Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I should be writing some deep, reflective post about the past year, or how to host an amazing gluten- free gathering. But let's be honest. This year? Not my favorite. So instead of waxing poetic about the delightfulness that is overhauling your life, I'm going to go don my ugliest sweater, lay out some yummies for my friends, and get ready to ring in 2013, (gluten free) drink in hand.

Happy New Year to you all. I can't wait to get back to regular posting soon!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Ho, ho, ho! Happy "Awkward Week Between Christmas and New Year." Hope Santa/Hanukkah Harry/Flying Spaghetti Monster was good to you.

1. I hosted my first Christmas this year. Consequently, it was the first large-scale gluten-free meal I had to prep. I didn't remember to take pictures, but it was yummy, everyone loved it, and I didn't get sick. We just won't talk about the couple of meltdowns it took me to get the meal on the table. Now I just have two more events to host until I can pack up my apron and go into hibernation for a while.

2. Thanks to Marlow at Gluten Hates Me for organizing the Blogger Secret Santa. I got some nifty gifties, several of which I'd never gotten to try before. Plus, I got to pick out some of my favorite GF stuff for my giftee, too.

3. Luke brought me into this decade by gifting me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I am looking for some fun suggestions for games and apps, so let me know if you have anything you love. So far, I've used it as an e-reader ... but mostly I've been playing the logo ID game. Not sure what that says about me. 'Merica.

I'm going to try to get a post up about entertaining before New Year's Eve, but if I don't - Happy New Year to you all. This past year was a bit of a dumpster fire, and I appreciate you all out there, bloggers and readers alike, who made it easier. Let's make 2013 awesome, yeah?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gluten-Free Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I'm going to apologize in advance for the lack of cookies at my house this year. Being celiac and all, real cookies have no place in my house, and let's be honest, if I'm springing for 'spensive gluten-free alternatives, I will be snarfing them myself. Sorry. I thought about leaving you some chocolate, but it turns out I ate all of that. It's the thought that counts, though, right?
Anyway.
I like to think I've been pretty good this year, relatively speaking, so I figure I'm a shoo-in for the nice list. And not to sound like an ingrate, but I've spent the past month politely declining food-based gifts from well-meaning acquaintances, and I'm growing tired of opening presents I can't have. You can only decline so many kolackies before you want to hide in the bathroom and ugly cry. My guess is there are some other celiacs out there feeling the same way, so here's a few suggestions to make their holiday merry.

1. Clearly I wish for world peace, health, goodwill, yada yada yada. But what I really want? A high-tech breadmaker. Just think of the money I'll save! No more $7 loaves of bread ... I can make my own for the bargain price of ... $6 each.

2. Since I am sure the sleigh comes equipped with a freezer, if you could snag some Udi's pizza crusts, that would be swell. They cook up crispy and light, and they fit so nicely in the freezer to grab whenever you forget you need to make dinner. Add some Classico pizza sauce and some fresh mozz, you're golden.

3. For a spa day without the pesky spa, you can confidently gift your gluten-freers with Nourish body products. They've got all sorts of lotions, body polishes and the like. They're gluten-free, organic, vegan and cruelty-free (bet the reindeer love that).

4. While we're on the topic of beauty, you can give anyone, gluten-free or otherwise, ANYTHING from Red Apple Lipstick. Seriously. Anything.

5. For celiacs in certain cities (San Fran, Des Moines, Dallas and Chicago, I'm looking at you), you can give the gift of knowledge. And swag. Lots of swag. Just pre-purchase some tickets for the Gluten & Allergy Free Expo. Makes a great stocking stuffer.

6. Hugh Jackman. Just because.

7. For those of us rocking the celiac pride (yaaaaay intestinal-based autoimmune disease!), you could order us all these shirts. Then we can get together like any well-dressed street gang and dance-fight against toast. Oh, real gangs don't dance fight? Are you telling me that what I see on Broadway isn't real?

8. RumChata. Lots and lots of RumChata.

9. All the Chocolate Chex you can fit in your sack.

10. This one's a stretch, but since you are magical and everything, maybe you could sprinkle some Santa dust on restaurant owners and chefs to make them understand what "gluten free" really is. And if they don't want to cooperate, could you just have Donner and Blitzen leave a nice, warm giftie on their stoops?

So, for me and all those other, hard-to-buy-for celiacs out there, keep this check list handy. And if you're feeling generous, maybe stuff our stockings with some Whole Foods giftcards, because this gluten-free crap ain't cheap. And if all else fails, coal is totally gluten free.

Hugs,
Alissa

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Three Things Thursday

I hope you'll pardon my lapse in posting this week. I had plans to work on a gluten-free letter to Santa post, but after the terrible tragedy in Connecticut last week, I just didn't feel right blogging about the holly and the jolly. Instead, I spent a lot of time with the people I love, because, man, life's short.

