October 30, 2014

My Conference Hangover #TypeACon

I have a hangover. Not to worry, it is not alcohol induced- it is more like an information overload. Today is the first day that I could gather my thoughts enough to attempt a coherent post about my fabulous experience at Type-A Con back in September... I am in blogger overload mode! The struggle is real people, I have been motivated to blog more than I thought possible and I am still working on putting all of my "must-dos" down on paper. 

The weekend was crammed full of amazing speakers and mini-sessions. I would share my notes with you...if you really want me to. But most of my readers are not looking for a blogging-how-to. Instead, I will share some of the pictures that I took this weekend with my iPhone- brace yourself for a dip in photo quality for this post. I was not gonna try to lug the "fancy" camera around for 4 days!


TYPE A PARENT CONFERENCE: 
"BLOGGERS GONE WILD"

DAY ONE
(Registration & Mixer- not pictured... I was busy chatting with other attendees)

After a long day of packing and getting settled in.... and maybe a few glasses of wine with Redhead Baby Mama.

DAY TWO
(Disney Party)

My outfit was a nod to Marie from Aristocats!


I snuck away from the Disney fun to FaceTime my babies. 
A few minutes after this, they made me wash off my cat makeup- anything for my kiddos!

DAY THREE
("Come as you are" Party- 90's or PJ dance party)
I scored a MTV shirt on clearance at Target and fit right in with the 90's craziness! 

I had an absolute blast learning and making some awesome new buddies! If you would like to read about my Pre-Con excitement, click here!


Which party would you rather go to? Disney or 90's theme party?

October 28, 2014

Airing out my dirty laundry... the whole hamper's worth!




I have been debating on this over-share of a post for a while, but one of my buddies pointed out that many people could relate to the situation I am currently in. I feel like I am in a rut. I giant, messy, soul sucking and unproductive rut. So, pull up a chair and let me tell you about my dirty laundry... the whole hamper's worth!

October 27, 2014

Kid Friendly App Giveaway @FarFaria

farfaria giveaway main

Apps are where it is at right now! You may have read my reviews of the free and helpful apps for parents, such as KidsLink and Lowest Med, but this one is all about the kiddos!

 M and Peanut are serious book worms and sometimes I get a bit worn out from reading the same stories over and over! I was over at Just Another Mom's page and read about a new app that provides your kids (and you!) with hundreds of new stories right at their finger tips. Nothing replaces a trip to the library, but if we are on a road trip or short on time, I will be checking out FarFaria! Take a peek at the app and enter a giveaway for 3 MONTHS of free fun!

October 26, 2014

Snack Ideas #GlutenFree *Giveaway


Snacks are always in high demand around our house and I always try to offer a wide variety of healthy options for my family. When we are at home, M and Peanut have plenty of options since we have access to refrigeration. This past weekend, we hit the road with the kids and I needed to be sure to pack plenty of gluten free snacks to keep the kiddos happy for the long car ride- that would not require refrigeration. 

October 22, 2014

Free iPhone App for Parents @KidsLinkApp


Have you heard of the *NEW* KidsLink app? I am totally in love with it. It allows me to connect with the members of my family, store important information and share it safely! My favorite feature is the vault. I store my kids medical information in the vault and I can safely share it with my hubby or grandparents if I am not available during a medical emergency. KidsLink is super secure- they use the same software as the Department of Defense!


Atlanta-based KidsLink is an invitation-only mobile app and cloud data platform that empowers parents to manage everything, safely and socially. Like a set of digital shoeboxes, it allows parents to organize and track their children's info--all in one place--and stay connected with their support system.

The app is free but you will need an invitation code. Because I love you all, I am giving you that code! You can't beat free- so give it a whirl!


Steps to get your FREE KidsLink app:

Method #1: 
From your iPhone, download the KidsLink app from the apple store for FREE. 
Open the app and click on "Join" and enter the code PUZZLED
That is all!

Method #2: 
From your iPhone, click here!
That is all!

Feel free to share the code "PUZZLED" with your friends and family!

Link up!

October 21, 2014

Bedtime Reward Chart #Giveaway

 


The Puzzled Palate and Just Another Mom are working together again to bring you another amazing giveaway that is perfect for the kiddos! 

My daughter is a visual learner. Like most kids on the spectrum, M does better with a set routine. I love the Good Night, Sleep Tight Reward Chart by Victoria Chart Company for that reason! If you have a kiddo that would benefit from a visual aid- check them out and enter our giveaway!

3 Reasons NOT to buy the No touch + Forehead from #BraunTherms


Disclosure: 
As a member of the Influenster network, I was provide with this product free of charge to try it out and review. I am in no way obligated to share my views with my readers. Based on my experience- I thought that I should!

