Ev’rybody Has a Happy Place

I have about 3 blog posts in the works, but lately I have been in such a funk that I cannot focus on the content they are about.

There is a confession to make here.  I am a former Disney Cast Member.  Being one was a badge of honor, performing the roles I had the opportunity to was a gift I cannot even begin to explain, and the joy I had on a daily basis almost outweighed the pain that my body was developing.

When I left, it was because I had limits and expectations on what my life should be that were completely based on what other people thought and what I thought it should be.  Not because leaving would make me happy, but because I needed to “grow up.”

There were blessings in leaving:  being close to the members of my family who were already diagnosed with Celiac when my diagnosis happened, being able to spend 8 hours with my Grandmother the day before she passed, getting to perform in a variety of productions in the Chicago area while meeting some incredible people, and only being 3 hours from my family.  There have been some bad things as well, but that is another tale.

Except, I never really let it go.  Every year like clockwork, from 2007-2012, I flew back to work for a week as a seasonal cast member, to recharge my batteries with the love and happiness that I had doing the job I did there, to see friends, to make new ones, and to soak it all in.

Just a bit Goofy.

Just a bit Goofy.

April 14, 2012 was my last day as a cast member.  I donned my blacks for the last time, took my voyage, and then said “goodbye.”  Not because I wanted to, but because the rules on being seasonal had changed, and there was no way I could make it work while living in Chicago.

I miss it.  People tell me I need to do what makes me happy and what I am good at, but to be honest with you, I am not sure what that is.  I know the things that I enjoy doing, but I know my happiest time was when I was going into work every day and performing.  I could be in the grumpiest mood, not feeing well, swear that I was living in a sauna, but as soon as the music started and I stepped onto whatever stage it was, it was like my world receded and for however long I was on stage, there was only that.

If this does not make sense, I apologize.  Tonite was a night where I just needed to put thoughts down and get them out.  If you want to read about my adventures eating GF as a guest as WDW try this.

And I am going to leave you with the last thing I do on every trip to my happy place:

 

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The Iron Man 3 Moment that Bugged me

I went to see Iron Man 3 on Saturday (enjoyed it, liked a lot, not sure if I loved.  May need to see again).  There is one thing in the movie that jumped out and made me happy/irate.

Here is the dialogue:

Tony Stark:  “I don’t even know what I had for breakfast this morning.”

Jarvis:  “Gluten Free waffles, sir.”

To be honest, a part of me jumped up and down inside to hear a Gluten Free shout out in a major Hollywood blockbuster.  But another, larger, part of me sank like a rock.  

The reasons are simple:

1) There has been no sign in any movies that Tony Stark has any sort of gluten intolerance whatsoever.  See:  Shawarma eating at the end of The Avengers.

2)  If there is no gluten intolerance, then he is eating it because eating GF is the “hip, trendy” thing to do.  Based on evidence in all films Tony Stark has appeared in, he wants to do whatever is current and hip.

And that is the rub.  There are products out on the market that claim to be gluten free, but when you look at them closer, you discover that they really are not safe at all for anyone with gluten intolerance to ingest.   We are fighting a poorly informed media spreading false information, people who are eating it “just because” and giving those of us who need to be militant a bad name/making it so servers and chefs do not take precautions.

Yes, a lot of good Gluten Free products are out on the marketplace.  Yes, the rise in people being diagnosed has helped with that.

So, while it sounds great to have Tony Stark have Gluten Free waffles for breakfast, I just have one message to Hollywood:

I am not a fad.  Neither is my health.  

 

Why Is the UC GF only during Bulls/Blackhawks?

Last month I attended the P!nk concert at the United Center after forgetting to eat all day. I figured it would be no big deal, since they have a Gluten Free “stand” (ok, actually it is a table) on the main concourse. Except it was closed. Because I am, well, me, I sent a couple of tweets calling out Levy Restaurants and the United Center, plus I sent a couple of emails to Levy Restaurants. Eventually I received a response from Milan Stojakovic, the Director of Operations at Levy Restaurants. Sadly, I don’t know if he is the DoO for the UC, or all their venues, but he did answer all my questions regarding Gluten Free food and beverage options at the UC.

