The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate in May

June 25, 2016

Oak & Ice Prenzlauer Berg Berlin ice cream

Oh June, you have flown by with the last-minute travel to Portland, making me nearly forget all the great things I ate the previous month.

Well, almost...

Lakrids gluten-free summer peach licorice

1. Summer Lakrids

Somehow, Lakrids has outdone itself. Again. As if it couldn't get any better than my beloved mint licorice, it released a Summer flavor that is reminiscent of peachy, warm-weather cocktails. I am currently doing my best to shove handfuls of these in my mouth every day.

Thai Beef and Peanut Curry bowl

2. Thai Beef and Peanut Curry

This recipe was one my husband made for us awhile ago, yet it made me suspiciously ill (though I've since determined that our old Le Creuset was sadly contaminated with gluten). Thanks to my very generous in-laws, we now have a squeaky-clean Le Creuset, safe for me to eat from. So what was my first request? This phenomenal Thai beef, with notes of lemongrass, kaffir lime and spicy chilis, is one of my current favorite at-home meals. And now, my wanderlust for Asia is at all-time high...

Das Brunch at Breakfast Market bowls with bacon, egg and beans_sold out

3. Das Brunch Breakfast Plate

Unsurprisingly, my friend Sophie's side project, Das Brunch, has once again hit it out of the park. Bacon, beans, the most perfectly poached eggs ever... Each dish is packed with flavor, and with accoutrements like lemon and rosé pepper-marinated manouri cheese and lime-chive vinaigrette, you feel like you're getting a first-class meal on a street food budget. Better yet, Sophie's gluten-intolerance means the food is naturally gluten-free and better yet, even gluten-free toast is on offer alongside it. Be sure to follow Das Brunch on Facebook to find out when the next one will be!

Nimms's Mitchen gluten-free herb waffle with meat and cheese

4. Nimm's Mitchen Savory Waffle

I first tried these waffles a few weeks earlier at Markthalle Neun, but this one at the Handgemacht Craft Beer and Street Food fest was the best one I've had yet. Perhaps it was the heaps of spicy meat where it's usually vegan-based fare, but the flavors and textures were perfection. It's such a treat to have more and more great gluten-free options on the food truck scene!

Oak & Ice Prenzlauer Berg Berlin gluten-free ice cream in a cup

5. Oak and Ice Ice Cream

I had been so busy preparing for my last minute trip to Portland, the new ice cream shop in my neighborhood's grand opening slipped under my radar. Lucky for me, I passed it on my last day in town while I was running errands and couldn't resist stopping in to give it a try. Assured that everything they had was gluten-free (note: the gluten status is now noted on its window menu board), I immediately was smitten with the mascarpone with fig I tried, so I got scoops of that and the salted caramel. I did my best to save a melting bite or two for my husband at home, which took a lot of restraint, let me tell you. With this new spot just around the corner, I could end up here more often than I should this summer.

Stay tuned for June's food round-up: A special edition of eating greatness from gluten-free mecca, Portland, Oregon!

Eating {gluten-free & vegan} in Lyon, France | Le Café Vert

May 26, 2016

Le Cafe Vert storefront Lyon France

'Gluten-free? That's the same as vegan, right?'

If I hear this one more time, especially in vegan-centric Berlin, I might scream. Admittedly, this dietary niche is often a source of gluten-free eats for those of us whose dietary needs are not a choice, so I try not to take the misconception to heart. And when the vegan spot is charming and French? Well, then I'm even more likely to concede.

Our road trip back from the south of France last month took us through the beautiful city of Lyon, and I of course, had a sandwich ready-made in my bag for our lunchtime pitstop (thank you, Genius bread!). After walking around briefly, we realized that (a), it was freezing and wet and (b) we were there on Sunday, when most things were closed. Heading back to the car to eat whatever we could pick at from our gluten-free French grocery haul, we spied a little cafe that looked open. Upon further inspection, it had a notation for sans gluten on the sandwich board out front. With everyone eager to get out of the cold and the prospect of a warm lunch, we went inside.

We managed a small spot by the window in an otherwise very cozy and bustling cafe. When the staff realized we were American, and that my French would only get us so far, they brought out the chef from the back, who was also from the U.S. and happened to run the place. Josh had a friendly, Midwestern demeanor and a clear passion for his relatively new establishment. He explained that in addition to being vegan and entirely gluten-free (as always, do confirm the absence of gluten if you visit), the concept of the place was raw food. Hummus, seed crackers and salad dominated the modest food menu, rounded out by fresh-pressed juices, coffees, teas and my favorite part of any meal: dessert.

