The Great Easter Egg Hunt

Easter is always a tricky time for those suffering from food allergies, but there are some great options out there if you know where to look.  The selection for those who are dairy-free has improved and increased over the past 5 years and several of the leading supermarket chains now stock some of these alongside their “normal” counterparts.  My findings and recommendations for future Easters (as it’s probably a little late for this year now!) include:

Choices Dairy Free Easter Egg With White Chocolate ButtonsChoices Dairy-Free White Chocolate Easter Egg

 

 

 

KinnertonKinnerton Dairy Free Easter Egg     

 

  • Dairy, wheat, gluten and egg-free
  • Price: £4.99
  • Available from:  Sainsburys; Freefromforkids.co.uk; Tesco; Morrisons

 

 

 

 

SainsburysSainsburys Freefrom Easter Egg

  • Dairy, wheat, gluten and egg-free
  • Price: £2.99
  • Available from:  Sainsburys

 

 

chococoChococo Dark Chocolate Eggs

  • Dairy, wheat, gluten and egg-free
  • Price: £9.50+
  • Available from:  John Lewis; Chococo
  • Also available as Ginger, Honeycombe

NB – these are not guaranteed dairy-free as they are produced in a factory that also handles dairy chocolate, but a good alternative if you’re able to manage the risk

 

As always when it comes to M, our challenge for Easter is a little trickier.  Not only do we have to seek out a dairy- and soya-free option, but, due to his hypersensitivity, we also have to avoid any chocolate alternative that contains soya lecithin.  This isn’t an easy find, but I have discovered these few that are suitable, fun and delicious too:

 

moo freeMoo Free Organic Dairy Free Easter Egg

  • Dairy, wheat, gluten, soya and egg-free
  • Price: £3.49 – £7.09
  • Available from:  Sainsburys; Freefromforkids.co.uk; Alternativestores.com; Goodnessdirect.co.uk
  • Also available in Bunnycomb or sold in sets with a soft toy

 

 

maoamMaoam Pinballs Eggsplosions

  • Dairy, wheat, gluten, soya and egg-free
  • Price: £2.49
  • Available from: Freefromforkids.co.uk

 

 

hariboHaribo

  • Dairy, wheat, gluten, soya and egg-free
  • Price: £4.00
  • Available from: Waitrose

 

 

In years past, we have also opted not to buy Easter Eggs of any description, instead choosing small gifts such as books, crafts and even gardening equipment one year.  Whatever your choice, I hope you find your “perfect” egg and enjoy a marvellous Easter!

 

Oh la la, the ultimate baking challenge

Courtesy of theguardian.com

Courtesy of theguardian.com

Two weeks ago, G and M came home from school bursting with details of their up and coming MFL Day – a day to experience more about the Modern Foreign Languages they both learn at school.  Not content with themed craft activities, dance lessons and extra language practice on the day itself, school naturally decided a food treat would be an ideal extra for the day too.  G and the rest of Years 5 and 6 would be baking and then tasting their efforts in school, whereas M and the others in Years 3 and 4 were simply going to enjoy eating a shop-bought version. The teachers couldn’t decide on an easy, Spanish treat, so the whole school would try a French delicacy instead.

Just when I thought baking couldn’t get any harder, I was presented with the ultimate baking challenge – chocolate croissants!

It was relatively easy to accommodate G’s dietary needs for the day as she is only wheat- and dairy-free.  G could participate in the French cookery lesson, where the children were using supermarket croissant dough and milk chocolate to create their masterpieces, but rather than eating her own creation, G would give hers to her teacher and instead enjoy one of the marvellous Genius gluten-free Pains au chocolat that I had tracked down in our local Tesco. We hadn’t tried these before, but G assures me that they were absolutely delicious and she can’t wait to enjoy them again.

croissants

M, naturally, was a completely different story.  School had agreed that I could provide a M-friendly chocolate bar as an alternative to the chocolate croissants the rest of his class would be enjoying, but I wanted to see if I could bake an equivalent for him to eat.  Had I realised just how much work was involved in making these French delicacies, I might not have even entertained the thought, but having researched a recipe, I thought I’d give it a go.  M has been finding things tough recently and I didn’t want him to feel even more different from his classmates.  I was determined to attempt an edible and reasonably delicious safe version of chocolate croissants.

