Monday, December 23, 2013

A Very Udi's Christmas

It's two days before Christmas. I'm tired. I have tape in my hair. There's glitter all over my office. I've eaten a metric crapton of Hershey Kisses, and I've seen Home Alone so many times this year that I've started rooting for the Wet Bandits. And I still have to prep and contribute to three family holiday feasts.

But I'm not worried. It could be the steady stream of Rumchata that's flowing through my veins. But mostly, I think it's because Santa came early to my house this year. Sort of.

A few weeks back, Udi's contacted me to see if I'd like to sample some products and see how I could incorporate them into my holiday festivities. I already knew I loved a lot of their stuff, so I gamely agreed. I was expecting some cookies, maybe a loaf of bread or two. What I got was a delightful surprise - a sense of peace of mind for holiday fooding.

Last year was my first Christmas gluten free. We adapted by me making my own "special" food, while everyone else ate the same old delightfully gluten-filled things. This year, with the help of my families, we decided to make everything gluten-free: Christmas Eve at my parents' house, Christmas morning with Luke's family, and Christmas dinner at our place. All of this seemed like a fantastic idea at inception, the closer we got to the holidays, the more skeptical I got.

I was about two days from cancelling all Yuletide festivities when the Udi's shipment came in, saving the day. I no longer had to think about baking from scratch, and I had guaranteed good-tasting food. So here's how I used the goodies, and how you can bring a little bit of normal into your gluten-free holidays:

* Office Parties/Cookie Exchanges: Last week, it was unofficial holiday party day at work. You know. Cookies. More cookies. And then some more cookies. Instead of having the sads, though, I got to share some delightful brownie bites and snickerdoodles. It was great, because I had something to share, but more important, I had something to eat! I'd had the snickerdoodles before and enjoyed them, but the brownies were new to me. They remind me of the little Hostess brownie bites, but, you know, not loaded up in the big G. Not going to lie, throwing those bad boys in the microwave for a couple seconds makes them even better. Fewer of these got shared, and I regret nothing. If you're like me, not a natural baker, Udi's products are a great option for these "bring a plate to share" type events. Plus, in the Chicago area, Udi's products are getting easier to find, and trust me, it's a lot quicker to stop off and pick up a box or two of pre-mades than trying to wade through the chemistry nightmare that is first-time gluten-free baking.

* Brunches: Luke and I have a tradition every year of spending the Sunday before Christmas doing a champagne brunch. It's mostly just an excuse to get day-drunk on Andre while watching Saved By the Bell Christmas special. This year, we capped the brunch off with cinnamon rolls. Full disclosure: My favorite part of cinnamon rolls is the icing, and while I love the Udi's glaze, I *may* have supplemented with some cream cheese frosting. It kicked it up a notch, and also added some bonus calories for fervent gift wrapping later in the day. Because if there is anything we are lacking in December, it's calories.  The greatest undertaking is yet to come - a French toast casserole for Christmas morning. My mother in law has made this for the past few years, and I'm psyched to get to try it, subbing in Udi's white bread for the regular stuff. It's a family recipe I can't share, but it's similar to this one from Food Network. Healthy, not so much, but decadent - oh, so decadent.

* Party Food: We do a nice set-up at my parents' place for Christmas Eve, and this year, the whole sheban is going to be Alissa-friendly, from the mini GF lasagnas to the bacon-wrapped shish kabobs. We needed some easy snackies, too, and while there are a lot of GF chips out there, I was happy to get the new ancient grains chips from Udi's. They have sort of a Sunchips vibe, and I'm looking forward to putting them out as my contribution. I've started sampling already, so I'm sure they will be popular. We're also tempted to make pizzas with the Udi's crusts - a long-time favorite of mine.

The holiday season can be so overwhelming, and I'm glad that there are companies like Udi's to take the legwork out of making gluten-free goodies. Thanks to Udi's, and I hope you all have a delightful holiday season. I'll see you all back after the first of the year. In the mean time, I'll be mainlining coffee and Bing Crosby, and trying not to eat my weight in home-made fudge.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Birthday Edition

Whose got two thumbs and another decade under her belt? This gal! Today I am celebrating my ascent into another age demographic - "dirty 30s". Or "flirty 30s". Or "still eats Skittles for lunch and has more coloring books than a pre-K 30s". Whatever.

So to celebrate my day o' birth, here's three reasons why I'm psyched to be 30:

1. Presents. Duh.

2. I'm an old soul, and thanks to celiac, an old body, too. Now that I'm no longer in my 20s, I don't have to feel bad when I opt for fleece and crocheting instead of stilettos and club music. Not that I felt bad before. I just felt like I should feel bad. But now I am beyond all that youngish adult crap and I can settle into being the old crochety woman I've always been. More yarn, please!

3. At 30, I have a job I love, a house and dog and car that I manage to keep mostly taken care of, an adorable husband who insisted on making me breakfast and buying me boots (#keeper), a couple of degrees in nice frames (that sadly, I forget to dust much of the time), and a better grip on those mystical terms like "health" and "wellness." Truthfully, I'm loads better off than I was when I started my 20s. And it doesn't hurt that I'm surrounded by some fantastic people, both in real life and here on the Interwebs.

 That wraps it up for me today, kids. I've got a tray full of gluten-free cookie bars that aren't going to eat themselves.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Favorite Things, Part 1

So, since it's Thursday, and since it's my birthday month, I'm using Three Things today to rave about some of my favorite things and some of the news they have in the pipelines.

1. Red Apple Lipstick is launching a holiday line of lipsticks, and they need help with naming them. The new collection goes on sale December 2. Also coming in December from RAL? Gluten-free mascara. To say I'm excited is an understatement. Hooray for gluten-free, paraben-free makeup!

2. 'Tis the season to start thinking about holiday meals. And holiday desserts. Mostly holiday desserts, because, let's face it, it's pretty hard to screw up mashed potatoes, but unless you're a whiz in the kitchen, gluten-free pie crust is a beast. Enter Sweet Ali's. Ali and her team saved my holiday season last year with their awesome array of GF treats. We're already compiling our order for Thanksgiving (I'm looking at you, cinnamon rolls and pumpkin pie), and if you're in the Chicago area, you should stop by the bakery or visit them at one of their many tastings.

3. Y'all know I love me some Glen Prairie, and it's a fantastic coincidence that the week before my birthday, they have unveiled their fall/winter menu. Braised shortribs? I'm there. Again, this is for Chicago peeps, but if you are local, please, please, please check this place out. We gotta support the awesome restaurants who are doing GF right - and deliciously so!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween, my little gluten-free goblins. If you're anything like me, you're probably already a half a bag of Reese's cups in by now. Candy for the trick or treaters? If there's any left. Speaking of candy ...

1. The 2013 Gluten-Free Candy List is here! There's a lot of old favorites on that list, from the aforementioned Reese's cups (but NOT the pumpkins) to Charleston Chews. I don't have any littles that trick or treat, but if you do, this is a great resource. Or if you just like candy. Because candy is great. There are few things left off the list that are still gluten-free and awesome, like Justin's peanut butter cups and bars, and Surf Sweets stuff as well. If you're struggling for some last-minute goodies to hand out to kiddos today, instead of reaching for the raisins* (don't be that guy, unless you want your house egged), try handing out temporary tattoos, popular character stickers or some other non-edible (but still cheap) treat.

2. Speaking of treats, for those of you in the Chicagoland area, University of Chicago and Wildfire are teaming up to offer Gluten-Free Restaurant Week next week. They're offering a different night at each of the Chicago-area locations, and the menu looks delish - plus, they offer an option with a wine pairing. Sadly, I'm not going to be able to make it, so if you go, have a glass of wine and some gluten-free mini mac and cheese muffins for me.

3. Finally, if you're still hunting down a Halloween costume, have the sewing skills of an injured sloth, and refuse to have all your ladybits on display, check out some of the great ideas at Take Back Halloween. The site aims to inspire ladies to put down the Slutty Batman costume and turn to history and mythology for some cool, no-sew costume ideas.

* I totally understand wanting to promote healthy eating and nutritious treats. But really? It's one day a year, folks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

... And Then It Was Fall

Holy balls, guys. Did you realize that we're about four days away from November? November. This is, uh, unsettling to me, because it was definitely just July.


I've been scarce around these parts. Don't worry, it's not because I've been out eating scads of Pizza Hut or anything. Things just got a little nutty for a while, between relocating my library, taking a week-long trip to Vegas to see my brother-in-law get hitched, and playing nursemaid to my darling husband, who is now short one thyroid.

So you can see why blogging about food sort of took a backseat.

But I've still been eating - lots. And trying new products. And cooking lots of pot roasts, because that's what fall is about, no?

Here's hoping I can get back in the groove. I missed you guys.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Three Things Friday: Celiac Awareness Day

This special Three Things is brought to you on Friday (the thirteenth, eek!) to celebrate Celiac Awareness Day. I hope everyone is rocking their green today - I know I am.

