Tag Archives: health

Plymouth Coeliac Group Meeting

3 Nov

As some of you may know, I now serve on the committee of the Coeliac UK Plymouth Voluntary Support Group acting as Database and Membership Secretary.  The new committee have been busy planning their first member meeting which will take place at the Elm Community Centre, in Estover, on November 16th.  The new committee will introduce themselves to members followed by  a discussion on the future path of the group.  This will be followed by a tea break with some gluten free cakes and biscuits which provides a good opportunity to chat to fellow coeliacs.  There will also be a raffle with a chance to win some really great prizes.  We have also secured some free samples from the brilliant Perkier Foods for members and also some gluten free certified sweets from Petty Wood.

Following the meeting there will be a craft fair where there will be a chance to do some early Christmas shopping.  Not only will there be a craft stall, but there will be a chance to buy some fabulous gluten free products from Traditional Puddings, Clare’s Gluten Free Catering and Love Free From.  Non members will be more than welcome to pop in to food and craft fair.

I really hope to see lots of Gluten Free by the Sea readers there on the 16th!  For full details of the meeting, see the invite below which has been sent out to Plymouth members.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

Plymouth

The new committee invite you to join us at the ELM Centre, ASDA Plymouth, for a short meeting in which we can introduce ourselves and advise on what we are doing going forward. This will be followed by an open forum where we will seek feedback from members as to what you would like to see from the group.  This is your opportunity to shape the future of the group.  For new members we will be available to give help with such things as prescriptions and best places to purchase gluten free products.  Committee member Suzanne Stephenson will be available to give advice to parents of coeliac children.

After the short meeting a Craft Fair will be opened.  This will give you the opportunity for some Christmas shopping at an event which will help raise funds for the group.  There will be many different craft stalls for you to browse and buy from.  Gluten Free food stalls will also be part of the fair, with Traditional Puddings, Clare’s Gluten Free Catering and Love Free From set to offer their delicious gluten free products for sale.  We are organising a Raffle with some excellent prizes such as a Hamper donated by Ilumi, a fish and chip voucher donated by Eggbuckland Fish and Chip Shop, and many other excellent prizes.

In the Elm Centre we will have use of the excellent kitchen facilities, were Tea’s, coffees, biscuits and cakes will be available.  For all you bakers out there, we welcome you to bake and share with other members.  There will be a £1 voluntary entrance fee to the meeting and members are also encouraged to bring unwanted prescription items for new members.

We are looking forward to seeing you on the 16th Nov 2013. Doors will open at 1pm with the meeting starting at 1:30pm. The food and craft fair will then run until 4pm. We sincerely hope you can attend, and trust you will have a great time.

Programme:

  • Introduction of the new committee members and update on progress and future plans
  • Open forum to get member input on the future plans of the group and future meetings and events
  • Tea/coffee break with cakes and biscuits
  • Raffle draw
  • Opening of the Craft and Food fair

Directions/Parking:

For any of you who do not know were the ELM Centre is, it is located in Estover Plymouth adjacent to the ASDA Store.  If at the ASDA main entrance, turn right down the steps and the centre is at the far end of the courtyard.  Full address is Leypark Court, Leypark Walk, Plymouth PL6 8UE.  There is some community centre parking, otherwise you can park in the overflow ASDA car park for 3 hours.

There are regular bus routes to the ASDA store, the number 50 City Bus from Derriford of you can catch the 27 or 27a if travelling from the City Centre.

For location and directions via Google maps please see link below. To get directions, click the link, press “Get Directions” on the left, enter your start point in the box marked A and then click the blue “Get Directions” button: https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=50.4094,-4.095402&hl=en&sll=52.8382,-2.327815&sspn=10.853098,19.753418&t=m&z=16

Yours Faithfully

The Plymouth Coeliac Group Committee

My Coeliac Journey – Two Years On

27 Oct

Well first of all, let my apologise for the recent blog silence.  I have just had one of those periods when everything has gone wrong, one after another and unfortunately life has had to take over for a while.  Major works at both our house and our rental property, sick cats and working away have featured heavily and it’s been all go.  I’ve not had the time (or the money!) to focus on blogging.  Thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel, so I’m hoping normal service will be resumed soon!

