Sunday, 11 November 2018

Secret Veg Sauce

I wanted to post the link again to spread this fantastic recipe, but alas the internet states 'it no longer exists'.

So here's my own take on this fantastically versatile recipe which even my three year old will willingly eat, and which my husband raves about also!


I cook a vat and then freeze it in 400g portions so that when I want to make an easy, tasty pasta sauce, a base for lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese, or use it as a jacket potato topping with a sprinkle of cheese, I have some readily available.

Secret Veg Sauce

Ingredients:

1 aubergine (eggplant)
Half a courgette
Red and yellow pepper
6 small cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
1tbsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic
4 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

(Note - don't follow this too closely. Avoid starchy veg like sweet potato, parsnips and swede but otherwise you really can be quite liberal with the veg you use. I've just listed what I used today.)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Chop up aubergine, courgette and peppers and roast for 30 minutes with a lug of olive oil.

In a large pan (I often use a wok), fry the garlic and sprinkle with oregano; add the chopped tomato tins to this mix and cook for 20 minutes.

Keep an empty tomato tin.

Add the roasted vegetables and cook for a further 10 mins.

Leave to cool. Transfer to a container you can blitz it in with a blender (e.g. casserole dish). I do mine in lots.

Blend until smooth.

You can then use the empty tomato tin to section it into 400g portions ready for a recipe, fridge or freezer. Portions can then be put into freezer bags or containers.


We'll use some of today's batch in a spaghetti Bolognese. I'm blindsided by how much difference this makes to a dish and also the fact that children seem to eat any vegetable in it - it's the only chance some of these foods have ever passed my 3 year old's lips as he hates vegetables!

For the 5 year old's dietary needs this dish is totally free from nuts, peanuts and all legumes and traces.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Attachment

I realised pretty early on in motherhood that I was going to lean towards attachment parenting. I didn't know about babywearing or exclusive breasfeeding yet, but as soon as my first baby was born, I knew I never wanted us to be apart.

That feeling was so strong, and still is. I have the urge to climb into bed with my five and three year olds, to snuggle with them while they sleep in their almost identical positions, so peaceful in slumber. I remember the days when they barely slept, when I was sleep deprived and constantly feeding those ever-hungry, nocturnal babies.

Sometimes on my 'long work day' I feel physically sick because they are at school and nursery and I won't see them until gone 5; then when I get home and they fight each other and bark their food and drink orders at me, I think work was the easy run 🤣.

Allergies have not allowed me to be a chilled out parent, if I ever was going to be one, even remotely. Allergies mean you have to be constantly on your guard. Leaving them with even closest relatives requires a stringent list of do's and don't's. I am no less sad to leave my youngest's side (he has no allergies), but there is less anxiety involved. He can go to parties and help himself to food and cake. He can be left with a friend for 5 minutes without EpiPen training said friend.

I thought to myself tonight, those boys are going to teach me the way of the world. They are going to tell me, when I'm off on one in a whirl of anxiety about their well-being to 'get a grip, Mum'. They will make their own risk assessments, decide with their own will how they want to run their lives, and I will have no control whatsoever.

It's actually a thought that inspires me. That for all the worrying I can do, I can only hope I'm teaching them how to assess risk, how to carry on doing things even when I'm a little bit afraid to... and that they'll take part of that, and other elements of their personalities that come from all over the place and not just me... and find their own ways of handling things.

For now they are five and three, and I want to cuddle them forever.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Letter to my MP about the #epipenshortage

Dear MP

I would be extremely grateful if you could assist with a matter of urgency; a matter that affects many people, not just my own family.  

There is currently a shortage of the adrenaline auto injectors made by Mylan known as Epipens. As they have approximately 70% share of the market in respect of these products the other alternatives, Jext and Emerade have a much smaller share of the market. As the Epipens have been in very short supply for some months now, the demand for the alternate auto-injectors have increased so much that they cannot keep up with the demand.  

This is leaving many people unable to obtain Epipens or even the other alternative injector brands. The emergency adrenaline is used during Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction). Without this medication and emergency medical assistance a person could die.  

This applies to our five year old son who has allergies to peanuts, all nuts, lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas. He is very aware of his allergies and is sensible beyond his years, having been aware since he was a baby, yet there is still a risk, however vigilant we all are. Epipens are the only option to rely on whilst waiting for an ambulance.

