Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event Recap~ Vendors

The expression "like a kid at a candy store" comes to mind every time I think back to last weeks GFAF Wellness Event, except instead of just kids it was gluten free individuals who were in a safe zone of gluten free goodness!  There were vendors that covered meals, snacks, beverages, protein shakes and more.  Every table was filled with more goodies, snickysnacks and information.  Below I am going to highlight a few of the tables (10 specifically) that I enjoyed that day, but have also been on mind this week as I continued to enjoy the samples or what I purchased while there!

Artisan Tropic
So good.  They had plantain and cassava strips that were out of this world.  I loved the cassava sea salt strips and the plantain cinnamon strips.  Additionally they had dried fruit.  For me dried fruit is a hit or a miss.  Well theirs is a hit.  That coconut and the pineapple were beyond delicious.  I am pretty sure I sampled way more than I was necessary!  They also had fantastic prices for the products on hand (those were coming home with me!).  What I also enjoyed was how everyone answered questions and were so friendly.  They had a fantastic table, product and customer service.  I can't wait to order my next batch of cassava strips and coconut or pineapple!

Bold Rock Hard Cider
Refreshing and delicious.  They had two styles to sample from and I honestly can't way what my favorite is.  I can see enjoying either with different meals or times.  Both were light, smelled great and were very smooth to drink.  I left there knowing that I would be purchasing their product! Additionally I loved how the woman running the table knew about what new releases on the way (I can't wait to try pear)

Roots~ "The Microbrew of Hummus"
Talk about a selection of flavors!  I tried 3 out, which I enjoyed, but the one I loved and plan on buying as soon as I get to a store that carries this brand (small town living y'all!) is the Roasted Garlic.  It is tasty but not overpowering in smell.  If you like hummus you will love this product!  If you are not a hummus fan, you should try this because my mom and friend are not the biggest hummus fans, but enjoyed this flavor and product.  We did have to steer me and my friend away from the spicy options as we don't handle spice to well!! However, my mom she loves spices and could not stop raving about them.

Fields of Gold Farm
Heaven.  My mom, friend and I all tried their gelato and it was beyond amazing.  I would never in a million years think I was eating goats milk.  Then the flavors were so clear and light.  I tried the chocolate dipped strawberry. I think I could eat that everyday.  My mom tried the tiramisu and said it was the best she had tried.  My friend got the chocolate mint and enjoyed that as well!  I also loved that they are local to NC, do not use gluten, chemicals, GMOS, etc.  It was a pleasure to try a new product, feel no worry about getting ill and find that it was delicious!

Red Clay Gourmet
Try this product as soon as you can.  I tried the Goat Cheese and Sun Tried Tomato pimento cheese and it is still on my mind.  It was light with a bit of zest.  Delicious.  It is not sold near me, but I already have it on my list for the next time that I am near Greensboro or Charlotte!!

The Gluten and Grain Free Gourmet
Her food is out of this world delicious.  Many things I tried last weekend were good, but her paleo sea salt almond chocolate bars are out of this world.  I don't mean just good for being gluten free, dairy free, paleo etc.  I mean they are good!!  Additionally, it was great talking to her and learning from her experiences and vast knowledge about nutrition and the gluten free world.

Little Me Tea
First of all the name is adorable.  Secondly the woman working the table was very informative and knowledgeable about her product. While at her table I tried one of the flavors and found it very refreshing.  We were told it would not be as sweet as some might expect, but that was intentional because it was caffeine free tea sweetened with fruits and vegetables.  All three of us enjoyed our flavor and I was thrilled when I saw more boxes of it in my blogger swag bag.  I have not had a flavor yet that I do not like and my parents, who both are diabetic but find doing without sweet tea, have enjoyed them as well!  As soon as I finished the flavors I looked up where I can find them so that we can purchase more:)

The Produce Box
I learned about this company a while ago and I love the idea behind it.  However and quite sadly, I do not live in an area that they deliver to..yet!  Fingers crossed they start closing the gap between Greensboro and Charlotte and we in the Rowan County area can start partaking in the fresh local goodies that they provide to their customers!  I loved that they were at this event because I spoke with them about delivering out this way and learned more about the farmers, the products, etc.  If you are looking for a convenient way to get local and fresh produce, check out their page to see if you are live in their delivery area!  The service and prices are quite competitive and reasonable!

