Jun 1, 2015

allow me to reroute you...

I've moved! Go HERE (or, cassidynoga.wordpress.com) for all old posts, along with new ones. (Note that the old posts will stay on this site also, but I won't be posting new ones here.)

Why, you ask?
There were a few reasons. First, let me say that I really like blogger. It's fun. However, I started a new, more professional blog (here) on WP, and IGGPPC uses WP for +5 Charisma, of which I am now a contributor! (Squee!)
Anyway, it just made more sense to stick to one blogging site. That way, I learn all about ONE instead of a little about both. We'll see how it goes, but for now, head over there to read more.


May 9, 2015

April Showers Bring May Bonfires

That doesn't rhyme. Whatever. It's 4am, I'm exhausted, and really, REALLY hungry. That's actually why I'm still awake. My stomach has deemed food to be necessary before sleep.
Anyway, one of my best friends is moving this summer, and for the first time since we've been friends, she's not coming back in August. Instead, she'll be heading to Chicago for law school. While I"m super stoked about that - so many more visits to Chi-town coming up now, with promises of exploring downtown and all that twenty-something fun stuff... like finding coffee shops and book stores... because that's what we're all about - I'm super sad that I've got like a week and a half left in the same city as my twin.
And now I'm going to try not to think about that too hard, because it's FOUR IN THE MORNING and crying right now would be kind of a bad idea.

Getting back on track, I hosted a bonfire tonight. I've done a few of these, and I figured I'd share some tips I've learned the hard way. Note that these apply specifically to a bonfire on the beach in South Texas... but, you know, take from this what you want.

1. You apparently don't need a deep pit to build a nice fire - even when it's windy. In the past, we've always dug down pretty far, and made a fun little seating area... but then the fire was always too hot to use said seating. This time, my boy and one of our friends were in charge of digging... and they dug something that I could probably sit crossed-legged in and my knees would be just a tiny bit lower than the sand level (so, small compared to normal). I was VERY skeptical, but they proved me wrong. It worked great.
2. If you can let boys dig the hole and build the fire, do it. I am the first person to admit that I'm a feminist. I claim it, I own it, and I'm proud of it. HOWEVER. I'm also aware that I'm not very strong, and pretty dang clumsy. Digging a fire pit, even a small one, gives me the chance to both hurt myself right then AND be sore the next day. Building the fire - I'd rather not break a stick over my leg, or get a splinter, or even burn myself (I did that enough anyway). So yes, I'll let the boys do the hard work while I sit back with a drink and make sure Waters (Bruce's dog) doesn't try to play with a passing stranger out riding their bike or funky three wheeled scooter. That's just being smart.
3. A VW Beetle convertible trunk does not have a very big opening. Remember that when buying a cooler. That's all.
4. If it can't get sandy, don't bring it. I have so much sand in the tiny little openings in my phone, it's almost scary. Every single one of us left the beach covered in sand.
5. Let's talk about bringing drinks to the beach. So when I do bonfires, it's totally BYOBeverage. However, in the past, I've gotten 12 packs of various kinds of soda (sprite, Dr Pepper, coke), and basically let anyone that wanted a can, take it. This time, I opted for a 3L bottle of DP and a 2L bottle of coke, along with red solo cups. This was in part because Bruce talked me into it, and in part because I didn't want to mess with a zillion cans. Lesson here: deal with the cans. Because I'd so heavily stressed BYOB, and because another friend ended up bringing cans, the people that just wanted a soda picked a can and the giant bottles went mostly untouched. Looking back, that's much smarter. The opening is much smaller on a can, so your drink gets less sandy. It also has less of a chance of spilling. While the cups were better for adding alcohol (I'm 22), it would have been just as easy - if not easier - to add it to the can. Then, I'd be left with unopened cans of soda, instead of giant bottles of soda that will end up going flat before I finish it. I'm not a huge soda drinker. My point here is that if you're doing BYOB, go with cans. If you're setting up for a party in which everything's set out nicely, the bottles probably work best.
6. Also, food. I do s'mores. I really like them, but the thing I like the most is the toasty marshmallows. Nom. Anyway, when I do this, I have to get regular and gluten free graham crackers. I also split up the marshmallows into GF and nonGF bags to avoid cross contamination. My friends are pretty good about that, but far fewer nonGF people eat s'mores. (Turns out, it's because they don't want to make them, and I won't make a nonGF s'more for anyone.) Next time, I'm putting like four or five marshmallows in a snack bag, and making maybe four bags of those, instead of one bag for nonGF. That way, only a limited number of marshmallows get cross contaminated, and the rest are still safe. I've also started keeping both the marshmallows and the chocolate in the top bin of a cooler, because it's HOT in SoTx, and chocolate melts pretty easily.
Bruce brought sausages this time and several people ate those. Another friend brought hot dogs. I realized at the last bonfire that I don't actually really like hot dogs, so I'll probably pass on that one. I might try the sausage thing next time, but we'll see. Right now, my plan is set at eating before I go. And apparently, when I get home.
7. Bring a chair. It makes life so much easier. If you have pickup trucks with tailgates, or hatchbacks, that works too.
8. Coat hangers make great skewers. I'll write more about this if anyone's interested.
9. Music is good, if you can hear it over the wind. I bought a cute little speaker that packs a pretty big punch... but Travis told me that we probably wouldn't be able to hear it over the wind. After that, I didn't want to expose it to the crazy sand (see number four) for a maybe.
10. Don't forget to bring water! Every single other time, we've gotten this down fine. THIS time? None of us thought about it. A few of us had a water bottle, but nothing for refills or anyone without one. That's definitely important.
11. Take a warmer set of clothes. It's hit or miss as to whether or not I'll get so cold that I need to change out of my tank top and shorts, but you can stay a lot longer if you have that option.

