Early Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving all! Hope you enjoy a nice meal with your loved ones tomorrow.

Every year since 2007, I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my rotary house friends that I met during my first months here. The original Thanksgiving was a special day because my American classmates were visiting me from Germany and Kay, known as “Patrick” back then, made an unexpected decision to join at the last minute.

We were all students at the time and didn’t have much money. I remember that I didn’t have 100CHF for a turkey, so I bought several chicken breasts to feed over 20 people. (Hah!)  We also didn’t have an electric mixer, so we enlisted the help of Kay to beat the cream for the whipped cream.

We all took turns whipping the cream. It was really tiring!It ended up being my last visit with Kay before I left, where I hugged him for the first time, hoping he would get the hint that I liked him. (He didn’t.)

It might have taken us awhile to get started after that, but I’m pretty sure if he had never come to Thanksgiving that we would not be together right now. So every time we celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends, I am reminded of my beginning in Switzerland and thankful for all the time I have with my friends here after what was supposed to be a three month internship.

Each year we set a date in the autumn that works for all of us, which is quite difficult with two musicians in the bunch. One of the girls is Canadian, so we try to do it between Canadian and American Thanksgiving, but last year she was so busy we had to have it the first weekend in December.

This year we were also slated to have it December 6th, but some schedules changed at the last minute and we managed to have it the weekend before Halloween before Kay left for a month.

Last year we hosted, but we take turns, so this year it was at someone’s house in Zürich. They made sure to ask about my gluten-free needs and I planned to take some GF stuffing and pie.

Thinking I would have until December to practise some GF pie-making, I only had a coupe days to find a recipe and hope that my first gluten-free crust would not be a disaster.

I was really happy that the dough from this recipe was fairly easy to work with for gluten-free and that it tasted fine. It was too sticky to pinch the edges well, so I had to use a fork to make the decorative edging.

I absolutely adore our friend Thanksgivings. It is always lovely to catch up with friends and I always look forward to enjoying a delicious, filling meal with great wine.

What is there not to love about Thanksgiving? Do you ever do a separate one with your friends?

Gluten-free Miami

May 2014: We didn’t eat at a ton of places in Miami because we were only there for four days, but maybe these reviews will help somebody searching for places to eat gluten-free in the future, so here they are before I forget!

We rented out a flat while we were there and headed to Whole Foods for a great selection of gluten-free breakfast foods. They had frozen GF donuts. I was. in. heaven. Aside from breakfast, we’d usually bring a snack to the beach, so we only had to eat out for dinner.

Pizza Rustica

This was the first pizza I had since beginning the gluten-free diet two weeks before our trip to Puerto Rico and the US. It was freaking delicious, but the gluten free dough is placed on the same wooden paddles as all the other pizzas made with normal flour. I ate half my pizza and stopped because I wasn’t sure how it would affect me.

The next day I felt a little glutened… low-grade fever, headache, tired, same ol’ same ol’ stomach problems, so I gave Kay the rest of my pizza. It was tasty, but not worth making myself sick over it.

Sushi Samba
Sushi Samba was one of the few restaurants that had a dedicated gluten free menu, including tamari sauce instead of soy sauce. I told Kay that it would be pretty lame to go to a sushi place and not be able to partake in any of the soy sauce. We don’t know how much soy sauce affects me, but I’m doing the first year gluten-free with no exceptions, so I’m not testing it now. Maybe in the future I will chance some soy sauce on trips. Who knows.

The waiter tried to convince Kay that he should order a normal sushi plate, but I asked him to just make everything gluten free so that we could share everything as we normally do with sushi. He said this meant skipping out on tempura flakes for Kay. Big whoop.

The sushi tasted OK, but man alive this place was kind of pricey. It was right on the Lincoln Road shopping strip and it seemed super touristy, but then again, everything kind of had that feel in Miami.

We went out for tacos with Kay’s brother and I was a little nervous because we didn’t decide where to go beforehand, so we walked around from restaurant to restaurant looking for a menu with something for me to eat. I’m not a big fan of having to walk out of a restaurant because I didn’t do any research about where to eat with my allergy and I felt guilty and ashamed that I was the reason we couldn’t eat so many places.

This definitely stressed me out, but eventually we settled on Tequiztlan and they had lots of corn-only options. We had some salsa and chips and nachos for appetisers. I ordered tostadas with rice and beans for dinner and the boys had tacos. The food was alright, the margaritas kind of sucked and the whole place also seemed overpriced, but as far as GF, it was OK and I felt fine the next day.

