Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gluten Free Holiday

"Welcome to Gluten-Free Pineapple" watercolor and ink, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

Gluten-Free Living Magazine put together a Gluten-Free Holiday Gift Guide on their blog from foods, to cooking and baking tools, to clothes & aprons, even a special section for the GF man in your life... and I was thrilled and honored that my GF Illustrator aprons made the list!

So if you are looking for gifts for your gluten-free family and friends to show you care, and support them in their quest for optimal health, it is worth checking out.  

Happy Gluten-free Holidays!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Monkey House

"Close Enough"detail, ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I hadn't been down the grocery store bread aisle in ages. But honey was on my list and that's where our local Pathmark shelves it. Having no need for 'regular' bread I've avoided that aisle since honestly, I no longer care for the smell.

The longer I am gluten-free the less I can tolerate the smell and the more uncomfortable it makes me. The honey was half way down a looong aisle so I couldn’t just get in and out. The coughing started as soon as I entered, increasing the further I went, and as I got to the honey I was really coughing - truly feeling like I couldn’t get enough air. By the time I was able to get out I was practically gagging.  It's very similar to my reaction to the monkey house at the zoo and usually make a quick exit.

When I got home and told my husband he thought it was a bit kooky - can't blame him - and he assumed it was my thought associations with gluten that was responsible for the reaction. So I reached out to my celiac/GF friends on twitter to find out if anyone else has a similar physical reaction. And found out I am not the only one (which proves I'm not crazy).

How does the bread aisle make you feel?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gluten-Free Halloween

"Happy Halloween Dahling", watercolor & ink, 5x7, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I love chocolate, chocolate and oh, more chocolate!  Halloween is a great reason to have lots of it in the house.  I don't know if it is the unmatched flavor of chocolate, or living without it for 23 years, or my continued awe and joy that living gluten-free has given me back the pleasure of chocolate. But, I enjoy a little every day.

The NFCA has published a Gluten-Free Snack and Candy List on their website and I was thrilled to find such a large selection. With Halloween right around the corner I thought I would share my top 10 candies, but realized it’s just a few that I am crazy about and quite possibly - addicted to.

Here are my top 3 favorite gluten-free sweets...

Reese’s peanut butter cups A delighful & perfect blend of two of my favorite flavors. I craved Reese's PB cups for the entire 23 yrs I went without chocolate.

Peanut M&M's  I did not appreciate the beauty of the peanut m&m’s when I was a kid but when I had them again for the first time it had been closer to 30 yrs. Wow - first your teeth crack through the sweet crispy shell, then sink into the soft creamy chocolate, and top it off by reaching the yummy peanut. Such a combination of taste and texture. Genius.

3 muskteers Deliciously smooth and creamy.

I also LOVE Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips but throwing a handful of loose chips in Halloween bags doesn’t work, so I'll just enjoy those on my own.

I am waiting until right before Halloween to stock up so I don’t eat them all before the trick-or-treaters arrive.  I am secretly hoping traffic will be light so there will be an abundance of leftovers. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pressure & Perfection

"Wine Tasting Border", 3" x 7", watercolor & ink, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

To say I am a perfectionist is an understatement. It is my greatest stumbling block. I started this blog to document my journey to reclaiming & maintaining good health and yet if I can't find the perfect thing to say with a matching illustration, it seems I can't say anything. I need to constantly remind myself that it’s the process that counts. If so then every piece along the way, good bad or anywhere in between, is fine just for the reason that it is ALL part of the adventure.

This is so with all the main aspects of my life… my art, the food I consume, my relationships and motherhood. Now I always try to do the right thing for all of above for many reasons but perfect is not always (or ever) possible. If mistakes happen along the way I need to learn from them and move on. I also need to stop putting enormous pressure on myself... It is counterproductive to all that I want to accomplish. See that...back to focusing on the end product.

I was reminded last night that it’s all part of life and there are an infinite number of opportunities to make choices in any given day.  So I am shifting my focus from accomplishing perfection to staying in the moment, and viewing it all as the work in progress that it is; an ongoing creation and interaction.

To that end I release myself from the need to always have the perfect thing to write here matched with the perfectly appropriate art/illustration.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In praise of gluten-free bread

Artisan Baker, watercolor & ink, 11x14, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I have found some great gluten-free products over the last year or so. I like to try what I find for two reasons - to support gluten-free manufacturers working in dedicated facilities and in the hopes of finding a real gem.

We hit the jackpot in the frozen section at our local Whole Foods recently and it has become a staple in our house. Against the Grain Gourmet gluten-free rosemary baguette. Gorgeous crispy, flaky crust surrounding a moist chewy airy middle. This bread is a winner and all 3 of us love it! Great with butter, as a sandwich, as a hot dog bun, amazing with sausage pepppers and onions. My husband and daughter are as in love with this bread as I am. And all our guests try it - and our impressed.

They also make a plain baguette, which is good, but we prefer the rosemary.

We keep a few loaves in the freezer and take one out about 30 minurtes before eating. 10 minutes prior to eating pop it in the oven on low to warm it up and ensure a crispier crust.

The heat this summer limited my baking so this bread was a godsend.  We can have yummy bread with fresh baked flavor and texture all without risking my health.

