Friday, May 28, 2010

Things: Installment 44

Today we wrap up our 4-week series on Celiac Awareness Month. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity have been getting lots of press lately. So I thought I'd link you up to all the latest news.

Things In the News (Celiac Awareness Month)
  • The National Restaurant Association met this week. For the second year in a row, they have done special sessions on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. As a general rule, the NRA (not to be confused with The NRA) does not allow special interest topics to be repeated, but they felt that the need to educate the restaurant industry about the growing concerns for those with food allergies outweighed their long-standing No Repeats Rule. The Celiac Chics have a great post about the special panel discussion. It's clear that the NRA is taking this seriously. (And it's about time!!!)
  • USA Today had a special insert several weeks ago. This 16-page insert gives the general public a (very) brief overview of celiac disease and all of its ramifications - from general health to eating out to coping - and even highlights a few celebs with the disease.
  • Did you know that many of the pro athletes affected by gluten sensitivities have banded together, in conjunction with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, to form Athletes for Awareness
  • Did you know that many sports venues are now accomodating those with food allergies by having dedicated vendor locations for allergen-free food?
  • There are a number of celebrities who are raising awareness, including Elizabeth Hasselbeck (The View), Keith Olbermann (MSNBC), Sarah Jane Smith (LPGA), and AJ Clemens (USSA).
I hope you've enjoyed this brief foray into the world of gluten and that you've learned a little something along the way! Thanks for tagging along

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dangerous Footwear

This Cutie Head Moment brought to you today by Sex and the City 2. So I saw this fantastic pair of shoes on a website commonly known around our house as My Shoe Crack. These drool-worthy shoes, known as The Charlottes, were a part of a line-up being featured prior to the SATC movie premier. As soon as I saw them, I knew they had to join My Collection. They arrived in all their glory on my doorstep on Wednesday night, which means I had to wear them immediately. *wink* These are knock-out in person and are really comfortable too, not to mention easy to walk in, which is geat considering The Trail of Tears that I must walk from the bus stop to my office building each day. So here I am. On said Trail. Tottering along in my sexy shoes and super-cute Charlotte-esque outfit. Along the way, I'm having this funny conversation with myself about how nice and clean the sidewalk is today and isn't that nice since it means there aren't any tiny rocks or acorns along the way for me to slip on and how I might actually get to the office today without having some kind of not-so-graceful incident involving said obstacles. I'm making my final crosswalk when it happened. Oh yes. You know. I had an epic fail in The Walking Department. Just as I was stepping up from the street to the sidewalk in front of my building, my left ankle did Its Thing. That thing where it just mysteriously goes all cattywompass and in the process I do a little wobble-stumble just barely catching myself before I fall and I'm pretty sure that the guy passing by, who casually asked if I was alright with the biggest smile on his face evah, probably caught a glimpse of my oh-so-cute Charlotte-esque undies. (At least I was wise and chose the boy shorts rather than The Usual, which let's just say doesn't cover that much!) Thank you, sir, and have a nice day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Things: Installment 43

Today, we're on post No. 3 out of 4 in honor of Celiac Awareness Month. As I've mentioned before, I came into this gluten sensitivity thing armed with lots of knowledge about living gluten free since my mom was diagnosed with celiac disease two years ago. But for those folks who don't have first-hand knowledge, where do they find educational resources?