The next day we went to Yardbird with Kay’s brother. I was happy to know where we were going beforehand and at that it would have gluten free things to eat. The staff was knowledgeable about gluten-free eating and celiac to some extent and I got to try a house special that they were testing out.

The food was good, the prices were all right and they had hard cider. I was happy!

It’s fairly easy to eat GF in Miami with the usual “safe bets” restaurants like Outback and PF Changs available in addition to a smattering of gluten-friendly places. If I would go back again, I would definitely have researched places to eat first!

Inside my Gym Bag

My gym bag is not very pretty. I use an old fold-up Totes bag that I “borrowed” from my mother. I’ve used it on many trips in my lifetime, from summer camp to packing as an extra bag to fold out and bring back as checked luggage full of chocolate and gummies from my first trip to Switzerland.

With the small handles and no cross-body strap, it’s not always the most comfortable to carry, but it was free to use what I had and works. Nobody said you need to spend extra money to work out.

So here’s what I’ve got stashed inside:

1. Wash glove: OK, I did go out and buy this. After a few weeks at the gym, I realized that it was hard to lather up and wash myself quickly and effectively without a loofah or something. I picked up this glove from a CVS in Puerto Rico and have been using it ever since. It’s maybe not my favorite, but the glove does give me a good exfoliation every morning!

2. Towel: Every other week I use my lighter, quick-dry camping towel that I had already or one of our smaller bath towels. Not pictured here is also my workout towel which is always a smaller quick-dry towel to save on weight and space.

3. Soap: I bought a bottle of camping soap for the container. It closes really tightly, but now I just refill it with whatever soap I want. I also have a travel size container with face soap that I refill. I store them both in a plastic bag I had on hand in case they would leak.

4. Plastic pouch: I think this was for a pillow or something originally. I stuff my towels in here to transport to the office without getting everything else in the bag wet. I pull out my towel at the office and let it dry on a rolling cupboard under my desk. Sneaky, sneaky.

5. Straightening Iron inside inside-out silicon oven mitt: This  was not in my bag when I had long hair, but the oven mitt was my DIY solution to finding a heat resistant carrier for my straightener. I also bought a new GHD straightener for short hair, but to be honest I’m not sure if I got a fake copy and I’m not totally sold if it’s real. It works alright though, so I’m keeping it till it breaks.

6. Shampoo: This also was not in my bag pre-hair cut. Now I wash my hair three times a week instead of twice a week and generally I do it twice during the week at the gym.

7. Deodorant: Used a lot in the summer, but TBH, I have stopped using it since it got cold out. I just lotion my armpits now and don’t really sweat during the day since it’s cold. I also don’t put deodorant on just to work out and then shower. It seems way more healthy to let the sweat glands work they way they are supposed to!

8. Lotion: I keep small tubes in my bag and lotion after every shower. I’m better about it at the gym than I am at home.

9. Dry Shampoo: For the days when I need a freshen up, usually on the third or fourth day with long hair, but already by the second or third day with short hair.

10/11: Gym card and hair ties: I keep these in one of the pockets on the front. I store all the hair ties and clips and claws to avoid losing them in the bag and so I can grab them easily at home for the next day.13. Armband for phone: Honestly, I’ve kind of stopped using this since I got a new phone with a leather case. I don’t like taking it out of the case and I haven’t figured out how to make playlists with iTunes on xperia. They just … don’t transfer! It’s one of the only things I don’t like about the phone. Listening to music is fine, but making a beat bumping energy pumping workout playlist is not happening.

14/15. Earbuds, Lock and Undies: I use the outer pocket to store these items. The lock and earbuds for easy access and the undies to keep them clean. I don’t know why… but undies are the only thing I have consistently forgotten. It’s happened a handful of times since I started and I don’t like to  be caught without fresh undies, so I keep an emergency pair. Used em twice so far!

16. Clothes: Each night I pick out my clothes for the next day and pack them up in my bag before I go to sleep. I even have to pick out my shoes and scarves and put them by the door because in the morning I’m so tired that I have no idea what I picked out anymore. I always pick out clothes the night before because I’m too groggy to make good fashion decisions in the morning and with the gym schedule, I only have 15 minutes from when I get up to when I need to leave. There’s not enough time!

Sometimes I’m even more proactive and I pick out the clothes for the next two days if I know that I’ll have an evening event the next day that would prevent me from doing my clothes planning when I get home. I don’t like to wake Kay up, so it’s easier to have the pile there ready when I get home late some days. Yes, you have to look at the weather and rely on it in order to do this.

