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Gluten-Free Astrology: Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Well, hello there, Gluten-Free Libras. So glad you could make it. No, but really. GF Libras are such easygoing, sociable people—an asset to every gathering. When you join the conversation, everyone (even sullen GF Cancers and hyperactive GF Geminis like me) feels a bit more at ease.

The GF Libra is decidedly not a loner; you seek out and thrive on companionship. For you, a solitary safe dinner at home is terribly depressing; you prefer to seek out new experiences, preferably with a partner or BFF as well as some new friends-to-be. A humble GF Gemini like myself might feel awkward about whipping out my mason jar of rice and black-bean salad and gluten-free roll at a restaurant (as I wound up doing last week), but you never would. And, given your level-headedness and communication skills, you’re almost always able to successfully convey your needs to the waiter and chef and manage to wrangle a safe meal for yourself anyway.

scales (symbol of Libra)

Though the gluten-free diet, despite popular misconception, doesn’t have much at all to do with weight, the GF Libra is all about the scales.
Photo © Joie De Cleve | Flickr

In fact, I would love to carry one of you around in my back pocket to pull out whenever I need to calmly explain something about celiac disease or gluten-free living to someone who’s just not getting it. You’d acknowledge both sides of the discussion, calmly bring us to an understanding, and smooth out any tensions or hurt feelings as you went. In short, you’d do a much better job than I ever do.

If spokespeople were selected by community vote, GF Libras—the ultimate people people—would be nominated, seconded, and appointed without a word of dissent from anyone. (Well, except for the Leos, who would feel the crown really belonged to them.) And, indeed, GF Libras are excellent advocates: they care intensely about fairness and are able to raise awareness for their community without forgetting the priorities of others. Put your advocacy skills to the test this month. Though National Celiac Awareness Day is behind us and our month is a ways away, there’s plenty of work for you to do in the meantime.

The GF Libra is ruled by Venus, and therefore loves loveliness. No misshapen gluten-free cookies make their way onto your buffet table—everything must be perfect. Oh, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you make them yourself; many Libras are so laid-back as to be underachievers. If your baking skills don’t hold up, rather than try, try again, you’d probably walk, walk to the door of that local GF bakery that makes the most beautiful cupcakes, with piped-on frosting blossoms. So they cost $6 each? Ah, well, what’s a little extravagance in the pursuit of happiness?

According to my astrology bible, Libras love to spruce up their homes with tasteful luxury. Now, I happen live with a GF Libra, and while she doesn’t precisely display this characteristic, she was the one who had the idea to buy glass canisters and fill them with certified gluten-free grains and beans as a display piece.

shelf with canisters of gluten-free grains and cookbooks displayed

Totally the work of a GF Libra.

And, although we’ve lived in our apartment for nearly three months now without putting up our art, she is rather more bothered than I am by it. For the slight discrepancy, we might blame her lazy Libran nature, or perhaps her nurture: our Taurean father’s practical housekeeping and Scorpio mother’s conservative fiscal habits probably tamped down her inherent frivolousness.

Perhaps, internally, she does waffle between frivolity and sensibility. If so, she wouldn’t be alone, for many GF Libras struggle with trying to be all things to all people and therefore feel as though they’re never quite themselves, never wholly real. Often, they sense that something vitally important is missing from their lives. It’s probably gluten.

The GF Libra is associated with the kidneys, and several studies have indicated a connection between celiac and renal disease. Although these studies have failed to disclose the astrological signs of the surveyed subjects, I think we can safely surmise that many of them were born between September 23rd and October 22nd.

You know who was definitely born in that range? These GF Libra celebrities. Oh, and there are plenty. Check them out:

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow, born September 27th, 1972, typifies her sign’s natural loveliness: she was named People‘s “Most Beautiful Woman” in April, and she’s in the public eye for several different philanthropic and awareness-raising campaigns. However, she’s unnaturally polarizing to the GF community. Though she’s certainly out there talking about her gluten-free diet, nobody’s sure she’s talking about it quite right. But her nonchalant book title, personal motto, and retort to our accusations that she distorts the diet’s purpose couldn’t be much more Libran: “It’s all good.” Sure, Gwyneth. Sure it is.
Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian, born October 21, 1980, is another GF Libra who goes 100 percent against my earlier statement about Libras being the most welcome gluten-free advocates (but don’t worry, everything else I said is true). As of this tweet in 2012, she was all about the gluten-free diet, and went on record about the great weight loss she achieved from it. The community, judging from such comments as those at Gluten Dude’s site, was not thrilled. Our wonderful journalists over at the Examiner later kept us up to date when she cheated with some ramen. Goodness. It really is tough to keep up with her.