During this period of silence, the second anniversary of my endoscopy, and hence eating gluten free, quietly slipped by.  Some of you may remember my blog post accounting my diagnosis and the experience of my first year living gluten free.  Year two has been much less dramatic and really quite mundane in comparison, and to be honest I thought what’s the point in writing about year two if there’s not much to say?  Then I thought to myself you know what, how much would I have given to have considered coeliac a bit mundane two years ago?

Feeling Perkier, and perhaps a bit rounder in the face...

Feeling Perkier, and perhaps a bit rounder in the face…

So here are some of my thoughts on year two, if only to show the newbies that it does get better.  Firstly, the year has passed without a major glutening.  I really regard this as a major achievement to go a whole year with no slip-ups.  The only problem I can remember having, is some minor symptoms which I put down to some contaminated draft cider whilst out.  This has obviously made a huge difference to both my physical and mental state.

It’s worth saying that I haven’t led a sheltered life to achieve this.  I’ve eaten out regularly and tried lots of great new foods.  I tend to stick to quite a small pool of restaurants when eating out though to be honest.  I’ve got my favourites in both Plymouth and London and I know I can eat at these places with confidence.  I think I’ve learned to handle the awkward questions better when I eat somewhere new though, and have some places on the list to try in Plymouth that I hope to be bringing reviews of in the next few months.

So overall it’s been a year of feeling pretty healthy.  No brain fog, no joint pain and I feel I’m getting close to where I should be.  I know others struggle so don’t want this to come across as smug, but I hope those struggling can take comfort from the fact that if you work hard and are determined at living strictly gluten free, then living with coeliac disease doesn’t have to be a constant nightmare.

I think that this year I’ve lost that feeling of being a freak.  I have immersed myself deeply into the coeliac and gluten free community via social media, and you guys really are like my extended family.  It is such a comforting feeling to know that you’re not alone, and actually there are loads of us in the same boat.  I thank each and every one of you for helping me feel this way.

Gluten free has of course gone more mainstream in the past year and this has undoubtedly helped too.  I may well have banged on a bit about gluten free pizza on this blog, but the fact that chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut have come on board really has helped to give a feeling of normality.  Being able to join in on the work pizza runs for example, it’s great to feel included instead of having to sulk in the corner with your packed lunch.

One thing I have done this year is learn to say “no thank you”.  I no longer feel the need to constantly explain myself, or the urge to tell someone being nice and offering you a piece of cake to $%@# off!  I am now able to just smile and say no thanks without feeling the need to give the person offering a ten minute lecture in coeliac disease.  Of course there is still the odd occasion when this is necessary!

Through running Gluten Free by the Sea and being part of the gluten free community on Facebook and Twitter, I have managed to find so much (largely locally produced) gluten free food that I no longer feel like I’m missing out.  Maybe I’ve just forgotten what wheat filled nasties taste like, but I’ve lost that constant hankering for a sticky bun or similar.  There’s great gluten free food out there, and I feel so much better so why worry about it.

Gluten Free by the Sea has grown over the year, and this has also led to me being invited to join the committee of the Coeliac UK Plymouth Voluntary Support Group.  It has been highly rewarding being able to help people through these mediums and it is not lost on me that I would never have done anything like that pre-coeliac.  I firmly believe getting diagnosed with coeliac disease has helped me come out of my shell and grow as a person.

Two failings of the year following my one year post though are my failure to make that first trip abroad, and I haven’t really pushed myself enough in developing my cooking skills.  These will have to stay on the list of goals for year three.

