Food Allergy Bloggers Conference 2013 #FABlogCon

 

FABbannerThere are simply not enough words to express the immense gratitude we feel towards Jenny Sprague and Homa Woodrum for planning and executing the phenomenal Food Allergy Bloggers Conference.  I came across a quote by Melody Beattie that sums it up better than I ever could as these ladies not only united food allergy bloggers of every kind but provided them a chance to learn, socialize and truly appreciate each other.

 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

We arrived in Vegas on Thursday to check things out and had fun family time on the Vegas strip prior to the conference.  Late Friday afternoon, I bid farewell to my children and husband so I could prepare for the dinner arranged by the wonderful Caroline of Grateful Foodie.  Having dinner at Don Vito’s with this smaller group of bloggers made me incredibly anxious due to possibly not knowing anyone in person.  Fortunately, the lovely Selena of Amazing and Atopic had agreed to meet me there as we had chatted quite a bit via social media.  My anxiety could have easily kept me in my room had it not been for her genuine kindness.  When I walked into the restaurant, I immediately recognized Cheryl Viirand the founder of Freedible because we had met in person during BlogHer Food in Austin.  Her smile was infectious.  Sitting next to her was a man who was destined to become our lifelong friend, Ritesh Patel. I have never met someone so sincere and compassionate.  As soon as I was seated, the conversation flowed as naturally among the people at the table as it would during a high school reunion.

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 Chef Keith Norman came to greet us and answer questions regarding the menu he had created for us.  He was reassuring and confident given that a single, simple mistake could send someone to the ER or worse.  As someone who enjoys dining out, Chef Norman is the type of person who puts you at ease instead of making you want to run for the door because they lack information regarding the food you are about to consume.

On Saturday morning, we had planned to meet in the lobby to head over to the FARE Walk.  As you may have read in my previous post, my kids and I were more than excited about participating.  If you know me at all, you won’t be shocked to discover that we missed the entire event due to not one but two unfortunate issues.  According to their web page, the FARE walk has raised over $93,000.

The much-anticipated conference began on Sunday and it was immediately obvious that despite what brought each individual blogger to Las Vegas, we were all united for a cause.  The majority of bloggers, attendees and presenters that I spoke with had someone with allergies to at least one of the Top 8 food allergens in their household, several live gluten free due to celiac disease and there were so many more food related health issues that I can’t name them all.

Speaking of food, Chef Keith Norman of the South Point Hotel devised an allergy friendly menu to be served during the conference and also for the entire hotel/casino.  This meant that no matter which of their many restaurants we popped into for a bite, we could easily find options that were free of all of the top 8 allergens.  Each server I questioned had answers.  Sounds surreal, huh?  IT HAPPENED.

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 There were a plethora of educational sessions spread out over Sunday and Monday.  Although many bloggers enjoyed the dual track of sessions, I often felt torn between learning about how to improve my blog and learning how to become a better advocate.  Due to various reasons beyond my control, I did miss many of the sessions I had planned to attend.  As aforementioned, if I plan to do something, chances are life will put a stick in the spokes of my bicycle.  (I accept that with a smile)

Unfortunately for me, one of the presentations I missed was Nitty Gritty – Make it Pretty by Mary Fran Wiley of Franny Cakes.  However, Mary Fran has graciously allowed for this session to be viewed and downloaded from her website here.  From what I’ve heard this was quite an informative session about cleaning up your blog and making it beautiful.  Bloggers were raving about it.  While I was quite sad to miss it, I will say that I am so blessed to know this lady.  She is absolutely inspiring.  If you haven’t already, check out her motivating Chronic Positivity Project.

Imagine my joy when I was able to attend the Art of Recipe Development with presenters Colette Martin, Kelly Rudnicki and Cybele Pascal.  All of these women are absolutely incredible and accomplished in the area of recipe development.  For example, Colette Martin has written Learning to Bake Allergen Free based on her own experience with her son’s allergies to wheat, milk, soy, egg, peanuts and her family’s journey with eosinophilic esophagitis (EE).

