Tag Archives: Disney

A touch of Disney magic

Three months since Christmas and nearly all of those festive treats have disappeared from the kitchen cupboards to be replaced with Easter ones instead, but last weekend G finally got to enjoy her Christmas present, just in time for the Easter break. Having waited so long for the day to arrive, we decided to make it into a mini family celebration,  starting with a car journey to Cardiff with G and M wiling away the time singing along to the Cats soundtrack. Once we arrived, we started with a brief stroll into the City centre, looking for the perfect place to stop for an early tea.

I had done a little research before we left home as I was keen to find somewhere new to eat and was hopeful that Mexican chain restaurant, Wahaca, might be able to provide us all a dinnertime treat. Before we were led to our table, I spoke briefly to our hostess about the somewhat complex dietary requirements we have at the moment and was assured that she was confident that they could put together a safe meal for us. I took my seat, clutching their comprehensive gluten-free menu and accompanying allergens listing to study whilst we tried to choose our dishes. Wahaca is a new dining experience for us all and we were hard pressed to know where to begin with our choices, especially as we had no real idea about portion size.

Mike and I opted for their Mexican Feast to share, which is made up of a number of smaller portions from the menu, including tacos, quesadillas, tostadas and empanadas, and was more than enough to fill us before we reached our final destination for the day. I was impressed with their gluten-free menu, which explains that there are a mix of dishes available, some that are completely gluten-free, whilst others are suitable for those with a gluten intolerance. G pondered the menu for a long time and struggled to reach a decision, not least because so many of the dishes include dairy as well as a spiciness that she would prefer to avoid. In the end, she actually ordered from the Kids menu, where she could have grilled chicken in soft corn tortillas. There were a few too many vegetables adorning her plate for her liking, but she did eat the rest in fairly quick fashion.

Our new approach to food challenges means that M can occasionally add an extra into his dish and I had my fingers crossed that we might be able to combine a little onion to his meal to add some flavour, but unfortunately their green rice included vegetable stock and garlic as well,
which would definitely be a step too far at the moment. After a lengthy discussion with the restaurant manager, M opted for a double portion of grilled chicken, cucumber and apple, all washed down with a Virgin Mojito, although the last didn’t quite hit the mark. Our meal was nicely finished with a dairy-free hot chocolate for G and a coffee for me. We were once again disappointed by the lack of choice when it came to dessert and instead decided to give it a miss and head on to our final destination.

Dinner done, it was off to the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena for 100 years of Magic marked by Disney On Ice with one very excited young lady and a slightly less certain younger brother. G has been desperate to go to see Disney on Ice for a long time and the evening really was fantastic as she loved every moment of it. Despite his initial reservations, M was equally spellbound, even during the lengthy part dedicated to the story of Frozen. From everybody’s favourites, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, to Tiana and Prince Naveen from modern classic, The Princess and the Frog, there was more than enough to keep everyone entertained. The skating was superb, the spectacle fantastic and the songs had many in the audience clapping and singing along. G didn’t stop smiling the whole evening and it really was a Christmas present worth waiting for without a doubt.

 

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“Muuummm, what’s for tea tonight?”

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Oh how this resonates..

If your family is anything like mine, that question usually comes just as you’re struggling through the door: with house keys in one hand, car key gripped firmly between your teeth, handbag on one arm, cello on your back, mobile phone pressed to your ear as you attempt to talk to the dietitian/consultant/other healthcare provider, who’s asking if now is a good time to talk and you can’t say no as you’ve been trying to contact them urgently for at least the last 3 days and who knows when they might call again; plus the school bag(s)/shopping bag(s)/extraneous bag(s)* (*delete as appropriate) you’ve picked up along the way are weighing down your other side and threatening to upset the delicate balance you’ve perfected in your struggle to cover the 100 yards or less from your car to the house.  Meanwhile, your curious offspring are waltzing in behind you, or possibly squeezing past you, through the already impossibly small and too-narrow-to-negotiate-safely doorway, bearing no more than a half-empty water bottle and their coat, worn superhero style to leave their hands free to carry absolutely nothing else at all.  And just as you think you’ve achieved it and managed to get everything safely inside, they open their mouth and ask that unavoidably fraught dinner-question and the peace shatters and your world tumbles down around your ears.  Does any of that sound familiar or is it just my household?

