Saturday, August 29, 2015

Just getting started...Gluten-Free

Just getting started...Gluten-Free

 For someone starting their new Gluten-Free journey learning to navigate their own kitchen can be just as challenging as traveling to a new country.  I always get questions from people who are new to living Gluten-Free and they're usually feeling pretty overwhelmed. It can certainly seem like Gluten can hide in anything. They want to do what's best for their own bodies, or their loved ones, but there's just soooo much information to try and process. And they want to feel better fast. Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop a moment, take a step back and begin again with a slower approach.

Yes, you want the Gluten out of your life – but it's not going to happen overnight.  Be patient with yourself.  Give yourself a little time and go back to basics. Once you manage to remove the gluten from your life…please don’t race to replace everything with Gluten-Free substitutes.  That’s the biggest mistake I see so many people making. It’s one of the reasons why so many people still feel so sick many months after going 100% Gluten-Free. 

You have to remember that your gut has been damaged…it’s going to need time to heal. Once you break that gluten addiction you’ll probably go through withdrawal, you’ll have some incredible cravings, a roller coaster ride of emotions, your body may want to purge all the junk out of your system through every conceivable orifice, and you’ll wonder more than once if you’re doing the right thing.  Hang in there…it does get better!

I normally ask people to dedicate the first 6 weeks to just cleaning up their diet. Learn how to eat real food again.  Go back to basics…real proteins, real fruits, real vegetables.  Good quality foods that feed the system and the soul.  Understand exactly what gluten is and what it is not.  Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in Wheat (Durum, Emmer, Spelt, Farina, Farro, Kamut® Khorasan Wheat, and Einkorn), Rye, Barley and Triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as glue that holds food together.

CLEAN UP - start with a good cabinet cleaning and don't forget the fridge and the freezer too. Get rid of the obvious – WHEAT – and while you're at it learn how to read ingredients. Take some time to read up on Gluten, but get rid of the wheat in your diet ASAP. Don't worry about replacing it right away. Give yourself time to get used to pulling things out of your diet without adding Gluten-Free items back in. Gluten-Free foods can be expensive…and often times very disappointing at first.

NOTHING PROCESSED - which means if it comes out of a box or a can put it back on the shelf and step away. Eat real food. Focus first on quality foods…real meat, real fruit, real vegetables. Try making everything from scratch…so that you know exactly what goes into it. Frozen fruits and vegetables are fine…provided that's all that's in the package.

NOTHING WHITE – generally the whiter something is the more it's been processed.  Just replace your whites with a bit of color. Instead of white potato try sweet potato, instead of white sugar use brown or raw sugar, honey, or molasses.  Instead of white rice use brown or wild rice…you get the picture. Even milk…if you can handle it try an alternative…or go organic and get lactose free. Many people with Celiac have lactose intolerance due to the damage already done to their gut. Try going lactose free for a while and you might be able to go back later without the distress.

VITAMINS & MINERALS – if you haven't started with these yet…it's time to find one that works for you. I generally recommend liquid or capsules, powders are great too…stay away from tablets. Your gut already has a hard time digesting, why add to its distress.  You should be taking a good multi-vitamin, multi-mineral every single day.

Give yourself just six little weeks to get used to all the new changes you'll be adding to your life. Don't let yourself get so overwhelmed. You can do it…one step at a time.
Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Busch Gardens is NOT Gluten-Free safe :-(

Busch Gardens is NOT Gluten-Free safe :-(

Busch Gardens - Where the UNEXPECTED comes together

http://www.buschgardens.com/


Well, as much as this disappoints me, I have to say that Busch Gardens is NOT a Gluten-Free safe place to visit.  Not only did they not have a clue...but didn't seem overly concerned about it either.    And I have to say that I was really looking forward to doing a positive review after my visit.  Sadly, that's not something that I can do.  Thank goodness I always pack something to eat...just in case.  This time I only grabbed a couple packs of Schar's Crackers just to share with my sister, who is also Gluten-Free. 
It was an incredibly beautiful day so we took ourselves and the grandkids to the park for the day.  I really didn't expect any trouble with finding something safe to eat.  I mean we've been to visit the Mouse before in Orlando.  And the care and understanding were second to none.  I honestly expected nothing less at Busch Gardens Tampa - one of the largest tourist attractions in my area. Not so in Tampa.  First of all none of the employees that I spoke to had a clue.  In fact I had to repeat my request because it appeared they'd never even heard the words 'Celiac' or 'Gluten-Free' before and didn't understand what I said.  I will give them credit...they immediately turned to a supervisor for guidance.  But even that didn't seem to help.

