Monthly Archives: November 2012

Re-finding my creativity, where the heck did I leave it this time?

I was once a creative …

This is actually true, albeit once upon a time. I am now far too analytical and cynical to boot, I look at most things/people as if they have an ulterior motive and can’t possibly be really so truly beautiful or intriguing that I could use them as inspiration. I don’t know if it was the transformation of my analytical/cynical mind that halted my creativity or quite simply that my muse packed up and did one on me, and I’m not sure which conclusion I prefer either.

The point is I once used to spend so much of my time from being very small up to the age I started working full time just making things. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 and I used to sit on the 2 seater striped sofa that had a raw 80’s geometric vibe that was so hard to ignore at my great grandmothers house making lots of little boxes with secret compartments for hiding my treats from my step brother and cousins, I used to decorate each one differently based on the treat it was to contain.

Over the years I had relished the time I spent in school in art class giving up my lunch hours to sit in the art room alone with some music booming out and my teacher dancing in the stock room. I loved halloween and all of the chances I got to carve pumpkins and think of costumes, Christmas and making nativity scenes with my Gramps out of old cotton reels and bits of cardboard and any other time I got to be creative. Then all of a sudden I stopped.

Maybe it was part of growing up, I fell out of love with art when they wanted me to write essays about art when I just wanted to DO art. Maybe it was getting a job and realising I only had so much time on my hands. Maybe I didn’t have any inspiration any more and couldn’t think of anything to do. I just don’t know.

Another thing I used to do is journal, every single day. Until, that is, I realised I couldn’t even hide it under my bed in the slit of fabric around the wooden base without my mum finding it and reading it…she still insists I left it out for her to find! Joker!

So what about it now…

Well over the last couple of years I have been wanting to rekindle my romance with all things creative. I even got a sewing machine for Christmas, I got a set of craft knives, I’ve still got my paints and my drawing pencils and some sketch books but I still had no time or inspiration.

So I thought about remembering how to draw and learning how to shut off that logical part of my brain that wont just shut up sometimes. I found this website that has simple exercises that teach or reteach in some cases how to shut off logic you and allow creative you to take centre stage. I felt a bit silly doing some of the exercises in case people saw me and thought “what the hell is she doing?” I found myself rushing then realising I wasn’t pleased with the results, but after a little while you forget about the other people and learn to slow it down and enjoy it. I also learned that it doesn’t have to be a master piece to be expressive, that’s my trouble with being a critical perfectionist.

I completed some of the exercises and took myself out of the box that I usually sit in and tried my hand at a bit of body drawing … needs a little practice 😉 but it didn’t help my finger lengths that I was drawing my own hand between random tasks in … ah hem … work!

Drawing exercises

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do when I’m travelling to open up the creative side of my mind more and since my materials will be limited it will be a bit of a challenge but a fun one I think. Ever since seeing this book “Wreck this journal” by Keri Smith my mind has been in circles thinking how simple it really is to throw away logic. So armed with a few essentials (camera [still undecided about taking the lomo], journal, sketching lead, an S3 & C pen and a lot of beautiful things to see) I aim to document my travelling journey in the most creative ways I can think off … I’ll keep you posted, watch this space!

And here are some doodles for my recent poll on New Year’s resolutions, not the best but they illustrated my point 🙂

IMG_20121219_111037IMG_20121219_112217IMG_20121219_112157IMG_20121219_111555 IMG_20121219_111437 IMG_20121219_111414 IMG_20121219_111354 IMG_20121219_111230 IMG_20121219_111130 IMG_20121219_111108

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Restaurant Review – Simela Pizzeria and Focacceria

This about says it for Simela, so if you are visiting Berlin give it a go .. you will not be disappointed!

I will say if you don’t fancy sitting inside, get your pizza to go,  sit on the park over the road and watch the world go by! I did!

glutenfrei in berlin


I would not recommend visiting Simela anymore as their standards have dropped significantly.  I ate a pizza there recently and had a fairly severe gluten reaction, most likely due to significant cross contamination.

In addition to this their service is below standard with long waiting times for food.

Update Summer 2014 – They are now working to improve their service and reduce cross contamination, although I’ve not been back to verify for myself.