During this presentation, I was once again reminded the importance of writing down your ingredients so you can recreate your recipe with the same outcome every single time.  The way I cook, I rarely measure (the correct way) and though my food is almost always edible – it doesn’t always look or taste the way I envision it.  One of the suggestions to remedy that is to keep a log of what you are doing, adding, subtracting or in other words, write down any changes you make to the recipe.  Another great point was to change only one thing at a time when adjusting a recipe.  These may seem like simple points but again, I don’t write things down when I’m cooking and often try to recreate the same dish with very different results.  While I will most likely never write a cookbook, I would be delighted to share some of my successes.

The session I most enjoyed was about 504 plans.  For resources and other information regarding food allergy advocacy, please visit Green  Laurel Documents.  Another fantastic resource for parents  is the online community called Kids with Food Allergies (KFA).  KFA also offers online webinars to help guide you on your journey to become a stronger advocate for your child.   After the session, I learned more about Jan Hanson and the services offered through EFFA (Education for Food Allergies).  If you are struggling to get what you need from your child’s school system, I urge you to look at these websites and reach out for help.

I left this lecture feeling more confident that what I know about 504’s and IEP’s is correct.  I’m now armed with more resources for the future.  As a mom, I can’t begin to express the importance of knowing your student’s rights when it comes to food allergies.  In our case, gluten and dairy play a ginormous role in school attendance and the ability to concentrate in the classroom.  What a struggle it was when our child needed to have an IEP in place.  If I can ever help another parent avoid the anguish our family went through, I will do whatever I can.

The closing panel of the conference was appropriately called Filling the Gaps.  As I looked around the room in amazement, the message was very clear.  Despite our individual food issues we all need to work together in order to ensure that safe legislation continues to be passed pertaining to food allergies and continue to raise awareness.

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 Special thanks to the Sponsors and Vendors at the FARE walk and conference.  Your helped ensure this event would be outstanding. Just a few of my favorites are Allermates, Lauren’s Hope, Attune Foods and Enjoy Life.

Although it’s not possible to list every amazing blogger and/or advocate that I was able to meet in person, I do want to mention a few that are truly fabulous.  Check out these blogs especially if you are avoiding gluten due to either celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity:

Celiac and the Beast – Don’t forget to check out Erica’s new book when you visit her blog

Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW – If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, you want to read this blog

Gluten Free Green Bean

I’m a Celiac

Keeley McQuire – Need some inspiration for that lunch box? This lady is beyond creative.

My Gluten-Free Kitchen

Raising Jack With Celiac

Vegetarian Mamma

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 If you want to see more about this conference or what is happening in the world of food allergens, look for the #FABlogCon hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.  Not only will you obtain loads of information about living with food allergies and/or celiac disease, you’ll see the fun that we had while learning and socializing.  Follow the #FABlogCon hashtag on Twitter & Instagram and help keep it going until the next conference in 2014.

 

 

Las Vegas FARE Walk and Food Allergy Blogger Conference

In just a few days, we will be heading to Vegas for two fabulous events.  First, we’ll be participating in the Las Vegas FARE Walk .  My children are pretty excited to check out more than 50 allergen friendly vendors, face painters and plethora of kids activities. They are also pretty amped about eating safe food and meeting other children who live with food allergies.  My kids would love to connect with more of their peers who are avoiding gluten and dairy.FAREsafari

We’ve even joined a team to raise funds for food allergy research. If you can make a small donation towards this important cause, please do.  If not, that’s okay too.  Just in case you are feeling generous with a few seconds of your time, please share this fundraising link then use it to see if there is a walk close to you.

The Las Vegas Fare Walk will be held on Saturday November 2, 2013.  Please click here for exact location and details.

Did you know?

• Approximately 15 million Americans are living with food allergies.  This estimation includes  5.9 million children.

