Receptively GFree (No Cross-Contamination)

Finding a caterer who not only understands what gluten free means (it’s not, “just avoid the  couscous on the buffet”) but also has the knowledge and expertise to cook 100% gluten free is a challenge. Finding a caterer who can cook delicious AND affordable gluten free food–no $2 upcharge per GFree roll–sounds like an impossible task.

When planning my wedding, I queried a dozen independent caterers as well as in-house caterers at special events facilities in and around metro Atlanta. Several didn’t even bother to answer me. A few seemed to confuse gluten free with the Atkins diet. “We’ll do an all meat and no carbs dinner,” one offered.

Another said I could just take the rolls off my plate and they wouldn’t put gravy on my chicken breast but everyone else should have the gravy because not having the gravy would made the dish less spectacular.

Uh, no, thanks.

My favorite response was, “Well, the bride never eats at her wedding, anyway. You could just bring snacks for yourself and let us make an unforgettable banquet for your guests.”

Really? Continue reading Receptively GFree (No Cross-Contamination)

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Piece of Cake!

Finding gluten free cake isn’t as difficult as it used to be, thanks both to entrepreneurial bakers yearning to share with others the tasty spoils of their kitchen wars and big food factories eager to cash in on the gluten free “craze.” Too often, however, the cakes look less like dreamy confections and more like clumsy claymation.

Finding a baker who can produce yummy, truly gluten and dairy free cake suitably beautiful for a wedding is no easy task. The gluten free bride can go with a strictly gluten free bakery or go with a wedding cake baker who offers both traditional and GF cakes. She also can make it herself or have a family member make it, or she can go to the nearest GF food grocer and purchase frozen confections to serve.

I quickly crossed off the bakers who make both traditional and gluten free cakes. I just don’t trust anything made in the same building where durum wheat wafts in the wind. I’m so sensitive, I once got glutened at a tasty national sandwich-bakery chain and I didn’t eat anything. How do they prevent flour from settling into the crevices or coating the work surfaces even if they clean the place with a fire hose and thick suds? How are they segregating ingredients so they don’t commingle on the apron or in the oven?

I also wasn’t going to make my own cakes. I already was DIY’ing the planning, the flowers and the decor, plus relying on family for hair and makeup. The cakes had to be professionally done and done so well no one would say, “Well, they’re that weird gluten free fad stuff; of course they taste like cardboard iced in muslin.” Continue reading Piece of Cake!

Planning a Gluten Free Wedding on a Budget

Apologies for the dearth of posts the last two months. I wasn’t sick or in jail, thank goodness. I was super busy planning a wedding. My wedding. Yes, I planned and pulled off an entire wedding—from appetizers, bridesmaids, and cake to tuxedos, underthings, a veil and white gown…and everything in between—for 100 guests in four months.

It wasn’t that hard. I mean, what else is there to do while recovering from surgical removal of one’s womanly innards and resulting complications thereof?

Sure, I could have wallowed in self-pity: woe is me (or, more correctly, I) for being in pain for five months and counting (I have gotten a bit peevish about the pain on a few occasions). How awful to be in menopause when I’m not even fifty (I got over this pretty quickly). Rue that I’ll never have children of my own (this does prickle me with sorrow from time to time and then I think of all the kids I’ve helped as a teacher or adviser in the past twenty years plus being an aunt is pretty danged awesome). Wallowing is boring and surprisingly exhausting. I prefer to look on the bright side of things.

There were and are a lot of bright sides to the surgery. Number one, I don’t have cancer. We can end the gratitude list right there. What else do I need to feel immensely grateful? The surgery and cancer scare reminded me that life is unpredictable and short. There are no guarantees that I’ll have next year or any years after that, or even next week. Life can change in an instant. The doctor could have found cancer and I could be dying or dead right now.

Given that uncertainty, as well as the good news that, at least for now, I’m not dying, why not go for it and get married to the most wonderful man in the world? And why not do it sooner than later? Continue reading Planning a Gluten Free Wedding on a Budget

What? Sparkling Cider Is Not Gluten Free

The holidays call for festive beverages to toast the season. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy New Year! Weddings also call for festive beverages to toast the happy couple, the father of the bride, the DJ, and whoever else makes the party rock.