I am bummed. I really wanted the Braun No touch to work. The concept would be perfect for my daughter with sensory issues. The thought behind the product is that you can either touch it to their forehead or not- perfect for sleeping kiddos, right? Well, not if it doesn't work. The Braun No touch + forehead thermometer retails at $69.99 and I would tell you to save your money. There are 3 main reasons that I do not recommend this product and I thought I should warn tell you about them.

October 20, 2014

I got Baked in East Cobb- you should try it! @BakedAtlanta #ATL


Yes, you read that right... I got Baked and it was my mom's idea! If you live in Metro Atlanta, you have got to check out Baked in East Cobb! I will not even start to claim this one as a Puzzled Palate find- my mother has been their #1 fan for quite some time and finally got us in the door about a month ago. I fell in love with their made to order southern style eats in one bite! Baked is a family friendly restaurant that offers patrons comfortable dine-in experience, as well as convenient pick-up and delivery options. 


October 17, 2014

Crayon Rocks Giveaway


I am always looking for new and exciting products to share with my readers... and Crayon Rocks fit the bill! My daughter, M, is huge on coloring and I try my best to sneak in a little therapy- the fun way. I can't wait to get her cute little hands on Crayon Rocks and to see what beautiful artwork she has to share. I am thrilled to be partnering with fellow spectrum mom Lori from Just Another Mom to tell you about Crayon Rocks!

What are Crayon Rocks?

Crayon Rocks were developed by Barbara Lee, a special needs teacher of 23 years that worked with elementary aged children. Lee invented Crayon Rocks after being inspired by occupational therapist Jan Olsen and her Handwriting Without Tears program. She learned from Mrs. Olsen how important it was for children to develop a strong tripod grip early in their education process — handwriting skills depend upon this. Seeing that a simple tool to develop these skills in young children wasn't readily available, Ms. Lee set out to develop one.

How are Crayon Rocks beneficial?

Since a child's first writing tool is usually a crayon, that crayon should be one that encourages him or her to use thumb, first and second fingers in a tripod grip. This is what makes Crayon Rocks a wonderful tool for fine motor development. Because of their shape, they do not allow kids to easily grip them in a closed fist which deters fine motor development and are also more resistant to breaking.
Children with cerebral palsy, autism, developmental delays and various forms of learning disabilities have tested Crayon Rocks in the classroom. Parents and teachers of special needs students often tell me how much their children love them.

What are Crayon Rocks made from?

Unlike most crayons which are made of petroleum paraffin wax, Crayon Rocks are made from U.S.–grown and processed Kosher soy wax. We combine this wax with natural mineral pigments to create beautiful colors and a natural ground rock that gives the crayons their body. This creates a crayon that goes on smooth and blends easily.

Are Crayon Rocks safe?

Crayon Rocks are a safe and eco-friendly product. Crayon Rocks are non–toxic. They are, however, small enough (1.5 inch x .75 inch x .75 inch) to be a potential choking hazard to very young children. Made from a renewable resource, soy oil, they are an environmentally better choice over traditional petroleum wax crayons. If you want more information about Crayon Rocks, hop over and read Just Another Mom's review.
 
Here is your chance to win your own set!



*** DISCLAIMER *** 
 Participating bloggers are not responsible for the delivery of the prize. Prize delivery will be made by the sponsor, Crayon Rocks, in cooperation with the host, Just Another Mom. Just Another Mom did receive a complimentary product to facilitate this review and giveaway. Participating bloggers were not compensated. This information is being disclosed in compliance with FTC Regulations.

Good Luck!


October 16, 2014

3 Money Saving Tips for Eating Gluten Free



I have heard many people say that they would love to eat gluten free, but one of the reasons they haven't jumped on the wheat-free wagon is the inflated cost of GF foods. To this I respond with, "It does not have to be!" People who are throwing extra money at products marked "GF" are doing it wrong! Eating GF can get pricey- but only if you aren't willing to be resourceful! How do I know this? I learned the hard way.

Our first gluten free trip to the grocery store was about 30% more than our usual bill. Why? Because I grabbed way too many pantry padders. I bought different kinds of crackers, cookies, pretzels... you name it- I bought the gluten free version. I bought things that I would not have normally had in our house before. It was not good. The bigger issue was that we did like not about half of it and it went in the trash.

So, how do I save money while still providing a gluten free diet for my daughter? I will share my top three tips with you... because I am nice like that!