I was in New York late last year and what struck me most about the place was the abundance of restaurants and bakeries that didn’t just know about glutenfrei-ness, but that they actually made gluten-less items.  The ones I looked forward to the most were the pizzerias.  As in, actual pizzas, made by someone else (ie. actually good and containing flavour, I’m somewhat inept at the making of pizzas myself), cooked properly and all…

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Gluten Free (NO PASTRY) slimming world breakfast quiche.

We only thought to share the recipe AFTER we had eaten it!

When I finished work at 7pm last night we got straight into the car and made the 3.5 hour journey from Merseyside to South Wales to see Anita’s parents. My mother-in-law Rose is a whiz kid in the kitchen and is never one to shy away from an experiment and loves to make gluten free food for me. So when we walked through the door there was an amazing looking quiche on the table that she had decided she wanted to make because she had a few random ingredients in the cupboard….and boy am I glad she did, it was lush.

However, there was a little shock to it because I was expecting gluten free pastry it was pork mince and it was just the perfect thing for a low fat, protein packed and healthy breakfast so I just had to share the recipe.

The recipe isn’t the most detailed as she was trying to recite it while stabbing my head with hair pins in some kind of sadistic torture, but as long as she continues feeding me I’m not at all sure I mind.

Unfortunately the finished product didn’t last long enough to take a picture so for the time being (until it’s made again) I can only show you a picture of the empty dish, we only decided it was worth a share after it had all been eaten … sorry about that 😉


700g lean pork mince

2 cloves garlic and seasoning of your choice (she used a dry chilli and garlic grinder)

250g Fat free yogurt

250g of low fat cottage cheese

4 medium eggs

3 medium finely chopped onions

a good handful of your favourite mushrooms

You’ll also need a quiche dish and grease free lining paper (so there’s no need to use oil or any other greasy stuff to stop it sticking).

For the base:

Dry fry the onions in a non-stick pan until soft.

Mix the garlic and seasoning together (try fresh sage for a nice alternative) with the pork mince using your hands in a bowl, then using your hands press the mixture into the quiche dish and making sure that you raise up the sides as you would using pastry.

Lay the onions one top of the pork mince base  with some of the mushrooms.

Blend with a hand blender the cottage cheese and yoghurt together. Once you have a runny consistency add the 4 eggs whole and blend with the cottage cheese and yoghurt mixture.

Once blended pour the mixture of c/cheese, yoghurt and eggs over the base adding the last of the mushrooms to the top.

Bake the quiche in the oven on 160 for approximately 1.5 hours, it is to be baked for a long time on a low heat to stop the mixture from curdling. Once finished it will keep in the fridge for breakfast for 2/3 days, that’s if you can get it to stay there that long…

Finally, enjoy…

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Gluten free stuffing

This awesome recipe needs sharing with the GF community!

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Gluten free World

I have converted this post to a page – Gluten Free World (click for updates)

So, as if finding gluten free places to eat out isn’t hard enough in the UK then it must be harder abroad…right?

Actually, no, it’s not. At least not if you are just looking for food to eat and not being too picky … yes some of you are too picky!

So I found these when I’ve been around and about, some may not have specific gluten free menus or items but they at least can understand the concept of gluten and didn’t manage to poison me. Which is always appreciated.

I am working on some gluten free travel cards to take with me travelling using a translator, these will be coming soon and added to the bottom of this page.

I will add to this list whenever I go somewhere, so please remember to keep checking for updates.


Berlin – Gluten free pizza @ Simela

Corfu – Traditional Greek dishes (check with the staff before ordering) there is no website I can find for this but it is on the Kassiopi harbour.

Gran Canaria – The biggest steaks and Canarian potatoes @ Las Vegas Steak House

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Gluten free UK

I have converted this post to a page – Gluten Free UK (click here for updates)

Eating out is a continuous pain for people with Coeliac Disease, I have found a number of really brilliant places that I  just cannot fault and each with their own Gluten Free desirable item. I am so pleased that so many restaurants are taking on board the benefits of offering gluten free meals to patrons (I get a bit bitter that vegetarians get so much more than I do) so here I am creating a list that I will add too whenever I discover a new place in the UK.

