Sunday, 11 May 2014

Out of the mouths of babes!

My husband was proof reading this blog recently and Alexandra wanted to know what he was looking at. I explained that I sometimes wrote about her being a Coeliac so that other people would know what it's like.
'Well they could always ask me' was her very practical response. Great idea, I thought, get the five year old writing, she'll probably have a much more interesting take on things than I do! So I asked Alex what she would like to tell people about having Coeliac disease --and this is what she wanted people to know:

  • It's good being gluten free because you get to be special.
  • You can play with your friends still, even though you can't have the food that they have.
  • You can make food that is gluten free for yourself when you're older.
  •  If your grandma or grandad don't know you can tell them what's gluten free and what you can have. 
  • You can't have the same pudding that your friends have even though you might like to try it.
  • When I have gluten I get sick and I go home before my friends if I'm at school. 
  • It feels bad in my tummy and just in my heart. (?!)
  • A good nights sleep helps me feel better because ill people need a good nights sleep. 
  • When I go to the doctor they give me a blood test, but when I was little I was sick and I had to go to the hospital but I wasn't even five then, I was one. Was it 10 years ago mummy? (Obviously need to work on the maths a bit!)
  • That's it 'cause that's a lot of words isn't it?
  • Oh wait, can you just tell people even though God's with me I can still be poorly, so that's ok.
So there you have it, all you need to know about being a Coeliac from a five year old's perspective covered!

Plus a drawing of her being sick- nice!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Udi ya think you are? (Watch out the Yanks are coming!)

My facebook page has lots of irritating 'recommended' pages that pop up on my feed. Some are quite random (instant weight loss, cheap beauty products, reduce your wrinkles.....wait a minute- is Facebook trying to tell me something?!), but others are obviously linked to the things I post about. So, I guess because I post about gluten-free stuff and like some of the Coeliac pages, over the past few months I have noticed that ads for 'Udi's Gluten Free' kept popping up. Although it looked like a nice, friendly faced gluten-free company, I just assumed it was American and therefore wouldn't be available here in the UK, and so ignored the pop-ups.

More fool me- 'tinternet is smarter than that and Mark Zuckerberg sure knows how to target marketing. Turns out that Udi's have crossed the big pond and are now available right here in our UK supermarkets. Not only that, but the lovely folk at Udi's agreed to send me some products to test. As identified in a previous post, we were impressed with the range of GF products on the shelves in the US, so waited with excitement to see what treats Udi's would conjure up. And I have to say, we were not disappointed.

Please be clear, I am not under any obligation to write good things about Udi's, but I was genuinely impressed.

First of all we tried their Cinnamon and Raisin Bagels. I was  really pleased to find decent looking bagels, as previously Alex had wanted to write to 'Mr Sainsbury' to ask him to make some as she was desperate to try them. At one point I had gotten excited by one of the GF facebook pages who posted a picture of some mini bagels and suggested that soaking them in water overnight would grow them into gluten free bagels. I was genuinely about to post to ask where I could get them, when I read the previous comment which pointed out that it was April Fool's Day and it was a bag of Cheerios! Anyhow, GF bagels- exciting! And they did not disappoint. Good texture, good taste, normal size..... I figured too good to be true and either a) I would not be able to find them in the shops or b) they would be extortionate. However, on my very next trip to Asda, there they were on the shelf, and pretty much on a par with 'normal' branded bagels pricewise.  Wow- happy days!! A great option for picnics, lunchboxes etc, these are definitely on my shopping list from now on.

The pack of 'Bagel Chips' (a weird cross between a bagel, a crisp and a cracker, but sweet) did not go down so well in the household as a whole, although Alexandra herself enjoyed them. Because she was the only one who would eat them, and it's a good sized box, I probably wouldn't get these again unless we had a group of kids (and/ or adults) who would nibble them.

We did receive lots of other goodies, of which I will go into in more detail in the future, but I did want to pick up on one product that I hadn't come across before- gluten-free breakfast bars. The kids don't eat breakfast bars, I try to give them 'proper' cereal, but I must admit I will often grab a cereal bar for myself on the way to work, or en route to school pick-up if I haven't had a chance for a proper lunch. I know it's not good practice, but it's quick and easy, and I can imagine that not having the option to grab a hasty tasty breakfast bar as an adult Coeliac would be a bit of a pain (admittedly probably not the worst thing about having to eat gluten-free <hmm beer>, but all these little things add up).  This 'soft n' chewy' strawberry bar was not too sweet and reminded me a bit of  a fig roll. Again, top marks Udi's. I'm impressed.

Although I am fully supportive of any home grown gluten-free talent, I have to admit, the American's in this company have nailed it- decent products, reasonably priced and readily available. Can't wait to try the rest of their range!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Are Pirates gluten-free? Yes they ARRR!!

