Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A New GF Adventure

 Lately, I've felt like I need to be doing more in the Gluten Free world, and low and behold, Miss J got her Generation GF magazine from GIG in the mail.  What I had been looking for was literally in my hand.

This blog was originally started in attempts to help other Celiacs or those Gluten Free.  I'm not the best at posting blog post, find it a challenge to truly express my feelings, and put it into words -but, always try to post finds and such on FaceBook, and spread awareness. 

That day the magazine arrived, it dawned on me that there isn't a Generation GF branch in Pittsburgh -so, I jumped into researching what needed to be done to start one!  

This summer during a visit to Natually Soergel's, Miss J spotted a little girl wearing the same Gluten Free bracelet she has, and ran to play with her.  Let me tell how excited she was to meet another gluten free little girl!  As an adult, a Celiac or Gluten Intolerance diagnosis is a challenge -but, as a child it's even more...especially since they don't often meet anyone gluten free, and their age.

However, now we can make that happen.  I've officially started a Genertation GF Pittsburgh Branch, and brain storming functions, and fun stuff! 
           


I'm so proud to be 1 of the 7 Generation GF branches!  So...stay tuned for more news of this exciting new adventure!

For more information on Generation GF, please check out this link:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gluten Free Disney Vacation: Part 2

For the second part of our vacation, we continued in the magic, and headed off for a short visit to Walt Disney World! Let the magic continue....
                                  
Day 1:
We literally dropped our bags and headed off to Disney Springs formerly known as Downtown Disney.  As soon as we arrived at Disney Springs, we filled our bellies with goodness at Splitsville.  This was our first visit to Splitsville to eat, and no doubt won't be our last!  My husband thoroughly enjoyed the Fantasy Roll; which is Gluten Free!  For me, I thoroughly enjoyed the Fiesta bowl, and Miss J had a burger with fruit since they don't have a dedicated fryer for French fries.  

                                 

After a quick visit to Disney Springs, and filling our bellies with gluten free goodness, we headed for our annual stop at Erin McKenna NYC before heading off to Magic Kingdom!  At Erin McKenna NYC, we all enjoyed sharing a Kitchen Sink; which is a cup full of donuts, brownie bites, and frosting!  We also, stopped back for a  2nd visit before our trip ended, to get our Donut fix, and also tried a Cinnamon Roll.  During our 2nd visit, we stopped right at the calm before the storm, which gave us the pleasure of chatting to the employes for a bit, too!  Erin McKenna NYC is truly a dream since everything is Gluten Free!  

                                     

                                      

Since the parks were a little crazy due to it being the last night for Trick or Treating, we headed back to our resort to eat dinner, and have a relaxing evening!  Since our bellies were still full from lunch, I decided to have Buffalo Chicken Dip, and a Salad.  However, I forgot to take a picture of the food...but, did remember to take a picture of the Allergy-Friendly menu for The Turf Club Bar & Grill at Saratoga Springs. 

                                                 

Day 2:
Every morning, we typically enjoyed breakfast at our resort.  Our fav is simply Bacon, Eggs, and...Mickey Waffles, of course!!  

                                       

After breakfast, off to Hollywood Studios we went!!

                                     

Since we had planned on an early dinner, we didn't eat at Hollywood Studios.  Instead we had a snack lunch of fruit, and granola bars I packed.  After much fun at Hollywood Studios, we took the boat over to the Boardwalk area to eat at Beaches & Cream before heading to Epcot.  

                                 

While waiting for our seat at Beaches & Cream, we had a blast at the arcade next door!  The wait for Beaches & Cream was well worth it...we had an amazing experience!  We had counter seats; which Miss J loved being able to see all the action of sundae making, and the chef cooking on the grill!  Ironically, my hubby and I both orders the Beaches Chef Salad, and enjoyed every bit of it!!  You can't go to Beaches & Cream and not have dessert!!  Miss J and I enjoyed every spoonful of the Brownie A La Mode made with a Gluten Free brownie.  Needless to say, we left with very happy bellies, and ready to venture to Epcot!  

                                

Since the heat was kicking our butts (it was in the 90's during our stay), and we were still so full from our dinner, we didn't eat anything during our Epcot visit either. 