Titos Vodka
They know their stuff and their product tastes fantastic.  I thought their display was very creative and eye-catching.   I loved that the people working the table had heard of the town that has the ABC near me, knew the men who work the counter and were knowledgeable about other vodkas.  I enjoyed that this product did not have an overly strong smell, but did have a very smooth and clear taste.


Ricewrap Foods
I love sushi.  I love all kinds of sushi and so it was pretty upsetting when I started figuring out my need for gluten free that many sushi places could not guarantee gluten free products.   This company has a fantastic product and a great way of showcasing it since they rolled the sushi rolls at the event.  The rice was fresh, delicious, kept its shape and I loved it!  I wanted to purchase it there, and that was an option, but I could not since I live more than an hour away from the event location and was worried about the product going bad.  However, I signed the paper asking it to be brought to certain stores and fingers crossed I see it soon (though I might just cave and order online..so good!)

Have you tried these products out?  What are some of your favorite items?  If you attended this event what companies are still on your mind?

NoGii Product Review


At the GFAF Wellness Event I attended last weekend I was stunned by the generosity of all of the vendors with the amount of samples they provided at the table, but also that they put in the bloggers swag bag.  One of the brands that attended the event was NoGii.  If you are a fan of Elisabeth Hasselbeck or just have heard of her, you probably have heard of this brand.  This company provided 5 bars from its Paleo, High Protein and D'Lites lines.

After trying the full size samples I think everyone should try out this brand.  If you go to their website you will see that they carry a very diverse variety of bars: High Protein, Super Protein, D'Lites, Paleo, Kids and new is a Protein powder.  I have tried protein, gluten free bars from a variety of companies and some of have been very good, some not so much.  All 5 of the bars form NoGii were good, admittedly some were better than the others (as in they tasted like dessert), but they were all good.  Additionally, as I was reading the booklet for information I saw a few more types that I would love to try out.
I also appreciated how straight forward the company is on the packaging.  It says whether it is paleo, gluten free, etc.  For those of us who do have to look for other allergen information the packaging is key.  If you are following a certain diet this company also makes it easy to find out the caloric and nutritional information.  I was very pleased by the protein breakdown of these bars, but was slightly unsure about the fiber count and the sugar count on a few of the bars since I do have family members with diabetes and reoccurring bouts of diverticulitis. 

I had my mom try these bars out with me.  We disagreed on the order of which ones were the best, but we both agreed that we wanted to find these and carry them with us while running errands, at work, etc.  My favorite was the Chocolate Coconut...yum! (pictured below) Both the chocolate and coconut were evident in the taste, the texture was crunchy but still smooth and it held together quite nice instead of crumbling as we tried it out.
My mother's favorite (and y'all it is amazing) was the D'lite.  She tried this at the GFAF Wellness event and raved about it all the way home.  When I showed her mine in the swag bag she was like can I try it too! haha.  Of course I said yes because how exciting is it to find a protein bar that is gluten free and delicious!!
Now another thing that I thought was fantastic about this company and these bars is that there in an option for those who cannot have dairy.  I am at minimum lactose intolerant, at maximum a lot more since I get ill frequently from most dairy products.  This is a huge problem as I adore cheese and chocolate!  NoGii has a paleo line which made me very excited because I am slowly working my way paleo since I do feel tremendously better when I eat meals that take out dairy, gluten, soy, etc.  These two bars were Nuts about Nuts and Nuts about Tropical Fruit.  My mom and I went different ways here.  She enjoyed the Nuts about Nuts more, while I enjoyed the Nuts about Tropical Fruit more!  Both were very good and the ingredient list was very pleasing and simple to read:)


All 5 tasted delicious, were filling and did not leave my stomach hurting, bloated, etc.  While not pictured the Chocolate Mint bar was fantastic!  It was very light and if you love mint is a must try.  Mom and I tried it first and our eyes lit up with pleasure because of how it tasted.  It was like eating a healthy dessert (isn't that everyone's dream?!?!). It was quite exciting to have bars that have a good taste, texture and aftertaste that filled me up and did not make me uncomfortable or sick afterwards!            
                                                                                                                                Have you tried the NoGii bars yet?   What were your favorites? Do you use protein bars frequently? Any others I should try out?  Let me know!!