Le Cafe Vert hummus, salad and cracker plate Lyon France

While my companions went for hot coffees and miso soup, I opted for a green juice and the tapas plate, complete with salad, house-made dehydrated crackers and hummus. While this was exactly the kind of fare I needed after sitting for hours on our roadtrip back to Germany, I must admit this isn't my usual kind of spot. But I came away rather surprised. The salad was diversified with kale and carrots, the seed crackers were hearty and flavorful, even the 'vegan cheese', something I am highly against considering my intense love of all things dairy, was surprisingly good. Even after such a satisfying meal, I remained skeptical but intrigued by the 'cheesecake' ordered by the next table over, but I needn't be. Cool, creamy and delicious, the punch of perfectly fresh raspberries and mint leaves just the thing to accompany the slightly citrusy tang of the cheesecake.

This little Lyon spot is so new, it seems it's still finding its footing. The handful of tables inside means it can fill up rather quickly and the electricity that flickers off every now and then only add to the charm. The warm wait staff give off none of that stereotypical French attitude, and chat together in varying levels of French and English. It appears since my visit that the menu is rounding out with more options (again, be sure to inquire about the status of gluten in the kitchen with these changes) and hopefully is gaining more momentum in a culture so dominated by dairy and bread. In addition to being a cafe and restaurant, Josh and his wife Pauline also run Ashtanga Yoga out of the spot in the off hours.

Le Cafe Vert raw cheesecake Lyon France

Le Café Vert
48 Rue Saint-Georges
69005 Lyon, France
Tel: +33 6 52 39 12 23

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

Eating {gluten-free} in Montpellier, France | La Coutinelle

May 24, 2016

Creamy 4-cheese gluten-free pizza at La Coutinelle in Montpellier France

Finding a restaurant created and run by a fellow celiac is pretty much the holy grail of gluten-free travel - and La Coutinelle in the seaside town of Montpellier in the south of France is no exception. Beyond a kitchen entirely free from gluten, there is an impressive wall featuring gluten-free products ranging from spreads and sauces to a plethora of pasta I haven't seen anywhere else. Add to that the entire refrigerator case full of gluten-free beer, and this might be the most impressive gluten-free restaurant I've seen yet.

La Coutinelle gluten-free beers Bon Samaritain Mongozo Estrella Damm Brewdog Montpellier France

My husband found this gem when researching where to travel to on the southern French coast, based on, as it so often is, somewhere safe for me to eat. While the beach out that way was a bit disappointing compared to the Côte d'Azur I knew and loved, upon arriving in Montpellier for dinner on our way home, we immediately regretted not spending more time there. Walking through the narrow, winding streets to get to La Coutinelle, the city had a Barcelona-esque vibe, with lots of young people out at bars and cafes with friends, spilling out onto the streets. When we made it to our dinner destination, things looked even better.

La Coutinelle weekly new gluten-free beers Montpellier France La Coutinelle gluten-free menu options Montpellier France

La Coutinelle gluten-free menu request for no outside food Montpellier France

The fully stocked gluten-free beer case wowed us as soon as we entered, but then the wall of food stuffs and menu that proclaimed not only that is was a 100% gluten-free establishment, but asked patrons to refrain from bringing any outside food or drink in that could compromise the safety of others, confirmed we had come to the right place. The menu offerings were rather simple, with pizza, appetizers and burgers of an impressive assortment (from beef to fish to vegan), but very French in its decadent details and presentations.

Since we wanted to try everything, yet again, we got an appetizer plate, a traditional beef burger and a pizza to share. Our pizza had a similar chewy crust out of buckwheat to Berlin's Cielo di Berlino, but with the most incredible cheese and creamy, fatty toppings, it almost felt like dessert. The burger was not overcooked, as so often happens in Europe, and the bun was fluffy and flavorful, perhaps the best gluten-free burger bun I've had yet. Going all in, I opted for some dessert as well, and where the apple crisp felt rather lackluster in presentation, it was made up for in simple and satisfying flavor. And of course, there was beer. Lots of gluten-free beer.

La Coutinelle gluten-free appetizer plate Montpellier France
La Coutinelle gluten-free Brewdog and quinoa beers Montpellier France
La Coutinelle gluten-free burger Montpellier France
La Coutinelle gluten-free apple crisp dessert Montpellier France

The owners of this casual little spot were warm and friendly, happy to make accommodations and answer plenty of questions. I could see them take pride in the gluten-free assortments they stocked, and even prouder when they saw how I oooed and ahhhed over all the treats that were safe for me to enjoy. The place was empty at our rather early French dinner time, but filled up pretty well as the night went on. The crowd seemed to be like us, deliberately seeking out free-from foods in a country that was practically founded on bread and cheese. Let me assure you, it is worth seeking out.

La Coutinelle gluten-free restaurant Montpellier France

La Coutinelle
25 rue de l'université
Tel: +33 (0)4 67 60 95 41

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

Genius Sans Gluten French Baked Goods Product Review

May 21, 2016

Genius Sans Gluten France pastries on counter

Ever since Genius first gave me the heads up they would be coming to Germany, complete with a sampling of its entire German product line, I was smitten. Fluffy, delicious bread that was just like what I'd been eating nearly my entire life, before I even understood what gluten was. What celiac snatched away two years ago, Genius helped bring back. Now I've gotten a taste beyond just good bread... and I want more.

