The Birthday Post

Ah birthdays. That nice feeling of becoming older. *Grumble*

That said, I was very lucky this birthday. The husband took me to London – my favourite city! Previously, when we went to London in 2013, the trips were very wedding-focused. We bought my wedding sarees, wedding rings, etc. in London. This time we had almost no plans; just a list of what we wanted to do, see, eat, buy, and that’s it. We knew we had some friends we wanted to meet up with, but that was depending on whether they were available or not. Strangely I didn’t really feel like shopping much this time. We spent more time sightseeing and trying out restaurants that had amazing gluten free food.

I have three wishes this birthday:

  1. I would like to have a wee bit more peace of mind, to stop feeling so out of control of everything around me.
  2. I would also like to be a successful person. Success is so fleeting; sometimes just when you think you have it, you realize you actually don’t have it.
  3. Lastly, I would like to be healthy. For once it would be nice to have proper nutrient levels and not have to eat so much supplements. That’s something I’ve been working on, but it seems hugely dependent on how I view myself as a person and handle difficult situtations.

For some reason, I seem to be constantly chasing after peace of mind or success…and then I let health slip away. So yeah, would be nice to achieve them this year. They say “Ask and you shall receive”. So, I’m asking.


5 Things

I have updates 🙂 Let’s start with the bad because I’m a pessimist.

  1. My vitamin levels are still messed up. Despite taking prescribed amounts of supplements, I don’t seem to have enough of it in my reserve. So I’ve been prescribed even more supplements. Oh joy. <sarcasm>
  2. As a result of #1, my Doctor has put me on sick leave for a few days. She thinks I need to reduce my stress levels as my magnesium levels have dropped. According to my Doctor, when you’re stressed, you’re draining your magnesium. I’m hoping this time off work will help my health – though it’s a strange feeling to not go to work. My leave starts Monday but I’m still going to go to work that day as I have some loose ends to tie up. I really hope my body heals during this time off.
  3. I have to study Mindfulness. I started out with a book on it but then I got a bit distracted and didn’t continue. But now I have little choice, so let’s see if I can keep at it.
  4. I’m in love with Aesop’s Camelia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream. It’s so soothing and moisturizing that my skin drinks it up. Literally. I apply some, look away from the mirror and look back into the mirror — poof! I cannot tell which part of my face I just moisturized. I usually add a few drops of facial oil with the moisturiser though as my skin has become dry instead of oily. The human body is such a mystery 🙂
  5. I’m in love with Aesop. They recently opened a store in Oslo and I have been dropping by from time to time to find out more about their products, get some samples, try them, *cough* buy them *cough* and then enjoy what I’ve bought. As mentioned above, the Camelia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream is amazing in winter. The Control gel heals pimples without any burning or stinging sensation. It does take time, but the area of the skin where I apply it doesn’t flake or dry out. The pimple usually shrinks after an application or two, and doesn’t scar as much. The Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil is very effective to remove face makeup but I use a separate eye makeup remover. This oil really loosens my face makeup and then I go in with a second cleanser as I’m a huge fan of double cleansing. I’m obsessed with clean skin. If you live in a cold country, the Geranium Leaf Hydrating Body Treatment works wonders on dry skin. I apply a generous amount post shower onto my body and my skin doesn’t feel dry at all, despite the sub-zero temperatures here in Norway.

So there you have it. 5 updates from me 🙂

What I do when I get a reaction

Many people say many things about non-cealiac gluten intolerance. The bottom line is that, for me, it is very real. When I accidentally eat gluten, I get a reaction. I say “accidentally” because I have given up gluten completely. Unfortunately, there is something called “cross contamination” in that even if you don’t actually put gluten into your food or order a dish that has wheat or other gluten containing ingredients in it, gluten still sneaks into it. This can be possible when service staff use the same knife to spread butter on both normal bread and gluten free bread, or when sweet potato fries are fried in the same oil as flour battered onion rings, etc.

There are many types of reaction from gluten ingestion. For me, it is pimples and sometimes inflammation. Not that pimples aren’t caused by inflammation but since I’m not a doctor, I’m not the best person to talk about that.