Day 3:  
It was another HOT day, and we were off to Animal Kingdom...after quick granola bars for breakfast.  For a morning snack, we sure didn't go with a healthy option:  Dole Whip and a GF Rice Crispy Treat from Starbucks.  Guess you can say the heat was starting to affect my brain -but, then again, anything goes in Disney, right?!?!


                                       

Once again, we didn't have much of an appetite for lunch, and planned to have an early dinner at Yak & Yeti...so, we were all saving room!  We headed off to the Rainforest Cafe; where we ran into friends from home!  It's truly a Small World after all!!  We love the Rain Forest Lava Nachos for Two; which is perfect since we didn't want to have a big lunch to save room for dinner!  Since they don't have a dedicated fryer, they substitute the corn chips with Potato Chips...oh so yummy!! 


                                   

Our animal lover, little girl was in her glory with all the animals, and continuing to soak in all the Disney magic!
                                   

After lots of Animal Kingdom adventures, we took a break to enjoy dinner at Yak & Yeti where were seated upstairs and enjoyed the view...and people watch!  Not only did we have a great view at Yak & Yeti, we also had a delicious appetizer, dinner, and dessert:  Lettuce Cups to Two, Lo Mein, and New York Cheesecake.  Once again, our bellies were very happy, and full to the brim!


                                    

Day 4:
Our last day of vacation had arrived, and heading for home in the morning!  We of course had to get our fix of Mickey waffles for breakfast before heading off to Magic Kindgom!  For our last day at the park, I had made reservations to do the Family Magic Tour; which I highly recommend.  So I don't give away any of the surprises, I'll simply say that the tour is a scavenger hunt around the park guided by a Cast Member!  


Since the tour lasted until afternoon, and we had a 3 PM dinner reservation, we just had a snack lunch again!  Dinner was at The Plaza.  During our visit last year, I truly enjoyed the Cheese Steak Sandwich, and specifically went back to enjoy it again this trip.  While looking over the Allery-Friendly Menu, I noticed the Cheese Steak Sandwich wasn't noted Gluten Free...and then came the huge disappointment when our waitress informed me that it's no longer Gluten Free.  Here's to hoping our next visit it's back on the menu!  For this visit at The Plaza, I went with the Angus Chuck Cheeseburger, and to drown my sorrows of no Cheese Steak Sandwich, a Banana Split for Dessert!  

                                    


When we arrived at Disney, the parks were decorated for Halloween, and the day we left, all was in full swing for Christmas!  Those Disney elves sure work magic!!  

                                    


During this trip to Walt Disney World, the majority of the places we dined offered Allergy-Friendly Menus, and we to ordered directly with the our waitress without speaking to the chef.  They still give the option to speak to the chef -but, now that the menus have been ruled out, the chef doesn't automatically come to the table.  Of all the places we ate, the only 2 that the chef automatically came out was Roanforest Cafe, and Yak & Yeti since they are Landry owned not Disney owned.  All the wait staff was very educated, and I felt very confident placing my order with them, and didn't have a single issue.

Once again, we had yet another magical trip to Walt Disney World, and are already excited for our return next year!  See ya real soon, Disney!!  

                                                    

Monday, November 9, 2015

Gluten Free Disney Vacation: Part 1

As you all know, we are a Disney loving family!  Our slight Disney addiction started when we took our honeymoon there 12 years ago...just weeks after being diagnosed with Celiac.  Disney quickly opened my eyes and showed me gluten free food can be as delicious as gluten filled foods.  During our first visit, numerous times, I double checked to see if the food was safe because it was so amazing...and you bet it was 100% safe! After that first visit, Disney quickly became our second home!!  


                               

This trip, we started our adventure at Disney Vero Beach, and feel in love!  A Disney resort on the beach...what isn't to love?!?!  

                                       

We decided to play it safe, and stick to only eating at our resort since we knew it was safe.  Disney Vero Beach has 4 dining options:  Shutters, Sonja's, The Green Cabin Room, and Bleachers Bar & Grill.  We ate at all of them except Sonja's; which is fine dining.  After playing at the beach & pool all day, we weren't up for fine dining -so, maybe we will try it our next visit!  They even offer a character breakfast with Donald Duck and Goofy on Saturday mornings; which was perfect!  

