Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Doing Gluten & Allergen Free Southern Style in Little Rock

With the tornado past in April, and a couple of days to burn before I could return home, I reached out and sought the best of gluten and allergen free in Little Rock AR before their event. The city of Little Rock reminds me of many Southern cities. I had no idea how Southern it was until I heard the local accents and experienced their food culture, but never mistake the fact that Little Rock has a small but underlying current of foodies.

The bedrock of their allergen free community is Dempsey Bakery. This adorable bakery is housed in a downtown older building, and when you walk in, you feel as if you have been transported into the fifties. The red and white checked tile flooring, the modern Art Deco tables and chairs, and the logo all give the impression of your parent's favorite family stop - And if you're lucky, Paula Dempsey will be behind the counter.

Paula Dempsey as shot by Soiree Magazine

She reminds you of everyone's favorite Grandmother and yet she is brilliantly before her time. Any restaurant that has Gluten Free on the menu in Little Rock, is most likely carrying her bread or desserts. Not only that, she has started the first children's group in the area with meetings held in the bakery. Lucky kids!

We held our Blogger Team Dinner there because Paula is amazing!

An Arkansas treat Gluten Free! Hot Milk Cake - Dempsey Bakery

The spread at the checkout counter with free samples - Dempsey Bakery

Paula also sees the lack of options and need for local bakeries to reach out to their hospitals, hotels, and restaurants to aid them in providing safe, allergen free meals to their patients. She has complete frozen meals available for them when someone needs them and strives to make her products easily accesible. How perfectly awesome is that?

Dempsey is definitely a company to watch as they grow...

Left: Frozen Dinner        Center Bottom: Local menu at restaurant with Dempsey items  Right: Interior shot of Dempsey Bakery
Menu from Izzy's who have some great options

Bear Kingdom Vineyards Muscadine Jellies

We happened across Bear Kingdom Vineyards, they make Muscadine Wine based jellies and jams with no gluten or corn in their sourcing. I have many fond memories of eating Muscadine grapes with my grandfather behind his house. He would pick a few and we would eat them, dirt and all, still warm from the Southern sunshine. So, I am tickled to try this local vendor's Arkansas treasure.

Sabiaco Abbey & Country Monk Products

My father called me with excitement in his foodie voice to tell me he had found Sabiaco Abbey and their famous Abbey Peanut Brittle and hot Monk Sauce. The Peanut Brittle recipe has been passed down by the monks and is still cooked at the Abbey by Fr. Richard and Br. Reginald. The very hot habanero based “Monk Sauce” begins production during the winter as Fr. Richard prepares and grows the plants. They are then placed into the ground to be tended by Fr. Richard, Br. Reginald, and Fr. Bruno. After picking, they are then cooked with Fr. Richard’s special recipe, bottled, and then packaged to ship.
Who would have thought Monks like hot sauce? Either way, it is phenomenal, but let me stress....HOT
Habanero has this slow lingering burn that is distinctive and lasting. 

First Gluten Free Expo with a Monk in his Habit

Whole Foods Little Rock has been a wonderful ally and represented several brands at the event June 21! Their Whole Foods Bake House has been a life saver many times in our household and I am sure in others also. I continue to be grateful to work with them on so many important events in this journey down Allergy Free Back Roads.

Homayd Natural Care Products were a find at the event for gluten free, natural soaps including human and their four-legged friend dog shampoo bars! I bought 2 Dingy Dog Bars because my daughter always wants to help shampoo the pups

Leaves of Grass Soap, Homayd

We visited some amazing places in the city of Little Rock. Some businesses we contacted include: Izzy's, Ya Ya's Bistro, The Green Corner Store, Loblolly Creamery, The Root Cafe and a few others. 
American Pie Pizza, The Pizza Cafe, Mellow Mushroom, Bruno's Little Italy, US Pizza, & NYPD Pizza are your go to places in Little Rock for GF pizza

  Meat Lover's Pizza at The Pizza Cafe
  BLT Club on Dempsey Bakery Bread and Sweet Potato Fries at Izzy's  

And then there was the Blogger Team Dinner sponsored by Dempsey Bakery that was Southern charm rolled into that retro ambiance of stepping back in time and yet allergen free. Paula made us a cake that will go down in history as one of our faves! 