I get whiteheads and really bumpy skin (with clogged pores in them) on both of my cheeks. For some reason, my left cheek is always worse than my right. I also get pimples on my chin and jawline. Sometimes I get pimples on my forehead. As for inflammation, I sometimes get tendonitis in my toe. This was something I struggled with for a few months, a few years ago. Eventually it went away – though my chiropractor couldn’t figure out why I was having pain in my toe. Oh, I also get an inflamed Achilles tendon or a strange muscular pain in my arms or legs.

That’s the nice thing about being slightly healthy – being pain free.

OK, so I have a list of things I do, like my counter-attack for when gluten is irritating my system.

  1. I eat as clean as possible. No processed food, minimal sugar, no new dishes or recipes, no new restaurants, etc. I go back to my safest food options. I also try to avoid large amounts of dairy.
  2. I drink lots of fluids. I try to visualise the fluids washing out the gluten from my system. It’s quite therapeutic 🙂 Basically I drink tons of water, tea (especially chamomile tea as I find it very calming), and sometimes Kefir as I hope the probiotics aids my digestion.
  3. I work from home. A face full of pimples plus dehydrated skin begging to not be covered with makeup is my body’s way of asking for a break. So sometimes, if I don’t have anyone depending on me on a particular day, I work from home so I can keep my face makeup free and let my skin heal.
  4. I use gentle masks and healing oils. There are a few options here. Origins’ Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask, Aesop’s Primrose Facial Cleansing Mask, or just plain full-fat yoghurt work very well for me. My reaction lasts for about 5 days typically but with some patience and lots of pampering, I can reduce it to 3 days. I use a good mask, and then apply lots of moisturiser and healing oils to calm my skin down. Some good facial oil options are Pai’s Rosehip Bioregenerate Oil, Aesop’s Fabulous Face Oil, and Fresh’s Seaberry Moisturising Face Oil are some oils that work well for me.
  5. Less is more. I am tempted to slather on as many things as possible to heal my skin instantaneously – but that never works. I end up clogging my pores even more. So I try to be a bit cautious and apply a few drops of facial oil followed with a good moisturiser and then leave my skin alone.

Ultimately, it does heal. And then I try to promise myself that I will not eat whatever dish caused that reaction.

What I learned in 2014

A small sneak peek into our wedding.

A small sneak peek into our wedding.

I write a post like this almost every year. I’m a little bit surprised to see that I have written so few blogs this year. I think this is because I spent 2014 on introspection. The husband and I got married, but in the midst of this, I was halfway into my food intolerance testing as well as trying to figure out what really makes me happy and where I want to go from here.

In 2014 I learned:

