Monday, December 15, 2014

Gluten-Free Events, Survival Tips

Speakers, and Freebies, and Samples!  Oh My!

Looks like 2015 is right around the corner!  And that means a whole new batch of Gluten-Free Events that we can go to.  Have you ever wondered if it’s worth it to travel to one of these events?

**Would you like to hear about the latest discoveries from professionals in the Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance fields?
**Would you like to spend just one day being able to eat and enjoy food without worry?
**Would you like to know what new services and products are available to you.
**Would you like to exchange tips and stories with people who walk in your shoes every day?
**Would you like to see, smell, and taste brand new products that haven’t even been offered to the public yet?
**Would you like to purchase products that are factory fresh and available for discounted prices?

Dress Comfortably, Especially Your Shoes:  You’ll be doing a lot of walking, maneuvering, weaving in and out and even some just plain waiting.  You’ll probably be dealing with some pretty crowded halls.  Concrete parking lots and cement floors do not make for happy feet unless you’re wearing comfortable shoes.  Pockets are a wonderful thing for stashing some cash or card, and if you have to carry a purse go with one that you can wear over your shoulder.

Bring Friends & Family:  Heck, bring everyone!  Whether they’re Gluten-Free or not, if they come with you they’ll see that you’re not alone in your struggle to be healthy.  Attendance does vary, but there will be between 500-5,000 people at any of these Events.  Having friends and family along with you to sample comes in handy too when you’re looking to find something that everyone can enjoy.

Bring The Kids:  These events are generally family oriented and very kid friendly.  You’ll often find small areas set up just for the kids to play.  You can bring the strollers in, but remember there will be crowds of people.  Children simply love to sample, but Vendors will not hand out treats willy-nilly without a responsible adult nearby to give a nod of approval. 

Bring a Bit of Cash:  If you plan to shop bring some extra cash along with your credit/debit card.  A few Vendors don’t have those handy little card swipes.  Not only will you find some of the best prices and bargains around but also the freshest product available.  Trust me, you’re gonna want to shop! 

Bring an Extra Shopping Bag:  Yep, you’re gonna wanna shop!  At most of these Events everyone gets a Goodie Bag simply for walking through the door.  And some of these are already stuffed half full with take home goodies.  If you bring friends and family with you, often they can all get a Goodie Bag for walking through the door.  But it never hurts to have an extra, empty, bag tucked away for any overflow of freebies or purchases.

Handicapped or Handi-capable, be prepared:  Bring what you need to enjoy your day.  Generally, Volunteers are everywhere so
don’t be afraid to ask for help…even if it’s simply to locate a chair to sit for a bit.  If you can’t find a Volunteer, ask a Vendor…it’s just as important to them that you enjoy your visit to the Event.

Please Be Respectful:  Yes, there is a ton of free stuff to be had…but don’t forget you’re in a hall full of other human beings trying to enjoy their day too.  I’ll never forget the idiot who stepped OVER the baby in her baby carriage so that he could get to a free cupcake!  Seriously? It was a 1oz piece of cake with a dot of frosting for heaven’s sake! 

Taste as You Wander:  Now, you have to admit, Samples are the main reason most people attend these Events.  And you’ll find bite-sized samples of just about everything from old favorites, to hard to find gotta-haves, to brand new not-even-on-the-market-yet items. But please pace yourself…nibble here, nibble there and the next thing you know you’re sick on overload.  Pay attention to all those little bites so that you don’t regret it later on.

Bring your ‘Take Away’ Kit:  Granted the Samples are only tiny little 1oz portions, but that doesn't mean you can’t take some home for later.  Pack a couple of those small snap top containers along with a few snack sized zip bags and you won’t be so inclined to overdue the nibbles and you’ll have samples to try out later on when you get back to your hotel room or home.

Check the Ingredients:  Yes, everything is Gluten-Free…but if you have multiple sensitivities it pays to read the label even at one of these Events.  Every Vendor should know what’s in their product, if not they will have a listing of ingredients available.   