Blogger Team Dinner Party Little Rock

Little Rock needs more products and access to them. If you want to help a growing community, please try their market. You will never meet people more grateful for your presence. That is a Southern etiquette that can't be imitated.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fighting The Beast & Coping ~ Fibromyalgia

I am back home for only a few days time and trying to get myself together for the event in Little Rock. So far, my body is not co-operating. I have been in bed for 3 days now, working on the computer, when not sleeping. It isn't just being tired from the road, unfortunately, it is a mind blowing exhaustion that hits me without warning along with a crippling pain in every part of my body. My skin even hurts.
What is wrong with me?
I have Fibromyalgia.

As always, it has been easier to focus on Doodle than myself and unselfishly give 100% because of the many people I know we are helping. People always ask me if I have Celiac Disease too. I don't have Celiac Disease, my daughter does. However, I do have this pesky issue labeled Fibromyalgia. I usually never publicly declare myself as having Fibro, except maybe in some Q & A time of a presentation or in personal conversations.
Why am I justifying?
Because, that's what happens when we deny an issue for so long, as if doing so will make it go away. It is also what happens when physicians, loved ones, and employers meet you with a heavy dose of skepticism. You can and will even disbelieve yourself and what is happening to you.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that doctors are trying to treat symptomatically and failing miserably. They are failing miserably because it is neurological, but also related to trauma or illness, which is the trigger, and patients have a wide range of symptoms. Physicians have been prone to call those with the symptoms "crazy and hypochondriac types" or that patients are just seeking pain opiates. Those physicians that do believe in it, typically prescribe neuro-receptive drugs now like Zoloft, and a few new ones to boot.

In the course of me learning how to cope with my disorder there have been short bouts of medications:
Zoloft - Makes me crazy with irritability
Prednisone - Gives relief for a couple months but comes with sweating, insomnia, weight gain and irritability
Hydrocodone - Opiate heavily controlled and yet gives bursts of relief
Celebrex - Gives relief of arthritic pain but kills the filtering system, like your liver, if used for long periods
HCG - Human growth hormone relieves a bit but does not stop flare ups completely
Phentermine - Gives energy and weight loss management but pain in my shoulders and insomnia increases

The million dollar question is: When did it hit me and how did I know?
If you go by the theory that it was caused by a trauma, I had been through many life changing times before the age of 28 years old. All I know is something was majorly wrong about 3 months after I lost my first born child to an early delivery. He was born by emergency c-section at 6 months gestation after I had 5 miscarriages previously. He died at 5 days old.

By 3 months time, every part of my body ached and I hobbled like an 80 year woman in the mornings until I could get moving. I lost 50 pounds from the baby fat, and still, I hobbled and ached and was exhausted all the time. The brain fog came with my flare ups and is best described by having to trudge through quicksand in your mental process. It was affecting me so much, that my mother began to worry about the possibility of MS. I went to a physician and the tests began: MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc. etc....
When nothing returned positive, the physician came in and stated they were calling it Fibromyalgia.

How did I know it wasn't just grief?
Because it never went away and I still have it 15 years later, is the obvious answer. The pain and fatigue are very relevant to how I treat myself and how well I am. If I push it, my body pushes back and knocks me out of the game for a few days.

How do I treat it if I don't take medications?
In the beginning, looking into alternative methods in 1999, I sought out dietary change of eating less nightshade vegetables, just to see if it worked. The change was very subtle, however it was the first time I saw a change. For example, if I ate lots of fresh acidic tomatoes in summer, I would have a major flare up.