  1. How to eat without annoying my body. I have spent a lot of time with my doctor and nutritionist trying to figure out why I had acne, why my cortisol levels were so low, why I had eczema and why I had excess belly fat. It turns out there are multiple reasons – but I may also never find out all of these reasons. One important reason was that my carbohydrates:protein:fat ratio was wrong. So I learned to eat again. I learned how to eat more fat instead of carbohydrates and to increase my protein intake generally. This has been annoyingly documented on Instagram. I know, there are only so many chorizo scramble photographs that I can post after some point 🙂 Another reason was that gluten and sugar are bad for me. I am one of those people with non-cealiac gluten sensitivity which is not something that you can prove medically from what I understand. But it seems to be the best way I can get my skin to not breakout in acne or eczema. By eating no wheat or gluten, cutting my sugar intake dramatically, and watching my carbohydrate portion, I can feel better, have clearer skin, and actually have enough energy for the day. I’m much calmer and less irritable. I also no longer have severe PMS mood swings.
  2. How to keep my individuality despite being married. I’ve never really mentioned this much, but this was my biggest concern about getting married. Like many people out there, I have invested a lot of time in defining myself. Trying to learn who I am, who I want to be, and how to get there. Part of this process was to move away from home to see how to achieve my ambition. When relatives used to ask about marriage, I used to get panicky as I was worried I won’t be able to be “me” anymore. My typical response was “There are many things I would like to do before getting married.” and nobody understood that, so they kept pushing. It was very uncomfortable, and I used to get very anxious about it that I dreaded going back home. I really dreaded these situations such that 2-3 weeks before trips home I would be upset and unsure about everything around me. There’s a lot of  “we” in marriage that I was concerned I would feel stifled or claustrophobic if I got married and couldn’t be myself anymore. Thankfully my husband is just as particular about this so we have managed to keep our individual traits and interests but also develop mutual interests in things like traveling, cooking, working out at the gym, TV series, making new friends, keeping old friends, and learning new things about the world around us. But I’m still interested in makeup and skincare, Indian movies and music, fashion, photography, and tea, while my husband maintains his own interests in gadgets, computers, beer, jazz music and winters sports.
  3. How to save money. We did our civil marriage, moved in together, planned a wedding, a honeymoon, and a few smaller weekend getaways within 2 years. It’s been crazier than 2013, to be honest. Which is also why the blog has been quiet. There just has been so many things to do and the corresponding financial aspects to consider. But it is such an achievement, when we look back, to see how much we can achieve when we put our minds together and work towards a common goal.
  4. How to be kind to myself. This is still work in progress, but it’s a lesson that my doctor pointed out to me and I’m still learning it. She actually wrote it down on a piece of paper where she listed which supplements I had to take and the duration. Sometimes you want to do everything in life and you forget about your health. And it takes somebody else to tell you that you have to be kind to yourself. Many years ago I read this post from Karen who runs MakeupAndBeautyBlog. It was about how we talked to ourselves. I hadn’t realised how harsh my self-critic was. I used to think I wasn’t deserving of a lot of things and would be very strict with how I treated myself. Strict schedules, possibly running on little sleep, high expectations of output despite low input, you know? So I started to talk a bit less harsh to myself, but this was years ago. After working with my doctor and nutritionist since last year, I’ve started to actually be kind to myself. Somedays I don’t feel like doing chores – so I just don’t do them. Somedays I also don’t feel like going to the gym then the husband and I sit on the couch, drink tea and watch TV series back to back — and try not to feel guilty about it.
  5. How to switch off from work. I have huge difficulties with this but I believe I have made some progress. I’m constantly “on” with work running in the back of my mind. It’s a bit weird sometimes and it’s not very respectful to other people around me because it means I’m not “being present”. So I’m trying to work on this, and it does involve putting away my phone from time to time to show respect to the people around me. But more importantly to respect myself enough to not be mentally at work all the time. That would just be a recipe for burnout.
  6. How to listen. I’m actually quite a bad listener – not because I want to do all the talking, but I’m generally quite impatient. I do notice that I’m starting to listen more when people talk. It’s actually quite relaxing to listen to somebody else talk. Especially if the person has a soothing voice.
  7. How to accept my body. If you have been plagued with acne, eczema and then Bell’s palsy – health issues that alter how you look, it is very difficult to accept yourself. While my eczema has healed completely (I really hope it does not reappear.), my acne is still healing slowly. As for Bell’s palsy, I feel like I have lost the symmetry in my face. While I don’t look scary, I find that I look a bit weird. This is very obvious when I take a selfie on my phone camera because the image might be reflected vertically before it is shown to me on the screen. So my lack of facial symmetry is very obvious there. I’m thinking it is either that, or it is that my eyes are more forgiving of my new features, than the phone camera. Either way, I am slowly starting to accept that this is just how I look and it is okay to not have facial symmetry. It’s a bit upsetting some days, and I was quite worried about it at the wedding, but the photographs that resulted were okay from a facial symmetry aspect so for that – I am very, very grateful. Another aspect about accepting my body was to buy new clothes. While many people think this is a lot of fun, I had to drag myself to do this. Because it meant giving up my old clothing that I was utterly in love with and investing in a new “me” that may not be permanent as I am still losing weight [which is not my plan, really]. I still have some pieces that I have difficulty parting with, like a limited edition Camel coloured wool coat that the husband got me years ago. Or my favourite blouses from Gap that I have bought over the years. But at the end of the day, I try to tell myself that they are just things that can be replaced. But health can’t be replaced.
  8. How to prioritise. This has been tricky because it involves not being on good terms with some people. I know I may have upset some people as I have been less interested in their lives and in taking the time to connect with them. Unfortunately, such is life. Sometimes you have to strictly prioritise and even cut out things that you may have liked to do because there were other things that needed to be done. To these people, I do apologise – but I also know that true friendship does make room for these times.

