hi! We're the Gluten Free Fest girls!
Hi! Welcome to the Gluten Free Fest blog!! We are so excited you are joining us today!
Since starting The Event Planners and organizing the KW Gluten Free Fest, we’ve gained some new followers and thought it was time to introduce ourselves.
We are Sara and Liz! Two girls who thought it would be amazing to follow our passion of planning and hosting events after consuming a couple glasses of wine. After coming up with a gazillion ideas (I’m not exaggerating) a couple stuck with us days later.
It was in the Spring of 2019 and I (Sara) had purchased a ticket to attend the Gluten Free Garage event in Toronto. I had planned to check out new products and knew I was going to walk away with a bag full of goodies that I hoped made it home before devouring them in the car. For those of you that are shaking your head, cause you know you do the same thing…here’s a tip….put the bag in the trunk! I spent the day meeting others, sampled products and listened to never-ending phrases….”I haven’t had these in years”, “are you sure this is gluten free”. My heart was full!! I was in a safe place surrounded by people I didn’t even know, but who understood everything!!
I (Sara) was diagnosed with celiac disease 9 years ago. I was sick for years, but my general practitioner couldn’t explain my symptoms. I was always tired, my B12 was low, my sight changed every 6 months or so and I would shit my pants on a regular basis. She ended up putting me on a gluten free and low glycemic diet, gave me a one-page sheet of products I couldn’t consume and told me to look it up on the internet. Yep, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!!
I followed the diet for months, ate like a bird, consumed so much meat, but was still experiencing symptoms. After an unexpected surgery, a general surgeon took me under his wing. He did several tests and then referred me to a gastroenterologist. Oh I forgot to mention that it was the same gastroenterologist that had diagnosed me with IBS years prior. Back then, he prescribed me pills, which I discontinued several weeks later, because they made me feel worse.
I remember sitting in his office…well we have two options. 1) we can do a blood test 2) I can preform a scope. He suggested that we skip the blood work and jump straight to the scope as we would have to go that route anyway if the blood work came back negative. Oh, there was a catch!! I needed to consume gluten for three months before he could preform the procedure. It was the WORST three months….good thing my office was close to the washroom!
Immediately following the scope, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. There was a bit of an adjustment after receiving the diagnosis, but because I had already been consuming gluten free meals, I wasn’t overwhelmed as others might be. I did a lot of research on ingredients and was, for the first time that girl in the grocery store reading labels. A year prior, I would whisper under my breath to the person in the grocery store, you know you want it, just put it in your cart. Now I understood!!
My family jumped on board, were super supportive and started experimenting with gluten free products. My mom and sister have the cooking and baking genes in our family. Although they don’t have dedicated kitchens, they are aware of cross contamination and ALWAYS make sure I have enough to eat. There is that one time (just a couple years ago) when my mom asked if I wanted ‘regular’ toast with breakfast. Everyone kind of looked at her funny before she clued into what she had asked. It’s now a regular joke during family gatherings.
We moved to Muskoka and I quickly learned how to navigate new grocery stores (I hope I’m not the only one who hates going into unfamiliar stores. You don’t know where anything is and must search for the products you’re looking for). I had favourite restaurants (who I drilled with questions prior to ordering) and knew what I was going to order before stepping through their doors.
Year after year, more gluten free options emerged, and dedicated facilities were becoming a thing. I heard stories of the struggles individuals who were newly diagnosed had and started a Facebook support page called Gluten Free Muskoka. I highlighted local restaurants who were educated on celiac disease, posted sales and sometime (remember I’m not the best cook) posted meals or baked goods. I am not a doctor or an expert, but from time to time would take individuals on grocery store tours, educating them on ingredients to avoid and even created weekly meal plans, easing their anxiety about the disease and lack of options.
After my first son was born, at 32 weeks we moved to the Kitchener Waterloo area to be closer to my family. Again, I navigated grocery stores and researched ‘going out’ options for date nights. There were so many options to explore and we settled in quickly.
Now let’s take you back to the evening when Liz and I got together to have a mom’s night out…
Liz and I had worked together for several years planning and implementing events in our local community. Liz works in local government and so did I. We knew all the in’s and outs, were passionate about event planning, but until that night didn’t know it could become a reality.
Liz - ”you’re going where?”, “why are you travelling to Toronto for a show?”
Me - “Well its something we, as most celiacs do. We travel for food! If you like a product you get in your car and you go, get it!”
Liz – “Isn’t there options around the Region of Waterloo?”
Me – “Of course, there’s TONS!! But checking out new products in a new city is pretty amazing too!!”
Just then, fireworks exploded!!! Why not plan a gluten free event right here in the KW area, showcasing LOCAL gluten free businesses.
Since then, Liz has supported me along my journey, which I know is with me for life! She’s always searching out new products, researching ingredients and puts up with my many outrageous ideas.
We learned a lot from our first Gluten Free Fest and are excited about the endless opportunities! We are grateful for relationships we’ve made with not only with local businesses but with entire the celiac community. We believe in supporting local! We believe in supporting the celiac community with meet and greets and workshops. You are not alone; we are in this together!!
We encourage you to tell your story and to reach out to us if you need support!! If you have ideas (which we love) feel free to connect with us at any time.
xoxo Sara & Liz