Lorena Allende likely doesn't consider herself a scientist, but the pastry chef at the Eye Candy Bake Shop in Geneva conducted some life-changing experiments for a St. Charles mother and her daughter who are both fighting Lyme disease.
It's almost impossible to put odds on the possibility that a mother and her daughter would be bit by ticks and contract Lyme disease -- years apart. But that's the situation that Heather Holmes and her 9-year-old daughter Kennedy were facing.
Realizing that the bacteria of Lyme disease likely feeds off certain ingredients in food, Heather turned to Sweet Natalie's gluten-free bakery on Third Street in Geneva to see if there was any way her daughter could have birthday treats without getting ill.
"She wanted her daughter to have a regular birthday," said Allende, whose Eye Candy Bake Shop operates as a co-op at Sweet Natalie's. "It's not something I would usually do, but I said I would experiment with different products and if they were happy with the results, I would bake something for them."
Keeping sugar, gluten and dairy out of the mix was important, based on her conversations with Heather. But it went deeper than that.
"There are a lot of hidden ingredients in sugars and vanilla, and they would feel it right away if there was an ingredient they should not eat," Allende said. "If they eat something that has sugar, they could be down for weeks not feeling well."
After a few days of research and a couple days of trying different recipes, Allende came up with something that worked. "They will continue to order from me for the rest of their celebrations," she added.
It was a batch of safe baked goods and promising news all rolled into one for the Holmes family.
"We tried for years to get the perfect cupcake, at times with our kitchen feeling like a laboratory," Heather said. "It was tough and discouraging, but Lorena's talent and love came through for us in what was a real struggle."
It was icing on the cake, so to speak, to have something go right. Heather was diagnosed with Lyme disease five years ago after finding a tick on her leg after an outdoor wedding reception in Galesburg.
But that experience helped her realize that the symptoms her daughter was exhibiting were similar to her own. And she recalled that she had taken a tick off her daughter's back two years earlier after she had been playing in a park at Fisher Farms in Geneva.
"She developed the bull's-eye rash and had it for a few days before it disappeared," Heather said. "We didn't put the two together at the time."
She views the work of Allende and Sweet Natalie's owner Ilene Davis-Keivel as "something worth more than gold for our daughter's golden birthday."
And that was gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free cupcakes and Turtle candies.
"They were delicious," Heather said. "It took extra effort and a big-hearted shop and pastry chef, but they did it."
Noticing those patches:
It's always interesting to see what sort of items in this column will trigger unexpected responses. But readers sure seemed interested in the fact that small cornfields still exist amid residential and retail properties in this area.
In recently mentioning the corn patch that is behind the Costco Warehouse in St. Charles, readers were quick to point out that a couple of fields still exist along 14th Street and near the Walgreens at Bricher and Blackberry roads at the St. Charles-Geneva border.
That rang a bell. I can't always remember specific details about things I have written about in the past, but it turns out that in 2008 I wrote about the fairly large cornfield at the corner of 14th Street and Lincoln Highway.
A fellow named Jerry Anderson and his family farmed that property for years, and it's a small portion of a field that used to extend all the way north to what is now the Davis School area.
Of course, the Anderson family had to sell part of its farmland to developers in order for the Carriage Oaks independent senior living center to be built along 14th Street.
In checking out that other parcel behind the Walgreens years ago as well, it had a Batavia Enterprises sign on the property in an area zoned for residential or commercial use.
Another reader pointed out that there is corn on both sides of Williamsburg Drive where it runs into Fisher Drive in Geneva, and another suggested that it makes sense for some property owners to keep small cornfields in place in order to keep a real estate bill much lower as "farmland" until they develop it.
For healthy food:
When cancer strikes a family, some of the basic routines you took for granted most of your life go by the wayside. One of those is making sure you are preparing a healthy meal for yourself and the family.
Fox Valley Food for Health realized a long time ago that this is a significant problem, so for the past five years the organization has provided healthy meals for those suffering from a serious illness, as well as their family members.
To make it all work, of course, takes money. Organization founders Susan Leigh and Mary Fremgen and a cast of volunteers are hoping to expand the number of meals Fox Valley Food for Health can offer.
To do that, it is hosting its first Harvest Moon Dance from 6 to 11:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at Eagle Brook Country Club in Geneva.
Cost for the event is $150 per person, with tables for 8 or 10 being available.
Tickets, available at foxvalleyfoodforhealth.org, include cocktail hour with open bar and appetizers, a gourmet seasonal sit-down dinner made using recipes from the organization's kitchen, a raffle and live auction. Otto Music, a Chicago dance band, will play songs from the 80s to present.
Fox Valley Food for Health says it has served more than 30,000 free meals to more than 250 individuals and families affected by cancer or serious illness. The organization has also enjoyed an increase of twice as many meals served from the previous year, with hopes of increasing that by 40 percent this year.
Even though it was blazing hot last week, members of the Sugar Grove Methodist Church worked through it in volunteering to spiff up the Sugar Grove Library.
The library is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, so it was fitting that church members gave some sweat equity in power-washing the building; sanding and painting the bike rack; washing and waxing the teak lawn furniture; pulling weeds, trimming bushes and spreading mulch.
The effort was not lost on the Sugar Grove Library Friends, who sent out notices thanking the church for its efforts.