Thanks Against the Grain Gourmet!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Cost of Eating Gluten-Free

3 GF Apples, watercolor & ink, 5x7, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I keep reading about the high cost of eating gluten-free. What doesn’t get a mention in any of these articles is the high cost of NOT staying gluten-free.

Does it really cost that much more? All fresh fruit & vegetables, fresh meat & fish are naturally gluten-free. Include in that list milk, eggs, rice, and potatoes - all of these you would or could eat either way.

Where the cost is added is grains, and prepared foods. I agree they do run higher since they are more specialized, as somewhere along the line it was decided wheat should be in everything and be everywhere.

But what about the cost of continuing gluten consumption with celiac disease? Or all the years prior to diagnosis?... The Doctor appointments, the antibiotics, lost time of work, tests, procedures, x-rays, MRIs, prescription meds, co-pays, physical therapy, crutches, acupuncture, pain killers. Painkillers! I can’t even imagine how much I have spent just on Advil in my lifetime.

I have spent a fortune over the years while celiac wreaked it’s havoc, but remained unknown. I shudder to see the actual dollar amount of all that combined.

Treating the problems, related illnesses, chronic pain…. The cost is impossible to calculate. Compared to that the food is a bargain.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A phone call that changes everything

"Yoga Girl Sitting", 5x7, ink & watercolor, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

Did you ever get one of those phone calls, the call that changes your perspective on life, that shifts everything, the punch to the stomach, the one that yanks the rug right out from under you?

The kind of call that when you see caller ID you hesitate a moment before answering because they never call from work/at work/on your cell/at this time... You know the one. You pick up the phone and sub-consciously hold your breath. But they sound so breezy and matter of fact. The circumstances are anything but, so you ask, "what's up?"
Then you get the news. It's not your news but it's them, so it changes everything. From that moment on everything is different because of who it is. The roar in your head quiets just enough to carry on the conversation. This is real and raw and happening. You want to be supportive, helpful, someone they can lean on. Together you talk, you cry, you hope, you pray, you laugh - you are there for them. And you will continue to be there as they will need you and they move through the maze of the unknown and the unimaginable.
Afterwards you sit drained, shocked, trying to absorb it, your thoughts a disorganized mess. You will get yourself together before you speak next. They will need your love, your support, your thoughtfulness, your strength, your prayers AND your hope.
In the meantime the world has just shifted. Nothing feels the quite the same. And you know now that you will keep up with those seemingly pesky medical tests - the ones we all need to do, the ones that are easy to postpone, the ones that save lives. And, you will continue to make healthy food choices, exercise, take care of yourself so you can feel some sense of control.
You will wake up each morning for the foreseeable future with them as your first thought. And you will be grateful they are part of your life. You will feel gratitude for your family, your friends, and all the little things in your life. For you and your loved one you will focus on hope and healing and light. Hope and healing and love. And you will pray.

Monday, August 17, 2009

We have a Winner!

Thanks to all who participated in our first giveaway.  It was great reading everyone's comments and seeing what people were drawn to (forgive the pun).  We look forward to having more giveaways in the future.

Leslie was the lucky winner and chose a print of the Lion portrait which she will receive along with a copy of Roy's book, Patches of Grey.

Thanks again.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Finding Motivation

I gather from many of the celiac forum discussions, and articles written, that there is a never-ending stream of people who don't find good health motivation enough to follow a gluten-free diet. Too many focus on what they believe they are missing instead of what they are gaining. They struggle with, or deny, the diagnosis of celiac and consider it a sentence.
Making a drastic lifestyle change like changing the way you eat, shop, socialize, and travel requires motivation. Sometimes it is found within sometimes it comes from an outside source. And, everyone has to find his or her own motivation.
I feel lucky to have multiple motivating sources... 2 come from within: having lived in constant pain and the memory of losing both my mother and grandmother at young ages to stomach cancer.  
The third, and outside source, is my moment to moment reminder in the form of a 3 year old, 39 lb bundle of explosive power who bursts into every day by 6am at full tilt - ready to play, run, jump, draw, paint, bake, read, dance and learn with inexhaustible energy, enthusiasm, and joy!
I need a tremendous pool of energy to keep up with her. I want to live as long and healthy a life as possible to be with her, enjoying every moment to the fullest. I love drawing her as much as she loves seeing the drawings. Two years ago I didn't have the strength or energy to do anything extra. It took everything I had to get through the day. Now, even with my very hectic schedule I find - and use - slices of time to create. It re-charges me and is my special gift to my daughter. And it has made me whole again.
So, from the outside people may only see what I give up or do without to be gluten-free but from where I stand all I can see is what I have gained – and it is infinite!
*My Little Mermaid, work in progress, ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

You can see my more of my work in my Etsy shop Erin Go Paint. Or check out my recent 100 Day Project on Instagram

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Art & Literature Giveaway!

First there was bacon and eggs, then peanut butter and jelly, then rhythm and blues, and now at long last, the teaming of Erin (illustrator) and Roy (author) to host an Art & Literature Giveaway. The lucky winner will receive a copy of the novel Patches of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr. AND a print of their choice from Erin’s Etsy shop.

Here’s how you play, folks. Go to ErinGoPaint, look through all of the listed items, return to this blog entry and post a comment stating what your favorite piece is. The randomly selected participant will win a copy of the print they chose ALONG WITH a copy of Roy’s book.

