Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Living With Food Allergies

August 31st 2016

This post is in response / inspired by my good friend Emily (check out her blog here: love-emily) who has written two blog posts about being allergic to dairy. 

I found out I'm allergic to gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast, millet, sesame, lychee, kiwi, and agave. 
The first thing I thought was "how the hell am I going to eat anything?!" Luckily several supermarkets do a "free from" range of foods that are perfect for me! However, as someone who doesn't like making a fuss, it's been difficult to find food I can eat when I go out and about. I can always have jacket potato and baked beans, that's a safe option for me, and I can also have steak and chips, providing the chips are skin on as some chips are made with wheat flour. I love eating out because I'm such a foodie! I love trying new foods and going to new restaurants but I'm restricted now which has made me a bit sad.  

Living down south is really difficult for someone with these allergies because few places seem to realise that I'm gluten/dairy/wheat etc free because of an allergy. They seem to think I'm just following the latest diet trend. Well here's a newsflash: people can cut foods out of their diet without it being a fad! And yes, I will be that annoying person in coffee shops that has to have a long order. #sorrynotsorry. 

When I was on holiday in the Midlands, every other cafe/restaurant offered gluten free or dairy free food and on a few occasions they offered both. Signs were put up saying to speak to them if you have an allergy and they would be happy to cater for you. It was so lovely to be looked after like that after the looks and eye rolling I often receive here in the south. I do love the Midlands and I may have to venture back there...

I'm on a new diet for 3 months where I've cut out everything that had dairy, gluten, wheat, and yeast in to give my body a break. After the three months I can start introducing the foods again, but slowly. It would be a little bit of milk in my tea and then wait a few days to see how I am, for example. This diet is difficult for me because I can't eat what I used to love. Afternoon tea is out of the question because I can't have bread due to the gluten, wheat, and yeast (even gluten & wheat free bread often has yeast in it). It's also difficult as I discovered many things actually have yeast in it. I did my research after I found out I was allergic and the amount of things I can't eat is ridiculous! 

Foods containing yeast found on Yeast Allergen List
Foods containing gluten can be found here:
Foods containing wheat can be found here:

I must admit I haven't been avoiding peanuts, "aged meats" or mushrooms because I love them too much, but luckily I haven't been ill from it. With the "aged meats", it's interesting it's on the list of yeast allergens because I've found gluten, wheat, and dairy free sausages and yeast isn't listed as an ingredient. But the rest of the foods I've had to avoid has been horrendous. When I go food shopping I have to read every single packet for the ingredients used to make sure they have got anything I can't have in them. It's been eyeopening how much is put into food, and how much of it is foods I can't eat. 

What I'm going to do is go through a selection of the Free From foods that I eat and where you can get them from etc. just as a guide incase there's anyone else who suffers as I do! There's lots I can eat that's not on this list such as potatoes, baked beans (Heinz), salad, vegetables, beef, chicken, etc. Uncle Ben's basmati rice is really good, but the other rices in his range often have ingredients I can't have. Condiments wise, Chippa do a range of condiments such as sweet chilli sauce, ketchup and mayo which are vegan, and gluten/wheat free. 

These brownies from Sainsbury's are absolutely delicious! There's four in this box but they're divided up into two brownies in one plastic package. They're quite rich so I can only eat one of the two (usually anyway) but they are lovely. 

This is the chocolate I use for my chocolate chip & peanut butter cookies recipe. Eating it on it's own isn't for me, it tastes like the cheap chocolate you get in advent calendars at Christmas. But if you like that stuff then you'll love this chocolate. It's good in the cookies because it melts and it's really yummy.

This bar is really nice! It's a bit expensive so I get it as a treat for myself, but it's definitely worth it. It's literally just peanut butter, peanuts and dark chocolate with a few other bits and it's really yummy. I don't normally like dark chocolate but this doesn't have the bitter rich taste dark chocolate usually has.

Out of all the free from pasta I have to admit that Tesco have won me over. However I've got two big packets of this pasta from Morrison's I need to get through. I like fusilli pasta because it's a funny name to say! This is made out of a rice and it's difficult to tell the difference between this gluten free, wheat free pasta to normal pasta.