It wasn't until we were practically on our way to our holiday in France last month that it dawned on me: Genius was in France! With products catered to French tastes, visions of daily croissants danced in head while I plotted out every Carrefour within a 20 km radius of our destination. I knew of the pains au chocolat, which had won the Free From Food Breakfast Award in 2015, and have lamented that such a heralded treat was not to be in the German product line-up. But I discovered that this was not all. There was also brioche (one of my very favorite French breads) and Briochettes aux pépites de chocolat, which look to be mini sweet baguette-like rolls with chocolate chips (sadly, they were never found). If you too pine for the days of that illusive, gluten-filled texture of baked goods, prepare yourself as I share with you what I did find...

Genius Sans Gluten France croissant and apricot jam


Who doesn't love croissants? Flaky and buttery, they have the magical power to transport you to a little cafe along the Seine, people-watching all the chic Parisians. That texture and flavor feels so intrinsically tied to gluten, I feared I would never enjoy this French treat again - and all of the store-bought gluten-free attempts at this coveted baked good confirmed this. Until France. So I voraciously tore through every store purporting to carry the line, buying up every Genius croissant that hit the shelves. Technically, these are made without butter (dairy-free for the lactose-intolerant), but after a quick warm-up in the oven, they obtain that perfect balance of light and flaky, greasy and rich, essentially feeling buttery without the actual butter. Since I can indulge in that creamy yellow stuff France does perhaps better than anyone else, I enjoyed my croissants with a healthy smear of salted French butter, which melted into the delicate layers and made this exceptional treat even more of a treat.

Genius Sans Gluten France brioche close-up


Since first discovering brioche on my study abroad summer in high school, they have easily become one of my favorite baked goods. That wonderful texture paired with the light sweetness was my ultimate indulgence, and one that always transported me back to my first trip to Europe. Genius's brioche is a bit different, texture-wise from what I remember about the bread during my gluten-eating days - a bit more dense and spongy - but still completely indulgent and satisfying for a poor celiac like myself that can't actually indulge in 'the real thing'. The slightly sweet loaf is a bit like a cross between a poundcake and an angel food cake, similarly enjoyed as a simple slice with little to no accoutrements. That said, had I scored more of these loaves, I have a feeling they would make the best homemade brioche French toast I will ever have. Here's hoping one day to make that dream a reality...

Genius Sans Gluten France pain au chocolat detail

Pain au Chocolat

I am at a loss for words with this one. I don't think I've tasted anything quite this wonderful since having to be gluten-free, period. It's got the flaky brilliance of a croissant, then the dark, slightly bitter sweetness of dark chocolate, oozing out after being melted in the oven. One bite and it was easy to see why this is an award-winning pastry in the gluten-free world. Breakfast, snack, dessert - this amazing little piece of gluten-free goodness steps in whenever you could possibly want, *ahem*, need it. It is important to note that dairy-containing products are a rarity in the Genius line-up, and while I'm so sorry for those of you who can't get on with lactose, I am supremely happy they made the exception with this one. The chocolate is so creamy and decadent, I'm not sure the same effect could have been achieved without it. I couldn't stop dreaming about the pain au chocolat ever since I heard of its existence, and now that I know what I'm missing, I ask all of your to join me in a letter-writing campaign to Genius to bring these to Germany as well!

Genius Sans Gluten France croissant crumbs on plate

Even in France, where these have been on the market for quite awhile, they are still quite hard to find. I came across the croissants a couple of times, but the brioche and pain au chocolat, only once - not to mention I never even saw the briochettes. Perhaps like Germany, more stock is focused in the larger, more metropolitan cities, but it seems clear that if the demand is there, we should let them know. Contact Genius directly, comment on its posts and most importantly, but the products you can find so they know there are gluten-free eaters out there looking for better taste in their fresh-baked goods. Perhaps one day, we can enjoy a whole range of amazing gluten-free pastries and breads, available at any German supermarket (hey, a girl can dream, right?).

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

Eating {gluten-free} in Avignon | Risotto & Co

May 12, 2016

Store front plus expansion space of Risotto & Co Avignon France

There is no comfort food quite like risotto. And lucky for us celiacs, it's naturally gluten-free. When I first did research for food possibilities for our trip to Avignon, this was the safest-looking, and frankly, the only, option. Little did I know what a good option it would be.

Like many other undercover gluten-free places, Risotto & Co does not market itself specifically as a gluten-free establishment, but that's exactly what it is. Not only is there an impressive line-up of risottos, but they also offer pastas, starters and desserts, all gluten-free. And if that weren't enough, there's also gluten-free beer and some fresh baked goods that beat out most of what I've tried here in Berlin. The only thing keeping it from being a 100% gluten-free establishment are the regular beers and uncooked bags of gluten-filled pastas for sale.