So there it is – what I’ve learned from this year. In many ways I’m very glad for this year to end because it has been a painful year for many people – especially where flights and natural disasters are concerned. I actually am slightly nervous about flying these days, despite my love for travel. But ultimately, it is all fated. We just have to live each day to the fullest and try to be happy. At least that’s what I plan to do 🙂

Fall/Winter Investments

Fall/Winter Investments

The husband and I went to New York for our honeymoon recently. We were there for 9 days and had the best time ever. I know, I always say that but this trip was special because we intentionally went to a place we had been before to reduce that stressful feeling of wanting to see and experience everything within a short amount of time. Of course, this time around, we have completely different eating habits so we got to try out tons of restaurants and cafes that served delicious gluten free food.

Let’s get to the interesting part – the shopping. Or in this case, the “investments” that I made. I really wanted to find some key wardrobe pieces for Fall/Winter, though the weather in New York was quite hot while we were there. It felt kind of odd wearing jeans and a T-shirt but trying on a Parka in Aritzia. I actually tried one first and then asked the sales assistant for a thicker one, explaining “We’re from Norway.” She was kind enough to grab one that she thought was “heavy duty” because she had experience with Canadian winters. Now we’re talking 🙂 Hence I got that particular parka.

I also got a wool coat because my older ones are either too loose or too old. It’s a bit sad. I did buy a wool coat for winter last year and I’m still hoping to be able to wear it this year as it’s a cocoon-style coat (beautiful cut) from COS that I got in Berlin – similar to this one.

I couldn’t resist J. Crew. There is something so chic about their simple, yet beautifully cut clothing. The older I get, the more I appreciate buying 1 thing that is properly cut and oh so flattering, instead of 10 things that are passably good looking (yes, that phrase exists). So J. Crew it was. I got a pair of the Reid jeans that is a bit longer than the ankle length that seems to be the rage these days – not going to help in winter. I also got a blazer though mine’s in Grey, not the camel coloured one shown above. I couldn’t find a picture of the Grey one, sorry!

For Autumn, I caved and got a pair of Frye boots. They actually didn’t have this pair in my size in the store, but the sales assistant was extremely helpful and had this pair shipped from Washington DC to their New York store: overnight! Talk about service. When will we get this type of service in Norway?

Sweaters at Uniqlo – total steal. The prices were great and the quality is good. Why not? When you live in a country with cold weather, you learn to wrap yourself in wool. It’s the only thing that works most days. Now the Wilfred Free Ward Coat was a special purchase as it fit so nicely and I really liked that slightly mottled grey shade.

I looked high and low for “The” handbag and ended up with this Rebecca Minkoff satchel. Perfect for work and can’t fault Saffiano leather. So durable! Mine’s in that shade but it’s actually more “oxblood” than brown. Just saying 🙂

Lastly, I caved and got a Tom Ford quad because when you’re in the US, you have to buy Tom Ford makeup. It’s one of those luxury purchases that just has to happen. Kind of like buying a perfume just because it smells amazing –  not because you need it 😉

To New Beginnings

We just got back from our wedding trip to KL, Malaysia.

In the midst of jetlag, unpacking and hopping over zip locked bags containing toiletries (my bad), I remembered this blog that I’ve been neglecting of late.

I shall endeavour to write more from now on, now that I do have some free time again. The wedding went well. It was so nice to be surrounded by so many people from all over the world. We were so honoured that our friends and family took time to come by and give us their best wishes.

