Wednesday, 30 May 2012

On this day...

11 years ago today I saw an advert for a PhD studentship in Liverpool.

9 years ago today Tom & I started going out, and 8 years ago today he proposed.

...and 33 years ago today I was born.

So a pretty great day for me!!! 

I'm so thankful for my wonderful family, great friends & all of God's goodness in my life. 

Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one's house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
Song of Solomon 8:7

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Ten on Tuesday: Tea & Emergency Baths

1. A visit to Alder Hey found that Westboy has glue ear, which has recently cleared in one ear, but is causing (hopefully temporary) deafness on the other side. It was quite a shock, as I had no concerns about his hearing and had only arranged the appointment because it seemed sensible to rule-out hearing problems. It's kind of revolutionary to realise that when he ignores what I'm asking him to do, it may actually be that he can't hear me. Yikes!

2. ....So I was particularly unhappy with the woman who 'helpfully' held the gate open for him, so he could exit the playground the day we found this out! Yelling not much use when the child can't hear you. I had to catch up with him, carrying Westbaby, before he registered I was there. Grrr!

3. We're doing a dairy experiment at the moment, introducing a little bit of milk into Westbaby's diet... ...and so far, it seems to be ok! Hurray!!! He's teething & had a high temperature over the weekend, so he's not exactly happy, but it doesn't seem to be dairy related.

4. ...And that means that I had my first cup of tea in over a year!!! I'd been looking forward to it so so much, craving a decent cuppa for weeks, but in the end it just tasted wrong. I simply couldn't drink it. So I'm back on the black tea, until I've re-educated my taste buds. (Cheese & chocolate are good though. Mmmmm!!!)

5. This was good to read in the middle of a sunny few days, while those "eek-I-don't-look-how-I-want-to-look" thoughts were shouting pretty loud.

6. When it's one of our birthdays, I hide cards & presents somewhere safe if they arrive before "the day". This includes hiding things from myself if it's my birthday approaching. It makes perfect sense to me, but my husband finds it totally irrational and it's caused problems in the past... like the time that he didn't see the present arrive from his parents because I'd hidden it and he thought they'd forgotten his birthday, or when he hid presents from my friends to me so well that he couldn't find them again.

7. The sunshine this week has meant lots of time playing in the back yard. Whatever toys and activities I set up, "playing in the back yard" inevitably ends up as playing with MUD. So there have also been several impromptu baths in the yard :-)

8. The hot weather and lack of sleep had been making me feel breathless and overwhelmed, so this advice on how to breathe in a breathless world was a welcome read.

9. I loved this, about the new 'Crumbs' chickens. It reminded me of our favourite chickens.

10. Ending with a bit of Rend Collective Experiment...

There are more ten-on-tuesdays here: SarahJoLucyHannah, & Laura.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Ten on Tuesday: cousins & naps

1. I had a wonderful time at Center Parcs with the Wests. Here's a quick summary, in pictures...

(Typical Westbaby pose, while saying "look, look, look" at everything)

2. In a soft play area there, a little girl approached me and asked if Westbaby had toes. I'm not quite sure why she was doubting that he did, but she seemed to be genuinely puzzled by it. 

3. I was showing Westboy herbs in the yard, and asking him what they smelt like. Mint: that smells like toothpaste. Lemon thyme: that smells like lemons. Sage: that smells like men.

4. Rather than the traditional "woof woof", Westbaby has decided that dogs say "bark bark".

5. I don't tend to say or write much about breastfeeding (unless asked), even though it's an important part of my life right now and one I feel strongly about. Several good friends haven't breastfed, for a variety of good reasons, and I don't want to make people feel awkward. However, having read this blog post, I feel like I need to stick my hand up and say "yeah, me! I'm breastfeeding my 16 month old". Having gone through months of intense pain, blocked ducts, recurrent mastitis, and even a scan at the Linda McCartney centre to try to work out what on earth was wrong, it's now relatively unproblematic and I'm in no hurry to stop. I am pretty selective about where I'll breastfeed away from home (although Westbaby sticking his hand down my top while screaming at the top of his lungs draws far more attention to us than quietly snuggling up for a feed). I dont know how much longer i'll continue: i can't wean him onto cows milk like you usually would, and don't think he'd be too impressed with horrid-tasting prescription formula ...and actually (most of the time!) I feel happy & blessed to be able to breastfeed.

6. Another child has started at nursery with the same name as Westboy. I wasn't expecting that to happen!

7. A theology of naps. Brilliant. :-)

8. Wouldn't drive through pharmacies be good??? The last thing you need when you have a sick child is to hang around getting prescriptions sorted. (Although ASDA pharmacy is amazingly friendly & helpful).

9. Am I the only one who didn't know about the Care at the Chemist scheme?!? It's especially good for us as I get free prescriptions because of my thyroid (not sure how long for... I'm sure the government will change that soon!)

