Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Crate of Nothing

It's been an exciting couple of months in the Gluten and Dairy Free food world.


Well, exciting in that there have been quite a few new products launched by companies like Genius Gluten Free and Dietary Specials to help those on special diets have things to eat that are a bit more 'normal'.


A couple of months ago I received an email from a new company called 'Crate of Nothing' asking if we would be interested in trying out one of their crates. I thought it sounded like such a great idea that I immediately agreed.


Once a month they send out their little boxes of goodies. You can choose either gluten free or gluten and dairy free. We obviously chose the second option and waited until the beginning of the month, which is when they post out the boxes.


Calum (11) was rather chuffed when he came home from school one day to find this box waiting for him, with everything inside it safe for him and Alasdair (4) to eat. David (8), who can, and will, eat anything had his eye on a few things too but I told him that there were enough treats he can eat. These were all for Calum & Alasdair, who so often have to forego treats.



The box contained gluten and dairy free foods that you would be less likely to find in the supermarkets, with the aim of helping out these smaller producers, as well as helping to introduce you to foods you would otherwise not have heard of. It also contained the non perishable measured out ingredients to make some free from Chocolate Brownies, along with the recipe for them.

Of course my little baker Calum had to try these out, and they were the finest Chocoate Brownies I have ever tasted - free from or allergy filled! You can find the recipe for them here. We did make one little change to them and didn't make the chocolate icing to go on top. I thought this might be too chocolatey, even for me, especially as we were using dark chocolate. Instead we finished them off with a dusting of icing sugar


They were still slightly warm when we had them for pudding one night and I may, or may not, have eaten more than two slices in one sitting.


The boxes cost £22.50 for a one off purchase of a box, or £20 if you set up a monthly subscription. Postage is included in the cost. If you think this is a little pricey for a smallish box of food, then you can't be a regular shopper for free from foods. The free from flour I buy costs nearly three times what the ordinary flour I buy costs!


I think the boxes are a great way to widen the food horizons of those on restricted diets.


Or perhaps you yourself might not be on a free from diet but you know of someone who is. If so, then I think a one off box would make a great present for them, either for a birthday or for a 'just because' present. Something a little bit different, and foodie treats are so tricky to buy for free from diets.


There are only a limited number of boxes available each month, and orders are closed now for the boxes being sent out at the beginning of April, but I do recommend having a wee look once ordering is opened up again for the May boxes.




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Another eczema update for Fraser

Fraser still continues to be seen once a week by the dermatologist at our local hospital. It's been our weekly trek since the beginning of the year but I am glad they are taking such good care of him and his skin.
Each week we would go back and there would be little to no improvement. His skin would be swabbed. We would be told his skin showed infection and then he would be put on a course of antibiotics. It would clear a little but then come back again. He would be swabbed again a few weeks later. Another infection. More antibiotics.......and so on.
Last Monday when we were there, the doctor asked for more swabs to be taken and also suggested we try adding a little bit if Milton sterilising solution to his bath. She said that not much research has been done here about it but that studies in the US have shown it to be a great help for children who have repeated skin infections.
So I went straight from our appointment to buy a bottle.
We started adding it to his bath that evening, when his skin still looked like this....




By the end of last week it looked like this....







He still has the redness and the itchiness in patches but the weeping a crusting has gone for the first time since the start of the year.
His scalp had also been completely covered in the scaling a weepy skin and it's so lovely to be able to snuggle up to him without him sticking to you!


I hesitate to say that this is him on the mend, as every other time we have seen an improvement it has only been for a few days before flaring up again. But this is now a week without a flare up and I'm thankful for even that. He has been dropped down a strength of steroid for his face this week and so I'm also a little nervous that the eczema will creep back up because of that.
He is also on another course of antibiotics, a different one, as last week's swabs showed another Strep infection.
Although he has always been remarkably content despite his soreness, this past week we have really seen his little personality shine through.








I'm so pleased for his sake that he has this little window of relief.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Recipe of the Week - Gluten & Dairy Free Onion Rings


This recipe is just basically the batter recipe from last week's recipe with onions in it instead of chicken but it's still worth writing as a separate recipe too as it was such a success!


We found our onion rings were a perfect accompaniment to a plate of homemade chilli.



All you need is:


2 eggs

5-6 tablespoons of cornflour

2 onions

Enough oil for deep frying



- Beat your eggs and add the cornflour to them. Beat until you have a smooth batter. Depending on the size of your eggs, you might need either 5 or 6 tablespoons of the cornflour to make a nice thick batter.

- Slice your onions into rings.

