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  • Alexa

Virtual Summer Fun with Julia

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Back in May, Julia and I were ironically assigned as food allergy pen pals. We wrote about that experience and our friendship on both of our websites in the posts You've got a Friend in Me and Food Allergy "Pen Pals". For July we thought it would be fun to interview each other through Google Meet about some of our favorite things, how we are spending our summer in quarantine and give some food allergy advice!

A: Hi Julia! Please introduce yourself and your blog! And how is your quarantine summer going?

Meet Julia!

J: Hey Alexa!! So exciting to be able to see you virtually! I started my blog, Julia's Guide to Food Allergies back in 2017 as a part of my Girl Scout Gold Award project to increase food allergy awareness. It is mostly a compilation of life experiences that I have successfully navigated through with my allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, sesame, shellfish, and all seeds. My quarantine summer is going pretty well! In June I moved into my off-campus apartment with 4 roommates and I’ve been figuring out the best ways to keep me safe without limiting everyone’s diets. I currently work on summer programming for low-income youth and it’s been very interesting brainstorming ways to keep kids socially distant while still entertained.

A: That’s amazing! I remember from our earlier conversations that you had recently moved and are living with roommates! How is that going? Any advice you would give to others with food allergies who would like to live with others?

J: It’s been a little less than a month, so we are still working things out, but I think things have settled into a nice routine. We have a list of my food allergies magnetted to the fridge at eye-level so that everyone knows what they are looking for when reading labels. My roommates still use allergens in our kitchen but we have careful segregation of ingredients and some appliances. Luckily we have a fairly large kitchen, so there is enough storage space for me to have my own cabinet that is completely allergen free. As for appliances, we have a toaster oven instead of a toaster so that we don’t have to worry about sesame-free bread, and we have a nut-free blender and a nut blender because those are impossible to effectively clean out. When someone eats something with my allergens, we have a policy that it must be hand-washed with the “allergy sponge” before getting placed in the dishwasher or getting hand-washed a second time with the “allergen-free sponge”. The countertops or table space used during the making and eating of the dish with allergens get wiped down after use as well. So far, everything has gone quite smoothly, and I think it’s because we set clear guidelines for communication up front.

A: Wow! This is such great advice! I love that your allergens are listed on the fridge and that you have a separate cabinet, blender and sponge. What is the best allergy friendly food you have made and eaten during quarantine?

J: The most exciting thing that I’ve made was a birthday cake for one of my roommates. Two of us worked on it, making the cake batter, cookie dough filling, and frosting, and it was absolutely delicious! Luckily with my allergies, we didn’t need to substitute anything in the recipe and it was pretty straightforward. But in terms of completely Top-8 free foods, I made homemade cherry water ice with my family before I left and that was a really fun experiment.

The cake Julia made for her roommate's birthday.

A: I love cake! Have you been eating out since quarantine began? If not, when do you think you will eat out again?

J: I have eaten out a few times in quarantine. While I was at home, my family only ordered at restaurants that I previously ate at safely and made sure to explain my allergens on the phone. If the ordering is online, we will send in the order with special instructions about my allergies. I actually have a funny story about getting take out in quarantine. So for my roommate’s 21st birthday, as previously referenced with the cake, we got takeout for dinner at a place known to have good alcoholic beverages. When she called to place her order, they took her name and her date of birth on the phone before submitting it. But when I called, the first thing I asked was to speak to the bartender so that they could find me an alcoholic beverage that was allergen-free and a safe entree. They never took my name for the order or asked my date of birth, so when I got there to ask for my food I said “hi, I called about 20 minutes ago and had a bunch of food allergies”, and they handed me my first alcoholic drink in a bag that was labeled “allergy” and I’ve never felt more on-brand. They still checked my ID before purchasing, but I just think that was funny.

A: Happy birthday to your roommate! And congrats on having your first alcoholic drink! What a great story! I love that it came in a bag labeled “allergy” haha, as you said that really is “on brand” for those of us with food allergies. What are your thoughts on hand sanitizer and soap? Are there brands you prefer?

