Aleia’s {a GFAF Event Vendor showcase}

Recently, I attended Greensboro’s first Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. The event was coordinated by Nikki Everett, who has been directing this educational one-day convention in other cities since 2009. I am so grateful that she decided to include NC Triad in this year’s schedule.  The event was informative and fun! As a member of their Blogger Team, I had the opportunity to chat with the vendors and speakers before the event opened to the public. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to showcase a few of my favorites.

Today, I want to introduce you to Aleia’s.

Based in Connecticut, Aleia’s is artisan food for those of us who have to avoid gluten. Their products can be found in select stores throughout North Carolina, and online. (Aleia’s is currently not in stores here in the Triad, but they’re working on that!) Online orders of $40 or more ship free within the continental US. Their foods include cookies, stuffing, breadcrumbs, croutons, and their brand new product, a gluten-free/dairy-free crunchy coating similar to a bagged coating made popular by its claim to be a less-greasy, baked alternative to frying.


Of their products, I decided to try the new crunchy coating first.


The directions are simple and it took about five minutes to prepare. I began with three thin chicken breasts, rinsed and then drizzled with coconut oil. I opened the box, which contains two coating packets and two bags, and removed one of each. I opened the seasoned coating and placed it into the bag.


From there, I simply placed one chicken breast into the pouch and shook the bag a few times. I didn’t have to shake it vigorously; the coating covered the chicken really well. I removed the chicken breast from the bag and placed it on a cookie sheet. I repeated the process for the remaining two breasts.


I placed the coated chicken breasts into a preheated oven set at 425-degrees, and baked them for 20 minutes. The breasts that I used were thin, so the time would need to be adjusted for thicker ones. While the chicken baked, I chopped and sautéed mixed vegetables.


In less than 30 minutes, I had prepared an easy and delicious meal. Aleia’s new Coat & Crunch was seasoned beautifully – not too spicy! – and really took my typically bland baked chicken to a new level. My tastebuds were extremely happy. I highly recommend that you try Aleia’s.

You can find Aleia’s products near you by clicking here and entering your zip code, or by ordering online at I have a discount code (valid for online purchases only – save $1.00 on each item) that I am happy to share with you if you will:

  1. Click here and LIKE my Facebook page.
  2. Click here and LIKE Aleia’s Facebook page.
  3. Comment below that you have completed steps 1 and 2, and share with us what product you’re most interested in trying.

I also invite you to subscribe to my blog by entering your name and email address in the fields under my photo on the righthand side of the page. That way, you’ll know when my next blog will publish featuring another fantastic GFAF Event vendor!

Aleia’s is devoted to producing superior hand crafted, certified gluten free, Non-GMO and kosher products. Our commitment is to provide healthy, delicious options for living a gluten free lifestyle every day! Handcrafted and packaged in the USA in a dedicated gluten free bakery that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk ingredients and lots of smiles!

Disclaimer: I was given one box of Coat & Crunch Extra Crispy and one box of Coat & Crunch Crispy Spicy by Aleia’s to review as part of the Greensboro Blogger Team. This post does not contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way. 

The Skinny on Wellness

On Monday, I blogged about confidence and body image comparisons. I spent the better part of my childhood and early adulthood battling negative self-esteem. Life doesn’t always help; society promotes a certain look, peers can be cruel, and fashion is full of lies.

Of all of my flaws uniquenesses – from frizzy, curly hair and glasses to being nearly 6-feet tall – the one thing that I have allowed to give me the most grief is being overweight. I weighed 9.5 pounds when I was born. It’s like I was destined to be, well, big. But as a child and young adult, I viewed that negatively. My earliest memory of my weight was when I started wearing hand-me-down jeans from my brother. They were labeled “Husky” size and I recall that bothering me more than the fact that I was wearing boys jeans.

I was a relatively active child/young adult. I played a lot outside, rode my bike, swam, and even dabbled in community and school sports. However, I never considered myself athletic. I was too busy comparing myself to my oldest brother and sister, who didn’t require a special size of jeans, or to classmates who were shaped completely different than me.

I have more negative memories from middle school. In Physical Ed class, we were required to wear uniforms. I remember my teacher digging through a pile of “oversized” uniforms searching for one that fit me. I stood behind her office door as she tossed above-average sizes my way as I tried them on, praying the next one would fit. I also remember a similar incident when I made the basketball team. Everyone else had jersey with low numbers, but my number was 54 because I required the largest uniform.

Let me stop here for a second and say that I was not morbidly obese. I was only about 10-pounds overweight at the time, but I was also freakishly tall for my age. Again, I was a just… big.

In addition to my weight, I also started to realize how my body didn’t perform the same as my classmates. I remember during my freshman year, we had to perform agility and strength tests… and I could not do a chin up. Not. One. By my senior year, I had stopped all sports. I had gained around 15 more pounds, and was one of, if not the tallest girl in my class. My giant-ness consumed me. I was awkward, uncomfortable, and officially self-conscious in so many ways.