For M at the moment, my answer is fairly standard, although he adds his own unique twist by asking if dinner will be “chicken with rice and cucumber” or perhaps “rice and chicken with a side of cucumber”?  For a while, when he was still 100% elemental, he would even ask if he could have “air-sticks” – “like bread sticks you see, but without the bread” – showing that the ability to laugh his way through this experience is his greatest strength in beating this disease.  I have become a self-confessed expert in cooking with 3 principle ingredients – rice, chicken and cucumber – and the bonus extras of herbs, rapeseed oil and sugar.  Rice has been broadened to include its derivatives and the inclusion of rice milk, rice cream and rice pops (as long as they’re gluten-free) has added to my ever-increasing repertoire of 3-ingredient recipes.

Rice-flour sugar cookies

Rice-flour sugar cookies

In the past few weeks, as well as my fall-back favourites of roast or grilled chicken with plain boiled rice, I have also perfected deep-fried savoury rice balls, chicken nuggets, chicken and cucumber curry, fried rice, chicken stir-fry, rice-flour sugar cookies and rice pudding.  My Mum has also made M a chicken breast stuffed with rice and cucumber, courtesy of the inspiration and some nifty hints suggested by our hairdresser and which was an instant hit with our young diner.  It’s surprising just how many different recipes you can create with just a few ingredients and there’s even a few more that I’m hoping to try out in the coming weeks.  What started out as a daunting challenge to entice M’s appetite and encourage him to once again eat whilst navigating the tricky world of identifying his food allergies, has become yet another success story in our household.

Letter-to-the-EditorSqareMy victory with such a limited range of ingredients has been all the sweeter given the recent UK news story of the letter sent to the Daily Telegraph newspaper by over 100 top chefs and restauranteurs condemning recent EU legislation requiring restaurants to provide information about which of the top 14 allergens the dishes on their menus contain.  It was never a requirement that they did not cook with these ingredients, but rather that they should be able to inform diners of what the food prepared contains, with the knowledge and pride in their ingredients that I would expect from any talented chef.  Whilst widely welcomed by those of us in the allergy-world as a step towards helping us make informed decisions about eating out, these chefs warned that such requirements would harm “…the spontaneity, creativity and innovation restaurants and others in the industry have enjoyed up until now.

Like so many others in my situation, I wrote a response on the Telegraph website, pointing out that this legislation will help me to protect my children and give them experiences that will ensure their continued health and enjoyment,  I do not deny that it’s up to me (and they as they grow older) to ask about allergens, but there’s no point asking these questions if the restaurants, waiting staff or chefs cannot provide the information needed and the lack of understanding about cross-contamination risks is sadly common across the food industry.

20140818_143459Our experience last summer in Disney proved that this type of requirement does not need to be restrictive as excellent allergen information was readily available and nearly everywhere we ate produced meals for G and M that rivalled those being served to any other customer there with a “normal” diet. The chefs were knowledgable, came to our table to discuss their allergy needs and made the effort to find out what my challenging duo would like to eat – excellent service all done with a smile.

The big challenge was always to cook M-friendly food and these days that task has become even more testing.  In my opinion, these rules will have little impact on spontaneity or ingenuity – try cooking or baking when you need to avoid wheat/gluten, egg, dairy, soya and potato to name but a few.  Ingenuity comes when you try to prepare a meal that makes your child feel that they’re not missing out and that’s something I feel I’ve proved is possible, even for an amateur cook like me.

Our fabulous Florida photo round-up

A week filled with appointments right, left and centre has left me with little time to write a full blog-post.  As we process all that’s been said this week, what better way to keep smiling than a photo round-up of our fab time in the Florida sun:

Top Tips for Theme Parks (and some amazing US foods!)

We had an amazing 3 weeks in Florida, even if they do seem now to be a dim and distant memory as we’re back into the routine of school, hospital appointments and work.  Before I file those memories away, however, I want to share some top tips we picked up for when visiting theme parks with children, or with those with a chronic illness, or anyone with food allergies.

