Goodbyes Are The Hardest.

It all starts with a hello, and ends with a good bye. I promise I’ve got some great recipes and reviews coming up, but for now, you lucky readers are getting an insight of my inner thoughts.

Hellos are fabulous aren’t they? That first hug of a newborn, that locked gaze across a room to a potential lover, that first kiss is amazing ( if it’s not then they probably aren’t for you but I’m digressing). Friends reuniting, with this pandemic in mind that first hug for families being reunited will be truly magical. Yes hellos can be the thing that memories and dreams are made of. Goodbyes….. well they are a whole different ball game.

There’s a general good bye … not too bad but often disappointing. Departures at airports waving goodbye to loved ones often causes those tears to well up.

The end of a relationship is hard and heartbreaking ( or a happy release In some cases) but for me the death of a loved one is the hardest goodbye of all.

Now today Matt Hancock has tweeted this 👇🏼

This is not a political post but the ONLY 36 has really hit a nerve. The use on only tells me he has not lost a loved one during this pandemic… well sadly I have, and my goodness the pain runs deep and the anger is building.

The coronavirus pandemic has bought many challenges the worst for me was the death of my grandad. Mum called me 3.5 weeks ago- the paramedics were with them. I made their house in 5 minutes. The ambulance still there lights glaring- heroes inside doing their thing. I’m eternally grateful to those two men “ you can come and have a minute but we really must go”

I held grandad’s hand and I said “ Don’t worry you’re in great hands we’ll come and get you soon” That was the last I saw and heard from him. He had an emergency procedure, it had gone well and doctors were talking about him coming home. Yet on day 4 at 8.30 am I got a phone call from mum. The doctor had just called her to say grandad had passed away. Both of us told over a phone..and I was numb. I couldn’t hug my mum or dad… they couldn’t hug me. I could hear the pain and sorrow in their voices. Let me tell you, it is heartbreaking and the grief engulfs you like a wave.

Organising a funeral over social distancing is hard as well. Only 8 people allowed, from a maximum of 4 households, all at least 2 meters apart. I still cannot sit by or hug my mum due to being in a different household- my husband cannot be with me. Can you imagine how difficult that is going to be?

The positive is grandad will get the send off he wanted ( we’d talked about this). He will get his favourite songs played – The chain by Fleetwood Mac and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack ( obviously I’ll lose it at this point). We will then have tea and cake ( his favourite) in the garden all 2 meters apart but with comfort we are together to celebrate his colourful life ( come on I’ve got to have got it from somewhere).

To anyone going through the same I’m so sorry. Time is apparently a healer- I’m yet to find that route but it will come. It’s a difficult time, and I’m sure for us all things will get easier.

But for now, from me one final time. Goodbye grandad. I will miss you

Love you so much

Gem x l

Guest blog post

New post today and featuring a brilliant guest blog post from Allergy Abroad and a guide to travelling to India. Have a read and enjoy. Stay safe everyone x

How to travel In India with Food Allergies

India is one of those special countries everyone has to visit once in their lifetime. Home to the world’s oldest civilization, it is known for its exceptional architecture, diverse culture, and spiritual methods. Its magnificent forts, mesmerizing hospitality, amazing handicrafts, and relaxing spirituality is sure to take your heart away.

Many people who have food allergies would see India as a high risk country and it’s true. Many local Indian places are still unfamiliar with allergies, with it being an uncommon condition. It’s even more important to do some prep beforehand so, here are a few tips that can help you manage food allergies in India.

Important Things to Consider regarding Food Allergies in India

Prepare Your Allergy Kit Beforehand

This wouldn’t be an allergy prep list if we didn’t start with the essentials. It goes without saying when packing your case, layout all your medicines anti-allergen kits – like Benadryl, Epi-pens, inhalers etc.. and always take more than you need. I always resort to Totstotravel which has an extensive list on what to carry, it might be more than you need, but they have thought of everything you could need.