Check out their online menus for which dishes are Gluten Free.

Although some dishes are gluten free I would still always advise staff when ordering that you are a GF customer so that they can inform the chef to prevent contamination.

Best for … 

Chinese food (they have their own gluten free menu!) – Butterfly Chinese

Gluten free lager and Spanish tapas – La Tasca

Bramley apple, pear & raspberry crumble with custard – JD Wetherspoons  (GF Menu – how to order)

Pizza – Pizza Hut / Dominos / Prezzo

Pasta! yes! GF Pasta! – Zizzi

BBQ Ribs (a rare find in GF dining) – The Harvester 

Fish and Chips (this website gives a list of members who provide GF batter) – NFFF

Fish and Chips (My Favourite) South Wales, Cwmbran. –

Contact details for the Fairwater Fish & Chip Bar:
15 Fairwater Square
Fairwater, Cwmbran, Gwent NP44 4TA
01633 485 262

Good old Sunday Roast WITH GRAVY – The Castle Inn (Usk, South Wales)

Fries (you can’t have much else, besides salads, but they come in handy when your stuck) – Mc Donalds 

ON THE GO – Sandwich selection – M&S 

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Having Coeliac disease and being gluten free.

So what exactly is celiac disease? (otherwise know as Coeliac Sprue)

I am only giving a basic description so anyone reading my blog can grasp the concept and I have included links for you to research in detail. In a nutshell it’s an autoimmune response to gluten a protein found in certain grains,most commonly wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt (among others).

The intake of this protein makes a persons immune system attack healthy tissue in the small intestine (small bowel), villi (little wiggly bits that absorb nutrients from food via the wall of the small intestine and into the blood stream). It causes the villi to lie flat and not do their job efficiently. The trouble with having unhealthy villi is that no matter how much goodness you think you are putting into your body, your body will stop itself taking any out of it. The end result is to become malnourished and this can lead to a whole load of different health complications. This NHS link gives basic information about celiac disease.

Celiac disease can be hereditary or brought on later than childhood by trauma, I believe

this to be the case with me as I only started developing symptoms when I had been hit by a car at 14. As I grew older and I didn’t have my parents cook for me so much I started living on sandwiches and my body didn’t like it, then I started drinking lager and I believed it was the bubbles causing the pain in my abdomen. Silly I know, but when Anita said to me “you can’t have celiac disease my auntie did and she almost died!” I didn’t know what to think until my bloods came back and proved her wrong…..much to my gloating delight!

Symptoms are analysed followed by a set of blood tests. Following the blood test the next step is to have a duodenal endoscope to examine the state and extent of any damage caused to the villi in the small intestine.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Bloating;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Diarrhea / Constipation;
  • Indigestion;
  • Pale, foul smelling and/or fatty stool/gas;
  • Weight loss (not always true, was not in my case);
  • Mouth ulcers;
  • Headaches;
  • Bone joint pain;
  • Depression/anxiety;
  • Fatigue;
  • Anemia;
  • Missed menstrual periods;
  • Vomiting;
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet;
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis;
  • Hair loss;
  • Acne.

Some other symptoms and complications include:

  • Arthritis;
  • Osteoporosis;
  • Infertility or miscarriage.

This Patient UK website details some other complications that may occur, it also tells about how it is diagnosed.

So what does it mean to be gluten free?…

The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten free diet, that means no ordinary shop bought bread, or biscuits, or cakes, or pasta, or OXO cubes and no quick fire food decisions on the go. Gluten containing ingredients are not only found in food products, but they can be found in many beauty products and cosmetics and be absorbed through the skin so it is important to check ingredients on everything you eat or use.

When meeting someone with celiac disease you’ll often here the following: “I suffer from celiac disease!”

THIS IS NOT TRUE, these days no-one SUFFERS from celiac disease. It’s not as hard as it was to be gluten free. I’m not saying that people who have developed serious conditions stemming from celiac disease do not suffer, they do, but not from celiac disease itself.

It is inconvenient, time consuming, stressful and the ready made food isn’t always the best but along with this comes the healthy feeling of waking up from prolonged lethargy, getting a massive energy injection, zero bloating, healthy eating and a better well being.

