Monday, July 25, 2011

Travelling with Celiac & Thyroid Dilemmas

Leading up to my trip to New York things were not going well for me health wise. I was struggling with my stomach day in and day out with basically nothing moving. This was why Charles went and bought me that awesome t-shirt you would have seen last post. This led me to gain weight because obviously I was not pooping anything out. Coupled with all of this drama I was getting very tired, upset over nothing, bleeding to no end and generally I felt like rubbish.

The whole situation I have described above is something that has been happening to me over the years since I was about 19-20 yrs old, but it has only gotten gradually worse. I just wish I didn't have to be in so much pain and discomfort every single day.  I would give anything to be 100% healthy for just one day. There are days where I wish I could sit with friends and just eat what they are eating, so I can just be apart of the group. Being Celiac, whilst having IBS, and Colitis can be isolating. It does not make for a great social life through your teens and being a twenty something. On the other hand it does help me to quickly realise who are my true friends who will be there whether it be the good, the bad or the ugly.

It amazes me how many people find eating with a Celiac or someone with food allergies a total inconvenience. If I had a choice trust me I would eat with the group, but once again being Celiac is not a choice! New York was another eye opener for me. food with my best friends back home who would have loved it as much as I had. I will return to NYC with my best buds to eat it up, you can bet on that.

For others who do have friends with Celiac you just need to remember a few things that will make travelling together a little easier for you both:

  • Fast food restaurants (e.g. McDonalds, Popeyes, Shake Shake etc) do not serve gluten free food. Some health places might, just ask first. 
  • Gluten is not just in pasta or bread. It can be in dressings, drinks, biscuits, candies and many other foods.
  • Listen to your friend when they give suggestions of where they can eat. Or call ahead on the day to ensure the restaurant has gluten free options.
  • Do not just walk into a restaurant and sit down. Ask the wait staff first if there are gluten free options.
  • Take the time before travelling to read about Celiac disease. It honestly will take 30min of your time to understand the basic facts and then it will be easy for you both to eat out together and enjoy. 

These are just a few things that if you are good friends with someone that are helpful to understand. Travelling is never easy with Celiac and it makes it that much harder if you are constantly made to feel like the group burden. If you are Celiac my advice is know your friends well you are travelling with or just do as I did and make new friends on holidays. It made for an incredible trip for me that now I want to go and live back in NYC in the near future.

Onto the other side of things I wanted to throw down on this post was my newly diagnosed thyroid condition. A few weeks back I had blood tests, which for over a year now have shown that my thyroid is borderline under active. This is not surprising considering that on both sides of my family there is a track record of thyroid conditions. Due to the state of my health and how I had been feeling I pushed the doctor to look further into this. I wanted answers for the pain and I wanted them bad. After taking an ultrasound I was sent to an endocrinologist who explained to me that my thyroid had about twenty percent damage. The weird thing was that my antibodies came up negative in the blood tests. So I have a damaged thyroid, with high TSH levels but great antibodies. Are you kidding me? My results are always considered to be weird, which makes life difficult. However, the endocrinologist decided that to be sure I would go on a low dose of thyroxin for six months to see if there were any changes. Well, guess what? After six weeks I am going to the bathroom regularly, there is no bleeding and I feel alive again. In all honesty it is not 100% peachy, but then again it is 100% better. I just need to keep learning what I can and cannot eat. As I have learned gluten free baked goods to be a big no no. I have ruled them out for the better part of NEVER EVER AGAIN.

I will tell you one thing, it made my travels in NYC a breeze. Normally when I am holidaying I am constipated to no end and bleeding horribly. Not this time. I was feeling great. Since I have come back I have been a bit unwell with the constipation and bloating, but that is because I am back working corporate and sitting down all day. I find if I am walking around I am okay with no problems, but sitting does not bode well with my tummy. I now use lunch times to trek up and down the city to get my metabolism going.