First off, I mentioned that with the addition of floor seating, even with sections blocked off it looked like concerts had a higher capacity then sporting events.  Milan admitted that the capacity for a concert was around 22,000 people versus 10-15,000 for sporting events.  Other special events like the circus/ice show are closer to sporting event numbers.  However, more people does not equal more concession revenue.  Ok, I admit that I can see that.  Isn’t the point of going to a concert to watch the idiots around you get hammered??  No?  Guess that is just one of the perks I enjoy….  =)

Apparently, you can ask the staff during concerts where the GF options are, but when I was there all the staff seemed kind of clueless.  And I wasn’t going to ask a security guard where the GF food was, ya know?  They have enough drunken eedjits to deal with.  So here is the skinny, since the main concourse stand is closed during non-sporting events and the website is shit.  Each stand is supposed to have GF options available, but they are not clearly marked and the staff is not well-trained.  That being said, Milan told me that sections 316 and 333 always have GF options available.

Here is my biggest beef — the website is no help and if you are in the arena you have no way of knowing if you can eat/buy a beer.  You could ring Levy Catering in advance at  (312) 455-7412 to find and arrange accommodation.  I also left the suggestion that the UC/Levy put a sign on the cart saying:  “This location is currently closed.  Gluten Free offerings are available in Sections 316 and 333.”  Then no security guards would be distracted from their girl watching/guessing who is going to be the drunkest.  And us GF’ers can enjoy a beer and a hot dog at a concert/circus/ice show/monster truck rally/whatever.

Cheers!

 

 

Celebrity Talking Correctly about Celiac/Gluten Free!

Monday afternoon I switched over to my personal email to find this waiting for me from Jillian Michaels: “Myth Busters: Does a Gluten Free Diet Aid in Weight Loss?” With all of the bad information celebrities, celebrity doctors, and major retail chains have been putting out in the last couple of weeks (check out this post, and this one , and this, and might as well look at this one), my stomach dropped.  Was this going to be another case of bad information or someone getting it right?

Obviously, I totally destroyed all the suspense by saying that she gets it right!

photo courtesny of eboost.com

photo courtesny of eboost.com

Right off the bat she states that only 1% of the population in the US should be GF due to Celiac, which she correctly identifies as an autoimmune disorder!  Go Jill!

–Sbe correctly identifies what gluten is and where you can find it.  Added bonus — she identifies places one might not think gluten would be found.  Oh, my heart is happy.

–Gluten allergy and gluten intolerance are mentioned as other reasons to be GF.

–Tears when she mentions a Canadian study comparing average GF products to normal ones and found the GF ones were 242% times MORE expensive.  But we all knew this shizz wasn’t cheap!

–Direct quote time:  “Gluten is found in many whole-grain foods that have an array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are vital to a healthy diet. People who eat three servings of whole grains a day are 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The right mix of healthy carbohydrates, like whole-grain products, is the best way to control your blood sugar and avoid diabetes — plus they help to keep you full throughout the day. Whole grains are also the vehicle for many of nature’s disease fighters, like phytochemicals. Without these foods, we’d be sitting ducks for cancer, heart disease, and more. So when you’re cutting out gluten for no real reason, you’re losing all of the nutritional benefits found in foods with gluten.”  See, it’s a good thing if your body can process it!  Eat it people!

–FINALLY someone mentions that GF foods tend to have more carbs and sugars in an attempt to taste “real”.  She also mentions that people on a GF diet tend to be vitamin deficient.  Again, things we know but that is not getting press.

This whole article made me happy.  You can read it here.  Take her or leave her for being a tough lady, I am leading the cheers for getting GOOD information out there.

 

 

 

Food Coma! aka Chicago GFAF EXPO!

On May 21st, I had the chance to wander the GFAF Expo in Chicago. I’m going to admit to my newbie blogger mistake and state that I did not get a lot of pictures of the food. I’m a people person and love people in pictures, so I am going to give you a LOT of those. And promise that I will try to remember to take product photos in the future!

Since I am not much of a morning person, ESPECIALLY on the weekends, it a minor miracle that I got to the Expo by 9:30am. My first mission was to say “Hey Girl” to Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bakeshop.  I met Kyra last year when she was giving a baking class while I was the head expediter, and it is always a joy to catch up with this two-time CUPCAKE WARS champion.  This year Kyra was promoting her new line of cupcake mixes and I snagged the last box of Snickerdoodle mix while picking up my own Crave Bakeshop tee:

Brilliant Chef.  Fabulous Woman.  Love her hawd!

Brilliant Chef. Fabulous Woman. Love her hawd!

Gotta admit, I love that the only part of my Star Wars tee you can see is the “Ta” as the Crave tee is VERY ta-ta friendly!

To the left of Kyra’s booth were the fabulous people from Rudi’s Bakery.  During the morning they were grilling up pieces of their cinnamon raisin bread (yum) and in the afternoon they were dishing up grilled cheese.  I am so mad I did not get the name of the ladies representing the company, as they were fabulous and I am so excited to try the wraps they gave me to sample.  Review on those coming later!

