Posts tagged ‘take action’

Two Gluten-Free Parties with GREAT Gals

In July, I had two golden opportunities to celebrate the generosity of personal friends and friends of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).

We all love a party but some of us are really good at throwing one of the biggest parties in town. Meet Chris Auman, a member of the NFCA Team who has worked on our events since the day she walked in the door years ago. Chris has been a huge part of the energy and organizational power behind Appetite for Awareness as this fun-and-food-filled event has grown from an intimate evening in a private home to the festival that we enjoy today.

Right now, Chris is organizing the Marketplace for Appetite for Awareness 2012 being held on September 23rd at the Historic Strawbridge Building at 8th & Markets Streets in Philadelphia. If you want to have loads of gluten-free fun, come on down. Chris will be ready for you.

On July 27th, we held a party of a different kind when we celebrated Chris’ birthday.  Alice Bast, Chris and I headed to Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington where we enjoyed a delicious gluten-free Mexican meal. The gazpacho with watermelon, tomato, cucumber, a house specialty, was a big hit at the birthday table.

What Are Friends For- NFCA's Alice Bast, Nancy Ginter, and Chris Auman

Alice, Chris and me after our delicious gluten-free Mexican meal. That’s Chris on the right.

On Sunday, July 29th, I made my way from my home in Blue Bell, PA to the absolutely fascinating home of Jennifer and Ken Arters in Downingtown, PA. Jen was holding an in-home shopping spree benefiting NFCA. Featuring jewelry from Stella & Dot, along with fabric purses and bags of all kinds from Thirty-One, this trunk show was like Christmas in July, as far as I was concerned. Temptation was everywhere.  Yes, I succumbed!

Jen prepared delicious gluten-free treats from tasty miniature meatballs to fabulous mini red velvet cupcakes. And, yes, I succumbed.

What Are Friends For- Jen Arters

A big thank you to Jen for hosting the party benefiting NFCA!

Jen and Kenny showcased these delightful gifts in their 1850s house lovingly being brought back to its former glory.  Restoration is hard work designed for talented and skilled people with a passion for making things better. Jen and Kenny have an equal passion for raising awareness of celiac disease. All of us at NFCA are grateful for their spirit of volunteerism and their dedication to the celiac cause.  You will see them at Appetite for Awareness – helping out, of course.

What Are Friends For- Celiac Disease Resources

So many celiac resources!

– Nancy

Get tickets to Appetite for Awareness »

August 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

A GREAT Coincidence

GREAT Kitchens logoLast February, I received a random phone call on my NFCA line. It was a mother, Jenny Tierney, who seemed pretty devastated. Her teenage twin daughters had just been diagnosed with celiac disease.  (All of the staff at NFCA answer all kinds of calls from newly diagnosed patients and others in the food industry or healthcare field. It’s a great opportunity to walk them through the resources available at CeliacCentral.org.)

After a review of NFCA’s resources, Jenny felt a bit better and she agreed that she could handle adapting to the gluten-free diet at home and working with the school, but her biggest fear was sending the girls off to camp. The girls had gone every year since they were very young to this amazing camp for most of the summer. The solution was easy.  I shared information about GREAT Schools, Colleges, and Camps and suggested she have the camp contact me.

A month later, I received an email from a college girlfriend Sara, who lives near Kansas City. Sara told me about her neighbor, Kathy Dix. Kathy and Sara had been chatting, and the topic of gluten-free foods came up. Sara is always telling people about her gluten-free college pal and my job with NFCA.  She thinks it’s amazing how 20 years ago when I was diagnosed with celiac disease, it was considered a rare disease and food availability was scarce. Over the years, Sara has referred me to anyone interested in anything about gluten-free. She also cuts out articles related to celiac disease and gluten-free from newspapers and magazines and sends them with a note saying, “Reminded me of you,” or “Hey isn’t this cool?” or “Wow, this gluten-free stuff is everywhere.”  Gotta love her for it.

Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe

The camp sure looks like fun!
Photo credit: Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe Facebook page

Well, it just so happens that Kathy needed gluten-free training for her camp. She’s the director of a girl’s camp in upper Minnesota called Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe.  A conference call was set up to talk to the staff to understand their needs and how NFCA’s GREAT Camps program could help. On the call, I perceived the compassion and love the staff seemed to have for their mission at the camp, and how vested they were in giving all their campers a complete experience. They were ready to sign up and complete the course.

Toward the end of the conversation, they revealed that their interest in learning about gluten-free protocol for the camp staff had to do with twins that returned every year. These twins had been diagnosed with celiac disease recently, and Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe wanted to live up to its “Strong Spirited” name and ease the girls’ mother’s concerns about sending them to camp while they were still learning the gluten-free diet.  Kathy’s goal was to ensure that these young women would continue their “growth in self esteem, deep seeded friendships, and memories to last a lifetime,” and the first step in achieving this goal was becoming GREAT trained, allowing the girls to continue their summer tradition of attending Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe.

Small world, isn’t it?

– Beckee

July 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm Leave a comment

15 Cheap Gluten-Free Things To Do This Summer In and Around Philadelphia

As the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) revs up for Appetite for Awareness in Philadelphia, we asked our local volunteer Annsley to share a few places that make this city great. Annsley is a teacher, a mom, and owner of Gluten Freedoms, a gluten-free consulting business. She also is an avid Philadelphian!

My daughter is not one to sit still (and neither am I).  So, summer is the perfect time for us to play in the sun and share precious outdoor moments that don’t involve gluten.