Are you a GF Libra who really does present gluten-free life in a balanced, truthful way, or do you know of another one? Let me know in the comments if so!

As always, the “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

See also: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo

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Gluten-Free Astrology: Gemini (born May 21 – June 20)

Today marks the start of ME ME ME ME ME ME—sorry, I mean Gemini. The temperature is rising, flowers are blooming, kiddies are graduating, asparagi are past their peak but still in season, and it’s time to direct our attention to the Gluten-Free Gemini. As it should be.

Gemini begins today, May 21st, and extends through June 20th. Let’s check out what the stars have in store for me and my fellow Geminis this month.

Photo © Joe Plocki | Flickr With "twins" rather than an animal as the sign's ruling symbol, Flickr search results for "Gemini" get a bit artsy...

Photo © Joe Plocki | Flickr
With twins as the sign’s ruling symbol, Flickr search results for “Gemini” get a bit artsy.

The Gluten-Free Gemini is ruled by Mercury, the messenger god who reigns over communication, travel, and cleverness. To get a sense of the GF Gemini, think Mercury, the element: rapidly shifting, rising then plummeting, erratic and unpredictable, like that red stuff in an old-fashioned thermometer during climate change. GF Geminis are versatile and, as a friend recently reminded me, capricious. They always have something—or several things—going on, because they pick up projects quickly and drop them just as suddenly. They’re the type of gluten-freer who heard “for life” and thought, “Is that even possible?”

In other words, as a GF Gemini, it’s absolutely shocking I’ve maintained this astrology project for even three posts running. GF Cancers, consider yourselves warned.

For us GF Geminis, this month will be a time—as usual—of varied, unfinished projects, new enthusiasms, and sudden burnouts. Perhaps you’ll actually attempt to set up that gluten-free speed-dating sesh, or become briefly immersed in the world of from-scratch GF baking. You’ll look into event spaces, reach out to some fellow GF community members, realize how much work an event like this would be, and drop it immediately. Or you’ll order twelve different kinds of flour from Amazon and perform frenzied Google searches trying to choose the best blend, then lose patience, throw caution to the wind, make up your own blend, and lose faith in the entire pursuit when your baked good falls flat. But you won’t stay discouraged for long! You move on fast, and you’re quick to laugh, even at your own shortcomings.

2364855707_0c71ef966c_z

GF Gemini rules over butterflies and vibrantly colored birds—flitting, dainty things that delight their onlookers but are internally rather cold, bored souls already eyeing that prettier flower over…there. Though the GF Gemini is talkative and forthcoming, this urge to communicate can sometimes turn into idle, superficial chatter or gossip. You aren’t mean, you just love a good story. This month, strive not to alienate your loved ones, who have accommodated your gluten-free lifestyle handsomely, by talking about them behind their backs or tuning them out while you brainstorm your next blog post.

Then again, if you do mess up, you’ll probably win everyone back over with your fantastic people skills (which we supposedly have—I keep waiting for mine to kick in). You know how to win people to a cause, and this month just might be the month you finally persuade your relatives (and friends, and random passerby on the street) to get themselves tested for celiac disease. You aren’t, after all, content to play the part of the patient on this gluten-free stage—you’ve got to play the doctor, nurse, and researcher, too! At least until you tire of it.

The body parts ruled by Gemini are the lungs and arms (get it? Twins?), and we g-free types sometimes have asthma and weak bones to deal with. Eat those calcium-rich green leafies to avoid breaking any arms this month when you get overexcited about trying the new bikeshare program in your city; and don’t diagnose yourself with any associated autoimmune disorders just because you have a cursory understanding of them from WebMD. Beware your tendency to skim and assume mastery having done so. (Remember you’re not the doctor.)

Though your cheerful demeanor helps you to hide it (unless you’re broadcasting it to the entire internet, like I do), you do have a brooding, anxious side. Try to remember it’s springtime out there, and there are lots of interesting things to focus on in this world—no need to worry too much about what’s next in your personal health adventure.

There are lots of interesting GF Geminis to follow, too. People with gluten issues are maybe more likely to be born in spring and summer, so there are lots of Geminis; and Geminis are so lively and compelling that of course they wind up celebrities. A winning combo!

392px-Novak_Djokovic_Hopman_Cup_2011_(cropped)

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is a GF Gemini, and an awesome one at that (happy birthday to him tomorrow). He attributes his stepped-up tennis game to switching to a gluten-free diet, although recently his performance has been inconsistent. In his own words, he “lost the concentration”—sounds about right for a Gemini. Also Geminilike, he spends his leisure time founding restaurant chains then leaving the day-to-day operations up to other people, making cameos in music videos, and buying up entire year’s productions of donkey cheese (OK, that one’s not true).