Dealing with all of these tummy dramas can get me down at the best of times, but I know that tomorrow can only get better. I live hoping that in the future we will have a better understanding or even a cure for Celiac, IBS, Colitis or thyroid conditions. Autoimmune diseases are truly the unknown, but each day we get a little bit closer to the answers. If you suffer from any of the conditions I have spoken about or something else please share your thoughts on how you cope with it. I would love to be able to talk to others who go through the same day to day obstacles. Or if you know someone who suffers from these and have questions please ask.

Later this week I will dive straight into eating in NYC. I will provide reviews on lunch, dinner and snack venues. Oh, and plenty of bar recommendations for cocktails.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

UH OH! Tummy Jokes

This was a surprise from Charles I received last night. A special t-shirt with an "in-joke" that anyone with IBS, Colitis or any other tummy troubles will understand. It made me laugh because it is so damn true! It has been a very bad week for me and my tummy and I am just waiting to wear this t-shirt.

Just wanted to share it with everyone else so you to can laugh. Makes for a light hearted mid week smile :)

Lil Miss Stack It

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Meat & Wine Co Darling Harbour

I am going to throw this straight out and not sugar coat the whole post. I did not enjoy the  The Meat & Wine Co at Darling Harbour. I went for a second visit about three weeks ago with the girls. My first visit was not as bad, but it was not the best experience either. I’m going to make this short and sweet, so let me break it down for you.

Firstly, the service was not up to scratch by any means. We had to wait constantly for service in regards to ordering drinks, placing our order or just trying to get directions to the bathroom. The wait staff was always polite when we did get a hold of them, but waiting around for every little thing is not impressive. What annoys me most is when you go to restaurants and half way through your meal you need another drink and then you are left searching for a waiter. The meal ends with you dying for a glass of water, which comes right when you finish. Know the feeling? Well, same thing happened at The Meat & Wine Co.

Secondly, I was hoping the food would be good because I was starving. After waiting for what seemed liked Christmas the food finally came. My meal was two pieces of beef with some vegetables on a stick hanging over some greens. For $40 I was not impressed and at the same time very hungry. When I am hungry I get cranky, especially after spending a decent amount and getting a pathetic attempt at food art. Some of the girls were lucky and got good meals, such as the burger or the pasta. Though as Alison pointed out, “how can you go wrong with Napoletana?” The ribs on the other hand were well and truly done along with the lamb shanks, which were not bad though not the best. The girls did rave about the mushrooms and joked we should have just ordered more of them.

Kebab on a stick

Steamed Asian greens

Burger and chips


Chicken and Chips

Beef Ribs

Lamb Shanks

Sauce for my kebab

The beloved mushrooms

Thirdly, I have to say I was impressed with the menus. The Meat & Wine Co has several menus consisting of the normal menu, nut free menu, dairy free menu and gluten free menu. These were great and allowed me to easily choose what I could and could not eat. I was also impressed that the chef’s understood what it means to be gluten free and ensure the different foods are cooked on different plates so as not to contaminate the meals.  If only the food could have been just as good.

Lastly, the atmosphere in general was great with the restaurant being open planned and spilling out onto the harbour. The restaurant was packed with Friday night diners bursting with delight that it was the weeks end. Overall the feeling the restaurant provides is one of warmth and enjoyment.

So there it is, clean and simple. I would not go back to The Meat & Wine Co personally, but it is entirely your choice to give the restaurant a chance and see if you like it. Everyone to there own I say. Later this week I will be starting the NYC posts finally. It has been a bumpy return for me after starting the new job and I have been rather unwell with tummy issues. I am getting my act back together and should have the posts coming through regularly in the coming days. If you have any comments on the posts please feel free to express your opinions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blue Mountains Part 3: All You Can Eat!

We are back! Sorry for the delay, but I was just too caught up in New York City and Charles has been flat out with job interviews. Long story short, the blog is back and with lots of great posts to come. What we need to revisit is the third and final post of the Blue Mountains series.

On our last day in the mountains Charles and I ventured down to Scenic World in an attempt to see the Three Sisters. Needless to say, we saw nothing due to the thick fog and rain that engulfed the mountains. However, we did step out into the rain to check out the railway, cableway, walkway and skyway. Charles and I love getting out into nature, whether it is sunny, raining or windy. Nothing stops us from having a ball of a time together.