  1. Go Fruit or Veggie Picking – If you’re looking for Organic, Integrated Pest Management (IMP), or just run of the mill fruit, this is the season.  Strawberries have come and gone, but there are still blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and peaches to come.  At Longview Center for Agriculture, you can pick fresh veggies like kale, collards, basil, mustard greens, and thyme as well as blueberries.  (They happen to also make AMAZING gluten-free smoothies).  Call ahead to see if what you want to pick is still in season.

    Blueberry Picking

    My daughter and I picking blueberries.

  2. Go Hiking or Camping – It’s easy to get caught up in the busy city life.  One of the most peaceful and relaxing things we do is find a trail where we can stop, look, and listen to nature.  Philadelphia has one of the largest urban park systems in the world, spanning about 10,500-acres!  You can find trails close at the Horticulture Center or at the Wissahickon Valley Park, (our favorite place), that has over 50 miles of trails that follow the Wissahickon Creek.  There are plenty of state parks and the Pocono Mountains have no shortage of campgrounds and cabins.

    Hiking on the Wissahickon Trail

    Hiking the Wissahickon Trail

  3. Engage in Water Play – You can stay right in front of your home with a hose and a squirt bottle or within the neighborhood at spraygrounds, swimming pools, and creeks.  In Philadelphia we are lucky to have a newly created urban wet zone called Sister Cities Park.

    Playing in the Pool

    The girls cooling off in their ducky float.

  4. Visit Frog Ponds – A city is full of wildlife; you just have to know where to find it.  It’s pretty cool to watch the tadpoles swim, the camouflage frogs leap in the air, and the croaks reverberate all around.  The Schuylkill Environmental Center, Wissahickon Creek at Mt. Airy Ave., Pastorious Park all have ponds with croaking frogs.

    The Frog Pond

    We spotted a frog!

  5. Create a Frozen Treat – There is nothing better than a cool, sweet treat on a hot summer’s day.  Once my daughter and I have picked our delicious berries, we often make them into frozen popsicles.  In a pinch, we will use fruit juice or frozen fruit to make popsicles.  Ice cream is also a delicious summer treat.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, there is always the fun plastic baggie method!

    Homemade Popsicles

    Homemade Popsicles

  6. Make and Play with Bubbles – Need an afternoon activity for the summer heat?  Mix your own bubble mixtureand/or make your own bubble blowers out of pipe cleaners or old hangers.  Of course, the store bought method is also excellent!

    Blowing Bubbles

    Blowing bubbles

  7. Preserve or Can Fruit– I learned how to do this while spending summers with my grandma in Alabama.  When we have leftover berries, we preserve them to keep that summery flavor all year round.

    Preserved Strawberries

    Our preserved strawberries

  8. Drink Tea at The Japanese Garden – Here you can come in and have tea and learn about the Japanese ritual, which is considered an art form, a spiritual discipline, and a way to socialize.  In the Japanese culture, tea ceremonies have been practiced for over 450 years. Shofuso is the Japanese Garden next to Fairmount Park’s Horticulture Center in Philadelphia and it offers tea ceremonies and tea classes.
  9. Plant a Garden– You can plant in pots or in the ground, with seeds or buy a baby plant.  Either way, it’s fun to get your hands a little dirty and to watch as your plant blossoms before your eyes.  We like to plant things we can eat like herbs, tomatoes, and peas!

    Planting Peas in a Garden

    Planting peas in the garden

  10. Create a Lemonade Stand – Remember those youthful summer days when you made your own lemonade stand?  You can squeeze your own lemons or have a quick fix with the frozen kind.  It’s the perfect, refreshing, gluten-free drink.
  11. Bike or Rollerblade – It’s great to get out and enjoy the fresh air on your bike, scooter, or blades.  Here in Philly we have a path along the Schuylkill River banks where you can bring your own set of wheels or rent them right in front of Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive.

    Biking

    Biking on the sidewalk

  12. Go Geocaching or Letterboxing – Both are outdoor treasure hunting games where X marks the spot.  If you’re an adventurous soul who enjoys a compass and a map, Geocaching using GPS might be for you.  If you’d prefer following clues, than your adventure game is Letterboxing.

    Letterboxing

    Going letterboxing

  13. Watch the Trains – Some towns have garden railways, which are miniature worlds set up in gardens through which weather resistant model trains abound. If you are local to Philadelphia, you can watch them at Morris Arboretum or the “real” big commuter and Amtrak trains at 30th Street Station.

    Watching trains

    Watching the trains at Morris Arboretum

  14. Interact with Sculptures – Sculpture gardens meld the outdoors with art.  All ages can interact with them, and they really spur some great conversations.  We went to one at the Abington Arts Center, and my daughter stuck her hand through the mouth of the sculpture. Then she promptly told me that they were saying, “No, you may not do that!”  (Wonder where she got that from!)

    Sculpture Garden

    Interacting with the sculptures in the garden.

  15. Watch Outdoor Concerts and Movies – Most cities hold (FREE) outdoor concerts and outdoor movies, where you can pack a picnic and share with friends.  It’s a great way to go relax, be outdoors, and enjoy the cooler night air.  In Philadelphia there are multiple venues all over the city (to list a few): Pastorious Park (Chestnut Hill), Schuylkill Banks (Center City), Philly at the Movies (rotating Center City venues), Moonlight Movies in Mt. Airy, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Bike-In Movies (Center City South Street), The Awesome Fest Film Series at Liberty Lands Park (Northern Liberties), Gorgas Park Movie Night (Roxborough), Screenings Under the Stars at Penn’s Landing.