• The number of children living with a peanut allergy has nearly doubled from 1997 to 2002. 

• In the United States, food allergies send someone to the emergency room every three minutes. 

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The second event that we’ll be attending has many desirable components for food allergy advocates, bloggers and parents in general. The Food Allergy Blogger Conference will be held at the South Point Hotel on Sunday, November  3rd and Monday November 4th.

As a mom/advocate/celiac, I am looking forward to two days of presentations regarding living with food allergies and intolerances.  Included in these sessions are details pertaining to 504 plans, coping with the social aspects of dietary limitations and all sorts of useful data.  For a complete agenda click here.

With the added bonus of the Wine & Sign Book Club & Cocktail Party during the evening of November 3rd at the South Point Hotel, this conference is going to fantastic.

fabwineDuring this party some of the most incredible writers, bakers and bloggers will be available to answer questions and autograph your books.  Just of few of my favorites in attendance are:

 

We’re looking forward to seeing our friends and making some new ones too.  Hope to see you there.  If not check us out on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for info and pictures from the event.

 

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Eat Write Retreat! “Timing is Everything”

Ever since I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008, I have been on a non-stop journey to learn as much as possible about living gluten free.  After reading massive quantities of books and surfing tons of websites, I found that I could learn more about my required gluten free lifestyle by attending any gluten free conference and/or expo that I could.  By attending these events, I could find answers to many burning questions about the medical research and history behind this autoimmune disorder.

Five years later, I still haven’t stopped learning about celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  This quest for knowledge will never end.  Now that I am no longer serving on the board of our local non-profit support group, I find myself growing more intrigued by the creative ways social media allows us to share newfound information with others.  Like many, I have entered the blogosphere.

In addition to learning about the social media channels available to spread awareness, a plethora of “how do I’s?” need to be answered.  Now I’ve developed a “need” to attend conferences aimed at making my blog successful, networking with brands and writing books.

EWRlogoThinking about how expensive it has become to travel to different cities and states in order to attend these conferences can make you cringe.  Airfare, hotel stays and tickets to the various events add up quickly. For a person that must live gluten and dairy free, meals must also be planned in advance for fear of getting ill which increases both my anxiety and expenses.

Many blogging conferences also have scheduling challenges.  What I mean is that there are usually two sessions scheduled at the same time that I want to attend.  I have to miss something that I really needed or wanted to go to. Why does this annoy me?  Well, I‘ve invested my time and money, burnt a few of my husband’s good graces points, and don’t always feel I get the most out of the conferences.

The solution to these enormous out of pocket costs and scheduling conflicts is now available thanks to Casey Benedict, the co-founder of Eat Write Retreat, which is a conference for food bloggers.  A video collection of the speakers from the three day conference is now available for those who can’t or prefer not to travel. The fee for the videos is an affordable alternative to traveling to obtain this wealth of food writing knowledge which makes my husband infinitely happier with my obsession.

EWRDebbie-KoenigI had the honor of previewing the video “Timing is Everything” which features Debbie Koenig.  Debbie is a blogger, food writer and cookbook author so she knows how to get the most out of her day. Her writing can be found at Parents Need to Eat Too and Feed the Parents.  Debbie has impressively written for many others in addition to her blogs.  The New York Times, Parents, American Baby, Weight Watchers, and Fit Pregnancy are among the publications who have featured her writing.

The segment “Timing is Everything” is about time management or the art of juggling your life, social media and blogs.  Debbie Koenig gives some fabulous tips the best ways to organize your time. This is something I need personally struggle with on a daily basis.  Who doesn’t, right?

Whether you are curious about attending a conference or unable to travel due to costs, this is a fantastic way to begin your journey.  You can purchase one session or the whole shebang here.

BlogHer Food 2013 – Austin, TX

Bl0gHer Food 2013

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I am about to burst with anticipation!  In just a few days my daughter and I will be attending our very first BlogHer conference in Austin, TX.  While I have gone to many gluten free and/or allergen free expos, this is my first attempt at a large, food based social event since being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008.  In fact, neither one of us has been to an event quite like this.