17. Toiletries Bag: I store all my skincare, makeup, hair brushes and any jewelry I’ll be wearing for the day in here so that I can dump it all out on the counter and quickly go through all the products until they are back in the bag. If something isn’t used in my routine, I take it out.

18. Bag with Gym Shoes: I store my shoes in a bag to separate things in the main bag a little. I can use the bag to block my used gym towel from touching my fresh clothes or to block my stinky used gym clothes from touching something I might stuff in on the way home, like a coat, sweater or scarf.

Not pictured above would be my gym clothes that I wear on the way to the gym and store rolled up in my gym towel on the way home. That would be some yoga pants, running bra and top, socks, undies and my heart rate monitor.

Inside the toiletry bag:

  1. Makeup brushes. Tried to only bring the essentials, but I bring a little more eyeshadow brushes so I can do a normal eye or a smokey eye. I also have an eyebrow pen in here.
  2. 24h Maybelline Lipstick
  3. Mac False Lashes Mascara
  4. Jewelry, including earrings because I don’t have time to put them in at home.
  5. NYX Eyebrow Palette
  6. Clinique Blush
  7. Brush and Teasing Comb
  8. Armani Maestro Foundation
  9. Urban Decay Eye Potion Primer (a must, even at the gym!)
  10. Roller Eye Cream, speedy, speedy, speedy!
  11. Naked Basics Eyeshadow Palette
  12. Toner in Travel Size Bottle
  13. Day Cream with SPF 15
  14. Bag for makeup brushes

Sometimes I switch up my eyeshadow palette and I have a few more lipsticks in my purse at times, but for the most part I keep my makeup the same and just do different looks with the Naked palette.

What’s in your gym bag? I’d love to see you write a post and link back here with your must-haves!

Gluten-free Vieques PR

Heading to Puerto Rico? Check out my GF run down in San Juan as well: Gluten-free San Juan

We were in Vieques for about a week, but we didn’t hit up that many restaurants. If I recall, we ate one meal at home and twice in another restaurant. I’ve learned now that once I find something good that’s gluten-free, it’s best to just go back for ease!

Tradewinds is not necessarily gluten-free, but it came up on some gluten-free blog searches while we were there and the reviews said that the restaurant was fairly accommodating. Also, the couple taking care of our flat raved about the place and said they go every week on Saturday at 7pm at the same table, so I figured it had to be pretty good. Either that, or this couple really likes their routine.
I ordered the lobster meal and wanted to sub out some side dishes, but the waitress convinced me to just give them to Kay, which was nice. It was a little cute, Kay had his first moment of guilt when they brought out some cornbread and he asked if it made me feel bad to see him eat it. I think I’d feel worse to see food wasted and I assured him he should eat it!
Overall I thought the meal was fine and I would recommend GF eaters to go here. They had some delicious flour-free chocolate cake that we devoured!
Bananas was just down the road from Tradewinds. (There are not very many restaurants on the island, if you couldn’t tell.) We went here one of our first nights because they had marked gluten-free dishes in their menu and I was happy that the food was also delicious.
I ordered a fantastic paella the first night and we came back a second night because we enjoyed the food so much.
We also read about Tin Box and Noche, some new restaurants, and went to Tin Box one night, but we were not that impressed. The food was mainly meat and fries, which they told me did GF, but overall the meal did not seem that tasty or healthy to warrant going back. The prices were also fairly expensive compared to Bananas.
At “home”, we picked up groceries and ate breakfast at the flat every day and we took snacks to enjoy at the beach midday. It was nice enjoying our first lengthy “beach holiday” together where the main activity of the day was swimming, reading and indulging in some soda and chips. (And fruit, because we feel guilty eating too much snacky food.)

Finding Glass Tupperware in Switzerland

When I purged gluten from our kitchen, I had to give away all of our plastic tupperware. I planned to replace it with glass to be healthier and to make reheating food at work more convenient since I normally transfer my food to a bowl before microwaving. It took me about 8 months to finally settle on a few sets with some prices that I can stomach here. (Spoiler alert, it’s still a lot more expensive than anything available in the US.)

Without Amazon or Target, it’s sometimes hard to find quality kitchen items for a reasonable price here. You can get a lot of things from Migros or Coop, but often the quality or choice is lacking. There were hardly any glass containers like Pyrex available or they were very expensive or mostly round-shaped. I even searched in Globus and Manor and didn’t really find anything suitable. Honestly, I just wanted something like a Pyrex value set below, but Pyrex Europe does not offer sets, especially at these prices.