On the other side of Crave Bakeshop were the wonderful people from Taste Guru.  This is something that I am going to try soon because for $25-ish dollars, you get a box of GF goodies sent to your house every month.  And y’all know that $25 does not get you a box of goodies in a store.  Plus, it is a great way to try out new things!  Hi to Laura and Heather who were rocking the booth!  (and Andrew??  This is when I stink with names)

One product I am excited to try out is the GF Harvest  (aka Canyon Oats) instant oatmeal.  The cups totally remind me of the Quaker instant oatmeal cups my co-worker has for lunch every day that smell SOOO GOOD!  I have a feeling that the GF Harvest cups are going to be delicious.  This family has 3 generations of Celiacs, so they know the importance of avoiding cross-contamination and clean oats.  Forrest Smith started this company while he was in high school(!), and he is someone who fits right into this geeks sphere, as we had a long talk on Star Wars and the Avengers.

Gluten Twin Powers - ACTIVATE!  I promise, Forrest does not turn into a bucket of water.

Gluten Twin Powers – ACTIVATE! I promise, Forrest does not turn into a bucket of water.

I did have a mission this expo:  GET MORE RED APPLE LIPSTICK!!!  Last year I had a quick moment to talk with Jay and Andrea about how hard it is to find a good red, they helped me find the perfect shade (ironically enough named: Red!) and I got a cool shimmery lipgloss.  This year I was on a mission to get more lip color and pick up some eye shadows out of their new (in the past year) eye shadow line.  The goal was to get there early, before they got swamped because all day Saturday their booth looked a bit like this, if not worse:

This is actually a calm moment for Jay, Andrea, and Stephanie

This is actually a calm moment for Jay, Andrea, and Stephanie

I ended up making my largest purchase of the expo here:  2 lipsticks, a Rallye Balm, one new gloss, 2 eyeshadows, and an eyeshadow case.  Added bonus:  the bags they put everything in are super cute and will help with makeup and/or jewelry storage!

After this, the expo started to look a bit like this:

This is not the most crowded, just a representation on the day.

This is not the most crowded, just a representation on the day.

Needless to say, I started to be a bit choosy with where I visited, which means I missed some great products, but here are some of my “Best of.”

Kiki’s Simply Awesome Greek SpinichFeta Pocket.  One word — YUM!  I kept coming back for more samples of these because I could not get over how light and flaky the crust is.  Sadly, my sweet tooth was burnt out, so I did not try the dessert she had, but my love affair was with that pocket.  Right now these can be found in a couple of resturaunts in the greater Chicago Area, but I hope she expands into retail soon.

Kiki with her AMAZING SpinichFeta Pocket

Kiki with her AMAZING SpinichFeta Pocket

Something I almost passed by because I have been burned by pizza too many times was the Smart Flour booth.  In fact, I probably walked past it a half dozen times before finally stopping to talk to them.  I am so glad I did because if I had not I would have missed out on a delicious gluten-free freezer pizza hitting market in June.  In talking with one of the gentlemen at the booth, I found out that these pizzas had actually been made about 6 months out and were sitting in a freezer in an attempt to give the consumer a similar experience to what they would have when they hit the market.  To avoid some of the “cracker-like” crispness so many frozen (and non) pizzas have, they removed the rice flour.  Good crust, great taste, the slices of pizza did not last long on the expo floor, and I do not think they will last long on shelves either.

Smart Flour Foods -- must find at my grocery store!

Smart Flour Foods — must find at my grocery store!

Another love was Outrageous Baking out of Boulder.  I have a long standing love affair with banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, pretty much any sweet bread out there.  I am just a lousy (sometimes lazy) cook who does not want to whip up a big loaf that I would devour.  But that did not stop me from purchasing a loaf of their gluten, dairy, and soy free pumpkin loaf and cinnamon spice bread from these ladies.  The lemon poppyseed and chocolate zucchini are also pretty tasty, but a girl has to draw the line somewhere, right?

ZOMG YUM!

ZOMG YUM!

One of the things that EVERYONE told me I needed to try were the Glutenfreeda “Hot Pockets.”  I have been in love with their cranberry cinnamon oatmeal for about a year now, so seeing that they were also coming out with an “instant bowl” made me happy, but I was very distracted by the hot pockets.  While the crust was a bit, well, grey, the flavor of it all was pretty amazing.  I made it a point to try them all, but forgot to take note on the different flavors.  All I know is that when these hit stores, I will be there to purchase for the occasional lunch treat.