1. It seems fitting to end National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week with Celiac Awareness Day, because that jerk celiac can be pretty tricky to catch. So tricky, in fact, it's estimated that more than 80 percent of people with celiac haven't been diagnosed yet.With a list of symptoms ranging from digestive to neurological and back again, celiac is hard to pinpoint because there is no such thing as a textbook case.

2. I've said it before, and I'll say it again and again and again: THERE IS NO CURE FOR CELIAC DISEASE. Nope. Not one. The only treatment is a life-long gluten-free diet. But I'm sure you already knew that. So if you're a celiac, and anyone is trying to peddle you pills that will allow you to mow down Pizza Hut again, just keep walking.

3. It can take years for your body to heal once you take gluten out of your diet, and it's not unusual for us wacky celiackies to have nutritional deficiencies up the wazoo. Which is why it's incredibly important to have a healthy, varied diet and take supplements if you need to.

Feel like making a donation to help research a cure? Visit University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center, the  National Foundation for Celiac Awareness or the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Dump a Doc in 20 Years

Break-ups are hard. Even when you know they're coming, and it's your call to end the relationship, it can still feel like a sucker-punch to the gut.

I woke up yesterday to my annual fall sinus-splosion. I'm hoping to stave off a full-blown infection, but it got me thinking that there is an inevitable trip to the doctor in my future. I remembered the request my new general practitioner made of me when I saw her in the spring, so this morning, I did a chore I'd been avoiding for, like, two years.

Today I did the doctor-patient equivalent of handing back a cardboard box of my ex's CDs and sweatshirts. I requested my medical records be transferred, and that I no longer be considered a patient in my old general practitioner's office.

I didn't think I would be this emotional about it, because it's been over for about two years, but a serious, long-term relationship is ending. And that really, really sucks.

I'd been seeing my doctor for as long as I can remember, and basically as long as she'd had her own practice. She did all my school physicals, hooked me up with free samples of meds I needed so I wouldn't have to pay for prescriptions, and once had to flush my ear canals, which brought us to a new level of intimacy. I was often in the office once per month or more, and we joked that she would name one of the exam rooms after me. (Spoiler alert: This should have indicated a problem. Healthy people don't have medical files that read like War & Peace).

But I had seen the signs for a while. The loss of interest. The change in tone. Knowing that I had too much baggage. As her practice grew, it got harder and harder to get in to see her, and when I did make it past the Fort Knox front desk staff, she was more abrupt. At my last appointment with her, as I checked off concern after concern on  my laundry list of health complaints, she looked me in the eye and told me there was nothing physically wrong with me, and that I should consider counseling to work through my hypochondria issues. Yikes. I'm pretty sure that falls under the heading "What NOT to tell patients" in Bedside Manner 101.

I avoided her for a long time, just because I didn't want to hear more of the same garbage, to walk in, be handed a script for antibiotics and a dose of condescension. I started going to the walk-in clinics in Walgreens for allergy and sinus things, and promised myself I would find a new GP.

A few months go by. I still consider myself her patient, still write her name on all my "In Case of Emergency" forms. I danced around finding a new doctor for a while. I knew I wanted to find a closer practice, one affiliated with the hospital within eyesight of my house. I just never got around to it. Building a good doctor-patient relationship is hard, and it takes time, and I just didn't have it in me to hear that I was crazy from yet another medical professional.

In the winter of 2012, my (unknown to me) celiac was flaring so badly that my husband took the figurative bull by the horns and scheduled me an appointment with a new-to-the-area gastro, and presto changeo, I get the diagnosis that likely saved my life. In the almost two years since then, I've assembled a new team of doctors, including a new GP who understands my illness and respects me as a patient. That makes me feel sort of awesome.

What doesn't make me feel awesome is that I've been holding a grudge. I'm not saying I blame my old doc for my celiac, but I do, kind of. I know it's not personal, that she never had some ulterior motive of letting me slowly disintegrate from the inside out. And yet ... I feel like I deserve an apology, but it's one I will never get.

In a way, losing faith in a trusted doctor is like being a kid and catching your mom with her hand under your pillow, trading a baby molar for a crumpled single. It ruins the illusion, breaks the trust.

Today, I took a step toward closure. I feel more than a little stupid for letting it upset me, but then again, I cried for a week after I saw Titanic for the first time, so I guess I'm just a delicate little flower.

I know I'm better off. Just the same, I think I will spend the rest of the day eating ice cream straight out of the carton and listening to Bryan Adams.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Three Things Thursday

All right, I'm calling it. We're officially into September now, so I hereby decree that it's totally okay to start getting our fall on. I busted out my Fryes on Tuesday, because boots, and I've compiled a list of my fall must-haves for this week's Three Things.

1. Because Starbucks likes to play games with my emotions, I've had a really hard time confirming that their Pumpkin Spice Lattes are on the up and up for those of us with wacky celiacky, and rather than let my beloved PSL send me on a fun-filled trip to the ER, I looked for reasonable alternatives. Enter Amoretti. I blogged about how much I love their Pumpkin Spice syrup last year, but let me re-iterate it: It's amazeballs. You can buy it on Amazon for about $12 (and it qualifies for free shipping if you are Prime, which you should be, because it's worth it). It's gluten free, has no artificial colors or flavors, and is Kosher, if you're into that. I put it in regular coffee usually, but it's perfect for DIY lattes, too.

2. I'm probably the only person born after 1950 who has an addiction to candy corn, but for anyone else out there who can't get enough, my gluten-free fave is Jelly Belly's candy corn. While candy corn SHOULD naturally be GF, the bigger companies (I'm looking at you, Brach's) puts the warning out that it's processed on the same lines as wheat, which in my book makes it a no-no. The bad thing about the Jelly Belly stuff is that it's both expensive and hard to find, unless you order it online, but I've also found it at places like HomeGoods and TJ Maxx, so keep an eye out there.

2. This has nothing to do with gluten, but it does have to do with fall, so bear with me - if you are a boot junkie, you probably already worship the artistry that is the Frye Boot Company. But if you can't imagine paying $300-$600 for boots, is running a sale on their Fryes right now. They still aren't cheap, but if you're in the market for a well-made, high-quality boot, you can't go wrong. I got a pair on super-duper sale a few years ago as a present for myself when I finished grad school, and I *still* think they might be the best investment I've ever made, fashion or otherwise. If the hubs and I weren't taking a trip next month, these bad boys would be en route to my house right now. As someone who pretty much lives in leggings and dresses during the fall, I'm always happy to share the boot love.

Anyone looking forward to anything else about the fall?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Here's what's happening this week:

1. After my post earlier this week about getting cross-contaminated at work, I had a lot of helpful responses, here on the blog, in a Facebook support group I belong to, and, probably most importantly, from my boss and coworkers. I had been walking on pins and needles about approaching everyone, because I feared it would make me come off as high maintenance, but everyone was so supportive, and we've put some new rules in place to keep me from getting sick. Which is awesome. I think the fact that I work with a small group of people helps - I honestly can't imaging trying to function gluten-freely in a huge office. I think the fact that I coincidentally brought in some Starbucks freebies for everyone earlier in the day helped.

2. I read an awesome book last week that I highly recommend. It's called Don't Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley, and it's a great read for anyone living with food restrictions. She's got quite the list of (anaphylaxis-inducing) food allergies, but instead of being a whiny trope about how the world should accommodate those of us with dietary issues, she offers a realistic look at how she lives her life. It's funny, frustrating and one of the most sincere pieces I've read on the topic.

3. This has nothing to do with gluten at all, but I recently discovered Archer on Netflix. Needless to say much of my free time this week has been sucked up by it. Damn you, Netflix, and your instant access to things I never knew I'd always wanted. Between that and my Amazon Prime instant view, I'm probably never getting anything done again ever.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Need to Sit at the Allergy-Free Lunch Table

My Facebook news feed and Feedly reader have been inundated this week with back-to-school related posts.

There are tons of posts about what to take as a lunch, how to eat healthy for lunch, how to trick a kid into liking kale for lunch.

But, what about being an adult, working with other adults in a tiny shared space? How do you do it then?

A little background: My library is being renovated, and we've been in a temporary location for going on 18 months (strangely enough, my diagnosis came the week after we moved in). It's a great building, but a lot smaller than we had been used to, and with not a lot of staff space. So instead of offices, we have ... public desks. And instead of a break room, we have a small utility room, big enough for a sink, small fridge and microwave cart. To be shared among a staff of about 20 people.
Back in the winter, around the same time I discovered that oatmeal and I were not meant to be lovers, I also noticed myself getting sick post-lunch at work several days each week. Using my deductive skills (read: obsessive tendencies), I figured out that after I would nuke my lunch in our small, shared microwave, within a couple of hours, I'd be feeling my mild glutening symptoms. I did some research, and apparently, it is possibly to get cross-contaminated by a microwave, so I stopped using it, and I stopped getting sick after lunch every day.

