Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to Me….

2 May
Image source unknown via Pinterest.

Image source Joanna M Bromley via Pinterest.

Happy Birthday dear Jeeeeessss, Happy Birthday to Me!!

I turn 29 today. I’m still in Philadelphia so I get to spend the day and celebrate with my sister Lou and Mr B. We are going to take it easy and have a relaxed day so I pace myself and don’t over do it. Mr B has treated me to two nights in a gorgeous spa suite at a downtown Philly hotel for my birthday so I’m in the perfect place to relax. Lou is going to come over at lunchtime and we are going to have a picnic lunch in the close by Rittenhouse Square (or in our suite if the weather turns). I will then rest for a few hours before we go to Alma de Cuba for an early dinner and maybe a cheeky cocktail or two!

And no birthday (of mine at least) is complete without cake!

Image source egreetings.com

Image source egreetings.com

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Gluten Free Gluttony

15 Apr
Gluten Free Gluttony! Photo by Jess B.

Gluten Free Gluttony! Photo by Jess B.

I’ve been in the US for two and a half weeks now, and have another three weeks of my trip to go. This is both wonderful, and slightly worrying at the same time. Wonderful as it means much more sister time but also worrying as it means lots more opportunities to EAT!

When anyone goes on holiday it is a break from the norm and a chance to take a break from the everyday healthy eating. It is a time to indulge and enjoy food, to try new things and to eat more perhaps than we should. This is certainly the case for me when I’m on holiday. With being in the US for six weeks I’m lucky enough to be having an extended holiday. Such a long holiday would probably have disastrous consequences for anyone’s waist line. Throw in a gluten free diet (and my lack of will power) and you get to my worrying situation! I’m only half way through my holiday and I’m already feeling rather overstuffed, bloated and full. I know I know, I only have myself to blame….Or do I?! I think gluten free is a little bit to blame itself.

Let me explain. Eight years ago when I first started to follow a gluten free diet, it was a relatively unknown food plan. Going out to eat was a nightmare, always having to explain yourself to your waiter who would stare blankly back at you. If I went out for a coffee, I’d have to watch on as my family tucked into muffins in Starbucks, or eat the crumbly cardboard tasting gluten free biscuit I’d bought from home. The only bread I was able to buy was long life vacuum packed stuff that looked like it belonged to an astronaut’s freeze dried food pack as opposed to a domestic kitchen. The only way that bread was edible was toasted and slathered in peanut butter. Mr B used to ask me “why do you even bother to eat bread?” He had a point. There were no pizzas, bread rolls, moist cakes, crunchy breakfast cereals or cookies to be found for the gluten free follower, or at least none that tasted good enough to eat.

Today however things are (thankfully) very much improved. Restaurant menus increasingly indicate which dishes are gluten free and waiters have much better awareness and knowledge.  Supermarkets stock a whole range of gluten free breads, biscuits and cakes, (most of) which are super tasty.  Dominos and Pizza Hut to name but two companies now offer a gluten free pizza base. There are 100% gluten free bakeries and restaurants in London, Paris, New York and Philadelphia (and these are just the ones I know of). National and international coffee chains stock gluten free cakes for you to enjoy with your coffee. No more staring wistfully at your companion munching away apologetically. You could say we gluten free people are now spoilt for choice.

This is all amazing, and I definitely wouldn’t go back to the dark old times. But those times are still very much etched in my memory and I am still always on the look out for a gluten free goody. And when (it’s now more when than if) I come across something I inevitably end up buying and of course eating it. Even though gluten free options are increasingly very prevalent, it still seems to be a little bit of a novelty to me to find something gluten free when I’m out so I can never pass it up and always have to buy and eat it.

Part of planning any trip for me is researching local places that are good for gluten free. Philadelphia it turns out is pretty darn good at gluten free (more specifics to follow in future posts). So far I’ve enjoyed sticky buns, lemon slices, chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts, brownies, oatmeal raisin cookies, bagels, pancakes, pretzels, crackers, sourdough bread, kaiser rolls, multigrain bread, all gluten free! I haven’t even been to Sweet Freedom Bakery yet! The gluten free versions of all these foods are just as fattening and sugar laden as their gluten-full counterparts – sadly! It is wonderful and affords me many gorgeous gluten free taste sensations but is definitely not helping the healthy eating diet and is slowly but surely turning me into gluten free glutton!

In one little visit to Reading Terminal Market yesterday I came across an Amish bakery stall selling a whole range of gluten free cakes and breads and the Pennsylvania General Store stocking chocolate brownies and cookies, all gluten free of course. Although the UK is very good at gluten free now, the US (or at least Philly) still beats it hands down. As I don’t live here permanently the novelty factor of all these treats is high. I can’t not try something, because in a few weeks I’ll be back in Blighty and unable to try these things. You see my problem?! So very tough…

Healthy Salad, Feeling Virtuous. Photo by Jess B.

Healthy Salad, Feeling Virtuous. Photo by Jess B.