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly, Book Review

General Information
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published Date: January 27, 2015

Book Summary (per Amazon)
It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer forNational Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.

Of course it can’t…

My Thoughts
Simply put..I loved every page of this book.  The beginning, middle and end flowed seamlessly in an action packed adventure for the characters and readers.  I love books, all kind of books, and this is easily one of my favorites.  To showcase this, I read, I review, I blog and mention them to friends and people on social media in passing.  Not this one.  No the second I finished I was talking to my family and was like I have to tell you about this story!  I had not read this author's work previously, but I can tell you I already have several of his other adventures on my TBR list.

CJ is the main character in this adventure and she is a true dynamo.  She doesn't back down, tries to help others, stays true to herself and kicks some major booty as she does so.  I enjoyed how Matthew Reilly (MR) wrote her thought process into the story line.  It was fascinating to see her make the connections of how the dragons would react, fight, etc. to her studies of the crocodile.  Along with CJ was her brother Hamish, the US Ambassador to China, his aide and more characters whose fully developed characters and story lines were instrumental in how full bodied and enjoyable this story was!  I was waiting for a loop with one of the characters, but was not expecting what MR delivered mid way through the book!

Additionally this book displayed quite a few different types of relationships.  I was torn between my favorite, but as I write this I think I will say my favorite relationship that developed would be between CJ and Lucky. (I can't help it, I am an animal lover:)-!!)  The other two relationships were CJ and her brother (how fun would it be to have a brother and nicknames Chickmunk and Bear?..seriously though).  The love, respect and just fun interactions between them epitomize what everyone hopes to see between siblings.

I do not want to write much about the dragons or the events of the story because I think everyone should read this book and experience the world MR creates with this adventure.  I would love to see this as a movie because my goodness the visual effects that would be necessary to create these majestic dragons, the castles, the zoos, the crocodiles, etc. would be breathtaking.  I will end my review with praise for how this story was able to take myths and utilizing today's global political climate along with the idea of climate change or at least changes in climate/temperate times create a realistic (not just mythical) and interesting take on how dragons could exist and thrive in actuality.

Important Links

Links to Purchase the Book


Disclaimer:  I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

LiveGFree Pizza mix, gluten free review


Did you know that Aldi's had released a line of Gluten Free products?  I did not until recently.  I have tried 2 items from the line with my own cooking and one I was lucky enough to try at last Saturday's GFAF Wellness Event!!  This post is about one of the one's I cooked on my own and my entire family loved!  Here is a link to the entire product line~ Aldi LiveGfree

I was not sure what I would think about this since I had previously tried two different pizza mixes (gf) with various success.  However, I love pizza so I was ready to give the good ol college try and boy was I beyond glad I did.

The instructions were very easy to follow.  I did get nervous at first because my dough did not stick together the way I thought the instructions meant for it to, but once cooked it was perfect!  All I had to add was some oil (I used coconut), egg, water and use a fork to pierce dough before cooking.  Very nice ingredient list for me (the lady never with a full pantry!)

I enjoyed making this pizza and the ability to put on my own toppings.  I like very simplistic pizza's and/or with veggies but rarely meat.  My mom likes a combination and my dad likes it the more meat the better.  This mix was enough for 2 pizzas that were small/medium size,so I made them both and then did the toppings to appease all three of us.  I also made homemade pizza sauce rather than something from a jar (apparently I was feeling ambitious.)  The picture to the left is what the dough looked like after I rolled it out.  The picture on the right is what it looked like after being in the oven for 10 minutes and prior to being loaded with all the pizza goodies.

So this was my "picky" pizza as my family calls it!  Yes it was gluten free, but not dairy free, so I still was having some side effects.  However, my quest for a dairy free cheese that I enjoy is still going strong!  I made this with my homemade pizza/marinara sauce, mushrooms, basil, parsley, onion powder, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, shredded mild cheddar and 6 Italian cheese blend.                                                                                                                                           Do you have a specific dairy free brand to recommend? Let me know because while I chose to add all the cheese, I was not the happiest a while after dinner:/  For those that are new or wondering why eat dairy, I know I know I know.  I am working on it.  In fact, we ate pizza last week and since then I have not had cheese (which for me is HUGE), but I love cheese so any suggestions please send them my way!  This dairy sensitive lass will love you forever:)



 This pizza is what my parents enjoyed for dinner!  It was made the same way and with the same sauce, but the toppings were a wee bit different.  For their pizza I added more cheese (does that not just look the epitome of gooey), sausage and beef.  I also rolled theirs out a bit more to get a "larger" and crisper crust.  Now, not to brag, but I must share for this review that my dad loved this pizza!  Normally my dad will take a bite or two of my gluten free items and say not bad, but not finish it.  Not this time buddy, no, he ate his serving and went back for seconds!!  I felt like doing a victory dance!

