Monday, May 30, 2016

A visit from the Tooth Fairy

My six year old recently lost his first tooth and was very excited about the Tooth Fairy coming to visit. His tooth was in a small green box, but this kept coming open and he was afraid of losing his tooth before the Tooth Fairy could take it away.

It was my Cricut machine to the rescue as I created a simple design in Design Space and cut using iron on vinyl. I then placed the design on a drawstring bag.

My son placed his tooth in the bag and closed it up tight.

Here you can see the design on the bag- it was very quick to create and I only had white iron-on, but it was enough for my son to feel that his tooth was secure and safe!

The Tooth Fairy bag went under his pillow, ready for the Tooth Fairy to collect during the night.

In the morning, the tooth had disappeared from the bag and in its place was a shiny coin!

This bag will be put to future use for subsequent teeth, and my younger son has requested one too.

Do you remember when you lost your first tooth?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Coeliac Awareness Week- Avoiding Cross Contamination

The following is a guest post from Glutey Girl- a Hamilton blogger with Coeliac Disease whose blog I have found extremely useful as I begin my gluten free lifestyle. She has a hilarious, no-nonsense approach to gluten free and low FODMAP eating, something I can definitely relate to.

Avoiding Gluten Cross-Contamination in your kitchen. (For the original article, please click here.)

This is NOT my kitchen (honest)! Aside from being messy, this kitchen is a recipe for gluten cross-contamination.

As I've mentioned previously cross-contamination is a risk for all gluteys (and anyone with a food allergy). Cross-contamination occurs when a food that is naturally allergy-free comes into contact with the allergen through food handling, preparation or storage.

Especially if you're new to gluten-free, making your kitchen safe can seem like a daunting task. It's up to you how far you want to go with de-glutening your kitchen, but there are two basic options, that will meet most people's needs.

If you have allergies (other than gluten), the same cross-contamination process will also work for you.

There are two methods to avoiding cross-contamination in your kitchen. Choose the method that works best for you and your family:

1. Total elimination - removing every source of gluten from your house.

2. Careful separation - carefully separating gluten and gluten-free items so that there's less risk of contamination.


This is the safest option, but also the hardest to maintain and can initially be quite costly. If you can manage this in your household, go for gold! Here's how:

  • Check EVERYTHING in your kitchen, and if it contains gluten, throw it away. Some examples of food stuffs that can contain gluten that are easily forgotten include: herbs and spices, sandwich spreads, sauces, and packet mixes. Remember to check the fridge and the freezer.
  • Throw out all spreads - they'll have crumbs in them! e.g. peanut butter, margarines.
  • Clean everything to ensure no crumbs are left behind.
  • If you're taking any medication (including supplements), check that they're gluten-free (a pharmacist will be able to check for you).
  • Chuck out any non-metal or ceramic kitchen equipment e.g. plastic bowls, containers, wooden or plastic chopping boards, wooden mixing spoons, plastic tongs (it's very hard to make these items 100% gluten-free once they've been contaminated).
  • Replace your toaster - you'll never be able to get all the crumbs out of it! Get yourself some toaster bags if you intend on using a toaster outside of the home e.g. at work, on holiday.
  • Check non-food items for gluten and replace with gluten-free versions e.g. pet biscuits, cosmetics.
  • Maintain your gluten-free house by ensuring no gluten sneaks in. This can be tricky when you have visitors, let them know in advance what not to bring into your home.


This option allows for family members who don't need to be allergy-free to still enjoy their noms. It requires more ongoing effort, but usually works well if the whole family (and visitors) are careful.

  • Purchase separate kitchen equipment for gluten-free use, and label it. You might also like to store your kitchen equipment in a separate location to the gluteny equipment so there's less risk of it being used accidentally. e.g. chopping board, plastic bowls, plastic containers, plastic tongs, wooden mixing spoons
  • Purchase a gluten-free dish brush to use on gluten-free kitchen equipment. Label the brush and store it in a separate place to the regular dish brush.
  • Store gluten-free food stuffs on a separate shelf in the pantry, making sure that gluteny items can't accidentally be spilt onto the shelf.
  • Store all flours, baking mixes and spices in sealed containers, and label the containers so you can easily see what's gluten-free.
  • Buy a separate toaster and label it clearly. If you don't want to buy a separate toaster, or you want to be able to toast at work - you can purchase toaster bags that will protect your bread from crumbs (purchased through the Coeliac Society).
  • Check your cosmetics for gluten - some people react to gluten in non-food items.
  • Educate the whole family (and any visitors) about cross-contamination, so everyone knows how to keep gluten away from gluten-free foods, surfaces and equipment.
  • Purchase (and label) separate gluten-free spreads e.g. peanut butter, margarine.