1. Stray from your store! I am a creature of habit. I like going to the same store for everything. With that being said, I am willing to drive to a different store if I can save big. I always get my meat and product from either Costco or Publix. However, if you need things baking mixes or snacks- check out Aldi, Kroger or Ingles. They all have great prices on gluten free products. For alternative flours- try farmers markets. You can even shop online for gluten free products!

2. Switch up your snacks, pantry padders, munchies, junk food or belly fillers- whatever you call them- try something new! Instead of replacing regular crackers with gluten free crackers- buy apples or string cheese. There are tons of options when you thing outside the  prepackaged box! If you are feeling fancy, you could even make your own snacks

3. Use coupons! This may be a no brainer, but it is often over looked. If you are looking for something specific, try looking on the company's website or Facebook page for coupons or discounts. The Puzzled Palate has an exclusive offers page with discounts for our readers- be sure to check it out too!

Happy savings!
Do you have any money saving tips for GF products?

October 12, 2014

Gluten-Free Beginner's Guide #GF


Since we started M's journey, we have learned a lot and shared a lot! People are really starting to take notice of the difference that a gluten-free diet can make! I have been asked to share more about how to start a GF lifestyle. So... by popular demand, here are our pointers for starting your gluten-free journey!

Be strong in your conviction! You know why you are going gluten-free and that is all that matters! You will more than likely meet resistance in the beginning of your journey. The GF diet has come under attack recently for being a fad diet or simply a trend. You will get the eye roll when you ask if there are any GF options. DO NOT give in to the negativity!

Be patient! Do not get discouraged if you do not see the desired results in days or even weeks! Gluten causes damage and it takes time for your body to heal and eliminate the gluten that is still in your system. Some doctors say that it can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to see the full effect of a modified diet. Keep your reasons for going GF in the front of your mind and keep going.

Get connected! No one ever wants to go it alone. Research gluten-free support groups both online and in your community. The best resource you can have is the experience of others. I joined a few different Facebook GF groups and found that it was a great place to ask questions, learn what to avoid and get some delicious recipes!

Do your research, again! The number one advice that we got when we started our journey was to, "READ THE LABELS!" Manufactures can change ingredients or production at anytime without warning. What this means- just because you have determined that it was gluten-free at one point, that does not mean that product is always going to be a safe option. If you have a question- contact the company!

Switch it up! You can go gluten-free without breaking the bank. You can buy GF pastas, cookies, crackers, pizza and tons of other pre-packaged products. This can and will get costly. Instead, replace certain items with NATURALLY GF choices. For example, instead of buying a expensive box of GF crackers for snacks- grab an apple, dried fruit or popcorn! 

Be proud to be gluten-free! Eating a restricted diet is both a challenging and rewarding journey. Be proud that you are trying something new and be proud of the choices that you are making for your health!


The Puzzled Palate has a collection of GF RESOURCES to get you started!



Save your tummy and your wallet! Click here for 3 tips to save on GF groceries!



Do you have any advice for GF newbies? Have you ever considered going GF?

October 10, 2014

Why I am afraid of technology.


Being a parent is scary. As the proud mom of two small children, I worry about everything. Am I feeding them the right foods? Am I teaching them the right way to interact with others? Are they meeting all of their physical milestones? I can only protect them so much, before I turn into one of those crazy moms that refuses to let their kids try new things for fear of them getting hurt. As much as I would like to, at some point, I can't hold their hands through every experience they will ever have.

WebSafety App Review- @WebSafetyInc


This post was sponsored by the wonderful team at WebSafety, Inc. We were also provided with a free trial for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own and 100% honest.


The WebSafety app is a comprehensive tool for parents to monitor their children's activity on their handheld devices. Currently, the app is available for installation on Android devices through Google Play with the highly anticipated iOS version to be released in the next few months. 

From my personal experience with the app, I feel that this would be a great program for parents with children that are new to the responsibility that comes with the power of smartphones. The creators and developers of the WebSafety app do not intend this to be a way to spy on your child. Instead, they offer it as a way to keep up with your kids and to spark discussion based on what they are talking about on social media, in their text messaging and web searches. 

The WebSafety app has 7 main features that are all summarized on an easy to navigate dashboard. I think the best way to break down my review is by each feature. So... here we go!



October 9, 2014

Meal planning is overrated- try eMeals for FREE!



I know that my readers love freebies and I found an awesome one for you! If you are a loyal reader or a Puzzled Palate Facebook fan, I am sure that you have read about my love of eMeals. Nothing is better than someone else making your meal plan and grocery shopping list for you- except for a FREE TRIAL of their service!
The number one reason that I love eMeals? How about the tons of different healthy meal plans they offer. You can choose from gluten free, paleo, low sodium, quick meals and many more. To top it off, you are never stuck with one plan forever- they actually allow you to switch up your plan! 