My substitute for baking. Well, one of many! This is sunflower spread from Marks and Spencer's that is made without dairy.
Other substitutes for baking I use is "baking fat" that can be found at most supermarkets. It's made from animal fat, so it's not suitable for vegans, but it is for people with a dairy allergy. There's also blocks of lard you can buy, and there's also vegetable oil blocks that can be used as well. I've tried and tested them all and they're all good substitutes but it depends on what you're baking. Tesco offer a "made without dairy" soya spread that I've used in baking as well. Of course, you can use margarine!

I love cereal. Cereal is amazing and I would happily eat it all day every day. I miss cereal the most, like cookie crisp, honey cheerios, special K, oh my god special K is so good! But my Mum found me this cereal in Tesco and it's really nice! It just tastes like normal cornflakes - I can't tell the difference.

I found these in a health food shop in town, but you can buy them in many Free From sections of supermarkets. They are nice, but they get stuck in your teeth a bit! I have these for part of my breakfast.

This stuff is heaven on Earth and I never thought I'd say that about granola! I found it in Waitrose but you can get it in most supermarkets (I've seen it in Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrison's). It's granola with almonds, hazelnuts and raisins and it is really nice. I have half a bowl of this with half a bowl of cornflakes and that can keep me going for about 3 hours. But, what do I use for milk I hear you cry!

I found a milk substitute I like! This has taken me about 2 months to find because I have an "acquired taste pallet" (posh way of me saying I don't like a lot of food which is ironic because I love trying new food). I tried almond milk, hazelnut milk, soya milk (sweetened and unsweetened) and coconut milk but it was all revolting. But this stuff is like drinking vanilla milkshake! I don't use it in my tea, but I have half a cup of it over my cereal as that's enough for me or else it's too sweet. It's perfect for making vanilla lattes at home though! 

Most baking powder is (supposedly) gluten free anyway, but some brands use wheat-starch to stop it going clumpy. This brand is perfect for gluten & wheat free baking ingredients.

Xanthan gum is used in gluten free baking to make the product more doughy so it sticks together. If you've used gluten free flour before you'll know it's very fine like icing sugar and so getting it to stick together is difficult. Crumbly cake is a significant indicator of a gluten free cake!

I used to get these dairy milk microwaveable puddings that were delicious, but I can't eat them at the moment so I'm sure you'll know how excited I was to see these. However, they did have a "reduced to clear" label on them so I'm worried I won't be able to get these again!

Jam tarts are one of God's gifts. I adore them! These are harder than normal jam tarts (I actually cut my gum on one of them before!) but they are tasty. Sainsbury's do their own in their "free from" section which are really good.

This is the brand of flour I use, it's the same as the baking powder and xanthan gum. You can also get rice flour, self raising flour, corn flour etc. Like I said before, it's very fine like icing sugar so you need xanthan gum to help it stick.

I discovered this in Tesco and I was thrilled to see I could eat them! Just zap them in the microwave for about 40 seconds (depending on your microwave) to heat them up. I had mine with chicken, bacon, sweetcorn, and mixed leaves salad.

I LOVE chocolate chip cookies and I am relieved to have found "Zoe Friendly" ones! They're really tasty and are good with a vanilla latte!

These brownies are much better than the Sainsbury's ones because they're more gooey. I love gooey brownies!

These are delicious and it's hard not to eat the whole packet! The dipping sauce is alright but I'm not too keen on sweet and sour sauce!

These are really nice but I haven't seen them anywhere else except Sainsbury's.

There's a fair variety of different sausages that are gluten/wheat/dairy free but I prefer these ones. They're quick to cook and taste like Richmond sausages.

I adore chicken nuggets and these are perfect. With only 20 in a packet it's difficult not to eat them all in one go!

Potato waffles are amazing and I'm really glad they're gluten free!

Fish cakes are a bit hit and miss for me, but these are really nice!

These are another brand of sausages that I found recently. I haven't tried them yet, but no doubt they'll be delicious as they're 97% pork!

Pulled pork is amazing but so often it's made with malt vinegar which I can't have. This stuff cooks in the microwave for 10 minutes and it really nice with jacket potato!

It may sound daunting at first but luckily we're in a time where people's allergies are recognised and people are making food that's suitable for them. I hope this post serves as some reassurance for those who have similar/the same allergies as me. There are lots of options out there, don't worry!