So really, what does it mean to be gluten free?

You can’t stop just any place for a bite to eat or a snackTRUE in terms of picking up a sandwich (although I hear M&S have started a range, they just don’t make them near me) but you can prepare meals in advance and gluten free bread has gotten pretty good these days. You can even make your own bread, biscuits, and cakes to take a packed lunch.

Supermarkets are a nightmareNOT TRUE, most supermarkets have a free from section and this is useful to those who are new to gluten free products. Once you are used to common ingredients to watch out for it’s easy to shop in the rest of the supermarket. Most of the major players in UK supermarkets have improved their product range in all areas of the store so you really do need to look around.

You can’t go on holidayNOT TRUE, most UK/European airports will allow you to take your own food into the airport for consumption on a plane if meals are not included and some airport restaurants provide gluten free meals. Within the European union you can take food for personal use through in your suitcase if you are going self catering and some long haul flights offer gluten free options as well as many other options.

As the saying goes “2/3 ain’t bad” … believe me when I say you will not starve.

I think of it in a positive way, as in it means I can only eat healthy options. I can have as much meat, fish, vegetables and fruit as I like and the only thing you need is a little imagination and perseverance….or a wonderful girlfriend who loves cooking 🙂

What can I say…I’m blessed.

So during this blog I will post gluten free finds from supermarkets, restaurants and various other places around the world.

Specifically gluten free food will contain a logo something similar to the M&S one below, they usually depict wheat with some form of cross bar or “no go” sign through it.

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Travel Vaccinations

So, vaccinations. The pain in the **** that we all inevitably must go through should we not wish to contract any nasties abroad.

It took me a while to figure out what I needed and what was a possibility, the thing is it’s like catching a common cold it really is down to chances,the precautions you take and the preparations you make.

Ever remember the coloured balls in a bag in primary school, the one that the teacher used to illustrate the possibility of you choosing a red one 3 times in a row??  If you don’t make the right choices (because they are choices and it’s only you that can make them) then the possibility of pulling that red infected ball out of the bag will be more likely. Well that is unless you are a mozzie magnet, the reasons for this are inconclusive but the precautions recommended are pretty much the same wherever you look.

Firstly it’s important to figure out a rough itinerary, just a rough guide of which countries you will be going to and how long you will be there. Most of the travel information you will find or be given specifies certain provinces that you will/will not be at risk of catching a nasty, but in truth the only thing to do with that information will be to take extra precautions. For example Malaria prophylaxis there are some areas that you are more at risk than others, but the common advice given is just to continue taking anti-malaria medication and precautions the whole time you are in an “at risk” country. It is also advisable (depending on the antimalarial used) to take them for 1 to 2 weeks after you exit the risk areas.

Consider the route in which you are travelling, I am going Australia to Asia so the vaccination prep will be different than if I was going Asia to Australia (this will be explained a little further down).

Things to know about vaccinations/immunisations (V/I’s) –

  • You NEED them;
  • They’re expensive;
  • Oral immunisations and some subcutaneous injections (under the skin) effectiveness reduces over time;
  • They need to be done in enough time before you travel to any risk areas;
  • They are not a shield of armour, you still need to protect yourself in other ways;
  • Antimalarials are NOT a vaccine, they are a preventative measure.

Once you have your plan (even a vague one at that), lets face it it’s supposed to be an adventure…right? DO NOT go straight to a travel clinic and tell them your itinerary, they will fleece you like there’s no tomorrow.

See your GP Practice Nurse because there are a number of essentials that are given free without much explanation, be careful though there are some that your surgery can charge for if they wish. This  NHS website gives a guide on what you may/may not need to pay for (check before you let them stab you),  please note that not all can be provided at the GP surgery and you may have to use a specialist travel clinic.

There are websites run by the NHS such as the Fit For Travel website that offers interactive maps that show you V/I’s recommended and helpful .PDF downloads with extra precautions.

The clinics I have found that have the best prices are Well Travelled or MASTA clinics, these links take you to their price pages. For antimalarials the NHS website here gives details of the most popular types of tablet, they are all very different in the way in which they are taken as well as in price. You can also shop around on line for the best price with your private prescription, there are some you may not even need a prescription for. WARNING – check that any sites are legitimate and registered, e.g. Lloyds Pharmacy.