Food Research

If you have anaphylactic reactions to any of your food allergies, then you know eating out is high risk. For nut allergy sufferers, Indians use a lot of nuts in their food and coupled with a lack of awareness amongst locals, it can be a recipe for disaster. If you decide to limit yourself to established restaurants, I highly recommend contacting front offices (hotels too) in advance to find out whether they can cater for your allergy. If you want to explore and learn more on Indian cuisine then you can try a cooking class with a local Indian family. That way you can see what’s being cooked in front of you and ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. Airbnb experiences has a great range of cooking classes to try.

Dive Deep Into Your Allergy Triggers

If you already know your allergies really well, then it’s a no brainer that you should be carrying a translation of your allergy. Although the national language of India is Hindi, there are over 22 languages spoken across the Indian states. Pre written translations have made communicating my allergy a whole lot easier. You can find your allergy translated in various phrases for free online, otherwise get in touch with a indian reddit community and kindly ask someone for help.

Be Alert On The Go

Don’t forget to always carry your EpiPen. Keep it with you and not in the overhead bin while you travel. Try to go for one that has slots for other medicines and can be labeled with your name and medical information.

If you’re travelling with anyone, make it a point that they know how to use an EpiPen. You can get ‘trainer’ pens and practice so that in times of need, they can be of help.

After you Reach India

A smartphone has been an essential piece of kit for travellers. If you are carrying one you should label a contact as ‘ICE.’ ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency.” As the name suggests, this person would be the contact point if something happens to you.

You can even include any info as notes or memos that you feel a medical practitioner needs to know. This might include “Asthmatic” or “Allergic to …..” Many countries are making it a practice to check this entry on patients’ phones.

In restaurants, don’t rely on the servers to ask you about your allergies, always try to speak to the manager. If you don’t feel comfortable, remember you always have the option to walk away.

What I noticed in India was nuts were too expensive to be used for everyday cooking. So, the majority of the restaurants only garnish the delicacies with the nuts at the top, but this is of course no guarantee.

It’s always better to familiarise yourself with the local versions of the foods that you would need. Even the same dish can have variance in its recipe around India, so don’t get complacent and not check for your allergy. If the long bus or train trips are a part of your travel plan, pack a lunch with you. Otherwise, you can also get packed food at the roadside dhabas selling different eateries. These can sometimes be good spots, if you can see what and how they are preparing the food.

If you’re staying at a hotel where english is well spoken, you can discuss things with the hotel staff, and they may help ends meet. Or you it’s also very easy to make friends with a cook at any local dhaba. Just buy him the ingredients, offer some money as a token of gratitude, and you should be good to enjoy your favorite food in India also – that too, without any fear of allergy!

In the end, it all sums up to the phrase that one should eat to live, not live to eat. Read the labels of every food item very carefully and take the utmost caution while eating out in India. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to rock your trip to India. Don’t forget to share your experience with us in the comment box!

How We Are Coping With Lockdown

Hello to you all, it’s a slightly different post from me today but quite frankly I’m a bit bored, and I find writing therapeutic so I thought I’d pen my thoughts on how we are fairing in the current UK Covid-19 lockdown.

Unprecedented- this is a phrase that’s used a lot at the moment, and the truth is it is. It’s huge, we are in the middle of history books of the future right now, and I for one have a million and 1 thoughts and feelings on the whole situation. I think ( from what I can make out) we are all having good and bad days. For the record it’s ok to have those bad days. I kid you not the other day I cried…. a lot. I was overwhelmed by boredom and constant bombardment of covid-19 info from all angle- it was just too much, and break down I lost certainly did.

I joked a few weeks ago that divorce lawyers would be clapping their hands after lockdown- I still stand by this. All of a sudden you are thrust together ( and not in a good way) and the pressure builds. For the record I won’t be getting a divorce but we’ve had words over things that have never bothered us before. It’s so intense and suddenly you find loud chewing or not picking up a plate really winding you up. – This is all normal, take some time out- go for your hours exercise together and things look brighter on your return ( well hopefully anyway).

Other things I’m learning from lockdown- you will put weight on. Food and eating are one thing you can still control. It’s ok, enjoy a treat, or. Are that banana bread – the gyms will open at some point and you can get back to it. I’ll also add here I’m yet to make sourdough bread…. give me a week or two and I’m sure I’ll start.

The imaginative amongst you may have also discovered that you can socially distance in a queue to the supermarket but your friend might just be the person in front or behind you. It helps honestly, the mundane task suddenly becomes your day’s highlight and gives you a lift.