  • DISABILITY ACCESS PASS – I was tipped off about these from a lovely lady from my choir and immediately investigated what they were, how to get them and whether M would qualify. Whether you are going to Disney, Universal Studios, Legoland or Seaworld, if any member of your group has a disability or condition that makes a lengthy queue wait a difficult prospect, then you can benefit from these passes. 20140916_182709 The passes allow the holder and their group to effectively bypass the challenge of waiting by giving a return time, which then enables the party to enter the ride via either the exit or the fastpass queue.  To support our request for a pass, I had a doctor’s letter detailing M’s EGID and the associated bowel problems and we were given a pass without problem.  These passes were invaluable as we didn’t have that mid-queue panic of needing to rush off to find a loo!
  • ICED WATER – Don’t spend lots of money on bottled water as you travel around the park.  Instead, pop into the nearest counter-service restaurant or anywhere that serves drinks and ask for a glass of iced water.  Keeping hydrated as you walk around the parks in the hot Floridian sun is important and nothing quenches your thirst like a glass of iced water and it’s somehow even better when it’s free.  Be warned that you may struggle in some places – we could only get ice and no water at Legoland Florida –  but it’s definitely worth the ask.
  • PARK ACTIVITIES – And I don’t just mean the parades, shows and fireworks that everyone knows about.  At Epcot, the kids were given a handset that sent them on a journey around the countries of the World showcase, following clues, completing challenges and seeing some really cool special effects to complete the secret missions set by Phineas and Ferb.  Once that country’s mission was done, we had the option of moving on to another country for another mission or finishing the game then.  20140816_230608In Magic Kingdom, we discovered the delights of the “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom“, which was a similar activity to Epcot, but this time saw us collecting cards, defeating well-known Disney villains and finally completing the first level of the game.  M and G loved this so much that we spent an unplanned afternoon back at Magic Kingdom, running around to complete the first level and collect as many cards as we could before we left.  The final activity I’d recommend, and one I’m extremely proud we managed to achieve, was participation in the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios.  Getting M and G signed up for this involved a very early start to be close to the front of the queue for rope drop, a rush to beat the crowd to the sign-up and absolute focus that that, and nothing else, was our first goal of the day.  The 20 minute session saw them being taught by a Jedi master, before taking on none other than Darth Vader to prove their ability as a young Padawan and their loyalty to the cause.  20140817_152258
  • MAGIC SHOTS – This is something that is specific to WDW, but is definitely a lot of fun.  We had bought a Disney Memory maker package, which allowed our group to have access to any photos taken in park, on rides or in resort by a Disney photographer for one, relatively low price.  PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_7033012070This automatically gave us easy access to Magic shots, which see Disney characters, amongst other things, to be added to your photograph.  Any Disney photographer not using a tripod can take a magic shot and M and G loved running around, tracking down photographers and asking if they could take a magic shot.  The photographer would pose us and give us instructions for facial expressions before taking the photo and adding it to our memory maker package.  I could then view the images on-line later in the day to see who or what had been added into the photo.  The magic included Tinkerbell, Stitch, Olaf, butterflies and a bunch of Mickey balloons.

Should you be travelling to the USA and come across these delicious treats, I would highly recommend stocking up and enjoying them whilst you can.  G and M loved all of these and the small supplies we brought back home with us are now nearly all gone – must mean another trip to the US soon!

  • Babycakes – these are the most delicious, allergy-friendly cupcakes I have come across and were available in some restaurants in WDW.  20140812_011542Luckily for us, they were included in the dessert options at the Mara restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge and we bought enough to see us through our final week spent in St Petersburg.  You can find them at a few other locations across the USA and I would highly recommend searching them out if you’re anywhere nearby!
  • Silk Almond milk drink cartons – these are a great alternative for those who aren’t able to drink either cows’ or soya milk, especially as they come in both vanilla and chocolate flavours.  We discovered them at the local supermarket in St Petersburg and I wish I’d known about them sooner.  M really enjoyed being able to have a chocolate milk with his dinner, especially as G had been having chocolate and vanilla soya milk whilst we were staying in WDW.
  • Enjoy Life cookies & chewy bars – another great hit with M and G, especially the soft-baked cookies.  20140819_034546These were the brand stocked in a lot of the WDW restaurants which meant they could have a pudding with their meals, but we found them easy to buy in the local supermarkets too.  They were such a huge success with my pair that I even brought 3 boxes of cookies home with us – Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Brownie.  The chewy bars were equally delicious and G found it hard to choose between the Cocoaloco and Sunbutter Crunch flavours.