Gluten-free risotto, pasta, starters and dessert at Risotto & Co Avignon France

Upon arriving late in the evening on our first visit to Risotto & Co, we found a rather small, casual-looking space with a very cafeteria-esque vibe. All the food is offered in a chilled case near the entrance, where the easy menu option is laid out for you: one main + one dessert + one drink = an incredibly reasonable 8,50€. The girl who warmly welcomed us, apologizing for her English in English while I apologized for my French in French, explained we could also sub one of the savory starters in for a dessert if wished, and the speciality juices, wines and beers were an additional small fee from the regular drink line-up. Done, easy. Well... except for having to pick which wonderful-sounding meal we wanted to eat.

Gluten-free beer, polenta, chorizo risotto and lasagna at Risotto & Co Avignon France

Wanting to try everything, my husband and I started with one risotto, one pasta, one starter and one dessert that first visit. The set-up allows for easy carry-out (with a 1€ deposit on the Weck glass everything is packaged in) or easy heating up there at the restaurant in a microwave. This of course means that everything is not made fresh-to-order and there can be some discrepancies in how well each item warms up, but considering the price point, ease and deliciousness, it's a great value. Each warm glass of satisfying risotto is surprisingly filling and the rich flavors are what you would expect from those cream-and-butter-loving French.

After visiting several times, including with family that didn't need to be gluten-free yet enjoyed it all the same, there were definite favorites. The chicken and parmesan with hints of lemon risottos topped our list. The polenta starter was so good, we got it every time. Same with the creamy, delicate strawberry-lavender bavarois. What I wouldn't give for a place like this in Berlin! Another great indicator of its commitment to gluten-free? Fresh baked goods made by the owner, including the best speculoos cookies I've ever tasted. More buttery and shortbread-like than perhaps a German version, these were so tasty, I went back for a second bag to bring home with me.

Gluten-free baked goods and treats at Risotto & Co Avignon France

We were lucky that our visit coincided with the last week it was open before beginning its expansion project into the storefront next door, which means it's unfortunately closed until early June* for these renovations. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

Risotto & Co
34 Rue des Trois Faucons
Avignon, France
Tel: +33 4 32 76 36 73
Open for lunch and dinner hours*

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate in April (France Edition) + Celiac Awareness Month

May 10, 2016

Genius Sans Gluten croissant and jam from France

I've always traveled mostly for the food. After my celiac diagnosis, I've mostly not traveled because of food. The amount of time most people spend researching all the sights and historical points of interest in a destination pales in comparison to the pre-planning that goes into a celiac trying to eat safely while on holiday. Just having a 'gluten-free' label on the menu isn't always enough. How was it prepared? Do the owners understand cross-contamination? What have other celiacs said about eating here? Did they get sick? It's all a careful and exhausting balance, one that can detract from the true to travel: the destination.

With May being Celiac Awareness Month and fresh off a successful (read: no accidental glutenings!) trip to the south of France, I figured I would focus on all things food - and all things French in the coming weeks. I'm starting with my new feature, 'The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate', to kick off the month and give you a little preview of what's to come...

Genius Sans Gluten croissants and breads at Carrefour France

1. Pretty much the entire assortment of Genius Sans Gluten products

Thinking about this now, nearly a week after the final pastry was enjoyed from my France haul, it makes me cry. Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful that Genius has come to Germany at all. It's bread and rolls are so much better than anything else we have here. But the delicate textures and flavors of things like croissants and brioche, things I previously resigned myself to never enjoying again, are not only attainable gluten-free, but Genius is already producing them... in France. Ever since I read that its pain au chocolat had won awards, I've started a one-woman campaign on Facebook and Twitter, begging them to bring it to Germany. Now that I've actually tasted it, I'm considering flying to the UK and picketing for these products until they share them with us. Yes, they are that good. Stay tuned for a more thorough review of these baked goods next week!

Maison Bremond apricot-lavender jam from France

2. Maison Bremond Apricot & Lavender jam

Apricot jam has always been my favorite, but when I saw this stuff at a little shop in Roussillon, I knew I had found the accompaniment to the Genius croissants I'd come to love. After the first bite with those flakey pastries, I fell deeply in love. The sweet fruitiness is cut with the perfect amount of lavender that is neither overpowering nor too floral. Pricey stuff to enjoy on the regular, I do plan to order some more to have on hand for more special occasions.

Risottos to eat in or takeaway at Risotto & Co in Avignon France

3. Risotto, Risotto and more Risotto

I couldn't believe my luck that there was a completely gluten-free restaurant in the town we were staying in, which turned to absolute delight upon realizing it was relatively inexpensive, quick and surprisingly delicious. There was chicken risotto, chorizo risotto and perhaps my favorite: a lemon-seasoned parmesan risotto. I cook exactly one risotto at home (Molly Yeh's damn good pumpkin risotto), but this shop has inspired me to work on my own 'hot wet rice' game at home. Stay tuned for my review of this Avignon restaurant later this week!

