Play more.

amberrae(Image source: Hey Amber Rae)

This month is all about playing more.

Playing. Being playful. Having fun. Laughing more. Giggling more. Being goofy. Getting my hands dirty. Not taking myself (or life) so seriously. Not working so damn much.

It feels like it’s been so long since any of those things have happened that I don’t even know where to begin. The thought of game night with The Hubster sounded like it would be fun for approximately 10 minutes before we were both ready to go do something else (like sleep).

Where else could I have some fun?

The kitchen. I could try new recipes, get my hands dirty, or make more desserts. Or even take out all of the pots and pans and make a whole lot of noise with The Babe. THAT would be fun.

My wardrobe. I’m a pretty monotone dresser, preferring black, white, gray, and navy over anything with loud or bright colors. BUT, I love to play with jewelry, nail polish, shoes, and makeup. Playing around with those things would definitely be fun.

My daily routine. Turns out I am a creature of habit and am super comfortable doing the same thing at the same exact time every day. This month I want to shake it up. I want to find new things to do, go for more walks, explore the city more. I need to get out of my house and out of my routine.

I feel like those three areas are a great place to start and am excited to see how this month shapes up.

What about you?

Where could you infuse a little more play into your day?

Guest Post: Living with Celiac Disease

Rachel in First Grade

Today’s post comes from Rachel of Last Minute Panic, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog, where I share the story of Propelle and how we got started. 


When I was an elementary school student back in the 1980s, birthdays meant one thing: cupcakes. Every other day it seemed one of my classmates was showing up with trays of the treats—the kind with frosting so crunchy thick with sugar, it stuck to your teeth.

For my peers, this elicited a level of excitement typically reserved only for Christmas morning.

As a child living with celiac disease, it was my own special form of torture.

Not only were the cupcakes off limits, they also sparked great interest among my classmates as to why I wasn’t eating them. What was wrong with me? Who chose to sit there empty-handed when there were glorious treats to be had?

Worse yet was when the parent of the birthday boy or girl knew about my allergy and tried to bring me something “special,” which usually ended up being an apple or, if they were feeling guilty about forgetting me, a decades-old piece of hard tack candy pried off the lining of their purse.

As a painfully shy child, this kind of attention was agony.

Try explaining an autoimmune disorder involving the small intestine’s inability to process a byproduct of wheat to a bunch of eight-year-olds.

Yet as I grew up, I realized explaining it to adults wasn’t much easier. For years, I’d get odd looks when I’d interrogate a waiter about how a certain dish was prepared or when I inspected every ingredient of a new product in the grocery store.

But then, one word changed everything.


Thanks to the fad diet launching a low-carb craze in the early 2000s, suddenly everyone at least pretended to know what gluten was. Studies came out about how it affected health. Daytime talk show hosts extolled the benefits of eliminating it from your diet. Asking about gluten in restaurants was no longer so odd—now it was just annoying for waiters who assumed I was on some get-thin-quick diet rather than living with a serious food intolerance.

But, still. Progress.

Rachel and Libby(Photo Credit:Kristina Serafini)

Now, a decade later, the public dialogue about gluten-free living hasn’t quieted.

Some voices, like my host blogger, are extremely helpful and greatly add to the quality of life for people avoiding gluten and other foods that cause sensitivities. Others are only adding to the noise with misinformation and poorly made products that give the label “gluten-free” a bad rep.

The best thing that’s come from all of this is choices.

Before, people with my disease had to special order rice flour bread from health food stores like GNC for $8 a loaf, and it tasted like the cardboard box is was shipped in. Today, I have four different choices of bread at the grocery store, and none come close to the nastiness the companies used to produce.

I can get everything from gluten-free chicken nuggets to waffles to ice cream cones to ravioli to those cupcakes I coveted so long ago.

I still come across people who ask a lot of questions about my disease.

One guy I know scrutinizes just about every morsel of food I put into my mouth and frequently insinuates that I don’t have a real intolerance but am eating gluten-free simply for the sake of weight loss and vanity. It’s like he can’t believe so many gluten-free options exist.

I can’t believe how lucky I am that they do.

