Tag Archives: Coeliac disease

A long winter

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Out and About

Eastern WA

We ran away this weekend.   It was very long overdue.  Winter is hard here for us with the very limited light (although I easily admit that since it has been “very dry” in Western Washington terms, I’ve enjoyed it more).  This winter has been worse.  

In December a colleague of mine – my age, married with three kids (6th grade and 3rd) – was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer just before Christmas Break.  It blew my mind.  As someone who is well-connected in our community through his coaching, teaching, university studies, growing up nearby, etc – the hundreds – and literally thousands of people who have come forward to offer support for he and his family is amazing.  There are little pieces we all contribute – mostly watching over the hundreds of students at school who have had – and are having – a very difficult time with this.  My friends at work – his coaching buddies for years through baseball and football – are complete wrecks.   

And then another colleague (my age) committed suicide on the last day of February.  

I have been speechless and riddled with anxiety, grief, tears, and funny memories of my very sassy friend who killed himself and well… speechless.  

He leaves behind two boys (one 6th grader, and the other in elementary school) who adored him.  He was an excellent father.  A hilarious, passionate colleague – and beyond that – a troubled soul who struggled his whole life with depression.

And then winter dragged on.  The rain came back.  The clocks all changed.  And the stress of the year began to eat at me.

Frequently, my little band of 3 and I find ourselves on day trips or weekend “adventures”.  In the winter, with work, these “adventures” can be as exciting as filling the freezer by stocking up at Costco.  Yes, we are that exciting.   This March, even the simple pleasures of watching a movie together could not ease the pains of loss.  We thought about traveling for a few days to get away to places we have enjoyed in the past… but you know what?

I just didn’t want to work that hard.

I didn’t want to have to research/look-up everything, call restaurants, plan our adventures by a map with not only gluten-free but kid-friendly options nearby.    I just didn’t.  I don’t mind that traveling may not only sometimes be a bit more costly (because swinging through the random coffee shop or sandwich shop will not always produce a gluten-free option at a low-cost).    That’s just the name of the game.

But this time around, I really just wanted to relax.  With my kids.  And no cell phones, televisions, pesky to-do lists, mail to sort, email to answer, etc  And I certainly didn’t want to spend my vacation time with my nose in my cell phone trying to find a gluten-free option for dinner as we strolled through our afternoon.  (Hey…it’s been known to happen when we just get in the car and go!)


God's Eyes


I remember this little mountain retreat place that I had been to 8 years ago.  It is a renovated mountain camp – much like one you may have been to as a kid – but with updated furnishings, towel warmers in the bathroom, trails between “cabins” (duplex cabin-esque units) and random Chihuly blown glass art sculptures.  Oh yes, and an outdoor bar with its own waterfall.  It definitely feels like someone who wanted to go “camping” but well… not really.  


In other words, it sounded perfect.  We could unplug.  We could explore.  The kids could be outside.  And the weather was 68-72F during the day with sunshine and a 32F cold (perfect for sleeping) at night.  My kind of place. 😀

The best part?  I didn’t have to even think about dinner nor brunch.  Once we made our reservations, I let them know that I had Celiac and would need a gluten-free meal option.

HA!  An option!  The restaurant (on site) was a gluten-free haven.  Oh – and the majority of the food served was locally grown.   It was great – for every meal (buffet style) we ate there, I could eat all entrée mains (except one each meal), they had fresh gluten-free bread options for the asking, gluten-free dessert options (gf chocolate cake, white chocolate creme brulee, etc), all gluten-free salad dressings, all gluten-free salad options separated from the non-gf items in the salad bar, etc.  Honestly.  There was too much food.  (Don’t worry, we survived that disappointment…LOL)

In fact, there was so much available to me that I couldn’t help but find myself mystified why the two entrees (two different meals) that I could NOT eat were NOT made gluten-free as well. It would have been so easy to do.  (For the record, it was a pork rack roast and the next day, a ham.)  I mean really.  Could they not use tamari?

AND FINALLY, my Love and I laughed.  

