Tag Archives: Treats

Channelling Creativity – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 13

When writing my blog posts, I usually find that inspiration will hit for the next during the writing process, although I do occasionally find myself scrabbling around for ideas to develop and explore. This post is the result of one such experience. The truth about the last 13 weeks for most of us is that one week has very much been like another. In our household, weekdays have, and continue to involve, getting up and ready for the day, heading downstairs for work or homeschooling, some venturing out for water, lunch and copious amounts of coffee and eventually the end of the day, for me at least.

Evenings are time for family, daily exercise and bed. Weekends vary a little with no work and much longer walks with the children, but the truth is, there isn’t necessarily a lot of new and exciting things to share with anyone most of the time.

However, the one thing we have been doing is spending time developing some new skills and channelling the creativity hiding inside. With no choir rehearsals, sports or performing arts going on, it’s been really important to find other ways to spend our free time. As I’ve mentioned before, M has been honing his photography skills in preparation of starting his GCSE syllabus next year, whilst both he and G have been choosing to bake different treats every couple of weeks, which have been delicious to taste-test afterwards. G also decided that she wanted to share her joy of dancing with our community as a whole, so every lunchtime, 6 days a week, she goes out for an hour’s exercise and dances her way through our village.

I have also been feeding my inner creativity by learning to knit, a skill that both my Dad and my Gran first shared with me as a child and something I’ve long been tempted to revisit. Someone in our village offered some “How to Knit” kits near to the start of lockdown and whilst I don’t think I’ll be winning any awards for the end results, it’s been fun to relearn how to do it. And thanks to the discovery of a box of brand-new baby clothes and other paraphenalia from a few years ago hiding in the study, I’ve spent a few hours creating some baby bouquets and clothes bundles. With the help of one of the ward sisters, we’ve been able to donate these to

the NICU at our local hospital, somewhere that looked after both G and M at the very start of their lives. G helped out here as well, by making some beautiful hand-drawn congratulations postcards to accompany each bundle. It was fab to not only flex my creative muscles once again, but to also work with G to create something beautiful we could share with others in our community.

Back to the Judging table

Today Mike and I have enjoyed what feels like a rare day off together. We’re away from work, away from home and away from the constant complexities of parenting 2 children with an interesting selection of food allergies between them. Instead, we have been privileged to spend the day in London as part of the judging panel for the Free From Food Awards 2017 (#FFFA17). You may remember that last year saw my debut in this exciting role and, thanks to the generosity of my Mum in providing some invaluable childcare and the need for a “normal” person in the selected groups of tasters, Mike was able to join me in the experience. It was last year’s involvement that kicked of an exciting year of opportunities for us all: from discovering our very own set of superheroes including the wonderful Ryan of Borough 22 to attending the Awards ceremony with a broken leg; not forgetting the introduction of GalaxyGazer and Marvin to their own readership and my involvement with the Free From Eating Out Awards 2016 – gosh, what a busy year it has been!

Our day started off a little later img_13641than normal with the “Meaty and Fishy Ready Meals” category. I enjoyed some of the new products that I discovered when judging this round last year, though was disappointed to find it difficult to find some of my favourites once the Awards were over. I was looking forward to seeing what new products I would uncover this year, especially seeking out anything suitable for G. Much as I enjoy cooking and usually prepare all our meals from scratch, I love finding those quick alternatives that will make busy evenings just the tiny bit easier. There were some great foods on offer, including a delicious gluten-free quiche from Asda, some highly contentious coronation chicken sausages and a great selection of microwave-able meals. To my delight, I came across 3 dishes that I thought were absolutely amazing and would be more than happy to buy for G. The first were the most delicious Sweet Quebec sausages from Slightly Different Foods. All foods are initially judged blind so that our opinions are not unduly influenced by any preconceived ideas img_13671about any of the suppliers or manufacturers of these products. I was thrilled to discover after the tasting who had made these sausages as we had stumbled across this company at last year’s Allergy and FreeFrom Show and our lengthy and enthusiastic conversation with owners, Sonia and Steve, evidently encouraged them to submit an entry to this year’s Awards. The sausages contain that classic Canadian combination of bacon and maple syrup and are bursting with flavour. I have no doubt that G will absolutely love them and the simplicity of the ingredients makes them a great choice for many with food allergies.