I realized quickly that stress also increased the pain and reaction. You can't avoid stress, but you can minimize it as much as possible. Realizing this includes getting rid of negative people and situations. Extrapolating yourself from toxic people can be complicated if you allow guilt to rule, but to rid yourself of these influences is absolutely vital to maintaining your health.

Being that I was a Master Hair Stylist, stress on my body and in daily life was a given. I remember a physician asking me if I had thought about a change in careers and I thought he was insane. Realizing I could not physically handle my career anymore took me banging my head against the wall for another 12 years before I accepted it, so don't feel bad if you are not ready to let go. I completely get that.

Other tips...
I hike, but not too strenuously. Swimming is a great way to minimize impact on exercising and relieve stress also. Massages are integrated as much as I can afford and give me lots of relief. Too many carbohydrates, sugar, and salt can send me over the edge. Be sure to keep a food diary and do elimination to find out your triggers. Going gluten free was good for me, but it looks like grain free is helping more than traditional has done.

Food for thought:
I remember a woman once telling me she knew people in wheelchairs because of Fibromyalgia and asking me if I knew it is a progressive disorder. I told her that I didn't subscribe to that belief or I might as well lie down and give up.
And I still don't subscribe to that belief, however, I do realize that as I age my limitations become more pronounced. I realize that if I am not aware and do not proactively fight this thing, it will get the better of me. Perhaps when I grow tired of the fight, the beast will show me who's the boss, but for now, I am continuing onward and not allowing it to control me completely.
Good luck to you, my friend, if you are facing the same fight...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Every Good Boy Scout Knows To Always Be Prepared - Travelling Gluten Free

The day I left Arkansas to go into St. Louis, the skies were still gray and foreboding, but the temps had remained cooler. I felt rested and ready to take on another city, so the Highlander, my music and I started the 6 hour trek Northwest through the fields of farm land. I had asked a farmer at a Starbuck's stop what route to take, rather than trust my GPS again, and I was glad. Before long, I edged into the hills of the Ozarks and was amazed at how beautiful it really was.

Those two summers ago when Doodle and I had made the trip through St Louis to Memphis, we made the simple mistake of going through Missouri into Branson. I say it was a mistake because Branson sort of looks like a mini Vegas in a rock quarry pit. No offense to anyone intended, but the tourist trap showplaces make me want to run away like I have done from Myrtle Beach SC - Ripley's Believe It Or Not just isn't my idea of fun for me or my family, but that's just me.

I remember looking at Doodle and jibed at her, "I don't know about you, but I think that guy telling us the Ozarks were going to be pretty needs to come visit NC, what do you think Doodle?"
She laughed and agreed. We stopped in at a Quality Inn and booked a room until we realized that the room was disgustingly old, moldy smelling, and just...questionable. We loaded back up and decided to trek on through to Tennessee, as road burned as we were.

The scenery became prettier, but then night time fell, which made roads difficult to maneuver in the Boonies because there are just no lights to help. We didn't find a decent hotel until 1:00 am, after witnessing a high speed chase at the Arkansas/Tennessee line! Never a dull moment on Allergy Free Back Roads...

As far as gluten free options in between small towns, they are far and few between, so we are thankful for a few Enjoy Life Bars we always have stashed in our travel emergency kit. If you don't have a travel kit and are taking a trip this summer, I highly recommend one. You don't have to purchase one ready made either. Just go to Walmart/Office Depot/Lowe's and purchase an appropriate sized plastic bin.

Fill this bin with your choice of items. Below are my contents:

Oster Single burner is space saving or purchase
a double burner if you have a larger family

Now you, at least, never need to fear starvation or no food options when travelling! If you read this and think you have nothing to fear: The one thing travelling has taught me, the best practice is to be like a Boy Scout and always be prepared.  
For example, one time when we rented a cabin in the mountains, we arrived and started to cook dinner. It turned out the stove wasn't working and the grill looked like it had never been cleaned in the history of its use. Another time you may be glad you prepared is if  you unluckily get stuck in a traffic jam in inclement weather, like those unfortunate people stuck in Atlanta for 24 hours on the roadside during the snow storm...You just never know.