Talk to People:  This is not the time to be shy.  Vendors, Volunteers, other Attendees, they ALL 
understand.  It can actually be a little overwhelming at first. But don’t be afraid to talk to people.  Start a conversation; you’ll be amazed at the Community you may not have even known was there for you.

Talk to the Vendors:  Nosh and nibble to your heart’s content…but don’t rush on to the next table so quickly.  If it’s not too crowded and you can find a spot to get out of the traffic flow, stop and speak to the Vendors for a moment.  Tell them how much you enjoy their product, what changes would you like to see, your feedback is priceless to them.  Be pleasant and polite and you just might find them tucking an extra full-sized product into your shopping bag as a thank you! 

If it’s FREE, it Must be for Me:  Well, not

always…this goes back to that ‘Please be Respectful’ reminder. Simply because you see un-attended tables DOES NOT mean you can simply swipe everything into your bag and walk away.  Trust me, I've had Vendors tell me this has happened if they even leave the table for a minute to get a drink or use the bathroom.  It’s rude and very unfair to the many others who want to visit that table to receive their samples.

How far is too far:  That depends on you.  I know a few people who won't travel more than 30 minutes to go to an Event designed specifically for them.  Myself?  I'll drive four hours...in fact I do that at least once a year to attend an event.  Living in Florida gives me 2-3 events to choose from every year.  I like to plan a weekend get-away.  Find a nice hotel for two nights, enjoy my day at the event and then take my time driving home again.

Carolanne LeBlanc
Coordinator and Registered Agent
727-280-5207 
The Gluten-Free for Life Expo is a section 501(c)3 charitable organization. 
All gifts and donations are tax deductible in accordance with the law.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Common Courtesies

It’s the Holidays and parties abound!  It’s a time for visiting with friends and loved ones, and it’s a time for entertaining in our homes.  I grew up with Miss Manners and proper etiquette.  Not only did we learn about respect and common courtesies at home…but we learned them in school as well.  It still amazes me that now-a-days so many of our children never learn these simple tips. So here are some basic Common Courtesies that will help make visiting or entertaining more enjoyable for all.

SO YOU’VE BEEN INVITED TO SOMEONE ELSE’S HOME:
 ** Respond to your Invitation – please, please, please let your Host/Hostess know if you plan to attend or not…even if it’s to say maybe.  Your RSVP helps in planning for the correct number of guests.  If you don’t respond to your invitation and you just ‘show up’ you’re being more than just rude – and you can’t complain if your Host/Hostess isn’t prepared for you to be there.

 ** Don’t forget to show up – if you’ve extended your RSVP make certain you honor your promise.  If life happens and your plans change, notify your Host/Hostess as soon as you become aware you cannot make it or you may be late.

 ** Be on time – be respectful, ‘fashionably late’ is not fashionable; it’s downright rude.  Don’t create liars out of your friends and acquaintances - don’t force people to give out fictitious times just because they know you so well.

 ** Bring something to eat or a small gift – never arrive empty handed.  Always bring something to contribute.

Special dietary needs:
 ** Bring something you enjoy – if you have special needs pay attention and bring something to share that you can enjoy without worry.  Don’t be the one standing by the table shouting, “isn’t there ANYTHING here that I can eat??”

 ** Learn how to say “No, Thank you.” – be respectful, if offered something you can’t eat don’t proclaim loudly, “Are you trying to poison me??”

Using your favorite baking dish:
 ** Mark your possessions for easy return – whenever possible, use dishes you don’t mind losing.  If you use a prized possession, make certain you mark it with your name and phone # and don’t be afraid to call a day or two later to claim it.  It’s a perfect opportunity to say “Thank you for inviting me.”

SO YOU’VE INVITED OTHERS INTO YOUR HOME:
 ** Learn how to say ‘Yes” – when someone asks if they can bring something, always say, “YES”!!  Don’t create future monsters - the ones who cause others to complain, “They NEVER contribute anything!!”

 ** Learn how to say “Thank You” – when someone offers to contribute make certain you say Thank you, even if it’s something you wouldn’t use in a thousand lifetimes.