I went on to have equally awkward experiences in college. I went to the beach with friends and was horrified to wear a swimsuit; something that never bothered me during my childhood “husky” phase. I continued to gain weight, so I started crash diets and taking supplements. I ended up completely wrecking my metabolism, so much so that later in life, it completely wrecked me.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my later 20s. At my heaviest, I weighed 70-pounds more than I did in high school, and could barely fit into a size 20. I would refer to my high school weight as “when I thought I was fat” and the only desire I had was to “be so skinny that I looked sick.” The way I viewed myself (and health in general) had become painfully distorted.

As my 30th birthday approached, I knew that I had to make lifestyle changes. Nothing else was working and I refused to allow myself to move into another pant size. I joined a weight loss program through work, that began to teach me about nutrition and portion sizes. The next decade of my life was spent undergoing more than just a positive physical change of losing 50-pounds. My thirties also brought about positive emotional and mental changes as well.

I still have to watch my weight — I always will, thanks to an under active thyroid, an aging body, a dislike of formal exercise, and an occasional mean sweet tooth! — but I no longer seem to struggle with it. I think I have finally learned to accept me for me. I have found confidence in my own skin, and have the wisdom to know that health isn’t, and never has been, about a body image.

Recently I had a conversation with my doctor. We both decided that, although there is room for improvement, things could be a lot worse. I’m only 11.5-pounds away from my goal weight, and I’m running 5Ks regularly. I drink 100-ounces of water a day, and I eat well-balanced whole-food meals, appropriately measured for portion control. I also keep a check on things like my blood pressure and stress levels. I’m making progress in truly becoming healthy. But it was my statement to her that she believes shows my biggest progress… “I’ll never be skinny, but I am going to do what I can to not gain weight.” In my quest to focus on not gaining, I actually started to lose weight.

Maybe that is how we should all approach life? Think about it; instead of pointing out someone’s flaws, we recognize their strengths; instead of dwelling on the bad days, we start counting our blessings; instead of verbalizing hate, we speak love; instead of  thinking the worst, we pursue the best. It could change attitudes and produce more positive outcome!

Being healthy is so much more than a weight, or a dress size, or how many jumping jacks that you can do. Total wellness includes intellectual health, emotional health, and even financial health. What is your current battle? Do you allow negative thoughts to distort your perspective? What will you choose to focus on today?

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event

When I learned about my food allergies last year, my blog changed. I went from posting recipes of quick meals made with ingredients that I had purchased for next-to-nothing with coupons, to experiments made with new products that I had never heard of before. It has been challenging, but in a wonderful way.

Although I feel like I have learned a lot since my diagnosis, I also know that I have barely scratched the surface on all there is to know. That is why I am so excited (and extremely honored) to have been selected to be a part of the Blogger Team for the upcoming Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event in Greensboro on September 10.

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Key speakers for this event are: Dr. Nicole DiNezza, DC, NTP, Jennifer Cuevas, Tarah Jakubiak, Meg Huebner, Rodger Lenhardt, Beth Mincher, and Drs. Roosevelt Smith, and Clifton Mays. They will be discussing an array of topics including essential oils, traveling with allergies, and digestive disorders. There will also be many vendors on site, including some well-known brands. It is going to be an amazing resource for anyone with food allergies, whether you were recently diagnosed or have battled them for years. 

I will be posting updates throughout the event; if you’re unable to attend, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I will also post a blog with highlights from the event the week of September 11.

Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased in advance or at the door. Please comment below if you’re planning to attend. I would love to connect with you at the event!


As a Blogger Team member, I will receive free admission and possibly additional compensation for posts regarding this event.

Looking Younger: What’s the Real Secret?

In the past six months, I have noticed an increase of compliments regarding my age. I don’t feel like I’m trying to look younger. I’m comfortable with my age and generally happy with who I have become. But I must admit, with my mid-30s birthday just two weeks away, I’m pretty taken back by the recent comments that some people think I’m in my 20s. The first couple of times I heard it, I laughed it off. The next few times, I was extremely humbled. Now, I have started to question what could possibly be fueling the sudden flattery. Although I cannot confirm that any of the following are to blame, I have compiled a list of 10 things that may be secrets to looking younger.

1. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco
I don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which can deprive the outermost layers of the skin of oxygen and nutrients. It also damages collagen, causing wrinkles. Likewise, alcohol can be dehydrating to the skin. This can affect the absorption of vitamins and nutrients that the skin needs as well.

2. Protect Your Skin
Sun damage can cause often irreversible damage to our skin, like brown spots, lines, and uneven skin tone. Tanning actually speeds up our body’s wrinkling process because ultraviolet light damages elastin (the skin’s fibers). I have fair skin that, after “a good burn”, would tan nicely. Many Memorial Day weekends, I would endure a second-degree burn in order to achieve and maintain a “beautiful” bronze glow throughout the remainder of the summer. It dawned on me several years ago that I was increasing my already high risk of getting skin cancer if I continued this cycle. I now use SPF 30 sunscreen and protect my face with hats, while relying on sunless tanners, self-tanning moisturizers, and bronzers to add subtle color to my skin.