Disney + Beach = Amazing 
                                       

Just like when visiting Disney Parks, you mention "allergy" to the hostess, and the chef comes out personally to go over the menu.  We actually had a chef from the Kittanning area, too!!  As always, every chef was amazing -but, I favored the PA chef of course!!  We found touches from home everywhere...even Steelers was already written in the sand dune wall!

Go Steelers!                                      

During our Vero Beach stay we had a lot of Gluten Free goodness: Chicken Tenders, Sandwiches, Burgers, Pasta, French Fries, Salads, Omelet, Grits (corn based, not pictured), and  Toast.  They even have Dole Whip at Bleachers Bar & Grill which is located by the pool.  We truly enjoyed every single meal, and every one simply hit the spot!  In addition, the dining staff were all amazing, and always went above and beyond.  

Gluten Free Vero Beach Goodness 
                                     

Disney Vero Beach has much to offer, and truly provides and adventure for the kids.  There is a little miniature golf course by the pool, billiards, ping ping, tennis, and so much more!  They offer a special for miniature golf...$5/person, and you can play unlimited for your stay.  Check out our little friend we met while miniature golfing one evening!

Our Miniature Golf Friend, Mr. Crab
                                        
Since the resort isn't as big as the other Disney resorts, and our visit was during an off season, the cast members all quickly got to know us...especially Miss J; which she loved!  

Eb & Flo Schedule for the Week 
                                                 
We had the perfect mix of relaxation, and fun activity. Check out the is fun filled schedule the resort had to offer for the week of our stay pictured above.  

Enjoying some R & R 
                                       
We celebrated Halloween during our stay, and will most likely do it again next year since we had so much fun!  Miss J loved every second...and even went to her first little haunted house.  The cast members put together a perfect Disney Friendly haunted house at one of the cottages on property.   Our little Snow White is still talking about it!  

Snow White at the Haunted House 
                                       
Can't say enough how much we love Disney in every aspect, and love it even more that they are so amazing with food allergies.  



Stay tuned for Part 2 of our vacation at Walt Disney World.  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gluten Free Kids Birthday Party


This week Miss J turned 6...and it's certainly has been the fastest 6 years of my life!!  Originally, she wanted to have a roller skating party -but, sadly the only roller skating rink close to us closed a few months ago!  So, we started to brain storm!  Miss J came up with a great idea...a movie party...and I ran with it!

We both agreed on having all to our home to watch Home!  Luckily, Miss J's dad willingly agreed to share his man cave for the event!
                                     
                                     

                                                 

For the Movie themed menu we enjoyed Hot Dogs (no buns), Nacho's and Cheese, Boov Milkshakes, Popcorn/Candy Bar, a Veggies tray, and of course Miss J's fav...Pickle Dip with chips!  

                                       

Instead of making a cake, we made cupcakes in the shape of a unicorn.  It made it so easy to literally just grab and go!  Since the kids had Boov Milkshakes while watching the movie, (vanilla ice cream, blueberries, mini marshmallows, and orange sprinkles), we didn't have ice cream with the cupcakes.  And...surprisingly no one noticed!  

                                     

After the party was over, I realized this was the easiest food prep party we have had!  The most difficult thing to make was the "cake" -but, luckily my mom pulled it off for me!!

                                     

Other than making the cupcakes, the only other food I had to make was the pickle dip; which I threw together the night before.  As for the rest, it was so easy to throw together right before everyone arrived.

                                     

To end the day, we did a unicorn piƱata...filled with gluten free candy,  of course!

If I could get Miss J to go along with it, if agree to have this party this every year...but, know the chances are slim!!  

What are some of the themes you have you done for your little ones birthday parties?  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Gene Testing

Are you the only Celiac in your family or is your family full of Celiacs?  As of now, I'm the only Celiac!  My parents and niece have been tested for Celiac -but, the results are negative.  As we know, you can also get a false positive for celiac -but, won't get into that right now!  