If you love eMeals, which I know that you will, you can enjoy your choice of over 60 meal plan options including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't worry- the free trial is a no strings attached deal and once the trial is over, the plans are more than affordable. 
To start your free trial, simply click here.

Happy *freebie* to you!



Have you tried eMeals yet?

October 7, 2014

Starbucks Giveaway $145 #Starbucks



It is starting to get chilly out there! Why not grab a hot cup of cocoa? 
If you win, you could have Starbucks once a day for almost 1/2 of the year!

October 6, 2014

How to be allergy-friendly on Halloween *Free Printable


Halloween is a such a fun holiday for kiddos! However, the parents of kids with food allergies really have to up their guard! Obviously, it is ultimately the parents' job to sort through what their kids can and cannot eat. So, why should you continue to read if you don't have a kid with a food allergy? Simply put, you don't want to be the house that hands out a side of anaphylactic shock with those fun size candy bars! 

Gluten Free Halloween: Sweet and Savory Treats #Halloween



M helped me pick out our favorite gluten-free recipes for Halloween! I am so excited that gluten free foods are increasing in popularity and the recipes are getting yummier by the day! We chose both sweet and savory recipes for you to try for your ghouls and goblins. Enjoy!

October 3, 2014

The day that M took "nothing" in for show and tell. #momfail?

Every Thursday, M comes home with an empty paper bag and has to bring in one object from the house that starts with the letter of the week. This week the letter was "A." Easy enough, right? False. 

I swear we had nothing in our house that started with the letter A that would fit in a paper lunch bag. M started naming off things; apple, apricot, animal, aardvark... Since we were fresh out of aardvarks, the hubby and I started looking around the house trying to find anything that would work. 

I was looking around the kitchen and came up with... animal crackers! M was not impressed. She said that her friends would not like them. The search resumed. I started going through the cabinets... and in that desperate glorious moment I came up with nothing. Really, nothing. It was brilliant! I grabbed a small tupperware container and ran to M's room.

I showed her the container and took the lid off. "Do you know what is in here? It starts with an A!" I could hear my hubby's snickers of disapproval starting. I told her that there was AIR in the container- and she totally liked my idea! I am not going to lie- I was pretty proud of myself. The next five minutes were spent watching my hubby resume the search for "something better than nothing."



Since it was way past M's bedtime at this point, the search was called off. (You can also read that last sentence as, "Mommy won!") I double checked that she wanted to take "air" in for show and tell. Not only did she confirm the decision, she told her daddy that he needed to like "her air."



After we tucked her in bed, the hubby told me that it will look like we just "mailed it in" with a last minute show and tell hail Mary. I TOTALLY disagree! I told him that I was proud of my inspired contribution. 

When I told her teachers about it this morning, they thought that it was a great idea! I hope that show and tell goes well and that her classmates think that "her air" is as cool as we, minus my hubby, think it is.

Who do you agree with? Was this a #momwin or a #momfail? 

October 1, 2014

Send Me Gluten Free Box Review and Coupon @FindMeGF #SMGFBox




Have you noticed the recent influx of subscription box options? The monthly mail order box market has blown up in the recent months with tons of options- clothing, cosmetics, eco-friendly products and more! You name it, it can be sent to you each month in a box! If I had to choose what would be shipped to my door, it would be new gluten-free products! When I heard rumors that Find Me Gluten Free was launching a box program, I was super excited. When they contacted me about reviewing a box on The Puzzled Palate- I was thrilled! 

Since we started purchasing gluten-free products, we have wasted a ton of money on sub-par junk. I found myself wishing that I could just try something before committing to a full purchase! Send Me Gluten Free gives us that opportunity! The boxes include samples from companies that are eager to have you sample their wares. If we don't like one of the samples- no biggie! At least we don't have yet another bottle or box of something that we won't eat!


M was thrilled to come home and find our bright orange Send Me Gluten Free box! She barely gave me a second to get the camera before she started going through it! 

Here is a list of what we received this month:
S= Sample Size C= Coupon F= Full Size
Organic Black Bean Spaghetti- Explore Asian *F
Tamari GF Soy Sauce- San J *S/C for 55¢ off
Better Off Red Tea- Now Real Tea *S
Dr. Praeger's Sensibile Foods (Frozen Foods)- Dr. Praeger's *C for full product
Orchard and Garden Blend Chews- Juice Plus+ *S
Rallye Balm- Red Apple Lipstick *S/C for 30% off order
Delight Gluten Free Magazine *C for free issue
Dandelion Dark Roast Herbal Coffee- Teeccino Cafe *S/C for 50¢ off
Surf Sweets Gummy Snacks- TruSweets *S
TeeChia Sustained Energy Cereal- Teeccino Cafe *S
Raw Rev Bar- Raw Revolution *S/C for 50¢ off
Organic Brownie Mix- Sevierly Good Gluten Free *F
*one of our favorite GF companies!