There's probably something that I forgot, but that's all for now! What are your bonfire tips and tricks?

Apr 13, 2015

doctor-pharmacy-gluten free triangle of hell

I'm on hold with the pharmacy.
Nope. Back on hold.

This is fun. I'm trying to get antibiotics for the start of an infection.
My doctor prescribed me Bactrim. It's gluten free, but it's also a brand name. My insurance is not a fan of using the brand name if there's a generic substitute.

Six months ago, I tried to get a birth control prescription. My doctor found the brand she wanted - and it was gluten free - so she just wrote it out. I didn't realize it, and when I picked my script up, it wasn't the brand version. There was no information on it being gluten free... and luckily, the pharmacy took it back. (Not a normal thing, FYI.)
What happened, as I'm sure you've figured out, is that the pharmacy did what it does and switched out my "normal" script with the generic version.
I ended up finding a different version - one that was already generic - and had my doctor write a script for that. One issue dealt with.

So back to today (or, okay, Friday. In the interest of full disclosure, I started this Friday while I was on hold, and finished it today while watching NCIS: New Orleans).

I asked my doctor to write "must be gluten free" on the script, so when they switched it to the generic version, they'd check.
Instead, she wrote "brand medically necessary. Must be gluten free". What that meant, of course, was the pharmacy couldn't switch it to the generic version. It also meant that two week's worth of pills would be around $50 (like I said, my insurance doesn't like brands). The generic is $2. So.

You know what? Let's do this as a timeline of my day.

9:15 am - doctor's appointment
9:20 am - went into the room
9:45 am - the doctor came in
10:38 am - left the doctor's office
10:45 am - realized the $50 vs $2 difference; picked up one prescription
10:49 am - sat down to wait for a shot
11:06 am - actually got my shot
11:10 am - called my doctor and left a message about the script I wanted
11:20 am - went home for lunch
12:07 pm - called my mom, updated her on what was going on.
12:54 pm - got a call from my doctor, telling me that the medicine I wanted wasn't available in the US.
12:57 pm - finally logged into the Express Scripts website and found out what they say is the generic version of Bactrim. It's something called sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim. I couldn't find it on the gluten free drugs website.
1:18 pm - called the pharmacy to see what they subbed Bactrim out for normally. The answer? SMZ-TMP. That was staring me right in the face on the drug list. It's the same thing as the sulfamethsomehtingoranother. I hate drug names and abbreviations.
1:51 pm - called the doctor back to see if she could prescribe me Bactrim, without earmarks. Turns out, she wasn't there anymore. The receptionist said that if the pharmacy called her, she could verbally change the prescription
1:54 pm - called the pharmacy and the pharmacist that gave me my shot agreed to call the doctor. All's well that ends well.

I thought that would be a little more interesting. For the record, I didn't make up the times. I used my phone's call log. I'm a nerd like that. It's okay, I know.

So what's the takeaway from this? I learned a few things. Cue a numbered list, below.

  1. If possible, check the generic options of drugs while still at the doctor's office. Get her to write a script for that specific generic, and note that it can't be changed. 
  2. Call the pharmacy and find out what their go-to generic is. Check that against glutenfreedrugs.com. If it's safe, your doctor can write the script for the regular, brand name drug. DO NOT label "brand medically necessary". 
  3. Don't trust the internet blindly on generic versions. Use resources provided by your insurance (I use Express Scripts). 
  4. Always make doctor's appointments in the morning. 
  5. On glutenfreedrugs.com, try searching the web page for the drug in question. I searched Bactrim and found the actual drug, along with the SMZ-TMP listing which had "generic Bactrim" listed in parentheses after it. Sigh. 
  6. If you do need to get a script changed (because of a handwritten notation; I'm not sure about changing it totally), the pharmacy can call the doctor and the doctor can verbally change it. 

Oh, the real kicker? I'd gotten prescribed Bactrim last May... and it was subbed out for SMZ-TMP. All of this could have been avoided. I thought the name Bactrim sounded familiar... oh well. Live and learn.

Happy Monday, y'all.

Apr 8, 2015

Thoughts from State: 2015

Well, the number one thought from State is that I really should have written this AT the SLC. Sigh. Maybe someday I'll learn.

Here we go with the 2015 Dallas version of TFS. (If you're unfamiliar with this, go read the others here and here).