However, as unlikable as Branson was to me, I was literally stunned at the Ozark's natural beauty when I stopped into Cherokee Pass, MO to get out, stretch my legs, and take in the scenery. Afterwards, while driving onward to "the Lou", the sunset let off amazing fiery bursts of orange that literally reflected on the blacktop - And only then, did I know what the Okie in Nebraska had meant about the Ozarks...

Happy Allergen Free Travels!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Shining Example of Being a Great Father to an Advocate

Doodle and "Pop-Pop" Christmas '09

We are a week from Father's Day. I always call my father when my life isn't going right. The past few years have of course changed the calls from being about boyfriends to being about divorce, and have now evolved into being about the frustrations in setting up events and advocating in this crazy gluten filled world. He is my rock to lean on when I get crazy. And believe me, planning events nationally will make you temporarily loony!

My father has been a brilliant editor/writer of a beatnik poetry magazine and a hippie with a clothing store protesting war, and a musician of jazz at one time. Therefore, he always gets me...the creativity was in the genes undeniably.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood included many of my artistic tantrum moments. I wanted his help but I wanted to go off on a tangent, and he would reel me in again. Me, the forever impassioned girl, always wanted to change the world and make it all fair - Impossible to imagine, I know. His ability to remain calm will forever be a soothing balm to my soul.

Me & Dad circa 1975

One of my latest rants was brought on by a medical based University. They had led me around for a week trying to get the venue negotiated and then, suddenly, someone higher up decided that they would disapprove. There was no rational explanation given except, "I'm sorry, the Medical Center has a policy that conflicts with your event." I asked what the policy was that we were in conflict with, to which I got a hem and haw and an "I don't know" answer
"Well, surely they tell you the policy we are in conflict with. I mean, you are the event planner right?", my agitation was less than veiled.
To no end, my peppering questions were fended off by the gentleman who was all smiles in the previous conversation and thrilled we had called. His voice was now cold and robotic.
Boy, did Dad get an earful that day?!

The rant before the previous incident was started with a phone call at 8 am
"Good morning", Dad said sleepily.
"You won't believe the Mayo Clinic answer!" 
Dad mumbled, "What Mayo Clinic answer?"
"They have contractual agreement with their physicians and do not allow them to participate in outside events. She went on to say that if a physician did speak at an event, they could be in breach of contract. What the hell is wrong with these people, Dad?!?" The question was rhetorical at that point.
His voice sounded as if he felt my let down as much as I did, and in that moment I had an ally

Me & Dad '09

At some point in the past he called to check in and see how I was doing. Little did he know what was in store...
"What's happening with you?" Dad asked cheerfully.
"I am trying to make lemonade out of lemons dad." A huge sigh came out of my lungs trying to relieve the pressure from my day.
"Talk to me, tell me what's going on..." 
So I preceded to unload on him about the newest challenge. 
"Why can't everyone get along without power trips and politics?" I asked him with that indignant tone I get.
He calmly took a breath and said,"Because it is the way of the world sweetheart. Everything and everyone has another side to make the good attributes even more appreciated."

I couldn't have asked for a better grandfather and role model to my child. He and my step-mother have volunteered at events, they take excellent care with Doodle and her food, and more importantly, they actively support Doodle and her challenges as a celiac. I never doubted he would though. My husband says I never accept advice to this day, unless I call and check with Dad first.

When my Mother had me, her non-maternal instinct took over, and apparently, she told him she had carried me for 9 months, so now it was his turn. What did he do? He stayed at home and raised me for the first year of my life. I used to feel a little bad when my Mother would tell the story. Now, I realize, it just made me love my Dad even more.

My Dad and I used to dance to this song.
It will always be ours:)

I love you Dad
Happy Father's Day
~ Much Respect ~

Wednesday, June 4, 2014