I must say that I am a fan of this brand, especially this pizza mix!  It was extremely easy and convenient, quick turnover for the dough to rest/rise and tasted delicious!  It was not too dense or too mushy.  It had a flavor and it held up to various toppings being piled on top.  While it would be nice if the mix did not have dairy in it, for those that are not worried about dairy sensitivities or those who are still looking for good options without dairy this mix is a must try!  Even as I continue on my quest for a non-dairy mix I told my parents to keep getting it so I can make them this version rather than ordering in a chain brand pizza full of all the ingredients!


Soaring by Kristen Ashley, Book Review

General Information
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Self
Published Date: March 16, 2015

Book Summary (Per Goodreads)
American heiress Amelia Hathaway needs to start anew. 

Her husband cheated on her, and when everything she wanted in life slipped through her fingers, she fell apart. When she did, she took another heart wrenching hit as she lost the respect of her children. 

When her ex took her family from California to live in the small town of Magdalene in Maine, Amelia decided it was time to sort herself out. In order to do that and win her children back, she moves to Cliff Blue, an architectural masterpiece on the rocky coast of Magdalene. 

Her boxes aren’t even unpacked when she meets Mickey Donovan, a man who lives across the street, a man so beautiful Amelia takes one look at Mickey and knows she wants everything from him. 

The problem is, she finds out swiftly that he’s friendly, he’s kind, but he doesn’t want everything back. 

Amelia struggles to right past wrongs in her life at the same time find out who she wants to be. She also struggles with her attraction to the handsome firefighter who lives across the street. 

But Amelia will face a surprise when her friendly neighbor becomes not-so-friendly. As Amelia and Mickey go head to head, Amelia must focus on winning back the hearts of her children. 

She soon discovers she also must focus on winning the heart of a handsome firefighter who understands down to his soul the beautiful heiress who lives across the street is used to a life he cannot provide.

My Thoughts
In my opinion I can't have a favorite KA book because each one I read becomes my favorite until I read another new one or re-read one of my now entire collection that she has created! (Yes I will admit I re-read her books..and quite frequently..that is how amazing I found her stories, writing styles, etc.) 

I found Soaring to be funny, sweet, sad, aggravating and much more.  At times I was cringing for many of the characters (hello first kiss..eckkk!! or the Thanksgiving dinner..yikes talk about a tie for most awkward but lovable moments!)  I loved so many of the situations and by-plays between the characters.  My favorite part though was the tie in of all of the characters from The Will.  So many times I am not ready for a story to be over, so I completely enjoy how KA always has her characters return throughout the series.  Additionally while Amelia and Mickey are the primary characters, I felt as though the secondary characters were just as strong and well important.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what actually was going on with Mickey's daughter..was she pregnant, mad, depressed/cutting herself, etc. No spoilers here so find out by reading but I loved the character development where it had me racking my brains trying to figure this out.  I also loved loved loved Mickey's son..I thought he was adorable!  Amelia's children were just was well developed.  I could read/feel and visualize the change in their dynamic as the story progressed.  Many times I teared up over a conversation or interaction between them.  

Now you may be reading this and thinking..wait a second..a romance story that has this many kids?? but it works and works beautifully!  The relationship and the struggles the two endure on their path through the story are hilarious, poignant, eye-opening and quite endearing.  To put it in "hashtag"speak one might say #relationshipgoals is a defining sentiment to Amelia and Mickey!

Now, for my closing thought for yet another fantastic KA story....will Mickey ever beat Jake?

Important Links:
Author
Facebook
Goodreads
Amazon
Twitter

Links to Purchase the Book

Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event Recap ~ Presenters

I hope everyone has had a great week and enjoying what, at least in North Carolina, is some gorgeous weather.  I wrote just a quick recap earlier this week about the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event from this past Saturday, but said I would go into more depth throughout the next few days/weeks.  So today I wanted to touch on the Presentations.