Where to Find Educational Resources for Celiacs & Gluten-Sensitive Folks
  • I'm sure you aren't in the least bit surprised when I tell you that the internet can be a great source of information. Word of warning, however, it can also be filled with a lot of junk. So be sure you're consulting reputable sources rather than just clicking on the first link that pops up in your search. I recommend starting with The Mayo Clinic or The Celiac Disease Foundation.
  • Many, many doctors and researchers have written books about both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. A quick search of Amazon revealed this list, but there are many more.
  • There are support groups all over the country that meet at least monthly. At these meetings, you hear from local doctors, chefs, and merchants. In DFW, you can attend meetings of the Lone Star Celiac Support Group & the North Texas Gluten Intolerance Group.
  • For the foodies, there are lots of gluten-free cookbooks on the market. A quick search on Amazon provided these results. There are also many sites on the internet that are recipe repositories, like GlutenFreeda.
  • There are innumerable blogs devoted to gluten-free living. These blogs are often sources of new gluten-free product announcements, recipes, product reviews, product recalls, research articles, etc. I follow quite a few of these blogs myself, like this one, this one, and this one.
  • And last but not least, there are doctors who specialize in gluten sensitivities. There are quite a few here in the DFW area. Both of the support groups in our area have recommendations for local physicians. And if you don't mind traveling, CDF also has a list on its website.
As you can see, there are many resources available to educate you about celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. So there's no need to stumble around in the dark.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Never All At Once

You've probably heard me refer to Dori as the Million Dollar Dog. And while that's a bit of an exageration, it's safe to say that we've spent a lot of money on her. What can I say? I treat my animals like children. If they're sick, they go to the doctor. No questions asked. No dollar value attached.

Dori's actually been in fairly good health the last several years. We've had some minor hiccups here and there - like some skin conditions, ear infections, and hip issues - but overall, she's not had any major illnesses to speak of.

I'm not sure if I've raved enough about the procedure Dori had on her hips. But let me just say that it was The Best decision we've made to date! She gets up & down without pain. It's like she's a new dog. We're still not to the 90-day mark, which is when we should see the maximum benefit from the injections. But as well as she's doing now, she'll be like a puppy if she continues on this course!

The biggest hurdle we've been facing of late are some skin issues. She had this spot come up on her side, and honestly I thought it was ringworm b/c it looks like a classic case. But the cultures we sent to the lab several weeks ago came back negative for ringworm. She's had several bouts of staph on her tummy, but this place on her side looks nothing like that. Honestly, we're all baffled. I wonder if it's not another manifestation of her nasal allergies. Some dogs will develop skin conditions as a result of allergies. And she's certainly been sneezy this spring (who hasn't?!!). The vet's sent off yet another culture in hopes of growing something so we know how to treat it.

Then this week, she started limping. I thought she'd hurt herself in one of her freak-out sessions on the new floors. (She does perfectly fine most of the time, walking normally just like she does on the tile, but for some reason, she sometimes take a notion to be afraid of the new hardwoods. Have no idea what that's all about. We just call her Neuro. LOL!) I examined her leg and didn't seem to find anything, so we just decided to keep an eye on it. Well, the limping became more pronounced, and I finally took a look at her paw. Sure enough, I found this growth on one of her pads. We mess with her feet regularly (to help when she visits the vet), but somehow we'd missed this huge bump. There were no obvious signs of trauma, like she'd step on something or cut it. Honestly, it looked like a plantar's wart to me. So back to the vet we went.

After x-rays ruled out calcification or a metatarsal injury and an exam ruled out a trauma, we were in a bit of a quandry. The vet thought it could be one of three things: 1) a disease that manifests in dogs with liver conditions, 2) a bunion, or 3) a tumor. And that left us with several treatment options. We could give Dori an antibiotic in the event that it was just an infection. But none of us were sold on this idea since there was not an obvious puncture wound, and a bone infection was not indicated. Our other option was surgery to remove the growth.

After much discussion, we opted for surgery. In the end, I'm glad we did b/c that gave the vet a bird's eye view of the problem. Turns out, there was a puncture wound, but it was not clearly visible until the foot was opened. Apparently, Dori stepped on something, though there was nothing in her pad to indicate what, and the wound got infected. There were bits of grass and debris way up into the pad. The vet cleaned the interior of the wound really well and filled it with antiobiotic, so Dori should be good to go in no time. She spent the night at the vet, much to her buddy Meeko's shagrin, and will be coming home this afternoon.