When alcohol isn’t an option, sparkling cider fits the festive bill. In our family, we break out the Knudsen sparking cherry and sparkling pear cider. It looks so lovely in my parents’ etched wine glasses. For an extra splash of special, I put a frozen cherry in the bottom of each glass. My niece and nephews have grown up tipping glasses of Knudsen Family’s sparkling cider at every holiday dinner. They look forward to it.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a large display of new Knudsen specialty flavors at Sprouts: caramel apple, green apple, cranberry, and glogg. I got really excited, especially about the glogg, which we tried for the first time last year when Crate and Barrel offered a pricey non-alcoholic, gluten free, non-sparkly version. We waited until Crate and Barrel slashed the price in half and then we guzzled eight bottles. It tasted best when served warm. Why not try this new sparkly version, which had a much more palatable price tag of $2.99 per bottle? Continue reading What? Sparkling Cider Is Not Gluten Free

Drink This

Contrast tastes terrible. Flavor it berry, banana, vanilla, even Thanksgiving Dinner, and it tastes like, well, nothing like berry or banana or vanilla or anything remotely like food. It tastes so terrible, it makes one hate berry, banana and vanilla, whichcontrast is not fair because berry, banana, and vanilla are quite tasty as ice cream or pudding and don’t deserve such bilious wrath. It’s liquid chalk, aptly named contrast because it contrasts starkly with anything you want to put in your mouth and swallow.

Okay, the gallon of saline laxative you have to drink in preparation for a colonoscopy is worse, so I’m grateful that this is only a pint of berry chalk. Continue reading Drink This

22 Years a Survivor

The slanting of five o’clock sun through the branches of trees with turning gold and red leaves pings the bowl of my soul with hollow sadness. I love autumn with its crunchy ground and vibrant sound, the textured weaves of color wound in scarves around craning necks and sweaters pulled down from shoulder to waist so as not to waste any warmth on shorter days and indigo nights.

That same kind of light poured down the afternoon I spent stuffing envelopes with invitations to the Lupus Foundation’s annual fundraiser. On such a mundane Sunday the riot of light lightened my step, filled my heart with cautious joy. Here I was, just four months post grad school graduation, volunteering for the good of good people with a very bad disease. Come on sun, rain down your light! Let the crisp air in cloudless sky blow my heart that much wider. That’s what I thought, fairly skipping into the building. Continue reading 22 Years a Survivor

Miss Diagnosis

A blogger I follow and admire, A Southern Celiac, recently posted about the need to check your medical chart for stray misdiagnoses and other errors. It sparked my own memories of doctors who misdiagnosed me, suggested or provided improper/crazy treatments, put the wrong information in my chart, or otherwise blundered.

This is not to beat up on doctors. I’ve had the privilege of being treated by some of the best and most competent doctors, doctors who really improved my health and well being. I’ve also seen some really bad doctors.

Dr. P diagnosed me with endometriosis when I was twenty. I was in college and the severe pain and wacky bleeding were wreaking havoc. I missed classes, did poorly on exams because the pain was so bad. His recommendation? He said I should get pregnant. I said that was a ridiculous treatment recommendation for my age and condition. He shot back, “Who do you think you are, Miss Diagnosis?” Continue reading Miss Diagnosis

The Secret to Successful Surgery

Dr. W looked oddly casual in his surgical scrubs and snazzy black sneakers, which he confessed would come off–the sneakers, not the scrubs–during surgery. It gave him better balance, he said, while he operated using the daVinci robot. He chatted amiably with us while we waited for the signal that the OR was ready, until the lead surgical nurse came in, scowling. The surgical plan wasn’t in my chart, she said. Dr. W looked, and sure enough, the printed plan wasn’t there.

Yikes. Continue reading The Secret to Successful Surgery

Retreat! Skidaway Island GFree

DSC00599When I found out I needed pretty significant surgery, I did what anyone would do: I spent two hours researching the issue online, had a good cry, and then I retreated…to public land.

I’m a big fan of the national and state parks systems. Where else can you get breathtaking scenery, soul-soothing peace, and lots to do for so little money? In most cases, the lodging options are pretty snazzy. Continue reading Retreat! Skidaway Island GFree

Losing Pieces of Me

“Your surgery is set for August 20th at 10:30 am. Please arrive two hours early. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight. You’ll need someone to drive you home the next day. Call Monica for a cost estimate.”

DSC00597I was riding a bike through the woods of coastal Georgia when the call came. We just had stopped to swig some water and to admire the beautifully dissonant scenery. I’d never before seen woods composed of palmettos and pines, Spanish moss and yaupon holly.

It became real as I stood on a rise overlooking the salt marsh: I’m losing several organs.

We’re not talking your run-of-the-mill organs like the spleen or a kidney or a section of the colon. No, I’m losing the ones that make me a woman, the organs that separate the female from the male and even the women from the girls. I’m losing my ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. Continue reading Losing Pieces of Me

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