If you need any advice or have any questions, please drop me a comment below and I'll be happy to help out!

UPDATE: I spoke to my nutritionalist who said my allergies are temporary and the result of stress. My food wasn't being digested properly so allergies were formed as a result of undigested food sitting in my stomach (lovely). This explains how I can spend my life eating all the gluten, wheat, yeast & milk I want with no effect, but suddenly I am allergic. The stress was brought on during my last few months of third year of university. 

I've been given the advice to drink liquids 15 minutes before I eat and then an hour afterwards. This will ensure my stomach acid isn't diluted and can help digest my food much better. If you're struggling to digest food or suffering with allergies to food that have been brought on suddenly, then give this a try.

I got my allergies tested by York Laboratories (UK) who offer a fantastic service to help understand and diagnose food and drink allergies. It is expensive, but it's quicker, easier and more accurate than going through your GP.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Basic Knitting Knowledge

August 27th 2016

When I was chatting to the girls on FB chat this morning about knitting, I realised I had a post about basic knitting knowledge I had yet posted! I should have posted this before the one about how to cast on, but never mind. (Those who followed my previous blog "The Knitted Cupcake" will recognise this post).

Here is everything you need to know before you start knitting.

The different knowledge areas are as follows:
- Knitting Skill
- Choosing a pattern
- Choosing your yarn
- Choosing your needles
- Knitting needles
- Knitting equipment
- Knitting abbreviations
- Knitting journal.

- Knitting Skill Level

There are four knitting skill levels:

Beginner; basic knitting for new or early knitters.
Easy; repetitive knitting for early knitters.
Intermediate; adding colours to your work, shaping and finer details.
Advanced; all kinds of knitting.

- Choosing a pattern.

There's 3 ways of doing this:

Choose your wool first, then get the needles and pattern to follow.
Choose your needle size, then wool, then pattern.
Choose the pattern, then get the wool and needles to match.

I tend to either choose my wool first, or choose my pattern. But to tell you the truth, I rarely use the exact wool that the patterns recommend. I normally get the same weight and needle requirement, but never the same wool.

If you're first learning to knit, I suggest that you knit something flat like a scarf, as this requires no shaping.

- Choosing your yarn

Before choosing your yarn, you should decide upon how much yarn you want as well as the weight of the yarn. If you are knitting from a pattern that you have found, it will usually tell you what yarn you need. But, if you are brave enough to make up a pattern of your own, like I usually do, then this gives you much more freedom to choose.

You can usually walk into a craft shop and pick out a colour yarn that you like, and work from that. Make sure you have a look at all the yarn, and make sure you like it. I have to be careful what yarn I get, as I've got very sensitive skin and can't wear or handle anything itchy.

Natural Fibres:

1. Wool
Wool is very warm and is perfect for winter wear such as cardigans, jumpers, hats, gloves and jackets. Some wool can be rough though, but it will soften the more it is worn, and after it is washed.

2. Merino Wool
This wool comes from Merino sheeps, which is one of the softest types of wool out there. It can be worn easily against the skin, as it is not too rough or too itchy.

3. Mohair
This is from an Angora goat, and it is quite difficult to work with. Mohair is very frizzy and it can be quite hard to see the pattern of your work as well as any mistakes you have made. This wool makes amazing oversized jumpers and accessories. Not suitable for baby wear.

4. Alpaca
It is very warm and is great for ski hats, socks and thick jumpers. Baby alpaca yarn is available as well.

5. Cashmere
Cashmere comes from a goat and, like the merino wool, it can be worn against the skin. Cashmere wool makes amazing scarves, snoods and jumpers.

6. Angora
This comes from an angora rabbit and is quite fluffy. It is extremely delicate and makes great hats.

7. Soya
This does seem very unusual to use soya to knit, but soya wool is best suited to making light, summer wear like shrugs and floaty cardigans.

8. Linen
Linen is very similar to soya wool, as it is best suited to making summer wear.

9. Matt Cotton
Suitable for homeware, knitted pouches and shoulder bags, and it lasts a long time.

10. Mercerized Cotton
It has a reflective quality, which allows you to make evening bags, cardigans and throws that have a shiny quality.