Home education – the thing that sparks fear in parents everywhere. Relax it’s fine – you’ve all got this. You don’t need to recreate school, do what’s right for you as a family. Remember a hour of one to one with a child is equivalent to a couple of lessons as it’s more focused learning. Don’t worry they’ll catch back up on any missed bits when school starts back. Enjoy the extra family time.

So there we go…. we’ve not yet gone insane and living each day one at a time. How are you all coping? Let me know in the comments below.

Home Schooling…. You Can Do This

As we are fast hurtling into a Coronavirus lock down here in the UK, the inevitable is happening families are in 14 day isolation and I think we are on the brink of school closures. These closures aren’t going to be like your typical snow drama, oh no, these are for potentially longer periods of time… and I can sense the dread of parents all over the country.

STOP THERE. Don’t worry you are all going to do a great job. This is a slightly different post from me but some of you may know I have partly home educated kiddo for 3 years. ( we flexi school but I won’t confuse you with that). I thought I’d try and offer some advice in helping you impart wisdom to your little poppets.

Your school’s will call it home schooling – I’ll quash that first myth for you. You don’t need time tables and plans ( do a loose one if you can be arsed but they’re very dull to do). You don’t need to sit your kids down and shout at them to work for the 6 hrs a day… you’ll get nowhere only into an argument and everything counterproductive.

When you are one to one with a child there’s no distractions, no hustle and bustle of class rooms, no “ Sit Still, stop talking “ it’s just you and your kids and 20-30 minute chunks are fine. Then have a break, get outside ( gardens are ok in isolation) go on a nature walk or bike ride if you all feel ok ( PE and science covered).

Try not to give endless work sheets, I find kids find these dull, quite frankly I find them dull. Do some experiments you can find some fab ones Here these are engaging and fun and gets children thinking and coming up with questions.

Play games like scrabble ( good for English and spelling) or monopoly. For those of you with Minecraft mad kids get the education version and do some coding etc.

Sites I find Useful

Corbett Maths

If you are after GCSE maths help this is a must visit. All the videos and work sheets are free and the kids seem to respond well to it. There are worked answers as well- great for those of you who waved goodbye to algebra years ago. Have a look Here

Twinkl

I love this site it’s handouts and lesson plans are fabulous, they’re fun and colourful and kiddo enjoys them ( no moaning = less likely for you to need wine). Even better to help with the current situation the generous people on the site are offering free membership for a month to parents who are finding themselves at home and teaching their children. I’m overly excited about this, can you tell?

Sign up Here and put the code UKTWINKLHELPS in to access the offer.

Beanstalk


Beanstalk
has your little ones covered and offers interactive learning material for children aged 1 to 6.
During the COVID-19 threat, they are offering full access for FREE. They offer live classes and ‘on demand’ classes.All you need to do is sign up Here

BBC Bitesize

This is a great site that is free, has good content and things like quizzes etc that makes learning a little bit more fun. It also covers all ages- including 16+

Teach my Monster

This is an app you can download. It’s usually £4.99 but currently free. It’s brilliant for those of you with younger children who are learning to read. It’s a colourful game format that gets them reading without then struggle.

Scholastic

https://www.scholastic.co.uk/

Click on the link above for free resource packs for KS1 and KS2

Some of my last pearls of wisdom are that remember not all learning needs to be done in a class room- kids are incredible and have the ability to learn outside the hours of 9-3pm. Use the opportunity to teach life skills, how to cook, how to change oil in their car, plant some seeds and how to appreciate the world around them. Use your time not as a chore, but as an opportunity to learn and bond together.

These are really weird and unprecedented times and we need to embrace the positives. Yes there’ll be tension ( get your wine in now) yes you’ll be frustrated at not being able to go places but we’ve all got each other, and like the age old parenting mantra states “ This is a phase- this too will pass”

I hope this has been useful is you need any more advise or pointers please free free to message me. Keep checking this post- I’ll update with extra links when a few more pop into my head.