  • State really is always cold. I flew up to Dallas in jeans, a comfy sweater shirt, and my business heeled boots. That was great - until I actually got to Dallas. It had snowed the night before, so I was navigating the DART bus/train system in heels and with a suitcase... through snow and slush. Not fun. All in all, it wasn't terrible. 
  • The DART was great leaving the airport. I paid $5.00 for a day pass - and in hindsight, I could have gotten away with a $2.50 2-hour ticket (I thought I would leave the hotel again...) - and it got me from the airport to about a minute away from my hotel. 
  • I really need to plan better for leaving the conference. This year's trip was littered with cancelled flights and last minute plans... It was a mess. Don't ask. 
  • The Dallas Love Field airport has a Jason's Deli on the secure side. If I ever fly through or to there again, I need to check out their gluten-free options... even if I have to go get my bag from baggage claim. I'll have time. (I didn't this time, and regretted it later.) 
  • On that same note, I should just take a sandwich with me when I fly. 
  • I still never leave the hotel once I get there. Even with the DART system as an option. 
  • I would really like to visit downtown Dallas in the summer. Or whenever it's not freezing cold. 
  • Always check delivery times in the morning. I waited too late one night, and Pizza Hut wasn't delivering anymore. 
  • Both room service and delivery take at least 30 minutes... give yourself an hour wait time. 
  • Never order milk (for cereal) from room service. Put your cereal in a cup and go downstairs. The conference has milk for coffee. Use that. 
  • Eating cereal out of a starbucks cup will get you some weird looks. It's a great plan regardless. 
  • If you're working behind the curtain, make sure you have a snack. Once you get there, you don't leave. 
  • The same goes for a phone charger. 

This year, I tried on my business outfits before I left and made sure that I packed things that worked together. It was great. It saved so much time in the mornings, and I knew FOR SURE that what I had would work. 

I also helped two teams prepare for prelims. Here's what I have to say about that: 
  • Financial Analyst Team: Your reports better be damn good. Not only does your technical score determine if you make it to finals (and get to present), but it also plays a role in your final score. If you have the lowest tech score at finals, you probably won't make it. Mathematically, it doesn't work. Trust me. We tried to send a team to NLC, but their tech score was so much lower than another teams that we had no choice but to send the other team and make them 3rd. 
  • If you make it to finals, bring a copy of your report to the judges. 9 times out of 10, they didn't get a copy of your report. If you're the first group to present, be aware that the judges might not even have the prompt. Be careful about asking, but don't be surprised if they ask you what's going on. 
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again - don't believe that your judges don't know what they're talking about. I have a BBA in Finance and Accounting, and I asked more than one group if Earnings Per Share was what the investor got back for investing in the company. (Note: it's not.) I also asked if the current ratio should be high, because "higher is better, right?" I also asked how "that stuff" worked. The point here is that if you don't know the answer to that, don't just blindly agree. We don't always try to trick you, but in finals, it's a matter of sending the best team to finals. (And a note: the team that won first place knew that the CR shouldn't always be higher. There's a range, and they knew it.) 
  • A note that doesn't come from judging - if you have an issue that makes presenting unfair, go to headquarters and tell them right away. In this case, it was an issue of people in the hallway being loud and playing music, which distracted from the student's presentation. After hers, the judges made them quiet down. By the time she told her advisor and the advisor told us, there was nothing we could do. If she had told us right away, we could have let her present again under the quiet (non-distracting) circumstances. 
  • Use the WSAP. Seriously. Look at the grading rubric's and follow them. That's what the judges get. 

I'm sure I'm leaving things off - I always do. If you have questions, feel free to ask me! Whether it's now or next year or whenever - ask, and I'll either know the answer or find out. 

The 2016 SLC is in Corpus Christi, so let me know if you'll be there! I will :p 

Apr 1, 2015

March Favorites

We're already several days into April now, so I'm going to only hit a couple highlights and catch the rest at the end of this month.

First up, Udi's Gluten Free Italian Sausage Lasagna. It's easy, tastes great, and is the first frozen meal that I finished wanting more. I'd like to do a whole review of it, but school is tough right now, so just bear with me on this one.
Next, the decaf iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks. It's my summer drink, and in South Texas, March is summer enough to switch from hot coffee to iced.
I've also been loving the kinnikinnick gluten free Vanilla Wafers. Can you say, GF Nilla Wafers? FINALLY. They're a little harder than I expected them to be, but I really enjoy them.
 To put a bow on this month's (short) favorite's post, I'll leave you with the Pillsbury Funfetti Gluten Free Cake and Cupcake Mix. It's sweet, but not too bad. I'll do a full review of it later, but it was great. The batter was thick, but the cupcakes were light. I really enjoyed them (and so did my non-GF boy. Also: my parents)!

Mar 5, 2015


Good morning! I'm writing this the day before it's scheduled to post, which is weird for a conversation post, but there's a good chance I won't actually get to finish this entry in one sitting. I'm a little all over the place this morning (it's 10:30am) - my tea is too sweet, I'm sniffling thanks to whatever cold front is blowing in, I'm kind of exhausted after being up until 2am researching gluten free options in downtown Dallas (and how to get there without a car or walking crazy far in the cold), and I desperately need to pack.
Also, wash my hair.
I want to give you a little heads up, my dear reader, as to what's coming. I went to the Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest last weekend, so that super fun post will go up... soon. It's mostly written as of now, but I just have to get the pictures where they belong and that takes a bit of time.
I've got BPA State this weekend (I leave the day this goes live), which I will write about. However, I have two exams next week, so studying is going to have to come before blogging.
The exciting part is the week after that is my spring break, so depending on the weather, I'll either be inside or at the beach. I'm sure you can figure out which one would be more productive...

I also have a couple recipe posts I want to share, as well as some product reviews. I'm thinking about doing a personal finance series because 1) I need a more fun way to study for the class I'm taking about it, and 2) it's really good information. Let me know if you have thoughts on that, or just hang around. It may show up soon(ish).

