Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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I am so happy to close the door to 2016. This year has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Between my mom’s sudden passing and dealing with the emotions with that to my uncle’s passing after he had made so many milestones since the accident. Being with my ex who had brain surgery to us making the difficult decision to not be together anymore. I can’t forget the lessons I learned or how strong I realized I was.

There were happy things that happened too. My cousin got married and two more of my cousins got engaged. The love and bond of my family becoming closer that united us more than we could ever imagine. To the “fierce five” as my aunt calls us who have been through more tragedies than a person should have to endure in a lifetime. To my amazing friends and family who have supported me throughout this difficult year has shown me that I can get through anything. To all my lovegfreelife friends who have helped make my blog successful with their support.

There will always be challenges in life but it is how you react to them that either makes or breaks a person. I have learned this past year to love more, to not hold grudges because you don’t know when it will be the last time you speak to them. Life is precious. It is short and can be taken away at anytime. As I go into 2017, I am choosing love to guide me. “Love is love is love is love”. Happy New Years! Xoxo

 

Celiac Awareness Day!

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When you look at this picture, do you see someone who is fighting a chronic illness and an autoimmune disease (multiple autoimmune diseases)? I don’t but I am.
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Today is National Celiac Awareness Day. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where when gluten is ingested, it leads to damage in the small intestine. Your body thinks that there is a foreign invader in your intestine, so the villi gets attacked and damaged. Your body in response eventually struggles to absorb nutrients. Not only does it affect your intestines, Celiac Disease can encourage other autoimmune diseases to appear and other damaging problems. Anything from various cancers to thyroid problems to neurological manifestations.

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Researchers have found that Celiac Disease is hereditary and it affects 1 in 100 people worldwide. 2 1/2 million people live everyday with undiagnosed Celiac Disease. Without the proper tools, people who go too long without a diagnosis are putting themselves in extreme danger.

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When I was finally diagnosed (it used to take years to get a diagnosis) with Celiac Disease seven years ago, I didn’t take it seriously. I thought I just didn’t have to eat wheat. I would participate in happy hour after work and drink beer or eat gluten containing food because it was a holiday. I was naive and uneducated. I would often feel sick afterwards and sometimes that would last for days. My first major health episode came when I nearly died from an infected gallbladder. A few years after that, my appendix needed to come out. While the doctors were in there, they noticed that I had scar tissue wrapped around my stomach and my intestines. The scar tissue was removed but not without other complications. After that surgery, I began to do some research. I would have weird symptoms that never made sense like my hair and eyelashes would fall out, my joints hurt, I had brain fog, my stomach always felt bad, I always had a headache, and I overall felt like shit. I soon realized my “random symptoms” were really a part of having Celiac Disease. I found a book, Jennifer’s Way, by Jennifer Esposito that chronicled her life with her diagnosis with Celiac. After reading it, it changed my outlook on life. I didn’t know that ingesting gluten was actually killing me. I was doing irreversible damage to my body.

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I had the chance last year to meet Jennifer and thanked her for saving my life. I did a 360 in my life and cut gluten completely out. I am not going to lie and say it has been all peachy since then. I have suffered from multiple hospitalizations, new autoimmune disease diagnosis, and other health complications. But I am far better off health wise than I was seven years ago. And even though I sometimes struggle to get out of bed because I had a flare up, I know that I am trying my best to feed my body the medicine it needs through food. That’s the thing with an “invisible illness”. The person looks fine on the outside but is dealing with many debilitating things on the inside.

So if you take away anything from this, know that we are all fighting a battle that people don’t know about. Someone might “look fine” on the outside but is sick on the inside. So be kind to each other. Listen when someone says that they feel a certain way. You never know what battle they might be facing.

To find out more information on Celiac Disease, visit https://celiac.org.

Crispy Oven Baked French Fries

Crispy Oven Baked French Fries

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As much as possible, I like to make sure I am eating whole foods and not processed or frozen items. When in a pinch, you can find some healthier options, but with a quick and easy recipe to make crispy French Fries, you won’t need to reach for the freezer or the drive thru.