J: Hand sanitizer is great for feeling less gross after touching things in quarantine, and I’ve definitely used a lot more of it in the past few months than I ever have before. But from an allergy standpoint, I definitely prefer washing my hands since that removes particles like food proteins in addition to just removing germs like hand sanitizer does. As far as brands go, I’ll take what I can get. I just know that Bath and Bodyworks hand sanitizer has coconut oil, and some types of Soft Scrub soap have almond oil in it, so I stay vigilant and hope for the best.

A: Great to consider, and I would agree that soap and hot water is much preferred. What are your recommendations for summer reads, TV shows, movies, podcasts or albums?

J: I got Netflix for the first time during quarantine, and now I’m hooked. I started off by watching Glee which is the most me TV show but I was just slightly too young when it aired to really appreciate it. Now I’m pretty obsessed with it. After watching that, I explored a lot of other Ryan Murphy stuff on Netflix like American Crime Story (the Versace Season), Hollywood, and The Politician. I also watched Avatar the Last Airbender and loved it. I haven’t watched a ton of movies, but I did watch the 80s classic Airplane! for the first time and it is absolutely hilarious. I have however, rewatched all of the Team Starkid musicals on Youtube. Some of the books I’ve read in quarantine include Ender’s Game, Such a Fun Age, and Stranger than Fanfiction. While I’ve been driving back and forth from my home in PA to move into my Delaware apartment, I’ve listened to several podcasts including “Showmance: Glee Recap Edition”, “Disney for Scores”, and “Potterless”.

A: These TV shows and books sound great! Will definitely have to check them out! What is your favorite Disney princess? And if you could give any Disney princess food allergies, who would you give them to and what would they be allergic to?

J: My favorite Disney princess has always been Belle. I always related to her love of reading and her love of her family. When I was little, my mom played Mrs. Potts in a community theater production of Beauty and the Beast, and that further cemented my love of the show and the character (and yes, I’m THAT kid who thinks that the Broadway version is the best. Not the animated, not the Live Action, the Broadway version. The additional songs- perfection, the magic of stage performance- so enhanced. The Broadway CD is in my car and I can sing the whole thing including all character voices and instrumentation- it's a little ridiculous).

J: And, if Belle were to have a food allergy, I feel like she would be allergic to something like soy. A top-8 allergen that’s in an annoying amount of things, but she would know exactly how to avoid it and use her experience to educate others.

A: Oh wow, Belle is also one of my favorite Disney princesses! I also love the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast, the songs are incredible!

Julia's Rapid Fire Allergy Would You Rather:

Dine out or cook at home

  • Cook at home- less explaining your allergies, you can make it just the way you want it

EpiPen vs Auvi Q

  • Auvi Q- it fits in my pocket so I don’t forget it!

Purse or backpack

  • Backpack- if you’re going to be carrying stuff that won’t fit in pockets, why not give yourself enough space to hold water bottle and other utilities (a Girl Scout is always prepared)

Bug bites or sunburn

  • Bug bites- they itch like crazy (I got 60 of them last weekend and couldn’t sleep through the nights) but what’s another itch to an allergic girl? I’d rather have a non-allergy related itch than an increased risk of skin cancer

Skin prick or blood test

  • Blood tests for sure- just one needle and then you’re set off. No need to stay and wait to watch your skin develop hives. Besides, after doing monthly bloodwork for accutane this past year, I’m not bothered by bloodwork anymore.

A: Oh my goodness! 60 bug bites? And I was complaining about about 43 haha. How have you been managing them?

J: I take Benadryl at night and put on cortisone cream a few times each day. It also helps to stay busy all day so you don’t think about how itchy they are.

A: Glad you are doing okay with them! Final question, what advice would you give your younger self?

J: Keep speaking up. It can be hard at times and you may not want to be “that allergy kid”, but it’s your safety, and it’s important.

A: So true! Speaking up is so important! Thanks Julia for this experience interviewing each other on Google Meet! This has been incredibly fun!

You can also read about Julia interviewing me on her website here.


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