I used to write for my local GIG branch's newsletter (almost every month for six and a half years), and when we disbanded (almost a year ago), I stopped writing. I miss it, so in order to get back in the swing of things with that regard, I'm going to post some of the articles I wrote. Not every single one is good or relevant - several were simply meeting reminders and some were time sensitive, but I can think of a handful off the top of my head that I'd like to share. So, those will show up every now and again (starting sometime after spring break).

Let's see. I still have some tea left. What else is there to say?
I'll most likely try the gluten free Pizza Hut pizza in Dallas. It'll be the first time I've ever had a pizza delivered. I'm so excited and really nervous.
I found out last night that someone in one of my grad classes also has celiac. I'll have to start watching what he snacks on in class... I'm pretty sure he's not as careful about the diet as I am, which worries me. Guys, just a reminder, health comes first. Don't chance things. Come on.
I bought the Baymax movie (Big Hero 6) a few days ago and watched it again with Bruce. He agreed that it was good. (Tissue warning.)
I went to call the hotel this morning and accidentally clicked on the iPhone favorite of my house phone. I'm IN my house. I decided to wait until I was a little more coherent to call the hotel. Sigh.
I have a laundry list of things to do today, so I'll leave this as it is and go deal with life. Have a great day! (:

Mar 4, 2015

product review: Smart Flour Gluten Free Uncured Pepperoni Pizza

I'm probably an even bigger fan of pizza than I am of mac 'n cheese. That's a strong statement, but it's true. I could eat pizza for long periods of time and be a happy little penguin. I've tried so many kinds of pizza, and only a handful do I go back to repeatedly. I might make a whole post ranking my favorite pizzas. That would be a very fun post. I would also get very hungry. Anyway. Here we go.

Last year, Miranda and I went to a Gluten Free Allergy and Wellness Fair and they had a zillion samples... and one of them was Smart Flour pizza. I'd never had it before, but had heard wonderful things about it. I tried a slice, and it was wonderful. Cut to this month, where I finally saw Smart Flour pizza. It came home with me. This was it right out of the package:
I added extra pepperoni, a little bit of cheddar cheese, and some Boar's Head ham... because why not. This is normally how I eat my pizza (but to be fair, usually I have more cheddar cheese, and it goes under the pepperoni and stuff... but since this one already had the giant pepperonis, I just added on).
I had it in the oven at 400F for about 16 minutes and then on broil for maybe two or three. That was a few minutes over the box's recommendations, so just make sure to cook it to how you like it.
The very edges are crispy, but the rest of the crust isn't. It's not quite chewy, either, but a happy medium. I didn't really cut the slices thin enough to have them try to fold down like "regular" pizza does, but I'm pretty sure it would, given the chance.
I really enjoyed it. REALLY. It was somewhere between 7 and 9 dollars (I'm not sure because I bought three different kinds of pizza in one felt swoop and I can't find the receipt right now. Sigh), so that's not TOO bad. It's definitely a little more of a treat because it's pre-made, and there are cheaper options that I like as much or more... But I will repurchase it, and I give it five stars

 Have you tried this? What do you think? AND what pizzas should I try?

Mar 2, 2015

February favorites

It's weird sitting here on one of the last days of the month, trying to figure out what I enjoyed most the past twenty-something days. I'm going to go with the hope that this will get easier as I do more of them (someone from the future, tell me how December's looks).
Top of my list has to be the trios gluten free girl scout cookies. They're pitched as "chocolate chips nestled in a gluten free peanut butter oatmeal cookie". They live up to their name. I really enjoy them with a cup of tea. They do get a little crumbly, so eat over a plate (or stuff the whole cookie in your mouth) and have something to drink with them.
Next up, but not loved any less, would be the glutino gluten free wafer bites. I'm particularly fond of both the hazelnut (pictured) and the chocolate covered flavors (the other option is lemon, and I haven't tried it, but I would bet it's good as well). They're cute little cookies and I enjoy eating a zillion of them at a time. That's a teacup saucer they're sitting in, by the way.
I've fallen in love with the Peach Pleasure Smoothie from Jamba Juice. I'm a little late to the Jamba party here, but Meagan wanted a smoothie and I figured I'd try one... mine's on the left (in case you didn't get that by the whole PEACH thing :p). Guys, it's good. They have gluten free information on their website, so that's cool!
The next one is a longtime favorite - Pamela's Pancake & Baking mix. I LOVE these pancakes. They're so dang good and easy to make, and just remind me of childhood weekends. I've tried other brands and sure, there are other good ones, but I always come back to Pamela's.
Last, but certainly not least, for this month is the new gluten free Special K cereal. I have NEVER been a big cereal eater. You take the fun kid cereals away from a five year old, and they're not too thrilled with crispy rice or slightly tasty peanut butter cereal (okay, the peanut butter puffs one I DID like, but not for long periods of time and always without milk). Cut to now, with Chex having gluten free options, Fruity Pebbles being labeled (shhhh they're good), and now Special K... I'm starting to enjoy cold breakfasts again. ALSO, Cheerios are slated to be gluten free this summer, so I'm SUPER pumped about that.
That's it for this month's favorites! One of these days, I'll get around to including things that aren't food :p Happy March!

