Marathon Weekend in Luzern

Last Friday night after dinner, we hopped on a train to Luzern (German) or Lucerne (French). I ran in the Swiss City Marathon, and we had a great time exploring one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cities.

Once again, we had another weekend away from home without attempting a meal at a restaurant, but that’s primarily because we had a good hostel with a well-equipped kitchen: Backpackers’ Lucerne. Even though someone had kindly recommended Hotel des Alpes as having an allergy-friendly restaurant, we didn’t get the chance to go there. We’ll save it for another trip, as we hope to visit Luzern again soon.

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Luzern’s Chapel Bridge and Water Tower

On Saturday night at the hostel, I made a very basic carbo-loading dinner for my family: pasta with sausage and spinach. When we travel, pasta with jarred tomato sauce is a staple meal, and it worked especially well for this trip. Our hostel didn’t have a restaurant, but there were a few food items for sale in the lobby. We packed along our own soy milk, and thankfully the hostel had a few small boxes of cereal we could safely serve our son for breakfast.

Here are a few more photos from Luzern and the rainy marathon:

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The view across Lake Luzern

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Rainy conditions during the race

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Swiss alphorn performance along the course

Overall, another nice weekend in Switzerland, despite rainy weather. While I had a wonderful cheering squad, I think my family is glad my training schedule will be easing up over the winter months!

As always, if you have any recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants or accommodations in Switzerland, please leave a comment below or send me an email

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Remembering Boston Creme Pie

On Sunday afternoon, I was listening to Leonard Cohen and baking a Boston Creme Pie. Beantown was on my mind last week—starting with the explosions on Marathon Monday and ending with the manhunt that caused an unprecedented, citywide shutdown. We had friends and family running and watching the marathon that day. While I was confident they would all be okay, we had some tense moments waiting to know for sure.

Boston Marathon 2013: Elite runners in Brookline, before the explosions

Boston Marathon 2013: Elite runners in Brookline, before the explosions. Photo: C. Stacy

According to an article from yesterday’s Washington Post, the Greater Lowell region—where we lived before moving to Switzerland—was hit hard by the terrible events in Boston. If you would like to make a donation to help those most affected by this tragedy, Boston Mayor Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have established The One Fund. Or, you can make donations directly to those in need, as we have done for Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother and daughter badly injured by the explosions.

When bad things happen, I often seek out opportunities to cook and bake. Situations like these can make you feel helpless, but you can always bake a cake for your family, friends or neighbors who may need support or just some general cheering up. So, when Nordic Ware posted on Facebook recently about making a Boston Creme Pie to honor its namesake city, I decided to try an allergy-friendly version.

We ate the original Boston Creme Pie almost a year ago at Parker’s Restaurant in Boston when my mother was visiting us from Minnesota. I remember it as a light and fluffy cake with just the right balance of delicious creme filling and chocolate frosting. Their recipe calls for seven eggs, along with lots of butter, cream and toasted almonds—ingredients we avoid these days because of our little guy’s allergies.

To create a safe version of this famous dessert for my family, I modified an allergy-friendly recipe I found online. Even though the pastry creme in the middle didn’t achieve the fluffiness I had hoped for, the finished product still resembles the real thing in taste (and hopefully a little in appearance too?!).

Dairy/Egg/Nut-Free Boston Creme Pie

Dairy/Egg/Nut-Free Boston Creme Pie

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. My husband is back home after spending all of last week on a work trip. While we’re thankful to be together again as a family, our thoughts are with everyone affected by the tragic events in Boston last week. Be Strong Boston!

Running as Stress Relief

I just finished up a 10K race over the weekend, my second since arriving in Switzerland last year. Running has always been one of my passions. Now, after having kids, running allows me the rare opportunity to spend time alone (one of the reasons I never considered a jogging stroller!). Getting outside and moving around helps me relieve stress.

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After a half-marathon in New Hampshire, October 2010

Studies have shown that coping will food allergies can be a source of stress and anxiety. As a full-time caregiver for our food-allergic son, my running and occasional races have become even more important to me. Here are just a few examples of recent research on this topic, if you’re interested:


Escaping to a Race

Someone asked me the other day whether I was a “professional” runner. I’m certainly not! While I consider myself better than average, that’s about it. When I sign up for races, I compete against myself. A race forces me to train and stay in shape. And, I’ve been very lucky to find a running partner who’s willing to meet me at 6h00, twice a week!

My most recent race was in Payerne. I spent nearly 5 hours, including travel time, entirely by myself. From our town, I hopped on two trains to reach the starting line. I was so happy to be there, and it was such a beautiful spring day.

The start/finish line in Payerne, canton of Vaud

The start/finish line in Payerne, canton of Vaud

I love the positive atmosphere at races—the energy and excitement of the runners and spectators. When I’m on my own and running the course, I can focus entirely on myself—how fast I’m running, how I’m feeling. I still think about my family, and how they’ll ask me about how I did after the race, which only drives me to go faster. It sounds cheesy, but racing makes me feel free, alive and strong (on a good day, at least…).

And, there’s inevitably food at a race. At this race, seconds after I crossed the finished line (where I almost puked—something I’ve never done before, but I full-out sprinted the last 50 meters trying unsuccessfully to beat some guy), I received a bottle of water and a big block of Swiss gruyére. Cheese is not okay for my food-allergic son, but I didn’t have to worry since he wasn’t with me (and it was completely shrink-wrapped).

For the train ride home, I picked up a chocolate chip cookie, which I haven’t had in a long time. I ate it without considering whether my son would grab at it or pick up some of the crumbs or touch my hands after I’m finished because they haven’t been washed yet. I was content—pleased with my accomplishment of finishing the race without barfing, and relaxed because I wasn’t in my usual caregiver role (which I think any parent can relate to, regardless of whether their kids have food allergies!).

Swiss 10K race swag (left) and a treat on the train ride home (right)

Swiss 10K race swag (left) and a treat on the train ride home (right)

Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. My son is doing well. He’s never had an anaphylactic reaction (my fingers are always crossed in hopes he never does). We’re living in Switzerland where we enjoy access to incredible health care and an overall high quality of life. I’m now serving as a stay-at-home mom to my two boys, in part, so I can closely monitor my son’s food.

I’m so thankful, yet I live with a persistent fear. This feeling was so eloquently described in last week’s New York Times article by another parent of a food-allergic child (with more allergies than our son and with greater severity):

“…food allergies amplify a kind of fear every parent experiences — of a child dashing suddenly into the street and, just like that, being gone. Your child is always playing near a precipice that is visible only to you: you may be able to keep her from falling off, but you can never move her away from the edge.”

So, until my son’s food allergies magically disappear (there’s a good chance they might in the coming years), I will continue to run as always and escape to an occasional race. Also, I’ll make sure my son’s older brother and my husband get those opportunities too. We have the luxury of taking a break from the world of food allergies, but my son doesn’t at this point. He’s so young—he doesn’t realize what’s happening to him and around him yet. There will be new challenges as he gets older, but we’ll figure them out together.

If you’re living with food allergies, what are your stress relievers? I plan to sign up for another 10K race in June, if anyone wants to join me! 🙂