Creamy 4-cheese gluten-free pizza and Brewdog gluten-free beer at La Coutinelle in Montpellier France

4. The most decadent pizza, perhaps ever

This pizza was representative all great French things: Cheese, cheese, dairy, fat... and more cheese. Unlike a greasy American counterpart, this was super creamy with rich, complex flavor, with vinegar notes from olives and a bit of saltiness from lardons. All that and a gluten-free buckwheat crust? I'm about ready to pack up and move to France! And yes... you did notice a Brewdog beer off to the side there, that is GLUTEN-FREE! What?! This place had the most amazing gluten-free beer selection and needless to say, my husband was in heaven. Enjoying great beer and he got to kiss me afterwards (note: even kissing someone who's eaten gluten can make a celiac sick - sucks, right?). This place is a must if travelling France gluten-free. Stay tuned for my review of this Montpellier restaurant later this month!

gluten-free vegan cheesecake with spoon at Le Cafe Vert Lyon France

5. A surprisingly delicious raw vegan cheesecake

On a stop in Lyon to grab some lunch on a Sunday, most places were closed, save a small vegan spot that advertised gluten-free offerings on the sign out front. I ditched my packed sandwich in favor of a meal with my road tripping companions, and ended it with this lovely little dessert. Cool and creamy, with a hint of citrus, this was the opposite of everything I dislike about traditional cheesecake. Perfectly ripe berries and a mint leaf added little pops of contrast, in both color and flavor. Stay tuned for my review of this Lyon cafe later this month!

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

Platinum Hair: Maintenance and Care

April 21, 2016

kate wirth platinum hair with ace & tate sunnies

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen that my platinum hair is already long-gone, but not because this color was anything less than fabulous (I just love change!). Before I took the white-blond plunge, I spent a lot of time on the internet searching for photos and tips, and honestly, a lot of what's out there is enough to scare anyone away from this risky shade. Scalp burns, hair falling out - sounds like fun! But I'm glad I went for it and was even surprised at how well my hair stood up to the beating it took to maintain this shade. After nearly two years of bleaching, it was still decently soft and shiny. To pay forward all my online research knowledge and more importantly, my own experience, I'm here to share what I learned after being a whiter shade of pale:

kate wirth platinum blond pastel hair colors

Get a good colorist

I'm all for doing hair color at home. Heck, the dark auburn I had for years was out of a 4€ box, done in my bathroom every 4-6 weeks. But platinum is another beast altogether. First off, it's bleach. The same heavy duty cleaner that wipes away any DNA after a homocide. It's no joke and used incorrectly, you can get burned or even cause all your hair to break off. Not to be dramatic, but those stories are out there for a reason. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who truly knows what they're doing and can help you out at home, then go for it. But if you're new to this process, it's best to go to a professional you trust. My colorist here in Berlin (Carolin at Friseurladen) took great care of my color, getting out pesky bits of pastel colors I had played with on my own - and with her - as well as toning to perfection. I actually started with another colorist, but she never could quite find that perfect balance between golden and grey, proving not all stylists are created equal. Also! Make sure to have your hair as dirty as you can stand it before every coloring session. The buildup protects your scalp from the burning and itching bleach causes, making it a much less painful experience.

Wash minimally, deep-condition regularly

Like every salon-achieved hair color, shampoo - and even water! - can strip that beautiful shade you just paid your hard-earned money for. Washing hair as little as possible is key, which can be a tough transition if you're a daily shampooer. Understand that it will take time for your scalp to adjust and you will be a greasy mess for a while until it stops overproducing oil. I wash my hair one-two times a week, and it took me several months to not look like a homeless person on this regimen. A good dry shampoo is key, as are the right shampoos in the shower (see my recommendations below). Whether you deep condition with an oil, like I did, or with a mask, do it often and for as long as you can manage to sit at home with your hair wrapped up. Trust me, your hair will thank you.

Hands (styling tools, hair elastics, etc.) off!

That gleaming white shade has been achieved by stripping all the pigment from your hair, including it's strength and a good deal of its volume. Even if you're lucky enough to have thick strands of hair to begin with (in which case, lucky you!), it's going to get a heck of a lot more delicate. Something as simple as running a brush through your hair can be met with a cacophony of snapping. This means wide-tooth combs only and minimal brushing, finger-combing in the morning should be your go-to. Hair elastics, bobby pins and the like will also strain your already stressed strands even more and should be kept to a minimum. Heat tools and blow drying are also torture for hair in this state, and should also be avoided. I was pretty stringent about all these practices and still suffered from a lot of breakage, though my strands were pretty fine to begin with. TLC should be the name of the game with platinum locks.