The care plan states that we should use one Epipen Junior, call an ambulance immediately and then if symptoms worsen or do not improve, another Epipen Junior in 5-10 minutes. We have always been told to carry at least two in-date pens at all times for this reason and also in case of one failing or being misfired.

However due to the shortages, sufferers are being told they can only have one in-date Epipen. Our pharmacist told us today we should rely on out of date pens - however having since read advice issued by the supplier and the Anaphylaxis Campaign, this is not actually advised for Epipen Junior as use of out of date pens has not been approved (https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/2018/10/19/statement-from-mylan-on-the-supply-of-epipen-0-3mg-and-epipen-jr-0-15mg-adrenaline-auto-injector/). 

Being issued with no in-date pens or with only one pen would result in numerous lifestyle changes on an already restricted one, for example:

-       Extreme levels of parental and child anxiety due to the only emergency medication being unavailable
-       Never being over 5 minutes away from a hospital
-       Never eating food prepared by anyone else (including pre-packaged food)
-       Being unable to go to school due to having insufficient medication
-       Parents therefore being unable to work
-       Never going on holiday because the risk of being on an aeroplane with out-of-date injectors or only one Epipen is too great.

Please may I ask you to address these AAI (Adrenaline Auto-Injector) shortages with the Department of Health & Social Care as an urgent matter. 

Thank you for your continued help.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

10 Reasons Allergy Parents Make Great Friends

We may not be able to casually saunter in to whichever café you like, or accept a party invite without a good few questions. But we make up for it in other ways...

1. We always carry extra snacks.
The need to carry safe alternatives to placate a child who's desperate to have what his friends are having means we'll usually have a decent bag of tricks at the ready wherever we go.

2. We bake. Oh, do we bake. We've had to learn to make our own, because we can't always rely on shop bought or other people's kitchens being allergen-free. Bon appetit!

3. We'll probably invite your kid over for dinner, and probably won't expect a return invitation...

4. But if you do invite us, we are likely to supply some of the goods...

5. Or, if you've managed to cater for the allergy completely, we'll be over the moon.

6. We're always prepared for an emergency. If your kid has a hidden allergy to wasp stings or suffers an insect bite, we'll be ready with an EpiPen (two, actually) and antihistamines.

7. Empathy. Our kids are used to dealing with adversity and being 'different', so they're likely to be understanding of other people's differences, too.

8. We love that you understand us. When we find a friend who gets it and supports us and our child, we hold onto them.

9. We are champion risk assessors. Your kid is in safe hands. I can spot a peanut brittle across a busy funfair, after all.

10. When food is handed out at parties, you'll probably get our share of the cake, and the party bag treats. Nom nom.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Notting Hill Carnival, with the children?

My husband's heritage is half-Caribbean, and he's attended Notting Hill Carnival for years, playing in the procession for several years before he met me. We've visited Carnival almost every year since we met, and so it seemed only right we take our children along, even though they are only little. I consider it part of their culture.

Despite Notting Hill Carnival's reputation (as far as some are concerned), the Sunday is actually the children's day, when you'll find lots of children in the procession, as well as spectating. It's mud-mas day, so expect to get at least splashed with a mix (often spa clays) resembling actual mud, if you get right near the procession itself, or know someone who's in one of the mud bands.

Find a quieter area to hang out and watch the Carnival go by, with a little space to dance in the pavement. Ladbroke Grove is the busiest, with more people per square metre than you've ever seen in your life. Avoid it if you're with children!



Carrying a baby or toddler in a baby carrier or wrap is the easiest option, as they can have a sleep as well as being held safe. Our 2 year old will be carried this way this year, despite weighing about 13kg. The 4 year old will be on daddy's shoulders! If you've ever been near the Carnival, you'll know a pushchair isn't an option.

Our eldest is allergic to nuts, peanuts, anything that 'may contain' or is cross-contaminated, plus beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils - some of which are staples of Caribbean food. So we don't feed him at Carnival. Instead, we take a packed lunch or duck into a Sainsbury's Metro well outside of the Carnival area (shops will be low stock or limited range) and grab him a safe sandwich and snacks to take with us. His two EpiPens are always carried with us, so that's nothing new for Carnival.