My Guide To A Free From Advent

Well it’s that time of year again…..Christmas is most definitely coming. I love Christmas- obviously my husband is threatening divorce, as I’d really like to put my decorations up now, but anyway I digress. Advent calendars are a big thing in our house. Kiddo goes to a C of E school and really is getting into advent ( and the nativity but we won’t go there today 😬).

So how to do advent with allergies? Currently we are avoiding peanuts, tree nuts, dairy and gluten so you’d think it could be a challenge…. but I’m going to show you the best things I’ve found so everyone is included.

Top of kiddos list is the above LOL surprise calendar. It’s a little pricy at £29.99 but you get a doll, and varies accessories etc to go with it. There’s also no chocolate in it…. which helps the allergy situation in our house. Others that are very good are the Lego advent calendars, the Harry Potter one is particularly cool, but I would think that- I’m a bit of a Potter Geek.

My favourite allergy friendly advent calendar has to be the NoMo one. It stands for No More Missing Out, and is without a doubt the best free from chocolate I’ve tasted ( and no they aren’t paying me it’s just really good).

You can get these from Holland and Barrett for £9.99.

Moo free also do a lovely advent calendar, although this does carry a hazelnut warning, which you can get Here

Not to forget the grown ups… there is literally hundreds of choices nowadays. My personal favourite is the Boots number 7 Calendar, sadly it sold out in break neck speeds this year, although well done if you managed to get hold of one.

I’m also keen to see Aldi’s gin calendar, as I’m partial to the odd G&T ( ahem).

My husband is a type 1 diabetic so this year he’s having a cheese advent calendar. My best picks are this one from Ilchester cheese, available Here

I’ve also heard that Marks and Spencer are launching one this year for £15…. I’ve not seen it yet, it’s due to hit the shelves asap so I’ll keep you all posted.

Right that’s it for now. I will update this post when I find new things. That leaves me to say I hope you all have a fun 1st of December, opening your advent calendars.

Note- This post is not an ad and contains no affiliate links. Opinion is my own, and calendars I’ve purchased I’ve down so at my own expense

Let’s Talk About….. Endometriosis

Yesterday (7th October) endometriosis was trending on Twitter. Largely in part to This article. Now why would I possibly be bothered by this, or why would anyone be bothered by this? Well according to Endometriosis uk the current figures indicate 1 in 10 women have the condition….. and I’m one of them.

So slightly different post from me this time…. I’m going to talk to you about endometriosis. And guys, if any of you are reading this, before you roll your eyes and think ” oh it’s just girls moaning about that time of the month” let me tell you endometriosis is NOT just period pain, it is more than the odd stomach cramp.

Anyone who thinks endometriosis is just a period is sadly mistaken. I’m self employed, every month I take 3 days off to coincide with the start of my period…. but why? Surely just man up Gemma? ( incidentally let’s stop telling everyone to “man up” it’s not helpful) well because every single month, on day one I go from being ok, to being bent double from pain – I mean think having your stomach used as a punch bag type pain,, and you’re getting there. The nausea is awful, if you eat too you’re sick, the pain extends up to my ribs and somehow creeps through your legs down to your feet.

The ache is unremitting, it literally feels like all joy has been sucked out of you, and actually if I could remove my pain receptors for those days, that would be amazing.

I was about 15 when the pain started, the school nurse though I was trying to get sent home, the doctors suggested the pill, my mum took me seriously…. it took years ( about 9 ) to get a diagnosis.

That’s not the best of it…. you often get fertility problems and the ” don’t you want more children?” Questions… My reply” yes another would be lovely but my womb is that scarred that babies don’t like it”

Other joys are Miscarriages, scans, operations, ( I mentioned pain didn’t I?) and a deep frustration that only women in similar situations can empathise with. Why frustration though? Because no one believes you that it is, or can be, that bad. Even my GP said to me at 25 that I had nothing to worry about…. and a few painful periods were part of the course- apparently having a baby would help. I mean seriously those were her words….. you can imagine how that made me feel. I’m not alone either- scores of women all over the country will tell you of similar stories. This is both sad and disheartening.

This all needs to change, attitudes around this condition needs to change. More funding is needed and above all women need to be taken seriously. This is a horrible condition and I for one am pleased it’s had some recognition this week.