– Annsley

July 10, 2012 at 9:27 am 1 comment

Spring Recap: Traveling for Celiac Disease Education and Advocacy

This past spring was jam packed with business travels. There were times when I felt as if my “out of office” auto response would be up forever! So, it’s safe to say that I have good reason for being MIA on the staff blog. Let me backtrack so I can keep everyone in the loop.

Starting in February, Alice and I traveled to Orlando to participate in the American College of Preventive Medicine’s (ACPM) 2012 annual meeting. When we weren’t exhibiting at NFCA’s booth, where we explained the importance of patients not going gluten-free before being tested for celiac disease and clarified that yes, gluten sensitivity is real, we sat in on lectures from leading preventive medicine experts like Dr. Mark Hyman and learned how media outlets determine what news gets covered.

NFCA Exhibit at ACPM 2012

NFCA’s booth at ACPM 2012

After that, it was back to the Northeast for another round of conferences. Cheryl joined me in attending Columbia University’s Intestinal Immune-Based Inflammatory Diseases Symposium where we snacked on fresh rolls from Free Bread Inc. (a personal new favorite!). The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University continually organizes meetings that are educational and fun, allowing for the providers and patients to mingle. And, of course, it’s always a pleasure catching up with experts like Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson. You can read a recap of Cheryl’s experience and catch an interview I held with Dr. Ludvigsson after we parted ways in March.

Special note: While listening to some of the world’s finest celiac experts discuss topics such as the emergence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity and the role of the PillCam in the diagnosis and management of celiac disease, I learned the exciting news that an abstract from the NFCA was accepted for a poster presentation at the International Meeting on Coeliac Disease, Mastering the Coeliac Condition: From Medicine to Social Sciences and Food Technology. After months collaborating with the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research on the data collection and analysis of the study “The Use of Disease Symptoms Checklist in Self-Initiated Diagnoses of Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity,” it was great to hear that our work would be recognized. (And judging from the theme of this post, if you think that my spring travels also involved a trip to Florence, Italy, you are correct. Watch out for my recap later this week).

NFCA staff and volunteers at DDNC Public Policy Forum

Our Awareness All-Star fundraiser Jack Simpson and his mom Cheryl Lynne joined us at the DDNC Public Policy Forum.

The very next morning after returning from NYC, I hopped on a train to Washington, DC, to meet up with Alice and participate in the Digestive Disease National Coalition’s (DDNC) 2012 Public Policy Forum. This was my second time joining in the annual meeting where patients, industry representatives, healthcare providers, lawmakers and their legislative staff come together for two days of educational programs, legislative updates and advocacy training. Each year, the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) briefs participants from around the country on Federal healthcare legislation and policy and provide the opportunity to educate Members of Congress on issues of concern to the digestive disease community. In essence, it provides an opportunity to see the government in action.

This year, our colleagues from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Celiac Disease joined the Public Policy Form. It was great to have NFCA Scientific/Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Ritu Verma and Patricia A. Bierly, CRNP, on hand to share the clinical perspective of celiac disease with legislators.

Stay tuned for more tales from my spring travels, including:

  • Mastering the Coeliac Condition: From Medicine to Social Sciences and Food Technology in Florence, Italy
  • Arkansas Dietetic Association’s (ArDA) Annual Meeting and Expo and the Long-Term Care Seminar in Little Rock, AR
  • Research presentation from graduate student of Emerson College’s Health Communications program in Boston, MA
  • 2012 Digestive Disease Week in San Diego, CA

– Kristin

June 11, 2012 at 11:30 am 1 comment

A Life Saving Diagnosis: 20 Years Gluten-Free and Counting

Whenever this time of year rolls around, I get this feeling. It’s the feeling that I’m forgetting something like a birthday, anniversary, or special occasion. It just so happens that this year the feeling is especially strong and I remember what’s coming.  June 13.

On the 13th, I will be celebrating 20 years of gluten-freedom and the day that was literally life changing.  Not only did my diagnosis with celiac disease save my life, but it changed it as well.

After giving birth to my healthy baby boy, Cole, my body fell apart and I displayed the classical celiac symptoms – weight loss, fatigue, vomiting, depression, and weakness. I wasn’t even able to climb stairs or turn a faucet.

Mommy and Cole at 2 weeks old

Sick Mommy Holding Baby Cole at 2 Weeks Old

Eventually, I was hospitalized, had a small bowel biopsy, and a positive diagnosis. With Dave holding my hand and Cole in my arms, Dr. Dalke described celiac as a “rare” disease affecting 1 in 2,500 people.  Dave whispered, “I knew you were special but not that special.” Turns out, I’m not really that special with 1 in 133 people living with celiac disease. But I was lucky and the gluten-free diet renewed my health, energy, and disposition.

Mommy and Cole at 6 months old

Healthy Mommy and Cole 6 months after diagnosis

Usually on special anniversaries, gifts are in order.  On my special anniversary, I’d like to share a few of many exceptional gifts I’ve received over the years as a result of my diagnosis.

GIFT 1 – Love of Cooking

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is learning to cook well. You’ll never go hungry and you’ll always have friends.

Learning to cook from scratch was a challenge, but I loved the process.  Before gluten-free products were everywhere and labels read “GF,” I learned to season with fresh herbs, spices and pure ingredients to make sauces and dressing from scratch. I learned which herbs and spices produce which flavors and enhance certain foods. My spice cupboard is more like a pantry!