Speaking of products, here are some of my favorites:

liveGfree bread
After years of trying practically every new gluten-free brand of bread I could possibly find, I’ve settled on a favorite. The liveGfree white bread at Aldi has the number one  feature most gluten-free breads lack: it’s soft. It tastes great and works perfectly for my morning toast and daily PB and J sandwich at lunch. liveGfree also makes pretty good pasta. And perhaps the best thing about these products is the price. $3.99 for a loaf of bread and around $1.40 per pack of pasta. That’s unheard of in the gluten-free world.

Sonoma Flatbreads
The most common question I get when I tell people I’m gluten-free is, “So you can’t eat pizza?! NOOO!” But now, thanks to restaurants and even some chain pizza joints dishing out gluten-free versions, I can. When I want to make one at home though, I find Sonoma’s to be best. I like the thin crust and the size of the pie. Gluten-free pizzas tend to be teeny tiny (and pricey) so I’m pleased to have found one that makes a nice dinner and is big enough for leftovers at lunch the next day.

Krusteaz Gluten-Free Fudge Brownie Mix

My parents found this for me at Sam’s Club and now I’m never without a box in my pantry. It’s the best thing to have on hand for unexpected company. Just add water, oil and eggs and a few minutes later, you have a warm chocolately dessert to serve up and your house smells amazing.

Rice Chex
I like the chocolate version, but there are so many to chose from you’re sure to find at least one you like. Growing up, there were only two or three cereals I could eat, and after a few years of them, I was sick of cereal altogether. I honestly didn’t eat it for over a decade. Then Chex came out with its line of gluten-free options and I’m back to a couple bowls a week.

Betty Crocker Cake Mix
Easy to make, yummy to eat. It’s nowhere near as dense as some gluten-free mixes. It’s been my go-to birthday cake mix for years now and also makes great cupcakes.


Rachel is a writer, wife, worrier and wannabe domestic goddess who’s Pittsburgh born and raised and currently navigating life as a new mom. To learn more about Rachel, visit her online at Last Minute Panic.

(CLOSED) Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to the Farm to Table Tasting Event!

Farm to Table Conference 2015

I gave an ironic teaser yesterday about this giveaway.

Now it’s time to reveal the specifics and let you enter up a storm.

I officially have two (2) tickets to giveaway to one (1) lucky winner and the guest of their choice for the Friday Night Tasting of the Farm to Table Conference. Which also happens to be one of my favorite local food events all year.

Farm to Table vending(Image Source: Farm to Table)

Some general details before getting into the giveaway goodies.

This year’s Farm to Table conference is being held on Friday, March 27th + Saturday, March 28th from 10 AM – 5 PM at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

This year’s theme: Cook at Home.

Which, you know, is kind of my thing.

I also happen to be one of the speakers at this year’s conference, with my presentation taking place on Saturday at 1:30pm. I’m talking all about the benefits of menu planning—something I’m super passionate about.

And in case you need another reason to go, the conference (and tasting event) is a fabulous way to rub elbows with local chefs, farmers, food and beverage producers, retailers, CSA organizers, wellness professionals, and dietitians.

FTTTastingCEP(Image: Christina Emilie Photography)

Onto the good stuff… THE GIVEAWAY.

One (1) lucky guy or gal and a guest will have the opportunity to enjoy the Friday Night Food Tasting for free!

You can do any or all of the following to enter. The more you do, the more chances you have to win. Capiche?

  1. Comment on the blog tell me what your favorite meal to make at home is.
  2. Tweet the following (click here to tweet):
    I want to titillate my tastebuds at the @FTT_Pittsburgh Friday Night Tasting » @emilylevenson
  3. Post about it on Facebook, and then link back in the comments.
  4. Instagram it! Make sure to tag me (@emilylevenson) so I see it!
  5. Blog about the event and/or the giveaway, and then link back in the comments.

Giveaway officially ends on March 26th at midnight (ET). Winner announced (and notified) on March 27th.

EDIT: Congrats to Karen D. She is the big winner!!

FTTYoga(Image Source: Farm to Table)

Get your own.