The original recipe I found was a vegan one and needed a little tweaking to allow for M’s current wheat- and gluten-exclusions.  I replaced the plain flour with rice flour and took the decision to not add xanthum gum this time round.  The croissant dough that resulted was difficult to work and I found it nearly impossible to perform the “laminating” process that is required when making this specialised pastry,   20140328_082805 (1) I will no doubt attempt these again and will play around with my recipe to include xanthum gum to see if I can achieve the perfect consistency needed for this dough.  I added the chocolate, baked the croissants and was pleasantly surprised at just how authentic my first attempt looked.

However, whilst the end result was not quite as I had imagined it, M was delighted that I had managed to produce a reasonable croissant and declared it an immediate hit.  At the end of the day, I got the result I was after, one happy boy!

 

Mothers’ Day Wishes

flowersmum

After a busy, but beautiful day spent with my Mum, Mike and my 2 wonderful children, this is just a short message to wish all Mums out there a very special Mothers’ Day.  Today has been a day to celebrate the joy of motherhood and perhaps even forget, for a few hours at least, the tough times that inevitably arrive too.  Whilst it’s not Mothers’ Day in Canada until May, we send heartfelt Mothers’ Day wishes to my mother-in-law, A, today.

mothersday

My Mum has been my rock over the last 10 years and has travelled every step of our journey with us.  She has been irreplaceable, offering support in whatever way we’ve needed it – making trips to London for hospital appointments when Mike hasn’t been able to; looking after G on the numerous hospital visits and stays we make each year; and giving Mike and me a much-needed break from time to time too.  She’s always there, holding my hand and offering emotional support when things get difficult and she’s certainly not afraid to offer some straight-talking advice whenever she feels it’s necessary.

Mum, I just want to say a big thank you and I love you very much.

And that’s a wrap

cookery

I don’t know about you, but I frequently find that mealtimes can get a bit repetitive, especially when we’ve had to cut yet another staple from M’s diet.  Much as I love to cook and bake, sometimes I really, really hate having to decide what to prepare for dinner.  Add into the mix the need for packed lunches on a daily basis, which are generally formed of the same key ingredients due to a restricted diet and I end up pulling my hair out in desperation.  M’s recent longing for a prawn mayonnaise sandwich meant that I had to seek inspiration and work out whether it was possible to create something even vaguely similar or not.

prawnsThe easy bit, believe it or not, was the prawn mayonnaise.  Using a squirt of some Really Not Dairy original mayonnaise, a dash of Heinz tomato ketchup and a generous serving of prawns, I was able to whip up a reasonable prawn cocktail. I diced a chunk of cucumber, grated some carrot and threw a handful of sweetcorn in to add a couple of portions of vegetables to the filling too.  This mayonnaise is egg-, dairy- and soya-free and tastes more like salad cream than traditional mayonnaise, but it does the job and has been a great find for M.

Next came the more challenging aspect, the bread.  G is able to enjoy Genius bread, which is the best gluten- and wheat-free bread we’ve tried, but unfortunately it contains both egg white and potato starch which are now excluded from M’s diet. 20140317_171113 M’s sandwiches are usually made from Sakata rice crackers as his bread is really only edible when toasted, but these are small and don’t lend themselves to being a critical part of a prawn mayonnaise sandwich!  Mike and I both enjoy eating wraps, either for lunch or filled and baked for a Mexican inspired dinner and at last year’s Allergy and Free From show we stumbled across the amazing Bfree gluten-free wraps.  These taste delicious and both children enjoyed them whilst we had some.  Unfortunately, they are incredibly difficult to source in the UK, though most larger Asda stores do stock them now and I headed to our nearest shop with my fingers tightly crossed to see if they were available.

Part of my regular shopping routine, even when buying foods that I’ve bought before, is to scan quickly through the ingredients list for anything that isn’t M-friendly.  Recipes do change, even on tried and tested products, so it’s worth those few extra minutes to avoid days or even weeks of pain because of a missed offending food.  To my dismay, I noted that the wraps contained potato starch, which is now a forbidden food for M and I thought my chances of buying a good alternative to satisfy M’s cravings were over.  I went home and even attempted to make some M-friendly wraps, but the rice flour didn’t lend itself to the recipe and the kids understandably turned their noses up at the finished product that was presented to them.

20140317_170320It was a couple of weeks later when I was in our local Waitrose, that I spied a new-to-me package on their free-from shelves, Newburn Bakehouse gluten-free wraps.  I picked it up to cast my eye over the ingredients, fully expecting to find either egg or potato flour or both lurking there, but to my delight, this new product contained nothing that wasn’t M-friendly and I quickly snapped up the remaining pack to take home and try.