Next was a fantastic Chicken Tikka Masala with rice, which was unexpectedly manufactured by Pure, better known for their range of dairy-free alternatives to normal margarine. I had absolutely no idea that they made other free-from foods and this curry was beautifully fresh with a great selection of vegetables and even some quinoa included in its list of ingredients. Finally was my run-away favourite, a beef casserole with dumplings from Tesco, which is gluten-, dairy- and egg-free. The meat was tender, the gravy rich and the dumplings a surprise bonus on an already superb ready meal. I’m not convinced that G would choose either of these 2 options for an evening meal, but I would be more than happy to serve her both.

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Merlin’s Magic Wand

Most of you will know the company Merlin Entertainments, who own and run attractions around the UK such as Alton Towers, the London Eye, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds, to name but a few; but how many are aware of their linked charity, Merlin’s Magic Wand? It’s certainly not an organisation I’d ever heard of and knew nothing about until the start of 2015. This charitable organisation was set up in 2008 by Merlin Entertainments to “…deliver magical experiences to seriously ill, disabled and disadvantaged children across the world…” and focus their work in 2 main areas:

  • Magical Days Out at Merlin attractions – over 170, 000 children and their families have been able to enjoy a memorable day out through the provision of entrance tickets and, where necessary, travel grants
  • Taking the Magic to the children – recognising that some children are unable to visit due to the nature of their illnesses or disabilities, Merlin has provided areas such as a “Fantastical Castle play area” in the CHASE Hospice, Guildford and a “Legoland play area” at the Kolding Sygehus Children’s Hospital in Billund, Denmark.

At the start of this year, not long after we’d arrived back home following M’s stay in GOSH for his NG-tube and elemental diet, I heard about Merlin’s Magic Wand and decided to investigate a little further. I wasn’t confident whether M would even be eligible for tickets or not, but thanks to their incredibly informative and easy to navigate website, 20150831_073635I decided to give it a go, working on the principle of nothing ventured, nothing gained. Both children are massive fans of Legoland Windsor and had been clamouring for a visit this year, so I selected that as our number 1 choice and, without saying a word to either of them, sent back the form and sat back to wait and see.

Within a couple of weeks of submitting my application form on-line, I had an e-mail to tell me we had been successful and that 4 entrance tickets would soon be winging their way to me. Unfortunately, a slight delay in their arrival meant we couldn’t use them for our Star Wars trip on May 4th, but the problems were soon resolved, the tickets arrived and I pinned them to our kitchen noticeboard, waiting for the right time to put them to good use. A busy summer has meant that finding that right time to go proved more challenging than we expected and we finally settled on the August bank holiday Monday as something of a “last hurrah” for our summer holidays and before G started her new venture of secondary school.

We set off early on that Monday morning, driving through the pouring rain, confident that, if nothing else, the park would not be too busy, or, at least, not as busy as it might have been if there’d been glorious sunshine. Our travels to Florida last year alerted us to the existence of ride access passes and we were delighted that the same exist at Legoland Windsor. Armed with a letter from our GP confirming the reasons we needed this pass, we headed to guest services as soon as we entered the park. 20150831_114557This is a “benefit” that has obviously been subject to some abuse over the years and Legoland Windsor has stringent checks in place to ensure that only those who genuinely need this assistance receive it.