Only one comment per person on the blog is allowed, but additional entries can be made on Twitter by cutting & pasting the following tweet: A&L Giveaway - Win Patches of Grey by @authorofpatches & a print of your choice by @gfillustrator at http://tinyurl.com/lwvjbj
Each retweet of this message will be considered as an additional entry.

A minimum of 30 unique comments at the contest blog post is required for a lottery winner to be drawn. This contest runs July 27th through August 16th. Please leave an email address in your comment unless you are sure your link will lead to a web page where contact information can be obtained. Good luck.
~erin & roy

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Field of dreams

"French Cottage" acrylic on canvas, private collection, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering 

The movie was on TV the other night, and I watched it for the umpteenth time. It’s in my top 10, possibly top 5. I love the message.... Follow your dream, listen to the voice, stick with what has meaning to you even if others don't understand or think you are a little crazy.

Not only did Ray Kinsella create something magical that drew people to it and that had meaning to many others, but it gave him the opportunity to reconnect with his father whom he had lost years before. I love this movie but I can't watch it without crying.

I was drawn to create this blog (forgive the pun) and it struck me while watching the movie that by documenting my gluten-free journey I feel closer to my mother whom we lost 26 yrs ago. Telling my story has brought about a deep personal journey which sometimes becomes too intense for me. Explains my sporadic writing. Also explains why so many of my own postings make me cry.

I believe in my heart of hearts that my mother had celiac disease, which set the stage for stomach cancer.  This blog is an ongoing dedication to my mom who may have had a different fate had she known about celiac disease when she was young.  And dedicated to my own health & future that I am building one gluten-free day at a time.

I am building it - and SHE has come.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Little Things

"Right hand drawing left hand, drawn with right hand" ink & pencil, 5x7, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I started wearing nail polish in the 7th grade. A woman on our street worked for a cosmetic company and gave me dozens of sample bottles. I loved it - another dimension in painting. And I loved the color sparkling at the tips of my fingers. It was not allowed at school so it was my weekend decoration only.

From High School on I was never without nail polish. I had long strong nails and loved the color accent. Most people who knew me had never seen me without it. It was my signature.

About 7 years ago I started noticing problems with my nails... Splitting, cracking, ridges, white spots, and the top layer appeared to be peeling off.  My dermatologist diagnosed psoriasis (along with patches on my face and arms) and said there was no cure. Oh - and to stop wearing polish. Two weeks layer my husband proposed and everyone I knew was checking out my ring - and my un-manicured hands.

Flash forward... A year after sticking strictly to my gluten-free diet my nails are all the same length, no spots, no ridges, no cracking, peeling or splitting… As strong as they used to be. (and my skin is clear)  I did my nails last night for the first time in years and I feel like that little girl again with color dancing at the tips of my fingers.

Sometimes, it’s the little things…

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Doorways of France I, watercolor on paper, 8x10, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I've always had a thing for doorways... I like to draw them, photograph them, wondering what lays inside and they have played heavily in my dreams and nightmares.

Especially my nigtmares... There was a time I had so many 'door' nightmares that it inspired me to quit the job I had at the time. After months & months of similar nightmares they abruptly ceased when I gave notice.

Doorways hold a significant place in fairytales and fables representing entering the psyche. 
They are all over frequently used expessions... The eyes are the doorway to the soul; When opportunity knocks be sure to open the door; Shutting the door on the past; A foot in the door; Katy bar the door; Beating a path to your door.

I met my husband by opening the door both literally & figuratively. So quite appropriately we used one of my doorway paintings as the cover of his book, Patches of Grey.
You are never quite sure what you will find when entering a door but the outside sometimes shows a suggestion of what you will find within. Sometimes there are surprises. 

On April 17 2008 I stepped through the gluten-free doorway (well, actually I probably crawled through). I found a whole new world within myself and in my surroundings. It is an amazingly beautiful place to have ended up. Believing I was entering a place of limits - never imagining it would be filled with unlimited possibilities. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Facing Challenges

watercolor on paper, 8x10, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

Recently a friend asked if I would do a portrait of the beloved family dog that they had while she was growing up, as an anniversary gift for her parents. I love her - and her parents - so agreed immediatetly.

Then, I got the photo of the dog. Yikes. Just one reference photo, an all black dog in shadow! With obviously no chance of seeing the dog myself. It was way more than I bargained for --- and was not at all sure how to proceed.

First, I avoided. Then panicked. Then avoided again. Then dipped my toes in by doing the initial sketches and congratulated myself on progress. Yeah right. The drawing was the easy part and I knew it. I also knew come hell or high water I was going to complete this painting. I can be very stubborn.

So I did some research on painting black fur, and looked at dozens and dozens of photos of black dogs, and truly examined the photo I was given.

And inch by inch I made progress. At times difficult, other times fun, frustrating, informative, experimental, but it pushed me to try. And to try. And by trying I learned and I grew and found I could do it - and succeed.

So like my challenge of going, and staying, safely gluten free. Easy enough to agree to, but a huge learning curve... avoidance, research reseach and more research, days of discouragment and accomplishment, days I saw my health improving rapidly, along with those of backsliding. And I continued and pushed and grew... And along the way became a baker, a blogger, a supporter, a resource, an advocate, and a painter of black fur! (and let's not forget - healthy!)