4 flavors to choose from

4 flavors to choose from

So, you know how I mentioned forgetting to take pictures every once in a while?  Well, one of my biggest lapses came about with my favorite free of the top 8 allergen cookies on the market:  Cybele’s Free to Eat.  I will admit that I only tried the Chocolate Chip because it was so tasty and reminded me of an extra crispy Toll House.

Another item I failed to get pictures of are the Enjoy Life Decadent Bars.  I tried all 4 flavors (S’mores, Cinnamon Bun, Chocolate Sunbutter, and Cherry Cobbler) and they are all pretty amazing, but the Cherry is my favorite.  So good.  And the ladies at the booth were super awesome and knowledgable.

Part of the Enjoy Life team after a successful Expo

Part of the Enjoy Life team after a successful Expo

If you got their early enough (ie before 1pm) you could take the New Planet Beer tour.  Peter and Sarah would talk you through each of the 5 flavors available while giving you a pour to try.  I am not much of a beer person, but when I have the beer craving I will reach for the New Planet Raspberry or Blonde.

Standing like Peter from New Planet

Standing like Peter from New Planet

Holy crow, this is getting long!  A couple more finds to wrap things up:

Ian’s has a new French Bread pizza that is pretty tasty.

Keeki Pure & Simple is a line of Gluten Free nail polishes, chap sticks, body washes and sunscreens.  I ended up purchasing 2 nail polishes and a root beer float scented chap stick.  I promise I will publish a review!

Schar, oh Schar.  How I love thee.  On top of the new Ciabatta rolls that are delicious, they have 2 new wafer cookies that rock my socks.  The first is a chocolate covered hazelnut that reminds me  a bit of a giant Kit Kat bar.  The second is a Lemon wafer that has so much lemon flavor it ought to be illegal.  DELICOUS!

Enzymedica has an enzyme supplement that helps when you accidentally ingest gluten.  I am now carrying in my purse to have at the ready when I have an accidental glutening!

Freedom Foods is an Australian cereal (at least here in the States) company.  I purchased a box of their Maple Crunch and will review it later.

Van’s, maker of the toaster waffles everyone seems to love, has a new breakfast cereal on the market.  I am excited to try it, especially since I discovered my beloved Cinnamon Chex contain GMO ingredients.  The people at Van’s gave me a box of their Cinnamon Heaven to try out and I will report back on that as well.

I think those are the bulk of my highlights.  I am sure someone or something got missed in here and I will probably just do a photo blog of some more of the photos I took at the Expo.

Until next time!

The Adventures of She-Liac in Chicago

This past weekend was the Chicago Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo. This was my first time attending as anything other than a volunteer. In the week (!) leading up to the Expo, I was asked if I would be willing to dress up as a superhero to promote a T-Shirt company. Considering I used to dress up for work (and still do for theatre), having the opportunity to create my own character was something I jumped at! I have to send big thanks to the staff at both Ragstock and Beatnix Clothing for helping me figure out the pieces.

Since I am a geek, I even started putting together a back story for her.  The only reason I am not sharing it, is because I am playing with ideas to grow with it and maybe turn it into a comic.  How cool is that??  Just need to talk to some people, but I had it in my mind.

I took to my Facebook page and to Twitter to try to come up with a name.  I knew the shirt had a big “GF” on it, so I thought the name should have that as well.  Laura, who writes tweets for Taste Guru and is a fantastic blogger in her own right, gave me a bunch of suggestions based on the article she was editing including “Sorghum Siren.”  I love alliteration and creativity that comes when you are working on something new.

Anyway, Saturday morning came and I got suited up and headed to the booth.

She-Liac!

She-Liac!

To say I did not know what to expect would be an understatement.  My thinking was that no one was going to want to meet a character they did not know.  And considering I could not even remember the name I came up with (Glutonazon), my thought was that it was going to be a LOOOONG 7 hours!

Ready for Action at the GFApparel.com booth

Ready for Action at the GFApparel.com booth

I was wrong.  It started out a little slow, because the booth was near the center back of the expo hall and there was not a lot of business, but then I started wandering.  My favorite moment of the day actually occurred during that first pass through the hall.  There was a boy of about 4 there with his parents, who were manning a booth.  He saw me and immediately told his father he wanted a shirt like mine.  I took him by the hand and we headed to the booth where he immediately started wearing his shirt before his dad even PAID for it!  It made me smile and made my heart happy.  The next day his mom told me he put it on again as soon as he got up.  **Happy Moment**

The rest of the day was taking pictures with people, including 4 ladies from the Notre Dame GIG group, coming up with a motto (“Fighting Hidden Gluten One Crumb at a Time”), taking more pictures, walking, trying a couple of products (more later), enjoying conversations with vendors and guests, and being pulled into booths for pictures.  I learned a lesson that will be valuable moving forward.  This character is a brand.  She is someone I love with a message I am passionate about.  Moving forward, before I take a picture in any booth, with any merchandise, or with any logo, I will be 100% sure that I love and support the brand.  It was very flattering but I know there is at least one picture out there with me in the booth of a product I do not like/enjoy/support.  Lesson. Learned.

