Archive for April, 2009

The Boston Marathon: It All Starts Here… Right at Home

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

One day a year, on the third Monday in April, my tiny world, my universe, becomes larger than life.

Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the tiny town in which I live and work, is the start of the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, and one of the world’s most well-known road racing events.

The BeFreeForMe offices are located in downtown Hopkinton right at the starting line, and my home is right down the street, the one that is lined with runners anxiously waiting in corrals; apprehensively waiting to begin a challenge that they have been training for months, or even years.

The weather this year was chilly, and windy. The runners were lined up, looking athletic, lean and muscular; obviously ready physically for the task ahead. But what surprised me was the looks of doubt that some of the runners had. I couldn’t help but think: Maybe they had missed a training? Maybe they were sporting a slight cold? Maybe they were not use to the New England temperamental weather? Did they now fear Heartbreak Hill? But why the doubt…visually these people were obviously physically ready for the 26.2 mile task ahead.

The deer-in-the-headlights look of these doubters reminded me of the expression many newly-diagnosed celiacs and food allergic have – including, I am sure, the look I had myself. The task we all face seems overwhelming, yet we are all physically ready to tackle it, one step at a time. Our obstacles may not be a missed training, sniffles, or rainy weather; yet we have obstacles of our own to undertake one incident, and, one day, at a time.

Staying focused, using self-encouragement, remembering our mission of health and rising to the challenge ahead are things we all must remember when that doubt sneaks in.

And remember those crowds. Those that are cheering us all on. They are the positive energy that will get us through the Heartbreak Hills of life.  

And lastly, remember it “All Starts Here”… right here at home – where your biggest supporters and fans will be cheering you on, every day in the marathon of life as a celiac or food allergic.

*Note: The cute puppy in the photo with me is my incredibly sweet Boxer, Sadie. =) She is very excited about the thousands of visitors she saw on her daily “run” on Marathon Day; Hence, she was having a hard time posing for the camera. Maybe the next photo shoot.

My Gluten-free Map – “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide”

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

When I first got diagnosed with celiac disease six years ago I was lost. I actually had the doctor write down the words “celiac sprue” on a diagnosis sheet to take home with me because I had no idea how to spell it or, for that matter, even pronounce it.

How my world has changed since that day.

One person who was with me from the get-go, helped me start the gluten-free lifestyle, get me on the right track and continue the journey successfully was Shelley Case; a complete stranger, but one who personified herself through what I call my “gluten-free map”,  more commonly know as the “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide”.

This guide went through it all with me. Like my first car when I was sixteen, this book helped me learn the ropes and got a few nicks and scratches along the way. Dog-eared, note-scribbled, highlighted and full of splatters from ingredients of newly-learned gluten-free recipes, this guide became the map while navigating through my diagnosed gluten-free life. 

The first year of being diagnosed the guide was with me at all times. I toted it around in my bag – never quite knowing when I may have to refer to it. The guide helped me discover if buckwheat was gluten-free (Answer: Yes!) or if spelt should be avoided before the first bite (Answer: Yes!). I fondly call my standing-order shopping list “The Page 84 Hit List” and got some fantastic meal ideas and recipes that are still favorites today.

As you can imagine, I was more than thrilled when I was sent the revised and expanded edition of the “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide” for review. Fresh, clean, unscathed and almost triple the size of my original edition, I quickly realized that the map that helped me navigate through the gluten-free lifestyle in 2003 is now the GPS of 2009. Jammed packed with classic and new info, it is a must-have for those new to the gluten-free journey, as well as the seasoned gluten-free traveler.

In a quirky way the expansion of the guide is symbolic of the growth of my gluten-free journey over the past 6 years.  Looking now at the original copy of “My Gluten-free Map”, I smile fondly at the dog-eared pages, the notes in the sidebars, and the memories the book transpires. I remember the paths that were traveled, the questioned asked, the guidance received and the lessons learned along the way.

I’ve come along way since 2003, and I am looking forward to the rest of the ride – especially since Shelley Case has provided my GPS.

Celebrity Apprentice Goes Gluten-free?!

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

What a great plug for gluten-free items & awareness on the Celebrity Apprentice tonight! Team Kotu and Athena had the task of coming up with a new meal and marketing plan for Schwan’s, a company that delivers meals “right to your door with no muss or fuss, making ‘convenient’ seem like an understatement”.