My friend loved the painting, and during our visit we discussed celiac disease and it's many manifestations. She had many questions for me, and was calling her doctor the next day to get tested. On the drive home I realized these challenges really did go hand in hand.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Mother's Day Wish

  "Door to Granny's Cottage" acrylic on canvas, 5x7, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering
When I was a child both of my Grandmother's had cottages in beach communities. I absolutely loved visiting them. I adored the freedom of the indoor and outdoor blending together... Early morning walks, evenings on the porch or in the yard, kids free to roam, screen door banging as we ran in and out. I was inspired by those memories to create this painting, and enjoyed the thoughts of my grandmothers and mother as I painted.

I think of my mother and grandmothers often, and always feel their absence on mother's day. I lost my mother and maternal grandmother to stomach cancer. My Grandmother was 64, my Mother was just 48.  Did they have celiac disease?  We will never know, but it is my guess.

My Mother's Day wish is for greater awareness and understanding of celiac disease in the general population - AND in the medical community.  So every mother (and anyone who has a mother) can live a long, joyful, healthy, vibrant life. 

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Art and healing

"Iris" watercolor on Darches paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I guess it's not that surprising but the more I heal, the more energy I have so the more I paint. By late fall last year I was really starting to feel the change so took a leap and opened a shop on Etsy. If I was painting again, I might as well put it out there for the world to see.

And, they came looking. I have been featured in a variety of places recently and found out yesterday that my Iris print is the Etsy Item of the Day today and featured on the blog of the same name. I am honored to have had my work chosen.

Coming back to my art, and being able to enjoy - & keep up with - my daughter, have been the two greatest gifts of living gluten free.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dry Eyes

"Close Enough - Tiger" ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

Last week I went for my yearly eye check; to get my perscription tweaked and order new lenses. My Doctor commented immediately that my eyes didn't seem nearly as dry as past visits. I wear gas permemable (hard) lenses.
Last year he gave me a prescription to help my tear ducts produce more tears as the situtation was getting worse and worse and I was having trouble wetting my lenses. It was right about the time I went gluten-free. On a lark I googled dry eyes and auto-immune conditions. And what do you know? Sjorgens described me to a tee.

I put the presription aside and rolled the dice... I was betting the removal of gluten was going to improve the situatuon. Guess what?

After telling him I chose not to take the meds he asked if I was doing anything diffferent. "I went gluten-free... Celiac is an auto immume disease and so is sjorgens". Doc said keep it up - will be interesting to see if it continues to improve.

Yes it will. The changes and improvements keep coming and keep surprising me.

Monday, May 4, 2009


                 "Fresh Brewed", ink & watercolor on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering
I haven't written in a few weeks because I have been battling with cross-contamination and accidental gluten, on more than one occasion. It has been a struggle but am now almost a week without problems so my head is clearer, I've learned a few things and we are making some changes at home.

We have been keeping separate toasters, cooking utensils, cutting boards, etc but still seemed to be running into problems. Last night we made the decision to keep the house totally gluten free. So the kitchen will really be a safe zone for me.

I also learned the difference between getting glutened and eating something that I may have an allergy or sensitivity to... Both make me feel awful, and set off similar digestive problems but unless I consume gluten there is no migraine. This is big. It will help me to fine tune my diet. Unfortunately, my beloved strawberries (and possibly bluberries) sit on the sensitivity/possible allergy list. Who knows, maybe in another 6 - 12 months, as the healing continues I will be able to eat them again. In the meantime I see this as a positive.

I had a difficult time focusing on the positive over the last few weeks and made a real effort to keep repeating my personal statement "I am gluten free, therefore I can..." And revisitng my list of improvements in the last year, a list that does continue to grow. I know that even with setbacks I am much much better off then I was only a year ago.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did van Gogh have Celiac Disease?

"Starry Night" after Vincent van Gogh, fabric paint on onsie
by Erin Rogers Pickering for Ava when she was a baby

My random thought of the day...
I often think about van Gogh, he is one of my favorite painters and I have always been disturbed by the version of him I learned back in school - that he was crazy. After visiting France in 2000 and seeing where he lived in Auvers, I felt that history had done him an injustice. There have been so many theories on what tortured van Gogh and drove him to suicide, and many have not been kind. He shot himself in a wheat field. Hmmm... a wheat field.

What we know is that Vincent van Gogh was a genius; his art is unparalleled. We know he was gaunt, depressed, behaved erratically, was thought to be bipolar, complained of gastrointestinal problems, dental problems, headaches, tired/dry eyes, and fatigue. And - that he shot himself in a wheat field.

What if he wasn't a starving artist, but suffering from malabsorption? What if a gluten free diet could have saved him - and allowed his genius to continue?

What is your life's work? Your genius? What is stopping you from living fully and living gluten-free?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Washington DC

"Black Eye-Susans", detail, watercolor & ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

This past weekend we took a road trip to DC for a friends baby shower. A rooftop cocktail party on a spectacularly beautiful Saturday. This was one fun baby shower. We also were able to see friends from VA, had a lovely dinner with cousins of mine, were able to see many dinosaurs & bone exhibits (Ava loved!) And rode the carousel on the Mall... another Ava choice.