In regards to testing for the Celiac Gene, the only that has been tested is Miss J.   Before Miss J was born my husband I agreed we would keep her gluten free to be safe.  This decision was not only to keep her safe -but, me too, since babies are always trying to put their hand in mouths, and such...so I wouldn't continuously be contaminated.  After a few years, we wanted to have her tested, and to see if my gut reaction to keep her gluten free was correct.  Luckily, my celiac friend also has a little girl the around the same age as Miss J, and she recommended EnteroLab.  After looking into EnteroLab myself,  it was a great relief that they offered an oral swab to test for the Genes of both Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac...and that we didn't have to put her through getting blood work. 


To our surprise,  Miss J's gene test came back positive for having both Gluten Sensitivity AND having the Celiac Gene...and this Mama had the right gut reaction indeed!  The funny part is I can only give her one of the genes.  So, my hubby carries one too!!  We have always suspected my hubby having a gluten sensitivity, and this validated it!  However, it still drives me crazy at times wondering who else in the family has the Celiac gene, and which side of the family carries the gene!  


                                               


At such a young age, Miss J has already realized, she will never be alone...and will always have me to relate to her good and bad days of being gluten free.  Luckyily, she has my happy go lucky personality -so, not too much phases her...yet!  The toughest part for me being the only Celiac in the family is that I don't have anyone who can relate to me.  Don't get me wrong, they do their best to understand it -but, they don't have to live it.  


                                               
Photo Credit:  Pinterest 


I've asked my parents to both the gene test done out of curiosity.  My Dad has always had stomach issues, and also has Crohns like, me too...so, I'm thinking that he may carry the gene.  But, as you know, you never know!  

Not all will agree with our decision to use a lab such as EnteroLab -but, that it ok!  We agree with the decisions, and her parents, and that is all that matters.  Miss J is one health girl, and once she is older if she would like try a gluten challenge (introduce gluten under a doctors supervisions) -then, that is her decision.  The very few times that she has had gluten or that I've been contaminated, she has reacted too, and another validation.  

Have you or your family had a gene test? Are you the first in your family to be diagnoses or were you diagnosed because you have family members who are a celiac?  


                                           
Photo Credit:  Pinterest 

*I was not paid in any way to write this post, and reference EnteroLab.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reflecting: Be You, and Be Proud!

Now that I'm determined to journal,  this morning, I remembered I had a journal I'd previously purchased on my bookshelf.  To my surprise, I attempted to start journalling in it in 2011...for 2 days!!  The 2nd entry really made me reflect when I re-read...especially since I'm still the same -however, different in a way that I have accepted my trait.  What trait is that you wonder?!?!  Well, I tend to push people away.  Do you do that too?  I tend to think it's because of my Celiac and many not getting the life I have to live.  I'd love to be spontaneous in life and not have to plan so much in advance -but, unfortunately all of life revolved around food! 

                              


I've always been a very private person, and when I was diagnosed with Celiac, it became more so.  Guess you can say my being an introvert kicked into high gear!!  In general, I don't like being the center of attention...and really don't like to add any attention to my having Celiac.  Such as, at functions, I like to just blend in, and cringe when someone yells "Mel, you can't have this because there is gluten in it."...and then all the questions come flooding! I remind myself it's good to educate, and bring awareness...however, you know all the crazy comments like "you can't eat anything"  or "oh, you poor thing."  I always try to put a positive spin on any negative comment -such as, it could always be worse, or we still enjoy amazing foods...it's all just in how it's made.  But, as you know it can all be very draining!  Often times, I let the introvert win the game, and just pull away, and  avoid social settings...it's just me, and I've accepted that!  

                                             


As much as I've tried to change and get myself out of my comfort zone, and have my hubby to thank for the extra shove sometime...the reality is that I've conquered it a bit -but, it's just how I am!  I have a pretty damn amazing circle of friends and family that  accept me for me, and love me now matter what...and for that, I'm so very thankful.  Over the years some have made me feel guilty for being me...and I've finally realized, I'm proud of who I am!  Everyone is different, and wish more accepted the saying "To each his/her own."  We are all beautifully unique, and many reasons why we are who we are...we have all gone through many things in life that make us who we are...so, be proud!  