- Heat up the oil until it's really hot, coat the sliced onion in the batter then fry for a few minutes, turning half way.

- Drain the onion rings on some kitchen towel to soak up some of the excess oil.


And that's all there is to it!




Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Little Smiler

I've mentioned before what a sweet nature our littlest man has.


Months of really sore eczema and yet he hardly complains and continues to charm us all with his gummy smiles.


Well today his eczema was looking great and his smile was even bigger than ever!

Look at that twinkle in his eyes.


His skin has cleared a little like this before, only for it to flare up again a few days later so I'm trying not to get my hopes up that it's a long term improvement.



Monday, 17 March 2014

Make it Monday - Calum's Crochet Ripple Blanket

I mentioned in last week's Make it Monday post that Calum (11) has asked me to make him a blanket too.
He wants a stripy blanket so I showed him a granny stripe or a ripple stripe to see which one he preferred.
He chose the ripple and I'm using the ripple pattern from Attic 24, which you can find here.
He also chose the colours himself: a turquoise blue, a lighter blue and an apple green. It's also going to have the occasional cream stripe in there.
He was very concerned that it should be long enough to have a good overhang on his bed and so when I was doing the foundation chain he kept asking me to make it a bit bigger. And a bit more!
Fraser is helping give the scale in the photo below and even though the blanket isn't lying flat, you can see that it will certainly be nice and wide for him.


The Attic 24 pattern is really easy to follow, with lots of clear pictures for those who are more visual learners.
Sticking with Calum, here's another make.
His class had organised a Bake Sale at school last week and this was his contribution.


Rainbow cupcakes. Made entirely by himself.




James (14) was calling them 'play dough cupcakes' but that didn't stop him from wolfing down the ones that Calum left at home!


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Recipe of the Week - Chinese Style Lemon Chicken {Gluten free & Dairy free}


I've been meaning to share this recipe for weeks now as I was so excited when I discovered how to make this fabulous gluten free batter. In fact, since first making this dish I have been on the lookout for other things to cover in batter and deep fry. Yes, I know that sounds very like I'm falling into the stereotyped Scot deep frying Mars bars. Don't worry, I haven't gone that far! I have, however, made some rather lovely onion rings using the following batter recipe. But more of that in another post, as I fear I am digressing too much and still not getting round to this recipe!


I first tried out this dish the weekend of Chinese New Year, when I thought it would be fun to have our own wee Chinese style banquet. Chinese takeaways aren't much of an option with all the allergies in our house, and this homemade version also has the benefit of being much, much cheaper!


Oh, it was so delicious!


There are three bits to this - the marinade, the batter and the sauce - but don't let that put you off as they are all really straightforward.

Firstly the marinade:


1tbsp sherry

1tbsp wheat free soy sauce

Juice of 1 lemon

And then add about

2lbs chicken breast, chopped,

Leave to marinate for about 20 minutes. You can just leave it to marinade while you get on with mixing everything else together.


Now for the batter:


Whisk together

2 eggs

6 tablespoons of cornflour


And finally the sauce:


Mix together

5 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

Juice of half a lemon

One lemon, sliced

100ml hot water


Now to put all the bits together.

- In a pan with a lid (I use our wok for this) heat up enough vegetable oil to deep fry your chicken pieces. Or you could use a deep drier if you have one.

- Lift your chicken pieces out of the marinade and cost in the batter then deep fry them in very hot oil until they are a golden colour. You will need to turn them to get the colour on both sides. It's also best to cook them in batches rather than trying to tip the whole lot in at once!

- Tip the cooked chicken pieces into a dish lined with kitchen towel to soak up some of the excess fat!

- While you are batch frying the chicken, in another pan pour in your sauce ingredients and gently heat up.

- Once all of your chicken is cooked, pour the sauce over the top. You could serve it up straight away but if you pop it in a moderate oven for about 10-15 minutes the sauce kind of soaks into the chicken and gives it even more flavour.

- Serve with fried rice and prawn crackers.


To make our fried rice I cooked our usual amount of rice. While it was draining I fried a chopped onion, added a few handfuls of frozen peas ( if you have no egg allergies you could also crack in an egg or two at this point) then tipped in the cooked rice. Add a few shakes of your gluten free soy sauce and mix it all together well.


Et voila! or whatever the Manderin equivalent is.




Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Everything for Eczema

Sweet little Fraser has been continuing with his struggle with eczema.


Some days it is worse than others, for no apparent reason.



Despite how sore his skin is, his little personality remains as content and patient as ever.






Since the start of the year he has been seen weekly by dermatology while they try and get his eczema under control. Every time we go to the hospital he is full of smiles for the nurses and doctors. In fact, wherever we go he is full of smiles for people!