We’ve never been to Austin, let alone a BlogHer Food event and don’t know what to expect as far as gluten free food accommodations.  That means we are doing all of the following to ensure food safety on this trip:

  1.  Packing an extra carry-on just for “safe” food.  This bag will include:  Lara Bars, seaweed snacks, hot cereal, crackers and rice cakes.  Nut butter and stevia will also be in tow along with tons of coconut water to wash it down and stay hydrated.
  2. Checking out websites for gluten free dining options on the off chance that I won’t be inside the hotel for the whole weekend.  The two sites we’ll be using most are Stuffed-Pepper and ATX Gluten Free.
  3. Calling ahead to the hotel to be sure that I will have a refrigerator and/or microwave in my room.
  4. We’re also bringing the “just in case” kit – activated charcoal (which we know about because Chrissy from Glam without Gluten gave me some in CA due to an gluten emergency), ginger capsules and kombucha tea bags.  Better to have these handy helpers along than to assume no mistakes will happen on this trip.  Accidental gluten ingestion can happen any time – regardless of the precautions taken.

So why on earth would someone go through all this trouble just to travel to another state and listen to people talk about their brands and blogs for hours on end?  Well….

  1. Inspiring people create more inspired people.
  2. Even if ALL of the attendees aren’t gluten free, I will be surrounded by those who love food.  They take pictures of it, dream about it, create it, write about it.  It’s always nice not to be the only one at the table with your camera out, rearranging your food like you’d prep a small child for a picture.
  3. Experience of others who are innovators in the foodie revolution who have already been in my shoes will be shared during these sessions.  We’ll hear about some of our blogging/writing idol’s trials, tribulations and successes.
  4. With a plethora of sessions on writing, food photography and video, this sounds like heaven to me.

One important deciding factor for me was learning about the closing party at Stubbs with a gluten free twist.  World Famous BBQ, music and dancing. (I will be way too full to bust a move.)

Can’t wait to see some old friends and make some new ones.

Have I mentioned that I am a wee bit excited about attending this event!

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CDF Conference and Expo Recap Part 2

The second day of the CDF Conference & Expo featured CDF’s stand alone gluten-free product expo.  As expected, it was phenomenal.

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There were gluten-free foods galore and tons of people needing to eat gluten-free in order to stay healthy.  Guess what?  They were all happy to be there.

Since I was there as an official blogger, I decided that instead of reporting back to you on the major companies that you’ve most likely heard about such as Enjoy Life, Rudi’s, Udi’s, I’d pick a just a handful of companies for you.  This a small sampling of books and companies that were available at the expo.  How awesome is it to be able to try sample’s from all of these incredible vendors represented in one place?

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Lucy’s cookies are made in a dedicated facility and are free of milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and gluten.           Dr. Lucy Gibney was being interviewed by the LA Times during the Expo and there is no way I would have been able to remain as calm as she was during all of the chaos.  When Lucy’s son was diagnosed with multiple and severe allergies, she took action by changing her mom’s recipes into scrupulously safe cookies for all children whether they live allergen free or not.  Try these delightful cookies today.  As Lucy says, “Start eating what you’ve been missing.” Available at Well Amy.

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Andean Dream makes some pretty impressive and flavorful cookies, pasta and soup.For now I will focus on their Andean Dream Quinoa Cookies. These yummy little morsels come in a carton as pictured and are individually wrapped for freshness.  All of the packaging is recyclable for those of us that are greenies.  For variety, they are produced in five flavors which are all free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn and nuts.  After tasting these protein packed treats, I bought a package of each kind for my kiddos to have with lunch.  I love the coffee and they love the coconut.  Can’t wait to try their other products!  Available at Well Amy.

