. I am a better person today for having read that story, just as I am after my daily dose of Shauna.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

What a great post! YAY for the boots too.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Victoria said...

Oh, wow. I'm sad to admit that I lurk here, often coming to read your post when I need renewal, and sometimes when I just want to marvel at your capacity for finding joy in simple things.

The second email you posted quite simply took my breath away. It gave me hope. This past summer, my best friend lost the man she was planning on marrying, and while she does okay on most days, I can still see the sadness and grief she carries with her, and I don't know how to help. This email proved to me that the future will bring sweet gifts, and that I just have to be strong for her when she can't be strong for herself.

This website brings me such happiness and I'm glad that there are people out in the world like you. Thank you for sharing yourself.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Saint said...

This was an amazing read. You are such a giving person that a reader gave you a beautiful gift. The gift of thanks, surprise, those beautiful red boots. What spirit she has to give, and you'll feel wearing those boots. You go girls.

The second email, well, I had to stop half way through to wipe tears, but by the end I was smiling because of newfound love and happiness. Very inspiring.

I wish happiness for you all.
Thank you for sharing

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I have those exact same wonderful boots! Okay, so mine aren't red but JUST this morning, when I put on my black Lucchese boots, I said aloud that that was perhaps the best $400 ever spent on footwear. (If yours are under $300, either the Zappos price is a steal or mine were overpriced!) My boots were a gift, too, from my sweet guy, who understood I'd never splurge like that. I wear them ALL the time -- jeans, interview suits, skirts, dresses, leggings, tights, anything except shorts or PJs -- and am grateful every time I slip them on. May you enjoy these boots even more than I have, with the emotional connection and memories you'll make from wearing them as you walk down the aisle. Your donor has given you a beautiful gift!

Like so many of your other readers, I too have sniffled through several of your recent posts. I love your gratitude, your appreciation and your joy. Thank you for writing and continuing to blog and share your ever-evolving, unfolding-like-a-flower-blooming life with all of us.

Will you post the recipe for chocolate budini?

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Liz said...

My goodness. How wonderful to look down at those boots on your feet, in good times and bad, be reminded of kindness in the world and love in your life. AMEN, baby!

As for the other email, it gives a single gal such SUCH hope that things will someday fall into place.

At 4:09 AM, Blogger madre-terra said...

I am not the wordsmith. I am speechless. My fingers don't know the way to the keys that convey the sense of love and respect I have for your blog community.
I have been amongst the negative and down-sayers of the internet. I have been convinced since it's origins that it is the 'love lines'.
A blessing on your boots...those boots were made for walkin'.
A blessing on Kristin. My heart is swollen with her kindness. To give with such abandon and joy...I'm in a state of bliss.
A blessing to Aim from NYC. I was weeping uncontrolably. Life's pain and beauty told so eloquently.
I can never just stop at your blog, Shuana. I always think that I'm going to pop over and see a great photo of food, read a fun recipe, catch up with hearing about a life in Seattle. At first I came back because I am living in NY when I really want/need to home on Lopez Island where I belong. I loved hearing about Seattle, a happy life there. It kept me going in a way. Now I come back because you are my drug. I am drawn like a moth to light. I am drawn to read and feel love, lust, tenderness, beauty...all the emotions of life.
What goes around comes's the love lines.
Wow...'thanks' just doesn't quite sum it all up.

At 5:32 AM, Blogger Di said...

Hello Shauna, just wanted to say I love your blog and check it daily for updates. I want to wish you and the Chef every happiness in the world as you truly deserve it...and thankyou for sharing so much of yourself with us all. Also the letter made me stop and think so much about how lucky I am to have a wonderful husband and two georgeous boys who love me and I love them. I really admired her strength and wish her so much happiness in the years ahead.

I live in Melbourne Australia and am a member of the Australian Coeliac society. Our latest journal had a great article about travelling in Italy and gluten free dining and I thought of you as I read it today so thought I would share some of the info with you.

The article states Italy is a breeze to find gluten free food in compared to other European countries. Apparently there is huge awareness of Coeliacs over there as they have two high profile coeliacs, an actor and a TV presenter and they have both spoken out about their condition.