GIFT 2 – Share the Love.

Hosting dinner parties and sharing meals with friends and family gives me a chance to show that gluten-free doesn’t have to be horrible, difficult, or medicinal. Clean, fresh, pure and easy are my approaches to cooking. Hostess tips include set a beautiful table, involve guests, and have plenty of wine.

Chinese New Year Table

Annual Chinese New Year party menu – homemade egg rolls, blood orange salad, stir fry veggies, steamed rice, Asian bbq pork, sweet rice cake, and Gewurztraminer wine.

GIFT 3 – Friendship – 2 GF BFs

My two gal pals, Jill and Mary, also have celiac disease. These great women have my back in crisis, tragedy, sickness, and gluten episodes. They share my frustration over gluten-free labeling, restaurant mishaps, and family dynamics. We celebrate the GREAT gluten-free life over amazing dinners, annual holiday cookie baking, and family milestones. I cherish them.

Me and My Gluten-Free Friends

Me, Mary, Janna, Jill on Janna’s wedding day. The food…totally gluten-free

– Beckee

June 4, 2012 at 9:00 am 3 comments

5 Ways to Fundraise for Celiac Awareness

Whether you have plenty of downtime or little time to spare, there are several ways you can fundraise for your favorite celiac organization. Here are 5 ways you can take your support to the next level:

1. Cupcake Party

Gluten-Free Cupcake Party for NFCA

Cupcake Party success!

One of NFCA’s signature fundraisers is a Cupcake Party, which you can sign up for right on CeliacCentral.org. As part of the fundraiser, you’ll receive supplies from Pamela’s Products, including gluten-free baking mixes, frosting, recipes and gifts for your guests. It’s a wonderful chance to gather friends, spread awareness and help NFCA continue to offer free resources to the community.

Host a Cupcake Party Fundraiser

2. Birthday Wish

Have you ever checked out NFCA’s Facebook Cause? By clicking “Join,” you can raise awareness, recruit others and gather donations. As your birthday approaches, you can create a Birthday Wish, which sets a fundraising goal and invites family and friends to donate in honor of your big day.

Join NFCA’s Facebook Cause

3. FirstGiving.com

FirstGiving logo

Take your fundraising to the next level by creating your own fundraising page on FirstGiving.com. You can create a special page in honor of your birthday, gluten-free anniversary or another special event. NFCA Athlete for Awareness Peter Bronski is dedicating his 3rd Annual Ultramarathon to celiac awareness, and he’s using FirstGiving to collect donations. Personal fundraising pages are also popular among kids, like NFCA fans Jack Simpson and Noa Spanier, who each raised more than $3,000 in last year’s Awareness All-Stars fundraiser.

Create a Fundraising Page

4. Gluten-Free Restaurant Night

Do you have a favorite restaurant? Consider asking them to host a fundraiser for NFCA. Michael Savett, founder of Gluten Free Philly, has organized Gluten-Free Dinners to raise money for celiac awareness. He offered these tips:

  • Get to know the person in charge of your favorite gluten-free restaurant. Restaurant owners and managers want to keep their customers happy, so introduce yourself and let him or her know that you are a loyal customer. That often makes a restaurant more receptive to hosting a fundraising event that will bring in many patrons, particularly if the event will be on a slower night like Monday or Tuesday.
  • Run a Google search for restaurants that regularly sponsor community events and fundraisers in your area. You can do this by using search terms like “restaurant fundraising night” and your town or city. Many larger chains also participate in these kinds of events, including gluten-free-friendly ones like Uno Chicago Grill’s Dough Raisers and Outback Gives Back.

5. Coupon Campaigns and Special Promotions

GFB Sweater Project - Kids Photo

GFB’s Gluten-Free Sweater Project

Like many companies, gluten-free manufacturers are looking to give back, and they’re doing so by donating funds to organizations like NFCA. This month, take advantage of these charitable promotions – and don’t forget to tell family and friends!

  • GoMacro Bars
    GoMacro is offering this Celiac Awareness Month special: Order 1 case of any flavor of MacroBars and their stainless steel water bottle for $49.95 ($55.30 value) and 10% will be donated to NFCA. Enter NFCA10 as the coupon code.
    Visit GoMacro.com
  • Cecelia’s Marketplace Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping Guide
    Purchase the new 2012/2013 edition of this guide, and Cecelia’s Marketplace will donate a percentage of proceeds to non-profits and celiac disease centers.
    Visit Cecilia’s Marketplace
  • The GFB Celiac Sweater Project
    The folks at The Gluten-Free Bar (GFB) have sent a sweater on a long cross-country journey to raise awareness for celiac disease. For anyone who dons the sweater and submits a photo to sweater@theglutenfreebar.com, The GFB will donate $1 to NFCA. Keep an eye out – the sweater could be in your local area!
    Visit The GFB Sweater Project

May 25, 2012 at 9:09 am 1 comment

5 Tips for Starting a Gluten-Free Dining Group

[You’ve found some fabulous restaurants that serve gluten-free in your area, and now you’re ready to spread the news. We asked Carrie Forbes, author of Gingerlemongirl.com and The Everything GlutenFree Slow Cooker Cookbook and leader of the Wilson/Eastern NC Gluten Free ROCK Support Group, to share how she gathered the troops and started a local gluten-free group.]

I started my local glutenfree support group in January 2010. It took six months for me to have the courage and enough people to put together a meeting (and the push to do it by my friend Jaime), but we did it! We had 6 people at our first meeting and that included myself, my husband, and my fearless mother-in-law! Our first meeting focused on local gluten-free resources and restaurants who could cater to a gluten-free diet.

