Sunday, February 28, 2010

Travels to Edinburgh and beyond!

Last week was school vacation (here they call it 'holiday'), so I went traveling. I met my roommate, her sister, and her best friend in Edinburgh, Scotland for the beginning of the week. It felt so nice to travel to a country where I spoke the language fluently! Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that dealing with my food allergies would be any easier!

When I arrived in Edinburgh, it was around dinner time. My roommate and friends arrived a few hours earlier, so I went to the apartment that we were staying in to leave my bag. Afterward, we met for dinner at a pub. I had my English chef card to use, which was nice, since I am used to trying to communicate in Italian. I was able to get a chicken breast sandwich, which was delicious!

The owner of the apartment that we were staying in, stocked the refrigerator with food. There was plenty for me to eat, which was amazing! There was fresh cheeses, fruits, yogurt, and cereal. It made everything that much easier, since I had no time to find a grocery store before our tour through Scotland the next morning. Of course I did pack some food, which always help, but having all those fresh foods that I was able to eat, was truly exceptional.

My friends and I had an exquisite day seeing the Scottish countryside. We went on a small tour bus, with only 15 people in total. It made it a nice and personal experience. We made quite a few stops along the way. Around lunch time, we stopped by Lochness to get lunch. Of course I had packed food, but my friends hadn't, so we went and sat in a pub for lunch. As we were sitting at the table, I noticed all the packets of condiments.


Holding the condiments with some attitude!

I have never found condiments that "contained" or "may contain" every single allergen that I can think of! It was crazy! It seemed like the company that made the condiments was saying, "we are not responsible for anything in our products, so don't even think about trying them!"

When I see packages like that, it makes me feel very frustrated, because I am sure it probably does not contain or even has the likelihood of containing some of those allergens, but we live in a world so scared by lawsuits, that they feel they need to literally put every single allergen on their ingredient list to avoid any potential issues. Crazy!

In Scotland, one of the main products they sell is shortbread cookies. Of course, although there are only a few basic ingredients in them, like sugar and butter, they are "not suitable for nut allergy sufferers." Apparently I "suffer" from nut allergies.

Shortbread cookies

Besides the minor packaged ingredient warnings, I didn't come across any other difficulties or disappointments in Scotland. Back in Edinburgh, my friends left two days before me, so I found a quaint bed and breakfast to stay at. The people were friendly and helpful, and were happy to accommodate my allergies for breakfast in the morning. I took myself out to dinner and drinks, and had a lovely time exploring the city! I also found Ben & Jerry's ice cream that I could eat! It was my first ice cream in months, so that was the perfect way to end my evening!

After Scotland, I took a train to Leeds to see one of my best friends who is from there. Before I left, my friend, Gemma, had sent me an e-mail checking to see if there was anything in particular I wanted for food, and letting me know that she had cleared all allergens out of her apartment. I thought that it was so sweet of her to remember and think of that before my arrival! I'm lucky to have such caring friends!

We went out to eat with no problems, and had a wonderful time visiting. On the weekend we went to see another close mutual friend and his girlfriend who live in Manchester. They also had e-mailed before I was coming, asking the same questions and making sure I would be completely comfortable. How lucky am I to have these people in my life who are so aware, yet never make it such a massive deal?!

During the day, we went out to lunch with no problem! I had delicious raviolis at an up scale Italian restaurant. My friend, Alex, his girlfriend, Babs, Gemma, and I wandered around Manchester for the afternoon. Babs had a free hand massage from buying products over the holidays, and booked for the three girls to go get one. Of course all of the products ended up having sweet almond oil in them, so I sat and watched. They felt bad, but it was okay, although of course I wish I also could have participated!

Babs, Me, Gemma

Later that evening, after having a drink at an awesome, neighborhood pub near their amazingly beautiful apartment, we went back to have dinner. Babs insisted on making it all by herself, and did an excellent job making risotto! She was so sweet about my allergies, and I didn't once feel worried about eating there! It was a fabulous way to end an amazing holiday!

Babs with her awesome Risotto.