And if you don’t feel like jumping through the aforementioned hoops OR want to get tickets for the entire conference, the food tasting, and the farm fresh breakfast (which I highly encourage you to do all of), you can purchase them here.


It all comes back to the plan…

Irony(Image via)

Want to hear a funny story?

Last week I did two different visibility challenges. One through Amira Alvarez and another that we created through Propelle. They were both great—challenging me to stretch and put myself out there more.

With all that focus on being more visible and putting myself out there, I totally forgot to share about my presentation at the local Farm to Table conference this weekend.


SO. This is me remedying that epic oversight.

I’ll be speaking on Saturday, March 28th at 1:30PM on the topic of menu planning, and how it can help to create a safer, healthier dinner routine.

Which, irony of ironies, is a topic I need to listen to myself.

For the past month we’ve been subsisting on a lot of freezer meals (and not the healthy, well thought out kind either). It’s gotten to the point where The Hubster has asked if there is such a thing as too many (nitrate free) hot dogs.

Based on my father and nephew’s propensity for salami and “tube steaks” and the feedback I’ve gotten from every single mother I’ve polled on the topic, I’m going with … no.

The Babe would also likely say no, as hot dogs (and chicken sausage) are pretty much her favorite food on the planet. So, she’s really not complaining at all. In fact, if she had her druthers, she’d eat them all day everyday.

It just feels like I should be doing so much better in this department.

Because health coach.

And then, serendipitously, I had a glorious three hours to myself (a very rare occurrence) on Saturday afternoon and managed to put a pretty decent menu plan together for us.

Sweet jeebus, has this made all of the difference in the world.

We are eating better. I’m feeling better. And The Babe is eating something besides hot dogs, which makes me feel a hell of a lot less guilty (I know, I know. It was banished.).

Of course, I’m certain that this all came up because I simply needed a reminder as to why menu planning is so helpful, with or without dietary restrictions.

Dammit Universe. Aren’t there better (i.e.—less stressful) ways for me to have figured that out?

The answer to that? A resounding no.

I clearly don’t pay attention until it’s dire most times.

Lesson learned.

PS—Stay tuned for a fun giveaway for tickets to the Friday Night Tasting of the Farm to Table Conference. Details will be posted tomorrow.

Banishing guilt.

"Guilt is to the spirit what pain is to the body." Elder David A Bednar(Image via)

When I thought about my goal for last week of identifying the kind of things that I enjoy or don’t enjoy, I imagined myself putting together a pretty (and organized) little list with one column for “enjoy” and the other column for “don’t enjoy”.


The Big U clearly had other plans for me. And it came in the form of a 7-Day Visibility Challenge through Propelle. Yesterday was Day 3 and all about sharing what you are currently struggling with.

My biggest struggle as of late: GUILT.

I feel guilty about everything. Guilty for not spending all of my time with The Babe. Guilty for not spending more time on my business, blog, or work with Propelle. Guilty for wanting a break. Guilty for taking time for myself. Guilty for not eating better. Guilty for getting angry because I’m exhausted. Guilty for “wasting” a nap and not being productive. Guilty for wanting time away from The Babe when I worked so goddamn hard to bring her into this world. Guilty for being her most favorite person on the planet.

I feel guilty for saying no.

I feel guilty for saying yes.

I feel guilty for changing my mind.

Guilty, guilty, guilty.

And that’s when it hit me.

All of this guilt is robbing me of joy in my life.

When I wrote about my struggle on a post in our Rock It! community, I finally saw it.

And then I got angry and annoyed with myself for the very words that I was writing. If a client had said those things to me, I would have lovingly (and firmly) told her to snap out of it.

So now I’m telling myself those exact words.

Eff the guilt. It’s poisonous and self-defeating. It makes you think it’s guiding you in the right direction and then BAM. It robs you of all the fun in life.

It’s a horrible way to live.

And it’s a horrible example to teach my gorgeous, smart, and observant daughter.

I am making a commitment to myself to banish the guilt.

It is no longer welcome in my life or in my home. It’s time to let go of that shit and start taking back the joy. It’s blocking me from really taking my life and work to the next level. It’s tainting every single one of my relationships. And it’s just plain gotten old.

I’m ready.

Are you?


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