So...what do I think? I think that the Send Me Gluten Free box offers a wide variety of product samples for a reasonable price. I did like that they included two full sized products. (I can't wait to try the brownie mix!) Next time, I hope that the box includes larger samples. I am not trying to be greedy- but it is difficult to share one tiny sample with four taste testers! I do like that coupons were included for products that are too large for the box or that need refrigeration. 

I would recommend the Send Me Gluten Free box to anyone who is on a GF diet or thinking about going GF. I think that it is a great way to try new things that you might not pick out for yourself. Also, who doesn't like coming home to a fun box of goodies?

If you are interested in ordering your own box, visit Send Me Gluten Free's website and use the code WELCOME20 to get 20% off any subscription!

Send Me Gluten Free: Gluten Free Subscription Box


We can't wait for our next box!



Have you ever signed up for a mail subscription box?

September 30, 2014

The day that I met my daughter...again.


In 2009, I was thrilled to become a mommy. M came into this world after 23 and 1/2 hours of labor. I was exhausted and delirious from a full day of no sleep and constant contractions. But something amazing happens the moment your child is born, everything else just stops. The first time I heard her little bitty cry, my heart was overwhelmed with joy. The nurse handed her to me and I just melted. She was mine- lopsided nose and all! No worries- her nose straightened out after a few days!

When our journey first began...

As I sat there holding my first born, I knew that I was changed forever. I looked to my husband and knew that he felt the same way. She was still screaming and her eyes were struggling to adjust to her new surroundings. To try to calm her, I spoke the first words out of the millions of words that I would ever utter to my daughter, "Don't worry. I am scared too." It was a truth that I did not even realize myself until it came out of my mouth. I could not have imagined a more perfect thing to say. It was her first time being a baby and it was our first time being parents. We were in this together- the three of us!


As the years flew by, we watched M grow into a beautiful, funny and intelligent little girl. She had her challenges, but for the most part, she was a fairly "easy" child. Around the age of 3, I started noticing that those beautiful eyes, that looked so terrified the day I met her, hardly ever met mine. She was listening, but struggled to make eye contact. A year later, after noticing many other signs that also suggested that she was just a bit different than other kids, she was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism also known as Aspergers. She was still our daughter and we refused to mourn just because of some diagnosis. 



We used the label of "Aspergers" to research ways to assist M. One of the things that came up was a gluten free diet. I brought it to the table once and we pushed it aside. A few months later, one of my husband's co-workers mentioned that their son had made tremendous strides with a GF diet. We finally decided that it would be worth a shot and worst case scenario, we would go back to eating wheat. During our research, we came across the fact that a gluten free diet is not an instant fix. Some doctors say that it can take up to a year to see the full effects of eliminating gluten. As you can imagine, we were thrilled to notice improvements within a month! People can claim that a gluten free diet is all placebo- but you try telling that to my 5 year old who has no idea that was ever any issue in the first place. Her meltdowns almost disappeared, her toe walking decreased and she was more social.


One night after dinner, I was doing the dishes and M came to ask me a question. I will admit that after a year of not getting eye contact from someone, you assume that it is just normal to not attempt it. I was ready to listen, but kept my eyes on the dishes. M started talking and then stopped abruptly. After a brief moment of silence, she said "Mommy, will you please look at me?" That is when I literally dropped what I was doing- I almost broke the plate I was washing. With tears in my eyes, I responded with, "Yes! I will!" As I looked down to my side, I was stunned to see the most beautiful eyes that I have ever seen in my life. She was looking into my eyes and I felt the same feeling of joy that I had the day she was born. I got down to her level and got lost in her beautiful brown eyes. I could not tell you what she was talking about- I was too busy falling in love again.




 I am thrilled that we are getting to know M all over again- I only wish that we had made the change sooner. She is still autistic. She still learns, plays, reacts and communicates a bit differently than other kids her age. If nothing else, we removed part of the fog that she was trapped in making it easier to help her with the next challenge.


So, is it worth it to go gluten free? Yes, a million times yes! For any parents out there on the fence about trying something to help your kid in any way, get off the fence. Going gluten free is not an instant miracle fix and it won't work the same for everyone. Be sure to do your own research before you make any changes to your child's diet or routine.


5 1/2 years later... our journey starts again!