Seriously – how many times have we traveled together when the only safe option for me were some plain leafy greens or something less than joyful for a food-lover like me?  And here I was, in a buffet-style restaurant with so many gluten-free options that my brain focused on what I could NOT have?!

We began to discuss how often in life we condition ourselves to see that we are trained to see.  In work.  With kids.  With each other.  With my Celiac Disease.  Surrounded by the food that the servers/chefs could easily answer the gluten-free question for me and there I was, stuck on that stinking rack roast.  

And there I have been all March.  Stuck on the loss of my colleague and the impending loss of another.

Walk OnEveryday my little people and I sing loudly (and out of tune) together in the car.  They always request their favorites.  I rarely am one to quote song lyrics, but their latest song has caught my mind.  The song is called “Carry On” by the group FUN.  The lyrics (in part) say this:

…If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on…

I’m sure I will have my damn-it, it’s not-gluten-free moments again.

I know I will continue to grieve the loss of my friends.

And I also know that the sun will shine, my kids will keep laughing, and we will all carry on.  There are many worse things in this world that having to avoid gluten.  I have never thought it was the end of my world.  I guess I just forgot to look up at the path ahead of me sometimes to see those little feet marching on.  So please forgive my latest absence.  I’ve been busy bringing my soul back from the depths of grief and setting my eyes on those little feet in the picture.

May your Spring be bringing you out of a dark winter with Love as well – 




Another salad? Ho Hum … I wanna be done

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Another GF Salad Lunch

Another GF Salad Lunch

Okay – so just a word of warning:  this blog post is definitely a whoa-is-me whining post.  So feel free to move on if you have never had a day like I’ve been having lately.

I’m done.

I’m done having Celiac Disease.

Are you?

Well, okay. I just wish I were done.  Today is one of those days.  I’m hungry.  More hungry that my salad and pear are going to satisfy.  More hungry than my now longer-than-expected workday is going to handle.  And I hate it.

I hate the daily reaching in to grab some fish crackers for the Littles and wishing I could just as easily grab a snack for myself (crackers, peanut butter toast, etc) that I either didn’t have to make from scratch or would bust the budget.  After all, our grocery money only goes as far as yours and I want us to have as many fresh fruit and veg that it can handle rather than carbs anyway.

Yes, I can and do make crackers, muffins, toast, bread, etc for myself.  It tastes a hell of a lot better than the stuff I can pay for. Really.  And I know exactly what is in it.  Always an added bonus, right?

But this week I am tired.  Final exams were last week (I moaned about the papers/projects I am grading on Facebook) and grades are due i two days.  I’m practically done.  That’s not the problem.  But I’m tired – dog-dead-wrung out tired.  Grading, planning, etc and sticking to my absolute time-for-the-Littles each night to read, bathe, play and laugh together = all of that has worn me out.  Doesn’t matter that I’ve gone to bed earlier than usually (if you count 10PM as earlier – it is… earlier than my normal 11-11:30 when grades are due!).

Does tired make me more resentful of having Celiac Disease or just the minor amount of time required to PLAN and PREPARE for said hunger meltdowns or carb-needs?  Yes.

And this would be why – when people ask – why it is SUCH a pain in the butt to go “grab something” for lunch.  It’s not because it’s not always possible, because yes, I can go grab a bag of GF chips or carrots or whatever from the grocer.  (And no, I can’t run out to get something to eat while teaching.  We have 20 minute long lunch periods during which I eat at my desk and work – see photo above.)  It’s because of simple this:  sometimes it sucks not to be able “just to grab anything” convenient.

Simply that.

And I’m not about to go demand that people feed me correctly or safely.

I’m not about to go whining my way through the GF product chain about the need for better (and cheaper!) crackers or bread.

I’m just going to suck it up today and put on my big-girl pants.

And then tonight I am going to back the biggest batch of pumpkin muffins that ever existed on the planet.  By God, I will.

And I might just eat them all.  Unless these two little stinkers get their hands on them.  They are the reason why the last two batches got demolished in record time too.


Hope you are having a successful and happy GF Day today to help make up for the crab-pants I appear to be wearing.  