People often think that potatoes aren’t healthy. They can be if you eat them fried or drenched in unhealthy condiments. Potatoes are full of fiber, potassium, and vitamins B and C. They also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant properties. Phytonutrients help prevent diseases and help maintain our body’s natural defenses.

 

What You Need:

Potatoes (you can use any type)

Olive Oil

Salt

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while prepping your potatoes. Slice your potatoes into rectangles with how thick you would like them. The thicker the slices, the longer they will need to cook and the softer they will be in the inside.

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Dry them with a paper towel. On a baking sheet, drizzle some olive oil, and place the potato slices on. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on and mix the flavors together.

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Put them into the oven for 20 minutes, flip and cook another 10. Remember the thicker the potato, the more they will need to cook. You want the outside to be nice and crispy!

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Aloha Spirit

Aloha Spirit

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This past trip to Hawaii has been very healing for me. The first time I went to Hawaii last year, my mom called me one day and inquired if I was going to return home since I looked so happy in my pictures. I didn’t want to go home. Hawaii is just a healing and Zen-like atmosphere. I feel very centered and peaceful while on the island. It also doesn’t hurt that my bestie lives there.

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Going this year was a different experience for me. I haven’t seen my best friend Nicole since Christmas and with her being in Hawaii, she was unable to attend my mother’s funeral. Our families are very close, so seeing her was a big deal.

My trip was very healing. There is something so serene and peaceful about the ocean water, going in it and listening to it. My aunt had sent me a very powerful book, Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Grieve by Tom Zumba. It is an easy read, but I read it throughout the trip, often rereading sections. That is how powerful it is. It really taught me to look at life differently, along with my mother’s passing. It is normal to feel all the different ranges of emotions I am feeling right now. Anger, sadness, depression, numbness, anxiety… the list goes on. The hardest emotion that I am feeling is the random feeling of happiness. I feel guilty when I experience happiness in something in my life, like traveling to Hawaii or being with my boyfriend. I feel like I shouldn’t be happy. The hardest part is getting over the guilt that I experience everyday.

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The food in Hawaii is AMAZING!!!! Even with all of my food allergies, I am able to eat many healthy and delicious things. I love eating fruit smoothie bowls, which I have to inquire about the different ingredients, with fresh fruit, gluten free granola, fresh shredded coconut, and local honey. My other favorite food is Poke which is fresh tuna mixed with different ingredients like Wasabi Poke with Scallions and Spicy Ahi Tuna Poke.

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Some of my favorite parts of my trip besides going to the beach were going SUP Paddle Boarding and hiking. We went to Maunawili Falls where we had to hike up a steep and rocky trail that was incredibly muddy (it had just rained for two days). Sometimes there was no trail, rocky waters to climb through, tons of stairs, and lots and lots of mud! We were covered! Once we got to the top, I jumped off a cliff into the amazing waterfall. It was beautiful!

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When we went SUP Paddle Boarding, I went paddle boarding while Nicole and Anthony went kayaking. This is my favorite place to paddle board. While I was off trying to not get stuck in a tree (very windy), I saw a large sea turtle (which I am obsessed with). I got so excited and it I saw him again later on. I felt like my mom was there with me since Colie and Anthony did not see him.

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This trip was amazing and very eye opening. It was such a healing and incredible experience. I still don’t understand why my mother was taken away so quickly and I might never know. I understand for whatever reason it was her time to go but reading the book helped me to understand that it is okay to question it. To question everything… to experience everything… every emotion, every thought, pain, and happiness. I am trying my best everyday. To take one day at a time.

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Mahalo

Holiday Tips and Hints

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These cute salt and pepper shakers are our favorite Thanksgiving “friends”.  It isn’t Thanksgiving until they are on the table!

The Holidays can be a hard time for someone when they have food allergies, Celiacs, or food intolerances. Going to parties or having Holiday dinner can be a scary experience. These are my tips to surviving the Holidays (from my own crazy experiences).

  1. If you know the host of the party, ask what kinds of foods are being brought or made.

This way, you can check to see what ingredients the dish is being made with.

  1. If you are really close to the person, they can make sure there are foods that are safe for you to eat.

My friends and family are pretty great at making sure there is something I can eat when I go over. It might not be the same delicious food they are eating, but I know I won’t get sick eating it. If they aren’t sure, they will ask if it is okay or give me the ingredients.