Until recently. I have gotten sick at work twice in the past week. Twice. And, folks, let me tell you, taking up residency in a public bathroom, with the toddlers you read stories to sticking their tiny, wiggly fingers under the door and peering in the cracks while singing "hi, library lady!" does not help the already craptastical feelings that come along with (albeit mild) glutening.

I've been re-tracing all of my steps, trying to figure out how I'm getting got. I'm not using the microwave. I have a Keurig that's shared with a few people, but we all use vetted K-cups, and I clean it before I use it each time. I bring my own utensils, plates, cups, EVERYTHING, and they stay in my zipped tote until time to eat. I *know* the food I am bringing is GF, and there hasn't been anything new I've introduced. I'm at a loss.


I do realize that I share a tiny, tiny space with other people. Other not gluten-free people. Other people who may not intentionally be slinging crumbs from God knows what in every direction, but, um, are. And my co-workers, for the most part, are an incredibly considerate bunch. They bring me Alissa-approved snacks, defend me when I need defending, and one has threatened physical violence to anyone who "tries to give Alissa stomach cancer." They all mean well, mostly, so it makes it even harder.

This isn't meant to sound whiny - I'm genuinely curious on how to approach this problem without sounding like a complete douchecanoe. I'm getting to be terrified to eat at work, and that's just can't happen. I need to take in calories to function.

I know there have got to be other people in a similar boat. So your advice? Much needed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Have you ever gotten so bogged down in food routine that you sort of get sick of eating? We're experiencing dinner burnout in my house right now, which means it's time for us to test out some new recipes. Luke and I have been relying on the old standards a little too much lately, so if you have any AMAZING recipes, please share. In the mean time, here are three good food things we've experienced this week (and I'm not including the Fruity Pebbles that were dinner last night - now with neon colors, so your colon can be seen from space).

1. You know how sometimes you eat something GF, and it tastes so. much. like something gluteny you grew up with that you sorta tear up and have a moment? That happened to me this week with a peach "cobbler" I made. My mom used to make it all the time - very simple, just canned peaches, butter and yellow cake mix. Regular ol' Duncan Hines. It never occurred to me to try it with the GF Betty Crocker mix until Tuesday, and I could tell from the smell, before I even tasted a bite, that it was going to be good. Could have been the nostalgia, could have been the wine I'd had with dinner, but seriously, I thought I was going to cry. For those of you who want to play along at home, here's how to make it.
Step 1: Pour a couple cans of peaches into a well-greased 9 by 9 pan.
Step 2: Dump GF yellow cake mix over the peaches. You want to use the whole box, but make sure it spreads out evenly.
Step 3: Melt a stick of butter and pour over cake mix. Just do it, no one said it was going to be healthy.
Step 4: Pop in oven at about 350 for 45 minutes or so.
Step 5: Serve with ice cream. Eat with face.

2. We got the opportunity to dine at Stephanie Izard's diner-style restaurant Little Goat on Friday, and other than feeling like country bumpkins in what is apparently Hipster Central, we had a great experience. I opted for some GF pancakes, but they have a ton of non-gluteny options, and the waiter assured me that when the order goes in the computer, there are "like six exclamation points" so the kitchen knows to take it seriously. Also, I got to enjoy a smoked pork and toffee milkshake. Smoked pork. Toffee. Milkshake.

3. While moving my baby sister into her big-kid dorm last week, we took a lunch break at Biaggi's, which is easily one of my favorite places for safe, yummy GF dining. While we were waiting for our food (and I happily noshed on the GF flatbread), the chef came out to the table to tell us he'd had an accident. I wondered what manner of accident requires my intervention (is there a reference question that needs to be answered? A picture book that must be read aloud? Dear God, do we need glitter?), but he simply confessed that after making my GF pizza, he'd accidentally used the REGULAR pizza cutter on it. He was remaking it, and wanted to let me know there would be a few minute holdup on my food. I was incredibly impressed that he a) understood the severity of using separate utensils for GF food, and b) took it on himself to tell me about it, instead of passing the original off. I gushed pretty hard at the manager for it - yay for Biaggi's for taking cross contamination seriously.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fab Find: Tummydrops

My dad, in his infinite wisdom, believes there is nary a stomach ailment that cannot be cured with Mentos and 7-Up (though not too closely together, you wouldn't want to explode). And though I'm pretty sure that's not 100 percent accurate, there is science backing up the use of mint (and ginger) to soothe your stomach.

Since going gluten-free, my stomach is not the warzone it once was, but I do still have some acid reflux to contend with, and my nerves make me a twitchy mess more often than I'd like to admit. I'm trying to get away from popping Tums and their ilk like they are candy, and looking for more natural ways to soothe my innards, so when the folks at Enteral Health contacted me to see if I would like to review their Tummy Drops, I thought I'd give them a try, but I didn't expect to be so thoroughly impressed.

Tummydrops come in two varieties - ginger and peppermint. What's nice about both flavors is that they *actually* taste like real peppermint and real ginger, probably because these bad boys are made with *actual* peppermint oil and ginger. They are all natural, gluten free, and kosher. They've also been formulated by real, live, board-certified gastroenterologists. They taste yummy, and they genuinely do help with upset stomach issues. Let me just say, I love Tummydrops so much that I keep both the peppermint and ginger varieties in my purse, and I've been handing them out to everyone I know who complains of the slightest stomach ailment (or who needs a mint, ifyouknowwhatImean), like a granny handing out hard candies. What can I say, I'm a pusher. Enteral also claims these drops are awesome for pregnant ladies battling morning sickness, so if you or someone you know is having that issue, you might want to give these a try. I myself am not a prego lady, but as someone who is already dreading that part of the child-spawning party, I'm glad to know about these.

Want to try some Tummydrops for yourself? These amazeballs little drops are available from Amazon, and if you click the link in my sidebar and use the code, you can get $3 off. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Three Things Thursday

If this Three Things comes off a little ... disjointed, it's because I have a few days of absolute insanity in front of me. The excitement of that, plus a new allergy med, makes coherent sentences kind of difficult. But, alas.

1. Today, I move my baby sister into her dorm for her freshman year of college. This seems impossible to me, because there are almost a dozen years between us, and wasn't I just moving in? Odd. Anyway. It's going to be a rough adjustment for me having her far away now, since she was my go-to for pretty much all weekend plans. But I'm incredibly proud of her, and I know she's going to love college life. So, good luck Emily!

2. Luke and I will be venturing downtown on Friday afternoon, and we're planning on trekking to Little Goat for lunch. I have been absolutely longing to try the GF pancakes that Frannycakes blogged about a while back, so that thought alone will be what gets me through today. Did I mention, move-in is rough?
3. Continuing on with my quest to make it into the city more often, I'm getting to try the bounty of the GF Cassava with a friend on Saturday. I've heard good things, so I'm psyched to get to try it. They had me at bacon and cheese roll.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Three Things Thursday

There's been a lot happening in the gluten-free world lately. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they're all pretty good things, but here's the TTT breakdown.

1. FDA passes gluten-free labeling law: I got a bit of backlash last week when I posted some of my concerns about the new ruling, but I still hold to it that this is a GOOD thing, in theory. I'm going to have to see how it plays out in practice. I was surprised that no one really shared my concern - most of the negative feedback I saw about the ruling was about how 20 ppm is still too much. I'll be really interested to see what happens in the next year on this.

2. Tim Horton's releases gluten-free macaroon: Man, I love Canada. Hockey, maple syrup, Tim Horton's ... and now I have even more reason to love those dang Canucks. The nice people at Tim Horton's sent me a sample recently of the new GF macaroon. It's certified by the GFCO, and individually wrapped. Also, it tastes like angels singing. I don't particularly like the texture of coconut, but I could easily get hooked on these. Sadly, there is not a TH anywhere near where I live. Which is probably good for both my waistline and my wallet. And also another reason to go to Canada.

3. Celiac disease is serious and can give you cancer: It was all over the news last week and earlier this week that untreated celiac disease can lead to lymphoma. Which, if you have celiac disease, you are well aware of. But so often we're bombarded with "news" stories about gluten-free being trendy, or celebs doing it to get skinny, so it was nice this week to hear the more serious side come out. And yes, I fought the urge to send links to the articles to everyone who gives me crap, with the subject line "SEE? IT'S A THING!!!"

Friday, August 2, 2013

FDA Makes Life Easier, I Think?

I'm back from my blogging vacation, and just in time, because something sort of awesome happened today.

You can read more about it here, but in a nutshell, the FDA has *finally* laid down some rules about gluten-free labeling.

Direct quote:
"It requires that, in order to use the term 'gluten-free' on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims 'no gluten,' 'free of gluten,' and 'without gluten' to meet the definition for 'gluten-free.'"

So what does that mean? Well, it means that if a company is going to plaster the phrase "gluten-free" on its products, they better dang well be ACTUALLY gluten-free, and have the test results to prove it.

Yeah, this is kind of a big deal. Because right now? Anyone can call any product gluten-free, all willy-nilly, even if it's a bag of wheat, with no consequences.