Pharmacies are the place to go for gluten free food. Many restaurants will prepare gluten free food for you, and many pizzerias will bake a gluten free base if you give them a days notice so they can make at start of day when the kitchen is clean to avoid contamination. The Aust Coeliac society provides cards in different languages so when you travel you can show the card to the waiting staff so they fully understand what you can and cannot eat. They are fantastic and I can recommend them.

Our Society does a wonderful job of keeping us informed about developments in research, promoting awareness of Coeliacs and providing info on new products and services. The website is
Apprently the Italian coeliac society also has a website with lists of restaurants, foods you can purchase etc. I have not checked it out as my Italian is not what it should be (non existent actually!) Hope this is of some assistance to you both as you look forward to your trip. I too am a huge Jamie Oliver fan and have his Italian cook book. At them moment here in Oz we have his new TV series called Jamie at home. He grows everything in his garden and then retires into a little "shack" to cook up devine meals. It is beautifully filmed and makes you want to rush out and cultivate every piece of dirt you can see and turn it into a vegetable garden. Looking forward to hearing more about the big day....

At 5:33 AM, Blogger Les said...

What a beautiful post. The kindness of strangers just blows me away. A couple of years ago I would've been so surprised by this act of generosity, but during the past two years my husband & I have experienced numerous acts of kindness during our time of grief after losing a child. There are just so many giving people out there, it's truly amazing.

The letter from the young woman is both unbelievably heartbreaking and beautiful. What an inspiration to those who have felt such sadness and to those who want to know how to help those who grieve. To her, thank you for sharing something so deep and personal. It touched my heart.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger s'kat said...

Words can't express the crazy see-saw of emotions that this very intense posting has caused.

I'm happy and sad and glad, all at once. Thank you, thanks to Kristin, thanks to Anon.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

PS - An idea for you: Are you going the "something old/ new/ borrowed/ blue" route for your wedding day? Still need something blue? Break out the navy Sharpie and scrawl on the soles of those beautiful boots something like "I do" and your wedding date.

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Soul Kitten said...

Hey Shauna!

Where do we send wedding gifts?

Let us know!!

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Kristi said...

What an amazing story from that second writer. She moved me to tears with what she wrote.

I'm so glad you were able to get your boots. What a generous gift from someone who serves her country with her job. I hope Kristen is able to come to your wedding.

Thank you for your post today, it really makes people thankful for what they have.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing those letters and your life with us. This posting made me cry twice because of the wonderful people in this world and also because of those people who have taken so much away from us.

I wish you and everyone a lifetime of joy and happiness!

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna, how touching and wonderfully kind of her to buy you the boots. For me, as a Country music fanatic, I just know you'll look stunning in them!

I enjoy reading your blog daily as it makes me smile and think. Sometimes our priorities get all mixed up. When I read your blog it reminds me that I should be thankful for all of the blessings in my life. I wish you many years of happiness with the Chef.....

At 8:50 AM, Blogger caroline said...

Ok, there's one thing I don't get: how did Kristin know your shoe size??

At 10:02 AM, Blogger talida said...

Shauna, that was a beautiful post. Very, very touching.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Chef Jeena said...

Hi there, nice blog - like the red boots too :D

visit jeena's kitchen healthy recipe blog

At 1:10 PM, Blogger TheGirlCan'tHelpIt! said...


You have accomplished something truly breathtaking: A site about love. Love of food; love of who we are, and what we do and how we have to choose to live.

I think you are an amazing human being and a magnificent lady. And I hope your new friend whose post you shared realizes that she is honest, and strong and gloriously human in her own right as well.

It takes a certain woman to pull off red cowboy boots. I’ve had mine for about 10 years, so I do know!

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone. I am as amazed as you are — at the gift of the red boots, as well as that devastatingly beautiful letter. I am also, as always, amazed at this community.

Since someone asked, I have to say — oh yes, I will definitely be wearing the red boots to my wedding. And yesterday, I found the dress. I couldn't help but grow a little happily weepy at that.

Julie, I'll try to make the budini and take photographs. There is so much food to be eaten around here!

Liz, this time last year, I was the single girl, approaching 40, just on the verge of giving up forever. You could not have told me my life now and convinced me it would be true. We should all hope.

Di, thanks for the info on Italy. Everything I am hearing from people is pointing to what you said: we should have a manageable time of it. (and the trip itself will be more than manageable!)

julie (II), That is a brilliant idea! I told it to the Chef, and he loves it too. Thanks to you, I'll be dancing on blue ink at my wedding.