Our day there was as fantastic as ever and we enjoyed all of our favourite rides (some of them twice!) as well as trying out the brand new Mia’s Riding Adventure, one that G was desperate to go on. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted and there was a slightly panicked moment when we discovered that M’s body-weight wasn’t quite enough to keep the seat back in a comfortable, but secure position for him ride. With some excellent help from the staff manning the ride, we managed to get M settled in a position that allowed him to breathe before the ride started and the screams from my excited duo began. 20150831_100610Mike watched from the sidelines as he and spinning rides really don’t get along and waved merrily to us, slightly misconstruing my attempts to flag a staff member down to help as an unusual display of my own excitement about the ride.

Disappointingly we are no longer able to eat on-site as we’ve found that the cross-contamination is too much for M’s sensitive digestive system to cope with and instead we enjoyed a rather soggy packed lunch, whilst watching both shows – the Pirates of Skeleton Bay and Lego Friends to the Rescue. The children were also able to be part of the audience volunteers at the start of each show, which they loved and which has become an integral part of any day we spend at Legoland Windsor. All in all, we had an amazing day out thanks to the generosity of Merlin’s Magic Wand. The charity depends on donations to help make these tickets available to those children who benefit from them and if you want to find out more about how you can help or show support, please visit their website:


Chocolate Brownies

After my mammoth bake-off in preparation for our fund-raising cake sale at school just before half-term, I decided to take a break from the kitchen and hang up my oven gloves for a few days.  With the new term looming and having enjoyed a peaceful weekend with G and M, Sunday afternoon found me itching to try a new bake to create an easy treat for the children to enjoy.  My last few sweet treat recipes have been full of sugar, so I wanted to find something delicious, but also a lot healthier than my current favourites.  Browsing on-line,  I stumbled across this recipe for Gluten-free Brownies and decided to use it as a basis for my very own chocolate brownie masterpiece.  I followed the basics, made some necessary tweaks for a M-friendly treat, added a dash of this and a dollop of that, threw the mixture into the oven and kept my fingers crossed for the outcome.


The end result was surprisingly successful and both children have declared it a winner in their eyes.  The brownies were moist, delicious and definitely not overly sweet.  In making this recipe my own, I chose to add dried cranberries and some glace cherries as they were hiding at the back of the cupboard, but you really could add almost any fruit of your choice. This makes them a great way of getting more fruit into your child’s diet, which is a particularly difficult feat when it comes to G.  If you prefer your brownies a little sweeter, then I’m sure that adding a spoonful or two of honey would help.  Whatever your preferences, I’m pleased with my first M-friendly chocolate brownies especially as they mark my first experimentation with creating a recipe of my own.

A little act of thoughtfulness

Garfield and I have a lot in common!

Garfield and I have a lot in common!

I never used to dislike Mondays, but they are rapidly becoming my least favourite day of the week. I’m finding that the weekly treadmill of Monday to Friday work, school and home management is beginning to take its toll.  It’s not that I hate any one element in particular, but put them all together and I find my stress levels soaring.

This week started with a slightly louder bang than usual.  As well as dealing with getting the kids up, showered, dressed and breakfasted before school, I found myself having to make a doctor’s appointment unexpectedly.  Not, as you might well expect, for M, but this time for G. She suffers with eczema on her right arm, which flares in typical eczema fashion, but rarely travels away from the crease of her elbow.  I  have previously noticed that just like me, her eczema flares when she is worried or stressed and had sought a natural remedy to treat the area.


At the Allergy and Freefrom show back in June, I had come across the company Earthbound Organics, who’s highly knowledgeable representative was able to suggest their Chickweed & Calendula cream as a treatment.  It wasn’t a cheap investment – Mike gulped hard when I paid the price – but it sounded like a good, natural remedy for G’s skin irritation.  We’ve been using it as needed since June and have found it brings relief.  I’ve also used it when my own eczema has flared and even daubed it relatively liberally on M’s rash, which was the result of his newly discovered allergy to raspberries.