 ** Set understandable time frames – ‘around 7ish’ is not a true time.  Many a Host/Hostess have actually learned to lie just to get people to arrive on time - saying it’s 7:00pm when the time will truly be 7:30pm.

Be prepared for some special dietary needs
 ** Be flexible – make allowances for others.  Provide an alternative whenever possible, example:  Juice or water, fresh fruit or raw vegetables.

 ** Don’t be offended – don’t push the matter if someone refuses what you’re offering.  Saying, “a little bit won’t hurt you” might just actually kill someone.  Accept a “No, Thank you” gracefully.

Finding someone’s favorite baking dish
 ** Returning it to the proper owner – if the dish is marked, so much the better - return it as soon as possible.  If the dish is not marked and you don’t hear from anyone within a week or two - well, you’ve just inherited a new dish.  Don’t be upset if someone recognizes it several months later and wants to take it home again.

 ** Never return anything dirty or empty – returning a dirty dish is simply insulting.  Returning an empty dish symbolizes a future without prosperity.  It’s customary to place something inside, a small gift or food of some sort - symbolizing a prosperous relationship with the other person.

WHAT TO BRING AND WHEN
 ** General rule is simple – bring enough to serve at least 6 people, regardless of the number of people expected to be there.  Don’t forget, if everyone brings enough for 6 there will be plenty to feed even 200!!

 ** When do you bring something – always when joining a large group, always when visiting a new location, always when meeting new people, always when you’re nervous and afraid you won’t fit in.

 ** When can you get away with NOT bringing anything – if the person you’re visiting is someone you feel comfortable burping or farting in front of chances are real good that you can get away without bringing something to the occasion.  In fact, by then your Host/Hostess will probably EXPECT you to show up empty handed.

FINDING SOMETHING APPROPRIATE TO THE SEASON OR OCCASION
 ** When in doubt:  ask – don’t be afraid to ask what’s needed.  You may get a desperate plea for something needed or special instructions to blend in with the occasion.  After all, you wouldn’t really want to bring liver and onions to a chocolate party, or wine & beer to a recovering alcoholic.

THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR ARRIVING EMPTY HANDED
 ** What to do if you don’t cook – the answer to this one is simple * SHOP J There are many delicious ways to fill the need at your local grocers.  Don’t forget to check your own pantry first; you just might have something tucked away in the freezer for a special occasion.

 ** What to do if you’re broke – check the pantry first, it’s amazing what you can bring together to make a great dish.  Example:  1lb hamburger, 1 box macaroni, 1 can stewed tomatoes cooked and combined makes a great dish.  It only takes 10-12 teabags and a bottle of spring water to make a gallon of iced tea.

 ** Even more broke – how about a bag of potato chips, a bottle of soda, or a box of cookies.  It’s amazing what you can buy for a couple $$ if you shop a little bit.

 ** Just plain destitute – Recycle, recycle…in other words, remember that item you received and just couldn’t do anything with??  Chances are good someone else may just appreciate it more than you do. 
NOTE:  Be careful with this one, you don’t want to be the one other people snicker behind their hands about.  “Don’t invite that one!!  They always bring their trash with them!!”

 ** What to do if you're living in a tent –Good rule on this one is to keep it simple.  Something that doesn’t require refrigeration or cooking is your best bet.  Believe it or not some of the most appreciated items are fresh fruit, water, or chocolate.

 ** What to do if you’re living in a cave – this one’s pretty extreme, it’s the person with nothing but ketchup in the fridge, along with some unidentifiable green stuff in the corner; peanut butter in the pantry next to a loaf of bread that’s hard as a rock and not a single clean dish anywhere to be found.  What does someone like this contribute??  What does anyone really WANT them to contribute??  Well, if there’s a fruit tree growing in the yard they just might have it covered.  If not, hopefully, there’s a 7-11 on the way!!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Starting your own Celiac or Gluten Intolerance Support Group - Part II

Free is for me:
So I’m pretty certain by now you've realized my major theme :-) If it’s free…it’s for me.  I don’t mind spending my time…but I don’t have the extra pocket change to spend my own money.  So now you've got your location and schedule pinned down…here are some Freebie (and Cheapo) hints for expanding your Support Group.  Don't forget to check out Part I.