Protection, protection, protection

Platinum hair is so delicate, it needs more protection from the elements. That means keeping it under knit hats in the drying winter and under straw ones in the stripping summer sun. Additionally, what the sun does to make natural blondes blonder, will only yellow your hard-earned white hue, resulting in toning more often to keep the brassiness at bay. Don't forget thinning the structure of your hair with this process will also leave your scalp more prone to sunburn as well. I never tried any hair sunscreens for fear the ingredients would also yellow my hair, but if you've had any positive experience with this, please share in the comments!

best products for platinum hair care_ lush phyto clairol davines burts bees

Choose the right products

Speaking of products, it's important to remember this is another area that can kill the perfect white in as little as one use. These are the products that worked best for me:

  • Phyto Subtil Elixer: This pre-shampoo oil did great things for the softness of my platinum hair. While the directions recommend to leave on for 10 minutes, sometimes I'd leave it on for over an hour. True, the product is a pretty deep golden that's probably not the best for white strands, but the right shampoo counteracts any discoloring that might occur.

  • Lush Rehab Shampoo: What I originally bought as a deep-conditioning shampoo turned out to be one of my best weapons in fighting against the yellowing effects of the world on my white hair. Almost doing a better job of toning than Shimmer Lights, I was shocked at how one shampoo with this would restore my hair to the shimmering pale hue I left the salon with. It's important to note, this will not tone hair that was yellow to start with, it will only strip away the brassiness that has occurred between colorings.

  • Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo: This American cult classic got it's status for good reason - it works! It's pretty strong stuff, both in color and old-lady scent, but it will tone hair all the way to lavender if you let it (which could be good, if pastels are your thing). It can also be diluted by mixing with regular shampoo. Keep an eye on how long you leave it on, as some more thirsty strands will hold the purple stronger than others. If you find it hard to come by or too expensive here in Europe, Lush's Daddy-O Shampoo is a solid alternative.

  • Davines OI Absolute Beautifying Potion: I discovered this through my stylist, first loving the scent when she'd spread it on my hair but then loving the non-greasy softness it left behind. A lot more than I normally like to spend on hair products, I was pleased to find that a very little goes a long way and even the small bottle lasts for-ev-er with short hair. I'd put this on wet hair after getting out of the shower and also for small, smoothing touch-ups to dry hair between shampoos. It is by far my favorite hair product discovery of the last few years. 

  • Burt's Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder: After discovering my go-to dry shampoo left my new platinum hair a parched, crunchy mess thanks to all the alcohol in it, I knew I'd have to find an alternate way to stretch my shampoos and preserve my color - without turning it to straw. Enter Burt's Bees baby powder. It's talc-free, smells divine and soaks up hair oil well with it's cornstarch base. Frustratingly, it's one of the few items in the Baby Bee line not available in Germany, so I have friends bring me a bottle anytime they visit. (I've been a big fan of this stuff for a long time)

kate wirth platinum hair with ace & tate glasses

Whether you are already platinum or looking to try out this color soon, I hope you find some helpful tips for your best blond!  

The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate in March

April 12, 2016

The Sugar Hit's cinnamon-sugar buttermilk doughnuts made with gluten-free flour

Let's face it, sometimes it's hard to get excited about eating when you have celiac. It's not so bad getting a handle on satisfying things at home, once you have your go-to recipes and know where to get the best alternative ingredients, but eating out or with friends can be such a daunting task that you avoid it altogether. With so many celiac struggles, I figured it was time to focus more on the positives - all the great gluten-free things that I can eat!

I'm starting this new feature 'The 5 Best Things I Ate' every month not only to help remind myself of all the deliciousness I have enjoyed, but to share safe locations, delicious products and great recipes with you, too. Anyone who knows me can tell you I don't settle for mediocre food just because it's my only option. I always seek out the best, which is why I've also started a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for further sharing with the gluten-free community: #celiacdoesntsuck. Sure, #celiacsucks a lot of the time (if Twitter's unending feed of the hashtag is any indication), but isn't there enough negativity floating around the internet already? Read on, and be inspired to eat better food, celiac be damned!

GF Jules Limoncello poundcake in bundt pan

1. GF Jules's Limoncello poundcake

I was searching for something bright and citrusy for Easter when I came across Jules's recipe for a limoncello poundcake. With half a bottle of limoncino (the regional version bought on our holiday in Cinque Terre a few years back) still in the freezer, I knew I had found the winner. Since I'm always in the 'go big or go home' camp, I doubled the recipe so it could fit in a fancy bundt pan, perfect for our Easter brunch with friends. Jules apparently was as impressed as our guests, since she requested the photo to add to her recipe post. Thanks again, Jules, for making our Easter that much sweeter!

Truffle pasta in parmesan bowl at Rudolph's in Hamburg

2. Truffle pasta in a parmesan bowl at Rudolph's in Hamburg

First off, finding a place that understands that gluten-free pasta can't just be thrown in the same water as glutenous pasta when feeding a celiac is next to impossible. Bless those Italians who know and understand this stupid disease. Add that safe pasta to some truffle and put it in a crispy 'bowl' made of parmesan, and this lunch special at Rudolph's in Hamburg was not only the best thing I ate last month, but perhaps so far this year. Decadent, but not too heavy. I would consider making the trip there just for this dish, no joke. (I'll be reviewing this place properly here on the blog very soon, so stay tuned because pasta is just the beginning of its gluten-offerings!)