We managed to fill every moment in DC with fun on a trip that almost seemed as if we spent more time in the car than anywhere else. Late Friday evening (the 17th) after the car was unpacked, Ava was down for the night and we were relaxing our friend asked if we needed to go online. There I learned through a tweet that an illustration of mine was currently in the DC Examiner. It had arrived many many hours before me - but it didn't need to take the NJ turnpike. Nor was it delayed by the multiple potty stops needed for a 3 year old who had possibly consumed too many grapes.

It was very exciting to see my work included in an article chock full of information on celiac disease. It had very special significance for me, as Friday the 17th was my one year gluten-free anniversary. I have travelled a long way in one year.

The DC Examiner article

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Blue Balloon - My Ah-Ha Moment

          "the blue balloon" ink and watercolor on paper, copyright erin rogers pickering

On April 17th 2008 our very-verbal-just-turned 2 yr old was playing with her stuffed animals, dolls and some remaining birthday balloons. All were at a tea party and were assigned a name or personality. She was going through the group affecting different voices when she got to the blue balloon, picked it up and said "I Mommy, I tired! I need to rest." all in a very exaggerated drawn out yawning voice.

That was my ah-ha moment! She was replaying what she had heard over and over. I knew in my heart of hearts that gluten was the culprit and going mostly gluten-free was a cop-out.
By the time my husband got home an hour later I was committed to going strictly gf. He asked if I was prepared with food and information? Nope, not really. Didn't matter - it was now or never. I would learn as I go. I had to do this for my daughter, for me, for my husband, for my life.
I made that committment to myself and my family exactly one year ago never imaging how great I would feel again. I have watched so many ailments drop away or improve, the most significant being migraines, bone pain and exteme fatigue. Those three alone have been more than worth the effort.

I have many thanks to give... to all the celiacs out there that told their story online and shared information on sites like Celiac.com, to Scott Adams for starting Celiac.com, to Shauna James Ahern for writing "Gluten Free Girl", for Bette Hagman for blazing a trail, to all the gf bloggers, for all the food manufacturers that make gf food in dedicated facilities, and all those that produce strictly gluten-free food.  Their help was and is immeasurable.

And, a special thanks to my beautiful daughter with her amazing ablilty to mimic and to my wonderfully supportive husband. I couldn't have done it without them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Top 10 Gluten-Free Snacks

"Dining Alfresco", watercolor on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

My Top 10 Favorites Snacks – and they happen to be Gluten-Free

1. Tribe Hummus and baby carrots
2. Utz potato chips (wavy, regular, bbq)
3. Guacamole, tortilla chips and Green Mountain Gringo salsa
4. Brie cheese and 365 brand sesame rice crackers
5. Extra sharp cheddar and Mary’s Gone Crackers caraway crackers
6. Glutino pretzel twists
7. Bananas
8. Grapes
9. Bruschetta and toasted slices of 365 Brand Sandwich bread
10. Sliced gala apples with natural (crunchy) peanut butter

What is your favorite gluten free snack?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ode to the Oreo

                    "4 cookies and milk" , ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

When I was young we had cookies and milk for 3:00 snack. My mother would sit with us as we talked about our day. It was a ritual that carried straight through high school… by then the snacks had branched beyond cookies and milk and usually included any number of friends. And my mother continued to sit with all of us… It was lively and fun; a bright spot in the day.

Back to the cookies and milk of my youth, either Chips Ahoy or Oreos - 3 cookies were our daily allotment. My mother was all about moderation and portion control (which has stayed with me - thanks mom!).  As a kid I didn’t think 3 was enough... Not for Oreos! The greatest cookie ever made. So I learned to sneak a 4th most days. If my brother caught me I would act the innocent and get away with it. Years later while home from college I admitted to my Oreo sneaking... My mother was quite upset, more than I ever imagined and my brother was finally vindicated. I apologized multiple times to my mom but it truly upset her that I lied repeatedly.

Call it cosmic payback but I had my last Oreo when I was 21. Chocolate had become my #1 migraine trigger forcing me give it up for over 25 yrs. BTW - Now that the gluten is gone I can eat chocolate again (hurray!)... But Oreos are still out of the question.

There are so many gluten free products available now that I started on a mission to find an Oreo sub. I think I have been punished long enough. First I tried  Mi-Del chocolate sandwich cookies and though they are very good, the cookie was too crisp to pose as an Oreo; more like a Hydrox cookie. Very delicious. And my 13 year-old Nephew loved them.

But Tuesday I was drawn to visit a ShopRite in the next town (I believe my mother was guiding me) where I finally found KinniToos chocolate cream sandwich by Kinnikinnick  I had heard these were good so was dying to try them. I wasn't even in the car yet and I had the package open... Looked like an Oreo, felt like one, smelled like…. Wait- l had to sit down in the car first so I could focus.

The first bite brought tears to my eyes. The cookie was the perfect texture - the right amount of crunch and soft all in one. It had the right amount of sweet and flavor. The cream filling was…was just like an Oreo. I checked the package again to be sure. Gluten-free plain as day. Wow!  I ate two more before starting the car and had eaten a total of six by the time I arrived home. Portion control be damned - I had a lot of years to make up for. These cookies are the dream!

My husband has a package of Oreos in the cupboard and he did a side by side taste test last night. He said no difference. So it wasn't just me blinded by the years without.

Thank you Kinnikkkk for giving me back a slice of my childhood. Thank you for an excellent cookie.