We'll be in charge of wound care for the next two weeks. That ought to be fun. But we're just glad that it turned out to be nothing too serious. And thank goodness for pet insurance, which should cover a lot of the costs!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Midweek Round-Up

I just haven't gotten around to sitting behind the computer since the weekend. Surprising? Probably.

We had a terrific weekend - full of time with friends. The weather couldn't have been more perfect! I played my first round of golf on Saturday. Nevermind that I haven't touched my clubs since we moved into our house 7 years ago! All things considered, I didn't do half-bad. I hit the ball more than I missed it, had a few decent drives, several nice putts, and only drowned 6 balls in water hazards. Not too shabby. I just might play again. *grin*

Had an exciting planning meeting on Sunday for all of the big projects upcoming for 2010 at Ye Olde Church Job. Can't tell you how stoked I am about what the next six months have in store!!! Rather than giving a recital this fall, we have decided to do a Broadway show called Side by Side by Sondheim. It doesn't require a large cast and will be one of the major fundraising events for our Christmas projects. We have also scheduled a full-scale Christmas show for mid-December - Amahl and the Night Visitors. I did this show a number of years ago at my previous church. I am particularly excited about LHUMC undertaking the show b/c I will be coaching two children for the lead role of Amahl, as well as being understudy for The Mother. Needless to say, I'll have my work cut out for me in the coming months!

Monday was errand day. I hate errand day. Especially when you have to take a personal day to get those errands run. It was time for several annual doctor visits, plus I needed to get Ezmerelda in for service & recall repair. It was a day full of stop & gos, but I managed to get everything done. Ezmerelda is now sparkly & clean (until it rains again) with a new gas pedal, a new pair of tires, and a detail job. No more worries about her for another six months! And I'm good to go for the next year, too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Things: Installment 42

Since May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I decided to keep in that vein and dedicate each Things post in May to general information about gluten and gluten intolerance. One question I've received a lot lately is "can you eat out?" Simple answer: yes. Let's take a look at some of the restaurants "on the list," shall we?

Restaurants With Gluten-Free Menus
  • Carino's Italian Grill
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • The Olive Garden
  • Chili's
  • On the Border
  • Maggiano's
  • PF Chang's
  • Asian Mint
  • Banana Leaf Thai Cuisine
  • Bavarian Grill
  • BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse
  • Boston's Gourmet Pizza
  • Fireside Pies
  • Fish City
  • Fogo de Chau
  • Cantina Laredo
  • Rockfish
  • Ruth's Chris
  • Texas Land & Cattle
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Potbelly
  • Wendy's
  • Chipotle
  • Pei Wei
  • Tin Star
  • Red Robin
  • Burger King
  • Arby's
  • And gluten-free options coming soon to:  Cosa Nostra (my favorite Italian)!
As you can see, there are LOTS of restaurants that make safe options available to those with food allergies. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but I think it gives you an idea of just how many restaurants are recognizing the need to address food allergies. There are still many precautions to be undertaken in each of these establishments, however, they all have gluten-free menus and purport to educate their staff about cross-contamination.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Tale of Faucet Replacements

Some stories are just too good not to be shared. And while this reveals yet another Cutie Head Moment, I share it with you anyway.

The knob for the shower in our guest bath has been broken for, oh, I don't know, a couple of years ... and I finally got around to buying a replacement a month or so ago. Rather than just buying a new knob, I decided to replace the shower fixtures. The builder installed polished nickel fixtures when the house was built. (Can you say water spots?) We replaced the sink fixtures quite some time ago with brushed nickel. I opted to get some brushed nickel for the shower and was able to get rid of the STUPID plastic handle in the shower too. The proverbial two birds with one stone trick. With me so far?