Once the school year started again we began having regular monthly meetings and eventually added what we call “coffee breaks” several times a month. The coffee breaks were more informal times just to get together and chat, have coffee, and talk about all things gluten-free in our area.

As the group has morphed and changed over the past two years, we now have bi-monthly meetings and once-a-month coffee breaks. We now have about 25 active members who come to our meetings and over 45 members we connect with locally through email and Facebook, and the group is continuing to grow.

However gluten-free groups come in ALL different shapes and sizes. In addition to my thoughts on the best tips to share with others, I asked my friend Sarah Neilson, author of Celiac in the City and leader of her local gluten-free dining group Gluten-Free Milwaukee, to share some advice.

1. Determine the Primary Needs of your Local Group.

We have many different singles, couples, and families in our group, but the more we’ve grown, the more I realized that in our particular area we had lots of kids who needed support. They needed to know they weren’t the only kids. So we decided to link up with Danna Korn’s R.O.C.K. organization. We share her philosophy that life is good, and even though gluten-free can be a challenge, it doesn’t have to be a sad or negative experience!

How Sarah decided to form her group:  “For me, I wanted to get people together and do what we would normally do, but with other people, just like us. A group that comes together for good food, friends and fun. I wanted to focus on what we CAN have and where we CAN eat, so I highlight local Milwaukee (in and around MKE) restaurants that are willing to cater to us. I’m proud to say that we have only double up on restaurant options a couple of times, and that was only because people enjoyed them so much that we had to go back.”

2. Be Flexible!NFCA_Celiac Awareness Month 2012_Blogger Badge

Find times that work best for the members in your group. For some, gathering bi-monthly on a Satuday afternoon is best. Others prefer an informal coffee break once a month on a weekday evening. Make sure to build an open network for communication with your group. This can be through Facebook, through an email listserv, or even by using a Yahoo group to share information.

Sarah’s thoughts on being flexible: “During one of our first dinners, I polled everyone to see what they wanted to see from our group, wasn’t sure if I should go a more traditional route with a more support-group-like feel, but most folks felt they would like to just meet out for gluten-free pizza and a gluten-free beer and talk about how we make things work every day in our gluten-free lives. So we’ve stuck with that, and it works well for us.

“It’s important to remember that you can’t always please everyone — I do the best I can to accommodate our crowd and make the majority happy, and for the most part, they are so grateful. Some of my dearest friends are in the group now and I’m thankful that I decided to start this group and have kept it going each month for this long.”

3. Spread the Word.

As a blogger, I knew when I started our support group that I wanted to have a website to promote our group. We started using a “MeetUp” group, but that system was rather restrictive and outdated. Our group now primarily keeps in touch through a group email listserv and a very active Facebook page. We also have an improved website and blog to share documents, keep a group calendar, and to have a searchable web presence.

Sarah shares how she uses social media and her blog to spread the word: “I use Facebook as an easy way to communicate with our group, on my Celiac in the City page. Like I said, I like to focus on the positives — getting together and sharing in our daily adventures, what works for us, which products are on the “must try” list, etc.

“I contact companies each month to get samples of goodies for our group — or sometimes they contact me to review items and I ask for enough to give out to the group, the more “reviews” the better right?”

4. Allow the Group to Change and Grow.

When I first began our group, I was really concerned about making sure we met often to provide a lot of support for our community. However, after many months of lots of both formal and informal meetings, attendance started declining and I was becoming burned out. After talking with our group members and with leaders of other groups, I decided we didn’t need to meet nearly as often. Quality was more important than quantity!

Sarah shares different activities her group has enjoyed: “Some of the other things we’ve done: Field trip to the GF Expo, holiday cookie exchange (2 years of success!), several food drives to get more gluten-free options in our local food banks, a trip to Madison to try a new restaurant and the Silly Yak bakery. Big fun!”

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.

Learn the gifts that your other members have. I love to host baking classes with new members of our group along with coordinating the group blog and Facebook pages. Another member of our group Nancy, is a gifted hostess and shopper. Nancy hosts many of our group potlucks and also likes to take new members on shopping trips to teach them the best places to find gluten-free groceries in our area.  My husband is great at making posters and being the technical support for our meetings. Using the strengths of your members will help the “work” of the group to be evenly shared, as well as empower the people in your group to help others.

Lastly, no matter what you do with your dining group, no matter how big or small that it is, remember you will be providing a huge service to your community! Your time and energy will be an immeasurable blessing to local gluten-free population. You don’t have to be a perfect planner or leader, all you need is a deep passion to help the gluten-free people where you live.

If you have additional questions or need help starting a gluten-free group, please feel free to email me, Carrie Forbes: gingerlemongirl at gmail dot com.

– Carrie Forbes

*For an extended version of this post, including tips from Shirley of gluten-free easily and Nikki of Charlotte R.O.C.K. and organizer of many Gluten-Free Expos, visit: Ginger Lemon Girl.

May 24, 2012 at 8:28 am 2 comments

5 Tips to Empower Gluten-Free Kids

[Your kids have learned the basics of gluten-free, so what’s next? Katie Chalmers, author of Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? and founder of G-Free Kid, has ideas for helping your little ones become proud and confident gluten-free champions.]