($29.99 from World Kitchen. I cannot express what a fantastic deal this set would be here!)

We do all of our cooking on weekends and then I portion half the food into lunch containers and the rest into bigger family-style containers to keep at home, so I was looking for a mix of big and small containers, with more small ones for transporting food to work. Moreover, I also wanted containers that fit well in my cooler lunch bag because they need to stay cool during the two hours I’m at the gym and traveling to work. Ideally, I wanted to be able to pack four containers or two containers and yogurt/fruit as I can now.

Even though I found (and bought) one kind of large Pyrex dish with a lid from Migros since de-glutening the kitchen, I resigned myself to the idea that finding a whole set would be difficult here. I began searching for Pyrex alternatives because there was no way I would pay 20-45CHF per container and the smallest Pyrex available was anyway not small enough to fit well in my lunch bag.

(59.95CHF from Pro Idee)

Lock&Lock is a fairly big brand here and I was very interested in their individual products from Globus. I thought maybe if I found a set online that it would not be quite so expensive as the one off pieces. Nobody wants to pay 15-40CHF for one container, but 60 for a set of five was starting to sound like a good deal

I would have gone ahead and gotten the Lock&Lock set, but the three smallest containers were all square, which is not as space-friendly to my cooler as rectangles would be, so I didn’t stop my search there. After finding Lock&Lock on Toppreise, I was able to do searches for “Boroseal”, “Borosilicat”, “Frischhaltedosen glas” and similar to find several more brands, sets and value options available in Switzerland.

Emsa was a brand I had never heard of, but they popped up in my searches with several affordable sets.

(37.90CHF from Erwin Müller)

(29.90CHF from Erwin Müller)

After I found the Emsa sets, I somehow found this Silit set. We have a Silit knife from my MIL that’s awesome, so I know the brand is good.

(59.90 from Erwin Müller)

This set from Birgitte St. Gallen looked like one of the most affordable, but it was still square and the site needed a minimum order of 50CHF, which would mean ordering two sets. Plus shipping was a little more expensive than the Erwin Müller site.

(39.90 from Birgitte St. Gallen)

Likewise, this set from Weltbild was also relatively cheap but the sizes were actually a little too big for my needs compared to the Silit containers. Apparently I really had a specific size in mind for my lunch containers! (39.95CHF from Weltbild.ch)

Lastly, I heard that IKEA has some offers for cheap containers and they do, but unfortunately the smallest size (sizes are not accurate in the picture!) was square and the smallest rectangle container was also too big.


(Individually, 2.95-7.95CHF from IKEA)

I really like Lock&Lock as a brand, but I didn’t want to buy all the rectangle pieces individually and I was having a really hard time deciding which sizes I needed. It’s hard to tell from pictures online and I kept using a ruler to approximate how big or small things were. I wanted to make sure we would be investing in smart size since this would cost us way more than plastic containers.

At the same time, I was also lamenting the fact that QVC Germany offers some awesome lime or purple Lock&Lock sets that would totally go in our kitchen, but they only ship to Germany. Rats! Likewise, all those cheap US options don’t ship here.

Having gotten really fed up with searching, I finally made the decision to order the two Emsa sets above as well as two Silit sets for about 190CHF with shipping. That would give us 12 containers in addition to our glass Pyrex and the few bell jars that we have.

Did I save money? I think I still did. 190CHF works out to 15.8 a container, which is generally how much the small to midsize rectangle Lock&Lock cost from Globus. Also… bonus: with their black lids and red silicon, the Silit containers should be fairly stain-proof against tomato sauce and curry! I think that’s worth paying a little extra for…

Not only am I happy that we will be storing most if not all of our food in glass going forward, I am very happy that we are no longer strapped for containers! I had bought just the bare minimum to get by with plastic and we were always running out and sometimes had to stick whole pots of food or pans in the fridge. So happy I’m back to my usual storage container setup!

Also happy how many small containers I have! I figure if I still want some more, I should try the IKEA ones out since they are such a good price, but I’m looking forward to next summer when I can just heat these up and stick them in my bag to head to the lake.

I might have been able to find an Amazon business that ships to Switzerland, but I would have had to deal with exorbitant shipping fees and import taxes, so I’m happy to just have my containers sorted out locally.

Have you converted to glass storage containers yet?