Monday, April 6, 2009

In remembrance and gratitude

Cupcakes & Cappuccino, watercolor & ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

Last night as I was baking for Ava's birthday dinner tonight I had some rare quiet time to reflect on the momentous day to come. April 7th has been a life-changing day for me. I have experienced the saddest of times and the most joyous… losing my mother, and watching my daughter come into the world exactly 23 yrs apart.

I am flooded with memories and emotions. Knowing that my mother and my daughter are somehow magically linked to one another. Both influencing who I am… By example my mother taught me to be the mother I am today. My daughter inspires me to be my best and to live a healthy vibrant life... as I hope she will learn from my example.

I remember my mother with love and sweetness and light. I am grateful that I had her as my mom. I am grateful to my daughter for bringing such joy into our lives. I am grateful to her birthmother for choosing us to parent her, and bringing this dear sweet angel into this world. I am grateful for my wonderful husband. I am grateful for all my beautiful family and amazing friends. I am grateful to be healthy enough to enjoy and appreciate all that I have.


I started this blog as part of my healing process… to help others by sharing my story, as other stories helped me, and with the intent to create an illustration for every post. This would keep me creating. It is a tall order and has surely slowed me down, but is a very enjoyable and satisfying process.

That being said I felt this post deserved a photo. Our daughter turns 3 this week and on Saturday we had 7 of her friends and their parents over for brunch. We could’ve gone the bagel route but I was petrified of the amount of crumbs eight 3 year olds would create... Not for the mess, that comes with the territory, but what would a house full of gluten crumbs do to me? I decided not to find out.

I took Friday off from work and I spent the day baking and prepping for the party. And did I ever bake… 2 dz. cupcakes (vanilla and chocolate), a loaf of bread (for the baked French toast) and a batch of mini pumpkin/corn muffins. Thank you 365 Brand mixes... All were delicious and enjoyed by all!

I also made two crust-less quiches. No crust saves big on calories and is automatically gluten free. The meal was completed with a big fruit salad.

Ava helped me make the butter cream frosting that morning and assisted me in frosting the cupcakes – and herself. She was overjoyed by the party and managed to snag multiple cupcakes. She's fast.

Though the house required a serious cleaning there wasn't a gluten crumb in site. I was safe and healthy and got the ultimate thank you from my daughter…"thank you for the beautiful cupcakes. I love you mommy!" All is right in my world.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What if?

Fantasy Crocuses, watercolor and ink on paper, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

What if crocuses bloomed in a rainbow of pastels? Would the first flowers of spring spoil us? Too much too soon? Perhaps we would lose the appreciation for those first bursts of golden yellow set against the greys and almost colorless browns of the tail end of winter. Knowing that the lavendars and deep purples are just days away. And finding the delicacy of the scattered white crocuses. They appear so delicate yet they are damn strong to break through and bloom before winter is finished with us.

Sometimes I get caught up in the what ifs... What if my celiac was diagnosed 20 yrs ago? What if I didn't have celiac disease? Where would I be? What could I have accomplished? Not always the most productive way to spend my time. But, the positive side of this line of thinking is it surfaces what's important... where I really want to spend my time, and the appreciation that I do know now. It is pretty easy to follow food restrictions when you can see how bad it was and how good its become. And I can see it not as a struggle or loss - but a gain.

Through my art I can create a garden in whatever colors I imagine without losing an appreciation for the reality. Through my celiac experience I can create a life of good health, vitality and gratefulness and learn from where I have been.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Perfection on a Plate

copyright Erin Rogers Pickering, watercolor and ink on paper

I found perfection on a plate at BabyCakes in NYC.

Warm, cozy, inviting, charming, with such a friendly staff and - the cupcakes are out of this world! The gloomy, rainy day suddenly seemed warm and sunny. Guess it’s the light pink walls, soft glow of light, the divine baking scent and lovely staff. And knowing the cupcakes are gluten free so I could safely go crazy!

I had a chocolate brownie cupcake with vanilla frosting topped with delicate chocolate chips. Words can't adequately describe the velvety texture, the rich chocolate flavor, the sweet, but not overly so, divine frosting. Heaven on a plate. A perfect cupcake. I sketched it and then I ate it, giving me time to appreciate and savor the experience.

I have an extra appreciation for BabyCakes for having Pacific rice milk for my coffee... A truly gluten free rice milk.

If you are in NYC its worth the trip downtown.

  • BabyCakes NYC
  • Friday, March 20, 2009

    My personal statement

    Pears flour sack towel from my watercolor painting,
    copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    Recently I joined a celiac forum and I was prompted, while creating my profile, for my personal statement. My first thought was I didn't have one. Then I realized something I have been telling myself for most of the last year, as a whole new world of good health and happiness opened up to me.

    "I am gluten free, therefore I can..."

    Wow. "I can" Those are powerful words!

    I am gluten free therefore I can...
    Live without migraines
    Eat chocolate
    Drink red wine
    Be without bone pain
    Keep up with my daughter
    Face the day with a smile
    Go barefoot
    Wear heels
    Bake – I CAN bake
    Bake bread, muffins, cookies, cupcakes that are tasty to everyone
    Run again
    Paint, Draw, Create
    See possibility
    Think clearly
    Feel joy
    Feel healthy
    Be energetic

    This list could go on and on. Because when I went gluten free I truly hit the jackpot!