I’m going to fix a couple of things and I hope that She-Liac appears at more GF events in the future.

Promoting the GFBar Celiac Sweater project while beating up the Biebs.  (photo by GFB)

Beating up the Biebs and promoting the Gluten Free Bar Celiac Sweater project with a fellow warrior. (photo by GFB)

With Alissa from Breaking up with Captain Crunch and Betsy from Gluten Free Betsy (photo from Alissa)

Charlie’s Angels pose with Alissa from Breaking up with Captain Crunch, and Betsy from Gluten Free Betsy (photo from Alissa)

Fighting gluten with Jennifer, the Allergista.  (photo by Jennifer)

Fighting gluten with Jennifer, the Allergista. (photo by Jennifer)

With Joel of Enjoy Life

Endorsing a favorite with Joel of Enjoy Life Foods

Posed and Proud with Erica of Celiac and the Beast

Posed and Proud with Erica of Celiac and the Beast

Gluten Free Food, Fun and Festivities with Dr. Schar!

This weekend is a BIG weekend for Chicago Glutards.  It is the sixth annual GFAF Expo. This is the first year I am not volunteering, so my experience this year will be much different for me.

But on to tonite!  This evening Schar Gluten Free hosted a “Gluten Free Food, Fun, And Festivities” evening at D’Agostino’s Pizza.  It was a night for locals, bloggers, and expo vendors to get together, kick back, relax, and enjoy some delicious and safe food.

I need to start with the food because I ate so much I was afraid I would need to be rolled out of the restaurant.  It was SO GOOD!!  There was Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Salad made with Chicken Tenders, Chicken Tenders, and 6 different types of pizza (Cheese, Pepperoni, Sausage, Vegetarian, Margherita, and the Dags Special).

Chicken Tenders

Chicken Tenders

The salad was your standard issue restaurant salad.  What made it great were the pieces of chicken tenders on first.  At first, I thought there were croutons on top of it, which made me question the Gluten Free training program, but when I looked closer, I realized it was chopped up pieces of tenders.  The tenders themselves were YUM!  Don’t think the overly crispy ones that I used to inhale at fast food restaurants when I was a kid.  This was real pieces of chicken, properly coated, not crispy at all, but with a flavor that was just calling out to be dredged through a sauce and enjoyed in a bite or two.  As you can see from the picture, they were a hit.

Chicken Parm

Chicken Parm

I need to admit that I have never had Chicken Parmesan before tonite.  I really did not even know what it was.  For the uninitiated like myself, it is breaded chicken that is quickly pan-fried, topped with pasta sauce and mozzarella and served on a bed of pasta or rice, in this case fusilli corn pasta.  Since I am unfamiliar with the dish, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, but I really felt like there was a TON of sauce on top of the chicken and barely any on the pasta, so it tasted a bit dry.  This was not my favorite dish of the evening, but some dish had to be the least favorite, right?

So. Many. Choices!

So. Many. Choices!

Lastly was the pizza.  OMGoodness, the pizza.  I ate soooo much pizza.  First off, I have to say that the restaurant only offers a super thin crust pizza, so if you want anything else, you need to pass.  But if you don’t care about the thickness of the crust as long as it tastes good and the toppings are good, then you will like this pizza.  I did not try the cheese, pepperoni or sausage pizzas, partially because I really wanted to try the other flavors.  The vegetarian pizza had spinach, onions, mushrooms and tomato and made my mouth smile, which tends to be rare as I love my meat pizzas.  The Dags was topped with sausage, mushroom, green pepper, and onions, I thought it was tasty and went back for seconds.  But the pizza I went back for thirds was the one that I was told that I HAD to try — The Margherita.  The crust is coated with olive oil and garlic, then topped with basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, and a bit of parmesan.    Seriously, some delicious things going on with that pizza!

But honestly, the best part was meeting up with friends like Sarah, Mary, Denise, and Andrea; getting to meet people I follow on Twitter like GFreeLaura, RockinGFgal, and Gluten Free Betsy: bloggers whose work I enjoy including Alissa and Elyse; and finally getting to meet people who are making it happen in the GF industry like Denise, Ken, and Anne from Schar, and Jason and Darin from Find Me Gluten Free.  I know there are many people I missed, but it is late, I had a margarita and some Angry Orchard, so I hope they forgive me.