                                           

*PHOTO CREDITS:  All found on Pinterest 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Journaling Inspiration

Now that Miss J is in school all day, I'm finding myself with some extra time on my hands, and realized I need to start using that time to take care of me!  Not only do I want to get back on track with nutrition, I want to become a better me!  Just within this week, I've received my weekly email from Emily Levenson; which was about journaling, and then on Instagram the Gluten Free Jersey Girl posted about journaling, too!  With those 2 post, it made me think it was a sign in a way, and it was time to try.  Not to mention encoring words from Gluten Free Jersey Girl, and Gluten Free Jenna...thank you for that!  

One of the reasons I don't post many blog post is that I'm the type of person who loves to help other -but, just not good at outing my thoughts into words.  I know...why am I even trying this blogging thing...well...I'm hopping it will help others, and help me grow, too!  To grow, journaling just may be able to help me with that, right?!?!  



                   
                                                                                 



Not only did seeing those 2 post intrigue me with journaling, since I've done some running around by myself, I've had some time to reflect.  In my few errands on my own, I've realized how grumpy and unappreciated this world has become.  And...I refuse to let that happen to me, or bring me down!  Just the simple task of holding the sore for someone downer happen anymore...and if you do it for someone they look at you like you have 3 heads!  Just that day of errands ruined my good mood, and I refuse to let that happen again   So...I'm thinking with all that said, its the perfect time for me to start journaling, and put my thoughts and feeling on paper.  

Since I'm not good at putting my thoughts into words I'm going to start with My Bucket Filling Journal - 30 Days to a Happier Life.  
                             
Everyday, there is a page with questions to compete and then a blank page to write your own thoughts.  I figured it was a perfect journal guide to start, and work of giving me more of a "peace of mind" and become a better me!


Do you journal?  Are there any tips to get the full benefit?  Please comment below, and pass on any input or tips!  Cheers to becoming a better me...and hope maybe I've inspired you too!  




Monday, September 14, 2015

Officially Back in the Swing of Things

Well...I think I'm officially back in the swing and adjusted to Miss J being in school!  Somedays my days fly by, and other drag on without my parter in crime!  

I've started to realize that I need to fix a really bad habit of mine!  I'm all about feeding Miss J nutrition - but, slack when it comes to me.  I'm that person that skips breakfast (I know, tsk-tsk), has a snack lunch, full dinner, and then makes a dip later at night!  I always tell myself, that I really should eat how I feed Miss J...so, I'm going to do that!  There is no excuse now because now I have plenty of  extra time to prep meals after she get on the bus in the morning.  

To make my week easier, I'm doing as much meal prep as possible on Sunday afternoons. Yesterday, I washed all my fruits and veggies, then cut and put in individual containers.  As I cut the veggies, I threw together All Meat & Veggie Chili from Laura Fuentes



At this point our house was starting to smell pretty yummy, and thought I'd make just one more thing!  So, I threw together a batch of Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies from Family Fresh Meals (using GF oats).  Now at this point, our house smells amazing, and we are all ready to try it all!  In addition, my hubby made pizza on the grill -so, we will have that as a meal option, too!  We ate the pizza for dinner, sampled the chili and cookies, and packed it all up for the week.  

                                                


This morning, I warmed a little of the chili, packed some strawberries, blueberries, and grabbed a frozen smoothie from the freezer, and just like that Miss J's lunch was packed!  For breakfast, she grabbed a couple of the Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies...and off she went!  

                               


Now, for me, I packed myself a Ham & Cheese sandwich on Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free 7 Grain Bread, a banana, and some Hummus with Gluten Free Pretzel Crisps...and felt quite proud of myself!  I even got back on track with taking my supplements  too!  I've been exhausted lately, and really need to get my healthy back.  

Tonight, we will enjoy left over pizza, and of course some chile for dinner.  My plan, is to do some more cooking Thursday, and follow the lunch plan I put together over the weekend for Miss J's lunches.  

This week is off to a good start, and just hope it continues the whole week through!!  