To begin with, wow, the diverse topics were such that I think everyone probably would have been able to find something of interest.  To view all of the presenters please check out Charlotte NC Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event siteThis year I was intrigued by many of the presentation topics, but in my endeavor to see all the vendors I chose three to attend. 


The three I attended were:

1) Jenna Drew who spoke about "Natural Solutions for Digestive Wellness with Essential Oils."

I absolutely loved this presentation.  It was engaging, entertaining and very relatable.  At one point, I was thinking okay, did they talk to my mom about my symptoms?  I also enjoyed that she had some hand on examples to try with the oils.  I never imagined how refreshing the scent of peppermint oil warmed on my hands would be, or how it could help with headaches, etc.

I am not a spur of the moment shopper, but since I had been researching essential oils for a little bit, heard stories about the health benefits and really related to Jenna and her mother (and their own stories) my mom and I signed up!  I was beyond excited to get the oils this week and started using them immediately!  So far I have used Lavender at bedtime, Peppermint (not going to lie the trick that Jenna used in her presentation has been repeated by my mom and me several times because it is so neat and effective!), Slim and Sassy and DigestZen.  I am enjoying them all, but I am LOVING DigestZen.  As I am literally just starting them for the first time this week, I do not feel able to truly speak to my opinion of them, but I will keep y'all informed!!


2) Dr. Nick Conley who spoke about "Change the way you well" - how to balance alternative care with traditional medicine and why your health depends on the way you practice wellness.'
picture from the Healing Arts Club LLC
Dr. Nick had a booth at the beginning of the vent for the Healing Arts Club, LLC.  It is an organization based on the premise of finding licensed individuals who fit a variety of health care/ wellness needs and streamlining the search for them, if they are qualified, correctly trained, etc.  From there it works, "to make the healing arts more affordable and more readily available so that you can focus on becoming a better you. The Healing Arts Club has pre-negotiated lower rates with participating practitioners so that you can maximize your health and savings." (taken from the Healing Arts Club, LLC website) His presentation helped explain the purpose of his company, but also the idea behind it.  "During his professional training, he noticed a growing curiosity in the healing arts amongst his patients and decided to investigate it himself. He found it difficult to find information and qualified providers for his own healthcare. He found that his patients had the same questions. " (taken from the Healing Arts Club, LLC website)

3)Carol Kicinski who spoke on the topic of “How to go and stay gluten free, tips, tricks and tools.”

I first attended this Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness event two years ago when my doctor first started discussing some potential solutions to a lot of my symptoms.  Carol was so gracious at the magazine's table and talked to my mom and me about all of our questions, "what if" scenarios, etc.  This year was no different.  We stopped by the magazine's table to renew my subscription to Simply Gluten Free and found again that they were beyond helpful, gracious and humorous!  

Her presentation was quite enjoyable and educational.  I would liken it to talking to a friend over coffee because she was extremely relatable and approachable by telling us about her experiences and tips.  Some were about herself, family, doctor visits and conversations, encounters with friends or loved ones who do not quite embrace or understand the gluten free need we face daily, etc.  While there was a great deal of laughter there were plenty of strong tips and take-aways as well.  I have always felt bad about showing up with my own meals or meal option to a friend or family members, but hearing her discuss this and seeing how people in the audience were nodding really confirmed that it was okay..aka..not just my parents or sister saying it would not be rude.  The best thing, for me, was hearing the emphasis on staying gluten free and not doing it until the symptoms stop, going back to gluten food, getting sick, etc.  I must admit I do still stumble with this idea occasionally because I will be feeling great and then see pizza or mac & cheese...oh those two..haha..so this presentation was enjoyable and very relevant to where I am on my journey of gluten and other allergy free living!

Did you attend?  What presentations were you able to take part in?  Let me know!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Being Nobody (The Witness Series #1) by Heather D'Agostino, Book Review

General Information:
Genre: Romance
Publisher:Amazon Digital Services
Published Date: November 3, 2014

Book Summary (Per Goodreads)
Samantha Connelly has been on the run since she was seven years old. Forced into Witness Protection after her father saw something he shouldn’t has caused her to learn to blend in. She’s moved, changed her name, and her appearance more times than she can count over the last nineteen years all along wondering if it will ever end. Her handler, Kevin, along with her parents have assured her that it won’t be forever, but as the years tick by she’s slowly given up hope that she’ll ever be normal.