Just some of the amazing GF people that came out in a hail storm.

Just some of the amazing GF people who came out in a hail storm.

Sometimes Time is the Love You Can Give

Hello All,

I don’t know why I tend to start blogs like they are letters, but it just seems a bit more personal than my just jumping in with what I want to say.  Or maybe it is just a quirk of me.

Zumba Man and Booty Shaker at the Parks Plus Zumbathon

Zumba Man and Booty Shaker at the Parks Plus Zumbathon

Within the past month, a friend that I had gotten to know and love lost his parents within a week of one another.  I felt horrible because the first thought I had when I heard his mother had passed was, “But what about his Health Kwest.”  See, Steve was the local “Khantestant” for the Genghis Grill Health Kwest, and to say that he was kicking some serious ass would be an understatement.  So pairing the sadness of him losing that motivation in his weight loss goals with the fact that I could not begin to imagine what he was feeling, having lost both his parents in a week, and not being able to give him a hug (about the only thing I could do, as I did not have the right words), I couldn’t think of what I could do to show that I was there for him.

Enter a group of friends who formed the “We ❤ Steve” Surprise Party committee.  These people had the same feelings I had and came together with the idea to show him our love, but also show our support in his fitness efforts.  I really wanted to contribute in some way, but cooking is not a strong point, so bringing a dish to pass was out, and I am in a bit of a financial mess right now due to an argument with my insurance company, so money was not an issue.  But the one thing I knew I could do was put together a video.  A photo montage video.  And after mentioning it to a couple of people on the committee, and explaining how it would be different from the video they had already planned, they agreed.

Thus began a 2 week period (maybe 3), of asking everyone I could who knew Steve to please mail me a photo of the two of them.  And then, this past Sunday started the process of putting it all together.  Then discovering I had more photos than song.  Thankfully, a friend did some music editing for me creating an extended version of the song, allowing me to put in as wide a variety of photos as I received.  Working an 8 hour day and then coming home and putting 2-3 more hours in editing this project and trying to make it perfect.

Now, a friend pointed out that there is a website that could have assembled all the photos into a montage for me and included some special effects.  But I could not do that for 2 reasons.  The first was prideful:  I learned how to edit in college on a non-linear system (reel-to-reel) and wanted to play with iMovie and figure out some basic non-linear.  The second had to do with love.  Sure, something thrown together in a random order by an algorithmic program is quick and easy.  By taking the time to look at each photo and place it to specific beats and lyrics in the music, I was putting my love into the project and making it personal, something I hoped that people would feel when watching the finished project.

Then the raves started coming in.  For the OTHER video.  The original video.  I kept seeing comments by the organizing committee on how brilliant it was.  I shared mine in the thread, but no one said anything.  And my confidence went out the window.  Two of my friends were life savers and confidence boosters during this time, telling me how great mine was in a different way.  Finally, the night before the party, I shared my finished project with the committee, so they knew what they had to work with and determine where in the program it would go.  And one of them sent me a response that meant more than he will ever know.  “Magical.”

Friday, 12 April was the night of the party.  There were some travel difficulties (stupid Chicago rush hour traffic) and of course I did not save the files in the proper format for the computer the projector was connected to.  Thankfully, I had my handy dandy laptop with me and could export the files in the proper format.  WHEW!

And when my two videos played, I still wanted to leave the room.  I felt embarrassed when called out for making them.  I tried to brush off any praise because it made me feel uncomfortable.

But, I gave the best gift that I knew I could give.  I made it with all the love and friendship that I have.  And it touched the heart of the person I wanted it to touch.  Who could ask for anything more?

I know, in the post I said videos, a plural.  But I only talked about one.  On Wednesday night, I realized that we did not have anything relating to Steve’s Health Kwest put together.  We had something with his onstage work and something to give him a visualization of his circle of friends, but nothing on his workouts.  I asked a friend with more video editing experience if he knew of a way I could pull videos off of YouTube, as the websites I had tried were absolute disasters, and he helped me out.  Thursday night found me editing “Edge of Glory” by Lady GaGa to just the chorus, then putting together a short video using clips Steve created for the social media challenges he had during his Health Kwest.  It was about a 5 hour project, and I think it turned out pretty ok.

No, Really. I Cannot Cook

I have a confession to make.

I cannot cook.