If you are going to the Blue Mountains make sure you stop by Scenic World because it is well worth a look no matter what the weather conditions are. We began our trek by taking the railway, which was incredibly steep and did not scare me at all (I hate heights, I mean I literally cry if I am more than 2m off the ground). From the railway we stepped out onto the walkway, which was absolutely beautiful. You can see from the photos a glimpse of just some of the scenery we were able to capture. To get back to the top we took the cableway, but did not see too much through the thick fog. We even then went and jumped on the skyway to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Three Sisters, but that was wishful thinking. From the skyway we did see the waterfalls through the fog, which on a sunny day I can only imagine are amazing in full view.


Foggy view from the railway

Trekking through the rain on the walkway

Charles checking out the sights on the walkway


Local Fauna


You can just see the waterfall (look closely) 
After all this walking and sightseeing both Charles and I were very hungry. This called for one and only one option; BUFFET! We left the Skyway and went straight to the , which also revolves. This way you never miss out on a front row seat of the gorgeous view. As we entered the restaurant the first question I had to ask the wait staff was whether or not there were gluten free options. The waiter took me over to the chef who went through the entire buffet with me, indicating what I could and could not eat. Turns out there were quite a few options ranging from salads to rice dishes, chicken and hot vegetables.

Charles and I picked a Charles' second plate
Overall the food was pretty standard for a buffet. It was not bad, but it was not great. The food on offer is worth paying the $35 for all you can eat to just stuff your face after a long day sightseeing, but it is not fantastic gourmet food. We just want to make that clear, so people do not go there thinking that it will blow their mind because it won’t. The Skyway Restaurant is just a lot of fun to sit back, relax and enjoy the view with all the food you can eat before heading off for some more sightseeing. It is as simple as that. I just want others to know that you can eat gluten free here, so you will not starve in the mountains. There are options!

Our overall scores for Skyway Restaurant:
Overall: 7/10
Gluten Free Food Options: 6/10
Other Food: 7/10
Customer Service: 7/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Price: 8/10

That is a wrap for the Blue Mountains series, which we hoped you found helpful. We want to go back at some stage this winter and check out other restaurants that claim to be gluten free. It is just another excuse to have more fun over the weekends. Later this week I will post the review of the Meat & Wine Co at Darling Harbour, which is going to be interesting. After this I will be able to dive straight into my New York trip, which I have plenty to spill the beans on.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Just a short note to say that Charles and I are still around, but the posts are on hold whilst I am holidaying in New York. I know I still need to complete the Blue Mountain Series and I have lots to spill about gluten free dining in the big apple. So far it has been a whirlwind ride for the past eight days, with four to come. I will let you know all the details when I return next weekend.

Happy Eating xox
Lil Miss Stack It

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blue Mountains Part 2: Picnic at Jenolan Caves

For part two of our trip to the Blue Mountains we will bounce back to Sunday lunch, where Charles and I spent the day trekking through Jenolan Caves in the freezing cold. Charles had been about ten years ago to the caves, whereas I had never been before. We were both quite excited to see what lay ahead of us, as we began our trip at 6am from Sydney.

Blue Lagoon at the caves

The trip took about three hours to get to Jenolan caves, which should have been about 2-2.5hours considering we missed the M4 exit. Charles was driving, so need I say more. I kicked him out of the driver’s seat and got us back up into the mountains before I let him take over for the fun ride down into the caves. The road into the caves is ridiculously tight, windy and takes a fair amount of patience because it is long. Once we made it down we had to trek back up to park on the mountain side because everyone had decided to come at once. Though the 10am crowd was far fewer than the 1pm crowd, which we missed luckily. We were able to get tickets for the Chifley Cave tour at 11:30am, which was to go for one hour.