Clementine Daily Instagram of my gluten-free buttermilk doughnuts

3. The Sugar Hit's Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts

I started making these last year when I went on a doughnut-making kick and they are still one of my favorite recipes. The best part? They're yeast-free, so they come together in no time. A few minutes in the oil, roll in some cinnamon sugar and bam, hot, fresh doughnuts! So easy and delicious. No wonder Clementine Daily liked the looks of them! I've tried a couple different gluten-free flour options (just the same weight as glutenous flour in the recipe) and so far, my favorite is the starch-heavy Rewe Frei Von flour blend. Do let me know if you try them and what flour/s work best for you!

Bravo for Paleo plantain nachos

4. Bravo for Paleo's Plantain Nachos

Since my health has been a bit of a struggle lately (any other celiacs go through this regular roller coaster of wellness? ugh), I figured digging back into some of my favorite paleo recipes couldn't hurt, as any time I cut grains altogether (along with coffee and alcohol, which, let's face it, is a lot tougher), my gut feels much, much better. Monica's super easy nacho recipe (I use Fed + Fit's plantain chip recipe, since it's not so easy to come by the ready-made ones here in Germany: easy, but a bit more time-consuming than opening a bag) is such a great weeknight dinner in front of something like The Bachelor. I add cheese (not paleo), avocado, fresh coriander and a good douse of hot sauce - and try not to feel so guilty for eating nachos for dinner.

Lakrids Easter crispy mint licorice candies

5. Easter Lakrids

I first discovered this flavor of one of my favorite candies last year on a sale shelf and have been waiting for Easter to come around again to see if they would be re-released. Thankfully, they were. Lakrid's Easter flavor, with crispy peppermint coating and a layer of milk chocolate around sweet, blissfully gluten-free black licorice, are my favorite way to satisfy my sweettooth. Plus, they're expensive enough to keep me from inhaling a whole jar in one sitting.

Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

On losing a friend

April 6, 2016

Bailey dog in Berlin photobooth

We always had cats. Those independent creatures that come and go as they please, really only caring that you feed them, and pet them (but only when they feel like being petted). To make matters worse, we moved so much, all our cats ran away, eventually discovering new, stable homes nearby, homes with people less nomadic than we were. Bonds with those pets were easily broken, or so they taught the much younger version of myself. With those finicky felines and one brief stint with a family dog that lasted about a week of barking all through the night before my mother relegated her to my father's business as a shop dog, I never got attached, really attached to an animal - until Bailey.

Bailey dog getting treats at the amphitheater at Mauerpark

Wanting that connection to a family pet I saw on sitcoms, I kept regular tabs on the new dogs taken in by a Boxer rescue organization, as I grew up with my grandparents' Boxers and they were what I knew. They were sweet, playful and good with families (there is a photo of a one-year-old me 'riding' my grandparent's ever-patient Amber), and I felt this was the four-legged friend I was meant to have. After meeting my now-husband, he too kept tabs on the rescues taken in by the group, until one day he sent me a photo of a pup born of one of the pregnant dogs surrendered there. So small in the photo, the shiny black coat of her rolling stone, black lab father and trademark Boxer splashes of white on her nose and toes, with hints of pink puppy skin peeking through... and I fell in love. We decided to jump into dog ownership mere months into our relationship.

Family photo with Bailey dog on steps of Sellin Pier on Rügen

Bailey grew up a master of her backyard domain while we worked long, American work hours and spent most of our time together curled up on the couch, with us too exhausted after long commutes and countless hours at our respective offices for much more. Sure, we took weekend trips to the dog park, the beach and to swim in my mother's pool, but it wasn't until we made the seemingly crazy decision to move overseas that her doggy life really blossomed. With me at home to walk her multiple times a day, nearby forest and mountain trails to explore and a generally slower pace of life meant we could all spend more quality time together. While she never quite mastered the art of being a good German dog - laying quietly under the table while we all enjoyed a meal out or proudly carrying her own bag home from a morning run to the nearby Bäckerei - she had a zest for life that none of those well-mannered pooches could touch. Even after being attacked by a neighborhood dog, she never feared other animals - only worrying over my resulting tension every time we passed another dog while on a walk.

Russ and Bailey dog on Sellin Pier bench at Seebrücke Rügen

Four years of forest hikes and vineyard strolls became urban exploring and warm-weather swims in the many lakes once we moved to Berlin. Slowly, Bailey's fear of the street cars turned into reluctant ambivalence, accepting that they would never jump to curb to attack her, as she seemed to fear. While she never took to riding the U-Bahn, we took countless car trips out to parks, canals and lakes all over Berlin, a city we chose in part for how green and canine-friendly it is. By now, we both worked at home, so we enjoyed more time together, and she was even more a part of our daily life than ever.