Well, Team Athena (members include: Melissa Rivers – TV Host/Produce, Jesse James – Entrepreneur/TV Host, Annie Duke – Poker Champion, and Brande Roderich – Playboy Playmate) won with the GLUTEN-FREE Triple Play Turkey Meatballs!

When Donald announced the challenge at the start of the show, I thought to myself, “I would market a gluten and allergen-free meal”. Then, before I knew it Annie Duke starts talking about developing a gluten-free dinner! I actually jumped up clapping!

The presentation Team Athena made to the executives at Schwan’s was good, but I thought it needed a bit of a marketing tune-up (and that’s coming from a Gluten-free Marketing Foodie) – but they got the point across about gluten-free being one of the fastest growing segments, and even chatted up wheat/ gluten-intolerances and celiac disease!

Check out the Schwan’s website to see about the Celebrity Apprentice episode and also info on the gluten-free meal – including how to order it.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Trump and executives at Schwan’s… I think this idea is more than a triple play… the name may have to be changed to “Homerun Turkey Meatballs.

Just two cents coming from a Gluten-free Marketing Foodie.

Rhubarb & Strawberries: A Lesson to be Learned

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009


One of the first signs of spring is the arrival of rhubarb and strawberries at the local grocer. While the weather may still be chilly, the days do seem to be getting warmer and longer. Everyday the sun is getting higher in the sky, and I can’t help but notice that spirits seem to be getting higher too.

Tough and tart Rhubarb is a lot like these bitter, chilly spring mornings. However, when combined with shiny strawberries & sweet sugar the medley uncannily becomes a lot like these early spring days that start out nippy, but by mid-day becomes a promise of the sweet warm days to come.

The good with the bad. The bitter with the sweet. Funny how they complement each other best sometimes. Living with celiac or food allergies we have all recognized and experienced the combo of the two.

The weakest morning sun and the chilly early air always become brighter and warmer… especially when sprinkled with extra sunbeams and the faith of better days to come.

Which Online Grocery Shopping Sites are Good for Those on a Gluten-free Diet or with Food Allergies?

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I love going to the grocery store each week to do my weekly shopping. I love finding newly discovered gluten and allergen free items, while meandering down each aisle. But lately I have been really short on time and have been considered using an online grocery shopping service. But I’ve been hesitant… How can I read the product labels online? How do I know what is really gluten free? Allergen free?

Then while reading my May issue of Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine, I found an article that compares five different online grocery sites. I decided to take this comparison to the next level – the true BeFreeForMe gluten-free and allergen-free test done by a die-hard gluten and allergen free shopper.  Here is what I discovered:



Where is it available?: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, DC, Chicago and parts of Wisconsin.

What makes this site gluten and allergen free friendly? Peapod offers something called “My Nutrifilter” which allows you to customize a shopping plan by selecting one or more of several special diets, including gluten, dairy, peanut, and egg free. Then when you shop, any item free of everything you designate will display an icon letting you know which products are safe for you to buy. This is great for those with multiple allergies!  Ingenious! Clearly a Gluten, Allergy and every combination-in-between winner!


Fresh Direct:

Where is it available?: New York Metro Area

What makes this site gluten and allergen free friendly? Although Fresh Direct had a limited accessibility for those with food allergies (although it did have a fantastic kosher section) this website had a very large selection and accessibility for those on a gluten-free diet. “Gluten-free Favorites for Tender Tummies!” is the headline for the page that highlights products gathered by the Fresh Direct nutritionist.

What I like the best about this online grocery shopping site is the ability to find a gluten-free menu and buy all the ingredients … with just one click! THAT is a time-saver…!


My Brands:

Where is it available?: Nationwide.

What makes this site gluten and allergen free friendly? This site is promoted as your grocery store “Endless Shelf”. On this site you can find items that got bumped off your grocery store shelves or items that are just plain ‘ole super hard to find (and we all know THAT feeling!)

I checked out the gluten free section on this site (there is also a Kosher, fat free and sugar free sections – but no allergens) and found tons of salad dressings, fun marinades, dips and sauces. This site had tons of unique items and I can’t wait to order and create some new recipes or spice up that old salad!

This site is the place to check out for those hard to find favorites … all easily accessible with a click of a mouse!



Where is it available? Las Vegas; California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Phoenix; Maryland; Philly and DC

What makes this site gluten and allergen free friendly? There is no gluten-free and allergen-free break down of products on this site. You can however type your dietary requirements in the “search field” of the homepage and find numerous gluten and allergen free products available for delivery.