Feb 27, 2015

product review: Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

I'm a huge fan of mac 'n cheese. For years, I ate gluten free pasta with the Kraft cheese packet out of the regular mac 'n cheese. We went through the process of wiping off the packet before opening it to avoid getting gluten in the cheese when we opened it... and it was always wonderful. A couple years ago, however, I started feeling really kind of sluggish after eating mac 'n cheese. It was like the cheese was so rich and just made me feel overly full. It wasn't worth it - and I didn't know if I was reacting to the cheese itself or accidental gluten. I stopped eating it. 
Then I tried Annie's gluten free mac 'n cheese (the one in the blue box). It was great - so much better than I remembered it. I made the switch and yummy cheese coated pasta was back in my life. (The Deluxe version, I'm still not a fan of.) 
When I was pretty young - 8-12ish - I tried Amy's Frozen Mac 'N Cheese. I DID NOT like it. Years later, I tried it again, and fell in love. 

All of that brings me to the topic of this post. Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese was a product I'd seen for a while but never tried. I'm always a little wary of new mac n cheese products... but like I said in my shopping cart post, I figured it was time to give it a try. Well, I did. 

I didn't take a picture of it right out of the box, but I was not impressed. Looks aren't everything, so I did as the directions said and cut a slit in the overwrap and stuck it in the microwave for two minutes. Remove overwrap. Stir. Still not impressed. Back in the microwave for two minutes and forty five seconds. Let it sit for a couple minutes (so I might have cheated a little on this one... I didn't want it to get cold...). 

The result? 
The pictures are a little dark but they get my point across. My compliments to the package photographer... no idea how they heated it up and transferred it to a plate with the noodles intact. It's not that big of a deal, but it's a little tiny bit unappetizing to feel like you're eating mush when you planned on pasta.
I've definitely gotten used to Amy's frozen mac 'n cheese, because this seemed small. I feel full enough after eating just this, but I'm also 5 foot tall and under 100 pounds... so most people would probably need a little something extra.
The pasta is made from rice and corn flours, which is evident in the taste. I'm personally not a huge fan of corn pasta, and this one tasted overly starchy to me. The cheese sauce is ABSOLUTELY more of an adult taste - closer to the homemade mac 'n cheese that my grandma gave me a recipe for, as opposed to the kind from the Kraft box. 
To be fair, this one doesn't technically claim to be mac 'n cheese... so maybe it's unfair to compare it to products that do. I did anyway. You don't have to. 

Overall, I'd give it probably three stars. I don't plan on buying it again, and I wouldn't pick it to eat, but I wouldn't turn it down if that's what was offered. 
What do you think? Have you tried it? Should I do something differently and give it another shot? Let me know! 

Feb 25, 2015

Thoughts from State: updated

So last week, I published the TFS that I wrote a couple years back. Today, I'll share some thoughts that are a little more recent. It's really whatever works for you, but things have changed a little since I wrote that one, so what works for me is different.
*I now stay in the main conference hotel. This change came because, as a judge/volunteer, it was easier to go upstairs to my room after a late night of helping "behind the curtain"... versus walking back to a hotel by myself, at night, downtown, in the cold.
*Take a reusable water bottle. This might be a little more practical than buying a gallon of water, especially with the restrictions that students might have (like not wandering off by themselves).
*Pack snacks. This rings true especially for me, because I'm gluten free, but there are lots of times in between events and things where finding a snack was annoyingly hard or expensive. I'll have a post about what, exactly, I took to State this year. (I realize that's not much help for THIS year, but, well, oops.)
*You don't need as many regular clothes. I always forget that and end up packing regular clothes for all days, and then spending 90% or more of my time in business dress or pjs.
*Bring slippers. I always forget, and I always want them.
*WiFi might not be worth it. Now bear with me for a second. I'm not saying it ISN'T. I'm just saying that you really need to think about it. Last year, I used my laptop for google maps and watching a DVD of Veronica Mars. The former used the internet, the latter did not. However, my phone has google maps, and it's own internet. I wasn't in my room for long periods of time, because I spent most of my time doing judging or behind the scenes stuff. I'm not sure if I'll get it this year, but it's something to consider first.
Some things, of course, are the same.
*Still find the Starbucks. Judging starts at 8am. They provide coffee and tea for us, which is great, but if I have the option to hop off to a Starbies before, that would make me much happier. That wouldn't be possible if I had to search for the Starbucks that early.
*State is still cold. Seriously. That's all.
*Business clothes still need to be tried on before you leave. I'll add to this and say that you should try to match as much as possible. If I could have three different blouses match with one pair of pants, that would be great. Or, just in case, two pairs of pants... who knows what life will bring. Don't forget a belt and any socks that go with shoes. Check for undergarment compatibility (ladies, trust me on this one).

I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but the entire weekend of last year's SLC is kind of a blur. I was so busy and had so much fun. State this year starts NEXT WEEK WEDNESDAY (Thursday for me), so expect a post after that with all the new tips and tricks, for both judges and competitors. Good luck to everyone competing, and if you are, let me know! I'd like to say hi!

