Monday, November 28, 2011

Sundial – A Book Review and Interview

Usually when I talk books on this blog I am reviewing cookbooks – specifically gluten-free or allergen-free cookbooks – but when I heard that Carolyn Fruzzetti and Meghan Pearsall had written a young adult novel with a heroine who has food allergies I was intrigued.

While noone in my household fits the young adult genre at this stage, I am a big fan of suspense novels and Sundialdoesn’t disappoint. It’s a fast-paced thriller with some teenage drama thrown in along the way. And – despite being filled with espionage and serious subject matter – it’s “clean” and totally appropriate for young readers. This is definitely one I would recommend considering for your gift list!

I interviewed Carolyn and Meghan, and here’s what they had to say:

Colette: The first part of the book is primarily about what I would call normal teenage stuff – school, sports, boys, parties – and we get just a glimpse of what makes Whitney so special. The second half is full of some very heavy topics including cold war, terrorism, nuclear war, and corrupt government agencies. Why those topics?

Carolyn and Meghan: We researched what worked as compelling young adult fiction and used that as our foundation. Since Sundialis the first book in a series, character development and relationship building at the onset was critical. Granted, not everyone is from the wealthy Washington, D.C. suburbs but the characters have the same basic issues as most teens – school sports, friends, dating and parties. We wanted teens to be able to identify with these characters on a basic level and entice them with clues that much more is about to happen because in Sundial nothing is exactly as it appears.

As the characters expand their horizons about themselves and the world at large, the plot does the same: it evolves from a privileged high school world to a darker and more complicated world. The nuclear meltdown, terrorism and corrupt government agencies were relevant in 1988 and are still relevant today. The teen readers of today are our future. This book is full of complex and higher concepts because we believe teens want intelligent material and this book provokes thought and discussion on several issues.

Colette: I love that the hero in the story is a female. We have too few stories with females who save the day. Can you tell us more about how you developed the Whitney character?

Carolyn and Meghan: The simplest answer to that is Whitney is a character I would want as my friend. She is able to save the day because of her qualities as a person and the skills she develops within herself. Her competency is not from a wand or superpower – she earns it.

We also did not want her look to someone else to “save” her. We can all self-rescue and each person is responsible for his/her personal safety. Whitney has a plan for herself and her life. She is our idea of a real heroine and someone we thought teen girls could use as a role model.

Colette: When I first learned of this book it was the connection to food allergies that intrigued me. I was surprised at barely a mention of food allergies until the last third of the book, but as it turns out the food allergies are a strength that comes in handy for the lead characters. I found that so interesting because my food-allergic son talks about his immune system as being highly evolved – exactly the way you position it in the book. What triggered that idea for you?

Carolyn and Meghan: For us, it was important for food allergy to be a pivotal part of the plot but not to use it to define the characters. Instead, we defined our characters by their actions, dialogue and choices. Reid makes several mistakes concerning his food allergy like real teens do in real life and then has to correct his actions. These create teachable moments without lecturing or boring our teen audience because we know they are smart enough to learn from it. Better to have a “friend” in a book make a mistake that you learn from than to learn the hard way and do it to yourself! Several teens in food allergy support groups we have spoken to agree that this resonates with them more than other forms of communication. This is good because currently the age group of 12-21 has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest reaction fatality rate. It is our hope that Sundial will make a difference in those dire statistics and it will become an obvious tool to help educate and empower those with food allergy.

We would also like to point out that keeping food allergy as a strength to save the world makes the plot interesting and acceptable to ALL teens. One of our goals is to raise food allergy awareness and to do that we need to reach not only food allergic teens but their friends. So far, non-food allergic teens love it just as much as food allergic teens. That is our version of REAL success – achieving awareness to an entire peer group!

Meghan’s daughter has a life-threatening peanut allergy and as she considered the skills food allergy parents must try and instill in their children, she realized they are actually the same skills the military teaches their special forces: situational awareness, preparedness, communication, mental toughness, vigilance, risk assessment, etc. They are the ultimate survivor skills. This idea merged with the thought that perhaps food allergy is an evolution (not a detriment). It has been a fun and empowering premise and we hope it reshapes the media image of those with food allergy. As a food allergy parent, this is the kind of book she would want her high school daughter to read so she wrote it.