    Click here for my FREE printable Gluten Free Blessing

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Enjoying St Patrick’s Day Gluten Free

                          "St Patrick's Celebration" rough sketch, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I gave up beer 20 years ago on the suggestion of a neurologist, a migraine specialist, and one in the long line of specialists I have seen for my migraines. He was unable to ‘cure’ me but I did learn 3 things from him.

    1. I always fall into 2 – 3% of patients that have the most extreme or rare reactions to medications. Beta-blockers did not help my migraines, but did initiate weird reactions from my heart. I got off of them as soon as possible.

    2. I am good at biofeedback (and as a result meditation). I learned the biofeedback technique at his office and it has served me well dealing with chronic headaches and pain.

    3. The Doctor said his patients were finding beer to be a migraine trigger so best not to drink it. I tested the theory – and promptly gave up beer, as it was clear it was a migraine trigger for me. They had no idea at that time it was the gluten.

    Over the last 20 years I have mostly lost my taste for beer but remained a fan of cider. I was so happy to discover that Magner’s Irish Cider is naturally gluten-free.

    Magner's Irish Cider is the perfect way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and my Irish heritage. Imported from Ireland, gluten-free, delicious, crisp, and not too sweet, with a refreshing apple flavor. Serve icy cold. In my opinion it can’t be beat. I look forward to one (or two) this evening with my husband.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009


                                  "Running" ink on paper, from my sketchbook, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I ran regularly for over 15 yrs. I usually ended a run by icing my knees, and often taking a nap. One 6k race I collapsed at the finish line. People asked why I ran. My answer was always the same… "because I can".

    I couldn't describe the high... The release, the freedom, the joy, the order it created in my thoughts, finding resolutions, or making peace with what couldn't change. Being grounded, alive, refreshed. It was my moving meditation even as it became more and more difficult to do.

    Until Sunday it had been over 4 years since I went for a run. Broken ankle, torn calf, surgery, back problems, sciatica, foot pain, joint pain, bone pain and constant fatigue made it seem like running would forever be the thing I used to do. I didn't realize until recently how much gluten consumption was destroying my ability to run.

    Until Sunday. We went as a family to the cross-country path at the high school.  And I ran. It never felt so good. I didn't go very far but I learned a long time ago that the tortoise always gets to the finish line. It is the beginning again.  And I am still on a high from that run.

    I run because I am healthy
    I run because I am gluten free.
    I run because I can!

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Surviving Gluten

    "Vieques Sunset", acrylic on canvas, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I'm back. I have passed through the black hole of gluten effect.

    It was if a switch was flipped late yesterday afternoon – and the skies parted. It reminded me of the painting I did of a Vieques sunset… the sun splashing through the clouds; streaks of color breaking through the grey. Whenever I look at this painting I am on that beach again... Relaxed, peaceful, and in awe of the beauty of the sky.

    Today I feel like a million dollars. It was a rough few days but I am that much more appreciative of all that I have. I woke up happy, grateful, energized and pain free.
    Gluten free is a beautiful thing.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Staying Positive during a setback

                "Holiday Detroit Delay" pencil in sketchbook,  copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I bake my own breads and muffins, cook all my own food, keep separate toasters, spatulas, serving spoons etc, read labels obsessively, and shop in special stores. And still sometimes I get gluten. It can be very discouraging. Not sure where it came from... Was it cross contamination? Was it inaccurate labeling? Did I make an error? How to prevent it from happening again?

    The stomachaches start, the brain fog rolls in, the headaches come roaring back, and there is the crankiness that makes the smallest interactions unpleasant. And still I wonder where it came from… so I can avoid repeating it.

    Trying to not get depressed. And certainly reminding myself to stay on track. I return to the most basic foods until this passes and I can start feeling well again. Usually it takes me 3 to 5 days from last gluten consumption. So as I write this I have 2 more days. The cleaner and safer I eat between now and then, the better I'll feel.

    It can be discouraging, but I know there is an end in sight.

    I used to cover the Detroit metro area in addition to my NYC accounts. I would fly there once a month and see as many clients as possible in 2 or 3 days. Traveling monthly was fine until I became a mom. Then it was torture to me. I hated leaving her. Hell, I hated leaving her for the day to go into my NYC office everyday. So flying and any associated delays drove me mad.

    I did 2 things to stay positive. First, I spoke to my boss about trading the territory so I could be in NYC only. Secondly, I brought my sketchbook on every trip until the time came that I could transition away from traveling. I sketched in the airport, on the planes and in the evening in my hotel room. Sketching focused my thoughts away from the negative and gave back to me.

    I try to apply that to my gluten free life, and recovery... What can I set in action to change and heal? And what can I do to focus on the positive aspects while I heal? I took out my travel sketchbook last night when I was feeling particularly low and recalled a 3+ hour delay in Detroit right around the holidays. I didn’t quite capture my fellow travelers but I did have fun.

    Friday, February 27, 2009

    Is "considered" gluten free good enough?

    "Fruit of the Gods" watercolor, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I became very frustrated in the first few months as I attempted to remove all gluten from my diet. Seemed no matter how hard I tried I was still ingesting gluten – and delaying the healing process. I was afraid of any prepared or manufactured foods so went to the basics… fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, rice and potatoes. The produce department was my favorite place to visit and the only aisle in the grocery store that didn’t scare me. I continued to investigate everything else I considered eating.