11. Bamboo
This is an imitation of silk, and is airy which makes it ideal for lightweight shrugs and shawls.

12. Hemp
Hemp makes great shopping bags, placemats and coasters and hemp softens with age and wear.

13. Ramie
This plant comes from the nettle family and is strong with an airy quality, making it suitable for bags. 

14. Acrylic
Ideal for toys and novelty gifts.

15. Nylon
Can be used for socks and it does not shrink easily.

Wool Blends

1. Wool and Cotton Mixes
Ideal for those with sensitive skin and babies

2. Natural and Synthetic Mixes
Helps to bind other wools like mohair, and prevents shrinking, which makes this wool perfect for socks and gloves.

Speciality Wools with Textual Effects

1. Chenille
Made up of cotton and synthetics, and best suited for plain-knitted garments for adults, hats and scarves.

2. Slubby Wool
Can make unusual accessories and outerwear jackets.

3. Tweed Wool
Most traditional in fishermen's jumpers.

Wool Weight:

Here is a chart of different types of wool weight, what they can knit and what needles you should use.

And here is a breakdown of knitting with different weights of wool:

- Lace/2-ply is extremely light and produces a very fine knit. If needed, a slightly larger needle can produce a more open knit.

- Superfine/3-ply/Baby requires very thin needles

- Fine/4-ply/Sport/Baby this uses slightly larger needles than superfine, making it more comfortable to knit with.

- Double Knitting/Light Worsted/5-ply/6-ply slightly thicker than using fine and knits up quickly.

- Aran/Medium/Worsted/Afghan/12-ply commonly uses 5mm needles, and it is not heavy at all.

- Bulky/Chunky/Craft/Rug/14-ply makes great outerwear and hats.

- Super Bulky/Super Chunky/Bulky/Roving/16-ply + this is ideal for beginners as mistakes are easily seen.

- Labels

1. Needle Size is represented by two needles that are crossed, and underneath it will be written what needles the wool requires. For example, double knitting wool usually requires needles that are 4mm.

2. Tension is the square grid that is usually next to the needle size. It is a 10x10cm square, which is used as a test square. What this means, is that you should always knit out a tension test square to make sure the wool knits how you want it to. It will usually tell you how many stitches and how many rows you should do for your test square.

3. Shade colour is written near the barcode, and it will say 'SHADE' with the number next to it. This will help you if you haven't bought enough wool and need to buy more. You should always make a note of the type of wool, the brand and shade number.

4. Dye lot number is the same as shade colour and should be next to each other. This works the same as the shade colour.

5. Wash and dry instructions are always written on the label. There are usually instructions next to the image; for example, a square with 30c inside it means the wool needs to be washed on a cold wash. A P in a circle means it can be dry cleaned, a square with a circle and dot inside it means that it needs to be tumble dried cold. An iron with one dot means iron on a low heat, 2 dots means iron on a medium heat.

For example:

- This label tells you the shade (21386) and lot number (51438). Keep hold of this information, as it will come in handy, especially if you didn't buy enough yarn and need to buy more. It will ensure that you get the exact same colour yarn.

- Care instructions state that you should hand wash with similar colours, dry press only, it can be dry cleaned and you should avoid bleach.

- The other side of the label tells you to use size 3.5 or 4mm knitting needles. It also shows you what the tension should be: 27 rows and 20 stitches = a 10x10 cm square.

(Tension is how tightly/loosely you should knit. You should always knit a tension square before beginning a project. To do a tension square, follow the directions on the label; cast on 20 stitches and knit 27 rows. If that square measures to be a 10x10cm square, you have the correct tension.)

Here are some other yarn labels I've used as examples:

Care Instructions - Please click this link for a full assortment of care instructions for various fabrics and yarn.

- Choosing your needles

Choosing your needles depends on your wool; if your wool recommends 4mm needles, you should use 4mm needles. However, you can choose your needle size and then choose your wool, but this method can be quite restricting.
Knitting needles are made out of wood, bamboo, plastic or metal, so choose which ever feels more comfortable in your hands. I tend to use plastic or metal.

- Straight needles are made from various different materials: metal, plastic, bamboo and ebony.

- Metal needles are perfect when using mohair or wool. It is very rare that you will find metal needles that are thicker than 8mm.

- Plastic needles is a mixture of metal and bamboo, and needles smaller than 4mm should be avoided. 

