Tag Archives: Halloween

October 2021: Racing towards winter

Somehow October has raced by and we’re already in November and starting the countdown to G’s 18th birthday and Christmas. However, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by to mention just a few of the things we did manage to fit in to the end of September and October.

I was invited to be a part of the judging team for the first ever FreeFrom Christmas Awards and was delighted to accept the honour. It felt extremely strange to head back to London for the judging session after last year’s online involvement for the main FFFA21. I had a fab afternoon tasting and judging entrants in the After Dinner category and, as ever, there were some cracking entries. The full list of winners can be found here for you to peruse at your leisure, but in the meantime I’ll tempt you with a couple of photos of the delicious Tesco Finest HoneyComb Dome and Morrisons’ The Best Gingerbread and Butterscotch Sponge pudding, both of which were well-deserved winners of a gold award.

Mike celebrated a not-particularly-significant birthday and we kicked off a very early start to G’s 18th birthday celebrations with a long-awaited trip back to the theatre for the first time in 20 months to see the fantastic “Everyone’s Talking About Jamie“, which we all loved. It was simply amazing to be back to doing something we love and have missed hugely since the first lockdown happened. We have more trips planned over the next couple of months as a number of shows that G has been desperate to see are passing through our local theatres on their UK tours.

Finally, the month was seen out with a plethora of half-term activities, some more interesting than others. We finally redecorated our hall, stairs and landing – something that Mike had promised my Mum would be done before G turned 18 and something he’s managed to squeeze in just under the wire! I enjoyed my 2020 Christmas present, the hire of a Morgan sportscar for a day and now have a 15 year old who is very keen for us to have one. We managed a day trip to the Pensford viaduct so that M could take photos for his GCSE photography project and naturally had to stop for a fish and chips lunch at Salt and Malt in nearby Chew Stoke. Mike and the children also completed their annual pumpkin carving session, whilst I simply sat back and savoured the odd Pumpkin Spice Latte or two.

Mini Adventures for October half-term

Last week was October half-term for us and, after an almost painfully long term, it was definitely needed by us all. Our plans meant that both Mike and I took the week off work to spend on some mini adventures from home as well as finding the time to complete the inevitable bits of homework that G and M had been set for the week.

And what a week it was:

Monday: Homework squeezed in around orthodontist appointments and blood donations amongst other less-than-interesting things.

Tuesday: A lazy morning in before heading off for a 15-mile bike ride along a local cycle path. We had great weather for it and even took a packed lunch to enjoy on our way. What better way to round off our day, but an evening glued to the Great British Bake Off final and, thank goodness, complete consensus on the final winner!

Wednesday: An early start to drop Mike’s car off for its service before we headed to Hampton Court Palace. This was the first visit for Mike and the kids, who enjoyed the House, the gardens and the Maze, despite their initial reluctance for a visit to “yet another” place to keep Mum happy. We stayed overnight at a nearby Premier Inn, but had a very disappointing dinner at the attached Beefeater restaurant – somewhere I definitely wouldn’t recommend to anyone visiting with allergies.

Thursday: A mixed day today. Halloween is always difficult for me because it’s the anniversary of losing my Dad, but our plans for a fun-packed day at Chessington World of Adventures helped make it a better day than it might otherwise have been. It was surprisingly quiet at the park considering we were in the middle of half-term and the extra hours at the end of the day meant G and M could revisit some of their favourite rides several times as the dusk crept in. We were very impressed with the allergy information available and enjoyed a pizza dinner, with specially-prepared gluten- and dairy-free pizzas for the children. Definitely somewhere we’ll look to visit again.

Friday: Back home for a quieter day, which was just as well given the torrential rain that hit us hard. It was very much a day for curling up in front of the favourite and enjoying some TV before the weekly Stagecoach run for G and M.

It was a lovely week, filled with a little bit of everything – although possibly not quite enough sleep to see us through the next 7 weeks of term until Christmas.

Halloween Pumpkins

Ok, so it might not be Halloween just yet, but I thought I’d share some photos of the pumpkins that Mike and the children have spent time designing and carving over half-term. Halloween has never been a time to celebrate for me and was certainly never a significant time of year when I was growing up. My childhood was spent making a Guy for Bonfire night, rather than carving a pumpkin for Halloween and I never imagined it would become a regular part of our household’s routines. However, 20 years on from when I first met Mike in Canada and experienced trick-or-treating North-American style with my university friends, Halloween has become a family time with the children not only carving pumpkins with Mike, but often also with my Mum during half-term.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of Halloween at all. We don’t go trick-or-treating with the children, though I absolutely support the work of the Teal Pumpkin Project which encourages households to provide non-food treats as a safe alternative to sweets for allergy children, so they can be a part of the experience alongside their friends. And I spend most of the week leading up to the day itself in an increasingly dark mood as October 31st is the anniversary of losing my Dad. It is always a difficult time of year for me, but I’m glad that the children are able to enjoy some fun time being creative with Mike and carving the pumpkins helps them celebrate their dual heritage in a unique way.




Giving young people a voice

ypfI mentioned a couple of months ago that G has been invited to become part of the GOSH Young People’s Forum, or YPF as it’s more readily known. When I wrote that post, she was just about to attend her first meeting and was excited to see what the YPF was all about. For those of you who perhaps can’t quite remember the finer details, it’s a group of approximately 40 young people aged between 11-25, who are all either current patients at GOSH, previous GOSH patients or siblings of patients. As well as being one of the youngest in the group, G is, I believe, unique in that she is the only member who is the sibling of an existing GOSH patient, which makes her comments valuable coming, as they do, from a completely different viewpoint.