Glutey Girl.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Coeliac Awareness Week- GF Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna

Since this week is Coeliac Awareness Week, I am sharing one of my favourite gluten free meals with you today.

Gluten Free Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna

This recipe is great as it uses only a few ingredients, and you can easily add other vegetables or use beef mince if preferred.

The smell of the sauce ingredients simmering is delicious, and makes my whole house smell wonderful.

The lasagna is easy to assemble too, with three layers repeated and some cheese sauce poured on top.

It isn't the prettiest meal, but it certainly packs a flavour punch.

Best of all, the vegetables in this lasagna get coated in cheesy goodness!

My boys gobble this up (they don't even know it has mushrooms!) and it keeps well for leftovers the next day.

print recipe

Gluten Free Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna
  • 500 grams chicken mince
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can Watties Original Pasta Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 sachet Maggi Gluten Free Cheese Sauce
  • six sheets Diamond Gluten Free Instant Lasagna
Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a large ovenproof dish with oil spray. Brown mince in a non-stick pan with a little oil spray.Add mushrooms to pan with tomato pasta sauce and tomato paste. Bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes.Steam the frozen broccoli for 3 minutes until tender; drain.Make up the cheese sauce with 1 cup boiling water as per packet directions.Spread half the chicken mince over base of lasagna dish. Add half the broccoli. Place half the lasagna on top in a single layer then repeat all the layers.Pour cheese sauce over lasagna. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Stand for ten minutes before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Coeliac Awareness Week- Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Today's post for Coeliac Awareness week is about a specific skin issue faced by some coeliacs.

When I was 20, I woke up one morning with a few small red dots on my arms. Thinking it was probably just an allergic reaction to something, I carried on with my day as a retail sales worker. However, over the next few days these red patches started spreading all over my body. The patches were so streaky and itchy, and developed into blisters.

Thinking I was allergic to something in cleaning supplies or something I was coming into contact with at work, I went to my GP and then to my skin specialist, who I had been seeing since I was six years old due to my pseudopelade. They were both baffled, and my skin specialist took the following photos. These are photos of my skin in 2003- my arms, the back of my thighs and my neck.

By this stage I had to stop working and I became very depressed. I did not want to leave the house as everyone was staring at me. Even my face was covered in this red blistering rash and I was slathering myself in creams and lotions multiple times a day. Various opinions were sought and ranged from an allergy to pollen, sun exposure, psoriasis and even skin cancer. Interestingly, none of the seven nationwide specialists I saw ever looked at my diet or mentioned that it could be something happening on the inside of my body that was causing this. I even had laser treatment on the patches, which I unfortunately reacted to and therefore could not complete a trial to see if this would help.

My skin looked like this for a year- red, bleeding, scaly and totally killing my self-esteem. I gained weight as I was just staying at home all day, refusing to go out in public.

My original skin specialist suggested Fish Oil capsules as a way to help my body heal, and amazingly over the course of three months the blistering and redness became less apparent. I started to go back to work, and yet I still had a lot of red marks on my face and neck. These marks eventually turned into dark pigmented patches all over my body, which I still have 11 years later.

You can see from this photo of me just before I turned 22 that the pigmentation was quite apparent and I was still very self conscious.  These patches also indented into my skin, so laser therapy and exfoliation are unable to help.  Most of the time these patches on my arms and legs are covered up, but I still have a line running from my face down to my neck that is usually covered up with foundation. Here is my neck and face today, without makeup, and you can still see some faint patches of darker and lighter skin.

As the years went by, I went back to my skin specialist for a few other issues, and he always checked my skin and made note of how I was progressing to make sure the rash was not coming back. I had always said that the fish oil must have been a factor in the healing, and didn't really think any further of it.