Theoretically, once this goes into effect, you can pick up anything that SAYS gluten-free and it will BE gluten-free, at least to 20 ppm, which is what most studies consider "safe" for celiacs. And that will be great.

The new rules, though, are optional - only necessary IF a company wants to label their product as gluten-free. But what about the companies that don't want to pony up the cash to test their products? Testing is expensive, and while I *know* I need to verify every single thing I put in my mouth, I will admit that I have been guilty of buying products that are labeled "gluten-free" without giving the Web site/customer service rep/Bible a consultation. I mean, clearly, I know to stay away from wheat/barley/rye/oats, but I don't always have the ability to Chinese water torture customer service reps about what constitutes "natural flavorings," or on some occasions, "artificial flavorings." (I know, so sue me. Sometimes I eat things that are fake. And save the lecture, I can't hear you over the sounds of my Skittles.) So sometimes, if I'm buying cheese, or pickles, or ice cream, and the container says GF, I blindly trust. If it doesn't, the product usually goes back on the shelf unless I can make heads or tails of the ingredient list.

A lot of the Aldi and Wal-Mart store brands carry a "naturally gluten-free" logo on them. And what about places like Trader Joe's, who throw that "no gluten ingredients used" distinction on so many products in the store? If they aren't going to test, what happens? I know we should be all high and mighty and only support companies willing to do the leg work that earns the *new* gluten-free distinction, but let's be realistic - until someone wants to sponsor me and bankroll a homesteader/commune/pioneer lifestyle for me, I'm still going to have to visit grocery stores to buy food. And sadly, my public servant income and nowhere-near proximity to Whole Foods doesn't really solve that problem.

I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth, really. I promise I am Christmas-morning excited about this, because it will do a lot of good in helping celiac folk eat safely. I applaud the FDA for acting on this, and I'm so proud of the people who worked tirelessly to get this pushed through. I guess I'm just opening up some talking points. Truly, there are gajillions of products now that ARE gluten free, even if they don't carry that label, and there are tons of things labeled that aren't as gluten free as they should be. So here's to taking a step in the right direction. Now if only we could just martial-law all companies into labeling everything safe as, well, safe, we'd really be in good shape.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I've Got Some 'Splaining to Do

Warning: This post gets a little sappy. And a little excuse-makey.

One of the most awesome experiences I've had this year was hanging out with some of the lovelies I met at GFAF Expo in April. And not just the bloggers - the companies. With my "blogger" name tag around my neck, I was treated differently, and companies were HAPPY to send me samples, sometimes full-size products for review. I felt like a rock star. It was very heady, and it gave me an undeserved sense of self-importance. Until, about mid-May, when the e-mail follow-ups came flooding in, and instead of fueling my desire to write, the stacks of products completely stifled me. I didn't WANT to hock product after product, just because someone gave it to me for free.Yeah, it is an incredibly awesome feeling for companies to approach YOU, because they think you have some sort of sway. But it felt cheap. And it made me feel a little dirty. Because I had just become one of those swag-pirates I'd always made fun of. I left newspaper reporting because I was tired of writing for someone else. When I started this blog, it was on my terms, and yet, for a couple of bags of GF food, most of which I had no desire to eat, I sold out.

So, about the beginning of June, I started having an identity crisis of sorts. I know, poor Alissa has the sads about eating free gluten-free products, boo-hoo. But it wasn't just that. At a year and a half out from a diagnosis, with a virtually clean bill of health, living gluten-free has become sort of less cumbersome. After more than 18 months of firsts, some of the things I wrote about have gotten old hat for me. So if I have nothing new to write about, and I don't want to be a slave to product reviews, what's the point of blogging? For a while, I toyed with ending the site. Everything that I had to say has pretty much been said, either by me or one of the gazillion other gluten-free bloggers out there. So, I quietly went off the grid, waiting to see if anyone would notice. No one did. Nothing brings you back down to earth faster than realizing you can go Interwebs AWOL, and not a soul would try to hunt you down. It made me question if I was contributing anything, really, to the celiac world.

It didn't help that as I was going through this identity crisis, my REAL life got incredibly busy, and in a very good way. Work was flourishing. I was spending time with friends and family, and enjoying my summer. I learned to golf. I read books. I realized there is more to life than just "gluten free." And it was awesome. I became more and more convinced that the breakup had been finalized - I was ready to move on from both Cap'n Crunch and Captain Crunch.

Until, in the span of about a week, three things happened. They are all unrelated, but all three involve people seeking me out to help with a friend, relative, co-worker who had just received a celiac diagnosis. Amid the "thank yous" and the "does it get easiers?", I felt a familiar stirring, and it wasn't the result of a glutening. My job? It's not quite done yet.

So while I will continue to write, there is going to be a lot more life and a lot less product. I'm still going to do reviews, but for the most part, it's going to be things I purchase, because I refuse to feel obligated to have the sun shining out of my behind for any company who woos me with free stuff. If I do get something for free, and choose to write about it, it will be something I would - and will - willingly PURCHASE. I'm also going to be working with another site to do regular columns (more on that later).

There are a lot of great gluten-free bloggers out there. They have huge followings, book deals, swag. That is not now, nor has it ever been, my focus. My goal is simply to navigate the celiac waters as best I can, with humor, because that's all I know how to do.

I hope you guys will stay with me for the journey.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Vacation

Yikes. I missed my first Three Things Thursday since I started them, more than a year ago.

But I can't be mad I missed it, because I spent Thursday celebrating 'Merica with my family, poolside, with a home-made pina colada in one hand and a steak taco in the other.

Then I was going to update Friday, but spent the day at the zoo, and the night at a bonfire.

I had a four-day weekend, and spent every second enjoying it, and not for one minute thinking about blogging, Tweeting or Facebooking.

So that leads me to believe that mayhaps I need a bit of a blogging summer vacation. I'm going to take July off to enjoy my summer, but come August, I'll be back - and with a new project and partnership underway.

In the mean time, I hope you all keep cool and enjoy all the gluten-free deliciousness that summer brings!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Three Things Thursday

So, this week has been nutty, and my Three Things are sort of random. Stay with me on this.

1. Y'all know I dig on Erica from Celiac and the Beast. She's funny, well-informed and a GREAT advocate for our community. So, I'm doing all I can to spread the word about her Kickstarter campaign - she's fundraising to write a book, and it's going to be awesome, just like her. If you want to throw a few bones her way, just click on the link. She's got some great incentives, too.

2. We're big hockey fans in our house, so when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on Monday night, there was much rejoicing. Fun fact: My favorite bakery, Sweet Ali's, sends gluten-free cookies on the road with the team when they travel. I'm not sure if it's because a lot of the management hangs out in Hinsdale, or because they dig GF cookies, but either way, I think Sweet Ali's plus Blackhawks is a pretty great combo.

3. Next week is Fourth of July already. Heading to a BBQ? Check out my friend Frannycakes' blog tomorrow (Friday) for a Great Gluten-Free Barbecue, to get fun recipes from some of your favorite GF bloggers.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

DIY Sorta Sangria

I'm hanging out at a Great Big Gluten Free Barbecue this week. Head on over to FrannyCakes for some other fab recipes from my bloggy friends
I feel like Sandra Lee, 'cause it is Cocktail Time here at Breaking Up with Captain Crunch. Nothing beats relaxing on the back porch, sipping a delightfully adult concoction. And since summer screams fruit, seems like sangria would be an excellent choice.

I call this Sorta Sangria, because it doesn't contain any brandy, which traditionally, most Spanish sangrias do. Also, instead of just adding a sweetener and a ton of fruit, I use fruit juice and less actual fruit, because who wants to spend all that time cutting up fruit? That's just time you could be spending getting wine-drunk out back  enjoying a refreshing beverage.


Here's what you need:

A bottle of red wine (I like mine cheap and sweet. Clearly I am a wine snob)
1/2 bottle of 100% cranberry juice - not cocktail, not blend, the real deal
A small bottle of seltzer water
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 pint of raspberries
Fancy pitcher (or non-fancy pitcher, I just like to put my wedding presents to work)
Wine glasses

Get your pitcher out (mine reminds me of the Kool-Aid Man's older, more-refined cousin Wine-O Man). Pour the wine (whole bottle, glug glug), juice (just a half a bottle works perfectly) and seltzer. Stir. Throw in ice and fruit. If you are feeling really fancy, you can garnish your glasses. If not, just put some ice and a couple pieces of fruit in each wine glass. Pour. Enjoy. Pour again.

Clearly we should all enjoy responsibly, and we can feel good about this, because of all those yummy antioxidants in the wine and cranberry juice, and the citrus will definitely help stave off scurvy (assuming you are an 18th century pirate).