Elisabeth Hasselbeck

Elisabeth Hasselbeck

Elisabeth Hasselbeck is another biggie in GF Geminiland. Like the rest of us, she keeps herself busy: not content to appear on just one TV show, she’s flirted with SurvivorGood Morning America, and of course her own show The View, where she shows off her Gemini communication skills. Plus, she’s written two books about living and cooking gluten-free (though her knack for picking up choice tidbits from other people’s self-published books may or may not have gotten her into a spot of trouble there).

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

Last but most certainly not least, I have to give a shout-out to Marilyn Monroe, who was a Gemini through and through and stumbled upon her own super-weird version of a gluten-free diet, to which she attributed her awesome figure in this old Pageant article. Every day, she claimed, she ate two raw eggs in warm milk, plain broiled meat, four or five raw carrots, and occasionally a hot fudge sundae. Bizarre, yes, gluteny, no.

As always, the “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

See also: AriesTaurus

Don’t click away yet, GF Geminis! I know YouTube calls, but resist your flighty nature long enough to leave me a comment. What new projects do you have planned this month?

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Pride and Prejudice and Gluten

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a celiac man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the appetite or baking ability of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Someone, after all, must take on the hard but fulfilling task of baking her way through that fortune, one bag of superfine rice flour at a time.

So begins PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND GLUTEN, the classic novel reimagined to include something scarier than ballroom dancing and zombies alike. 

prideprej

When Mr. Bingley moves into the neighborhood, he doesn’t know quite what he’s getting himself into. He quickly learns he has entered a zone of intensely elevated celiac prevalence, brought on no doubt by many years of marrying one’s cousin and so forth.

Just as quickly, the news spreads that a likely young bachelor has let Netherfield Park. The gritty gifted cupcakes begin pouring in, as do the invitations with postscripts appended in the beautiful script that comes naturally to those women who have spent years practicing, all to the effect of, The buffet will have hummus.

Bingley good-naturedly agrees to attend, and brings along his friend, Darcy, with whom he pleads, hovering by the refreshments table in the grand tradition of non-dancers at balls, “Come, Darcy, I must have you try a bite of this.”

“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest anything gluten-free, unless I am particularly acquainted with the brand. With such a spread as this it would be insupportable. If there were any traditional baked goods, I might consider it, but alas, there is not a cracker or pudding in the room it would not be a punishment to eat.”

Having overheard all, Elizabeth Bennet—snarky before her time and with a measured but abiding pride in her own talent for recipe development, which though passable is widely understood, even by Elizabeth herself, to be inferior to her sister Jane’s—writes Darcy off as the worst kind of gluten-eating boor: too proud of his own lack of immune response to gluten, too prejudiced to try the teacakes at which Elizabeth has slaved away, combining four different recipes and throwing out three batches before she got them just right.

“I could easily forgive his pride,” Elizabeth sniffs, “if he had not mortified mine.”

You may think this story over before it has even begun, but there are twists and turns to come as Jane Bennet and Bingley fall in love over millet scones and buckwheat biscuits, then are driven apart by Darcy’s cynical remarks about their future children’s double genetic risk and the Bennet family’s inappropriate dinnertime discussion of matters gastrointestinal. After a suitable amount of mutual anguish, the two come together again as the beautiful and gluten-free always do.

In between, there’s a spot of trouble for Lydia, the youngest Bennet daughter, involving one Mr. Wickham, a roguish character who never truly intended to keep his kitchen cross-contamination-free. Darcy, it seems, has known all along that Wickham’s promises were as thin as the paper towels he wouldn’t actually use to wipe up his own crumbs. It is Darcy who alerts the family, though sadly not before a glutening catastrophe to which he refers in only the most euphemistic of terms; this is, after all, a novel of manners.

Darcy’s aid in this matter, and then in reuniting Jane with Bingley, endears him somewhat to Elizabeth, but what seals the deal is a letter he sends her with, enclosed, his recent positive biopsy results. It is revealed that his excessive pride was born of his fear that he himself may all too soon be forced to sup on sandwiches insupportable by their fragile bread, and piecrusts made of grains his family would scorn as peasants’ fare. Furthermore, it was persistent gluten exposure that caused his irritability and dour physiognomy.

The twin barriers of Darcy’s gluten eating and terrible personality now removed, there is nothing to stop Elizabeth from wedding him immediately, which she so does. As in the original, they all live happily ever after, except for Lydia.

*

So what do you think? Will Keira Knightley agree to take the lead?