Not a Universal success

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that we did nothing but Disney whilst on our hols, however we did venture to some of the other theme parks and attractions during our 2 week sojurn in Orlando.  G and M were particularly excited about the prospect of visiting Universal Studios, or more accurately, the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter“.  My enthusiasm was not so great, particularly given my poor experiences to date in trying to get hold of some, or indeed any, information about visiting the parks with my food-allergy duo.  I found the website difficult to navigate and the information available on it less than informative.  My first e-mail to them went unanswered and if it hadn’t been that both M and G were desperate to visit, I honestly think I might well have given up at that point.  However, I eventually tracked down a helpful customer services rep, who phoned me in the UK and discussed our needs at length.  She reassured me that they catered for food allergies and that we should encounter no problems when eating in the parks.  I was interested in booking the Character breakfast at La Bamba cafe so that the children could meet a Minion and once again I was assured that we could mix and match the breakfast options to get a meal that was safe for both G and M. Taking it on trust, I booked the breakfast and pencilled in 2 days at Universal on our somewhat hectic schedule.

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Mike imitating both Dave Minion and Gru at the character breakfast!

Our first day started well as we arrived in glorious sunshine and headed directly to Diagon Alley carrying a rucksack prudently packed to the gills with M-friendly snacks.  Our first view of Diagon Alley was impressive with a multitude of shops selling everything a young wizard could want as well as the fire-breathing dragon atop Gringotts Bank.  dragonWe headed into a nearby wand shop for both children to chose a wand to buy and then ventured off on a magical tour, following the map to find the location of spells for M to cast using his interactive Dumbledore wand.  I even dared to sample a pint of Butterbeer as requested by my dear friend, F, but have to confess it’ll be the first and last time I do that as the drink was just too sweet for any of the family to enjoy.  Disappointingly, as jaw-dropping as the “set” was, there really wasn’t enough to appeal to the younger age groups which we all found surprising.  Nearly all the rides, apart from the utterly amazing Hogwarts Express that carried us between the 2 halves of the Harry Potter experience, were roller-coasters or simulators that were just too big and scary for my nervous pair.

I was also disappointed by just how commercial it all felt, especially the “unique interactive experience” at Ollivanders shop in Hogsmeade, which promised far more than it delivered.  Just 2 children were selected from the crowd in the shop to participate in the amazing experience of finding out which wand was to be theirs; after all, as we all know “..the wand chooses the wizard…” (JK Rowling:  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone).  Not only was every other child in the audience disappointed not to be part of the action, but – call me a cynic – I don’t imagine many parents found it easy to then say no when their little darlings wanted to buy the wand that had chosen them in such dramatic fashion.

lunchtime

By lunchtime we had seen and experienced all that the Wizarding World had to offer and headed off in search of some food for our group.  We left Hogsmeade, where the food queues were out of the door, bypassed yet another hard-sell when the magic show we had been ushered into turned out to be little more than an opportunity to buy 4 tricks for the price of 2 and ended up at the street markets of the Lost Continent.  We stopped at what seemed a likely place as it sold hot dogs, something we had found was inevitably safe at all of the Disney parks and I queued to speak to what was possibly the most unhelpful server I have ever met and someone definitely not suited to a customer service role.  She gazed blankly at me when I asked for allergy information about their food options and struggled to understand even the simplest of requests:

“Could I please have 2 hot dogs without the bread-rolls as I have 2 children with multiple food allergies?”

“What?”

“Could I have 2 hot dogs without the buns?”

“You mean you don’t want the buns?”

“No, just the sausages…the meat”

“You don’t want the buns?”

“No”

“Just the dog?”

“Yes”

“But no bun?”

“No.  Just. The. Dog.”

“So, you don’t want the bun, just the dog?”

“Yes”

“Oh.  I’ll have to check with my manager if we can do that.”