My lunch consisted of chicken and grapes...that was all I was told I could have...then they plopped the standard roll on top.  When she saw my daughter poke the roll (my baby always watches out for me :-) and pull it off the plate...then begin pulling off the area of chicken it had touched...she came back and took the dish back with an off-handed comment.  She then dumped the dish into the trash with a look of disgust on her face...and disappeared back into the kitchen.  She returned a few minutes later with a fresh piece of chicken and grapes.  When I asked if there was anything else available to me she said no…that was it.  Apparently it was a huge bother for her to take care of my needs.  I was charged full price for the disservice!

When my sister arrived about 10 minutes later she received the exact same treatment…with the roll plopped on top of her chicken and grapes…very sad.  Trying to find dinner was no easier…I ended up eating my last package of crackers, with my sister getting a side salad and everyone else eating a full meal.  Our questions always met with the same uninterested, uneducated, ill informed answer and a ‘who cares’ attitude.  I might even have understood if the park had been filled to its normal capacity…but it wasn’t.  The park was practically empty with only five-minute waits on all the lines.  It was perfect timing for us to enjoy the day without lines…the kids loved it.  And it also meant that the restaurants were uncrowded.  In fact, our dinner restaurant had NO-ONE else there…and our lunch restaurant had very few people.

So my suggestion??  Pack a full day’s supply of food!!  Because you’ll have a very difficult time finding anything safe to eat…and when you do you’ll pay quite a bit for the risk.  Pack sensibly, sandwiches, dry fruit, nuts, protein bars...much the same as you would for a plane trip.  And don't be shy when the guards go poking through your bag.  Make certain you tell them exactly what you're packing and why.  I've never had any problem bringing food into any park...especially after I've paid $85.00 for the privilege.  They want my money...I want to be safe.

PS – I was sick for the standard three days after my visit :-(
Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Gluten-Free Emergency Disaster Kit


Gluten-Free Emergency Disaster Kit



While this isn’t exactly a travel tip…it is about being forced to live outside your comfort zone for a bit.  What will you do if an emergency hits and you have to live without decent food, water and the other comforts of home?  It always amazes me, when you ask if someone is prepared, the common response is they’ll stock up with a few extra cans of tuna and some granola bars.  These people are lucky…they’ve obviously never had to miss more than a single meal due to an emergency.  Oh no!  My phone is broken…bring out the granola bars!


When you consider that the average disaster/emergency could be about 1-2 weeks without a proper stove or refrigerator what are you going to do?  Truthfully I never even thought about it myself…until one year when I actually had to use those Hurricane Shutters I had installed on my home.  That’s when I realized my family would be able to find food if they were desperate…but what about me?  Was I willing to eat unsafe foods simply to survive?  And would I survive if I did that?  One day = 3 meals, 1 week  = 21 meals, 2 weeks = 42 meals…and I’m not even willing to voluntarily do the gluten challenge to get properly diagnosed with Celiac Disease.



So I decided to pack an emergency `bucket' to store in the closet just in case. Home Depot sells those bright orange "Homer" buckets with tops that seal up tight. They're brightly colored so you can find them regardless of your home's damage. And once the tops are tapped into place they're pretty waterproof too.



Just fill the bucket with your emergency gear...including Gluten-Free food...and seal it up. Stow the bucket somewhere that's easily accessible.  They have handles that make them easy to carry...but be careful not to make it too heavy.  If you need it you'll be functioning under less than optimal conditions and you'll want to be able to handle it yourself. And don't forget to put it where you can actually find it.  I keep mine stored inside the house in an interior walk-in closet that might actually become my shelter in the event of a Tornado.  I also store blankets, jackets & sweaters there as well.  During Hurricane Season I’ll probably stash water in there too.

Once it's closed its water tight…so you'll want food that has a long shelf life…something you won't have to worry about for a few years.  I spent quite a bit of time researching online for Gluten-Free Emergency foods and found a couple sites. They have many Gluten-Free choices and you can purchase things in smaller airtight pouches, and the shelf life is five to twenty years.

I decided not to include anything that might have a shorter shelf life.  I could always pack those things separately a little more last minute if needed.  Protein Bars, Energy Bars, Vitamin/Mineral Supplements, Dried Fruit and Nuts...these are all things I keep well stocked during the Season, but continue to use rather than waste storing them beyond their freshness dates. Even if you do need to open the bucket to remove any outdated 'goodies' and replace them with fresh, don't worry - you can get a new top at Home Depot to reseal the bucket.

And don't forget to store your sunscreen (the strongest you can find), some chap stick and of course bug spray!! Here in Florida these are just about as indispensable as the Gluten-Free food is.

