Six Years in Scotland

On September 12th it will be my six year anniversary of arriving in the UK – cat in tow.

Imagine it’s a warm (80 degrees F) day in Illinois. Your older brother is driving you to the airport with your cat .. when the car overheats while in a traffic jam – so you need to turn the heating on to cool ‘er down. After managing to find the cargo part of the airport you drop him off (with paperwork), get an early dinner, and say goodbye to the only life you’ve known. A life with two brothers, two parents, a mess of animals, and friends you’ve known since you were little.

Then you get on a plane and don’t look back. You arrive in Heathrow (I hate Heathrow) and your new husband (of less than a month!) meets you. The two of you pick up your cat – and a new friend getting her cats – and make your way home to Scotland. To a house in the seaside town of St Andrews. Where it is a freezing 10 degrees C.

Six years later you and your husband live with his parents, are paying down your student loans, and saving up a deposit for your own flat in Edinburgh. The cat of 3 is now 9 and just as beautiful as the day he was born. (More, probably, as he looked like a gray rat…)

Everything is different now. Yet still the same. I miss my brothers constantly and can’t wait to see them on my next visit home. And I still say home. Even being in Scotland for 6 years doesn’t mean I consider this my home. It’s home but .. not mine. I’m not sure that makes sense – I know it’s where I am, and have been, for years. But I still yearn for a life where I know how everything works. Who all my neighbours are. The social etiquette.

Living abroad is an adventure. One I’m not ready to give up quite yet.

Coeliac disease in Edinburgh

Over a year on, having coeliac disease is second nature.

I was always happy, growing up, to have no food allergies/sensitivities/etc. When this changed I was quite upset. Not unreasonably so, I don’t think, but still upset.

Now it just is. I pack snacks when I know I’ll be out. I make sure my stuff is marked with little “gluten free” stickers in the family fridge. I have my own butter, mayo, etc.

That said, having an advocate for you makes this process easier. My husband is a rockstar – he finds us places to eat on holidays, answers questions when (well meaning) relatives try to feed me, and just generally supports me 100%. The (sad) look in his eye when he eats something he’d know I’d love makes me smile. Just because gluten is bad for me doesn’t mean it’s bad for him. So, yes, he still eats gluten-filled things. And makes sure he brushes his teeth after!

Edinburgh, in particular, is relatively easy to eat out gluten free. I have a few preferred places but even if I end up somewhere new I can (generally) find something I can eat. Except the zoo. Literally nothing I could find except ice lollies! (Note to Edinburgh Zoo – step it up! You can provide the correct food for the animals but what about us human-shaped-animals!?)

Feel free to leave comments/questions about gluten free in this lovely city!

Surprise! You have coeliac disease

To expand on the previous post..

Several years ago (~2007) I had several problems that caused me to visit my local university doctor. Over the space of several months – and something like fifteen blood tests! – he diagnosed me with pernicious anaemia (b12 deficiency) and sent me on my way. One of the panels he had done was for coeliac disease (or celiac if you’re American!) but it was negative.

Fast forward to 2014 and the problems I had in 2007 were coming back full-force. Despite having vitamin b12 injections every other month (standard is every 3 months in the UK) I was still feeling horrible all the time. I went back to the gp – in another country than the last – and was a bit melodramatic (‘I can’t live like this’ was uttered..) All I really wanted was more b12 but he referred me to a gastroenterologist. He thought it was likely IBS but ordered some blood drawn anyway.

The blood test showed an increase in the antibodies that meant it might be coeliac disease. He referred me for an endoscopy & biopsies. The biopsies showed the same thing as the blood test – coeliac disease.
The journey to get my endoscopy was another story, involving Aruban hospitality.

I digress.

Once the endoscopy was done (as you still need to be eating gluten up until this point) I managed two days eating gluten before deciding to go gluten free while waiting on the results. I had more or less decided it had to be coeliac disease. My last meal with gluten was a bacon roll, ha!

I have to admit I’m still grieving for the loss, which I know is a bit daft, but I miss being carefree. I miss being able to eat anywhere. I miss not worrying about cross-contamination in my own kitchen or other’s kitchens.

Maybe one day I won’t feel like this is a big deal.. but not today.

Coeliac disease

I’ve spent the past month going through the stages of grief in regards to coeliac disease. Yes, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. Coeliac disease being that lovely little autoimmune disease that means you can’t eat gluten – which is found in wheat, rye, & barley.

On the one hand I’m happy to finally know what is wrong. Why I’ve felt horrible. Why I haven’t felt like doing anything for months and months. I’m glad there is an answer – often with medical stuff there isn’t a simple or easy answer. And, to top it off, my anxiety is nearly gone.

But at the same time .. what do you mean I can’t have bread? What do you mean gluten is in soy sauce? I need to read every label of anything I eat?