I prepared M’s lunch using one of the Newburn Bakehouse wraps and a generous spoonful of my home-made prawn mayonnaise and called him to the table.  He was overwhelmed to see his much longed-for sandwich waiting for him and made short work of devouring it all.  He relished every bite and, what’s more, requested a second wrap, something that doesn’t happen all that often in our household.  The wraps looked and tasted good and, with 3 to a pack, there was enough left for his school lunchbox on Monday.  Both M and I award them with a much-deserved 10 out of 10 – a great product, delicious to eat and suitable for a MEWS-diet, what more could a Mum ask for?

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What a performance!

honkM’s love for the performing arts is something I can really relate to, having spent most of my formative years loving nothing more than singing, dancing and acting whenever possible. Both he and G regularly attend our local Stagecoach theatre school and have not only grown in confidence, but have also developed skills that will stand them in good stead in whatever career path they choose to follow.  G is not a natural performer, but her continued hard work, dedication and determination to be the best she can, has seen her win the lead role of “Ugly” in this term’s performance of the musical, “Honk”.  This isn’t a musical I’m familiar with and I’m looking forward to seeing the chosen extract in a few weeks’ time with my daughter in the starring role.  If her enthusiasm is anything to go by, it will be a fantastic experience.

G has also been spending time focusing on her clarinet and has two big events coming up over the next few months.  The first takes place at the end of March and that’s her Grade 1 clarinet exam.  She has been practising at home as well as at school and I delighted that she is confident enough to take the exam.  Secondly, she is once again performing in our local education authority’s music concert, which brings together instrumentalists from across the county to perform at a local music venue.  She loved doing it last year and is looking forward to playing in it soon.  G has had several pieces of music to learn for these occasions, but she’s determined to perform well at both and is working hard at perfecting the music as best she can.

Courtesy of swanwickhall.derbyshire.sch.uk

Courtesy of swanwickhall.derbyshire.sch.uk

M, on the other hand, was born to be on the stage and demonstrates a natural flair and understanding for direction in his classes.  He loves to take any and every opportunity to perform that comes his way.  It provides him with a focus away from his ill-health and he has had to develop a stamina to perform, no matter how his body is behaving.  After all, as we all know, “the show must go on“.  M is passionate about the stage and would love nothing more than a career on it; but he is also surprisingly realistic that not everyone can succeed and has talked extensively about what other opportunities the theatre could offer him in the future.

Over the last few months, two amazing opportunities have come M’s way and it’s been great to see him keen and able to make the most of both of them.  The first was offered by the Ellen Kent Opera Company, who were looking for child extras to be part of two operas they were performing at our local theatre and approached M’s Stagecoach school to find them. M was, unsurprisingly, desperate to be involved and was selected as 1 of 4 children who would perform a special dance during the performance of Aida.  He had 5 half-hour training sessions to learn the routine and the small group then had just one run through on stage with the orchestra on the evening of the performance itself.  We were nervous as to how M would cope with the extra rehearsals, his nerves and the stamina required, especially given how poorly he was in the run up to Christmas; but we needn’t have worried.

IMG_2334

Like the consummate professional he aspires to become, M worked hard, remained focused and gave a fantastic performance on the night.  The prospect of dancing on a “real” stage in front of a full house (approx. 2,000 people) didn’t phase him at all and we were all so proud to see him shine.  He stayed true to his character of a child slave in Ancient Egypt throughout his time on stage and Mike, my Mum and I all commented that we have never seen him remain so still and so focused for so long in his life.  It was our first experience of opera and we all enjoyed it, even G, who has asked to go and see another one in the future.

oliverIn contrast to this professional production, M has also been working on a local am-dram production of hit musical, “Oliver!”.  He is playing the part of “Nipper”, the cheeky youngest member of Fagin’s Gang, a part that, quite frankly, was made for him.  He takes part in every rehearsal with gusto, even though there have been occasions when he has been crying in pain less than 2 hours earlier.  I am amazed at how much M’s determination to succeed in this role has over-ridden any feelings of pain and discomfort that have been haunting him earlier in the day.  He has picked up the songs and dance routines quickly and now, as the final few weeks of rehearsals are ahead, he’s working on perfecting them as much as possible.