PS.  It does not help in the least bit that my next two classes are starting a unit about food in Spanish class. Really.  Today is out to ruin me, I swear.  Or… I might just eat my arm off before I get to the kids for pick up after work today.  That outta be pretty.

10 steps to building a better gluten free life

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There are huge hurdles to overcome when you receive your diagnosis of Celiac Sprue.  But there are great things ahead.  Just hold on tight – it does get easier.  Oh, you will have your moments of rueing the lack of gluten free cafe/sandwich & soup shops or convenience food.  You will feel a hunger-pang followed by a mini-angry pity party when you are no where you can easily access gluten free goodness.  And then, with each of these moments, you will wisen up.  Because yes, it is up to you to figure it out.

Since my diagnosis of Celiac in 2000, I have seen gluten free food explode across the market place.  I am thrilled to be able to find something, some where when I need to.  But more importantly, I’ve found the things I love and buy enough to keep some on hand.

Yes, gluten free living is getting easier.  And I hope that this blog helps some of you find more food to love as well.  If I had to give advice to someone who was starting out … just leaving the doctor’s office and wondering what in the world they were going to do, this is what I would say:

1.  Learn what you can/cannot eat.

Get a list and put it in your pocket.  Seriously.  I carried around a 5 x 8 card (yes, pre-SmartPhone days) and used it as my reference guide.  Nowadays, you can put it on your phone, buy restaurant cards (lamented instructions to share with servers/chefs),etc.  So do whatever… but keep it handy.  You will want it.

If you have Celiac and are strictly gluten free (trust me, there are others with *many* more things they have to avoid that “merely gluten”), then check with these REPUTABLE sources.  I love the Celiac Disease Center in Chicago.  They even have a “Care Package” program for people newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  It’s a GREAT pick-me-up for people who are struggling and/or for people to get their minds wrapped about this diet.  They have a lot to explore on their website.

2.  Learn how to cook – if you don’t know how already.  

And don’t worry about paying anyone money to take a specialty “gluten free cooking” course either.  Baking takes a while to get a handle on, but cooking?  Nope.  Get yourself a basic cookbook and go.  (No need for specialty cookbooks for cooking either, if you ask me.  I love my Joy of Cooking book so much that the binding is trashed.  HOWEVER, keep this in mind:  KNOW what you can/cannot eat.  THAT is what makes all of the difference.  See #1)

3.  Get a buddy.

There are Celiac Disease support groups (online or in person), but they don’t always fit the need.  And depending on how/who is running it, they may not be up on the latest information (and THAT leads to conflicting information…not good for anyone, but especially not good when you are just starting out).  If you are like me, the support group thing doesn’t always fit, so find a buddy.  My buddy is my spouse.  😀  He’s a willing guinea pig and was the first to walk in the house with gluten free cookbooks (Thank you, Bette Hagman – the only books around were hers at the time).

4.  Take some time at the grocery store the next time you shop.  You’re going to need it. 

Your new grocery budget will appreciate you taking the time to figure out the new scheme of things too.  No longer is the center  of the store your budget’s friend.  I wrote about grocery shopping a long time ago.  Maybe it will help you now.  ?

5,  Just because it says “Gluten Free” DOES NOT MEAN ….  And just because it DOESN’T say that it’s Gluten Free DOES NOT MEAN…

…that it is or is not….. or that it tastes good.

Use your cell phone, call the company.  Ask them about their processing, etc.  Go on the web.  Look around.   Better safe than sorry.  BUT – if you make a mistake, don’t kick yourself for it (your body will most likely do that for you).  Just figure out what you did and then try not to repeat that mistake.

