An identity crisis and another….move?!

Oh gosh, I didn’t blog for ages! I think Im having a small identity crisis. While the blog is gluten free, and I want it to be informative and full of recipes for Celiacs etc, I am not feeling very in tune with all that at all at the moment, all I want to write about is zebra stuff and positive things and what we are thinking and doing. And thats not very glutenfreey, so then I don’t write at all. Strange huh? My blog my rules?

I can sense a name change coming up…

Things are good, and then they aren’t. Our life is, as always so filled with worry. But also, lets not forget, we are a family trying very hard to be a normal family. We are a normal family. Only, for us, normal takes a bit more work.

Zebra kid finally got sick, first a pukey bug and then less then 2 weeks later the cold came, the cold that I knew would go to her chest, the one that had me running to Dr D telling him to help before she even had the pneumonia. So we did the steroids, strongest dose she’s ever had, day 3 she was better and I thought we were out of the woods, only for day 4 to send us back to Dr D for an ultrasound on her lungs, blood tests at 11pm and our usual crazy crap. Day 5 I packed and by 1pm we were in hospital. I had the most amazing support from our specialists on the phone the whole time, they put us in the immunology ward where we know everybody and we – obviously – got our own room. They all remember the January 2 years ago all to well. All of this, it was ok. It sucked obviously, but Im like this well oiled machine now and we just do it. Zebra girl missed her Christmas concert, which of course means I missed my sons Christmas concert.

Then, then they let us come home. And the Christmas tree that I put up on the day 3 (after it had been lying on the floor for almost a week) was up, and no gifts had been bought and it all sucked so so bad and I just didnt care! I smiled, I laughed, I got on with things without stressing.

I crammed that big 7 year old heffalump zebra of mine in to her pushchair and we went to the mall, people stared and I smiled.

Because you know what, they are judging me, but its ok, I don’t need to care, it doesnt need to hurt me, because I know what they dont, and if they knew too they wouldnt be judging! Them judging me does. not. hurt. me.

I am letting go, of this and other things. And so often its so hard (to let go) and I want to smack them in the head, but it doesn’t matter! I don’t need to be hurt by it, I need to just think in my head how they would react if they knew, because if they did they would smile too, that we are out and we are ok, and we are choosing to live and go shopping!

All this is stuff I realised since my last post.

We sent Zebra kid to school and the deal was – if school doesn’t work we move country. We move to sun and beach and pools and warmth. Because those things make me happy, those things make my kids happy. And with all this negativity crap going on, its hard sometimes to be happy, so we need to surround ourselves with love and light and positivity.

Then. School was ok. School was ok and she was fine….?! And we were like… hang on, hold up, WTF? She’s not going to get sick? Its OCTOBER…… hell, its NOVEMBER, she’s ok? WHAT THE…..????? And then we started looking for a house nearer school and then I realised my entire being doesn’t want to bloody be here. New house or not.

I love our school, our friends, our street, our neighbours. But those things are just a fraction of life here. The dark, the rain, it depresses me. The days we stay home gathering spoons I always end up wondering why exactly we are here. Our life could be better elsewhere. Closer to hubby, closer to the SUN. Closer to happiness?

I asked myself If I was running away. I asked the school counselor if she thought I was. She  said no. That I knew what I was doing and I have good reasons (see, Im sane! HA!). (

Decisions were made. Before Zebras hospital stay. We are going. Life is not about counting down the days and weeks until the next planned hospital stay, and if thats how you have to live then at least I think we deserve some beach and palm trees nearby.

So whatever. No more excuses. We need to live and breathe and enjoy life. We need to walk around the shops and not get angry at judgy people. We need to walk in to shops where you are greeted with a smile. We need to smile at the sun.

All that other stuff, it needs to get in the back seat where it belongs, because the real important stuff is about making this life the best that we can. About being happy. About being a normal family and making it easier for ourselves to be that normal family.