I am so proud of both our young performers and am looking forward to watching them doing something that they so obviously enjoy over the next few weeks.

Another birthday celebration

Guess what?

Today marks the first birthday of this blog.

First birthday

It seems unbelievable that I have spent 12 months writing about our experiences over the last 8 years and sharing our struggles, our successes and more than a few recipes to boot.  We’ve had our highs and our lows, but with the support of our family, our friends, medical professionals and other bloggers we know we can keep on going.  When I started the blog I wanted to be able to share the story of M’s life and our fight to get a diagnosis for him and the best care and support we could.  My aim was to raise awareness of this rare and little known condition and I always said that if I managed to make a difference to just one other person who was living our experiences, then I would be more than happy.  Amazingly in the last couple of months, I’ve received kind messages that have told me that I have achieved that goal.

A few statistics to share about the last year:

  • Date of first post:                          March 13th 2013
  • Number of blog posts written:    95
  • Number of “followers”:                297
  • Most popular post:                       To whom it may concern
  • Total views of that post:               220
  • Highest number of hits:               165 in one day
  • Number of recipes shared:          27
  • Most popular recipe:                    The best chocolate cake ever
  • Total number of comments:        218
  • Total number of views:                 7,867

As ever, we’ve no idea what lies ahead for M, for G or for us as a family, but the one thing I do know is that I will continue to share our journey with you and every development as it happens.

Our birthday boy

Over the past few days, we’ve been celebrating young Master M’s 8th birthday.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long since he first crashed into our world and whilst the time hasn’t been easy, it certainly has flown past fast.  The last 8 years have been filled with a lot of laughs and smiles and it’s exciting to see just how our “little bean” is growing up.  Obviously, we’ve had a lot of health worries along the way – this blog wouldn’t exist without them – but those haven’t overshadowed the joy and good times of having M as part of our family.

  SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

M has become a little boy with a big personality.  Like most other boys of his age, he loves everything Lego, Star Wars and Angry Birds and is a keen member of our local under-8s football team, where he can be found most Saturdays running around the pitch and even occasionally kicking the football.  He loves discovering new things and although he’s not the most academic of children, his passion for new facts, knowledge of the world and probing questions have been flummoxing his teachers for years.  M does struggle due to his dyslexia and dyspraxia, but the strides he has made since we got the diagnosis last year are amazing and he never lets them stop him being an active participant in class. He enjoys school now more than I ever thought possible and is keen to get there each morning to spend the day with his friends.

DSC02717He adores his big sister and even though he spends most of his spare time planning new ways to wind her up, he will be the first to leap to her defense or comfort her when she’s upset.  He will go off to search for a scrap of her “rag” when she’s in tears, though he will also hide it from her when he’s in one of “those” moods.  They love nothing more than playing together in the garden and enjoyed most of the weekend’s sun by washing my car with M’s brand new super-soaker.

P1010012Perhaps more unusual is his flair for all things theatrical.  M has never been backwards in coming forwards and I have photos of him stepping up to perform karaoke age 4.  He loves to perform and is always looking for the next opportunity to do so.  His current favourite musical is “Singing in the Rain”, though he’d probably also mention “Lion King”, “Matilda” and “Oliver!” in no particular order.  M has a dedicated dressing-up wardrobe and has fancy dress to meet every occasion.  No matter what character you’re looking for: be it “Odlaw” from Where’s Wally, “Bert” the chimney sweep from “Mary Poppins” or the “Ringmaster” from “Ninja Meerkats”; I can guarantee that M will have already been there and worn that!

When it comes to coping with his EGID and his diet, M is a trooper.  He takes his medicines with the minimum of fuss and accepts the food restraints with relative good humour.  He’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, far from it, and really struggles at times with frustration and anger that this is his lot in life.  Yet he nearly always bounces back and keeps going with a positive attitude.  The latest challenge of no potatoes has been one of the hardest M has had to face and he has really found it difficult to accept that he might have to avoid them longer term; but even he has had to agree that things have improved since we whipped them out of mealtimes and is now hoping that our next GOSH appointment will bring a food trial instead.

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To celebrate in true style, I once again attempted to bake the double and created 2 cakes for M to enjoy – one for our family dinner and one for him to share with his friends at his party. The first he chose from my cupcake decorating book and the second was inspired by G and M’s current passion for all things “Despicable Me”.  It took two long and extremely late nights, but I achieved my goal, was pleased with the results and, more importantly, so was the birthday boy himself.

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