*A disclaimer: Clearly, this is intended for readers who are 21 and older. Don't do stupid things, kids. Also, there's some debate about wine, sulfites and celiacs. I go by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center's ruling that celiacs DON'T have to avoid wine. If you have a sulfite issues, you can find wines that are sulfite-free.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

I'm hanging out at a Great Big Gluten Free Barbecue this week. Head on over to FrannyCakes for some other fab recipes from my bloggy friends

Well, kids, we are pretty well into backyard BBQ season. I'm lucky, because the folks I usually dine with al fresco are all down with the gluten-freeness that has to happen. At my house, it's pretty much all GF, all the time, but even when we head to my parents', there are so. many. precautions. in place to help prevent cross-contamination and let me have a safe and yummy time. Plus, it gives me a chance to try out new gluten-free recipes on "normies" to see if they work.

My old stand-by used to be pasta salad. You know the kind, swirly noodles, Italian dressing, the works. I would make huge batches for just about every picnic I'd attend, and nosh on leftovers for days afterward. Last summer, I tried to modify my old "recipe" by just swapping out wheat noodles for some Schar rotini, and it was good, but I thought I could do better.

So I did.

This year's update features something I never thought I would make - salad dressing from scratch. And it was super easy. You can double the batch and keep it in the fridge, but I'm giving specs for just enough for the salad.

Here's what you need:
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Just put it all in a bowl and whisk, or, put it in a mason jar and shake. It tastes a lot like the store-bought stuff, but without all the unpronounceable junk. And you get to feel like Ina Garten while making it, so that's cool.

For the pasta salad itself, you need:
1 box GF pasta
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small can of black olives
Carrot shards (missing from picture)
2 big bell peppers, or several smaller ones, diced

I use Schar rotini for this, not only because they are my favorite, but because the corn pasta seems to hold up a little better than the rice or quinoa pasta does. You want to cook it a little al dente, too. If you overcook the pasta, you are just going to have a mess. When it's done cooking, run some cold water over it to cool it down, then throw it in a bowl with your other add-ins. I love tomatoes, so I go a bit heavy on them. Same with black olives. I love that you can by the sliced ones - it saves a lot of tedious sous chef work. Usually I throw some carrot shards in, but sadly, when I opened up my bag of carrots (newly purchased, no less), they were wearing some unsightly slimy coats, so they didn't get to come to the party. As for peppers, I'm hooked on these mini sweet peppers. They are perfect for salads, and just general noshing, and I love that you get a big bag of different colors.

Last is the dressing - make sure you mix thoroughly, but gently. Stick that bad boy in the fridge to chill, and you're golden. A word of warning, though - while wheat-based pasta salad lasts for daaaaaaaays in the chillbox, GF pasta salad has a pretty limited shelf life. This is definitely a one-day, two-day at most food. I'm sure it's fine, food-safety wise, to eat it for a few days, but the acid from the vinegar and lemon start breaking down the starch and it just starts to look and taste gunky after day two. But for those first two days, it's money, and everyone will devour it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Holy gluten-free cannoli, I can't believe it's Thursday again already. Since last week's was sort of a cop-out, here's my attempt at a more GF relevant Three Things:

1. Next week, I'm participating in a Backyard Barbecue, blog style. My friend Mary Fran is hosting, and I'm providing recipes for GF pasta salad and sorta sangria. What's your go-to BBQ dish?

2. If you have a Trader Joe's near by, try to get your hands on some of the new gluten-free Joe Joe's. Erica did a review on them, and I agree with her glowing rec. They are essentially GF Oreos, and they are amazeballs. I can't wait to create some cookies and cream ice cream concoctions with them soon!

3. My attempts at growing my own food have once again failed pretty spectacularly. My poor tomatoes got some sort of stem rot, and have passed over into tomato heaven. Since it's still early, I'm thinking of trying again ... but also, I'm thinking about just buying from my local farmer's market. Ugh, I think this falls under #firstworldproblems.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Congrats to Red Apple!

Get ready for some gushing. I will start this out by saying that while I have been comped some Red Apple product before, I still willingly hand over real monies for RAL products. I believe so strongly in this company that I bought my first giveaway ever from them, out of pocket. I know I'm always skeptical when bloggers gush, because I feel like they're just freebie pirates, but honestly, I wouldn't post nearly as much about RAL as I do if I didn't genuinely love them.

I like make-up. I like rooting for the little guy. And I like when good things happen to good people.

So when I found out that the team at Red Apple Lipstick just won Best GF Cosmetic Brand from GFREEK, I was thrilled for them. It's a pretty huge deal that this small, husband & wife operation beat out some big companies. To me, it means that people are starting to vote, not only for awards like GFREEK gives out, but with their money, for companies that have an interest in selling high-quality, awesome products with the consumer's health in mind.

I don't have kids yet, but this is akin to the feeling I imagine I'll get when they get on the honor roll. So why do I feel like such a proud parent? I feel like a total hipster saying this, but I was way into Red Apple before they won this mega fab award, so if that doesn't give me GF cosmetic street cred, I don't know what does.

A little bit about Red Apple: Not only are all of the products gluten-free, they are also paraben-free and vegan. Right now, just lip and eyeshadow products are available, but I'm hoping (begging?) for more soon. Not celiac? You should STILL check them out. My non-GF little sister picked up some gloss and loves it. There you go, RAL. Teenage girl seal of approval.

My RAL collection. Loves.
And yeah, there are a lot of great GF products out there, and I don't compose love ballads to all of them (except Sweet Ali's). What makes RAL special to me is that the folks behind the brand are just so dang nice. They have been so encouraging to bloggers, like moi, and have donated to people in need (the campaign they recently did to help a celiac in need was, for lack of a better term, Kleenex-worthy). After meeting Andrea once at the GFAF Expo in 2012, she recognized me ON SIGHT a couple months ago, and remembered the first lip color she sold me (Strawberry Fields, in case you were wondering). Since that first meeting, my RAL arsenal has grown, and I will continue to encourage folks to check out this amazeballs company.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Confession: This week, I'm feeling particularly frustrated with celiac. It's not that I'm having a flare-up, because (knock on wood, fingers crossed and all that jazz), I've been feeling pretty good after my P.F. Chang's glutening last month. It's just that I feel like there is so much more to my life than my illness, and it all tends to get thrown to the side because of celiac. I still get to DO the things that I like, but since all I write about now is my disease, I feel like I'm not being true to all my other sides. So, this week's Three Things is just a few non-celiac things about me. Because, you know, we're all multi-faceted little gemstones, even when we feel like we're just walking autoimmune diseases.

1. I'm a huge nerd. Like, bigger than I've even talked about here. As in, "I have a Dungeons and Dragons group" big. I haven't gotten in to Doctor Who yet, but I know more about the genealogy of the Game of Thrones houses than I do my own family tree. I can recite, almost verbatim, the dialogue from both Ghostbusters films, and my nametag lanyard at work boasts flair from so many fandoms it makes my head spin.

2. I have a not-so-secret dream to be a published author. But not for anything gluten or celiac related. Mad props to my girl Erica, who's working on her own book, but even though I love blogging about the GF experience, I'm writing my best stuff when I get to make it up as I go along. So, while I don't plan on shutting down my blog any time soon, fiction is where my attention will be for a while.

3. One of my goals for the next five years is to start up a community theater group. Theater is such a big part of my background (fun fact: Luke proposed to me onstage after a rehearsal for a show we were both in), and there isn't a lot available out in my neck of the suburbs. I'll be working on an evening of one acts for March to see what the interest level is out my way, but I'm really excited to have a new project.

Now it's your turn. I want to know who YOU are, besides gluten-free or celiac.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Pardon my lack of non-TTT posts lately, my lovelies. It's been a busy few weeks, and it looks like that trend is going to continue.

1. If you are in the Chicago suburbs, check out Gusteau's Gluten-Free Shoppe's grand opening on Saturday from 9-1. They've got a ton of merch, as well as a whole menu of yummy GF goodies.

2. If you are in the city proper, make sure to head over to Printers Row Lit Fest on Sunday to see April Peveteaux (aka the blogger behind Gluten Is My Bitch) do a demo and signing. There's also a ton of non-gluten related authors talking, so if you are into books, it's a fantastic event.

3. Luke and I celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow. So here's some gratuitous wedding photo-ness.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Well, we're nearing the end of Celiac Awareness Month. Truthfully, I've been very aware of my celiac this month, after my worst glutening yet last weekend. But just because May is over, don't let your awareness dwindle. I probably won't let you.

Anyway. On to three fabulous things.

1. We have two lucky winners from the giveaways I was hosting - congrats to Kari and Molly on their prizes! Your goodies will be heading to you shortly, ladies.

2. Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but Fox Barrel now has a pomegranate pear cider. In a box. That you can tap. You're welcome.

3. Related, it's playoff hockey time in Chicago, and nothing says "playoff hockey" like, um, nachos. I'll be whipping up a batch for Saturday's game, I do believe, and I'd love to hear your favorite nacho fixings.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Happy Thursday, my gluten-free lovebugs. Hope everyone has awesome plans for the holiday weekend. My plans include a lot of getting my nerd on. And now that my grill is fixed, eating a lot of barbecue. Yum.