Colette: I found the book very easy to read and fast-paced. While it starts out like your run-of-the-mill teen romance novel, it’s really a suspense thriller. I liked that you didn’t get too explicit with the romantic scenes, and I loved the way the story line played out. That said, I was a little disappointed in the ending – I like to have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed when a novel ends. Clearly this ending is in anticipation of the next novel in the series. Can you give us any hints on what’s to come?

Carolyn and Meghan: Thank you! Sundialis designed to be accessible to everyone so it is free of profanity or explicit adult content. We wanted it to be edgy and exciting but not inappropriate in any way. Yes, the tension and suspense of the romance and action make for quite a thrilling cliffhanger! Hopefully, we won’t leave you hanging for too much longer as the sequel is almost half-finished and the entire plot is sketched out.

In book two, Whitney and Reid have even bigger obstacles to face and a rockier ride. On the food allergy front, readers will learn more of what actually happens before Whitney is hospitalized in Sundial, how to consider food and drink at high school parties and how to be properly prepared ahead of time when traveling outside the country with food allergies (to name a few). There are so many food allergy issues we wanted to subtly weave into the plot that we knew this had to be a series!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lots of Winners!

First, I must thank all of you for supporting this blog, and for helping to vote me into the Top 25 Food Allergy Blogs at Circle of Moms. I consider myself very lucky to be within the top 10, and very grateful for everyone’s support. I am in exceedingly good company with some truly awesome bloggers. Be sure to check out the whole list!

Next, onto the Pamela’s Products giveaway. The two winners (chosen at random) are:


Oh! Lucky winners, you are going to love this prize!! I have e-mailed each of you. Please send me with your mailing address no later than Friday, November 25th.

And (yup, I'm not done giving way stuff) – if anyone is interested, I still have one coupon for a free Goodbelly product to be given away. The first person to e-mail me here with their address gets it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

GoodBelly Probiotic Juice Drink Giveaway

A while back, the great folks at GoodBelly sent me some coupons to try their probiotic juice drinks. Alas, after scrutinizing the ingredients label I determined that they weren’t for me, and left the store without buying the product.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I still have these coupons, and would love for someone to be able to use them before they expire at the end of this year.

The GoodBelly products are dairy-free, soy-free, organic, and vegan. They are also wheat-free but not gluten-free. They do contain barley and oats.

So – for those of you are not allergic to wheat or gluten, and want to try what looks to be a fantastic probiotic drink, I am giving away one coupon each to the first three responders who e-mail me here. Each coupon is good for one free GoodBelly product. Please include your mailing address.

Also, don't forget to enter to win a gift package from Pamela's Products including their new Whenever Bars. That contest ends tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pamela’s Products Whenever Bars – A Giveaway

I just love giveaways, don’t you? And this one is just in time for the holidays. Even if you’re not traveling far you may need some snacks to throw in your bag for those shopping trips to the mall – which makes this giveaway just perfect.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a review on Pamela’s Products new Whenever Bars. The short story is I love them! And now you can enter for a chance to try them too. Two lucky winners (in the US) will receive a package from Pamela’s Products with one box of each of the four new bars (five bars to a box) and one bag of Pamela’s Products baking and pancake mix.

Here’s what you need to know about the products:

The bars are gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. They do contain tree nuts and eggs. The oat chocolate chip coconut carries a warning for traces of milk due to the chocolate chunks.

The baking and pancake mix is gluten-free, soy-free, and egg-free. The mix calls for eggs to be added, but I find Ener-G egg replacer to work quite well as a replacement. This mix contains tree nuts and milk.

Whew – with all of that out of the way, let me tell you the rules to enter. Simply leave a comment below letting me know which of the bar flavors you are most interested in trying. The four flavors are:

Oat Raisin Walnut Spice
Oat Cranberry Almond
Oat Blueberry Lemon (my favorite!)
Oat Chocolate Chip Coconut

But don’t worry, if you win you’ll get to try them all – and, like me, you may be surprised which you like the best!