Now at 26, Sam has moved to Chicago and is working at the Rusty Nail as a bartender calling herself Mallory. Her father passed away two years before leaving her to finish what he started…put away the ‘bad guys’. Living on the run in hiding has been harder than she ever imagined, and finding love has always been out of the question. Who would want to be with someone they couldn’t be honest with? She’s resigned herself to being alone, until… Brian walks in.

Brian Sellers is everything Sam has been trying to avoid her entire life. He’s clad in leather and torn jeans, donning several tattoos… all-in-all a bad boy. When their eyes connect one evening, everything she’s ever told herself falls to the wayside as an indescribable draw pulls her to him. He’s sexy and domineering, and something about him reminds her of a boy she used to know. 

The more time she spends with Brian, the more she wants him, but…Brian is not everything he seems to be. When Sam happens to see the tat on his wrist, the same tat that her father saw all those years ago, she realizes she’s flirting with the enemy. Brian has no idea that he’s hanging out with the one girl his boss wants dead. 

Can Sam hide her identity from the first man she’s had real feelings for? What will Brian do when he finds out who she really is? Can love really conquer all?

My Thoughts
I found this book and author by word of mouth and the actual author's suggestion on the Facebook page for a book event that is coming to Charlotte, NC in August.  I am super excited about this event, but I realized I had not read of any of the authors.  So I posted on the page asking for suggestions and Heather responded!  I found her book on sale on Amazon, purchased it and quickly became engrossed in the unfolding story.

**As a little aside there are some scenes in this book, but not the review, that is for mature audiences:)-**

If you have read my reviews, you know I do not always enjoy the series approach to books because if it is a good book you get to the cliffhanger and are like no..just no..when will I get an answer!  Well, this book has that cliffhanger, but it is done in a way that the immediate story has been concluded and questions answered, so I actually enjoyed that this is a series and not just told in one lump go of it.  For those that still do not like series, I am not sure how many will be in this series, but book two came out today! 

Heather is an excellent story teller and her writing style is very captivating.  I felt like I was getting to know the characters and could appreciate the secrets being kept, the emotional turmoil over not being honest with individuals, wanting to have a different life, feeling the pain of decisions and lost love, etc.  While I correctly surmised some of the twists there were also quite a few that was like..well color me surprised I didn't see that one coming and I loved that!  Heather has a talent and skill set that kept me captivated with the story, characters and situation.  I have already purchased book two in this series and cannot wait to start reading it this week!

Book Trailer from Author's webpage

Important Links

Links to Purchase Book

Disclaimer:  I purchased this book on my own.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event~ A quick recap and thank you

What a weekend and what a lovely experience!  I can truthfully say that I learned, tasted, experienced and enjoyed more than I had even anticipated.  I had a good time when I attended two years ago, but this time was even more fun, had grown tremendously and covered so many areas of living a healthy lifestyle.  Over the next few days and weeks I will be reviewing some of the products I received as a blogger and that I obtained through stopping and talking to the fantastic vendors.  Truly, I was blown away by how generous the vendors and Nikki, the host & planner extraordinaire were with the samples and products.
The view before everyone arrived!  I was never able to see all the tables in one view after this shot:)

**So for a quick recap**
Saturday morning I woke up super early and excited to start my day to Charlotte for this event.  I was able to arrive a little early since I was blogging about the event and boy was I glad...so many things to see, samples to try, people to learn from, etc.!  I was quickly extremely happy that I brought my mom and that one of my best friends joined us...haha I had them trying everything, especially when it was items that contained dairy (side note to new readers.. I am sensitive to dairy which is why I try my best to avoid it). This year the event was held at the Crowne Plaza.  It was extremely easy to get to, decorated nicely and very accessible once we arrived.  The only potential change or thing I noticed was that due to how many people attended, at times the noise volume was high and made it difficult to hear some of the presenters or vendors.  I saw that as a good thing though because it was due to how many people expressed an interest in learning more about these vendors, presentations and healthy lifestyles.
picture from GFAF Wellness Event
The time flew by on Saturday.  My mom, friend and self were continuously checking our watches to make sure that we did not miss the presentations that wanted to check out.  Now all the presentations sounded interesting, had great information and a good turnout, but there were three that I really was vested in attending and learning from.  Each of those presenters, which I will go into more depth in another post, did a fantastic job and gave me much to think about and research.  The vendors...oh the vendors..so many and so wonderful!  There were representatives from; essential oils, to meal planning, to baked goods, to gelato from goat's milk, to beer and vodka, to home delivery services for meals and produce, to summer camps for children who need to avoid gluten, to green household cleaners and more.  I do believe there was a little bit of everything for everyone.