Since about Christmas time Alexandra has been telling us 'I've invited <insert random name> to my party'. We have been repeatedly reminding Alex that said party has not been discussed or agreed and inviting everybody in her class and telling them the date of her birthday does not mean that it will happen.  Ha! We were wrong. It turns out you can grind your parents down (well these parents anyway) and make your wish come true if you talk about it long enough and hard enough and with enough conviction.

And so it was that I found myself in Pirates Play Centre enquiring about kids parties. I'd always said I would never have a party in a play centre- only home organised traditional fun for my children. That was in my idealistic pre-actuallyhavingkids days. Now the idea of letting someone else do all the organising and cleaning up is somewhat appealing. (Although I do love doing home-made too- depending on other demands and time allowances).

When I informed the organiser at Pirates that the birthday girl has Coeliac's and would need gluten-free food, without missing a beat he said, no problem, would you like the whole party to be gluten-free in that case? 'Yee-ess', I said hesitantly, expecting a surcharge of a ridiculous amount per child. However, fabulously, there was no extra cost at all.  On the day, the party host discussed all of the food and preparation methods with me. The kids had sandwiches, breadsticks and veg sticks (with dip), crisps, fruit, smiley potato faces, pink wafers, and jelly and ice cream. All gluten-free. With no hassle. Or drama. Big smile!
For anyone in the Nottingham area, I would definitely recommend Pirates Play Centre for a gluten-free party.

I did do the cake myself, and I have to say, it was one of the best tasting cakes I've done in a while. I found the recipe on the 'all recipes' website  here and just added some Xanthan gum when my first attempt fell apart. The icing was ready roll from Sainsbury's with the top bit bought from 'caketoppersbynikki2012' on ebay, after her immediate response to my email, confirming that all the ingredients and her production methods were gluten-free. Again, an easier than expected transaction with someone who is obviously used to dealing with dietary requirements. Pleasingly, nearly everyone who ate the cake expressed surprise that it was gluten-free. I did freeze some, and it defrosted well, although I don't know why I bothered freezing it as I took it out again pretty much straight away as it was so morish!

In any case, a very different gluten-free party to last years, but a very happy 5 year old and Mummy.

(And seeing as Alex is starting to read- if you ever read this sweetheart, the statement in the first paragraph about grinding your parents down and having your wish come true does NOT apply to Disneyland Paris. For now!)

Monday, 10 March 2014

Time flies when you're having fun!

Well, I can't believe it's exactly a year today since I started writing this blog. My posts started very enthusiastically and expeditiously and have gradually dwindled and spread out a little as I've gotten on (and off and on again) my soapbox and vented my spleen about the various niggles and challenges I have had. However, I think that's the case with most blogs, unless the authors get into the commercial realms and although the frequency of posts has reduced, my enthusiasm for the topic and my love of writing about it has certainly not.

My initial aim in starting the blog was to share my experience as a mum with a child with Coeliac disease, in the hope that it might be of some use or interest to other parents in similar circumstances. What I have found is that, through writing, I have gained a way to clarify and get some resolve around the events and situations that we have been faced with. I regularly encourage my clients at work to journal about their experiences to gain catharsis, and can now honestly say that I have first hand experience of this benefit of putting pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard at least). I have also had the privilege of having other parents and people with Coeliacs (and other autoimmune illnesses, some of which I was completely ignorant about) share their stories with me and have learnt a multitude through their experience. Through wider exploration of the web and exposure gained from my blog I have developed a little more insight into 'the gluten-free community' and the support available, from both commercial food companies and charitable organisations who work tirelessly to raise awareness for those who have to lead a gluten-free existence.

The modern day methods of communication being as incredible as they are, there is a little button that you can press when you write a blog that tells you who is looking at your blog, how they find it etc. This has been a revelation and a real source of encouragement, in that I had expected my family and friends to have a little nosey at the blog out of politeness and support, but had not expected much interest beyond that. The little button tells me (although it may be lying to stroke my ego), that people from all over the world have looked at the blog, including Russia, Australia, Germany, Peru and the Ukraine among other countries. How exciting to think that the world, although huge, can be brought closer through writing.

If you enjoy my musings, don't worry, this is not an epitaph, but I do want to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me in my first year of writing and to anyone who has taken the time to read through the ramblings and rants.
(Oh, and thank you of course to my gorgeous girl Alexandra, without whom I would probably roll my eyes when someone is being 'awkward' in a restaurant, think that 'gluten-free' was another fad diet, and without whom my life would not be so complete- if a little challenging at times!)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The one with the green bitty bits!

The scene: Me washing up in the kitchen, Alexandra playing with dolls at the table.