Feb 23, 2015

what's in my grocery basket: Sprouts and HEB

I might have gone a little crazy at the store last week... 
 (There's actually one thing missing from this shot, so I'll include it by itself at the bottom. It's worth including!)
So, above, we have:
*Pillsbury Gluten Free Funfetti cake and cupcake mix
*Pillsbury Gluten Free Funfetti sugar cookie mix
*Pamela's Gluten Free Baking & Pancake mix
*Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese
*Glutino Hazelnut Gluten Free Wafer Bites
*Smart Flour Gluten Free Uncured Pepperoni Pizza
*Andes Creme de Menthe Thins
*Betty Lou's Blueberry Fruit Bar
*Betty Lou's Peanut Butter & Blueberry PB&J Bar
*4U! Gluten Free Thin Crust Uncured Pepperoni Pizza
(and at the bottom)
*Venice Bakery Gluten-Free Vegan 8" Pizza crust (2 pack)
I got super excited over these mixes. They're new, which is always fun, and they're FUNFETTI. Come on. That's just awesome. I'll post a review of both after I make them. [Found at HEB]
Pamela's pancake mix has long been my favorite. I've tried Bisquick (great), other box mixes (not so great), and from scratch (blech), and always go back to Pamela's. Always. They're so easy to make and so tasty. [HEB]
The Glutino wafer bites are pretty good. I was honestly thinking of the Schar hazelnut wafers when I bought these - I personally like the Schar wafers better, but these are so cute and fun to eat... I'll buy them again. [HEB] 
I haven't yet tried the Udi's penne & cheese, but I figured it was time to give it a chance. I love Amy's frozen Mac & Cheese, so it has pretty big shoes to fill, but I'll let you know what I think. [both HEB and Sprouts]
So, last year, Miranda and I went to a gluten free food and allergy fair in Austin, TX, and we tried Smart Flour pizza there. It was SO GOOD, so of course I bought it as soon as I found it here in Corpus. We'll see if it's as good when I make it as it was when the pros did it. [Sprouts]
One of my best friends works at HEB, and her and I wandered down the candy aisle. She pointed out that the Andes mints were gluten free - something I'd never known (or never paid attention to maybe). It says it right on the package, but not on the individual mint. [HEB]
The PB&J bar and the Fruit bar were right next to each other at Sprouts, and since I've recently gotten into various kinds of snack bars, I figured I'd give these a try. Both had other flavors, but blueberry wins every time in my book. These will be featured in an upcoming post about all different kinds of snack bars. [Sprouts]
More pizza? Always. I haven't tried this one. I haven't heard about it before. However, it's gluten free pizza and that alone gives me enough reason to try it. I should do an entire post on pizza. That would be fun. And really, really yummy. [Sprouts]
I don't want to hear it on how much pizza I bought. These crusts are my favorite so far and Sprouts didn't have them last time I went... so even though I had two other pizzas in my basket, I had to pick up a two-pack. I really like these because they're small enough where I COULD eat the whole thing but generally only eat half. They reheat well and taste great. They're not overly doughy or hard to deal with. [Sprouts]

Feb 20, 2015

chocolates in a red box

Assorted chocolates are something I've grown to want - I don't "miss" them per se, because kids under five don't really eat a whole bunch of them (or, I didn't), but as I've gotten older, I've realized that MOST assorted chocolate boxes "may contain wheat". I was in England a couple summers ago, and found a labeled GF box with absolutely no effort. They were wonderful. Really showed me what I've been missing.
Cut to every single Valentine's Day or Christmas grocery store aisle, and you'll see tons of assorted chocolates. I know I can't have them, yet I put myself through the annoyance of checking each time. I was at Walmart a few days ago, and saw a Hershey's box. Now, I LIKE Hershey's chocolate, but I'm not a huge fan of their solid chocolate bars (except the ones with almonds. Those rock). Before you think I'm crazy, let me note that they're GREAT - I just don't eat them all the time. A few bites, fine, s'mores, duh, but the big momma chocolate bars? Not my cup of tea.
Still, it was a box of assorted chocolates, and I have a thing about those. Picked up the box. Saw no warning. Read the ingredients. No indication of gluten. Sighed. Debated. Put it down and walked away. Went back and got it. Tried to call the 800 number, but it was after hours and I didn't want to deal with automation.
I bought the box, and just hoped it was gluten free.
Before you panic, I didn't actually eat the chocolate until I called the next day. Chocolates aren't worth that pain. Someone else would have eaten it if I couldn't, but LUCKILY, all was well and I'm now happily making my way through various yummy chocolates.

(I bought more before the season was up... just in case anyone doubted that. )

Feb 18, 2015

[revived post] Thoughts From State

This post is from March 3, 2013 and was originally posted on my old blog, which is now on hiatus. It's BPA State time again, and I figured I'd post this ahead of this year's convention, so that it can serve the purpose it was intended for... especially since the cycle has come around again so that the city is the same as it was in 2012. 
Next week, I'll have a post about last year's SLC - because I definitely have thoughts. AND I'll be in Dallas in about two weeks from today for this year's Texas BPA State Leadership Convention, so expect that post sometime the following week. 


Howdy loves! 

I've spent the past few days at the Business Professionals of America State Leadership Conference (more info) in Houston, Texas with one of my best friends, Saira. A teeny bit of background here - I've done BPA since I was a sophomore in high school, and this year, instead of competing at State, I went as a judge. It was SO much fun. I honestly loved every moment, and always have. 