For a chance at a second entry, tweet this blog post and come back and leave a comment that you did.

The contest runs until Saturday, November 19th until midnight. Two lucky winners will be chosen randomly and announced on Monday, November 21st. Please check back to see if you have won. If you win I will need to communicate with you via e-mail to get your mailing address.

The fine print: Winners must be in the US. Each participant can only win once. If I can’t reach you by Friday November 25th, I will pick an alternate winner.

Good luck! and thank you to Pamela's Products!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

End of Harvest Stew

While the power was out last week I kept thinking about the veggies I had in the fridge from the farm – and about how nice it would be to have the crock pot running all day in anticipation of a nice warm stew. I just love using the crock pot on chilly days.

Last week was the final pickup of CSA shares for the season, with limited selection (due to the snow), so I decided to make a potpourri stew – with whatever I had. It’s a little bit like throwing all the leftovers into a casserole dish – but a crock pot version.

Here’s what I used:

1 leek
½ garlic head
About 3 cups of brussel sprout greens
1 butternut squash
4 small potatoes
6 small carrots

I peeled and chopped it all up and added 3 cups of Pacific Foods chicken broth, 2 tsp Cajun seasoning, some salt and pepper, and 3 basil leaves. Then I set the crock pot on low and let it sit, stirring every hour or so, and filling the house with a great aroma. Something about those brussel sprout greens… they really add a unique taste to this dish.


What are you throwing together in your crock pot this week?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Do You Need Some Allergen-Free Holiday Solutions?

This is the time of year that we are all stressing out about the big holiday meals. Do you need some simple allergen-free solutions? I put together The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook (with ten simple allergen-free recipes) so that families with food restrictions could have a stress-free meal. All of the recipes are free of the top eight food allergens and gluten.

For one month only (until December 4th) I am offering The Allergen-Free Holiday Cookbook for free on Smashwords. Simply use coupon code GM63U at checkout for 100% off. If you didn't download it last year, this is the time to pick it up!

And don't forget, there are still seven days left to vote for your favorite food allergy blog. Click on the Circle of Moms icon to the right, and scroll down to vote.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pamela’s Whenever Bars, A Great Travel Staple

Oh no, I'm waaaay behind. What with being away for the weekend and then being without power and internet for a few days, I haven't been able to hype my blog for the Circle of Moms best food allergy blogs. See that circle in the upper right? Please click on it and vote!

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming:

For the past few weeks I’ve been on the road on the weekends, watching my son play water polo. I hope you get a chance to watch a water polo match sometime – it’s a fascinating game!

But this weekend we managed to get ourselves caught in the storm that hit the Northeast. I was in Boston Saturday night when the storm arrived, then traveling back to the Hudson Valley on Sunday.

The folks at Pamela’s Products had sent me samples of their new Whenever Bars to review, so I brought some along for the trip, and I was very happy that I did. I tried the Oat Blueberry Lemon for breakfast and had the Oat Cranberry Almond for a snack.

We managed to make it home safely, but instead of a warm home we were without power for a couple of days. What to eat? Oat Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars to the rescue!

These bars are aptly named – they work for breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert, whenever. I love the oat base, as oats are a favorite of mine. And of course, these oats are gluten-free. Not quite a cookie and not quite a granola bar, whenever bars are a happy medium. They have the texture of a soft oatmeal cookie with all the goodness of a granola bar.

A note of caution – the bars are gluten-free and dairy-free, but they do contain nuts and eggs. Those allergic to milk may want to avoid the Oat Chocolate Chip Coconut due to the dairy warning on that product. They do also contain soy lecithin (often not a problem for the soy-allergic).

The bars are sweetened with agave and coconut sugar, and they range from 170 to 190 calories per bar. They come five bars to a package; at $4.99 per box that’s about one dollar per bar.

While they aren’t appropriate for my son due to the egg, they work quite nicely for me (with wheat and soy allergies). My favorite is the Oat Blueberry Lemon (pictured above). These are my new take-along-in-case I can’t anything appropriate to eat while on the road staple. Have you tried them yet? What do you think?