To the vendors, presenters, bloggers, and Nikki I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for the opportunity to be a blogger for my first wellness event.  Thank you for the chance to review so many great products and information.  Thank you for the suggestions, encouragement and feedback. Thank you for a fun weekend that I could enjoy with a great friend and my mom.  And most importantly, thank you for caring about the health and well being of so many to create products, events and educate others about them.

If you attended this event please let me know how it went!  Who was your favorite vendor, what was your favorite snack, presentation, etc.?  If you were unable to attend, never fear there are more events during 2015!


Tibetan Cross by Mike Bond, Book Review

General Information
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Mandevilla Press
Publish Date: October 1, 2014

Book Summary (per NetGalley)
An American Himalayan climber stumbles on a shipment of backpack nuclear weapons headed into Tibet for explosion in China. Pursued by spy agencies and other killers across Asia, North Africa, Europe and the United States, he is captured then rescued by a beautiful young woman with whom he forms a deadly liaison. They escape, are caught and escape again, death always at their heels. A terrifying portrayal of a relentless manhunt, Tibetan Cross is also a deep inquiry into geopolitics and covert action, the dangers of nuclear war, the nature of fear, and the painful process of love.

My Thoughts
This book should be made into a movie...like now.  The entire time I read this book I was picturing the stunts, emotions, political intrigue, etc. played out on the big screen.  It would be phenomenal. 

From start to finish this book was action packed and did not slow down.  It was a page turner that kept me vested in the outcome of the primary character.  I did struggle at the beginning to figure out who that character was, but once I figured that out the rest of the book was easy to follow, thrilling to experience and unexpected at times.

The story follows a grueling experience that one climber goes through in his effort to live after he gets trapped in an out of control situation.  The author does not sugar coat the experience, but rather makes it gritty and shows the thoughts of this character regardless if it was about love, revenge, food, disillusion, cunning, hate, forgiveness, regret, etc.. I do not like the ending, but I feel the ending is perfect at the same time.  I am an emotional reader though so when you get to the ending of this book I believe that sentence will make perfect sense!  After completing this book, I put it down, took a deep breathe and just continued to think I would love to watch this on a big screen, this story really captures emotion in a realistic manner and captivated me the entire time.

Important Links

Links to Purchase Book

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Events, Charlotte NC~ Tips, Tricks and General Know-how!


If you saw my earlier blog post you know that a great event is coming up in Charlotte, NC this Saturday!  And hint hint you can still get free tickets (read to the bottom to see how)!!  It is this weekend from 10am-4pm and has a plethora of different vendors and sponsors regarding gluten and allergy information, tips and food! 

PS~


But what I wanted to mainly  share in this post are some of the great tips and information that has been posted on the Facebook event page to help everyone enjoy this event to the fullest extent possible!



This may just be my favorite tip to date!!  I had not thought about it, but I will most definitely be utilizing this tip:)



Additionally, the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event has been in the local news with a segment that you can see here!  The show a great display of some of the vendors that will be there this weekend. So excited to see it all, learn more and try out some samples!

So I am ready for this event and I want y'all to enjoy it as well, so I know you are thinking what about those free tickets:)  All you need to do is email at meghan.varner@gmail.com with the subject heading Charlotte GF&AF Tickets Please.  I will put all emails together and pull the tickets from there.  All emails must be received by Thursday March 19, 2015 at 8pm.

I hope to here from y'all about those tickets and see you on Saturday!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Today everyone is Irish!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!  

And in the spirit here is a little Irish Blessing for y'all!