There are always things that I realize at the end of the weekend that I wish I'd known/remembered at the beginning of the trip, so this time, I'm sharing. Here we go! 
  • Find the Starbucks (and other places you'll want to go) before you get there. It was pure luck that we found a Starbucks on the first night. Last year (Dallas), we got lost on night 1 and Siri wouldn't work on my phone. As much as "it isn't State until we get lost", try to avoid it. 
  • Actually try on the clothes you're bringing. With business clothing, you can't really just mix and match as you see fit while on the trip. It needs to be planned out, because colors need to match and you need the right shoes for your pants. 
  • Remember that it will be cold. State is always cold. Always. 
  • Right off the bat, buy a gallon of water. It will keep you from having to constantly buy a water bottle and you won't have to drink tap water. 
  • Do your research and find out if the hotel will have wifi. Most convention centers/hotel conference rooms don't have it, so if you need it, make other arrangements. 
  • Places in business districts close early. This includes restaurants. Know the hours of operation before hand, or you'll end up walking 20 minutes away for Chipolte, because they're the only place open after 6PM. 
  • It may be better to NOT stay at the main hotel (ie: the one that most of the competitions are being held at), simply because of the sheer number of people that are there. This could be based on my dislike of elevators, but I can't remember the last time I've stayed at the main hotel. 
  • Smile. It gets people to help you. 
  • Pack hand lotion. I'm used to warm weather, and any time I'm in the cold, my skin FREAKS OUT and gets super dry. The hotel usually provides lotion, but sensitive skin can have a problem. 
  • Backup chargers exist for a reason, but having one does no good unless you actually bring it with you. 
  • You won't use the hotel gym. You just won't. Don't bother packing workout clothes. Even if you're someone that goes all the time (I go every MWF, so I can say this), you won't go. Why? Because you have to walk freaking everywhere and that's enough exercise for one day. 

There are also things that I learned through judging this year. I'm including a couple of tips here so that when (not if; it always happens) anyone asks me, I don't have to try to think back. 
  • If you're part of a team, YOU NEED TO MATCH. It's seriously a huge pet peeve of mine when the team isn't uniform. I was part of a team for three years, so I understand how frustrating it can be to find things that match, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Two boys and a girl? The boys can wear ties that match each other and match the girl's blouse. Black and white is really easy and looks great. More than one girl on the team? Go shopping together. Girls can wear pants or a skirt, it doesn't really matter, as long as the color scheme is there. It shows that you worked together and actually thought things through. 
  • Make sure you're in dress code. BPA guidelines say that (for females) open toed shoes MUST have a heel. While most people won't DQ you, don't take that chance. 
  • You're in a professional competition, so make sure that you ARE professional. Keep your hands out of your pockets, don't fiddle with your hair, and don't read from your notecards. 
  • If you're doing web site design or something else that involves the internet, and want to show said web site/internet thing in your presentation, either have your own wifi, or take screen shots of each page and stick it in a powerpoint. The judges shouldn't dock you for not having wifi, but seeing the web page will really help. 
  • If you're in a team, you'll probably have questions after your presentation. Make sure that everyone answers something, or speaks at least, and don't, under any circumstances, argue with your teammates. I can't stress that enough. Even if they're wrong, add on instead of correcting them. You don't want the judges to think that you can't work as a team. Pretend to like each other, at least. 
  • Remember that the goal here is to send the best of the best to Nationals. Bring your A-game, always. 
A couple little secrets here that you shouldn't bank on but should be aware of and use to your advantage: 
  • Sometimes, the judges have no idea what you're supposed to be doing. They're learning from you. If you're first, be really good. Explain things, be lively, and for the love all things yummy, please stay on topic. There's no faster way to get last place than to be the "left fielder" of the group. There's always one. 
  • Make sure to look over the grading rubric. You can see that in the WSAP, which every advisor has access to. READ IT. The judges grade based on that, especially if they're new to judging or unfamiliar to your event. 
  • Going along with that, judges have NO control over technical points. If you turn in a paper that gets graded ahead of time, really spend time on that paper. You need a solid paper to go with a solid presentation. One out of the two will NOT get you to Nationals. The presentation judges don't usually see the paper, and if they do, it's already been scored. 
  • I feel that it should go without saying, but make sure you actually turn your paper in. If you don't, well, there's really no point of showing up to the presentation. You won't make it. 
  • Definitely give the judges a self-addressed, stamped envelope for comments. Chances are, they won't tell you what you did wrong/how you can improve while you're there, but they WILL give you tips and you should get them before Nationals. If you don't make it to Nationals, at least you'll have a chance for next year.  
That's all I've got for now, but if I think of anything else, I'll do a follow up. 

Are you a BPAer? Let me know! 

Feb 17, 2015

dinnertime: grilled lemon chicken

Yesterday, Bruce made me dinner. It was low-key and really nice. He'd offered last week, but I had dinner plans with my parents. He planned on making it gluten free when he went to the store, and bought gluten free soy sauce. (:
This recipe is super easy, super tasty, and super low-maintenance. I'll talk a little bit more about the potential here at the end, but first... recipe.
Grilled Lemon Chicken
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup gluten free soy sauce
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 (6 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Take the first four ingredients and mix them together (you can use a small bowl for this). Pour the mix into a large ziplock baggie. Rinse the chicken, pat dry, and add it to the bag. Close the bag and massage the liquid mixture into the chicken. Put the bag into the refrigerator to marinate for at least 20 minutes (we did about 30, but you can leave it for up to 24 hours).