As far as confessions go, that is not a big thing.  But the majority of my friends, and GF bloggers, can.  Or they are wicked bakers.  I consider it a win when I make my 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies or make something from a box that turns out.

But back to cooking.

I mean, sure, I can do the simple things like make Gluten-Free grilled cheese, french toast, pancakes, and spaghetti. For years, my lunches would be a different Mrs. Leeper’s “Hamburger Helper” box every week. I am great at throwing meat on my Foreman grill and nuking some steamer bag of veggies.

But this is not cooking. This is not eating well. My stomach and my taste buds know they are missing out.

Lately I have attempted to face my fear and start actually cooking.  Well, kind of cooking.  On occasion, I use the crock pot I inherited from my Grandma.    My tendency in those instances are to find the recipes that call for things to be thrown in with very little work on my part, turn it on and walk away.  I think I have made 1 non-crock pot/non-“Hamburger Helper” type recipe on the stove in the past 5 years.

My problem is, I start to look at recipes and if the ingredient list goes on my eyes start to glaze over. If the number of steps exceeds 6, I turn away overwhelmed.  If there are terms I do not know, my brain starts to glaze over.  And if it requires multiple tools?  Forget it!  I freely admit that the one recipe I made that told me I had to “Mince Garlic” required a trip to Google to find out what the heck that meant.  So you can forgive me for not looking up how to julienne something, right?

Now, I know my kitchen is small.  If I want to use my crock pot, I have to unplug my microwave and move it, the Foreman grill, and the toaster to  another counter.  My kitchen has 1, yes 1, usable outlet.  Once I move everything, I really don’t like using my stove because there is no elbow room, and at 6′ tall, I tend to need a little bit of room around me.  So understandably, I don’t have too many extra kitchen tools floating around.

To give you an example of how poor my kitchen skills are, let me give you a fairly recent example.  Monday night I get home from work, a callback, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race at a local bar with friends.  I have all the ingredients for Stephanie O’Dea’s “Super Simple Cranberry Roast“.  It is one of my favorites and super simple, just like the title says.  After I get all the ingredients in and cooking overnight on “low”, I prep a pot to make rice.  I measure in my water out of my wet measuring cup and grab a dry one to measure in the rice.  Nothing hard about that, right?  Except that when I turned the rice off after my timer dinged it was awfully watery.  Looking at my dry measuring cup I discover that in my hurry I grabbed the 1/2 cup instead of the cup.  Thank goodness for the strainer!  Oh, and that super simple roast?  I woke up in the morning to the smell of burning cranberries.  Thankfully the meat is still tender and moist, along with whomever developed crock pot liners so I don’t have to scrub that mess out!

I try.  I really do.  I’m too cheap to eat out all the time, but apparently the kitchen and I will continue our battle.

Maybe eventually I will learn.  In the meantime I will keep abusing recipes like the ones linked above as I work on my kitchen skills.

Or get rich and hire a private chef.

 

ZOMG! I Saw P!NK! (with video)

On my birthday I received this message from my friend, Mel:   “Happy Birthday. We are going to see P!nk!”  HELLS YEAH! And on Saturday the 9th, it finally happened.

I have to admit to spending a bit of time trying to figure out just what one should wear to a P!nk show.   The final decision came down to a tank top or a corset.  Eventually I chose the maroon tank as it was in the “pink” color family…kind of.

Think I could be the next Covergirl??

Think I could be the next Covergirl??

The Mel and Mel show arrived at the United Center and did a little bit of wandering. Let me tell you, tour tchotckeys are EXPENSIVE!! Much more expensive than I remember. I looked to my right and I saw a HUGE CoverGirl sign (P!nk is their newest spokesmodel) and headed down there where I discovered they were doing free manicures and doing a photo shoot. Hello, I’m in!  Since the manicure line was a bit long, I just did the photo.  If I ever do one of these again, I don’t think I’ll use any props because I am all the prop I need.  On the other side of the arena we found free mascara and could make a video stating your truth about love.  You know I did it and maybe I will share it.

As we wandered the concourse, we looking for food and discovered that the Gluten Free Table was closed. Since this show was pretty close to a sell out, this left me hurt, sad, confused, and HUNGRY!  This blog has actually been delayed because I sent an e-mail to Levy Restaurants, who run the food locations at the arena.  It took 2 weeks but I finally heard back from the Director of Operations at the United Center.  Currently we are playing a game of phone tag, but when we connect I will share the information.

Well, they have a GF booth, even if it is closed for all but sporting events.

Well, they have a GF booth, even if it is closed for all but sporting events.