In an attempt to be healthy last night I had a nice big plate full of fresh crispy salad for my dinner, with a little hard goat’s cheese as the protein. With a few olives and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, it was delicious.

And I felt so good and virtuous eating the salad that I decided I deserved a little reward for being so healthy. Yep you guessed it, I had a few bites of a few of the gluten free cakes I had found at Reading Terminal Market earlier in the day….but hey I’m on holiday, that means I’m allowed to eat as much cake as I want doesn’t it?!

Really must locate my willpower, know I’ve got some around here somewhere….

Reward for eating salad! Photo by Jess B.

Reward for eating salad!  NB. I only ate half the sticky bun, my mum stole the other half! Photo by Jess B.

P is for…..

11 Apr
Get a calendar and plan! Image source: Flickr User: happy_serendipity

Get a calendar and plan! Image source: Flickr User: happy_serendipity

…..PLANNING!

I admit it. I am a bit of a planner.

Okay, actually I am a lot of a planner. In my defence tho, I blame genetics. My whole family are planners, I think it’s in our blood or something. Also, I think being a planner is part of that type A personality, the perfectionist, the striver, the pusher, the planner, that is so common in those of us with ME / CFS (me in a nutshell really).

Mr B is the total opposite of me, very much not a planner. He is a do it at the last minute, spontaneous, relaxed ‘don’t worry, it’ll sort itself out, it’ll be fine’ kinda guy. This is good. It calms my OTT planning tendencies. We balance each other out – well on a good day we balance, on a bad day I get stressed at his ‘horizontal-ness’ and he gets annoyed with my planning, my pushing! But the mechanics of mine and Mr B’s relationship is not the subject I planned (haha!) for this post so enough about that.

Sometimes planning is good, and necessary. With ME / CFS I have found planning to be essential to manage my energy levels and (here comes another P) to pace myself. By planning out my activities through the week I can balance activity with the much needed necessary rest.

As lame as it may sound, I have planned out activity slots for my time in Philly so I pace myself and don’t try and do too much too quickly and end up making my ME / CFS symptoms worse. Lou sat with me and my printed calendar outlines (super cool I know…) as we penciled in activity slots (e.g. go out for brunch, e.g. visit Upenn’s Campus for a walk and coffee e.g. go outlet shopping) making sure we interspersed these outings with several ‘rest’ days for me to pace myself in between. My rest days I spend the day as I do at home, following my daily routine, a little yoga, a gentle walk, light box, blogging, reading, all paced sessions and lots of relaxation time.

Whilst Lou and I were working this all out, we both got a bit upset. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all (but did STOPs to calm myself) and Lou said she was so sad that I had to do this at all, that my life warranted such planning. It does suck that I can’t just whizz about and do all the things I want to do whilst I’m here like a ‘normal’ person. I can’t go shopping all day, I can’t go to Old City and wander around Independence Mall and then go for out for drinks. I need outings to be no more than a few hours tops and I need days off before and after to rest. ME / CFS does suck and I hate that my life is limited by it. But life isn’t fair. It is what it is. I don’t want to end up in the black hole, so I just get on with things, the best I can.

I also tell myself things could be much worse. ME / CFS is a horrible thing to have to live with but I am eternally grateful for what I do have. I have been well enough to travel to Philly to see my sister. I have a wonderfully supportive family (without whom this trip would physically not have been possible for me) and an equally wonderful and supportive partner in the shape of Mr B, who by the way I am missing terribly whilst I’m here and can’t wait for him to join us here in a few a weeks’ time.

I want to enjoy my life and, my time here in Philly especially, as best as my health will let me. And the best strategy I know of to achieve that, is to P.L.A.N…By ‘planning’ (I’m starting to hate that word) in this way I hope I can enjoy my time in Philadelphia with my sister without exacerbating my ME / CFS symptoms in any way. Am I being naive? Or am I being overly cautious? Who knows. What do you think?  I’ll keep you posted.

A word of warning about planning to help pacing with ME / CFS tho. Don’t let planning take over and don’t become obsessed or a perfectionist about it. A little bit of  Mr B’s relaxed nature is needed to moderate the inner planner’s tendency to get all wound up and stressy with trying to plan down to the very last minute detail. Going too far will only wind up with you stressed out, and we all know what stress does to a body with ME / CFS don’t we?

Also, a little flexibility is needed given the fluctuating unpredictable nature of ME / CFS. You can’t always stick to your plan. Last week I was too ill to go out and do anything, this was especially frustrating as it felt like I’d ‘lost’ a week of my holiday, but it’s what my body needed so no point fighting it. As much as it hurt, I had to scrap my plan for last week, and just start over this week when I’m feeling better. So again a little of Mr B’s relaxed and flexible nature goes a long way.

So I do plan. I find planning essential to pacing and managing my ME / CFS. But I try to keep a little bit of Mr B alongside of me, just to keep me balanced, and not let that pesky inner planner take over too much 🙂

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