If you get evacuated to an Emergency Shelter take the bucket with you. You’ll find beds and clean linens and hundreds of people without a clue about eating Gluten-Free.  So take care of yourself and bring everything you’ll need with you.  That way you can still eat safe and the only thing you’ll need to have is water to prepare your own food.
I packed my bucket for about $150.00 – a 1 weeks supply of Gluten-Free Food along with Antiseptic, Band-Aids, Batteries, Bug Spray, Flashlight, Freezer Bags, Garbage Bags, Gluten-Free Dehydrated Food, Hand Sanitizer, Knife/Fork/Spoon, Pens/Paper, Playing Cards, Pocket Games, Scissors, Soap, Stick Matches, Sun Block, Toilet Paper, Water, Work Gloves.  I’m honestly hoping that I’ve wasted my money…I don’t ever really want to need to use what’s been packed inside that bucket.
Gluten Free Emergency Kits
We carry a wide variety of gluten free survival food and invite you to take a look at the many different gluten free survival food kits we carry.

Augason Farms
At Augason Farms we have everything you need providing vital nutrition for the individual with the most meticulous of dietary requirements. And of course, all of our gluten free products have an extensive shelf life and are designed with emergency preparedness in mind.
http://www.augasonfarms.com/Gluten-Free-Food 

Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Discovery Cove, Orlando FL – Gluten-Free Safe

Discovery Cove, Orlando FL – Gluten-Free Safe

No crowds. No turnstiles. Imagine a place where you and your family can touch and swim with dolphins, wade with mysterious rays, snorkel among thousands of exotic fish, hand-feed tropical birds in a free-flight aviary and relax on pristine beaches. Discover an all-inclusive day resort experience that’s one of a kind. Because attendance is limited to about 1,300 guests a day, ensuring no overcrowding and extraordinary guest service. Discovery Cove is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Discovery Cove was incredible!  To my surprise, Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida turned out to be an incredible place to visit and be Gluten-Free safe.  Who knew?  This Park is pretty pricey but it’s all-inclusive…which means that for your entry fee they provide everything you might need for your day.  And I mean everything!  Sun protection, all you can drink, all you can eat, snacks, towels, life vests, wet suits, and even snorkels and masks…everything.  And once inside the entire park is designed for you to spend the day in your bathing suit and water shoes.

You can tackle this park in two directions…relaxing or exciting. If you like things calm, relaxing, & tranquil start with the Wind Away River up front and work your way towards the back to finish off your day swimming with the sharks & stingrays.  If you like things active, exciting, and adventurous then head straight for the Grand Reef and work your way forward to finish off your day with a relaxing float.  Either way works out to be a wonderful day.

One of the rules that are strictly enforced, to protect the safety of the animals, is that you’re not allowed to bring anything but a change of clothing into the park. So that means you’re not allowed to bring in any kind of Gluten-Free foods or drinks. I have to admit I was extremely reluctant to spend an entire day trapped in an amusement park with nothing but my bathing suit, water shoes and snorkel.  Especially since I know they’re an affiliate park to Busch Gardens in Tampa where I’ve been terribly disappointed in their ability to keep me Gluten-Free safe.

Now I don’t know about you, but having the trots in a wet bathing suit is most definitely NOT something I was interested in experiencing.  So thinking I would be spending the entire day with nothing to eat or drink I made my girls join me in having a hearty, Gluten-Free safe, breakfast before we headed out for the day.

We arrived at the park early along with everyone else only to discover…they serve breakfast too!  Since we weren’t hungry we headed straight for the first pool and jumped right in.  It didn’t seem like too long before the girls decided it was snack time so we went in search of food & drink for them.  We discovered that aside from the main Food Pavilion that serves breakfast and lunch (no charge, remember) there were also many small snack stands tucked out of the way.  They had quite a selection of frozen drinks, icee’s, fresh fruit, soda, juice, chips, cookies…even alcohol!  Oh my!  So I bravely walked up and asked if they had anything Gluten-Free.  I wasn’t expecting much…but I was asked to wait a minute while they looked in the back and then came out with a small sealed snack bag full of Gluten-Free goodies!!  Double Oh My!! You couldn’t get the smile off my face I was so happy as I enjoyed my snack and frozen drink.

By lunch time we were all very hungry as we wandered over to the Food Pavilion.  Lunch is served buffet style there and knowing I would hold up the line I opted to sit and reserve our table while everyone else went to get their food first.  I figured that at the very least I could get another snack bag from one of the little stands nearby.  Was I surprised when my girls brought back a full lunch for me!  Have I told you how well my beautiful daughters take care of me?  They had spoken to the Chef, explained what was needed and he immediately returned with a plateful of chicken, rice and vegetables for me!  I was thrilled and was able to appreciate my meal with my daughters and grandchildren.  What a beautiful way to spend a day and we’re already planning on going back again.

They do recommend you contact them before your visit if you have any special dietary requests or questions
DCO-GuestRelations@discoverycove.com.  
Discovery Cove asks that you always ask for a supervisor and to visit meal facilities during non-peak hours or ahead of meal time so that you can be efficiently assisted and served.  And always ask about cross-contact potential. Not all of their meal facilities are free from cross contact. In order to ensure your meal is safe, please discuss the preparation process for your meal with the supervisor as you place your order to ensure no cross-contact takes place.


Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My adventures in Peru, Gluten-Free

My adventures in Peru, Gluten-Free


What an incredible trip. The experiences were wonderful!! And yes, I did eat guinea pig...and alpaca...and we had Pisco Sours to drink...oh my!!  I have to admit I was a bit nervous about being Gluten-Free in a strange country where I didn't understand the language. I made copies of my Spanish Triumph Dining Card…what a lifesaver!! I used it everywhere…and everyone was more than helpful.  I would hand my Gluten-Free Triumph Dining Card (written in Spanish) to the waiter, they took a moment to read it carefully, and then proceeded to point to the menu and tell me exactly what was safe for me to eat. Such a wonderful pleasure!! My meals were just incredible. I enjoyed some truly unique flavors!! 

My friends got a little adventurous and we all tried both the Alpaca and the Cuy (guinea pig) and were not disappointed. We were grateful to find the Cuy properly cut up and beautifully plated and not just displayed as a dead animal on the plate like you always see on the travel sites. We always finished off our meal with a round of Café con Leche, and even ordered some delicious desserts to go so that we could enjoy them later in the evening. It was amazing some of the wonderful things that I got to enjoy. Really fresh, gourmet dishes prepared especially for me! What an experience!!

It was a real struggle getting used to the high altitude...but the coca leaves are a true lifesaver. We stayed in Cusco for a few days just to get used to the altitude.  We drank the tea whenever we could get it...and chewed the leaves during our walking and shopping. Its great stuff...but truly only works best at very high altitudes. The weather was just incredible...nice and cool during the day and chilly at night. No BUGS!! Oh my goodness!! No BUGS! I only saw one really tired looking fly...sitting on the window sill gasping for breath!!
PLEASE SEND TOILET SEATS TO PERU!! 
THEY HAVE TOILETS…BUT NO SEATS!!
We spent two weeks in Peru from Lima, to Cusco, to Aqua Caliente, to Puerto Maldonado, and back to Lima. Everywhere we went it was the same...no toilet seats...in restaurants, in market places, in stores, even in the eco lodges, everywhere except our hotels. While it’s probably not the case in some places…it was certainly a rarity to see toilet seats in much of the Peru that we visited. From Cusco, to Aqua Caliente, to Puerto Maldonado; it didn’t matter the quality of the establishment – we were taking our chances when visiting the restrooms. They were easy enough to find, no matter where we traveled, but cleanliness didn’t seem to be a priority. Our Hotels were the only exception since we stayed in some exceptional places. In the public markets and such 50 Centavos buys you 10 squares of Toilet Paper. Then you need to decide if you want to line the bowl with it to protect your backside...or just tough it out and use it for its intended purpose!! Toilet Paper...never leave home without it!! We all carried those travel sized packages of tissue paper along with pocket sized anti-bacterial wipes; since sinks with soap and water were also rare. We never let any of this slow us down, or spoil our enjoyment of such an incredible country. The opportunity to explore Peru was worth the minor discomforts of a dirty restroom.
One morning at 5:30am we left on the Peru Rail to go to Aquas Caliente and our visit to Machu Picchu. It's a tiny little town built clinging to the side of a steep mountain. Rail is the ONLY way to get there. They have NO streets and NO cars at all!! But they do have hundreds and hundreds of stairs!!  Oh My!! All supplies are moved by wheelbarrow and ramps up the side of the mountain...and those poor men huff n puff all the way to the top.  



Little kids were out and about on their tricycles or big wheel bikes…and always, always the bikes were connected to an adult by a thick, strong rope.  Our Hostel was great...it was situated halfway up the side. We had the best room in the place...two walls of just windows overlooking the Square and the Mountain View...just incredible!! Our beds were comfy and warm...and the bathroom was clean :-) with a seat...hehehe. We had all the modern conveniences...it was very strange to find out that there were women in the cellar hand-washing all our linens and things in huge tubs!! On scrub boards!!

Machu Pichu was such an incredible journey...by bus up another mountainside.  They had to truck all the buses up by rail...and create the only road in the area just for the buses. The mountainside is sooooo steep that they have to use 'switchbacks' to go up and down...zigzagging back and forth about 10 times just to make the steep climb. And that's all the buses do all day long...about 12 of them. Up and down, up and down.

This is a picture of me standing on the edge of the world...only one step away from the afterlife!! And yes, that is absolute terrified fear on my face! But I did it!! And I think I look pretty cute in my little blue hat!! More later!!


Sonqongi Apukuna Wak'aychasunkiku
(Quechoa - May the Heart of the Mountain bless you)

Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771