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Heavenly Organics Oh my!  This company really does live up to its name.  With many types of patties and Himalayan Honey to sample at their table, I could have stayed there all day.    So before I go off on a tangent about honey and how fabulous it is for your health and how bad sugar is for your body, I’m going to zoom in on my favorite flavor of patty.  Pomegranate.  Made with organic honey & dark chocolate this product is also gluten and dairy free.  Don’t you love when your food only has three ingredients(that you can pronounce) and tastes like heaven?  A magically delicious way to have a dessert without adding sugar.Available at Well Amy.

ArnelsArnel’s Originals  For some reason, I really connected with this lady right off the bat. When I got home and went to her website, I read the story of her journey and knew why.  We definitely have plenty in common as mother’s.  From what I read, it took 14 years to obtain a celiac disease diagnosis.  After all those years of frustration,  this woman had a mission to make some phenomenal gluten-free bread.  She also wanted it to be healthy.  Not stopping at just healthy, it needed to be dairy free, gluten-free, soy free and lastly GMO free.  The result was Arnel’s Originals Buckwheat Bread.  Made with organic buckwheat flour, organic brown rice flour and other wholesome ingredients, this bread has an awesome texture.   Arnel offers mixes and online baking videos so you don’t have to go through the 8 year process that she did to make such goodness from your oven.

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Jilz Gluten Free Crackers – These crackers were so delish that I had to buy several containers and mixes.  Hopefully this health conscious company will be around for quite a while.  Our favorite flavor so far is Mediterranean.  Salty goodness.  Support your smaller gluten-free start-up businesses.  Find Jilz on Facebook by clicking here.

kiddWeeknight Gluten Free by Kristine Kid For over 20 years, Kristine was the food editor of Bon Appetit magazine.  One look through this book and it’s pretty easy to see why.  This cookbook’s main focus is healthy living while offering you gluten-free recipes that are yummy but easy to make.  This book has something for everyone and features gorgeous food photos that make your mouth water.  Some of the recipes are so simple that my children can make me dinner too.  It hurts no one that they all happen to be healthy in addition.  There’s even a section called “Meatless Meals.”   Can’t wait to try Steak and Rajas Tacos and make Coconut-Rum Caramelized Bananas for dessert.

Well Amy Wouldn’t it be a wonderful time saver if you had someone who could research all of the gluten-free products on the market for you and find some of  healthier options for you?  Well there is.  Well Amy has recently launched their online market.  Go take a look.   Shop for your needs all in one place.  I was so pleased to see some of the booths at the Expo marked with her Well Amy logo because it made it much easier for me to seek out the type of vendors that I was looking for as a consumer.

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Well Amy also offers you a way to connect with people who are like you whether they are living an allergen free, eco-friendly or are into healthy living.

Gluten is my Bitch by April Peveteaux is one helluva book.  I don’t think that I have ever laughed so hard about my gastrointestinal symptoms in my entire life.  It took me over 25 years of having these symptoms to be diagnosed.  That’s a whole lot of damage.  There is nothing funny about that.  BUT COME ON!  We need to laugh sometimes.  Why not laugh until you cry? I did.

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I’ve never heard the word beshatting used in a sentence either.  No one else that I have ever met has ever had the guts to write a whole chapter about poop.  Kudos to April for discussing the matters of gluten-free living in adult words.  She will always be my GFF.  This Brooklyn girl has a whole lot of Chutzpah.  It was certainly refreshing to read a bunch of naughty words mixed with good advice after having deep and intense medical discussions during the previous weeks….months…years.

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CDF Conference and Expo Recap Part 1

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Allow me to begin by saying what an honor it was to be chosen as an official blogger for the 2013 CDF Expo and Conference in Pasadena, California.  I was among vivacious people who all shared a common interest that bonded us together.  That interest was to raise celiac awareness.  No better time to do so than during the month of May which is also known as Celiac Awareness Month, right?