Fast forward to this year when I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. When the dietitian asked me about any skin issues, this story came to light and she had a look at my rash then made some notes. After my gastroenterologist diagnosed me, I went back to his office to discuss the implications and my new diet. He mentioned that I had obviously experienced a severe case of Dermatitis Herpetiformis, a common skin condition affecting 15-25% of people with coeliac disease. I went home and googled this, and I immediately burst into tears when I saw the information about it and the subsequent photos. Reading the symptoms I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It was so good to finally have a diagnosis and a reason why my skin did this.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis is a gluten related non-viral, genetic skin condition that usually occurs in adulthood and is more common in men than women. A gluten free diet is the only way to treat it along with topical creams for the itching and blisters. The lesions leave hyperpigmentation and in my case, some scarring also. It is also linked to hair loss, which I have, and can also be linked to other genetic disorders.

I also found that I had some eczema patches flaring up on the back of my neck and my right eyelid, so changing my skincare, makeup and shampoo has been a huge help. You wouldn't believe how many things in our everyday life contain gluten, even if we aren't consuming it!

These days, I use an organic shampoo and I recently discovered the gluten free line of skincare products from Nutrimetics, which I am excited about! My skin is definitely a reflection of what is going on in the inside of my body, and I need to be careful about what goes on my body as well as in it. I even have reactions to homemade playdough, and a lot of symptoms I thought were due to my cleaning products are actually from me coming into contact with flour when I bake for my children.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has experienced Dermatitis Herpetiformis, or has other skin issues relating to Coeliac Disease. I have struggled with my skin since I was very young, and having an answer makes me feel like I can move forward with my life and help others who experience this skin condition.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Coeliac Awareness Week- My story so far

Coeliac Awareness Week is this week (16th-22nd May). The week aims to shine a light on coeliac disease by spreading the word about getting tested, eating well - by providing information about food and ingredients, and general awareness about coeliac disease and what that means for those diagnosed and their support people.

This Coeliac Awareness Week marks the launch of the Gluten Free Accreditation 'Dining Out Programme' for cafes, restaurants and other food outlets. Businesses will only become accredited after successfully completing a training program and independent audit. The aim is to open up the gluten free dining out experiences for coeliacs by providing this extra level of assurance that their gluten free food is safe to eat.

I was only diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in January of this year after being hospitalised for complications following my hysterectomy. While I was there, the doctors took some bloods and were concerned about my low levels of iron, B12, Vitamin D and my overall undernourishment. As someone who eats healthily, I was surprised that all of my levels were low. A dietitian referral was made whilst I was in hospital, and a lovely lady came to see me. Once we had gone over what I usually eat, she asked me about my family history. I do have uncles and a grandfather with Coeliac Disease already, but six years ago the dietitian I saw for my suspected IBS after a normal colonoscopy had suggested a low FODMAP diet instead of specifically gluten free. However, this time my blood tests included an antibody test specifically for Coeliac Disease, and my results came back highly positive.

By this time I was luckily out of hospital, so I went to see a private gastroenterologist. He performed a biopsy during a gastroscopy, and this came back with a positive result.

A lot of my symptoms had been written off in the past as being IBS, related to my endometriosis or just me being sensitive to other foods such as dried fruit or onions. However, once my endometriosis was not a factor any more after my hysterectomy, the symptoms continued and I did have a sneaking suspicion that something was wrong. Getting an official diagnosis was actually a relief for me, as I now have a clear plan for the future.

Some of the symptoms I experienced were:

  • Loss of interest in everyday things
  • Anxiety
  • Breast tenderness
  • Heavy, painful periods
  • Brittle nails
  • Bruising easily
  • Skin rashes
  • Anemia
  • Low levels of B12, Vitamin D and calcium
  • Acid reflux
  • Bloating
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Hair Loss (I have had bald patches since I was six due to pseudopelade)
  • Migraines 

As you can see, these symptoms separately don't point to one common denominator, and it was often put down to being a mum, stress, my other health conditions or simply because I was too busy to investigate further. My anemia in particular had been an issue since the birth of my second son in 2012, but was always put down to my heavy periods and never investigated further. The list of possible symptoms related to coeliac disease is huge, and I urge anyone experiencing these symptoms to have a full work up done by their GP.

The biggest struggle I have had so far is the misconception about coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is a permanent, autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction to gluten which is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Gluten can damage my villi, which is the lining of my bowel, which can end up being very serious if left untreated. It is not imply a case of me getting a sore stomach from eating some bread, or being a fussy eater. It is by no means an easy diet, and some comments I have had are quite hurtful as I did not choose to have this. Yes, gluten containing sauces will irritate me as they do not bake off in the oven, and yes one slice of bread will hurt me.