Anyway.

1. If you are looking for a tasteful, gluten-free way to celebrate the Mayan-foretold End of Days tomorrow, might I suggest these delightful little Chex noshes? They are easy to make, and who doesn't love a little ancho chile with their chocolate?

2. To anyone in the path of Winter Storm Draco, stay safe and warm. And, you know, play some Quidditch of something. But like I told a co-worker, if you see the Dark Mark in the sky, we're probably all already hosed.

3. No list of Christmas specials for you all this week. Just know that last night involved a lot of Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation and Rumchata. We've got a lot of holiday viewing to get caught up on this weekend. I'm thinking mimosas and A Very Brady Christmas are on the docket, stat. And no, alcohol consumption is not required for holiday merriment. But ... it helps.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Mazel tov, homies. It just so happens it's Hanukkah season. And even though I'm not at all Jewish, I dig celebrating everyone's holidays (just wait until Boxing Day). To get my Hanukkah on, I'm sporting some lovely dreidel-print socks and driving my car on empty, in hopes that I have enough gas to get to and from work today (maybe that last part is more because I'm lazy).

1. I've discovered the secret to drinking more water. Festive holiday themed tumblers. Seriously. Why would you want to drink out of a plain ol' glass when you can have hope, joy and mirth right at your finger tips. Bonus if the straw is reminiscent of seasonal candy or medieval bloodletting.

2. 'Tis the season for cookie exchanges, and since I don't have an army of GF flours at the ready, I looked to an easier option. Check out Immaculate Baking Company's gluten-free chocolate chunk cookies. They are certified GF, dairy free and available all over the place. In the past week, I've found them at Wal-Mart, Jewel, and Target in the Chicago-land area. They taste pretty dang good, and even my gluten-eating friends have enjoyed them. At my Wal-Mart, they run less than $4 a pack and make a dozen cookies, so I think they are well worth it.

3. We're questing on with our holiday film/television extravaganza. Here's what we've watched since last Thursday:
12/7: The Santa Clause (I cannot believe that this movie is almost 20 years old. Yeesh)
12/8: Elf ("Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?")
12/9: Garfield's Christmas (yep. Big orange cat who loves lasagna. Not gluten-free friendly)
12/10: Michael Buble's Christmas Special (can I just say, every holiday should have a Michael Buble special)
12/11: Die Hard (Yipee ki-ayyyy, Mister Santa - or, at least, that's what it says in the edited version)
12/12: Mickey's Christmas Carol (this was one of my faves when I was a little girl. So glad to see ABC Family has decided to air it.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why the University of Chicago is Made of Win, Part II


I must've written and deleted about a dozen versions of this post. For one thing, all medical stuff just sounds jargon-y and boring, and if you wanted legitimate scientific information, you probably wouldn't go looking for it from a blogger who is seriously considering getting this as a tattoo:
"Hi, I'm Stabby the Cupcake. Watch as I destroy your intestines with a smile. No sprinkles, no mercy."
 Another reason? While my visit to University of Chicago was informative and hopeful and awesome and all that, in a lot of ways, it's "To Be Continued ..."

Let me explain. Back in the early fall, I went from feeling pretty fantastic to feeling like a big ol' pile of yuck. So I did what any normal human being would do: visited my good friend Web, M.D. (he's not a doctor, but he plays one on the Internet). And because everything on the Interwebs is true, I immediately determined I had several new, incurable diseases. So I panicked. And by "panicked" I mean I followed the same routine every day: Drag self out of bed, go to work, drag self home, sleep for 11 hours, do it all again. And I never dreamed of doing something so base as consulting an actual physician. After all, I was eating gluten-free, taking ridiculous precautions at home and when we ventured out, and I swapped all my personal grooming products. So I figured, maybe this is as good as it gets.

My darling husband thought otherwise, and he, um, ever so gently encouraged me to schedule an appointment with the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. His reasoning was pretty sound - when you have the best hospital in the world for celiac research essentially in your back yard, it's just plain stupid to ignore that. Plus, I've had a special sort of love for University of Chicago since they sent me a delightful basket of goodies shortly after my diagnosis. As I can easily be convinced into just about anything with Chex and Ian's cookie buttons, I called the center to schedule an appointment ... and got an amazing opportunity.

 The fine folks at University of Chicago asked me to be a part of the preceptorship program the center does. As a librarian and former journalist, research is important to me. Plus, I will talk to whomever will listen (and most people who won't) about celiac disease. This was essentially an invitation to see some of the best CD professionals in the world while at the same time waxing poetic about the importance of advocacy and change. Heck yes, I'm there.