I’ll have to admit that I was a bit nervous about meeting a slew of people that I didn’t know.  In the end, it felt like a small family made up of extroverts.  dinner2

Introducing the cast of official event bloggers in alphabetical order so you can’t tell who my favorite is:

Alison from A Girl Defloured

Andrea from Rockin Gluten Free

Brian of East Bay Celiac

Chrissy of Glam Without Gluten

Erica of Celiac and the Beast

Kim from Thriving Gluten Free

Sarah of Can I Eat Here  

The first day featured a full day of learning via educational sessions by guest speakers such as Dr. Joseph A. Murray and Dr. Peter Green.

During these sessions, we all picked up interesting facts.  Since I’ve attended a couple of conferences, I zoomed in on some that I hadn’t heard before and some that I had that are really important to everyone.

From Dr. Murray’s slides, I learned that people from certain regions and origins lack the genes for celiac disease.  Something I had never thought about until that moment as I live in my own narrow world.  I found the cultural diversity for the genetic predisposition of celiac to be completely enthralling.  I may be the only one but thought I would share that tid bit.

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Dr. Murray also spoke at length about the “Celiac Iceberg.”  He stated that although it is pretty above the surface it is very dangerous underneath.   Kind of like the berg that sunk the Titanic.

Murray also discussed some very crucial information.  CELIAC DISEASE CAN DEVELOP AT ANY POINT – IN ANY ONE’S LIFE!  He suggested retesting often because you are NEVER too old to develop celiac REGARDLESS of whether you have tested negative in the past.

Remember folks, undiagnosed celiac is not benign.

During his presentation, Dr. Murray recommended testing for all of those with type 1 diabetes.  He also mentioned that something has changed in our environment to promote celiac disease.

Dr. Peter Greene’s informative lecture began afterwards and divulged a plethora of information about silent celiac disease with numerous supportive slides.  Just a few of the symptoms that have no typical gastrointestinal manifestation are down syndrome, osteoporosis, anemia, dermatitis herpetiformis and a myriad of other symptoms including neurological presentations.

Dr. Green also discussed the gender difference in why more women than men are diagnosed.  It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me that women are more often diagnosed with this or any illness as we are more likely to seek medical attention.  We are just smarter.  Ok, low blow but wanted to make sure you were still reading.  Check out the slide to see why Dr. Green thinks this is the case.

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If you want to know all about the products from CDF’s stand alone gluten free Expo, part 2 will be coming soon!  Stay tuned.

****Would you like more information about the Conference?  Please visit any of the above mentioned blogs or find #CDFExpo on Twitter/Instagram for slides from the presentations

Thank you to CDF for this fantastic opportunity to blog about your Annual Celiac Conference and Expo.  We can’t think of a better way to kick off Celiac Awareness Month!

CDF EXPO

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CDF Conference and Expo

We’ve found an awesome way to begin celebrating Celiac Disease Awareness Month.  We’ll be attending the Celiac Disease Foundation’s National Education Conference & Expo on May 4th and 5th in Pasadena, CA.

I am so thrilled to be chosen as an “official blogger” for this event that I am actually speechless.  If you know me, you know that is almost impossible.

This two day event will feature an educational conference on May 4th and an Expo of gluten free products & services open to the public on May 5th.

Conference and Expo (for attendees only) Information

May 4, 2013 from 730 am to 430 pm at the Pasadena Convention Center.   This conference will be quite an educational opportunity for those following the gluten free diet whether they have celiac disease or gluten intolerance and for those who are involved in their lives.  Presentations will be given by medical professionals, researchers and advocates for those who either live a gluten free lifestyle due to an autoimmune disorder(s) or medical necessity.  Vendors will also be available during the conference from 10am to 430pm.

Expo Information

May 5, 2013 from 1000 am to 300 pm at the Pasadena Convention Center.  This will be first time that CDF also hosts a Gluten Free Expo on the Sunday following the annual conference. During past years, the Expo was available to attend only for those who also attended the conference on Saturday in addition to the educational program.  The “stand alone” portion of the Expo offers nearly 100 vendors.  The need for gluten free products isn’t limited to those with celiac disease.  According to CDF’s Development Director, Deborah Ceizler, “for celiacs, a gluten-free diet is not an option.  But there are millions of people who choose a gluten-free diet for a multitude of reasons.  This EXPO is a great way for anyone interested in, or even just curious about, gluten-free foods to try them, get credible information and network.”