  1. Bring your own food.

I constantly bring my own food to places or have snacks in my bag. I like to go out after work with friends which results in staying out later (like past dinner). So I typically do not eat when I go out with friends (although I have been getting better) but I will always try to have some sort of snack in my bag that I can eat. I also always arrive to my friends or family with a bag full of safe foods.

  1. When you make food at someone else’s home, make sure you bring your own containers and cooking utensils.

Gluten is not easily washed away from surfaces, pans, bowls, utensils (especially wooden ones) and cutting boards. If you share a kitchen with someone who does not have food allergies or Celiacs, you should probably have two sets of everything. If you can’t, line items with parchment paper or foil, stir with metal spoons not wooden, and rewash anything before you use it. You can never be too safe with cross-contamination.

  1. When in doubt, don’t eat it, no matter how good it looks!

Is it worth it? Probably not, so just don’t do it.

  1. Try some of my recipes for your next party or celebration!

I have my amazing Cinnamon Pumpkin Bread and Mini Apple Pies.  Tomorrow I will post my delicious roasted seasonal vegetables! Perfect for any occasion!

 

This Thanksgiving I will be going to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I will have a separate turkey breast (the big one gets stuffed), gluten free stuffing (I will share the results/recipe in a later post), a veggie, and I will be making some sort of gluten free pie which I will post later on.

 

Stay tuned for my Traditional Italian Christmas Gluten Free Posting!

Tunnel to Towers Run NYC

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“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” –unknown

9/11 is a day where we reflect back on the day that changed our lives forever. We think about the people who are no longer with us and of all the people who risked their lives (and continue to do so every day) and who fought to save the lives of people they have never met. One of my good friends lost both her father and uncle on 9/11. Every year, her family participates in the Tunnel to Towers run and this is the first year that I went. It is a 5K that honors 9/11 First Responders in honor of Stephen Siller.

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Stephen Siller had gotten off the late shift and was on his way home from work. After he heard the news, he turned around and got his gear. By the time he got to Battery Tunnel, it had been closed. He strapped on all 60 pounds of his gear and ran through the traffic in the Tunnel all the way to the World Trade Center. He risked his life to save others, the ultimate sacrifice.

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This year they had a record high of over 30,000 people participating in the run. You run the route that Stephen Siller took. It was such a beautiful event to be a part of. As you come out of the Tunnel, the streets are lined with Service men and women, the FDNY, and NYPD. They are cheering you on and high fiving you as you run by. They are thanking you for running. I was astonished. They are thanking me… for running. No, thank you. Thank you for risking your lives every day to protect ours. Thank you for leaving your families and for keeping ours safe. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Words cannot describe how special this day was and how honored I felt being in the presence of such amazing people.

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If you would like to donate or participate in a run, please visit http://tunnel2towers.org/.

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Power Talking, I mean Walking

I love being downtown! It is beautiful and there are so many things to do. One of my favorite things is to go power walking (as my friend Jackie calls it)/slow jogging. I am trying to slowly get back into running but struggling with chronic pain and inflammation can make it hard to regain that control.downtown

Today we went power walking about 3 miles downtown and along the waterfront. Our pace wasn’t too bad if you think we were talking the whole time and running into tourists. Our goal is to get it down to 15 minutes a mile while talking!

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Isn’t it beautiful down here, even on a cloudy day!

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We stopped in to our favorite juice spot at Vela Juice Bar. I got a Down and Dirty Flu Fighter since I have been feeling a bit under the weather and Jackie got a Big Island Smoothie with spinach. In my juice, there was grapefruit, orange, green apples, lemon, ginger, carrot, turmeric, and garlic.

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I know, garlic! Actually garlic is a great way to prevent infections and cut down on the duration of a cold. Raw garlic that is cut or in my case juiced, has two chemicals called alliin, which is a compound and alliiase, an enzyme. They get together and form allicin. When allicin is digested in your body, it produces sulfenic acid, a compound that fights those dangerous free radicals. Not only does it fight antiviral sicknesses, it attacks antibacterial and antifungal illnesses. So when you start to feel under the weather, try to add raw garlic into your lifestyle!

xoxo Jenn