Website:
With that free G-mail address…you also get a free blog.  Go ahead and get a bit inventive…work up a front page just for your meetings.  Tell people a little bit about what you plan on doing.  Post your location and your schedule for at least the next 12 months.  Make certain you post your contact G-mail address.  Then use that HTTP address as your webpage address.  Once you have that front page in place you won’t need to do any more blogging.  You can make corrections or updates as you need to.

Phone:
DO NOT put your personal phone # out there…I still don’t feel that’s a safe thing to do.  BUT another freebie you can get with that same G-mail address is a Google Phone # that you CAN publish.  What it does is give you a phone # that you can publish that will link directly to your own phone.  You can make your own recorded message.  People call the Google phone # and get your recorded message, they then leave a message of their own…and you get notified by text or email that you have a message waiting.  You can then go into your G-mail account and listen to the message and return the call on your own phone. Be careful to set it up for messaging only and use it for incoming calls…you do get charged for any outgoing calls.

Business Cards:
Vista Print…that’s all I have to say.  Use that same G-mail address and get yourself some business cards.  These do cost about $10.00 but that’s pretty darn cheap and very good quality for about 250 cards.  I did put my Cell Phone on the cards.  And I don’t hand them out by the dozen.  I hand them out one at a time to people who ask me for some contact information...yes, I am cheap.

Press Release:
Go ahead and write up a Press Release.  Just one or two short paragraphs with all the important information – Who, What, When, Where and Why.  VERY IMPORTANT – include that G-mail address, your Blogger web address and your new Google Phone #. Then read it…several times.  Read it to yourself, read it out loud, read it in front of a mirror, read it to your dog/cat and then let someone else read it.  Make corrections, additions, check for spelling errors, grammatical errors…fix it until it doesn't need to be fixed any more.  The last thing you want to do is look like an idiot when you start putting things into print…with your name attached to it. Then store it in several places because it’s going to become important.

Free Advertising:
Stop by your biggest neighborhood health food store.  You know those free papers they always have in the bins at the front of the store??  Grab one of each and take them home.  Some place in the first few pages of the papers you will find email addresses for contact. Start emailing that Press Release you worked so hard on.  Send it out about once every six months.  Look around on Google for any online new papers, or places that accept Press Releases.  You may hear from one or two wanting to sell you space…just be polite and say ‘no thank you’.  Because what you truly want are those places that will accept your Press Release as part of their Community Resources and give you a little free advertising.  Over the years I’ve managed to get free advertising in just about every media available – Online, Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, TV, Community Bulletins – you name it, with a little bit of research and a great Press Release you can get just about anything.

Donations:
Never be afraid to ask for donations…and I don’t mean money.  I mean Gluten-Free products.  My little Support Group just loves getting samples to try out at our Meetings. There are tons of manufacturers out there just waiting to get samples of product into your hands.  Put your hands out and ask!!  Do some searching on Google and work up a list of different GF manufacturers.  Stick to Companies that specialize in Gluten-Free items…it’s safer for you that way.  Remember that Press Release??  Now it’s time to change it up a bit and ask for donations of product for your group to sample. Invite them to send brochures or flyers along with ordering forms for people to place future orders. Simply send out two or three requests per month to different manufacturers.   DON’T GET GREEDY…keep your requests to a minimum.  The idea is to begin building a relationship with these companies…not force them to dump you into their Spam Box.  A good rule of thumb is to request from each manufacturer only once per year.  Some companies will insist that you use their forms on their websites…don’t be afraid to do just that.  Many will ignore you, but many will email you back for dates and shipping information.  I try to make arrangements for stuff to arrive a few days just prior to the next meeting.  And I have it delivered to my home address.  That way all I have to do is bring it with me the day of the meeting.  And who doesn't love free stuff??

Carolanne LeBlanc
727-280-5207 
Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse, 101 Imperial Palm Drive, Largo, Florida 33771

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