Soul Kitten, Thank you so much for thinking of us. I really couldn't put up the address or even ask for gifts. I'm so blessed by this already. If you really compelled, we will be grateful. You can email me, if you want.


Oh heavens, she sent me a gift certificate from Zappos and let me choose my own size! (The first pair I ordered was in a 9.5, half a size bigger than my regular size. But they were just a bit too tight. I'm waiting on the next size up. I'm sure they will come!)


Thank you. My goodness, thank you.

And to Kristin, and to the beautiful woman who wrote the second letter —

a thousand blessings upon your heads, perpetually.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Lisa-Marie said...

Thank you, thank you. The beauty of the story of courage, hope and renewal you just gave to me is a jewel beyond belief. I work in a clinic where I have several young people who cannot seem to find hope at times in dealing with their ESRD...would you mind if I shared parts of your inspirational blog posting with them? May you kick up your heels in your red boots for many years to come Lisa-Marie

At 4:08 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This is the first time I've left a comment, though I read often. I had to check in and leave a comment here today. I read this post on Friday in my office with tears streaming down my face. I didn't have it in me to write anything then. It stayed with me all weekend. It's so great to feel such love circulating in this world. Your new red boots are kickass and you deserve them. I'm so happy for you.


At 12:28 PM, Blogger Tevis said...

I only just read this post for the first time today and it more than touched my heart.

It is so inspiring to know that there are such amazingly lovely people in this world. People who are so giving. People who are so strong and can come out of pain with the same passion for life as before a horrible experience. All of these things make living worth it.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to write this, maybe it's because reading this post moved me, brought back memories, or just because I understand. I understand how lucky we are when someone amazing brings light to your world. When love really does inspire.

I met M about three years ago at a wedding. He was there with his girlfriend and I was there with my single friend as his "datless date." We were always each others wedding dates because neither of us were dating anyone. Anyway, I remembered M and remembered how much fun he was, what he was wearing and how funny he danced. I saw him the following summer at a concert that his band was playing and we went out on our first date the following Thursday. It was Feburary and he took me out to get banana splits. While my nerves prevented us from having good coversation, it was still more than memerable. I remember him asking me what movie I would watch at home if it was snowing out. I responded with Annie Hall. I didn't know then, but that is one of his favorite movies. Two days later (on Valentines Day) we realized that we had been spending all of our time together and realized that we were dating.

It's been over two years now, and honestly, I can't believe it. I remember dating this boy in high school and he wouldn't hold my hand because I had these horrible rashes on the palm of my hands that were caused by Celiac. It made me feel so unloved and horribly self concious about how bad the rashes would get. Now, M holds my hand every day and even kisses them when they break out from me accidently eating wheat.

He inspires me more and more each and every day. To understand how to eat gluten free, and still eat well. How to explore my creativity. How to learn to play the accordion (don't ask me how he did that, but he has).

Anyway, I have no clue why I'm telling you all of this, and why it's nothing near eloquent. I think it's because those beautiful red boots represent life, love, hardships and everything that we deserve in life. Whether we know it or not, we are all beautiful red boots. We only get better with love, age and adventures.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Miss Bliss said...

Like Beccy said, those letters to you also made me cry! How wonderful is it that technology allows us to find one another and connect?

Blessings to everyone...

We truly are blessed!

At 8:41 PM, Blogger petite américaine said...

I was going to leave something funny about the boots, having spent many years in cowboy boots working with horses (definately break them in before the wedding, but don't over-do it!); I love funny comments and making people laugh. I hope you enjoy your boots on your wedding day. I would just love to see pictures.

But then I read that letter. Thank you. Thank you both so much for sharing. None of us are perfect, none of us are unblemished or unscarred. The world is too cruel and humanity too unkind for that to be possible. But thank you for the reminder to love and cherish the beautiful things & people that God has for us in this life.

I'm going to go tell my husband I love him now. Good night.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Stacey Morris said...

Scones! I can have scones again! Thank You. Being g-free has truly changed my life. I'm not celiac but I AM down 150 pounds. Yes, that's how damaging the g-word is. Great blog ♥

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Kim Blair said...

I can hardly wait to try these scones. I really miss being able to eat the tea biscuits from my Mom's recipe.
Thanks for sharing.


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