This weekend, however, G complained that the itching was spreading and when I took a look, I discovered that it had now spread up the length of her arm, under her armpit and was beginning to break out on her left arm too.  I suspected that neither the E45 emollient cream nr the Chickweed & Calendula cream would work this time and so off we headed to our local Medical Centre to see one of the team of GPs after school.  We were there barely 5 minutes, but he agreed with me and quickly prescribed a low dosage hydrocortisone cream to see if that would help.

45 minutes later, we were back home with prescription in tow and a sinking heart as I prepared to tackle that “homework vs. dinner v.s playtime vs. screen-time” argument that seems to break out almost every evening in our household.  It was then that I received my lovely surprise.

M picked the post up from the doormat and passed it to me. It consisted of an Amazon parcel containing my next book for my Book Club and a large silver envelope bearing my name.  I tossed the book to one side and eagerly ripped open the intriguing envelope. Inside, was a card emblazoned with the name of a local beauty salon and I opened it wondering what on earth I would find inside.


What I found was the lovely message you can see above.  An unexpected gift from an old school-friend and her family, who happen to be M’s godparents too.  A special something to treat me, realising that, as is the way of all mothers, I would come bottom of my list of priorities.  A treat to say “Relax” and “Spoil yourself”, when it’s highly unlikely I’d have stopped to take that me-time of my own volition.

A little act of thoughtfulness that let me know that there are people out there thinking of me, supporting me and reminding me to take care of myself as well as the children. Thank you dear friends for taking the time and trouble to show that you care and I promise I’m going to book in that stress-relieving massage before Christmas, even if it kills me!

The Secret of the Swap Box

Well, I couldn't resist just one more memory to celebrate Fathers' Day!

Well, I couldn’t resist just one more memory to celebrate Fathers’ Day!

This weekend has been a lot less manic than the last.  Other than the obligatory Fathers’ Day celebrations on Sunday, we also had 2 very important appointments to keep on Sunday afternoon.  G and M took their very first individual Speech and Drama LAMDA exams.  It’ll be a wait of another 6-8 weeks until we hear the results, but I’m proud of them both for having a go at this new challenge.

So, we’ve spent time playing games, watching TV, doing some homework and enjoying some quiet family time.  We’ve also worked on a project that has become very important to G over the last couple of weeks – her swap box.

This is an idea that was recommended to me about a year ago by a parent at M’s school.  She had overheard a conversation I was having with a fellow Mum about having to anticipate when treats might be given out in class to avoid having to deal with M’s frustration when he couldn’t have one.  She asked if we’d ever thought of providing a Swap box to be kept in the classroom.


I looked at her blankly, listened intently and then wondered why I had never thought of such a simple solution to this problem.  The idea really is an easy one.  We provided a box, decorated by M, that was filled with a selection of sweets, biscuits and other treats that were M-friendly.  Whenever M is given a treat for any reason in the classroom – birthday celebrations, leaving gifts, rewards for good behaviour, Advent chocolates or Easter eggs –  he is allowed to take what he’s been given and swap it for a safe alternative from his box.  This means that he never feels excluded from all that is going on and we can be assured that he isn’t being given any food that could cause an allergic reaction.

I had never considered the need for G to have same, but in the last couple of weeks she has been unable to have caramels or chocolates that have been brought into school to share.  I was hoping to maybe make it to the end of term (well there are only 5 weeks left) and sort G’s swap box over the summer holidays, but alas, that wasn’t to be.  G was adamant that she needed one now and so we found a box and allowed her to decorate it this weekend.  I’ve filled it with a small supply of Haribo sweets, fruit snacks and some M-friendly packets of biscuits and she’s taken it into school this morning to stash with her teacher.



It really is one of the simplest suggestions I’ve come across in dealing with M’s condition and has proven to be invaluable as he has found no need to strop or complain about being different to his friends.  After all, when you’re struggling with quite so many challenges, being able to take part with everyone else is really worth it’s weight in gold.