After returning from Park City, the hot water in our master bath quit working. It has done this once before after a vacation but quickly "fixed" itself. How? I have no idea. I just know that one day I had no hot water and the next day I did. So I thought nothing of it. This time ... yeah, not so much. We get full pressure on the cold side. Nothin' but a trickle on the hot and the trickle never actually gets hot. Honestly, my first thought upon discovering the issue was that something happened to the hot water heater. But quick checks revealed otherwise. Every other faucet in the house gets hot water just fine so clearly it's isolated in the shower somehow. Still with me?

So I talk all this over with My Dad The Plumber. (Not really. But he's certainly a Jack of All Trades.) We decide that we'll replace the whole kit & kaboodle in the guest bath, since I bought a complete kit, and then take the "guts" from the guest bath and put them in the master bath since we know they work. Follow?

Step 1. Dad takes the fixtures off the handle in the master bath to assess.
Step 2. Dad says, "your valve is sweated in."
Step 3. Dad explains what the heck "sweated in" means. (The valve is sauldered in to the water pipes in the wall. So that means we can't just do a simple swap of the valves like we'd planned. To make any changes to the valves in the wall, you have to hire a plumber to make a big mess, i.e. cut a whole in your wall/tile for access & then cut and resaulder new stuff in. Replastering & paint. That's separate.)
Step 4. Dad says, "your new fixtures are Price Pfister; your existing ones are Moen."
Step 5. Dad explains why this makes a hill of beans. (Apparently, the valves are somehow propietary to the brand of fixtures currently in place. Simply, the new fixtures I bought will not work. I have to find something I like in the same brand.)
Step 6. Dad & I go on a quest to a) figure out what model of faucets we currently have, b) find a new kit for the guest bath, and c) figure out what part we need to fix the master bath.

Long story short, no new fixtures in the guest bath, no hot water in the master shower, and a date with My Dad The Plumber for some Saturday in the future!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lovely Weekend

Whew. Hard to believe the weekend has already come & gone. They go by so fast these days! I had a nice one. What about you?

Friday evening I met some girlfriends after work for happy hour & shopping at the Galleria. It was our last hoorah before Carla has baby Emma sometime in the coming weeks. Is there anything better than getting together for Girl Time? I think not. Well ... perhaps the only thing better is getting together for Girl Time AT A SHOE STORE! *wink*

Saturday was a big day as we hosted my family for Mother's Day. Derek made his famous ribs complete with the Fox Family Secret Recipe BBQ Sauce and they were DE-LISH! Mom made her famous potato salad and it was a particularly good batch. We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of food, visiting, and The Squirt, who has to be THE cutest baby I know. (But perhaps I'm a little biased! *grin*) He's nothing but smiles & giggles, and he's working on crawling now which is pretty darn funny at this point b/c all he does right now is scoot around on the TOP of his HEAD. Silly kid! But it gets him where he wants to go. Most of the time.

We'd planned to host Derek's parents on Sunday afternoon, but they were pretty pooped after returning from a Caribbean vacay late Saturday evening. So we offered a rain check on the vittles & visits and gave them a quiet afternoon for resting instead.

We spent the afternoon doing ... well, not much of anything. We watched some things on the DVR and I forced Derek to watch Night at the Rodanthe with me. It was actually a very good movie, and I think he enjoyed it too (though he likely would never own up to that). It's definitely a chick flick. But I must say that I'm STUNNED that my former boss, who is a Manly Man, went to the movie theatre in the middle of the afternoon & watched this BY HIMSELF! Cracks. Me. Up!!!

We had the neighbors over for dinner. The weather was glorious, and we enjoyed good convo on the patio. It just reminds us why we spent all that money getting it fixed up. Worth every penny to be able to enjoy wonderful weather with great friends!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Things: Installment 41

Several of my co-workers and friends have had questions about going gluten free. Namely: how on earth do you do that?? So, let's talk a little walk & discuss.