Jenolan Caves House

Charles and I had about 45min to kill prior to our guided tour, so we went to check out the blue lagoon and the trails surrounding. The water was magical as you can see from the pictures. The blue radiated from the water like nothing you see around Sydney. I waited patiently to see if I could catch a glimpse of a platypus, but I think it was just too damn cold. Don’t blame the little guys, I would be staying warm too. The rest of the 45min was spent with Charles and I being silly and taking random photos throughout the trails, as you can see.

Not long after we were on the Chifley cave tour into the mountains, which was amazing. The tour guide took us on an hour long walk through the mountain side and into the caves. I just did not like the tight squeezes we had to get through. Being tall I pretty much was walking on my knees or just smacking my head when I didn’t see low hanging rocks in the dark. We took too many photos inside the caves, so here are just a few. You really cannot describe this experience because it is out of this world. Our only advice is to get your butt in the car and go find out for yourselves.

Charles right outside the caves

After the cave tour Charles and I were absolutely starving! We had made a big picnic lunch the night before and were dying to get stuck into it. It took us about 15 minutes to get back to the car up on the hill, which allowed us to start getting warm. Remember it was about 8 degrees in the mountains. When we finally reached the car we debated whether to eat in the car or on a picnic table. We attempted the car, but that failed and ended up on the picnic table. The picnic consisted of the following (because it was so cold I did not take all the pictures, we just stuffed our faces):

Gluten Free (GF) rice paper rolls (Vegetarian and prawn) w/ sweet chilli sauce
GF Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Chicken Salad
Strawberries & grapes
GF Brownie (Melinda’s mix, which I baked)
Sakata’s & other GF biscuits w/GF dips
Muslie Bars (these were for Charles, I cannot eat Muslie Bars because the honey tears my tummy apart)

Just some of our food

Rice Paper Rolls

Chicken, sweet potato, pumpkin and spinach salad w/goats cheese

The picnic was a smorgasbord filled with all different kinds of foods. Everything is pretty straight forward, but I will show you how we made the rice paper rolls. This was a new recipe for both Charles and I, which we now make for lunch most days. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients: (makes 8)

(Really it is anything that is available in your pantry for the filling. Next time we are putting dips in the filling, adding chicken and other vegetables. Get creative as you would like!)

½ carrot thinly sliced
½ cucumber thinly sliced
½ avocado thinly sliced
¼ red capsicum thinly sliced
0.25kg bean sprouts
0.25kg small prawns
8-16 rice paper sheets
0.25kg vermicelli noodles
Sweet chilli sauce


1. In a saucepan boil some water. When the water is boiling add the vermicelli noodles and cook for 2minutes. Remove from the stove and drain the noodles in a strainer. Leave on a plate to cool for 5minutes.

Vermicelli noodles

2. Get a large bowl and fill it with water. Place 1-2 sheets into the water and let the rice paper become soft. (Sometimes you may need to use 2 sheets if the rice paper is already torn, cracked or tears when soaking. If does not matter, as the rice paper is not too thick)

Rice paper

3. Place the rice paper on a plate. Now it’s time for the filling. This process is entirely up to you, but here are some ideas. First add some vermicelli to the centre of the rice paper. Then add some carrot, cucumber, avocado, bean sprouts and prawns.

Filling the rice paper

Add some prawns

Add some capsicum, carrot or cucumber

Even add some avocado

4. Wrap the rice paper around the filling from one side. Now tuck in both ends and then continue to roll the rice paper. This should form a great looking rice paper roll. Leave the roll to dry on a plate, whilst you make the other rolls.

Wrapping the rice paper roll

 5. Continue to make the other rolls with whatever filling you would like. To serve, place the rolls on plates and dip with sweet chilli sauce. (Storing: Place one layer in a container, then place gradwrap over the top, then add the second layer of rolls. The gladwrap prevents the rolls from sticking to each other and tearing.)

As you can see we had a great time at the caves and topped it off with our own picnic in the mountains. As cold as it was, we had a great time and it was not long before we were off to Sparadise. Tomorrow we will get straight into part three of our mountains adventure, which will cover Scenic World and our buffet lunch. If you have any questions about the other food we had at the picnic please let us know and we can post more detailed information regarding this.