Ladies if you think you may have symptoms of endometriosis please do get it checked.

Seek help, if you are struggling I’d recommend Twitter…. the communities on there really are the best. You’ve got this girls…… you are not alone.

Back To School…..

So it’s looming, Augtember is nearly over and that first week of school is starting to wave at me- do you know what? I hate it.

I mean hands up all of you who have a heart attack at the cost of the uniform- yep me to. I’m still trying to dissuade mini me from the god awful Lilli Kelli numbers she has her eye on, in swap for the slightly less bank balance haemorrhaging Clarks pair. Good luck with that one I hear you all cry.

I also despise the morning rush, and routine, I have crippling ( slight exaggeration) insomnia so getting up after about 3 hrs sleep is never fun.. Mostly though is that we have fun over the summer, and getting back to the grind stone is difficult for us all. There’s some parents who count down the days to school going back- I’m not one of them, mind you I’ve only got the 1 munchkin, if I had more I might think differently.

Good luck to all you reception Parents, have your tissues ready- you’ll need them. Mine skipped in, didn’t look back and gave it her all, I was proud but a mess obviously. Have that glass of wine in the evening, you deserve it.

Good luck if it’s the first time entering the playground as well. My goodness that was/is a minefield. Not only do the children have to navigate their way through new friendships and meeting- so do you, but with the parents. To those of you who don’t know anyone, seize the moment and say hello. Most people are great, ignore the scurry of gossip ( there WILL be some) and make your own judgement of people.

To the allergy parents, you’ve got this to. I won’t lie reception was the worst for me, I mean I’m always by my phone but that first year I checked it all the time. But we made it with no major incidents….How?? Good planning. My advice is get your child’s care plan in place and get the school staff familiar with it. I went in on the teacher training day to explain to the staff the signs and symptoms to look out for if L is having a reaction.

She has a medical box at school ( Epi pens, antihistamines, eye spray) she also has a safe treat box as well, just so the teachers can use treat if needed ( birthdays etc) and no one is excluded. It works well.

L has grown into a few more Allergies since starting, she’s now having to avoid gluten, dairy and latex is looking more likely. I get a lot of phone calls, and early pick ups, we now flexi-school her to help but it works, and the staff are managing her allergies. Just remember communication it key.

So there you have it, my advice to you all.

Enjoy it, it’s a stage in their development, they are growing up, they are learning. Embrace it, build each other up.

You’ve all got this

Welcome to the school run years……..

It’s Coeliac Awareness Week

Yes it’s that time of the year again and Coeliac awareness week is up on us once again. It is running from 13th- 19th May. This year it is focusing on diagnosis.

Coeliac UK is the national charity that helps to raise awareness of this autoimmune condition. It is a great place to start for those who are newly diagnosed, and for those of you who think you might have Coeliac disease.

I thought at this point I would tell you about my story to diagnosis. I was roughly fifteen when I started getting symptoms that were problematic, such as bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers and tiredness. Initially after a few GP visits I was told IBS was the most likely cause- due to exam stress from my GCSEs that were the big exams that I was starting to study for- this didn’t seem right to me as I’m not a stressed person, and certainly wasn’t worried about exams etc. Nevertheless I took the advice, changed diet and lifestyle and tried the prescription of anti- spasmodic medicines. Guess what- it didn’t really work, and back to the doctor I trundled.

IBS was still being branded about, until I happened to mention that both my Nan and aunt had Coeliac disease. I was then sent off for a blood test. Sure enough these came back as positive. I was expecting to be sent for a biopsy but after being referred to the hospital, a further blood test and positive genetic test confirmed the diagnosis of Coeliac disease.

I felt relieved and overwhelmed straight after diagnosis, but after my first dietitian appointment, and armed with lots of information of what I could and couldn’t eat I ventured into the supermarket to embark the first chore of Coeliac disease ( and allergies) – label reading.

I won’t lie you will spend A LOT of time label reading, the only thing I can say is that over the years the “Free From” aisles have expanded hugely so the choice offered is getting better and better. You still need to be careful of the dreaded “may contain” warnings ignore them and you can get caught out. – Walkers crisps were my enemy the one day in case your were wondering.

