13
Apr
09

How I Came to Love Social Media

How often can you directly contact the CEO (or any representative for that matter) of a company to ask questions about the brand or products? And how often do you actually get a response? I have posed questions more than a couple times and received prompt, helpful responses to each. I would not have been able to do that without social media communities. This thankfully has helped me find an arborist, gluten-free restaurants, where the nearest coffee shop is, and so much more.

In fact, the more I learn about social media the more I love it. I was apprehensive at first to dive in to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and the variety of other communities out there. I had a lot of questions – Why do I want to communicate with strangers? What’s the value in doing this anyway? And the big one – what am I supposed to say? Being a researcher, I decided I would first check out what other people were saying before diving into the social media ocean.

I immersed myself in white papers, webinars, social media bootcamps, tweetups, and slow experimentation with the variety of tools to use this new media. I figured it made sense to start following the lead of some of the social media gurus out there – I found them on Twitter and Facebook, I went to events where I could speak with local folks, I read their blogs, then I watched and listened to what they did.

After getting my feet wet, moving past the beginning stages and finally diving right in; I have learned some incredible things! There are companies just waiting for you to ask them something. When they aren’t answering questions they are providing the latest and greatest information about their company and products. There are other people maintaining gluten-free diets that share their stories, recipes, and the latest news. There are newspapers that I would never read in print (I know, I already feel guilty about it) that I follow their breaking news to learn about what is happening in the world. I’m truly beginning to find that you can discover most things you’re looking for in social media communities. However, (this is the best part) if you can’t find it – JUST ASK!

Ask and you shall receive is my motto for social media. I feel that it’s the best way to participate in the global conversation that’s happening every minute of every day. But, as with anything in life, you can’t be selfish. You need to listen, participate, and assist in the ways you can too. It’s a mutual relationship with all those “strangers” that you’re interacting with in the world of social media. Even if you’re going outside of social media to “ask” Google a question, turn around and share it with your friends – they could be wondering about the exact same thing.

So I’ve asked and received. I’ve given and listened. Now I can’t imagine life without it! In fact, I expect the products I use to be represented in new social media. I am now expecting to become a Facebook fan of the brands I love, I want to follow them on Twitter, and I want to see them participating. On a personal level, I appreciate the people participating and highly encourage people to do so. It may not be ideal for everyone but it’s certainly not wrong for anyone.

04
Apr
09

Cruising Gluten-free Style on Princess Cruise’s Crown Princess

At the end of February I embarked on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Princess Cruises line with my husband’s family. Being gluten-free I was of course concerned about the food I would be able to eat on the cruise. I was quite satisfied with my experience and since I struggled to find recent gluten-free cruising reviews for Princess I thought I would provide some insight into gluten-free cruising.

When we received our welcome packet it directed us to utilize the online check-in process on the Princess Cruises website. It was simple enough to check in and link your credit card. You also have the option to indicate several preferences, including special dietary requirements. Although you can check off your dietary needs online you will still need to fax the customer services department a request to accommodate your gluten-free diet. Personally I was frustrated with this but, was willing to do what I had to do to enjoy my cruise. I requested confirmation of receipt of my fax from the customer services department, which I promptly received. They informed me that the head waiter should be informed upon my first arrival to the dining room. Also, they indicated which dining rooms would be able to accommodate my diet. Lastly, that there would be gluten-free bread and desserts on board the Crown Princess! Feeling confident, I headed to Ft. Lauderdale!

We stayed the Saturday night before at a hotel in the area and were able to board at about 12:00 on Sunday morning. We didn’t wait in line during check-in, breezed through pictures (even with 10 people), and quickly boarded the ship and found our staterooms. On the first day there is the welcome buffet so that you are able to eat once you’re on board – this was the meal I was dreading. However, I was incredibly surprised to find that the first crew member I asked personally took me through the entire buffet showing me which items were gluten-free and which was not. A decent selection of items that I could eat and was very happy for someone that generally does not like buffets.

We had dinner in the Botticelli dining room at the 7:30 seating each night. The first night I was introduced to the head waiter and he guided me through the night’s menu. He then let me know that he would be bringing me the following day’s menu each night for me to review and the kitchen to prepare safely gluten-free for me. I honestly have no complaints about this process and it was fun to be able to know what we were eating the next day. They made every possible effort to make items that were not gluten-free safe for me. Usually they were great but a few items (soups in particular) failed miserably. That was ok though, I was not for lack of sustenance. The waiters we had were great and even went to a different kitchen to get me a mango crème brulee one night for dessert.

Breakfast was in the main dining room, Da Vinci, every morning. The same head waiter managed this dining room and was wonderful about informing whatever waiters we had that morning of my dietary requirements. They had gluten-free toast for me each morning – some days found the toast more toasted than others did but I think they were being cautious. Breakfast was simple enough to be gluten-free without much effort. For lunch we generally ate in the Da Vinci dining room if we did not eat on shore. For lunches I discussed my diet requirements with whichever waiter we had that day. They usually went back into the kitchen to check with the chef. I was always able to find something I enjoyed and found lunch to be excellent.

My husband and I enjoying our cruise!

My husband and I enjoying our cruise!

Overall I was thoroughly impressed with Princess Cruise’s efforts to accommodate my diet. I ran into another woman who was also gluten-free that expressed the same satisfaction. We both were able to say we had not been “glutenated” that week! Do the work up front and be your own advocate on board to enjoy every minute of your cruise!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m more than happy to help!

TIPS:

  • You can bring one bottle of wine or champagne (size not specified so we did bring a couple larger ones) per person on board. We had absolutely no problem doing this and enjoyed saving a little money for on board beverages. If you want it opened for you at dinner there is a nominal corkage fee.
  • Since you are cruising to different locations and sometimes find yourself on shore perhaps concerned about snacking options, I would recommend bringing something like Larabars along. They are delicious, easy to pack and travel well. Throw a couple in your day pack while you are out exploring so that you don’t feel like you have to head back to ship.
30
Jan
09

Gluten-free Dining (and bakeries and stuff) on Google Maps!

So I need to start getting my blog on here, friends (I guess I say that assuming someone will read this eventually). So I read Mike’s blog on gluten-free bakeries and it reminded me that I need to update my Gluten Free Dining Google Map. I’ve made it public so anyone can use it. Any suggestions are welcome!

Gluten-free Dining Map

12
Jan
09

Just out of curiosity…

12
Jan
09

Hello world, are you ready for something spicy?

Welcome to the very meager beginnings of my blog. Expected highlights include gluten-free commentary/reviews/recipes, random Australian Shepherd antics, piquant thoughts, and naturally all with a bit of spice!

Follow me on Twitter: red5050




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