One of the most important things that helps him just now, apart from his creams and ointments, are little mitts. When the eczema itch starts it's hard enough to tell someone old enough to understand that they shouldn't scratch! The itchiness of eczema is such that no matter how much you scratch it, the itch doesn't go away. And the scratching just goes on and on until the skin bleeds. Then the risk of infection is greater, which makes the itch worse and it's just one big vicious circle.


Over our years of living with eczema we have tried out quite a few products. Recently I discovered the website Everything For Eczema. As well as selling lots of innovative products for those living with eczema they also have a blog with information, tips and links to help you out. It was set up by a mum of a little one with eczema and many of the products have also been developed by parents of children with eczema.


When James (14) was small I used to sew mitts onto his sleep suits to stop them falling off at night or him pulling them off. But it's not just at bed time that they are useful, especially on a baby. And I don't want to keep mitts on Fraser all day long as he loves to chew on his fingers and thumb.





I was offered the chance to try out these little mitts from Everything for Eczema called Guava Mitts.



They have little Velcro straps to help keep them from slipping off or being pulled off. The Velcro is a soft Velcro and so if it opens accidentally your wee one can't use it as an extra thing to scratch with! The mitts are made from a mix of bamboo and cotton, so no nasty fabrics involved, and have bright colourful patterns on them. The patterned bits also flip over to a different pattern if you fancy a change too.


I've been using these on Fraser for a couple of months now and find them very useful. I keep a pair in the nappy bag if we are going out anywhere and then if he gets itchy I pop them on him. They are also extremely handy for night time when he is wearing sleep suits that don't have fold over mitts on them.


I did find that the Velcro lost a bit of its stickiness but that was because it had gathered a few bits and pieces of fluff in it from the washing machine and tumble drier, and once I had cleaned the fluff out they were back to sticking together nicely again.


We were also sent some lovely Chickweed & Calendula Cream to try out.


It's made with all natural ingredients and, unlike so many of these sorts of creams that I've found in the past, it doesn't contain Almond Oil as it's base oil, which is great in our nut allergy house.


Alasdair (4) has really enjoyed putting this cream on his hands. He likes the smell of it and likes to put it on all by himself.


The cream is non greasy, absorbed really well into the skin and has a lovely subtle smell. Alasdair says that it doesn't sting his cuts and he likes the fact that it doesn't leave his hands all slimy like his other creams do! I like the fact that he will put it on himself (he's really not a fan of putting cream on throughout the day) and that it is made of such pure ingredients.


I've yet to persuade the older eczema boys to try it out. The though of a flowery cream seems to have put them off a bit but I'll persuade them yet. Or if I don't, then Alasdair will!


If you are living with eczema, especially if you have a child with it, then I highly recommend popping over to Everything for Eczema and having a look around. Once you start reading the information stories you might find yourself staying there for longer than planned, like I did! They have more for children than adults at the moment but are hoping to add to their range in the future.


And very appropriately for this post, I've written most of it with one hand, holding Fraser with the other arm as he rests up on my shoulder and rubbing his itchy face/head with my other hand.




Monday, 10 March 2014

Make it Monday - Crochet Memory Blanket Update

Time for a rather long overdue update on how my year-long crochet blanket project is coming along.


I'm really pleased with how the colours are looking together and how the randomness isn't too random! All the blankets I've made before have been strictly ordered in both colours and patterns, so I was a little bit worried at first if I would like the randomness of this project. Now I'm not worried at all and love the way the colour pallet I've chosen works together.


Now to explain the special squares so far.
Here is a closer look at the left hand sight of the blanket.
Middle row, far right, is the African flower square I made for my granny's 90th birthday. All female birthdays are going to be marked by this square but not necessarily in the same colours.
Diagonally down to the left of that is the multi-blue square for Fraser's baptism. Any special days for the boys, other than birthdays, will be marked by this same multi-blue square.
Then on the bottom row, the square with the purple circles is to mark the day my aunt passed away.


Now here is the right hand side so far.
On the top row there are 3 grey squares followed by two multi squares with grey centres. These are for the week that Fraser had a touch of bronchiolitis at the start of the year. The multi squares are the days he started to improve.
The second last square on the top row is based on Captain America's shield and is for our huge Marvel fan James' 14th birthday.
In the middle row, two along from the flower square, is another multi-blue square to mark Alasdair's first morning back at nursery since Fraser was born (he only goes two mornings a week).
And the light green square was to mark a day a couple of weeks ago that felt almost like Spring.