Things About Going Gluten Free
  • Gluten appears in all kinds of things you would not expect, which is why it is important for gluten senstitive folks to read every single label. For instance, Blue Bell Vanilla Chocolate Ice Cream has wheat in it while most other Blue Bell flavors do not. Would you have thought ice cream would be suspect?
  • Did you know that most run-of-the-mill soy sauces contain wheat? Yep, but there are a few common brands, like La Choy, that do not & there are also several certified gluten-free substitutes.
  • Traditional cornbread mix contains gluten. You: But, Susan, I thought cornbread was made from corn? SF: It is. However, other leavening agents are needed to make it rise into bread, and traditional mixes use wheat flour. But never fear, there are plenty of substitutes for those of us who are gluten free.
  • What about cookies and cakes? I guess you can't have those anymore either. On the contrary, there are LOTS of gluten free cookie and cake mixes out there. Did you know that Betty Crocker has launched a line of gluten free mixes?? I've tried several, and they've all been delicious, not to mention  a lot cheaper than the specialty brands.
  • I received word yesterday that Bisquick is launching a gluten free mix this summer! Just ask your local grocer to carry it. Hooray for pancakes!
  • You: What about alcohol? Isn't beer made from wheat? While there are quite a few options eliminated b/c of gluten, there are still quite a few gluten free options out there. For example, I know that my local Flying Saucer has two gluten free beers. And I recently discovered that both Ace and Woodchuck ciders have been certified gluten free. So for those of you who enjoy an "adult beverage" from time to time, you're not out in the cold.
  • Gluten sensitive folks have to replace many common kitchen items that have been contaminated by gluten. For instance, plastic cutting boards, non-stick pots & pans, stone bakeware, and grates on the outdoor grill are just a few things that I have to replace in my own household. You: But wouldn't the sanitize cycle "kill" the gluten? According to the literature that's out there, no. Unfortunately, once these porous surfaces are contaminated, there's no decontamination - replacement is the only option. It's this fact that makes eating out a bit tricky b/c there's always a risk of cross-contamination from a porous surface. You: What about stainless steel items? Because they are not porous, the gluten does not get into the tiny microscopic crevices b/c, well, there aren't any. If stainless steel surfaces are cleaned well after exposure, the gluten is removed.
You: Wow, this is pretty overwhelming. Yep, it is. Honestly, if my mom hadn't been diagnosed with celiac disease two years ago, I would be completely lost in this world of Gluten Free. Her diagnosis opened my eyes to just how much of our day-to-day eating is ladened with gluten, and I've constantly been on the lookout for substitutes for our favorite things, like soups and sauce mixes and baking products. So I come into this pretty well-armed with information and product knowledge.

With more and more people being diagnosed with some type of gluten sensitivity, most of the large grocery stores, like Tom Thumb, and Super Centers, like WalMart and Target, have begun carrying more and more gluten free products. Before, you could only get gluten free items at specialty stores or health food stores. Naturally, products from these stores tend to be much more expensive. Eating gluten free is much more expensive simply b/c the alternatives are more expensive to process and b/c the processing has to occur in a certified gluten free facility. But with mainstream companies, like Betty Crocker and General Mills to name just two, jumping on the bandwagon, we are seeing more and more affordable gluten free options in our "regular" grocery stores. In fact, most supermarkets are open to and even welcome customer suggestions. So if you don't see a product, ask. More than likely, the store will at least trial it for you.

I hope you found today's stroll down Gluten Free Lane an informative one. You may see a few more of these as I educate my friends & co-workers.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

How About a Poll?

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, for those of you who didn't know (I didn't until yesterday). One of my new blog subscriptions had a post pointing to a poll being conducted by Jason's Deli. I've been known to eat a sandwich or two from Jason's. They have lots of delicious, healthy sandwich options, and I was bummed to think I couldn't have them anymore. But apparently, Jason's is conducting a survey to see if there is any public interest in a gluten free line of sandwich offerings. So take a minute and go vote "yes" for me, would ya?!