Our exchange on whether I could get fruit or vegetables as an alternative side to the bun and the fries went in a similar vein.  I gave up any hope of intelligent discussion at that point and G and M ended up with a hot dog each – “just” the dog: no bun, no fries, no fruit and no veg, all for the princely sum of $15 plus taxes.  Yes, that’s right, £10 for 2 sausages that barely touched the sides going down.  Mike and my Mum picked out some safe looking bits of salad from their lunches, we bought a packet of crisps for G (another £2.50 there) and fed M from our own plentiful supplies, much of which had been got from Disney.

disappointmentI’d love to say our experience got better, but it really didn’t.  In “The Cat in the Hat” area, a place filled with lovely rides inspired by Dr Seuss books and enjoyed by us all, we came across a bakery selling the most amazing-looking cakes, biscuits and sweets guaranteed to tantalise the tastebuds.  Some of them were gluten-free, but none of the them catered for those with more complex allergies like G and M and we left empty-handed.  I had toyed with the idea of eating dinner in one of the restaurants at Citywalk, but again, of the 4 I had contacted ahead of our visit, only 1 came back to confirm they could probably cater for M’s food needs.  Maybe we’d been spoilt by our experiences in Disney, but Universal was a real disappointment and if it hadn’t been for our prepaid and booked Character breakfast for our second day there, I doubt we’d have bothered going back.

Raglan Road Irish Pub

1458655_800725413290492_2694048479460387307_nNaturally having asked G and M to name their favourite meal, I got to thinking about what my own number 1 would be.  I loved nearly every meal we ate at Disney and would have been more than happy to return to any of the restaurants to eat again.  The one that stands out in my mind however, has to be our fabulous dinner at the Raglan Road Irish Pub at Downtown Disney.  I had read great reviews about the pub before booking and I had contacted them back in February to find out whether they could cope with M’s food allergies.  Their response was to send me a complete allergy listing for all their menu options, so I had a good idea of what M and G would be able to order.  Unfortunately, our evening started on a slightly sticky note when I discovered that the allergy-friendly calamari that both G and M had been looking forward to trying was no longer available.

G's fish & chips

G’s fish & chips

M’s face dropped and he declared a disinterest in ordering anything off the menu, whilst G chose a traditional favourite of fish and chips.  Our server, Sheldon, was fantastic however and after a quick word with the chef, came back to M with an offer of shrimp cooked in their gluten-free batter accompanied by green beans, carrots and parsnips.  What impressed me most here was the offer of a side dish that wasn’t obvious from the menu, but one that our server knew and enjoyed himself and that he had checked could be made safe for M.  With that offer, M cheered up instantly and he and G disappeared off to watch the Irish dancing, whilst we soaked up the atmosphere accompanied with a pint of Magners cider.

M's shrimp & roasted veg

M’s shrimp & roasted veg

The food, when it came, was delicious and M not only made short work of his dinner, but set to helping G polish off the remains of her large portion of fish.  Main course done and we turned to the decision of pudding.  The options here were a little more limited that we’ve found elsewhere, but it was nice to have the “healthier” choice of fresh fruit drizzled with honey.  G is not a fan of fresh berries or melon, so whilst M was in heaven enjoying a bowl of mixed berries, that was the epitome of G’s idea of hell.  Once again Sheldon stepped to the fore and a bowl of apple pieces drizzled with honey appeared for her, which frankly made her day.

This is definitely a restaurant Mike and I would have loved to go back to and we were both disappointed that we just couldn’t find the time to squeeze a return trip into our busy schedule.  A great choice and yet again we experienced the wonderful service we have come to associate with Disneyworld.

The Triumph of Disneyworld

jamboWe were off to a great start, thanks to the fantastic Virgin team and the successful delivery of my on-line grocery order thanks to gardengrocer.com.  Not willing to leave anything to chance that first day, I had booked dinner at our hotel for the evening of arrival rather than facing the challenge of finding somewhere to feed M and G safely whilst struggling with jet-lag.  I had left it a little late to book and we ended up with a table in the delightful Jiko restaurant at  Jambo House, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Not my first choice for our first evening as  I was afraid we wouldn’t enjoy the delicious menu as much as we could when we were slightly less travel-weary, but needs must and I looked forward to seeing what exactly was on offer for M.