10. These 'invitations to play' are inspiring & BRILLIANT.

There are more ten-on-tuesdays here: Sarah, Jo, Lucy, Hannah, & Laura.

Have a great week!

Monday, 14 May 2012


One ice cream, one cup of tea, half a bar of chocolate, a portion of rice pudding, and a bowl of bread and butter pudding... Since February 2011, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've eaten or drunk something containing cows milk.

I haven't actually got any problems with eating dairy, but I found that when I cut milk products out of my diet, there was a dramatic improvement in Westbaby's reflux. He was far less distressed, much less sick, and generally a happier baby. His reaction to dairy now is much less dramatic, but it still makes him more unsettled and slightly sick. Milk Protein Allergy is different to Lactose Intolerance (the differences are detailed here): 'Lacto-free' products don't help because they still contain milk proteins, and cows milk protein is passed through breastmilk, so my diet directly affects him.

We've avoided giving Westbaby dairy since he started eating solids, and have tried to avoid giving him foods containing soya too. Several GPs were unconvinced by my suggestion (based on this) that his reflux was caused by milk protein allergy, however the consultant and dietician we saw at Alder Hey immediately attributed his problems to it. It initially felt overwhelming trying to eliminate dairy from our diets, and took nearly two weeks before there was a noticeable difference. It's inconvenient, but it makes such a massive difference to my child, so I feel that it's totally worth it. I feel a lot healthier as well, so I think I will restrict how much dairy I have even when I'm able to start eating it again.

When I first removed dairy products from my diet, I found that I cut out almost all fat and sugar. As virtuous as that sounds, my energy levels suffered enormously, so I quickly found ways to substitute things that would give me a boost. The main ones were Haribo, marshmallows, dried fruit (I particularly like the Urban Fruit bags), and Green & Blacks dark chocolate (G&B dark chocolate and Maya Gold occasionally seem to change recipe and include milk, so it's worth checking the ingredients every time you buy it), and fruit toast spread with Vitalite.

Milk has to be listed among the possible allergens contained in food products, so it's usually fairly easy to see which foods contain it (although it can be called so many different things that the actual milk ingredient can be pretty difficult to spot). I tend to ignore the warnings that food may contain traces of milk, or has been made alongside products containing milk (e.g. Cadbury's Bournville, and lots of Sainsburys own brand products), as I feel like manufacturers might just be covering their backs. (I might be wrong about that though!).

I don't tend to eat much processed food and enjoy cooking and baking, which has probably made it much easier to adapt to dairy-free life. Eating out has become much more complicated, and I feel awkward when other people have to adapt their cooking to accommodate me (although everyone's been great at supporting us). There tends to be a tin of flapjack, rice krispie squares or banana cake in our kitchen. I bought this vegan baking book to help with cutting out milk and butter, but most recipes can be adapted quite easily. I use Vitalite for baking and Stork blocks for pastry (Stork tubs have dairy in them). However, frosting made with these can be unstable, as I found out the night before Westboy's birthday when icing a large dinosaur cake, -eek! Several of my favourite cake recipes use sunflower oil, and Pure spread works for baking too.

Oatly (Oat milk) works well as a milk substitute in baking, pancakes, rice pudding, and on cereal. I haven't tried making a white sauce with it, and it's not good in tea and coffee, but i've learnt to drink those black. Rice Milk isn't suitable for young children, I'm not keen on the taste of Soya milk, and the new Alpro Almond and Hazelnut milks are lovely but contain lots of added sugar.

Some of the other useful foods that I've grown to rely on are:
Alpro dark chocolate (soya) desserts: for times when a chocolate fix is just necessary
Brownie in a mug: ditto!
Swedish Glace ice cream: really good non-dairy ice cream
sorbet: for when everyone else is eating ice cream!
Asda mint thins (sadly After Eights now contain dairy)& Bendicks mints
Hellmans Original Mayonnaise is dairy-free, but 'Light' versions contain dairy.
Tesco value bourbon biscuits (Asda ones contain dairy)
Asda smartprice Ginger & Rich Tea biscuits.
Asda fruit bread
Popcorn (the type you do in a pan) - one of our favourite puddings/snacks
Hovis Granary Original and Asda pitta breads are dairy-free and soya-free

I've found lots of things to replace cakes and desserts, but nothing to replace cheese. That's probably what's affected our family diet most, as our meals often used to contain cheese. Lasagne, macaroni cheese, tuna pasta topped with cheese, cheesy risotto, paneer curry, savoury muffins... I've stopped cooking all of those and many more. I miss grating cheese over baked potatoes and beans on toast. Ah, just writing this is making me crave cheese!

I find new things that we can eat most weeks. It's funny how restrictions make us more creative! This week's discovery was an awesome banana ice cream trick (worth trying even if you aren't on a dairy-free diet). 

I'm hoping that this post will grow into a useful resource for anyone attempting to cut dairy out of their diet, and would like to learn some new things, so please leave any tips in the comments below. Thank you!