Me: (breezily so as not to influence the answer) What do you think of this new bread Alex?
Alexandra: (frowning slightly) What new bread do you mean Mummy? The one with the green bitty bits?
Me: (perplexed)  Err- I wouldn't call them green, but yes, the one with bits in it...
Alexandra: (brightly) It's delicious, I like that one, can we get it again?
Me (opening mouth to speak):
Alexandra: exit left out of the kitchen humming 'Build Me Up Buttercup' without waiting for a response.

We have deep meaningful conversations, my daughter and I!

So (without Alex's insightful input)  how does DS Wholesome Seeded Loaf square up to its rivals?

The positives-

  • Packaging is robust, meaning loaf isn't falling apart before we even begin sandwich building.
  • Texture is springy and butterable (yes, it's a word!).
  • Stays fresh for a few days when opened (and can be eaten fresh- doesn't need to be heated to 'revive' it).
  • Tastes good (both girls and myself gave it a go- the 'bitty bits' make it nice and moist!)
  • Toasts well.
The (slightly) less positives-
  • It ain't cheap (£2.50 for 300g)- but then again what GF food is?!
  • Holes were smaller than most competitors, but still they poked their little absent selves through-grrr.
  • Slices were small- I have never yet seen 'normal' sized GF sliced loafs- it seems gluten has an amazing amplifying quality that makes loaves made using wheat flour increase by 1/3 to dwarf their GF cousins. 
Over all, this is a pretty good competitor in the G-F bread stakes. Definitely on my 'buy when I find it' list. (Available in most good supermarkets. If they're big. Hopefully!)

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Gluten-free NYC

I hadn't expected any difficulties in eating out gluten-free in New York- they cater for all kinds of choices, diets, fads etc, right? Not quite!

We started our week long break in Hudson where we stayed with my sister. She had bought in lots of G-F staples (pasta, pizza etc) and some yummy treats that we don't usually get (frozen G-F breakfast waffles anyone?-a company called Van's make them, although US only I think.)

The first restaurant we ate out at in Hudson was a diner called American Glory- how thrilling to find a place that highlights items on the menu that are NOT gluten-free, with everything else being fine for Coeliacs. If this was what a small place in Hudson had to offer, we had high hopes for Manhattan.

Next stop, Times Square, with 2 ravenous and slightly jet-lagged kids (not to mention adults). The first place we found to eat in was O'Lunney's Irish Pub ( I know, I know, we go all the way to America and end up in an Irish Pub, but we were hungry!!). Again, we were thrilled when they said they had a G-F menu. Alex picked a curry and we sighed with relief that we had been able to find somewhere that could cater for her so easily. After lunch we marched the little ladies down 5th Avenue. Alex desperately wanted to go back to the hotel as she was dying to try on the Rapunzel wedding dress she had gotten at the massive Disney Store, so we ignored her complaints about feeling tired/ sick/ wanting to go home. Well, we had egg on our face (and puke on our shoes), when poor Alex then vomited all over the FAO Schwartz 'restroom' (yep, picked up the American lingo!), and we realised that her gluten-free curry must not have been as gluten-free as we were led to believe. As I've explained in previous posts, Alex continues to vomit for a while when she's had gluten, however, after emptying her stomach in the toy shop, she was really keen to continue our adventure, which was a princess carriage ride in Central Park. Without going into too much detail about what happened next- beware the blankets on those carriages- you never know what's been on them!!!

The following evening we spent quite a long time wandering around the area we were staying in (upper west side), looking for a restaurant that would cater for Alex, however very few were able to help.We tried a few places who all told us they couldn't guarantee anything on their menu. We had an amusing communication issue in one place, where the greeter pronounced 'fruit' in the same way we pronounced 'food', so she was trying to convince us that 'all food is gluten-free', and must have been wondering why we wanted 'any fruit that didn't contain gluten' for our 4 year old at 8 o'clock at night!

If only we had made the miraculous discovery of G-Free NYC earlier in our trip. This is a really cute little shop on West 85th Street (between Columbus and CPW). They have every type of G-F product you can imagine, fresh, dried and frozen. Alex made a young friend in there who also had Coeliac's and loves princesses (why don't adults start conversations with 'so what's your favourite princess'- life would be brighter?!). And even better, the fabulously helpful owner had a list of local restaurants that catered well for Coeliac's. For anyone who has to eat G-F and will be spending time in NY- a visit to this gluten-free hub of knowledge is a must.

As a result of their suggestions, Alex was able to experience a fab stack of G-F American pancakes the next morning at Cafe 82,  a place that we would have walked past without a second glance, had we not been aware of their G-F menu. Not only do they do lots of G-F options, they did us a sandwich to take away, so we were set up for the day.

So over all, we survived our American adventure, although not as easily as we had expected. A bit more internet research prior to the trip rather than during the trip next time I think will mean we will spend less time wandering around looking for food and more time sitting eating it!