No words are going to be able to adequately express just how amazing that first meal at    Disney was.  I am so used to restaurants struggling to come up with a complete meal for M when we eat out in the UK, that I fully expected to encounter similar problems at WDW.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Our server knew about M and G’s allergies and quickly     requested that Chef Tom came to the table to discuss what he could prepare for their       dinner.  SAM_1906He was happy to cook any meat or fish that they wanted and suggested what sides could be safely offered too.  Despite not having sweet potatoes in the restaurant, he went to the other hotel restaurant to find out if their sweet potato fries would be safe for M or not and, when the answer was sadly no, prepared a beautiful dish of plain rice, seared scallops, carrots and green beans for him instead.  Both children enjoyed their meals and fell asleep at the table as soon as they had finished their main courses, before dessert became an issue.

excellenceWhat’s even better is that this experience was not a one-off.  As promised, every booking at Disney was annotated with their food allergies and as soon as we were seated, the serving staff were made aware that we would need to speak to the chef.  During our 2 weeks, G and M enjoyed breakfasts, lunches and dinners unlike any they’ve eaten out in the UK.  We tried a variety of restaurants across the 4 Disney parks and the numerous resort hotels and had equal success everywhere.  Even the counter service restaurants had allergy information to hand and managers who knew exactly what would be safe for both children to eat.  There was no skimping on meals and they were able to enjoy puddings almost everywhere too.

My thanks go to the fantastic staff at WDW – Chefs Tom, Renee, Ricardo, David, Dave, Duane & Brian and serving staff Jamal, Sheldon, Chris and David as well as the others whose names I forgot to note down

the brilliant restaurants – Jiko (Jambo House), Tusker House (Animal Kingdom), Coral Reef (Epcot), Cosmic Rays (Magic Kingdom), Mexico (Epcot), Fulton Crabhouse (Downtown Disney), Mara (Jambo House), Raglan Road Irish Pub (Downtown Disney), Citricios (Grand Floridian), Hoop-dee-doo (Wilderness Lodge), Backlot Express (Hollywood Studios), Fairfax Fare (Hollywood Studios), Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom), Chef Mickeys (Contemporary Hotel), Sunshine Seasons (Epcot) and the many others we never got round to trying

and to Disney itself for the huge efforts it has made to welcome those with food allergies to its resorts and to make their stay as special as it can possibly be.

It truly is a magical place and one we will definitely be planning to revisit in the future.

Eating out on holiday

allergymenuOne of my anxieties about travelling abroad with M surrounds the prospect of feeding him safely whilst away from home.  The long list of foods we now need to avoid make it challenging enough to go out for meals when at home and we inevitably have to make a small compromise somewhere along the line, with our fingers tightly crossed that the fall-out isn’t too major.  Whilst we often choose to holiday somewhere where we can either cook or eat out, a holiday spent cooking is not really my idea of a break.  This time around, however, we decided to avoid any form of self-catering and so I gave myself the job of finding safe places for us to eat.

Now, I can’t speak for all the WDW resorts around the world, but I can wax lyrical about the Walt Disney World resort in Florida.  My starting point was at the WDW website, where I discovered that the resort is keen to meet any special dietary needs that its guests might have and encourages visitors to book ahead and let the restaurants know what foods they need to avoid.  I gave them a call and chatted through M’s food requirements and was reassured that, as soon as I knew where we wanted to eat, then they could append a note to our booking to state all of M’s current food allergies.  Mike and I spent hours reading restaurant menus and looking for reviews of the allergy-friendly offerings that are available. I discovered the brilliant blog, Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW and soon became very excited about what we might be able to get for M to enjoy.

WDWThe 180-day mark arrived, the point at which we could start to make ADRs (Advance Dinner Reservations for the uninitiated amongst you) and I hopped on-line to make as many of the bookings we had chosen as possible.  The system was delightfully easy to use and I was able to make note of all our dietary needs without hassle.  One of the many experiences we wanted to treat the children to was a dinner show, something we hadn’t enjoyed since our last Disneyland Paris trip, pre-diagnosis and multiple food allergies.  We’d settled on the Hoop-de-doo musical review, but I was anxious to confirm that they could cope with M’s allergies as this is a set menu and there were several things on it that he just can’t eat. Rather than risking confusion through an on-line reservation, I called the WDW call centre and spoke to a lovely lady who was amazingly helpful.  She made a note of the allergies and reassured me that there would be no problem in meeting these needs at the dinner show.