I'm currently 7 days behind but hope to catch up this week and then begin crocheting what I've done so far together. I did a few squares today to fill in the gaps in the top photo. Now just imagine there are another 7 squares after that green one at the bottom!


It's such a fun project!


It's not actually the only blanket project I have on the go though. Calum (11) has asked me to make him a stripey blanket so I have that on the go too. I've told him that he needs to wait till next winter for it to be finished and he's happy with that, but more about his blanket next week.

Friday, 7 March 2014

A whirlwind 48 hours.

Late on Sunday night we heard the sad news that my Aunt, my dad's sister, had passed away. She had been quite unwell for a couple of weeks so it wasn't entirely unexpected.


She was a lovely person, rarely seen without a big smile on her face, despite the difficulties she faced with a lifelong physical disability. Her mobility had become worse over the years and the last time we saw her, when we were home last summer, she wasn't able to talk to us either. She didn't need to talk though, as the way that her face lit up when she saw the boys said enough.





Island funerals take place a lot sooner after the death than they do on the mainland and on Monday morning we were told that the funeral would take place on Tuesday afternoon.


My brother and I were both keen to attend the funeral. Flying home would have been the simplest option to get there on time but was out of the question as at such short notice the flights cost £390! Our only other option was to leave here at 5am on Tuesday morning so that we could catch the 10.30am ferry. The sailing takes 3 and a bit hours and so when we arrived we would have to drive straight to the funeral.


So, at about 4.45am on Tuesday morning my brother called round to pick up me and the two youngest boys. The other boys were more than a little jealous that they weren't getting to go to Granny & Shen's too but were reassured that we were only going for one night. Besides next month we are all planning to go up again for a proper holiday.


Everything seemed to be going to plan. Fraser and Alasdair were both asleep in the car, the roads were fairly free of traffic, and then about 2 hours into our journey...


The lorries in front of us did a good job of clearing tracks in the snow but they got slower and slower until eventually they got stuck. We waited for what seemed like forever until the snow plough came past and cleared the road. By the time we were moving again we were sure we wouldn't make the ferry.


And yet we did! We arrived at the terminal about 20 minutes before the boat was due to leave.




As planned we drove straight to the church and met the rest of the family there. The church was absolutely packed and the singing was amazing!


After an island funeral service the men line up on the road outside the church. They then march through the village, taking it in turns to carry the coffin, while the women all stand together and watch. Some might think that it's a bit of an outdated tradition but I think it's a lovely one and I'm glad it's still done. Another tradition is that the women don't go to the graveside but nowadays some women do.


After the funeral the family gathered for tea and sandwiches at a local hotel. Although the reason for us all getting together was a sad one, it was lovely to meet up with all of my cousins again. I don't know the last time we were all together before this and we took the chance to get this photo of us all.


Three of us had babies, all boys, within three months of each other last year.


On our way to my parents' house we quickly popped in to visit my granny (my mum's mum) so that she could meet her latest great grandson, her 10th great grandchild. He charmed her with his smiles for her and his lovely nature!


Then, after a rather long day, we were finally able to relax back home at my mum and dad's! Alasdair (4) enjoyed having granny and Shen to himself.


The following morning I woke to hear the wind howling. Not good with a ferry journey planned!

We kept checking with the ferry office who assured us the ferry was still running. At lunchtime we said our goodbyes and headed off to check in at the ferry. 20 minutes after we checked in we were told the ferry was cancelled! This meant that we had to drive to the south of the island to catch the ferry that runs from there. The sea there is a bit more sheltered and so it was still running. We don't normally go that way though because even though the ferry journey is shorter and the sea a little calmer, it means having to drive for nearly an hour on the island and the drive on the mainland is MUCH longer and on much worse roads than if we go on our usual ferry.


Despite the more sheltered sea it was still a fairly rough crossing. I was glad the other ferry hadn't tried to sail! We were sitting on the top level of the ship and some of the waves were being blown right over the windows. It was like being in a car wash and Alasdair found it hilarious!


After the long drive we arrived home a little before midnight, less than 48 hours after we left. I was glad that I wasn't doing the driving!


I'm linking this post up with Meghan's 'Things I'm loving' because these posts are all about things we are thankful for. And this week I am thankful for my extended family. I have such happy memories of summers spent with my cousins, popping in and out of our granny's kitchen all the time, playing down on the beach, sleeping out in tents on the croft (apart from the time the boys unzipped the girls' tent in the middle of the night and it filled with midges!), bringing the peats home in our Shen's tractor.....


It makes me sad to hear of families who can barely talk to each other and makes me all the more thankful for ours.