As parents, the best thing we can equip our gluten-free kids with is a positive attitude when it comes to being gluten-free — right from the start.  As soon as that optimistic attitude is in place, the next thing to help them cultivate is a budding sense of independence. As our children grow, we can help empower them to start taking the lead. Here are 5 tips that have helped my twin daughters (one with celiac and one with non-celiac gluten sensitivity) start to be ‘g-free’ advocates:

1.  Help them champion their own cause.

Show them some ways in which they can help spread the word and raise money for celiac disease awareness. Help them start a team for an upcoming celiac walk and let them help keep track of donations flowing in and asking friends and family to physically be there to walk together as a team. We have been doing two Celiac walks (“Making Tracks for Celiacs”) a year for the past 4 years — one with friends and extended family, and another one further away from home by ourselves. We take group photos, wear team tags and hang out before and after the walk. We usually win a gift basket for the amount of money we raised, and the girls help pick it out. Going home feeling supported by loved ones, with a prize and tons of free gluten-free samples in tow — plus a sense of pride in knowing we helped raise money for a good cause — is always a great boost for self-esteem.

Team G-Free at Celiac Walk

If you don’t have one of these annual walks in your area, learn how you can raise money through Team Gluten Free or NFCA instead.

2.  Nurture their creativity.

Make your gluten-free kid feel like a champ by helping them design a “Super Celiac” or “Gluten-Free Girl” costume. If your child is still young enough to enjoy dressing up and playing pretend, letting him or her play make-believe Superheroes with a cape and power bracelets is a fun way to “zap gluten” or whatever they want to play.

G-Free Superhero Costumes

If your child is old enough, let them have their own cooking show. Have them don an apron and chef’s hat and talk through a cooking demonstration while you videotape them. This will be good public speaking practice, and it will help them organize their thoughts, follow recipes, read aloud and use good eye contact. Have them practice what they plan to say and do on the video until they are comfortable enough for you to start taping. Post it on YouTube to get them excited that they made a “real” video, which the whole world can watch and learn from.

Do your kids enjoy music more than cooking? Together, come up with some new lyrics to go with a familiar tune — all about being gluten-free. Put it to music, videotape it and send it to friends and family.

Or let them start a pretend bakery where everything is gluten-free. Help them set up a place to play with pretend food, aprons, toy cash register, fake money, paper plates, etc.  Let them make their own signs, menu and decorations. Be their best customer and encourage the rest of the family to stop by with a smile and place an order.

Kids Gluten-Free Bakery

Being gluten-free becomes natural and fun when you bring all of these types of creative play into your kids’ lives.

3.  Teach them to read labels.

For very young kids who don’t know how to read, send along a list of offending ingredients for caregivers, along with a list of naturally gluten-free items, such as fruit and raisins. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten-free,” the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. When looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grains” can often be confusing for little kids (and even for adults!), so be sure to explain to them that just reading those words on a package doesn’t mean it is automatically ruled out. Corn and rice can still be considered multigrain or whole grain, too. Teach them that oats need to be certified gluten-free to be considered safe, and other similar tips.

Reading Labels on Gluten-Free Food

Start label-reading lessons small, by going to Grandma’s house and showing them offending ingredients on labels. Then go home and have them read labels on their gluten-free products so they can see what is okay. If your child is old enough and has a long attention span, spend some time together in a grocery store (at a slow time of the week) and go through it aisle by aisle, explaining which kinds of food are gluten-free or not. Show them how many yogurts and ice creams are gluten-free, except those with cookies, brownies, sugar cone pieces, etc. Show them all the naturally gluten-free foods and the special area where the gluten-free products are. I do this with my daughters every now and then to test them on what they know, and they, in turn, always love to demonstrate their growing knowledge.  If this sounds too overwhelming for a younger child, then just do it in small doses on a regular basis as you do your weekly shopping together.

4.  Let them speak up for themselves.

Kids of all ages can learn to speak up for themselves to varying degrees. Young kids can learn how to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” or “Is this safe for me to eat?”  Let your child order for themselves in a restaurant and have them inform the wait staff that their food needs to be gluten-free. Even if you plan on discussing details with the waitress, manager or chef yourself (which I would advise in order to avoid cross-contamination), it is important for your child to get in the habit of always making sure people know that he or she needs to eat gluten-free.

Looking for gluten-free food on a menu

If your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Teach them why they can’t eat certain things like french fries, which are deep fried in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods like breaded chicken fingers. Let them ask if there is a dedicated fryer or not. The older a child gets, the more they need to have these habits set in place. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will get with the necessary dialogue. Your child will be filled with pride as he learns these lifelong social lessons.

5.  Let it become their “normal.”

Find other gluten-free families that live near you. Get together. Let the kids get to know each other and play together on a regular basis, which might also mean snacking together — gluten-free. Get involved in a kids’ support group and the activities that go along with it. If you can’t find one, be your kid’s hero by starting one and making it happen.

If your child is old enough, let him attend a gluten-free summer camp. There are nearly 20 options in the U.S. alone!  How cool would it be for a gluten-free kid to be able to do all the regular camp activities with other children on the same diet, without anyone needing to ask if the food is safe or not?

Lastly, fill his or her bookcase with children’s books about being gluten-free. If your child loves dinosaurs or princesses, count how many books he or she has about them. On the other hand, how many books does your child have about being gluten-free — something your child is going to be for life? There are a bunch of great books out there now about celiac disease and being gluten-free. You can never have too many!  As they read the books, they will take pride in knowing that they are “just like” the main characters, which will help them feel understood and cherished. And consider all the people your child can share their books with — teachers, classmates, friends, relatives, etc.  What better way to help spread awareness than lending books? For kids, it doesn’t get any easier…

These empowering tips will take our children far by teaching them knowledge and positive social skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. The wonderful thing is that awareness of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is growing rapidly, which in itself is pretty empowering for all of us!