    During that time I found out I needed foods produced in dedicated facilities… no matter how safe the handling practices. I learned that many manufacturers dust their conveyor belts with wheat so the food doesn’t stick. Also learning some foods are ‘considered’ gluten free because they contain less than 20 ppm.
    But, what if it is something you consume daily or in quantity? How much is really safe? I believe zero is safe.

    I drink rice milk daily and the two brands I was buying both contain traces of gluten. Even though they can legally be labeled as gluten free since it is below the 20 ppm. Last summer I switched to Pacific Brand Rice Milk and finally turned the corner. I saw a difference within two weeks and was finally able to begin healing.

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Great Friends

                                                                                                "Ladies Night" copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    This past Saturday we got together with 2 friends I used to work with, and their families. It had been a long, long time since the 3 of us were together. We were missing #4, but she lives in FL now so we were hoping she was warm, and having as much fun as we were.

    It was one of those events that I was awaiting all week with excitement. But, since going gf I always have a bit of trepidation before eating at anyone's home (all except my brother's since my sister-in-law cooks only gf). I would never want to insult any of my family or friends but I need to protect myself and eat safely, so I often bring my own food.

    I always offer to bring appetizers since I can bring a variety of things I can eat... and can always fill up on gf snacks so I can eat light at dinner if need be. My go-to choices... cheese, gf rice crackers, Green Mountain Gringo salsa, fruit, hummus, carrot sticks, and gf tortilla chips.

    Well, my wonderful, amazing friend who hosted the dinner went out of her way to prepare a safe meal - and told me everything that went into it so I could rest at ease. She even made a portion of her special appetizer just for me that no one was allowed to touch.

    My other dear sweet friend was bringing dessert so she went looking for gf cookies. They were mini bites with raisins and yummy!

    So we ate, we drank, we talked, we laughed... all while the kids became instant best friends and got along beautifully. I was able to relax and partake in all the delicious food knowing I was loved and protected.

    My cup runneth over.
  • Erin Go Paint Etsy Store
  • Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Happy Feet

    Spring Shoe Parade, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    A funny thing happened on the way to gluten free… My feet got better.

    My feet had gotten so tender I couldn’t even stand being barefoot. My shoes had all become torture. Day after day I wore the same soft flat slip-on shoes. Putting them on as soon as I got out of bed in the morning, and taking them off right before getting into bed at night.

    It happened so gradually I didn’t really notice until they were quite bad.  My foot problems were overshadowed by the headaches, bone pain and digestive problems. Dozens of high-heels lay forgotten in my closet, I didn't even want to look at them – and this from a high-heeled wearing shoe addict.

    Happily, I am back in heels on most days and have even been kicking around the house barefoot... loving every minute of it.

  • Erin Go Paint Etsy Store
  • Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    My Migraine Story – A Gluten Free Miracle

    My first visual aura occurred when I was 12. My first migraine struck about 6 months later. It was like being hit by a truck. At that time they came every few months, lasted less than a day, but they leveled me. By 16 they were more frequent and we now knew what they were. The pain was excruciating, the auras made me vomit, so when I found food trigger lists I tried to give up everything on the lists.

    Unfortunately gluten didn't make it to those trigger lists 30 yrs ago. Damn shame. But chocolate and red wine were there and by my early 20s I had vowed never to touch them again (I stayed true to that vow for over 20 yrs). It wasn't worth 4, 5, 6 days in bed in the dark in agony... Thinking I would never see the other side of that pain.

    I have tried everything from radical and experimental drug treatments, heavy-duty painkillers, acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, tai chi, ice packs, caffeine, hot compresses, sleep, and a severely restricted diet, but still never a mention of gluten.
    And still averaged 3-4 migraines a month. Lasting an average of 2 days.

    I do remember in my late 20's while speaking with a renowned NYC Migraine Neurologist that he recommended avoiding beer since that seemed to be a huge migraine trigger with most of his patients.

    In 2000 I found out I had celiac disease accidentally. Through an elimination diet in order to control my fluctuating thyroid levels, I removed gluten among other things. When I reintroduce gluten I got a migraine - Every. Single. Time. 
    I ate mostly gluten free for the next 5 years and felt a little better but not great, but did not have a full understanding.

    In April 2009 I made the decision to get super strict and super vigilant.  No matter what it took I was going to get all the gluten out  - I could no longer live with the constant bone pain, profound exhaustion and what had become daily headaches.

    It took a lot longer than I thought to really feel a difference but the headaches started to lessen within weeks. After a few months it was clear the migraines were leaving. And they only occurred when I accidently ate gluten.
    It took some time, and a huge effort, to identify and remove all the gluten traces in my diet.  ALL the traces!

    This coming April I will hit my 5 year mark of super clean. I have lost track of the last time I had a migraine... After 30+ years I never really thought I would ever see this day! I never thought this could be possible!  
    And the joy and gratefulness that I feel brings tears to my eyes. I do know that it is well worth the trouble to be gluten free and that I have to maintain zero tolerance.

    This is not a diet to ever cheat on. You only cheat yourself.

    Important note: Since going gluten free, chocolate and red wine are no longer migraine triggers... and I savor them every chance I get!