I love this discussion from a reader on Gluten Free Dude's site that sums up perfectly how I feel some days!

Dear Friends, Family, and acquaintances:

  • I am not eating gluten free as part of a fad, or because the latest celebrity has decided to jump on the G-free bandwagon.
  • I am not eating gluten free to annoy you, inconvenience you or to make things difficult when we go out to eat.
  • I am not eating gluten free to be the center of attention or to put a damper on your party.
  • I am not eating gluten free to pay outrageous prices for a single cookie, cupcake, or a tiny little pizza.
  • I am not eating gluten free to pay a lot more for a little bag of gluten free flour.
  • I am not eating gluten free to worry about what I can eat when I go out to eat.
  • I am not eating gluten free because I love to analyze every ingredient on every item I pick up to purchase.
  • I am eating gluten free because that little protein that you cannot see in your muffin, cookie, cake, pie, beer, pizza, soup, and yes, even your soy sauce makes me ill.
  • I am eating gluten free because that little protein hurts my stomach, my joints, my muscles and yes, even my brain.
  • I am eating gluten free because I have a disease.

If you have any questions, I would love to help- please comment below and I will respond. In the meantime, the Coeliac New Zealand has some great resources on what to do if you are diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, and there is a huge community within New Zealand that I have found helpful. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fun fruit for school lunches

Term 2 has started, and with it comes the lunchbox dilemma every day. I want to include enough food, with plenty of healthy options. Dried fruit, pre-packaged fruit and fresh fruit are all great choices for active kids at school, and here are some of the ways I make fruit fun!

Fruity Bites- I thread cheese cubes and prunes onto small toothpicks for a quick snack.

Mini Fruit Pizzas are great for breakfast, in a lunchbox or as an after school treat. Simply spread a pikelet with cream cheese and add fresh fruit on top.

Draw faces on Fruit Cups to fancy up these store bought snacks. I have turned mine into fish, funny faces and birds so far this year.

Apple Doughnuts work well if you know they will be eaten promptly. Slice an apple into circles and remove the middle, then spread on peanut butter and dot with raisins.

Baking with fruit such as these homemade Apple and Date scrolls are always a hit with kids, and a great way to sneak fruits and vegetables into fussier children. You can find the recipe here and it is great with different fruit combinations too.

Apples are definitely a favourite in this house and Apple with Peanut Butter Dip is great for the days when we are rushed. Simply quarter an apple, wrap and send to school with some peanut butter.

Nothing beats a Fruit Salad as chopping up fruits seems to make my kids eat more. Any combination of fruits will do- here I have used watermelon, red and green grapes and dried cranberries in a small re-usable container to take to school.

How do you encourage your kids to eat fruit in their lunchboxes?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

WCW- Apple and Date Scrolls

I love including home baked goodies in my boys' lunchboxes, and I am lucky that both of my kids love dried fruit and apples. I put this combination together to come up with Apple and Date scrolls.

The dough can be made by hand or in a breadmaker- you will be left with a sticky, wet dough that will need to be put on a well floured surface.

Once the dough is rolled out, you add grated apple to the centre and roll from the shorter end across. You then cut the roll to create the scrolls.

Make sure you place each scroll in a well greased pan, and leave a little bit of room for them to spread as they cook.

Once they are cooked, you can sprinkle on some icing sugar to serve.

print recipe

Apple and Date Scrolls
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 60 grams chilled cubed butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried dates
  • 2 green apples
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush a baking tray with melted butter to lightly grease. Place flour, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Use your fingers to rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add the milk and dates. Use a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion to mix until evenly incorporated and the mixture just comes together. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead for 2 minutes or until smooth. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out dough into a 25 x 30cm rectangle. Sprinkle with grated apple. Starting from the long side, firmly roll dough into a log. Trim the ends. Cut crossways into twelve 2cm thick slices. Arrange scrolls cut-side up, side by side on prepared tray. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Woodland Themed Baby Shower

I am so excited that I am going to be an aunty again soon- my sister is expecting her first baby and I couldn't be happier! I know it is always special when a sibling has a baby, but it makes it even more special for me as she is my twin and we live right around the corner from each other. We are very close and I am expecting lots of new baby snuggles!