3. Stay Hydrated
I love water, so when I decided to give up drinking sodas, it was an easy transition. About two years ago, I went one step further, limiting my consumption of milk, juice, and decaffeinated coffee & tea. Most days, I drink more than the daily recommended 64 ounces of water. It not only helps moisturize your skin but it cleanses your system as a whole. It not only helps you look younger, but it will help you feel younger too! I know there are a lot of people who generally do not like the taste of water. There are many enhancement options now, like MiO and Crystal Light Pure, that provide flavor options. Find one that is tasty to you and drink up!

4. Skin Care
I have dry, sensitive skin. Many products that are common favorites break me out. One well-known skin care line even caused chemical burns! With organic products becoming more and more popular, I started looking to more natural products in hopes of finding a good fit. I ended up finding two items that I feel contribute to my youthful appearance.

Ponds Cold Cream – yes, that stuff your grandma used to slather on her face at night. I know… I felt really old purchasing it at first too. But it truly is a great product for those of us who have dry, sensitive skin. The primary ingredients are Mineral Oil and Beeswax, which act as both a deep cleanser and a moisturizer. My face feels so soft after using it.

Bare Escentuals – I am in love with the mineral foundation! I was the girl who would buy the cheap drugstore foundations, usually whatever was on sale. I tried liquid, pressed powder, and cream-to-powder and could never find the perfect fit or the right shade for that matter. The older I got, the more I branched out trying more expensive department store foundations. No matter what I used, I always felt like my skin looked worse with the foundation than without. I was tired of spending money and went back to the cheap liquid. If nothing looked good, at least I would spend as little as possible on it. Last summer, my best friend convinced me to try BareMinerals. She explained that consumers no longer had to purchase this product online (and be sucked into the manufacturer’s automated ordering plan, which discouraged me from ever trying it) because it has become widely available. She took me to Sephora inside our local JCPenney, where I was perfectly matched to my shade. (I guess that wasn’t too hard. I’m pale; they sold me fair. Ha!) What I love about this product is: a little goes a long way, it doesn’t magnify pores or fine lines, it can be mixed with the BareMinerals bronzer to create a natural-looking tan, it’s quick to apply, and it covers really, really well. You can literally build your coverage. On most days, I just quickly brush it over my face to even my skin tone. Other days, I need full coverage. All it takes is a few more swirls of the brush. So easy!

5. Hair Tips
I have gray hair. There, I admitted it. Actually, white may be a better description. It isn’t a strand here or there either. Most of it around my face is completely without color. When it first started turning (when I was in my mid-20s, thanks to my thyroid disorder) I tried to embrace it. That didn’t last long. I spent years trying to mask the white hairs with an overall boxed color similar to my natural color. I ended up having to touch up my roots every 3 weeks and I just felt like my hair was boring. Thankfully, I have an amazing hairstylist who recommended highlights. I was skeptical at first. Chunky highlights have never really been my thing. I’m not certain they’re even trendy anymore and I wasn’t so sure how they would mask the patches of white hair around my face. To my surprise, she never had plans of putting in obvious highlights. Instead she created the most subtle and natural-looking color by mixing two different shades of blonde. She also cut in long, whispy bangs. They were cut far enough back that, when worn down, I couldn’t see any white hairs peeking through! I do think they add to a more youthful look too.

6. Say Goodbye to Bad Carbs
After my dad’s heart attack and my mom’s diabetes diagnosis, I have learned to cut back on bad carbs. I avoid added sugar and white starches like bread, pasta, rice, and refined grain. There are many healthy advantages to removing these items from your daily intake, but sugar bonds with protein which ultimately can cause wrinkles. And I feel less sluggish without bad carbs.

7. Follow the Trends
I have a bad habit of wearing the same glasses frames for years. It saved money just to switch out the lenses regularly. This year, I decided it was time for my old, worn metal frames to retire. I found some new ones (almost identical) to replace them, but my brother suggested I choose a pair of frames that were a little more trendy. Having no clue how to step out of the box, I enlisted him to help select something outside of my norm. I ended up with brown tortoise shell and purple plastic frames, that have a unique shape to them. I have since noticed a lot of younger adults wearing similar styles.

8. Less Stress
Everyone has stress. Some is unavoidable. But I decided last year that I would eliminate all of the stress that I could control. I put a lot on myself by filling my schedule too full, making poor choices (like credit card debt), and trying too hard to please others. Not only do I worry less now, but studies have shown that being more relaxed can make you look younger!

9. Plenty of sleep
There is such a thing as beauty sleep! Although I am guilty of burning the midnight oil some nights, overall I try to get at least 6 hours sleep. Geoff Wright, an expert in chronobiology (the study of the body clock) and director of The Hair And Beauty Partnership in London, states: “There are set times when our body clock dictates that various processes take place in hair and skin. From 8pm to 11pm is the time for hydration and stimulation, while 11pm to 3am is the time for nutrition and regeneration, and 3am to 5am is the time for resting. When we are asleep, our cells rebuild and repair themselves (the growth hormone functions only at night). If you don’t sleep, this function is impaired.” So lack of sleep or even poor-quality sleep can, in fact, make you look older.

10. Smile!
Although I’ve been told that I do it too much, I believe it does wonders for you. Not only does it use fewer muscles than frowning, but you feel and look better as a result. Who knows, it may even make others feel better too!