Our next project is furnishing the apartment properly and hopefully travelling. We already have our honeymoon trip booked. We chose New York again because we really loved our previous trip. Can’t wait to go there again. I have started researching gluten free restaurants to visit while we are there. If you have any tips, feel free to share.

Here’s to new beginnings!

Stuff I’ve learned lately…

A lot has happened in the past few months. You know how it is – you think you have a plan and some goals to achieve but life always shows you who’s the boss: definitely not you. They say smart people know how to make the best of what they have rather than pine after what they don’t have. In that aspect, you can say I’m trying to be smart.

Lately I’ve learned that…

  1. I’m gluten intolerant. After the elimination and provocation diet, coupled with tons of medical tests, I received my diagnosis mid-March. It has taken me awhile to deal with it as I am a huge foodie. I love food. It’s also one of the key things my husband and I have in common and something that we use to bond with our friends. I spent a few weeks being really, really sad about this diagnosis. In fact, I’m still kind of upset about it. It hits me at moments like when I see something I used to enjoy eating, or when I remember a childhood dish and think “I shall eat that when I’m back” and then I remember that I’m not allowed to eat it. Well, I could eat it but I would definitely see a reaction. I currently don’t have celiac’s disease but I have the gene for it – so I may develop the disease in future; which is very, very scary for me as I know people who have celiac’s and it is not easy. I seem to react to wheat in general so I am currently staying away from wheat entirely. I refuse to be down about this, which brings me to my second point.
  2. There is life beyond wheat. When I look back, I’m shocked by how much wheat I used to eat. I ate pastries, bagels, bread (all the time), pasta, wraps (my former favourite), pizza – you name it. On days when I felt a bit sad or stressed, my fix was to go for a walk outside of my office and grab a latte with soy (due to my self-assumed lactose intolerance) and a pastry. It wasn’t like I ate a sugar laden pastry all the time, but sometimes. Sometimes I had a muesli bar (also wheat) or a wholewheat scone. *Shudder* Today, the husband and I live off salads. We eat tons of vegetables so much so that we can no longer justify buying vegetables at our high end supermarket *cough* Meny *cough* because we eat a lot more of it. Instead we go to a quaint little grocer nearby and buy as much vegetables as we need. That way we save at least 20% on our groceries. The reason we do this is because health food is expensive especially in a city like Oslo. Almond milk, chia seeds, nut butter, erythritol (sugar alcohol), low carb seed crackers, gluten free bread mixes, protein bars/powder, sugar free chocolate, kale chips are all luxury items that are quite expensive at the health stores here. We also eat a lot of soups and baked fish as well poultry. I’m allowed 1 carb meal a day, beyond that I have to lead a high fat, lean protein lifestyle with little to no processed food at all. The reason I say “lifestyle” instead of “diet” is because I have been prescribed this lifestyle as a way to eat clean and maintain a high level of energy and a clear mind.
  3. I can no longer eat much sugar. My nutritionist wants me to avoid sugar as much as possible. This is doable, but it’s quite tricky because a lot of gluten free foods have sugar in them and sometimes you really want to eat a chocolate chip cookie or a Marie biscuit that you kind of have to ignore the sugar. I can’t, however, eat very sweet food anymore. I start to feel really guilty and worry about my skin. The more I stay away from gluten and sugar, the clearer my skin is. This also means I won’t be able to eat my wedding cake in July as it will contain both gluten and sugar. I’m trying not to feel bad about this, but it’s hard. I will also not be able to eat a large portion of the food that we will be serving our guests. I have less than two months to come to terms with this. So far, I’ve been repeating in my head “It’s just food”. It’s kind of working.
  4. I’m no longer lactose intolerant. This came as a surprise as the tests actually proved I was lactose intolerant. However, it seems that if I’m not eating gluten, I don’t react to lactose. That said, cottage cheese seems to cause some breakouts on my skin, so I am trying to avoid that as much as possible – even though it’s really tasty and energizing to eat cottage cheese with fresh berries as a mid afternoon snack. But, the best part of being able to tolerate lactose is being able to drink regular caffe lattes again. Nothing like milk with coffee – also helps that I get to save between 5 or 6 NOK as cafes do charge you extra for soy milk.