I absolutely had to throw her an amazing baby shower. We settled on a woodland theme as my sister is very into neutrals, realistic animals and woodgrain. With the help of three of her friends, my mum and myself, we were able to throw her a baby shower that I loved, and I hope she loved it too.

First up were the invitations. I created these on my Cricut using the Dream Big cartridge. The Kraft and Colonial White blended beautifully to set the theme of the shower.

The inside was written in a variety of fonts using my Cricut pens, with some leaves cut from the Artistry cartridge on my Cricut. I loved being able to put my pens in the machine and let them do all the writing!

When guests arrived, they were greeted by the wooden stumps and pinecones with a big burlap bow, a theme that continued throughout the decor.

My mum made her delicious punch, which I put in glass milk bottles with Woodgrain Straws. We also used some Jute Sheets as table runners on the table, which gave a great rustic feel.

We decorated the sitting area with these Gold and Chocolate Pompoms, which I thought looked like pinecones for our Woodland theme.

We were lucky enough to get some beautiful china to use from Vintage Tea Party- an amazing company that supplies everything you need (including catering if required) for a fancy high tea event. Tea always tastes better from a fancy cup!

I stamped and watercoloured some cards to write wishes for baby and the new parents. I then cut a branch from my garden (well, actually I sent hubby to do that job!) and placed the branch in my mum's white owl vase. The guests then clipped on each wish to the branch to create this pretty focal feature and create a lasting memory for the mum-to-be.

You can't have a baby shower with food! We spread the Jute Sheets over the white table cloth provided by Vintage Tea Party, and also placed logs, pinecones and lilies on the table. The food included cheese rolls ( we are Southern girls after all), mini savouries, fruit and vegetable platters, chicken, cranberry and cream cheese sandwiches, chocolate mousse cups, rocky road, chocolate finger twigs, caramel slice, toadstool cupcakes and fox cookies, as well as a Fox cake.

The chocolate fingers were rolled in white chocolate then either crushed peanuts or pistachios to look like twigs. The toadstool cupcakes were made by a friend of a friend and I made the fox cookies with some standard buttercream icing and this fox cookie cutter. And look at the mousse cups and that amazing fox cake, made by our wonderful friend at Catering in a Box.

I wrapped some Burlap Roll around some glass jars and added a stamped stag head on each one to create containers for the chocolate fingers and the cutlery.

I also created this banner as a decoration for the shower, using up some old scrapbooking paper and placing photos of my sister in various stages of pregnancy along the pennants.

My sister loved the fox cookies as well as all the other little woodland touches.

Here is a close up of the cake- a chocolate mud cake with some amazing fondant work. I heard it was delicious!

The baby shower games we played were fun but simple to organise. We filled a baby bottle with milk bottle lollies and whoever guessed the correct number, or closest to the correct number, won the bottle of lollies.

The Cricut helped to make this game too, where you had to match the baby animal with the correct name. This one stumped a few people, but we had a former vet nurse who won the game!

Another game was that everyone had to create a Playdoh baby, and my sister picked a winner and a "Most Creative Baby' runner up. The prizes were little burlap bags filled with spearmint leaf lollies.

We also played Baby Pictionary using this printable, it was hilarious but I don't have any photos as I was busy handing out the cards.

Isn't she absolutely glowing! I so enjoyed throwing this baby shower for my sister.

My gorgeous sister, I can't wait to meet your little one and I wish you all the best.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

WCW- Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken

Pineapple Chicken is a favourite in our house for those days when we don't get home until 5:30 and want something hot and ready to eat. The slow cooker is one of my most used kitchen appliances.

The ingredients are all commonly found in your pantry and fridge- lots of pineapple is a must!

All you have to do is put everything in the slow cooker, leave to cook for 6 hours, then serve with your favourite vegetables and some steamed rice. Not the prettiest of dishes but it tastes so sweet and full of bursts of freshness from the pineapple.

print recipe

Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken
  • 2 diced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 425g can pineapple chunks, drained
Mix all ingredients together in the slow cooker except the large can of pineapple chunks. Cook on low for 6 hours.During the last hour of cooking, add the 425g can of pineapple chunks.Serve with steamed rice and vegetables.

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