But everything came to a screeching halt late last summer when some simple warning signs turned into the diagnosis that would change everything: Cancer. I'd been here before, with many friends and family members, and the end result was always the same. Worse yet, basic internet searches told us that Bailey's cancer, adenocarcinoma, was 'aggressive', really the last word you want linked to an already damning diagnosis. We moved forward with surgery to remove the tumor and then chemo to make sure whatever was left was destroyed. Only, after just one treatment, the cancer was still spreading. When the more aggressive treatment options left were beyond our budget - or required temporary relocation across the country - we instead stretched our bank account for a concoction of pills that did all they could to make things easier for her. And for a while, they did.

Photo by the talented and generous Zoë Noble for our New Year's card
Family holiday portrait with Bailey by photographer Zoë Noble

After one last great Christmas together, there was a notable shift in Bailey's well-being. It was a swift decline that we could not ignore, that told us her quality of life was dwindling. Her body was giving up on her and her spirit was finally showing signs of the struggle she had hid behind her happy disposition and unending curiosity for so many months. When things came to head around her 10th birthday in mid-February, a tearful visit to the vet was met with a gentle prompting that it might be time to let her go. So we took the week off and traveled up to the coast to take her for one last trip to the sea, a place she had always loved. Even the restorative effects of being seaside were no match for the agonizing realization that these were our final days together.

Bailey dog watching the sea on beach on Rügen at Jasmund Nationalpark

There is both a comfort in being able to plan for the end and a desperation that permeates those last days and hours. Though knowing the day was approaching didn't make it any easier. After all, how do you prepare yourself to say goodbye to someone who was a constant companion, confidant and family member for nearly a decade? On her final day, she got spoiled with a meatloaf cake - complete with mashed potato frosting, bacon crumbles and strips of her favorite thing: red bell pepper - to belatedly celebrate her birthday, when she had been too sick to eat anything. We finally got ourselves into a photobooth for some family photos. She finished off the last of her bags of treats and we took our final walk in Mauerpark. We tried to keep the mood light for her sake, and while she could never comprehend what was to come, I'm sure she felt the heaviness in our hearts. Walking to the vet, every cell in my body wanted to scream and run the other way, but knowing that selfishness would do nothing for her pain and deteriorating spirit was the only thing propelling me forward. It was over so quickly, proof that her body was even closer to the end than we had thought, the weight of her collapsing onto me once the drugs took over a sensation that will remain forever burned into my memory.

Bailey dog getting a piece of her Lady and Pup's meatloaf birthday cake

Walking home with our bag of her things, without her, was a numbing experience that continued for many days afterwards. I couldn't eat much of anything and I was haunted by the decision we had to make, wavering back and forth whether it was the right one, whether we really did all that we could. Some days I'm grateful the cancer moved quickly and that she didn't have to suffer through years of pain and slowness, or have that ever-present youthful exuberance fade. Other days, I'm just so angry that she was taken from us at what could have been only the halfway point in her life. But as with any loss, there are only so many days of regret and anger before you have to just let go.

We took our time cleaning up her things, a few final items that are still sitting in bags or boxes, waiting for the heart to throw them out. It is true what they say, it does get easier. Expecting to hear the jangle of her tags and click-clack her toenails on the hardwood, or waiting for the barks that don't come when there is a troubling noise in the stairwell or on the street below has faded, replaced instead by a sadness at the quiet these absences now bring - and often a smile at how her arduous barking to alert us to a stranger outside our door would transform into an equally passionate session of tap-dancing and face-licking when it turned out to be friends. She was truly one of the sweetest and best dogs I have ever known.

Bailey dog watching Berlin from a photobooth
Bailey dog's paws in Berlin photobooth

Most days pass with only a few reminders, fond memories that bring a smile to my face, but there are others when a deeper sadness settles in, one I can't shake and usually requires a good cry to satisfy the greedy needs of grief. I'm also can't help but think of my negative feelings towards all the people I've watched swap out their departed pets of notable breed almost immediately with a cookie-cutter replacement, scoffing at how they could just bring in a new one as if the old had never even been there. But now I understand. I understand the hole these animals leave in our lives when they go, and how amazing that unlike people, pets are generally plentiful and new ones can be added into a family with minimal effort. After grieving Bailey, I feel that pull towards other animals stronger than ever before. But there will always be time, a time when I am perhaps more ready. For now, we will focus on the things we have missed during all these years of illness, first mine and then Bailey's, like travel plans repeatedly pushed off and budgets swallowed up by numerous treatments. We are reminded to live a life as happy and curious as Bailey's, one that is full of all the things and experiences that bring great joy. Her absolute love of life will be her greatest legacy, one that we can honor by living in the same way.

And so we will remember Bailey as the most perfectly imperfect dog we could have asked for. We are so grateful she was able to join our family for as long as she could. Thanks for being ours Bailey-dog, we love you!

Photo by Zoë Noble
Family Portrait with Bailey by photographer Zoë Noble