6.  Find a local specialty market (or … take road trip, if possible).  

If you are lucky (like me), you might just have one near you.  The owners of these local shops not only are amazing people for finding our niche market and building their business for our needs but they are also MAGNIFICENT resources for been-there-done-that.  Don’t be afraid to ask them which pasta brand they like (because there are many… and they are NOT equal) or which fresh bread, frozen pizza, flour blend, prepared foods, etc are (1) tasty, (2) good deals, (3) worth the time/money, etc.  The owners more likely than not travel to specialty food shows, so they are also IN the know as far as upcoming products, trends, etc.  ASK.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a town with a co-op or organic grocer (Whole Foods, People’s Market, etc…), you will also find knowledgeable people (or a decent stock) too.  Just don’t expect your local grocery stocking crew to necessarily know the gluten-free section well enough to tell you what tastes good and what doesn’t.  (But you might just be surprised, the woman who stocks the “Natural” section at our local Safeway has a brother with Celiac.  She struck up a conversation with me about helping her brother … I loved having a little influence over what got stocked in that section, to be honest.  LOL)

7.  Grab a cup of coffee (or tea… or whatever) and sit down at Barnes and Noble in the cookbook section.

Read the difference authors and the flours they use.  Find a few recipes that are similar and compare them.  Some authors use only starches (like cornstarch) for their “flour base”.  Not only do you have to figure out if you can make what they are proposing, but are you going to like it?  I, for one, am not a fan of cornstarch-based stuff as it leaves a funky aftertaste.  A buddy I know dislikes sorghum (too bitter for her).  Another thinks brown rice is the only way to go.  Whatever.  Figure out what works for YOU, YOUR KITCHEN, YOUR LIFE, YOUR NEEDS, etc.

8.  Want to bake?  Risk it.  Really.

Just don’t do it with 8 million spendy flours.  Start simple.  Don’t kick off your foray into gluten free baking by looking for the loaf of bread you remember from some far-off place in gluten-land.  Start with a flour mix and make some cookies.  Really.  Follow your recipe for cookies from when you were a kid and use a gluten free flour mix (like Gluten Free Mama Almond Flour Blend (not much almond, by the way), or Pamela’s, etc) and add some xanthan gum.  (1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour in a cookie recipe). (GF Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies, anyone?)

Some gluten free recipes seem fairly elaborate.  If you are trying to re-create a croissant in a gluten free version, it will be a long process.  Have you ever made a croissant?  It *is* a long process.  (Here’s my GF Croissant recipe, if you are so inclined.) Now, if you are trying to make a focaccia bread and the flours are going to cost you $35?  Reconsider.  Really.  Well.. unless you have a different grocery budget weekly than I do.

9.  Choose your gluten free path wisely.

The longer some people are gluten free, the crazier the path they tend to follow.  Or so it seems.

I know a few gluten free bloggers who venture into the never-neverland of food from husks or strips of coconut bark or… I don’t know.  But it’s true.  I don’t think I’ve landed on those islands just yet, but truly, I live gluten free because I have to.  NOT because I want to make a career path out of it.  I still bake/cook like I used to – but just differently.  We probably eat quinoa now because I had to go GF, but there’s no saying I wouldn’t have tried it otherwise.  I think it just came into my life a little sooner rather than later.

Find a gluten free blogger or site that seems to echo you/your family’s eating habits.  Then keep reading.

Check out advertsements in gluten free magazines or websites just to familiarize yourself with the wide variety available, but don’t feel the need to “throw the baby out with the bath water” from your family diet.  I am willing to bet you have SOME things in your repetoire that were gluten free to begin with.

10.  Find nutritional balance.

Not all gluten free goods are going to offer you nutritionally sounds whole grains, etc.  PAY ATTENTION.  Most commercial gluten free breads rely heavily on starch (tapioca, potato or corn) for the majority of the “fluff” and “flexibility” of their toastable creations.  This is a far leap from the whole-grain high fiber breads you may have been eating.  You will need to adjust your baking, buying and consuming to give your body what it needs to be healthy again.  It’s more than gluten free, you need to find gluten free AND good for you.   Start here in blog-land.  You will find lots of treasure recipes that use whole grains.  You can analyze recipes on Nutrition Data too.

Most importantly:

You are not alone.

There are millions of Americans with Celiac Disease.  And MANY more who are gluten intolerant.

You will survive and thrive.

Welcome aboard the Gluten Free Train – 
We travel with food. 😀