For more information or to purchase tickets for the Expo and/or the conference, please click here.

Hurry you don’t want to miss this incredible opportunity to meet some of you favorite vendors, medical professionals and sample tasty treats!

To learn more about the Celiac Disease Foundation by visiting their website here.  CDF has many opportunities to volunteer, learn and have fun while doing so.

For more information about living gluten free, please click here.

“The Gluten Glitch” book review

As the mother of 3 children, two of which are gluten and dairy free, I often wonder about my children advocating for themselves when it comes to school and other events where I am not present.  When I came across this book at an expo, I read it right at the author’s table.  The Gluten Glitch made me smile when I thought of many similar conversations that I have had with my own little ones.  It was such a joy to read this book that I purchased one for my children and the author generously donated a copy to our local celiac support group.  This book provides children with a platform to explain their dietary differences to their peers and classmates.

The setting of this story is perfect.  It takes place during a mom’s drive home from school with her young son.  The child is upset and complaining that his food at school always looks different from that of his classmates.  Although he understands why he can’t eat gluten, his mother reiterates the effects that consuming this protein have on his growing body.  She then refocuses him towards the positive side of his GF diet.  They talk about what he can eat.

"The Gluten Glitch"

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have had this conversation with my own kids, especially the oldest who is now in 4th grade. Even though she has been GF since kindergarten, this year has been particularly tough.  When we were children we had to deal with bullies as part of growing up and attending school.  As parents, we are being made more aware that food bullying is occurring in schools every where.  I recently read some great articles in Allergic Living magazine including  http://bit.ly/YfPLDQ and http://bit.ly/PWeQE1.    My children and their teachers are armed with a plethora of information to deal with these situations and The Gluten Glitch will add to the arsenal.

In the fall, our youngest child will be entering kindergarten.  This book will be in his little backpack on the first day of school for him to keep in his desk.  You can purchase this awesomely illustrated and well written book at http://www.ieatdifferent.com.

This fabulous lady has so much to be proud of.

This fabulous author has so much to be proud of.

Special thanks to Stasie John for all that she is doing to raise allergy awareness!

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen offers gluten free food options

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney

Our gluten-free adventure at  Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

While we were on summer vacation in the Disneyland area, we wanted to treat the family to a special dinner that they would not forget.  Although Disneyland itself offers many accommodations for gluten-free (GF) dining, we wanted to do something a little more upscale.  After all, my mother was also visiting from Florida and deserved to have some fun away from the parks.

Celebrating with GF Champagne and non-GF beer

We set to work sifting through a ton of websites, menus, reviews and chose Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen (http://www.rbjazzkitchen.com) in Downtown Disney.  Many of us (especially me) longed to have a hearty and healthy meal of grown-up food.  No more hamburgers and hot dogs!

I contacted them to assure that they had a grasp on GF food service as well as dairy free (DF) options for my daughter.  We made a reservation by calling the number listed on the Disney website and began dreaming of what we’d have for dinner.

After spending time in the popular new area of CarsLand at Disney, we were definitely ready to chow down in true New Orleans’s fashion.

Stepping inside of the restaurant transported us to Louisiana with the charm of New Orleans’s and southern bayou décor.  We could hardly wait to see the menu.

We met the manager on duty, Allan Roy.  Allan introduced us to Sous Chef, Joseph Stilson.  Together we discussed our dietary needs and expectations.  They were eager to provide us with an unforgettable meal and experience.   Once they discovered it was our anniversary, we were also provided with complimentary champagne that was brought to us by our delightful server Jenna Gackstetter.

I feasted on Greg’s Bayou Ribs with chipotle-honey BBQ sauce, green beans, jalapeño-bacon potato salad.   