I realise, and am very grateful for, the fact that I only need to avoid gluten.  My thoughts are always with those who have to battle multiple allergies and intolerance, and I hope during year three things will get better for all of us.  For those who are newbies or simply still struggling I hope you can find your “normal”, your “mundane” soon.

Finally I just wanted to say a big thank-you to my wife, Abby, my family and my friends.  You’ve all worked so hard to understand and be accommodating and it is appreciated.  Others are not so fortunate.

Thanks for listening.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

Allergy and Free From Show 2013

11 Jun

AllergyShowWell I’m just back from another trip to London for the Allergy and Free From Show 2013.  The trip provided a great opportunity to find some new gluten free suppliers, stock up with products from some old favourites, eat out at some of my favourite London restaurants and meet up with fellow coeliac Twitter friends.  We’d had such a fantastic time last year that I was really looking forward to it.

Like last year we decided to make a few days of it in London, as it’s quite a trek from Plymouth.  This year we stayed at a Premier Inn at Earl’s Court which worked out really well.  The hotel was right next to Earl’s Court tube station which was served by the Picadilly and District lines so made getting around London really easy.  It was only a mile from Olympia so we able to walk to the show too.

I travelled up to London on Thursday afternoon to meet my wife, Abby, who had been working in London so was already up there.  We went for some delicious Mexican food at Wahaca in the evening, not to mention some lovely margaritas!  On Friday we went for gluten free breakfast at pod before a walk around Kew Gardens to enjoy the London sunshine.  Sadly it started to rain about five minutes after we went in, and stopped five minutes after we left.  It was still  great though and the we managed to duck inside for the heaviest showers.  A quick break for a fabulous Honest Burgers followed before a trip to Zoo Lates, which is a trip around London Zoo where alcohol replaces children 🙂

2013-06-08 09.56.16Saturday and of course the main event!  After a 20 minute walk from our hotel we got to Olympia and thought they must have been hosting a rock concert at the same time.  The doors were not yet open and the queues were massive.  The picture shows part of the queue, and it was the same around the corner and shortly after behind us too.  The queues cleared fairly rapidly once the doors opened and before we knew it we had picked up our goodie bags and programs and were inside.  This year the event had moved to the larger National Hall due to the previous years success.  This year there were over 200 stands to visit.

First stop (where else?) was to visit friends Ann and Steve on the Perkier stand.  I’d met these guys at a couple of previous tweet ups in London and they are a lovely couple, and their products have such amazing branding.  Happily their producPerkierts are great too and I am a big fan of their brownies, rocky road and popping tiffin.  Whilst I’m not a porridge fan, their breakfast treat has also featured on Gluten Free by the Sea previously.  I got to try their bread for the first time and it was fantastic.  The closest gluten free bread I’ve tried to the real thing to date, and I bought a loaf to take home.  I was also lucky enough to win the final Perkier goodie bag on the day too!

We stumbled upon the Venice Bakery UK stand pretty soon after.  I’d heard lots of good comments about these products recently, but must admit when I read they were gluten, wheat, dairy, soy and egg free as well as being vegan I was a little sceptical about how good these could really be.  We tasted a fair few pizzas at the show, but this was the best by a long distance for me.  The base had great flavour and the texture was superb.  Pleasantly soft but with a good crunch on the outside.  The large bases are pricey, usually two for £7, but we happily picked up two for £5 which was the offer price for the show.  They also had smaller bases and flat breads available.  Certainly one to watch.

2013-06-11 17.31.39I was also eager to try the wraps from BFree, an Irish company who are shortly to start selling their wraps at ASDA.  These were very impressive and I bought a couple of packs to take home.  Whilst slightly smaller than the Newburn Bakehouse wraps, they do have six in a pack for £3.  I think I actually slightly preferred them to the Newburn version.  Again we bought a couple packs to take home, and like last year the bags were suddenly getting a bit heavy within the first hour!