The little ones' ears are sensitive, so each has a pair of headphones to muffle the Carnival beats which are very loud up-close!



We go to Carnival for a few hours, then head elsewhere for dinner - due to the allergies, we seek a safe chain, which are easy to find across London. It's also nice to leave Carnival before everyone else tries to do so on public transport!

Apart from this, dance. Relax. Enjoy the celebration of unity, which is more important in today's world than ever before. Think of those Grenfell sufferers and survivors so near the Carnival site (some are wearing green in their honour this weekend). Watch the Carnival smiles and the confidence of the procession and party goers, and forget whether or not your bum looks big in that, because that too is something to embrace in the Carnival spirit.

Because for all the same reasons I'm scared to go and take my children, I'm determined to.




Monday, 17 July 2017

Bad Press

If you were trying to break into an industry, or raise your profile, what tactic would you employ? Perhaps you'd do something amazing, unusual or bizarre, to how you were different and special. Unfortunately, some people don't quite have that talent and therefore they troll and seek attention by upsetting the likes of us on social media. It's getting a bit predictable.

I'm not naming names, because I don't want to give them the bad publicity they're so clearly after, but some quarter-celebrities, or 'journalists' you've never heard of, will be posting some useless, poorly-written, badly-justified text right now, probably targeting a vulnerable community of people who will bite back (the allergy community being one of these, and of course, not protected by anti-discrimination laws like some other groups are).

Let's not respond by spraying their social media pages with facts. Clearly, we're more clued up than they are. We only make ourselves more of a target. Forget the nobody's name, remember they are desperate for attention (so don't give it) and work on what's important - sharing useful, correct, factual information; rallying together; spreading the facts like beautiful, intelligent confetti to fill our friends' feeds, instead of hateful, worthless ammunition that's placed there for media attention.

Over and out.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

#ALWAYSCARRYTWO

I'm getting annoyed. Cue Hulk: "You won't like me when I'm mad...". We need two Epipens (I'd ideally like approximately forty-five, to be honest). But we #alwayscarrytwo and here's why...


You see, I know what the stereotypical allergy parent is. Of course, we're all neurotic and obsessed with our kid getting a bit of an upset tummy from a tiny bit of this or that. We've probably made the whole allergy thing up, you know, for fun.

Except, we have not.

We don't consider it 'fun' that we have to pester others about not feeding them 'this or that', or anything that 'may contain', and to carry the Epipens at all times, "even if it's just to the park and they're not eating anything". It's not fun having to tell a toddler that the rest of the party can eat that cake, all except them. Planning any day out or holiday or even school or nursery is a military operation.

Not because they might get a poorly tummy, but because they could die if they ate that food.

I hate even writing that sentence because it sounds morbid and a bit sorry-for-ourselves, but the fact is, I had to accept the potential danger to my child's mortality when he was seven months old. I take every precaution possible, and I want to yawn when I hear myself talking about the allergies again, and still, there's a risk.

Carrying two Epipens does not take away the anxiety of daring to step away from your child and leave them in someone else's care, but it does mean you have a second chance if someone gets that first attempt wrong, which is easily done, or if the pen fails. I've never administered it myself, so my knowledge is only theoretical, let alone the person who might be with him if he ingested something; I'd like us all to have more than one shot (pun intended).

If we only had one pen, I'm pretty sure I couldn't set foot on a plane, or let's face it, anywhere not within very easy reach of a hospital or ambulance. I'm not certain I could send my child to nursery or school. However much you ingrain the importance of safe eating in your child,
there's the risk of cross-contamination - an unknowing adult slicing something with an allergen-infested knife, or a child having eaten the allergen and spreading it with typically sticky-toddler hands.

Nobody is asking anyone to feel sorry for us, because our children are lovely, bright, marvellous, enviable, empathetic little beings, and we protect them like superheroes.

But don't let prescriptions be reduced to one pen only when we desperately need two in order to lead a normal(ish) life with our families.

If you care, there's a petition here: https://www.change.org/p/this-petition-supports-the-carrytwo-campaign-we-ask-the-bsaci-to-reverse-its-recommendation-of-one-auto-injector-pen-back-to-two and a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/CarryTwoPens/ (thank you).