Saturday, March 14, 2015

Obsession in Death by JD Robb, Book Review

General Information
Genre: Suspense, Romance and Futuristic
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Published Date:February 10, 2015 

Book Summary (Per the author's page)
Eve Dallas has solved a lot of high-profile murders for the NYPSD and gotten a lot of media. She–and her billionaire husband–are getting accustomed to being objects of attention, of gossip, of speculation.
But now Eve has become the object of one person’s obsession. Someone who finds her extraordinary, and thinks about her every hour of every day. Who believes the two of them have a special relationship. Who would kill for her–again and again.
With a murderer reading meanings into her every move, handling this case will be a delicate–and dangerous–psychological dance. And Eve knows that underneath the worship and admiration, a terrible threat lies in wait. Because the beautiful lieutenant is not at all grateful for these bloody offerings from her “true and loyal friend.” And in time, idols always fall.
My Thoughts
This is book #40 in the In Death series and each book just keeps on amazing me, captivating me and keeping me engaged in the story line!  Every book has the characters developing more, experiencing new adventures, crimes, relationship issues or growth, etc.

Almost the entire story I was so like what who did it!  What is the catch here!  I truly enjoyed seeing how all the characters rallied around Eve when the messages were left.  I loved how everyone was quick to tell and demonstrate to Eve that the message was not of her doing.  I also thought the was an interesting take on a new criminal and crime.  The best part for me though was how it brought back so many cases, criminals, characters and stories!  It almost was like getting a short blurb about many of the stories along Eve's professional career.

This is a stand alone book, so you can enjoy this even if you have not read the others in the series.  However, the story has much more depth, humor and I feel enjoyment if you know the story-lines, relationships, background behind everyone and their interactions!  This book was fantastic and just leads me to continue saying that this is my favorite book series and one of my preferred authors.

Important Links

Links to Purchase the Book


Disclaimer: I purchased this book with my own money.  All thoughts and opinions are my own!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Vega One, All in One Nutritional Shake, Review

 Over the last year or so I have been finding out, in not so fun ways, how sensitive I am to different foods.  But one good or rather great thing that has come from that has been in the introduction to so many new, healthy and delicious items!Vega One is one such item.  When I kept getting sick from anything I ate everyone kept suggesting smoothies, protein shakes, etc.  However many of them kept getting me sick or were the epitome of nasty in taste.  I was at the Whole Foods an hour from me (why can't we have more of them in NC???) and saw this one sample of Vega One.  I asked the employees, researched on my phone while I was there and then bought it.  It was a French Vanilla powder and blew my mind!
Since then I have bought the large container of the French Vanilla and the Chocolate and am loving them!  Either plain with water, with cashew or almond milk, with peanut butter and or banana, with pb2, etc. the possibilities are endless.  What I also enjoy is that if you go to the company website here, they provide recipe suggestions, lifestyle information, health tidbits, etc. Not only does Vega One taste good, it also is stacked full of goodness for our bodies. For example:  Vega One gives you:
  • 20 grams premium plant-based protein
  • 6 servings of greens
  • 50% daily intake of food-based vitamins and minerals
  • 25% DV fiber
  • 1.5 grams of Omega-3s
  • Antioxidants
  • Probiotics (1 billion CFU)
  • Only 160 calories. (French Vanilla)
Have y'all tried the other flavors? Or any of the recipes to create anything besides smoothie, shake, pancake? If so please let me know!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, Book Review

General Information
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK, Wendy Lamb Books
Published Date: March 5th 2015  

Book Summary: (Per Author's webpage)
Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.
In this enchanting story by beloved author Alice Hoffman, love and friendship are truly magical.
My Thoughts
Magic, friendship, teen angst, centuries old drama and tension, misunderstandings, love, family dynamic, secrets, small town happenings and more!  This story takes place in a small town and truly showcases the idea of small town living and charm.  We have the "gossip group" and the historian/librarian who knows everyone/everything.  We have the idea of everyone knowing everyone and more including the potential of a big city change! 

I adored the way this story developed and the ability to realistically tie in magic with the normal everyday lives that these citizens enjoy daily.   Some parts were somewhat predictable, but overall the story had some great turns and surprises as more information was shared about Twig's family and family dynamic with the town.  This was a quick read and more engaging than I was expecting from a YA novel that involved magic.  I feel that teens, YA or adults could and would enjoy this story and relate to one if not several of these characters.

Important Links

Links to Purchase Book
Disclaimer~  I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.