Trips like this make me realize a few things. One, is how much easier it is to communicate in my native language, and how at home I take that for granted when ordering out! I also realize how lucky I am to have friends who are so understanding and caring, and although we only see each other every few years, still remember about my allergies, and don't treat me any different because of them! Thank you, friends! :)

My First Gelato!!!!

Last night we decided to have a girls night in. My friends wanted to get gelato down the street before watching a movie, so we walked down to our neighborhood gelatoria. It was the first warm night since the fall. As we walked in, I observed the gelato behind the glass cases. I noticed that all the chocolate and nut flavors were on one side of the case, and all the fruit flavors were separated on the opposite side.

Since moving to Italy, every day I seem to have some new experience where I learn something and continue to get more comfortable living here. Earlier that day, I had used my broken Italian to communicate with people at one of the rowing clubs, about possibly joining the club (I was a rower all through college on a Division 1 team, and nothing beats being out on the water), and had conquered more fears by reading signs to take unknown buses home. After all of that I was happily aware of the fact that I was comfortable here finally. I finally didn't feel like a tourist. I felt like someone who actually lived here!

With already having conquered so many things in one day, I figured why not try one more! I had told myself that I would try the fruit flavored gelato, when I was finally comfortable here, so last night was the night!

I showed the woman behind the counter my Chef card, and with help from my friends, we explained that she needed to clean the gelato scoop, then scoop my lemon flavored gelato from the bottom of the container. She somehow understood us, and was very nice about it!!!

The best part to me was not only finally trying gelato for the first time ever, but also how happy my friends were for me (especially Abby, my roommate), that I finally was able to try gelato! There have been endless times where I have watched them all eat it, but now I was finally having some too!!!! Wooohooo!

Big Smile! :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

New website that could be helpful

I came across a new website that could be helpful. The website is: The site has just started up, but if people start to use it, I think it has the potential to be very beneficial. The website posts ratings for restaurants all over the United States, based on how allergy-friendly they are. So far, there are not too many that have been rated. Maybe in a few more months though, it will be more helpful and informative!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Venice Carnivale- I ran into a nut!

As we stepped off the train in Venice, the energy and excitement of the day consumed us! My friends and I had decided to go spend the day checking out the festivities for Carnivale. We had no idea what to anticipate!

There were costumes, masks, face painting, and of course, food. I have now been to Venice many times, so I know that it is difficult to find food there that I can easily eat, especially reasonably priced food. I packed my bag with snacks and food to eat for lunch.

As we were standing in the crowd, watching all the festivities, I saw a person dressed as a peanut! Of course, I had to take a picture (although, the woman wearing the costume, had no idea)! I am not sure what the "S" stands for. My guess is "Super Peanut," but I am not sure how Italian that is! :) Anyone have any ideas?

I wanted to share this, because I was first of all surprised by the costume, but mostly because I think it is important to realize that no matter where I am, I never know what I will come across! This means, that no matter where, I should always be prepared, and aware, but that I also know how to keep myself safe. I could point to the woman in the peanut costume and take a picture, but I certainly wouldn't go over and shake her hand!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back to reality

Last week I was thrown back into the reality of my allergies, as my lip became a bit red and itchy after lunch. There were no hives, I could breathe, and it was only noticeable to me, but sometimes both as an allergic reactor, and as a parent, it is easy to become more relaxed, after not having a reaction for a long time. I do feel like I am always very vigilant and careful, but every now and then I have my eye-opening reminder moments, to bring my back to the severity.

I have talked to parents before about this same problem. When I was interviewing parents for a project that I was working on, I remember one specific discussion. The mom of a son with anaphylactic allergies said, "After a while, if he hasn't had an allergy, I get a bit complacent because it seems so crazy that his allergies can be life-threatening when there hasn't been a reaction. We haven't had a reaction in a while, and I have to make sure that I am always aware, but when he hasn't reacted in such a long time, I start to think that maybe he is outgrowing his allergies."

What are your thoughts on this? I am curious to know if other parents can relate to this feeling! I look forward to your comments