Where is it available? San Francisco; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; Seattle. (Live in Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Calgary? Than visit…

What makes this site gluten and allergen free friendly? I really like the fun, crisp and clean look of this site! Although there is no actual allergen-free or gluten-free shopping list or sections, I like that you can find local, organic produce – delivered straight to your home.

There is also a blog on this site, which makes it personalized and a reason to visit frequent.

Another fun feature of this site? The “Calculate how much you save by not going grocery shopping” feature!

Check it out!  After checking this feature out I think I’ll be shopping down a virtual aisle soon!

Peanut-Free Seats at Fenway Park!

Monday, April 6th, 2009

“A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.” ~ Humphrey Bogart

This quote rings true for so many… the first pitch, the excitement in the air, and the hopes for a World Series season. There is nothing better than a hot dog… or peanuts… in a ball park.

A steak at the Ritz? I could take-it or leave-it… any day. But I would die for a Fenway Frank on opening day.

The little things.

That is what I miss the most.

Those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or food allergies know that the little things like a hotdog or peanuts in the ballpark are the things that are missed the most – and sometimes prevent attending if the allergy is severe enough. The small things that some take for granted – often prevent those with allergies from enjoying.

That is why I was more than thrilled when I got an email from the New England Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA NE) offering seats (first dibs to their members) for four games that have peanut-allergy friendly zones.

If interested, seats within this peanut-allergy friendly section cost $75 and SRO (Standing Room Only) cost $25. Please send an email to to see if tickets are still available, since they are on a first come first serve basis. These peanut-allergy friendly sections will be available during the games at Fenway Park on: April 19th, June 7th, July 12th, and September 13th.


UPDATE: April 9, 2009 – Thursday – I received this updated message from the AAFA NE today!

Peanut-Allergy Families,

The 2009 season has officially started! We are very excited we will be seeing many of you at the ballpark this season and are very confident it will be an exciting year.

As all of the seats have sold out for April 19th, June 7th, July 12th, and September 13th, however we still have a limited amount of standing room for each game at this time within our Coca-Cola Left Field Pavilion Section. Please let me know ASAP if you would like to purchase tickets while they are still available.

Standing Room tickets are only $25 each!

For tickets contact Ryan Latham at the Red Sox at


Allergy-free kudos and cheers to the AAFA NE and to the Red Sox!

P.S. Does anyone know of any other ball parks doing a similar peanut-free section for games? If so, please respond to this post so I can alert all members! Thanks!

You Know You’re a Celiac While Eating Out At a Restaurant When…

Sunday, April 5th, 2009


` You know exactly what you will order before even arriving since you’ve already checked out the menu on-line or had a personal phone conversation with the chef…

` Having a waiter or waitress that has celiac themselves is like hitting the lottery – but even better…

` You find yourself staring at other diners at Italian restaurants that are dipping fresh, hot bread into fragrant extra-virgin herbed olive oil…

` You find absolutely nothing wrong with bringing your own San-j Gluten-free Soy Sauce to Asian restaurants…

` You know that desserts are a privilege, and not a right. If you find one on a menu that is gluten-free it will be ordered, and thoroughly enjoyed, regardless if you want it or not!

How do “You Know That You’re a Celiac?” …??? Please share!


This is the last of three blogs in the series of “You Know You’re A Celiac When….”

You know You’re a Celiac While Grocery Shopping When…

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

~ You can whip through reading any product label like a food engineer on steroids…

~ Your first few grocery trips after being diagnosed take a full morning – if not a full day…

~ It is fair game to drum-up conversation with anyone that has Van’s Waffles or Cherrybrook Kitchen products in their shopping carts…

~ When you bought your first box of gluten-free Rice Chex in the “regular” cereal section you did cartwheels down the rest of the aisle….

~ You can quickly become a contortionist in a moments notice while trying to read the labels of deli products behind the glass display case… 

~ You look at end-caps of Twinkies and Ring Dings and realize you don’t really miss them – and you’re actually glad you can’t have them…

~ Your grocery cart has the healthiest contents of every shopper in the store – without even meaning to…

~ You know where the Natural Food section is located in every supermarket 35 miles from your home…

~ You usually end up shopping at 2-3 stores for your groceries each week in order to find everything that you want… and need…

~ The cost of the contents of your weekly grocery cart could put all your children through a full semester at a private school…

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