So bring it on 2017. This expat zebra celiac family is on the move again! And I cant wait!

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Gluten Free in Poland

Im on so many gluten free forums and Im constantly replying to the same questions about gluten free in Poland, so time to make a post me thinks!

Being gluten free in Poland is getting easier and easier. While some smaller towns mainly sell gluten free in specialist “health food” stores, larger chains usually have some items available. Some shops will have just a few items, scattered around the shop, others will have huge sections or even entire aisles dedicated to gluten free.

The main Polish brands are all clearly labelled with images for egg free, gluten free, wheat free, lactose free and so on. Its really very easy, even if you don’t speak Polish to find what you need.

The main chains that stock gluten free are:

  • Auchan, most stores have a large gluten free section.
  • REAL
  • Carefour, some of the larger stores have an entire aisle dedicated to gluten free.
  • Piotr i Pawel
  • Alma
  • Intermarché
  • I will mention Tesco here, because they recently introduced gf bread to their stores, this is all they will have though, so if you want other things and have other supermarkets available, give it a miss. Edit April 2016. Tesco has recently done a magic turnaround and is now one of the best for GF near me. Go Tesco!

For eating out, the words bezgluten and bezglutenowy will be your best friend. Both mean glutenfree. Pronounced how they are read. A visit to celiakia.pl (Polands celiac society) is well worth your while. The english section is tiny, but if you stay on the Polish section you will find lists of restaurants checked and approved by the celiac society. Menubezglutenu is another site which lists places with a glutenfre menu, you can search using a map, in polish and english.  Many upmarket restaurants have their own gluten free menus. Steer clear of basic road side establishments, as they mainly serve gluten loaded traditional Polish cuisine and will probably not even know what gluten is.

Poland also has some 100% gluten free establishments.

  • Dom Pod Ptasznica – a gluten free guest house in the mountains. The owners are both celiac and all the food they make is gluten free and wheat free.
  • Friendly Food Poznan – A totally glutenfree cafe / restaurant with amazing food. Review here.

Some of the common (gluten free) Polish brands are:

  • Balviten
  • Natura (meats)
  • Bezgluten

Some other things to look out for:

  • Grycan ice cream, all but 2-3 flavours are gluten free and labelled accordingly
  • Goplana chocolate, Poland’s oldest chocolate brand, all labelled bezglutenowy on the back and super yummy (I have yet to find a flavour with gluten)
  • Costa coffee (also sometimes called coffee heaven) have individually packed cakes that are gluten free
  • Trendy Vegan / vegetarian cafes seem to be all over Poland, they will usually also have a ton of gluten free stuff on their menu. Check them out!
  • Rossman – while a sort of chemist, often stock gluten free items.

If you are an expat, several pre schools now offer bezgluten food and have been trained and approved by the celiac association. YAY! 🙂

Be careful with:

  • Polish hams, sausages and bacon – almost all contain gluten
  • The famous polish kielbasa! ONLY buy the ones labelled gluten free.
  • Cross contamination, while many places may be able to give you something gluten free, the knowledge regarding cross contamination can be a bit hit and miss
  • Bakeries offering gluten free, these items may very well be baked on site which would make them low gluten, not gluten free, always ask and dont buy anything that isn’t individually wrapped if you are shopping in a bakery that also handles gluten items.
  • Airports! If you are going to be stuck in one for a while, bring food. Not even Warsaw airport has anything on offer.
  • Hospitals. No, really. Polish hospitals are terrible at feeding celiacs. If you end up in one (God forbid) you need to bring your own food. There are some exceptions to this, the lung clinics in the mountains see CF patients from all over the world and they are usually ok to feed those with allergies and celiac also.