The opening act was The Hives.  Their backdrop was fun-the face of a mad puppeteer with strings coming off his fingers and onto their set.  They had 2 stage ninjas that were fun to watch as they kept cords from getting tangled, playing tambourine, and generally just running around the stage.  I wish I could say something good about the band, other than they looked dapper in their top hats and tails, and they had a lot of energy, but after a while it all just blended together and sounded the same.  But a bonus was, the lead singer ended up coming up into the stands to the row right below me and stole (and took a bite out of) someone’s ice cream.  I was not a fan of the music, but their energy and craziness made them a fun opening act.

Mmmmm.....ice cream

Mmmmm…..ice cream

IMG_0216After their set, and while their gear and backdrop were coming down to open the stage up for P!nk, this guy came into the stadium at various locations around the lower bowl and began (kind of rudely) interacting with the audience.  His costume looked like something Two-Face would wear and just before the curtain dropped for P!nk to take the stage, he introduced himself as the host of a new show called “The Truth About Love.”  During random points during in the show he would come out, generally when there was a costume change going on, but overall I do not think he added anything to the show,  Eventually it reached the point where I rolled my eyes if he appeared.IMG_0217

When P!nk took the stage.  WOW!  The stage itself needs to be described as best I can as it was one of the more elaborate stages I have seen.  There were staircases on stage left and right with what I will describe as “old fashioned” street lights along the railings, leading to a platform up stage rear (aka the back of the stage).  Suspended above this platform was a heart-shaped video screen that was used to best effect during “Give Me Just a Reason.”  This platform was an elevator lift that lowered behind a wall so P!nk and the dancers could re-enter the main level through a door.  The main level featured ramps stage left and right, a speed lift stage left and right, and a slower lift center stage.  Extending from the stage right front was a walkway that went out, then curved toward center.  The apex of this was a rose shaped (and painted) piece that doubled as another entrance point.  Behind all of the decor were multiple video screens used to great effect, and crowning the stage was a BIG  “The Truth about Love” neon sign.  Basically, there was a LOT of real estate here, and it was all used to great effect.

My best shot of the stage

My best shot of the stage

One last thing to mention before I go into how amazeballs the concert was.  The band, backup vocalists, and dancers rocked out.  Earning awesome points right away was the fact that it featured one of my favorite things — a she-bassist.  I just love a woman playing bass guitar and I always say that one of these days I am going to learn how to play one.  Until then, I will continue jamming and ruling the Bass play on “Guitar Hero” and enjoy watching others keep the rhythm onstage.  The rest of the band consisted of a guitarist, drummer, keyboard player, and a rhythm guitar/”other” musician.  The 2 back up vocalists rocked the house, and the 6 dancers (3 male 3 female) worked like there was no tomorrow.  Did I mention that the male dancers provided some might fine eye candy?  This whole group, including P!nk, seemed like a big family who threw a party and invited us all to sit down around the (gluten-free) kegerator and have fun.

So, the show.  WOW does not even begin to describe it.  I could probably put every alternative for brilliantly amazing in here and STILL feel like I have not adequately described it.  From the opening number (“Raise Your Glass”) performed on bungee cords, to her final encore (“Glitter in the Air”) performed on silks, P!nk wowed me and made whatever was paid for my ticket absolutely worth it.  While the aerial work is the “wow”, the thing that sets her apart from other performers, I felt like it was utilized at the right moments and for the right songs.  The numbers where other forms of movement/dance were used were also properly placed and it never felt like something was done just to do it.  One of the numbers that I really enjoyed the staging of was a cover of Chris Issaks’ “Wicked Game.”  For this number she stood center stage with a stand mic, and the male dancers moved her around.  It was simple, interesting, powerful.  During numbers like “U + UR Hand” or “Walk of Shame” for instance, it was just a freaking party.  It just made me sad that the singles from her first album were pretty much rolled into a brief medley — even if that medley had a killer dance break.  But I also understand that she has grown and evolved from that period of time, and am thankful that she did anything from that album at all.

Most of the night, this was the level I was at….and by the end I probably broke it:

IMG_0237

Dork-O-Meter

I wish I had the words to describe how much I love the music P!nk creates, how much of it seems to be ripped from my own life.  She blends the tough with the vulnerable and finds a way to plant the tongue firmly in cheek.  2 of her more recent songs (“Perfect” and “Try”) are anthems that I play to pick myself up when I have a rough day, while others (too many to name) are ones that I play when I am in a fantastic mood and just want to let it all out and have fun.  So, I just want to leave you with this before I go.  It is from the concert and it combines the aerial work that blew me away, with the dancing, and the raw emotion that I love.

Stay Passionate,

Mel