It took me hours of searching and re-searching to find these websites so I thought I’d make them a little easier to find for those reading my blog.

So what about me?…

Because our route (Australia, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand) means we will not be entering Asia for 12 months we have decided to have some V/I’s here and buy some in Australia. The reasons being cost and effectiveness over time.

What we have had/intend to get here (click the links for more information):

The Hepatitis courses must be given over 7 months or more (first, second a month later, third 6 months later), however, if you are pressed for time you can have an accelerated course (like I did) that involves 3 injections a month apart and then a booster when you return to the UK.

I will be getting the antimalarial Doxycycline before I travel – because it’s cheap, it covers all areas of my travel and will act as a substitute to take in place of my closely related Tetralysal acne medication. It is hard to judge malaria medication as some places you will find have developed a resistance to certain medications, I used Fit For Travel to create this LIST that helped me chose.

Others we need we have decided to get in Australia, the cost is not much different but we do not need to pay out of our savings (we have working visa’s and can pay out of what we earn). Plus certain V/I’s lose effectiveness in time since it was administered (100% > 80% > 60% .. and so on). I have found some helpful sites for prices of these vaccines, I also emailed them and received helpful responses about how easy it is to get over there.

This is what we will be having in Australia a few months before we leave (the Fit for Travel website has details of how to avoid contracting any of these), click the name to be redirected to the NHS website that explains in detail what each condition is:

Some Australian websites (up to date at the time I looked in November 2012) that give an idea of prices are:

  1. Travel Vaccines;
  2. University of Newcastle;
  3. The Travel Doctor.

Some other websites I’ve found quite informative:

DISCLAIMER – Everything I have talked about in this post is based on my research for my own preparations as well as personal opinion. It is based on my experience and requirements and is only intended to inform people of some of the many options and information for vaccines and immunisations available and is in no way an instruction to anyone who reads it.

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Why am I blogging? Because I can!

I’ve been quite a few places and experienced quite a few things, the most of them began when I met Anita. For the last 6 years she has been there supporting me (and feeding me, and cleaning my clothes) while I worked 12 hour shifts and studied, we worked, we saved, we worked, we had a holiday and we saved some more.

From the age of 19 we both had to keep our roof over our head, we were told not to rent because it was dead money. Yet we survived the housing market crashing in 2008 because we didn’t have a home to lose or fluctuating mortgage payments to contend with. We were always stable and able to save any extra that we earned.

Then one day we looked at our bank balances and we were at the point where we had enough money for a deposit on a mortgage … now what?

We had a choice – Invest or Blow?

We decided to BLOW it … If blowing it means investing in meeting new and interesting people, having incredible experiences and everything that comes with booking the trip of a lifetime. (For a general idea read/watch Eat, Pray, Love! – Corny but so moving).

Those who know me know I should have been a gypsy, I can’t stand to live in the same house too long and I’m miserable unless I have a trip or a holiday to look forward to. This has been the basis for my decision and more importantly NEED to travel though at least a continent or two in one stretch. I’m 25 if I’m ever going to do it, it has to be now!

Our plan is simple (we just have a list of countries in a loop order) we will be starting in Sydney, Australia for 12 months then we will be moving on to India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand (we will need a holiday to get over the holiday at this point) and that should take us appox 18 months. Hopefully I will find something other to eat that fruit & veg because that will get a little tedious after a while!

How do we feel about it ?  …

We are scared and we are excited, we are tentative yet definite we have made the right decision. To say we don’t have reservations would be a little fib, mainly because we have already been in the responsible adult life for so long it will be quite different for us to throw away that responsibility and simply enjoy what happens (although I’m sure it wont take all that long).

So this blog is for friends, family and anyone else who is mildly interested in what we are doing, when we are doing it and where we are doing it.

This is the beginning of what will certainly be an amazing experience and you can enjoy it with us!!

See you soon!

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A gluten free, coeliac-friendly blog by Sarah Howells covering gluten free recipes, reviews, and living a healthy life - with plenty of gluten free pizza!

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A global blogging adventure to visit Heifer International projects in 12 countries in 12 months in 2012

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