You can make this on an outdoor grill or on the stovetop. We used the stovetop, and I would suggest using a flat skillet instead of a pan. Heat the skillet up to medium-high heat. Place the chicken on the skillet and discard the excess marinade. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink - about 6-8 minutes on each side. We also butterflied the chicken and grilled the middle for a couple minutes.
Bruce says that the chicken is good as leftovers as well. You can absolutely make and marinate the chicken the night before or morning of, let it sit, and then take fifteen or so minutes to fry it up.
Pair the chicken with sides like green beans and mashed potatoes, or cut it up and add it to a salad.

(The original recipe can be found here. Bruce modified it slightly.) 

Feb 9, 2015

January Favorites

My plan with this little series is to highlight a few of my favorite gluten free items - meals, recipes, restaurants, snacks, whatever - new or old. I'm going to try not to repeat a product, even if I still LOVE it. The point is to get out products and my thoughts on them. (: I'm totally open to suggestions, so let me know what YOU like and I'll try it!
These aren't in any specific order - just what came to mind first throughout the month.

Van's Gluten Free Snack Bars - Blueberry & Peanut Butter Sandwich Bars
These are a new find for me. I like pb&j's, but I don't like packing them. Way messy, cold and/or soggy bread... pass. Cut to these puppies. They're snack bars, which is GREAT for travel or school, and they're blueberry (yum). They also come in strawberry, but I'm allergic to strawberries... so I can't tell you how those taste.

Annie's Double Chocolate Chip Chewy Gluten Free Granola Bars
Another snack bar, Cassidy? Really? Yes, really. I like snack bars. They're super convenient when I need to grab something and go to class. These are good - they're chewy (duh), which I like in a granola bar.

Red Berry Ciroc Vodka
...mixed with Capri Sun. It makes Capri Funs - the adult version of one of my favorite little kid drink. (: There's been some confusion and disagreements on the internet regarding the flavored vodka, so I emailed the company this month. They came back and said that yes, it was, in fact, gluten free. YAY!
(I have been informed that Capri Funs are actually something different, but just roll with me on this one.)

Hershey's Pot of Gold Valentine's Assorted Chocolates
Hershey's is pretty good about not hiding gluten in their products, but I called the company just in case. They cleared the Pot of Gold boxes as gluten free, which makes me a VERY happy little penguin. Click here to read the rest of my thoughts on this lovely product.

(the rest of these will hopefully be a little better done...and out sooner. Life's been a little hectic lately. xx)

Jan 25, 2015

rule #78

Several years ago, my friend (we'll call her J) and I took a page out of Gibbs' book and started coming up with our own 'rules of life'. They're pretty great - almost all are relevant to everyday life, and they're good things to remember.
We haven't added any new ones in a while, and I've since taken our rules and made my own list. As time goes on, I'm sure I'll cut them down even more and rearrange some, but for now, it's our original list with some rules redacted and a few added.
Up until yesterday, no one had ever contributed to a rule besides Meagan (aside from J and I... and the few we took from NCIS).
Bruce added #78: Know what to take seriously.
At first, I took it a little like a joke. That's so HIM, and so not me, and it's funny. I take things so much more seriously than he does, so of course that would be his addition.
I've been thinking about it, though, and maybe he's right. Maybe getting so worked up over the little things really isn't the best way to live life.
[I'm mocking myself here; of course it's not the way to live life, but somehow, my brain refuses to understand that.]

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, other than it's a new rule and I'm thinking about it a lot more than I have any other rule.

Jan 1, 2015


I meant to have this posted before the new year, but painting won last night, so I'm just going to let that slide. 
2014 was not a fun year for me. Yes, there were great parts, but on the whole, the year was pretty tough. The end of 2013 was hectic and confusing, and then it didn't feel like winter break was long enough to decompress, and the spring semester of 2014 hit with the equivalent force of a belly flop from a high dive. Mix into that some personal issues, the end of a toxic relationship that was nasty and bad for me 'til the very end, the loss of an organization that I'd been on the leadership team for six years and a member of for even longer, and a bunch of really hard classes, and I was ready for summer. 
Summer was fun. I went a lot of places and did a lot of things, but that only made the fall semester a little easier. Once again, it was tough keeping up. I only had four classes - the fewest ever - so I agreed to do a musical at my old high school. It was tons of fun, but my classes turned out to be really demanding. Then I got sick - and stayed that way for over three weeks. Somewhere in there, I turned 22. I pulled my first and only all-nighter on the night before my last day of classes, on which I didn't actually have classes. I was done with finals by the first Thursday of December, went to a cookie exchange in San Antonio on Saturday, and my grandfather came to visit the following week. I graduated on the 13th, and it's pretty much been a whirlwind of holiday things and getting life back in order. 

So now it's 2015. I have high hopes for this year. Lots of things are going to be different. I've made a few resolutions, but they all generally center around being a better person... and being kinder to myself. That's a big thing. I'm not in the practice of putting up with other people's nonsense, but I also don't like hurting people, which is often at my own expense. I have a habit of getting mad at or annoyed with people, but never saying why I'm mad. I don't take very good care of myself and everyone knows that I stress and worry way too much. All of these are areas that I plan to work on in the next 365 days. 

I'd also like to get more sleep. 

I'm not really interested in diving into all of the details that made last year a pain in the butt, but if I can learn from them and be better for them moving forward, then all's well that ends well. 

Happy New Year!