What do you do each week to help make your week run smoothly?  Do you tend to feed your kids healthier than yourself, too?  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Gluten Free School Lunches

Can't believe it's almost time for the kids to get back to school.  This is a big year of us...my baby girl starts Kindergarten!  My how time has flown past!  Since she will be packing her lunch each day, I've decided to start posting her lunches on FaceBook and/or Instagram -so, be sure to like/follow me!  

I'm a huge fan or Laura Feuntes and Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food -so, I'll be using their books and websites for my Gluten Free lunch inspirations!   

                       



My baby girl may be Gluten Intolerant -but, it doesn't mean she can't have a fun, yummy lunch!  One of my main goals as a Celiac is to show gluten eaters just how delicious gluten free can be!  Not to mention, any recipe can be altered to be gluten free, and yummy, too!  

This morning, I made a practice lunch with options I had on hand...before I got organized, and pre-made options!  Today's lunch included a cheese stick wrapped in ham, carrot sticks, yogurt with granola, frozen mangos, grapes...and last but not least, chocolate!  


                          
Here is to many more lunches to come!!  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Fortuitea Cafe'

This weekend, we stopped by Fortuitea Cafe  (located in The Shoppes at Quail Acres in Washington just minutes from Tanger Outlets) to have lunch, and I had the great pleasure of talking to the owners, too!  

Frotuitea Cafe has much to offer:
  • 100+ Loose Teas / Coffees
  • Bakery & Custom Cakes
  • Traditional British Afternoon Teas
  • Vegetarian / Vegan / Gluten Free Options
  • Gift Baskets / Special Orders
For lunch, I enjoyed the Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus & Veggie Wrap (on a GF wrap), and Miss J had the Toasted Almond and Seasonal Berries Salad.  Both were delicious.  I even re-inquired to verify the wrap was GF...and indeed it was!  




                                

They offer a big selection of GF baking mixes, too

                                               


We are certainly looking forward to our next visit to Fortuitea Cafe soon!   


*As always with any restaurant, always inform the wait staff of your celiac or gluten intolerance when ordering so they can take the proper precaution to avoid the risk of contamination...and of course it's almost always a risk.  


Monday, June 8, 2015

Birthday Intentional Acts of Kindness

This weekend was my birthday, and I decided to start a new tradition of performing Intentional Acts of Kindness each year!  I originally planned to try for 38 -but, didn't plan enough in advance to complete that many.  So, this year we started the new tradition off with completing only 4; which is not that many -but, a good start!  My joy came in watching Miss J complete the tasks...since she is much cuter than me!  Since swimming was a top priority for Miss J this weekend, we didn't have many opportunities to complete many tasks...but, some are certainly better than none!  

This new tradition idea came from a pin I saw on Pinterest (go figure)!  Take a look at the pin that gave me the idea:

                                             


Our list of Intentional Acts of Kindness:

1)  While at checking out at Target, I put $5 on a gift card, and had Miss J give it straight to the lady behind us in line.  Miss J walked up to her and said "here is a gift from me to you."  As you can imagine, the lady was a little confused, and thought Miss J was asking her to put the gift card back on the shelf, and then pleasant surprised when I confirmed it was indeed for her that we were performing acts of kindness.  

2)  During our Trader Joe's trip we picked out favorite flowers and snacks for each of our guest coming over to celebrate my birthday with me!  Miss J loved handing out special gifts to loved ones who came to celebrate her Mom!  

3)  When we came home from the store,  a neighbor girl was out playing with her friend -so, we pulled a few flowers from my flower bouquet, and Miss J gave them some "sunshine"!  They were all adorable when she ran over to them, and gave them a flower.  

4) We took the girls at the hair salon a chocolate fix of dark chocolate covered pomegranates to brighten their day when Miss J got her haircut!  

Next year, my goal is the plan out a lot more of my Intentional Acts of Kindness, and even add some GF to the acts too!  In addition to just my birthday, I always try to do random acts of kindness each day -such as, return a cart for someone in the parking lot, open/hold a door open for someone...and of course smile at the person coming my way!  It's truly the little things in life that can make someones day!  

Do you have any birthday traditions you do?