1. There is still time to enter my mini-giveaway from last week, and my Mrs. Glee's giveaway. Just comment on the respective posts to get entry. And make sure you leave your e-mail, so if you win I can reach you!

2. A big THANK YOU to everyone who rallied last week to get Disney to pull the episode of Jessie that promoted bullying off the air. I'm really proud of my community for putting our collective feet down and showing that we will not let that kind of nonsense fly.

3. If you are an online shopper, Amazon has some great deals on gluten-free food to celebrate Celiac Awareness Month. They have a pretty big variety, so it's a good chance to try some new goodies!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mrs. Glee's Review & Giveaway!

If it hasn't been made pretty abundantly clear around these parts, I'm a bit of a cookie monster. Okay, possible understatement. At any given point in time, you can probably find at least three varieties of GF cookie in my pantry (see also: pants not fitting). But I've been shying away from baking my own, because a) ain't nobody got time for that and b) GF baking is hard. Well, most GF baking. But sometimes, you just want a fresh-from-the-oven cookie.

In steps Mrs. Glee's. I was introduced to this fine company last month at the GFAF Expo. They had loads of yummy baked treats to sample, all gluten free and awesome full. Their secert? Navy bean flour. Don't make that face - none of their products actually taste like beans. But the flour blend they use - beans and all - has fiber, protein and antioxidants that you don't necessarily get from other mixes. And if you're going to be eating baked goods (which I am), you might as well get some bonus nutrition.

 The mix is easy to use - it calls for the traditional butter, egg & vanilla. I used real butter, but I'm sure you could sub in a non-dairy alternative if that's your thing. The recipe also calls for maple syrup - I 100% recommend the real stuff, not the flavored garbage. It's a little more expensive, but lasts longer, and it's not just syrup-colored chemicals. After you mix it all together, be patient, because you've got to stick the dough in the fridge to chill for a bit. This is the hardest part of the whole thing, because the dough smells so yummy (full disclosure: I sampled a fair amount of dough. So good. But YOU shouldn't do that. Raw eggs and all).

After the dough has chilled for a bit, you make little cookie balls, roll 'em in sugar and pop 'em on a baking sheet. Bake them until their all golden and delightful, and then let them cool before noshing. The maple was great with coffee (also, everything is great with coffee), and I'm sure they keep for about a week. Ours didn't make it that long. As you can tell by the lack of finished-product photo, they were gobbled up, post haste. My non-GF husband and co-worker thought they were really good, too. The maple is a nice addition, and these would be awesome in the fall, maybe with a little pumpkin added in ... yum.

 In addition to cookie mixes, Mrs.Glee's sells an all-purpose bean flour blend, as well as noodles. They are in a variety of stores across the country, or you can order directly from the company.

Here's where the giveaway comes in. Mrs. Glee's sent me two mixes - I whipped up the Maple Sugar Cookies for myself, and I've got a bag of Brownie Mix for a reader! You can enter by:
1. Leave me a comment with your favorite way to eat a brownie (with ice cream? warmed up?). Make sure you leave an e-mail address, so I can reach you if you win.
2. "Like" my page on Facebook, then let me know you did!
3. Follow me on Twitter - @divinemissliss.

I'll pick a winner next Friday evening.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Three Things Thursday & a Mini-Giveaway

It's a gorgeous day here in Chicago, and I'm feeling springy and awesome. I hope you are as well.

1. Last night, Bruce hosted an amazing gluten-free dining event at Da Luciano's in River Grove. I'd heard legend that this was the. best. GF Italian food in the world, and it was pretty dang delicious. I was too busy stuffing my face to take pictures, but look for a full review forthcoming. I think all I really need to say is this: gluten-free tiramisu.

2. The southwest suburbs got a little more GF last weekend when Gusteau's Gluten Free Shoppe opened in Lemont. I'll get to sit down with owner Patricia soon to talk about the amazingness that is GF takeout. They are open Tuesday-Saturday, and from my short visit last week, I can tell you that it's worth the trip out. Let's show them lots of support, southwest Chicago gluten-freers, I'd love to see this place succeed!

3. Mini-giveaway! I have a small celiac awareness prize pack - a few green ribbon awareness pins, some fun stickers and a couple of surprises. To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail. I'll pick a winner next Thursday.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Gee whiz, gluten-freers, have I got a ton to share with you. Great new products, two restaurant reviews ... too bad none of them are happening today. I've just *sigh* been too busy to recap. I've been too busy for lots of things. Like laundry. And dishes. First world problems, amirite?

1. Since I'm a librarian AND a celiac, I figure I've got pretty good insight into awesome, gluten-free books. So when Gluten Is My Bitch showed up at my door yesterday, I was pretty enthusiastic. I was not wrong. I only took down about half of the book last night before giving in to the seamy mistress that is the bubble popping game, but I loved it. If you like snark, pick up April's book, and check out her blog.

2. I was hanging out over at Taste Guru last week as a guest blogger. Check out my post about gluten-free on the go here.  After you read my piece, spend some time browsing the site. Not only do they send out butt-kicking monthly boxes, they have a ton of great articles on living gluten free. And marketing guru Laura is probably the most adorable person ever.

3. J is doing her Life In & Empowering Through Photos series again this year. Check out the gratuitous nerd pics of me from my post on May 6. Yeah. There's also cupcake shots and my dog as a squirrel.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Did you know it's Celiac Awareness Month?  Well, technically, every month is celiac awareness month if you or someone you love has the disease. But in May, we pull all the stops out to flood your Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds with messages of awareness and activism. You might be getting annoyed. But we're only a few days into the month, so hold on to your hats, cowpokes, because there's a lot more awareness yet to come.

If you're feeling adventurous, here are three of my personal favorite resources to peruse:

1. University of Chicago Celiac Disease Research Center: I cannot speak highly enough about the team of researchers at U of C and all that they are doing to find a cure. They've also organized an amazing bank of questions and answers, on just about everything celiac-related you can imagine. And their celiac gift basket program is a Godsend to the newly diagnosed. So bookmark the page. I know I did.

2. The Celiac Disease Foundation: Another hotbed of awesome celiac knowledge. You can find videos, support, tips and tricks for traveling, the whole kit AND caboodle.

3. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: If there is a celiac resource out there, you can find it on the NFCA's Web site. Check out their "Bloggers" page for more awesome reads (including a cameo by yours truly.)

Celiac has a ridiculous number of possible symptoms (I think it's somewhere near/over 300!), and only a fraction of them are gastrointestinal. If you or someone you love has been struggling to find answers about illness, or if a relative has been diagnosed, please consider getting tested!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

HAWMC, to Infinity and Beyond

All through April, I was supposed to be participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. It was supposed to be 30 days of activisty content. I've got several posts in the works right now of the NOT HAWMC variety, but I do want to finish out the last few days' worth of prompts. Here goes.
Day 21 - Adversity: It sounds so romantic to say that you thrive best under adversity. Like, that you have some superhuman strength or poise. And maybe some people do. But honestly? I believe we all have our crosses to bear, our issues to face. Yeah, being chronically ill isn't exactly a picnic. It probably does make me more compassionate, more aware. But would I turn down the chance to live adversity-free? Likely not.

Day 22 - Day to Day: For this prompt, I get to feel like Oprah, except instead of giving away my favorite things, I just get to list them. It's sort of the same, isn't it? So, in no particular order, here are ten things that make my gluten-free life waaaaaay better: Red Apple Lipstick, vanilla almond milk, Schar pasta, Udi's bread, Sweet Ali's anything, Kiss My Face lotion, my rice cooker, San-J tamari sauce, EOS lip balm and my GF community.

Day 23 - Technology: The prompt today asks us to think about a life without social media. I immediately rolled up into fetal position, because the idea is so terrifying to me. Over-dramatic, I know, but honestly, social media has saved my life since my diagnosis. Without the sense of community, the ready answers, the friendship - I would be totally lost. Even something as looking for a recipe on my Kindle pre-dinner takes me to Twitter, or Facebook, or someone's blog. Not to mention the support I get from my GFFs, both virtually and in real life. So no, don't want to lose social media.

Day 24 - Wordless Wednesday: This is a Pinterest prompt. But I have a confession: I am scared poopless of Pinterest. I already have a bit of a dependance on technology - I'm afraid by hopping down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest, I will never, ever get anything else accomplished. Ever. So since I don't need another time suck, I'm going to pass:)

Day 25 - Learning: If I had to share one thing I've learned, it's that you're not alone. It's trite, and a little cheesy, but 100% true. When you are dealing with chronic illness, it's very easy to feel isolated, despite your best efforts. But somewhere, right now, someone else is dealing with the very same issues.

Day 26 - Pain-Free Pass: If I could go symptom-free for ONE special day, it would have to be my sister's upcoming wedding. I'm the matron of honor, a job I've already rocked once GF, but it would be so nice to be able to focus JUST on wedding things and not on being all celiac-y.