– Katie Chalmers

May 23, 2012 at 8:55 am 2 comments

5 Ways to Take Your Gluten-Free Recipes to the Next Level

[You’ve mastered gluten-free cooking, and you’ve even started to create your own recipes. What’s next? Many individuals are turning  their passion into a career by launching blogs and getting published. It’s easier said than done, but Manhattan based Culinary Nutritionist, Personal Chef, Professional Recipe Developer and Food Writer Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple has advice to give you a leg up.]

Being a food writer, recipe developer or even just a passionate food blogger is quite a lot of work when you think about it- the work goes beyond your typical 9-5 job and into your daily life- sparking and inspiring your future career. Writing about what inspires you is in some ways a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you enjoy your work and get satisfaction from it, you’re showing your community your true passion and message. Surely, as a food writer and recipe developer with a loyal following, you aspire to create more community or eventually have your writing brought from the virtual screen to the print world. Perhaps the end goal for you is to make blogging your full-time job, and in this day and age, it takes patience and determination. Many bloggers are shifting from office jobs to being their own boss – where all of their creative sparks manifest and the light at the end of the tunnel is straight ahead.

Amie Valpone

Amie Valpone

1. Cookbook Author

Fulfilling a lifelong dream to have your own cookbooks on the shelves of bookstores and libraries comes with time and patience.  Unlike the organic nature of blogs, cookbooks remain the same from the moment they are published, and require as much attention to detail as a good blog entry does. There are series of pages that require as much attention as the one before, and all of the details need to be attended to as the design comes together.

Before you can get to the design aspect, you’ll first need to narrow down the topic before pitching it to the list of publishers you’d ideally want to work with. It helps to know your target audience and develop ideas about the reality beyond this project as well as setting a schedule for yourself, such as taking a day each week to work on your book.

Next, you will need to create your pitch, which will include your idea, target audience, marketing ideas, etc.  Here is some more homework for you; in your favorite cookbooks, search for their publishing agents and get in contact with them! Their previous successes can lead you to feel more confident throughout the process and ultimately make the workload pay off seamlessly.

2. Publishing Articles in Magazines

As with publishing a book, you will need to know the audience to whom your articles are directed. Your recipes and blog posts deal with your interests, but it is important to evaluate the style in which the magazine articles are typically written so you have a clear idea of how to write for its specific audience.

It is also important to discuss the article idea with the editor of your chosen publication, and then to submit a proposal and timeline with your ideas. Your article, in addition to being informative, should also grab the reader, which is another reason being familiar with the publication is of utmost importance.

Including good pictures that are relevant to your topic or pictures of your recipes will greatly impact your chances of getting your article published and will help to entice the reader. After you’ve submitted your work, be sure to follow up with the editor and the odds may be in your favor.

3. Cooking Shows

To get to the level of having your own cooking show, there are a few things to keep in mind. Many people choose to go the route of YouTube recipe vlogs (video blogs) such as Jamie Karpovich of the positive lifestyle and vegan cooking blog Save the Kales! As a result of her blog’s success, Karpovich’s diligence with communicating the idea to the directors and producers of local television shows, and her strong presence in her community brought her an opportunity to be the star of a cooking show.

It is important to demonstrate your ability to be entertaining while being informative; submitting a cooking demo of your own cooking show to the directors is a must. Another important aspect of the pitch is to demonstrate how you can market the show and benefit the network that will be taking your show live.

4. Blog Ads and Sponsorships

In recent years, bloggers have been able to reconnect their passions with their wallets and make money from their blog content. A service provided by Google can help bloggers make money per click; this revenue is generated as each reader comes to visit the blog. Many bloggers generate income through blogs by getting sponsored ads from companies that enables a broad reach to their target audience with information about products or services relevant to their readers.

5. Becoming a Spokesperson

In becoming a spokesperson for a product or company, you must first be true to yourself and ask yourself if you believe in the product and the company’s message.  This isn’t all about the paycheck – it’s about your reputation, and you are better off working with a brand whose products you actually enjoy. It’s important to embody the brand’s standards and ideals, and have ample enthusiasm for their products.

Present yourself in a way that suits both the company and its customers. Communicate your desire for this role and demonstrate the ways in which you have used their products.  For instance, if you are a fan of a particular brand of gluten-free bread and want to work with the company – start by showing them the ways in which their bread is important and exciting to your daily life.

It is crucial not to underestimate the importance of connecting with professionals who have been in the same position before. They can be a great resource to you in your journey and provide you with experience and wisdom. Fortunately, there are many ways to use the web and social media to accelerate your career and ultimately your life.

– Amie Valpone (@TheHealthyApple)

May 21, 2012 at 10:15 am 2 comments

5 Tips for Traveling Gluten-Free

[You learned how to cook gluten-free. You found local restaurants that serve gluten-free. Now, you have to travel gluten-free. Heading to an unfamiliar area can be intimidating, but fear not! Frequent flier Gluten-Free Mike has 5 tips to prepare you for any upcoming trip.]

Let’s face it, we’ve all had that moment of initial panic when we first received our celiac diagnosis. Speaking from personal experience, I know I was completely caught off guard and quite honestly had not even heard of celiac disease before I actually found out I had it. Sounds familiar, right?