The purpose of the YPF is to improve the services provided by GOSH to their young patients, whether inpatients or outpatients and focusing on the teenage patients in particular. It is very much a two-way process, with the hospital asking for input on important issues or developments that are happening on-site as well as the YPF members developing their own projects to improve the experiences of patients and their families. man-speaker-1Members get involved in all aspects of hospital life from inspections such as the PLACE assessment and providing valuable feedback on projects planned by hospital staff, to writing content for the TeenGOSH community webpages and helping design areas of the hospital such as the reception area, which was redeveloped in 2014. You can read more about what the YPF members have been up to through their blog here.

The Forum meets 6 times a year at the hospital and each meeting lasts for the full day, with lunch and snacks provided by the GOSH catering team. They have been brilliant at providing safe food for G, although there are still a few glitches to iron out such as making sure her lunch arrives at the same time as everyone else’s. The 2 meetings that G has attended so far have been extremely different, but overall her experience has been good and she’s keen to continue her involvement with the YPF for the time being. At her most recent meeting – the minutes of which you can find here – they really did cover a whole range of different aspects of hospital life. G has now become something of an expert on the subject of the recruitment process and was able to share what they had been told about the different areas that needed to be covered when GOSH is looking to recruit new members of staff. A professional photographer went along to take photos for the new publicity campaign to raise awareness of the YPF and its role within the hospital and G is looking forward to seeing which photos are chosen for the final published materials. They were also lucky enough to go on a couple of tours of some little known areas of GOSH, including the various sacred places that provide spiritual support for those families from a number of your-halloween-party-2014-in-paris-sizel-161421-649-420different religions and a sneak peek at the Morgan Stanley Garden that was displayed at the Royal Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year. The particular highlight for G was the discussions held around arrangements for the teenage attendees of this year’s Halloween and Christmas parties and she had great fun inventing gory names for the food on offer at Halloween.

Cheese and Onion Skin flakes anyone?

Teal Pumpkin Project™ 2015

My first real experience of Halloween came during my time as a student at Ottawa University back in the 1990s, when my Canadian friends took pity on a poor uninitiated Brit and introduced me to what is truly an unmissable event on the North American calendar. Every shop has a vast array of costumes to choose from, porches are adorned with carved pumpkins galore, houses are bedecked in lights and decorations to rival those put up for Christmas and entire neighbourhoods take to the streets on the night itself, pillowcases in hand, to offer the traditional “..trick-or-treat..” to the eager participants. Likewise, G and M have fond memories of their own P1000386Canadian Halloween experiences with cousins and friends and their outfits are still hanging up in M’s costume wardrobe as a permanent memento. It was, understandably, a big part of Mike’s childhood, but is not an occasion I ever remember marking in my own upbringing and at home, here in the UK, I can’t quite reconcile myself to the idea of sending my children out in their ghoulish fancy dress to knock on random houses in our village to ask for treats, when, for the other 364 days of the year, I’m drilling into them the mantra to not accept sweets from strangers. Whilst we might not be avid Halloween fans in our household, I know it is a custom that is becoming more and more popular around the country.

Of course, for children with food allergies, trick-or-treating takes on a whole new meaning as frighteningly they risk their health by collecting sweets that could unwittingly trigger an allergic reaction. This year in particular, I am glad that my children have no expectations of going out on Halloween as with M’s slim pickings when it comes to safe foods, I would have to take away every single sweet he was given and swap it for a M-friendly alternative; and would have to do exactly the same to protect G from her allergies too. However, thanks to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in the USA, a relatively new campaign helps raise awareness of food allergies during Halloween season, seeks to ease parental concerns, promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters and asks households to pledge to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project™.teal-pumpkin-project-allergy-friendly-Halloween

This national campaign was launched in 2014 and saw households from 50 states and 7 countries get involved in the Teal Pumpkin Project™ and FARE is hoping that this year an even bigger movement will happen with a target 100,000 households pledging to take part. The idea is simple and incredibly effective: if a household is prepared to provide non-food treats for any trick-or-treaters likely to call, they are asked to paint a pumpkin teal and place it in pride of place in front of their home. Their website also has a free printable sign to indicate there are non-food treats available, which can be downloaded here. Even though this initiative was originally launched in the USA, the project has gone viral through the various social media platforms and allergy parents around the globe are making the pledge for this October 31st.

So, what can you do to be involved? It’s easy, it really, really is and if you’re planning to actively celebrate Halloween this year, I would ask you to please consider taking part:PTPP-2

  • Don’t just buy sweets to hand out from your door, but take a little time to consider those who can’t enjoy these treats and buy some non-food treats for them too. The treats don’t have to be expensive: trading cards, stickers, glowsticks or stationery will all be gratefully received, so visit your local pound or dollar store and see what your money can buy
  • Once you have your non-food treats, paint your pumpkin teal and put it out where it can be seen. There will be many who won’t understand the significance, but trust me when I say almost every allergy parent will know and will appreciate your effort
  • Visit the FARE website and print out one of their posters or signs to put up in your windows to make it clear you’re taking part in this year’s Teal Pumpkin Project™
  • Take the pledge via the FARE website and encourage your family and friends to do the same

And remember, your involvement could make a big difference and ultimately save the life of a child like M.