Text adapted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, now in the public domain. Wheat image from jayneandd at the Flickr Creative Commons. Book cover image stolen shamelessly from Penguin—they can afford it.

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Celiac disease is not a game. But it should be!

I’ve always wanted to invent my own board game. As a kid, I was the mastermind behind several new games, including Cops and Robbers II—an elaborate affair involving a three-strikes-you’re-out-via-electric-chair rule (the strikes cleverly tracked by attaching clothespins to the unlucky robbers’ T-shirts)—and Orphans, which was exactly what it sounds like and always starred a resourceful eldest orphan child who thrived in her new pseudo-maternal role (played by me, every time). These games were a hit in my neighborhood (or at least in my own head), but a decent board game was always beyond my reach. Turns out, it’s hard to invent a board game. You need a head for logistics, design skills, and, above all, I felt, an imaginative concept.

Then again, if you pay attention to the board games market, you begin to see that innovative concepts are few and far between. I swear, every board or card game introduced in the past ten years has been a remake of an older game that required no special equipment, a mash-up of several previously published games, or yet another addition to the -Opoly family. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my extensive research, it’s this: forget innovation and just rip someone off.

With this rule in mind, I’ve come up with a new board game called Sorry!—The Celiac Edition.

Photo © schrierc | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo © schrierc | Flickr Creative Commons

For this game, you’ll need a board, pieces, and numbered cards from the game Sorry! (which is, by the way, itself a ripoff of Parcheesi).

Although it could be said that for 3 million Americans, this is already the Game of Life, the game is for 3 to 4 players. Every player except one represents a celiac patient and, unlike in the standard version, receives just one of the 16 pawns.

The remaining player represents Gluten. Assigned based on highest cruelty level as determined by popular vote, this player gets all the remaining pawns.

As in Sorry!, the object is to get your pawn from Start to Home, here known as Health. The players all have their own Start and Health spaces, because every road to health is unique.

Play proceeds clockwise, beginning with the sickliest player—again, determined by popular vote. Players draw one card per turn and move their pawns according to the numbers on the pawn. To move his/her pawn off of Start, a player must draw either a 1 or 2 (or, for added realism, 1 only). Gluten is not bound by this rule and may proceed from Start as soon as at least one other player has a pawn in play.

If Gluten moves one of his/her pawns onto a space already occupied by another player’s pawn, that pawn must be returned to Start and the player begins again. Sorry!

If a player draws a card directing him/her to move his/her pawn onto a space already occupied by one of Gluten’s pawns, the player’s pawn must still be returned to Start, because gluten is gluten, no matter how you come by it. Sorry!

Because Gluten has many more pawns in play than anyone else (it’s everywhere!), most players will likely return to Start many times over. Sorry!

If a player besides Gluten moves his/her pawn onto a space already occupied by another player’s pawn, a card is drawn. If even, the players advance each other’s knowledge of the gluten-free lifestyle and are both allowed to remain on the spot. If odd, they confuse each other with misinformation they learned on the internet and must both return to Start. Sorry!

When any player besides Gluten reaches the midway point on the board, Gluten must take one pawn out of play permanently. This signifies the players’ improved ability to manage a gluten-free lifestyle and increases the likelihood that they will eventually make it to Health.

As in the standard game, when a player’s pawn occupies one of his/her own “safe” spaces, he/she is safe from Gluten but may still draw a negative numbered card and be forced to leave the safe space of his/her own little gluten-free counter in his/her own little gluten-free kitchen.

Also as in the standard game, at various designated “slides,” players may skip their pawns forward a few extra spots toward Health. However, if a pawn encounters Gluten at any point along the slide, it must be returned to Start. Once again—sorry!

Photo © LifeSupercharger | Flickr Creative Commons

Photo © LifeSupercharger | Flickr Creative Commons

An accepted—and encouraged—variant calls for beginning the game with all players (except for Gluten) blindfolded. Players must keep their blindfolds on until they reach the midway point; until this time, Gluten reads their cards and implements their moves for them. Depending on personal preference, the player representing Gluten may choose to disclose information about other players’ progress toward Health and say “Sorry!” when sending their pawn back to Start, or leave the players completely in the dark until they have progressed far enough to take their blindfolds off. (I often feel this is the way I’m playing: unsure of how far I’ve come, what mistakes I’ve made, or whether I’ve even moved from Start.)

The first player to reach Health wins—unless that player is Gluten. When one of Gluten’s pawns arrives at Health, it is returned to Start and remains in play. Gluten will never go away, but provided the other players persevere, Gluten never wins.

Sorry!

Tell me about your favorite board game (with a gluten- or allergen-free twist, if you like) in the comments…as long as it’s not Monopoly, because seriously? No one really likes that game.

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