I’m trying to think of this as an adventure. A breadless adventure, sure, but who needs bread when you have energy?

My favourite thing

My favourite fact to bring up when people think they’ve figured me all out is:

I moved to the UK with three suitcases and a cat. Yes, I brought my cat to the UK with me when I moved. When my husband and I started dating I remember, very vividly, telling him that we were a pair. And I meant every word! My baby is now seven (..and a half!) but still all kitten in my eyes. He was born in my closet. While I was away at university he slept outside my bedroom. Now he sleeps on top of me every night. Even right now, as I write this, he’s curled up a foot from me on my bed.

I’m sure I’ll mention him again & again so for your viewing pleasure, a few pictures of my Tegan:

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I swear I remember I have a blog..

My good friend Amy keeps asking me why I don’t blog more.. I figure I probably should start as I do enjoy writing in small bursts and I LOVE reading other’s blogs.

So consider this a fresh start in the blog of me!

My name is Brandi, I’m 26 years old, and live in Edinburgh with my husband & cat. I’m originally from a small dot of a town in central Illinois and went to university in southern Illinois. I have two brothers – one 9.5 years older and one 9.5 years younger – who I miss daily!

I’m currently working on digging out of my student loan debt – it’s a staggering amount of $36,984.62 (£22,507.69) as of today. Who knew one bachelor’s degree could cost so much?!

I hope to use this blog more & can’t wait to “meet” y’all!

Brandi

Review of Pomegranate [Leith Walk, Edinburgh]

Recently, after my Floatarium visit, I went to Pomegranate on Leith Walk.

Pomegranate is a Middle Eastern-style restaurant. Being married to a 1/2 Persian means that I really love Middle Eastern food. I ended up at Pomegranate around 2pm and, funny enough, there was only one other customer in the place. As it was, I spent the whole time speaking to the waitress who was moving back to Turkey in a few weeks to get married (aww!).

For a starter I had the halloumi, which is absolutely gorgeous. For my main I had chicken shawarma wrap which was less than ideal. Personally, I think I was accidentally given the lamb instead. It was nice enough but I wouldn’t order it again.

Overall, I highly recommend Pomegranate. The atmosphere (whether it’s full or empty) is amazing & very welcoming. I always leave with a smile when I eat there.

Review of the Floatarium [Stockbridge, Edinburgh]

I’ve always found the idea of sensory deprivation interesting, especially considering that I have tinnitus and I’ve wondered how loud, exactly, it was. So when I found out through word-of-mouth that there is a sensory deprivation tank (“floatarium“) in Stockbridge, I figured it was a great use of a day off work.

Walking into the spa, it was like every other spa in that it was pristine and clean. After signing a basic I-promise-not-to-sue-you agreement, I was taken downstairs to the floatarium. Now, I have to say, it was dingy and kind of dirty downstairs. I wouldn’t recommend walking around without footwear, for one. And the room the floatarium was in could use some good drywalling and patching.

The actual floating, though, was excellent. After standing through a 5-to-10 minute talk about all the great “health benefits” (which, to my ears, sounded very  … alternative medicine) I was finally allowed to float. I closed the pod, turned off the light, and listened to some classical music. They eventually turned the music off and I floated in silence and darkness. Now, the pod does get very humid so I did open the lid near the end. What they didn’t warn me of, though, was that when my time was ending they’d turn the music back on. I actually jumped up and nearly hit my head then because I did not expect to hear music again!

After the float they allow you 30 minutes to shower (and they recommend you shower well, unless you want dried salt all over you!) and time to dry your hair in a separate room. I spent the time texting my husband about the experience, personally, but I’m sure people who care about how they look would like the time they allow to preen!

Overall, I did enjoy it. It cost £35 for an hour, which does mean I can’t exactly do it often! But for a good, relaxing break it was great fun and I felt very relaxed for days afterwards.

Review of La Favorita [Leith Walk, Edinburgh]

I recently had the pleasure of going to La Favorita on Leith Walk in Edinburgh.

The meal I had was as follows (starter and main from the lunch menu, dessert from the normal menu):

Classic Tomato & Mozzarella

Spaghetti al Ragu

For dessert I had a banana split, but I can’t find the exact name on the online menu..

The mozzarella and tomatoes were very fresh. As I don’t enjoy fresh tomatoes I’m afraid I rejected them (sorry!). The spaghetti was nice but I find spaghetti falls into the trap of ‘comfort food’ and I made a mistake ordering it. I’m of the opinion that certain things, comfort food especially, you just wanted made your way. And as such, should never order out. I find spaghetti is one of these. It was very nice, don’t get me wrong!, but not my Mama’s. And the banana split was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Enough bananas, ice cream, cream, and nuts to keep me happy.

Overall, while I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, it was a nice lunch. If someone suggested it to me in the future I’d go again, but I doubt I’d suggest it first.