Day 27 - Titles: Asking a librarian for great books? Get ready for a long list. Here's my fave GF lifestyle books:
Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Peter Green
Real Life with Celiac Disease by Melinda Dennis
Living Gluten-Free for Dummies by Danna Korn
Gluten Free, Hassle Free by Marlisa Brown
The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook by Carrie Forbes
Eat Like a Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents

Day 28 - Must Follow: If you're on the Twitter machine, here's a list of awesome people you should follow. If you're not following me, you should do that, too:) I can be found @divinemissliss. Also add:
@cravebakeshop, @geekilyGF, @celiacbeast, @tasteguru, @GlutenAway, @GFreeLaura, @mindfulpeaceom, @CeliacBeast. @glamwithoutgluten, @betsybetsybetsy, @frannycakesblog, @ManagingGFree, @GfreeJanelle, @RedAppleLipstic

Day 29 - Congratulations: Today I'm supposed to write about why I'm awesome, and let's be honest, it's tough to narrow it down (I kid. Sort of). Let's see. I think I rock because I'm compassionate, and a pretty smart cookie. I have a wacky sense of humor, and I try to fight the good fight every day to be a genuinely good person. And I have awesome taste in shoes.

Day 30 - Recap: It was a lot harder than I thought to do all 30 prompts, even breaking them into chunks like I did for the back end of the month. It was great to do some evaluating, and if I had writer's block, this would be a great way to get the juices flowing. I do think some posts were a little reflective for the nature of my blog, so next year, I might journal instead of blog. But I think anything I can write to raise awareness is a good thing, and as I wrap up this month, I'm getting ready with some awesome posts for my second annual Celiac Awareness Month in May.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Colonoscopy Survival Guide

Welcome to Overshare City. Population: Me. A couple of weeks ago, when I was looking for information like a reasonable person (and not at all frantically trolling the Internets like a crazypants), I was really surprised at the lack of good, coherent info on colonoscopy prep. Just about everything I found was medical instructions or doomsday-level warnings. For someone who thrives on always being prepared, it caught me off-guard that I was going into this with no genuine idea. So, in the name of science and information, and bypassing all boundaries of civilized society, I've come up with my own Colonoscopy Survival Guide. I'll try to spare you guys too much grossness, but it is what it is. Let's just rip the band-aid off right away: There will be poop. Lots of poop.

Hang on tight, this might get messy (that's what she said ... while doing a prep).

1. Understand your prep: I mean, really understand it. My doc suggested a prep mix of Miralax and Gatorade. Gentle, pleasant-tasting, the "easy" prep. Since she told me it was just the over-the-counter product, I put the paperwork on my desk and paid it no attention until the day before Prep Day. When I got the instructions out, I saw that it called for TWO bottles of Miralax ... which, to me, sounded a little excessive. I called the doc's office and was reassured by a nurse that it was correct. "Trust me," she said. "You'll be glad to be doing an easy prep. And if you mix it with cold Gatorade, you'll not even notice you're drinking it." I don't care what you mix it with, there is nothing easy about shotgunning 28 doses of laxative.
Lesson learned: Call if anything sounds fishy. But they will probably make you do it anyway. 

2. Drink up, Johnny: During Prep Day, you are allowed to have clear beverages and "foods" (I use "foods" because in no world is Jello considered a meal). I went a little nutso at the grocery store and bought GF chicken broth, lemon Jello, lemon Italian ice, apple juice, white grape juice, ginger ale ... if it was on the acceptable list, I bought it. And then I gorged myself on it from about 9 a.m. until I started prep at 3 p.m. Technically, you can still have those things while you are prepping, but putting more fluid into my body was the LAST thing I wanted to do. Try to build up a good base of calories - you're going to need them. And drink loads of water - you don't want to get dehydrated (which I did, because I stopped drinking water. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, PEOPLE).
Lesson learned: Dehydration sucks. Drink more water. And then more apple juice. And then more water.

3. Boredom makes it worse: If you have a similar reaction to mine, you aren't going to be hanging out on the couch, watching Game of Thrones and occasionally having to hit "pause" to visit your own throne room. It's going to be a constant onslaught once things get started. My best advice is to gather up some reading material and a tablet or laptop. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I used my Kindle to watch some TV - from my bathroom! Thank you, Amazon Prime. We've shared a very intimate moment together. In my arsenal as well was my favorite scented candle (made the whole thing more zen), a couple bottles of water and my prep solution. If you are one of those folks who can hang out further than 10 feet away from your toilet, more power to you, but better safe than sorry (and by sorry, I mean doing unspeakable things to your somewhat new leather couch). Also, invest in good toilet paper and maybe some Vaseline. Yep, you're going to put it where you think. Yup, it's that intense. But a few schmears of Vaseline will save you the embarrassment of walking like a cowboy after a three-day range.
Lesson learned: Be overly prepared to entertain yourself in your bathroom. And not like that either, gutterminds.

4. Layer up: Once things start, ahem, happening, you might start feeling a little chilly (something about cold fluid jetstreaming through your body?). If you don't want to have to red-tag your blankets, bring a couple of big bath or beach towels into your new home with you. You'll be glad you did once you start shivering like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. Also suggested: Fuzzy socks and a warm hoodie. I will tell you to stay away from wearing anything on your bottom half you wouldn't mind burning. Especially if you decide to venture beyond your porcelain throne. I know, we're having this much fun already and the real show hasn't even started yet.
Lesson learned: It is better to poop furiously at a comfortable temperature than to do it cold.

5. Just do it: Okay, you're moved into your new home. You've had the mail re-directed to your bathroom. You've got your Kindle/iPad/Fern Michaels novel all cued up and ready to go. You're wearing a sweater. You've got your favorite beach towel. Water's chilling in the cooler you packed for yourself (great job thinking ahead!). Now it's the moment of truth - time to drink the Kool-Aid (or Gatorade, whatever). Honestly, I found with my prep solution, it didn't taste all that bad. I had to do 8 ounces at a time, every half hour. I set my timer, used a straw and sucked it down like a big girl. It took about two doses to get the party started, but once it did, much like a Kesha song, the party don't stop. I was worried about yakking it up, and then having to do it all. over. again., so I had to pause a couple times once I got toward the end, but it really didn't make me feel nauseous. I made the mistake of not drinking anything but my prep after I started at 3 p.m., and um, things were happening until almost midnight. This is why I needed multiple bags of IV fluid the next day. Don't be me, kids. Drink the water (see Item 2).
Lesson learned: Pirate up. You have to do it, so just put your head down and power through. (And also? DRINK THE FREAKING WATER).

6. BYOB: Okay, maybe not your own "b", but if you are gluten-free, pack a snack bag for the hospital. When you wake up, after you've made some hiney music, you are going to want something to eat and drink. My hospital is not GF-friendly, and I gave my mom specific orders to pistol-whip anyone who tried to feed drugged Alissa any Famous Amos. I brought a baggie of Ian's cookie buttons and a bottle of apple juice that I knew were safe. I was glad I did, I needed sugar like whoa when I woke up (full disclosure: my procedures got pushed back by more than three hours on the day of. If I was hangry when I went in there, I was rage-starving when I came out).
Lesson learned: Let your awesome, "be prepared" mindset carry over to the next day and bring yourself some safe snacks.

All in all, it wasn't the horrible experience I was expecting it to be. Granted, it isn't fun (unless you are into some pretty weird stuff, and then, I don't want to know what you were Google searching that brought you here). And by the end of the night on Prep Day, I sort of did feel like death on a stick. But it was my own fault for getting dehydrated. I was able to sleep through the night from midnight until about 7 a.m., but be prepared, because activities WILL start up again the next day. Totally normal. You shouldn't panic and cry at the first nurse you see because you think you're going to fail your colonoscopy because DEAR GOD, WHY WON'T IT STOP?!?  In the end (ha, yep, in the end, that's how the whole thing goes), you'll be in and out of your procedure without even knowing what was happening. You'll have a better knowledge of the amazing feat of nature that is your digestive tract, and you'll have done something proactive for your health. And if that isn't enough to soothe your nerves, just think of the awesome drugs they give you.

Three Things Thursday

It's Thursday again. How can that be already? Seems like just yesterday I was wrapping up last week's Three Things while watching half of Chicago getting stuck under water.

1. In case you missed my recap of the GFAF Expo last weekend, you should check it out for some awesome products coming our way soon from some of my fave companies. And yes, I do rave about some vegan cheese. Who have I become?

2. I'm really excited to announce that I'm going to be contributing monthly to Taste Guru's awesome blog. Details to come, but I'm psyched to be working with Laura and the rest of the team.

3. If you are in the Pasadena area, make sure to get your tickets to the Celiac Disease Foundation's annual Education Conference and Gluten-Free Expo next weekend (May 4 & 5). I can't be there, but you can visit with Glam Without Gluten and Celiac and the Beast, and hear some butt-kicking speakers. If you go, I want to hear all about it!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GFAF Expo 2013

This past weekend, instead of cowering under layers of fleece and counting down the minutes until the next episode of Game of Thrones, I had the chance to attend one of the most awesome gluten-free events of the year, the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo. I had been looking forward to this year's expo since last year, and I knew I'd be attending come hell or high water (and there was some high water around these parts. Spring, you're drunk, go home). Getting to go to the event as an official blogger was just icing on the gluten-free cake (and yes, there was loads of cake).