Well, that was more than 10 years ago when the gluten-free landscape and celiac awareness were indeed at a very different place than they are today. Fast forward to today and awareness of and catering to celiacs has come a very long way, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the travel and hospitality industry.

Airplane taking off

I have been globe trekking since before I could walk, and when first diagnosed thought that celiac disease would throw a wrench into my love of travel.  To be honest, it did at first. My diagnosis came at a time when there were few good gluten-free products and they were difficult to source. Most restaurants had no clue what I was talking about and going abroad seemed to only magnify the confusion. I slowly but surely got back on the proverbial horse when I realized that celiac need not be limiting and that I needed to take control of the disease and live my life on my terms.

Over the years I have developed a few tips and tricks particularly when it comes to traveling with celiac disease, and I am happy to share some of them with you here:

1. All Airlines Are Not Created Equal.

If you are going to be flying, particularly long-haul international, check out a few carriers’ websites to see whether or not they offer a gluten-free meal option – some even provide samples of what they’ll include.  This will depend on length of flight and class of service, but most airlines will have a gluten-free option if your flight has meal service. Yes, some airlines do gluten-free better than others, and I have had some amazing gluten-free meals over the years – some even included a fresh gluten-free roll – can you imagine?  Will the gluten-free meal knock your socks off?  Likely not, but at least it is safe option to tide you over until you land.

The most important tip I can give when flying is as soon as you board, ask a flight attendant if your meal has been loaded BEFORE departure.  Oftentimes if there is a problem they can deal with it while on the ground vs. not being able to do anything at 35,000 feet. On a recent flight, my gluten-free meal was even noted right on my boarding pass – nice!  Another trick I use is when flying in a premium cabin to check out the airline’s online menus for the route. Most airlines have monthly menus for specific routes and these can be accessed online. I scan the menu to see if any of the “regular” options will work for me and more often than not there is something I can have. I have also seen more and more gluten-free snack item choices making their way on board shorter flights, which is always good to see.

2. Do Your Homework.

This sounds like a given, but just getting a feel for the area you’ll be visiting can help you enjoy your vacation (or business trip) a bit more.  I like to go online and look at the immediate vicinity around where I’ll be staying.  Where is the nearest supermarket?  What dining options are around?  Is there a local celiac group site that gives tips and advice for the area?  If a restaurant piques your interest, check out their menu or give them a ring to discuss whether they will be able to accommodate your needs. There are even an increasing number of hotel chains that now that cater to a host of dietary restrictions and food allergic travelers.  The more leg work you do before departure, the less stress you’ll have at your destination.

3. Speak the Language. 

Okay, this might be easier said than done but there is an easy solution if you find yourself in a country where you do not speak the language. Printable food allergy cards that you can either buy or download for free online.  My recent trip to Peru had me a bit leery as I do not speak Spanish.  Before I left, I printed out and laminated a few double-sided cards that  had both a celiac disease explanation and shellfish allergy notation that called out what I could and could not eat in detail.  Let me tell you that these were a lifesaver because each time I presented them, the server read them and could immediately tell me what would work for me on their menu. If I was in a location where I thought the cross-contamination from shellfish could be an issue, the servers actually brought the cards back to the kitchen for the chef and kitchen staff to read. I had zero issues or reactions on my most recent journey, which was the first time I have brought such cards along with me – and best of all they were available free online.

4. Pack Accordingly. 

No, I am not talking about what clothes to bring – though that is sometimes equally as important.  When I travel, be it by car, train, plane, or horseback (okay, that last one is a bit of poetic license) I always take along what I call my Gluten-Free Contingency Pack.  Depending on the length of my journey, I always carry a bag of nibbles so that I have something to nosh on if I find myself delayed or not having any gluten-free options readily available while en route.

So what’s in my contingency pack?  Well, I am glad you asked.  I typically include a few gluten-free snack items like chips, pretzels, cookies, or snack mix along with a couple meal replacement bars or snack bars.  Okay, and maybe there might be a chocolate bar (or two) in there.  A just-add-water type noodle snack or dry soup is also great to toss in your carry-on and I typically will carry those for ultra long-haul flights of 14 or more hours. I also like to toss a few snack items in my checked bag so I can have a snack at my hotel without having to pop-out to a supermarket right away.

5. Be Flexible.

Flexibility is really key. You might find yourself in a situation with limited knowledge of or availability of a host of gluten-free options. Don’t panic.  Regardless of the situation (and some of mine have been less than ideal) I have never gone hungry while on the road.  Sure, you might not always be able to have exactly what you want, but there will be something – trust me. I have always been amazed at how far people are willing to go to accommodate my dietary needs while on the road.  Also, a little education goes a long way.  I cannot count how many times I had someone on the road say “I had no idea that contained gluten” or “I have heard of celiac, but never knew why you couldn’t eat gluten.”  Just think, the more people become exposed to celiac disease, the less bumpy the road ahead becomes for all of us.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned since my diagnosis is that I will not let being celiac define who I am or dictate what I can and cannot do, and you shouldn’t either.  Life does in fact continue and it’s for the better because I now know why I would get sick after certain meals and in retrospect, pre-diagnosis was actually more limiting than I have found celiac to be.

It’s a great big gluten-free world out there so please, get out there and enjoy it.  Oh, and there will be hiccups along the way – it’s just inevitable – but when they happen, look at them as learning experiences and not roadblocks.  They happen to all of us, gluten-free or not.

– Michael De Cicco-Butz

May 17, 2012 at 8:27 am 2 comments

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