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, to Scott Adams for starting, 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.