The products:

With more than 180 vendors in attendance, there was something for just about everyone. In the two days that I was there, I probably sampled just about everything that I could sample, and then some. There were some hits, some misses, and some W-T-Fs (I still can't figure out the window salesguys). I'll just hit the highlights for you guys.

Biggest surprise: Teese Vegan Nacho Cheese
Seriously, I never thought I'd be going back for seconds on a vegan cheese product, but this spicy nacho Teese melted delightfully. I visited them both days, just to be sure.

Must-buy product: The Glutenfreeda chipotle chicken pocket
This product is so new, it's not even on their Web site yet. Imagine Hot Pockets if Hot Pockets didn't taste like death. The chicken was my favorite, but they also have a ham and cheese and breakfast option. Perfect for last-minute lunches.

Baking mix I hope I don't screw up: Crave Bake Shop
Well, Kyra from Crave Bake Shop won me over immediately with her chocolate cupcakes, and I bought three boxes of her mixes to bring home. I'm glad I nabbed them on the first day - she sold out early!

Killer cereal: Vans and Freedom Foods
There were two awesome cereal products I got to try - Van's new Honey Nut Crunch, which reminded me of Honey Nut Cheerios, and Freedom Foods Tropico's. You guys, these fruity rings taste like another round, "frooty" product that is now off limits. I bought a couple of boxes to bring home, and I really hope they find their way to Whole Foods soon.

Local favorites: Sweet Ali's, Kiki's, Pinstripes and Gusteau's
While I always love me some Sweet Ali's, there is room in my heart for Kiki's, as well. This Chicago-based company is selling their spinach pies to restaurants, but not to the general public yet, which is sooooo sad, because it was one of the greatest things I tried all weekend. I don't know how they did it, but they managed to make an incredibly flaky crust that was to die for. I was also happy to see the folks from Pinstripes, and thanked them for the awesome time (and great pizza) we had for Luke's birthday last month (and I grabbed some free wine bracelets, so I guess I'll have to go back). I had the chance to visit a potential favorite in Gusteau's Gluten Free Shoppe, which is set to open in May in Lemont. It's a short drive from my house, so I can't wait for this totally gluten-free takeout place to open it's doors.

Pizza, pizza: Smart Flour
I ate a lot of pizza and pizza-like products, and while most were pretty good, the best by far was Smart Flour. It was crispy and yummy, and I can't wait until June when they will be available in Whole Foods.

Best beer before 11 a.m.: New Planet
You know it's going to be a good day when you've sampled five beers before noon. I've been a big fan of New Planet's Raspberry Ale since I first tried it, but after taking their beer tour, I found a new love in their Belgian brew. I know what's going in my garage beer fridge for the summer.

Friendliest company: Schar
Can I just say that I love Schar? We use their pasta and rolls pretty religiously at my house, and if that wasn't enough, they also threw a dinner for bloggers and vendors Friday night before the expo. Schar gluten-free guru Anne Roland Lee is so smart and helpful (check out her series of videos with the Celiac Diva for some great info about the GF lifestyle). Their new product, a chocolate-covered hazelnut bar, is pretty dang close to a KitKat. You know, if you miss that sort of thing.

Best in show: Red Apple Lipstick
I was so, so happy to get to visit with my friends from Red Apple Lipstick this weekend. Andrea, Jay and Stephanie took such good care of me, and I brought home a load of new product. I had fun hanging out at their booth and helping pick colors for new buyers. If you haven't tried them already, I seriously suggest checking them out. I use their Rallye Balm for everything from dry lips to sunburn, and you can feel confident you are getting a gluten-free, paraben-free, awesome product every time. End gush.

The people:
Brace yourselves, because it's about to get a little fangirly up in here. I've said it before and I'll say it again, and again - a large part of what pushes me to keep blogging is the community. We GF-ers, we sort of rock. So when you gather us together for a weekend? Things get real. I absolutely loved getting to meet, in real life, people I'd only known by blog names or Twitter handles. I got to spend most of the weekend hanging with the glorious Betsy, who is a kindred spirit/celiac sister/Chicagoland girl. We laughed, we cried, we sat in weird wooden boxes. I got to hang out with Erica from Celiac and the Beast. I've been looking forward to meeting her since I started reading her blog many moons ago. I knew we'd hit it off, and we sure did. I also got to meet up with the absolutely adorable G-Free Laura, who was there repping Taste Guru (you'll be hearing about them in another post). And Kyra from Crave Bakeshop is just about the sweetest person ever, and she fed me chocolate cupcakes all weekend, so I'm pretty sure that means we're best friends now (at least, on my end). Plus, I got to meet up with the hilarious and geekily GF Mel (and her super-hero alter-ego), the rockin' Andrea, Pretty Little Celiac Rebecca, Pam from I'm A Celiac, and even had dinner with Healthy Family's Caryn.

Thanks to the GFAF Expo team for such a great event, and for inviting bloggers to attend and share. I can't wait for next year!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Three Things Thursday

As I write this, I am wrapped in blankets, sipping apple juice and snuggling with my dog, all while watching most of Chicago float past my window. It's been a weird freaking day.

1. I had my two scopes done yesterday. I'm prepping a full post about preparing for and undergoing an endoscopy/colonoscopy, because that nonsense is ripe with material. I won't have my full results for a couple of weeks, but call me Miss Cleo, because I predicted the gastritis the doc found at a glance. Oh, medical fun.

2. If anyone is in the Chicagoland area, and is in the ark-building business, you might want to get your hammers ready. From what I've seen on the news, flooding is cray-cray all over the area. We don't have a basement, and have pretty good drainage in our subdivision, so we're okay, but some roads have been entirely shut down, and the canal by my work is up several feet. Welcome to spring in Chitown. We do it up grand.

3. As I sit here, with a sore throat and tender tummy, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I feel like million bucks by tomorrow for the GFAF Expo. Tomorrow night's festivities include a Schar-sponsored pizza party that all the cool kids are going to (and how did I snag an invite? This must be a mistake). Then, Saturday and Sunday, come visit us at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg for the most awesomest gluten-free event of the year. Tickets to the expo are $20, and well worth it. I, for one, can't wait to hang out with Betsy, and finally get to meet Erica!

Monday, April 15, 2013

HAWMC Day ... Oh, Screw It

All through April, I was supposed to be participating in WEGO Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge. It was supposed to be 30 days of activisty content.

But, instead of being in addition to my usual posts, it overtook my usual posts. The past couple weeks, I haven't had too much stuff to talk about, so I was totally fine with prompt-driven posts. But this week, some exciting things are happening, and they deserve to be the focus - things like the party that is my first colonoscopy (I was going to live Tweet, but that might be too much even for me) and my Christmas - the GFAF Expo.

So, to keep the spirit of HAWMC going, here's a five-cent tour of the topics for Days 14-20:

 Day 14 - Spread the Love: There's some awesome activists out there. You can check out my Pretty Rad Reads for great gluten-free bloggers, or visit WEGO's site to cheer on other health activists.

Day 15 - Sharing: I dropped the ball on finding a guest poster, so instead, I'm just going to share a few random, non-celiac facts about me. 1) I once interviews Bobby Flay for the newspaper I used to work at. 2) I hate raw onions. SO MUCH. 3) I once accidentally gave my sister a black eye while I was dancing. Dangerous on the dance floor indeed.

Day 16 - Misinformation: Three truths and a lie style, celiac edition: 1. Having celiac means your whole dietary life has to change (Truth). 2. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, so it can affect more than just your gut (Truth). 3. You can have celiac disease and never have any gastro issues at all (Truth, but sadly, not the case for me). 4. A little bit of gluten won't hurt you (LIE).

Day 17 - Wordless Wednesday: How happy I am eating GF food.

Day 18 - "I take it back!"/Lashing out: Yikes. This one is tricky, because I have a pretty short temper (but I'm getting better!). I would say I take back all the things I threw at my poor, dear husband the first time we cleaned my pantry and kitchen out when I went gluten free. I hurled box after box of things I once loved and could no longer eat. I didn't break anything, but Luke is lucky he's a good ducker.

Day 19 - Vintage: Here is an old picture of Luke and I. It's from a NYE party we threw like 7 or 8 years ago. I was pretty sick, but we didn't know why.

Day 20 - Burnout: So, what puts me in the pit of despair? Not as much does now as did a year ago. I get sad when I have to cancel plans because I'm feeling particularly gross. I get a little depressed when I see commercials for old favorite restaurants. Some days, I'm just tired of having to think about every. single. thing. that goes in my mouth or comes in contact with my body. When I have those days, the best thing I can do is distract myself - either with a project, or a book, or a GF cupcake.