  5. Sushi will not always taste the same. Most Japanese restaurants only serve regular soya sauce which contains gluten. Hoisin sauce – which I would bathe in, if I could – has gluten too. So, when I eat sushi in restaurants that do not serve gluten free soya sauce, I eat it plain; without wasabi or soya sauce. It’s not bad, but it’s not the same. I’m also a huge fan of Vietnamese fresh spring rolls which are always served with Hoisin sauce as a dip. Man, I’m going to miss Hoisin sauce so very much.
  6. Nothing tastes the same anymore. My taste buds seem to have changed. I’ve always wondered if I had super taste buds but these days I can taste everything and the food just doesn’t taste the same. Some days, food tastes bland. Other days, it’s too spicy. In some ways, some dishes feel as if there’s something missing. There are dishes that taste really good, but generally I no longer enjoy food as much as I used to. Having to analyze everything you eat, having to write a detailed food journal for a good 3 months, having to dissect ingredient lists constantly really changes how you perceive food.
  7. I’ve actually lost weight. To date I have lost almost 11 kg by eating clean and working out. Previously I had a mostly stagnant weight for 4.5 years and it was so hard to lose anything. I built muscles and gained strength. I burned a lot of calories during workouts but my weight remained mostly the same. It was so frustrating until I started the elimination diet. Halfway through my elimination diet, the weight started to melt away. It was a surprise – one that I’m still learning how to accept as I don’t look like I used to look anymore. I feel like the same person, but also different.
  8. People are not always supportive when you do something they don’t really believe in or understand. I kind of expected this and it usually doesn’t bother me but sometimes I get a bit sad when some people around me are insensitive of my dietary restrictions or health choices. But I guess this is my journey and I cannot expect other people to understand it. They have their own journeys.
  9. My skin can heal. I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and purchase all the wonderful skincare items people rave about. Most of them are not easily available in Norway but I have recently traveled to Washington for business and Berlin for leisure so I’ve stocked up on all the skincare saviours that seem to help my skin heal.Skincare saviours The Pai Rosehip Biogenerate Oil is the best facial oil I have ever used. It’s been healing my scars slowly but surely and it makes my skin feel alive again. REN’s Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Serum Oil is a soothing, anti-inflammatory serum that reduces the swelling around pimples and clogged pores. I use it everyday underneath my makeup. Clarins Cleansing Milk with Gentian is possibly the most soothing cleanser I have ever used. It cleans my skin without stripping off the natural oils and always makes my skin feel soft and clean. I do have to work this in properly into my skin and massage it for best results. Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner is an exfoliating toner that removes dead cells. I use this once a day to make sure my skin is thoroughly clean before apply serum. Perricone MD Citrus Facial Wash is what I use when I want to wash my face quickly especially in the morning or before heading to the gym. I never wear makeup when I’m at the gym as I’m afraid I will clog my pores even more. The down side is that I sometimes bump into people I know (Oslo is a tiny city) and I always feel a bit embarrassed about my appearance. If you see me around the city and I’m uncomfortable, it’s because I’m bare faced without my game face. The wash is really good and it always removes the last traces of makeup and grime left after I’ve used an oil based cleanser to remove my makeup. SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense is a newly acquired serum that I’m still learning how to use optimally. So far, I do like it as it seems to be reducing the amount of bumps I get on my face. Smooth, blemish free skin is still all I dream about. I know it sounds weird, but I can’t help it. Korres Pomegranate Moisturizing Creme Gel is a no nonsense moisturizer that works very well for my combination skin. I was lucky that a good friend’s Mom got this for me in Greece where it’s a lot more reasonably priced. Lastly, the Kate Sommerville Daily Nourish and Goat Milk moisturisers are very soothing and calming for my skin. They don’t cause any breakouts so far for which I’m very, very glad.

In a way, you can say I’m learning how to be me again and I’m just getting started.