What I can say is that within a week of switching to a gluten free diet I felt so much better. It really is that dramatic. My only side effect of my Coeliac disease is that I’m also one of the 1 in 10,000 that also suffers from Dermatitis Herpetiformis, an intensely ( and I mean intensely) itchy skin condition linked to Coeliac disease.

It is the absolute worst, my first flare up was at university after a pasta mix-up. 2 days later I felt unwell and itchy, by day 4 the rash had appeared, if I could have torn my skin off I seriously would have. It is awful. My GP was flummoxed at first, as he hadn’t seen many cases of it. I was sent for a skin biopsy and the results confirmed it.

Thankfully I don’t get too many flare ups, but nevertheless when I do I tend to go to ground. The appearance of the rash and how rotten I feel puts pay to wanting to go out.

BUT it’s not bad at all having Coeliac- I could have a lot worse. I’ve made some great friends over the years. My top tip is to start at Coeliac UK for advice, and then the Coeliac and allergy community on Twitter and Facebook is brilliant. It’s live a great, big friendly free from hive- there’s always someone that can help answer your questions.

I hope this has helped some of you- Just remember, although it’s daunting being newly diagnosed, you are never alone.

My Free From Guide To Stratford upon Avon

My lovely hometown, which admittedly is most famous for William Shakespeare and The RSC Theatre, is also packed with eateries and tea rooms. Some of them are absolutely fantastic at catering for dietary needs, so I thought I’d share my top places to go.

My first place is Bensons Restaurant is Henley street ( almost opposite Shakespeare’s Birthplace). Their gluten free options really are fantastic, you can get things like a breakfast with bottomless tea for around £5 all gluten free, right through to lunches and afternoon teas. They also have a separate dairy free menu, and really do understand the cross contamination risks and take many precautions ( hooray I shout).

Loxleys Restaurant and Wine Bar in Sheep Street is my next choice, and no not because of the wine element ( although they do have a great choice) but because they have really good gluten free options. The dinners or pre- theatre menus are delicious, AND they can manage to provide gluten free sausages on their breakfasts, plus is a really quirky and luxuriously decorated restaurant that is worth a visit when you are next in the vicinity.

if you have a sweet tooth you’d be mad to miss Hoorays gelato parlour. They have gluten free waffle cones, plenty of gluten, dairy and a few nut free options and some delicious vegan offerings that are worth a visit on a hot day.

In Bridge Street there is Huffkins Bakery, they do a mean peanut butter brownie that is gluten free ( and eaten well out of the way of mini me)

So here’s my top places for starters, I will be updating the post when I find other free from dining delights.

The Busy Parents Guide To Allergies- Book Review and Competition

We’ve all been there, your child has a range of symptoms, you go to the GP. Tests are carried out and all of a sudden your child is diagnosed with a food allergy or allergies.

Mini me’s first reaction was unfortunately anaphylactic due to a tiny bit of peanut butter, so in the space of about 30 minutes we dramatically discovered her allergy. And your life changes, right there, in that moment.

There’s the thing, it’s scary, and can be overwhelming and you’ll spend many an hour reading food labels, and have so so many questions. That is where this new book by Zoe T Williams could help you.


Zoe is an allergy blogger, who’s youngest child has allergies to oats, legumes, milk soya and eggs. She set up her blog and piers recipes and helpful advice. Leading on from this she has written this book and kindly sent me a copy to have a read through.

You can find Zoe’s blog Here

So having read this book I can honestly say it’s superb for all those parents who want some of those endless questions answered. It takes you from birth to university, and thoroughly covers all aspects of Allergies. I like how it’s easy to read, and set out in a way that doesn’t overload you.

Zoe has also included some really useful templates that are clear and easy to follow. I particularly like this one

This is a checklist for going on holiday- and when it’s your first one post diagnosis it can be a bit nerve wrecking.

I also like the very comprehensive section on challenge ladders- because hopefully you will encounter these at some point as your child can grow out of some allergies.

Anyway don’t just take my word for it, you can purchase Zoe’s book for yourself HERE ( Not an affiliate link)

The other great news is you can try and win yourself a copy of this great book. Zoe will kindly be sending the winner a copy after the competition ends next week.

you can enter the competition Here