11am came which gave a chance to have a sit down in the cafe area during a planned meet up with some coeliac Twitter friends.  For me this is one of the great reasons for going to a show like this.  There are so many people on Twitter I “speak” to on an almost daily basis, it’s brilliant to have a chance to have a chat in person.  It was lovely both to catch up with some familiar faces and also meet some new ones.  An hour passed all too quickly though and I didn’t really have time to chat to everyone properly, so sorry for the ones I didn’t really get to speak too.  Brilliant to see you all in any case.

Back to the shopping and it was good  to see Devon represented by Clive’s Pies and Tideford Organics.  I first discovered Clive’s at last years allergy show and have been a regular eater since.  This was the first time I had got to try the Tideford products though and I will certainly be seeking them out again.  I tried a minestrone soup made with GF pasta, which was a previous pre-coeliac favourite of mine.  I think this is possibly the first time I’ve had it since being diagnosed and it was fantastic.  The flavour of the soup was great and I can’t wait to try some more of the range.

Another company which I think we will see big things from this year is ilumi world.  These guys are giving some heavy promotion to their free from ready meals at the moment, and I have to say I’ve been very impressed with the ones I’ve tasted so far.  They are offering £10 off orders over £20 during June and I think I will be stocking up based on the products I’ve tasted so far.  I got to try a few of their products at the show and came away with a sample of Spanish rice and vegetables which was very tasty, with all natural ingredients.  The beauty of these meals is they do need even need to be refrigerated.

A great thing this year was seeing friends working on the stalls too.  As well as the Perkier guys, it was also nice to see Sam (The Happy Coeliac) working on the Isabel’s stand.  It was also good to meet up with a few that I’ve long time Tweeted but never met before.  These included the guys from Live Gluten Free, CELIA Lager and the lovely Helen and Lisa from Sweet Mandarin.  It was interesting that CELIA have removed the prominent “gluten free” wording from the front of their bottles due to suppliers saying some people have been put off, though the crossed grain symbol remains for all coeliacs to see.  Also great to catch up with Alex Gazzola on the Skin Matters stand, a true gent as always!  It was really good to see Caroline of The Free From Bakehouse again, especially as she was selling Lemon Meringue Tarts which were nothing short of sensational, I wish I’d have bought more.

The Happy CoeliacLive Gluten FreeSweet Mandarin

At this point the show was getting busy, really busy!  It was getting quite hard to move around without being buffeted which I could live with, but my real frustration came from not really being able to get to the store holders as they were just being mobbed.  I gave up trying to get to a few of the stands and from seeing other people’s Tweets I think I missed quite a few of the producers as a result.  I think in hindsight we should have gone on the Friday when it was a bit quieter, but we had plans to meet friends and I’d have hated to have missed the Tweet-up.  I think next year though I’ll definitely be aiming for the Friday to help preserve our sanity!

One slight concern I had was the proximity of the V Delicious show.  Apparently there were different coloured stand hoardings and carpets to mark the different shows, but I have to say I didn’t notice these.  We went to one stand right next to the allergy show and were offered a taste of a chutney on a gluten free oat cracker.  However the spoon being used to serve up was also being used to spread on spelt bread.  A lucky escape which we made them aware of, and we hope others were not caught out.  It wasn’t until checking the program afterwards that I realised this company wasn’t actually exhibiting at the free from show at all.

Overall though I really enjoyed the show and it’s so good being able to walk around and indulge in so many gluten free treats, meet old friends and find new tasty products.  I will definitely be going back next year.  After a quick rest stop at the hotel we enjoyed a gluten free pizza at Otto accompanied by a CELIA Larger before sampling some live music and a few ciders in Soho during the evening.

Sunday saw a (slightly hungover) trip around the Science Museum before having some lunch before catching the train home.  We decided to hit Honest Burgers again after enjoying it so much a few days before.  Who knows when I’ll get my next fix?  Hope to see you all at the show again next year folks.

See more photos at the Gluten Free by the Sea Facebook page.

Kevin, Gluten Free by the Sea

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