Greg's Bayou Ribs

Greg’s Bayou Ribs – TRULY UMPTIOUS!

This was a zesty and robust dish that was unexpectedly packed with flavor.  It was the first time we have ever encountered jalapeños in potato salad.  What a surprise to find it so delish!

My husband had a dish that was also GF called Black and Blue Filet Mignon  which consisted of blackened fillet mignon, blue cheese dauphinoise potatoes and butter poached asparagus with a blueberry-Merlot demi-glace.

Black a Blue Filet Mignon

The dish arrived beautifully plated with layered mashed potatoes that looked a little like lasagna.  He said it was deliciously tender and one of the best fillet mignons he has ever had.

The food was scrumptious, the service supreme and the atmosphere delightful.  The restaurant was filled with happy people and the sounds of music.

Time to jazz it up!

The music came from a pianist who played jazzy music and also sang to accompany some of the songs.

This was magnificent experience and we highly recommend that you check this place out if you are ever near Downtown Disney.  We will definitely return if we vacation in the Anaheim area.

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

Medieval Times in Buena Park CA

The king arrives

Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament has several locations throughout the United States.  Since we were heading to Disneyland for summer vacation we decided to check out the castle in Buena Park which is very close to where we were staying in Anaheim.

Before making our plans to attend the dinner show, we emailed and called to verify that we could be accommodated for both our gluten free (GF) and dairy free (DF) dietary needs.  Although their website stated that we would be able to dine GF/DF, I am not one for being disappointed upon arrival by being presented with a salad while everyone enjoys a satisfyingly scrumptious meal.  After doing our homework, we just knew it would be something exciting to do on one of our days off from the Disney parks.

We made our plans which included an upgrade to royalty and headed to the show.  Our kids were beside themselves with excitement.

What 5 year old boy doesn’t want to see sword fights and knights jousting?

Let the battle rage on

What 10 year old girl doesn’t want to see a princess and performing horses?  Little did we know that the “adults” would have even more fun than the kids.

Awesome performance horses

Recently receiving 2.5 million dollars in renovations, this was one spiffy castle.  The performance aspect was also updated in February of 2012.

After we arrived, we checked out the bar area and their cool array of medieval named cocktails and then headed to the photo area.  Our family took a photo for our vacation scrapbook and went to register our plethora of birthday and anniversary events so that we could obtain not only an announcement during the show but also printed scrolls to commemorate the event.

The trumpets sounded and we were ushered to our seats.  With our upgrade we were able to sit in the second row of the blue knight’s section.  Service and the show began immediately.  Of course, being in the second row – we had a tremendous view and the children were full of excitement to learn that the blue knight stood for bravery and we would be cheering for him.  Later in the show, the knight’s threw out flowers to the audience and our daughter caught a carnation.  Be still her little heart.

A flower for the birthday maiden

Our 5 yr old son was enthralled with the battle scenes (so were his dad and our 21 yr old guest).  I have never seen my son so animated as when he cheered for his knight.  Of course, it helped that his knight won the princesses heart and the end.  Both of the birthday children were over the moon with happiness.

About the food….it was wonderful and safely prepared away from anything containing gluten or dairy.  Our server was terrific about assuring us that we would safely eat anything he presented us on our metal plates.  Oh – there are no utensils.  That went over stupendously with all present.

What did the GF/DF people in our party eat?  We had almost everything that was served including; tomato bisque Soup, roasted chicken, ribs, herb basted potatoes, and fruit salad.

Perfectly Roasted Chicken

For the full menu click here.

Colin found a creative way to drink his soup

The food was terrific, the tournament exciting and afterwards the photo opportunities with the cast members was priceless.

To book your dinner or make inquires please visit their website at Medieval Times or call their national customer service center at 866-543-9637.  Tickets are also available at the event.

Check out the special offers by clicking here.

Princess Marisa with her knight, Sir Dustin of Tucson

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