Booking made, she then also checked all of our other reservations to confirm that my notes were clear and talked me through the process of ensuring that M eats safely at any and all of the WDW restaurants.  Upon arrival, we should find that the table will have some kind of allergy marker on it to make it clear to all waiting and serving staff that we have special dietary needs.  The chef will then come out to talk through what is and isn’t safe on the menu, point out any safe foods at the buffet (if relevant) and finally will discuss whether we would prefer them to prepare something fresh and. if necessary, off menu to give us all the most reassurance about what M and G will be eating.

mickeywafflesAt no point did I feel that my questions and requirements were a problem and I felt 100% reassured that WDW would be working hard to make sure that M and G have the best holiday food experience whilst we’re there.  M is looking forward to being able to eat “proper” burgers, something he hasn’t been able to enjoy away from home for an awfully long time, whilst G is just keen to try any gluten- and dairy-free desserts that might be on offer.  Mike and I are most excited about seeing their faces at our first breakfast, when we will be able to order them a plate each of Mickey waffles, something that they both love the idea of, but have never been able to order before.

Rainy days and Mondays

I suspect we must be like every other family when it comes to unexpected free time or the need to find rainy day activities.  We have lots of discussions about what we could do, followed by M complaining that “there’s nothing to do” or “I’m bored” or “you won’t let me do what I want anyway, so there’s no point in asking” and eventually finishing with a decision that at least 3 of the 4 of us agree on, sometimes, if we’re lucky.  This past weekend was no exception.  Amazingly, there was no football training or game for M, no parties for either child and no school events to contend with as it was the start of the May half-term.

20140428_130100Chalk Wall Snakes & Ladders – this was invented by M and Mike and has been the source of hours of fun for all the family.  One wall of M’s bedroom is painted with blue chalkboard paint and they decided to create a gigantic Snakes & Ladders board on the wall.  It featured some individual-looking snakes as well as ladders of varying lengths and can be changed and adapted as the fancy takes M.  Once designed, they played the game using a dice and coloured chalk to mark their progress on the board.

bananagramsBoard games – I doubt we’re the only family in the world to indulge in a board game or 2 on a weekend afternoon.  The kids have been obsessed with two games recently: the Game of Life: Fame edition, where you’re a fledgling celebrity trying to make it big; and Bananagrams, a game that’s similar to scrabble, but each player works individually to create a crossword grid from their tiles.  The latter has become a new and firm favourite in the household, although M struggles sometimes with the challenge of creating words from his letters.  Even though he won’t always play on his own, he is always more than happy to give suggestions to anyone else playing.

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Egg painting – this is an activity usually associated with Easter as the photos show, but I see no reason why you couldn’t do this at any time of the year.  M was fascinated in seeing how exactly you blew the eggs, whilst G quickly learnt just how delicate the resultant egg-shells were.  They were occupied for a good half an hour or so before they had had enough and had run out of eggs to decorate.  G decided to go for 3 unrelated designs for her eggs, whilst M themed his eggs around a Matador, bull and red cape – don’t ask me, I have no idea where he gets his ideas from, though I’m guessing it must be something to do with his father.  Mike identified the eggs from 3,300 miles away via Skype:  I can only assume he saw something I didn’t.

lightsabersLight Saber battles – nothing overly original, though G, M and Mike appear to have created their own battleground, almost Hunger Games style, called “Schwing Schwang”.  This involves each having their own Light Saber of different colours and indulging in a series of highly complex fight moves as well as striking what I can only describe as their best battle poses. This is all accompanied by hysterical giggling from G and ear-piercing shrieks from M.

spacehopperWashing Line volley ball – This offering is an alternative to regular volley ball.  It involves the use of the washing line strung up between the garage and house, a space-hopper and a sense of humour.  We played in teams, had 5 lives each and had to catch and throw the space-hopper from side to side without dropping it or letting it bounce out of the poorly indicated boundary lines. Challenging, but great fun for a sunny afternoon.

popcornFamily film night (or morning, or afternoon) – Finally, there’s sometimes nothing to beat sitting down as a family to watch a film together.  Our biggest problem was agreeing on which to film to watch, with M and G inevitably choosing the same 5 films over and over again, whilst any suggestion from Mike or me to watch something different usually ended in tears.  So, I came up with a rota system that keeps everyone happy and has seen the children enjoying some films that they never thought they’d like.  Now we take it turns to choose the film and no one film is allowed to be chosen again until we have worked through everybody’s turn twice.  I drew up a grid on a piece of paper that lives near the TV and faithfully record who has chosen the film and what it was.  So far we’ve enjoyed a mixture of Disney, Pixar and classic films and would be hard pressed to say which has been our favourite.