Enjoy Poland and have fun 🙂

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Krakow for the day

So yesterday we went to Krakow. Met a wonderful professor who spoke exellent english, she took her time to explain things thoroughly and answer my many questions in regards to previous results. We are now looking at antibodies to different pneumonias and other illnesses, she suggested that although the IGG subclasses and overall IGG was ok (a tad low but ok) that maybe perhaps the issues is that the immune system , although it has what it needs, doesn’t function normally when there is an infection, she will follow up with us once we have been to Rabka. She even gave me her personal mobile number. Such a relief.

We came home, and I was so tired I ate and went to bed with the kids at 8pm! Probably a good thing as I wont be getting a bed in Rabka! Ha.

I need to say that I have been so surprised by the lack of negative attention we get from A wearing a mask, I expected stares etc, but we have had none of it! Some looks, yes sure, but accompanied by smiles, nothing else. Infact, yesterday in the Krakow hospital a man came running after me to ask where I got the mask! She was wearing her pink minnie mouse mask at the time. I am so glad we got them, it was the right choice for sure. And the immunologist agrees she should absolutely wear one in crowded places until we have a firm diagnosis.

I wish I had been able to help the man with finding them, he spoke no english and me explaining etsy in Polish may not have been very successful! Good luck to him, poor family feeling that they need one. Makes me want to give him a hug.

-Linda

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The walkabout purse

So, we finally went to Sweden, in a rental car, a baby car (Long story).

We drove to Kiel and stayed in a lovely little hotel, then the morning after we went shopping. Germany has ALOT of gluten free stuff! Think I will need to do a Germany shopping run once a month. Anyway, shopping done, we drove on to the ferry. Went to our cabin, unpacked some stuff and decided to check out the ship. Went to grab my purse so we could have a drink…. but THERE WAS NO PURSE IN MY BLOODY BAG!!!!! My blood almost turned to ice in my veins and in my head I can see myself paying in the food shop and leaving my purse on the counter while digging for euros in my second purse……

We are on the ferry. We drove on first. The purse is 1-2 hours away, ferry leaves in 3 hours. Neither of my mobile phones work, one has no battery, one has no credit. We cant get off the ferry (car is impossible to get off).

Mad race begins, to car to get charging cables, back to cabin to make hysterical phone call to hubby in Dubai. I remember screaming to him to call the shop and get them to put my purse in a taxi…. poor guy was in a meeting! Hubbys meeting all got involved googling for the shop… big dramas.

Herr Zimmermann found my purse! We asked him to put it in a taxi, but no, taxis wont go to the ferry port, so we ask him to send it with DHL receiver pays. He sent it DHL… but DHL as in German post.

1 week in Sweden passes, I have no money, no cash cards, no driving licence…… still no purse. It was sent express and we were tracking it the whole way….. in the end I had to extend my ticket, and then… the day before we HAD to leave, finally, my purse arrived! Nothing has ever looked so beautiful…

I am so grateful!!! Thankful for Herr Zimmerman for being a real honest guy, for having a hubby who (once again) drops everything to ‘rescue me’. For a family who with NO HESITATION gave me a debit card to use freely until my purse arrived.

-Linda

Moving time! (again)

What a week!

Friday morning last week we were in Poznan, Friday evening we were in Wroclaw. By Sunday I had somehow magically managed to unpack everything! Then a frantic whizzing from place to place to sort out the school, kennels for dogs for our trip, food shopping, food shopping research (gluten free peeps know exactly what I mean!) etc etc.

We somehow managed to pick a great area for ourselves without ever having visited (thats how we roll, haha). Its great with tons of greenery, kids and barking dogs.

Im not sure what it is with barking dogs here…. if my dogs bark they get told off, but it seems here many people have dogs to deter from break-ins, and a quiet dog sleeping indoors obviously doesn’t deter much, so dogs are left stood in gardens barking. Drives me slightly bonkers, but it is what it is. At least I feel totally warranted to smile smugly at all these dog owners that MY dogs are so well trained and don’t bark.