 Luke and I, being the consummate suburbanites that we are, both took the day off work to spend in the city. We figured we'd be in and out of the hospital, and planned on doing some shopping before grabbing dinner. What we didn't expect was a full afternoon of talking with medical professionals (and giving a few vats of blood, but more on that later).

My first appointment was with Dr. Sonia Kupfer and her team of preceptorshippers (sounds like a '60s doo-wop group, right?). I knew right away I was going to dig Dr. Kupfer. She let me do most of the talking for the first part of the appointment, and she just took notes and listened. Not in that "uh huh, uh huh," distracted sort of half-listeny way that I'm used to - she was working through all the things I was saying. Occasionally, she and one of the other professionals would share some knowing look, which I took to mean that what I was saying wasn't unheard of. The preceptorshippers all got to ask questions. I answered as best as I could. We talked for over an hour. It was comprehensive and amazing and I am no closer to having any answers than I was before I went. Well, I suppose that isn't entirely true. Dr. Kupfer ordered some more blood work (done on site. That day. Unprepared Alissa was unprepared). I have to have a DEXA scan done, to see if I really do have the bones of Betty White. And I get to go for the dynamic duo of excitement that is an endoscopy/colonoscopy double feature. We've narrowed my new symptoms down to a couple of things, from a possible secondary autoimmune disease to something as simple to fix as a vitamin deficiency. Hopefully when the blood work comes back in the next few days, I will know more.
The highlight of my visit with Dr. Kupfer wasn't so much getting any new information as it was helping to create new information. In addition to letting the preceptorshippers study me (and yes, I am a complicated, complicated woman), I donated some blood to a research study Dr. Kupfer is leading, as well as participating in another study the center is conducting. Seeing as I think my years of schoolin' are done, this is probably going to be my greatest contribution to science (unless someone wants a lab rat for a study involving chocolate and mood elevation. I am so there.)

I ended my day with dietician Lori Rowell and her team of preceptors(?). I was fully expecting a lecture on the dangers of Pepsi and Hershey's Kisses as meal replacements, but Lori seemed to have a firm grasp on reality. I told her about the horrible experience I had with the holistic nutritionist, and how I feel morally obligated to consume as many delicious animals as I can, while also emotionally eating my way through the gluten-free cookie offerings of Whole Foods. Other than some likely vitamin deficiencies (probably more the result of years of absorbing NO nutrients, rather than my current *ahem* diet), she didn't have too much to correct for me. Being slightly OCD, too smart for my own good and a professional information-gatherer has benefitted me, and I have a really good handle on eating gluten free, what to avoid and what passes for safe. Instead of getting lectured, I really feel like Lori and I had a two-way conversation where we both came away with some new information. 

While I really don't have any concrete answers on why I could medal at the napping Olympics, or why all of a sudden my joints have aged 90 or so years, I still consider it an incredibly successful visit. I laughed, I cried, I promoted the bejeesus out of my blog. I got to advocate for this zany community of food freaks. I met medical professionals who are genuinely interested in learning more about how to diagnose celiac, and more importantly, how to treat patients with the disease by doing more than telling them to "stop eating pasta, and you should be fine." And I got to see first-hand how invested in finding a cure (!) the folks at University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center are (pretty invested - their Web site is www.cureceliacdisease.org).

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, and you live in Chicago, I highly suggest it. Or, if you are feeling pretty generous this time of year and looking for a good cause, visit their site and make a donation. If nothing else, follow them on Facebook for some great Q & A, and a chance to network with other wacky celiac-ies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three Things Thursday

I should have called this "Tree" Things Thursday, because today? I am obsessed with my Christmas trees. That's right. Trees. Plural. There's just something about the glow of a thousand tiny twinkle lights reflecting off of glittery dinosaur ornaments that sets this old sentimental's heart aglow. That or maybe I have had too much RumChata. Either way.

1. Speaking of RumChata, if you haven't ever sampled it, you probably should do that right now. Added into hot chocolate it is a delightful winter libation. And the best part?

2. 'Tis the season for joy, mirth and ... cookie exchanges. Anyone have any no-fail, delicious and yet oh-so-gluten-free recipes? I'm talking, cookies you can share with the normies?

3. After last week's post about doing a holiday special or movie every day in December, I had a couple people ask what the schedule was. So here's what we've been viewing so far:
December 1: The League, Season 2, "Kegel the Elf" (unrelated, The League is seriously one of the best shows on television. So freaking funny, in the most obnoxious way.)
December 2: Iron Chef America Holiday Battle: Gingerbread (Seriously, I have a Food Network addiction.)
December 3: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (No explanation needed.)
December 4: History Channel's The True Story of Christmas (It was surprisingly less Jesus-y than one would have thought.
December 5: Bad Santa (Because nothing says "Christmas" like a fornicating Billy Bob Thorton,)
December 6: Trading Places