We found a great little shop that sells organic produce and some freshly baked gluten free goods. I was to scared to get any of the baked stuff because even though the lady assured me it was baked in a gluten free kitchen you just never know. I need my hubby to go and ask her all the tough questions in Polish. But the produce! Gigantic organic apples that tasted like the apples from my childhood, I cant wait for summer when all the locally grown berries will come!

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The shop is called Awokado – delikatesy ekologiczne, they have a facebook page (opens in new window).

Slightly further up the same road there is yet another eko (organic) shop, a family farm and the produce is sold in someones garden! Eko eggs and veggies. Im in HEAVEN 😀

I have yet to find where the shops selling all the breads are hiding, so far its all schar. Im guessing I need to find another delikatessen. In Poznan we found most of the breads in normal supermarkets. Im sure I will find all what we need eventually.

Few more days now then its Dubai time! Cant wait. Also cant wait to come back and for kids to start their new international school where people speak only english. Happy happy happy! 😀

-Linda

 

Gluten free food in Europe is not always gluten free…..

We learned to be gluten free in Dubai, we learned to be gluten free in a place where there was no bread available to buy in the shops (at that time), hardly any biscuits or crackers or cereals available at all, and what WAS available (back then) was gluten free, gluten free as in as close to 0 gluten as you can get, in european terms, ‘naturally gluten free’. The sucky thing is, many countries now produce gluten free foods using wheat starch. Yeah, I know, makes zero sense. Wheat = gluten, so why the hell are you putting it in my gluten free food? I don’t care how hydrolysed and processed it is, to me its still gluten, and you know what, it IS! Its STILL gluten, just happens to be below 20 ppm. But think about it… if its 15 ppm, and you eat it every day, and then eat crackers and bread and pasta and a few other things then holy CRAP are you really eating gluten free at all?

In our case the choice is made easy, because our celiac kiddo reacts to wheat starch, she reacts to traces, she reacts to things that are not as close to 0 gluten as you can get, and why shouldn’t she? She has CELIAC!? All those people who eat the pretend gluten free foods and feel great, I wonder how they would feel if they ate only 0 gluten free food….?

Anyway, back to why they put this gluten free wheat starch in food. Heres the deal. Gluten means GLUE in latin, and thats how it works, when you bake or cook with gluten, gluten is what binds things together, the glue that makes your bread not fall apart (like a gluten free bread might..). Wheat, is CHEAP. So for manufacturers it makes sense to use GLUTEN in our gluten free foods, because the alternatives are far more expensive. But who is paying the price… really? Will research in a few years come far enough to ban wheat starch in gluten free foods? I hope so!

Please note, there is wheat starch and there is gluten free wheat starch, so if you are a celiac wheat starch eater, make sure you ONLY eat the one that is labelled as gluten free, its not 0 gluten, but it is at least below 20ppm. 

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Wroclaw, I think I love you!

Have you ever visited somewhere and felt instantly at home? You know, that almost ‘in love’ feeling where you walk around with a silly smile on your face and just want to inhale the air even further in to your lungs, almost inhaling the actual place? If you’ve never felt that way, then feel free to think I’m a lunatic, and I wish you luck in finding your ‘at home’ place.

We went to visit Wroclaw because the school situation here in Poznan was getting to a point where we have to leave. So quick, we must find another town, another school! I didn’t expect to find another ‘at home’ place in the process, a city that Im sure will always live in my heart.

Where Poznan at times feels half asleep, Wroclaw feels alive, pulsating, moving! Where at times I feel like Poznan is in black and white, Wroclaw is totally 100% in colour! And they have gnomes! (I will have to do a full post about the gnomes one day, they are awesome!)

Poznan is nice, I like our house here and its been fine, but is fine enough? I guess that if the school had lived up to our expectations, and our children had been educated well, cared for well and been happy, then fine would have evolved to good. But unfortunately the school situation has been a total disaster. We visited two schools in Wroclaw and my kids would be lucky to go to either one of them.

So, we are moving to Wroclaw!   – insert jumping up and down exited smiley here –

-Linda