-Bamboo needles are flexible and make great needles. It creates very even knitting, and will eventually mould into the curve of your hand.

-Ebony needles are quite expensive but hold their shape well.

- Double pointed needles are recommended for socks and gloves and are very short, so they cannot accommodate too many stitches. It is best to use double pointed needles (DPN) that are made out of bamboo.

- Circular needles come in various lengths and thickness. They come in 40cm, 60cm, 80cm and 100cm. Hats require 40cm (16"), and snoods can be used by 60cm needles and above. When making a blanket, it is recommended that you use 80cm or 100cm needles as it allows you to hold more stitches. If you prefer, you can buy interchangeable circular needles of the same length, but the needles' thickness can be changed.

- Knitting Equipment

1. Knitting Needle Gauge
Some vintage needles, and double pointed needles don't have labels on them to tell you their size, and so a knitting needle gauge is perfect for you to find out the size of your needle.

2. Scissors
I recommend embroidery scissors as these are very sharp and cut the wool easily to stop it from fraying.

3. Pins
Pins can be used to pin your work together when sewing your work up.

4. Stitch Holders
These are brilliant as they hold stitches together so that you can return to them later. You can substitute stitch holders for safety pins.

5. Needle Organiser
This is a great way to keep your needles organised and protected against damage.

6. Tape Measure
A great way to keep your work accurately sized, and helps you to check tension and measure your knitting.

7. Stitch Markers
This are essential when working with DPN and circular needles as you need to mark the end of a round.

8. Row Counter
This sits at the end of your needle and allows you to keep track of the rows you have knitted.

9. Point Protectors
These keep the needles from damage, stop your knitting bag tearing and stop stitches falling off the end of the needle.

10. Knitting bag
Knitting bags have loads of compartments for you to be able to hold everything you could possibly need in them.

11. Crochet hook
Helps to pick up dropped stitches and for attaching tassels.

12. Tapestry needle
These are blunt to prevent damage to fibres.

13. Cable needle
These have a kink in them to hold the stitches on the needle. Choose a cable needle that is as close to the size of your knitting needles as possible.

14. Pom Pom rings
So that you can make pom poms!

15. Ball-Winder
A quick way to wrap up your wool easily.

- Knitting Abbreviations

All knitting patterns have abbreviations, and the more you read knitting patterns, the more you'll start to remember and recognise the abbreviations. As there are too many to write down, so I've given you a link to a website that has the majority written down. Most knitting patterns should tell you what their abbreviations are, especially the cable knit stitch, because there are many different ways of doing that.


Here is a glossary of knitting terms:

Glossary of Knitting Terms

- A Knitting Journal

This is really handy and something I'd recommend doing if you intend on making your own knitting pattern. I bought a cheap pukka pad and write my patterns in it.

Things you should keep track of are:
What you intend on making; a hat, scarf, jumper, gloves, bag etc.
Where did you get the pattern, or what patterns influenced you?
The size and type of needles.
The size, weight, colour wool you bought.
Problems you had with it and how you overcame this problem
Include photos of your work, especially a finished one!

There you go, a very basic knowledge of knitting for you to peruse over. I hope it's been helpful.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Versatile Blogger Award Tag

August 25th 2016

I was tagged by the amazing Emily (Love Emily) to take part in the Versatile Blogger Award Tag. Thanks for the tag my lovely, and it's literally taken me 4 hours to think of answers because I'm useless at these sorts of things. So I'm using Emily's post as some inspiration!

Okay, here we go!

1) Harry Potter is everything to me. I absolutely adore it, I've even got a Harry Potter tattoo and planning to add to it. I had a crap time growing up (problems with "friends" at school etc) and I always used to escape into the pages of Harry Potter. Nothing will ever convince me it's just a story because it's so much more than that!

2) I love stationary. Seriously, if you're ever stuck for getting me a present (if you ever want to buy me one), a collection of pens, or post-it notes, or erasers is good enough for me! I cannot go into a shop without browsing the stationary aisle. I've got so much!

3) I'm heavily into Disney and frequently sing Disney songs. I swear I am actually a Disney princess, especially when Tangled came out and I realised I can do everything but 2 things that Rapunzel does in the opening song! Because of my love for Disney, I fell in love with Once Upon A Time (highly recommend this series!)

4) I graduated with a 2:1 in English Literature in July and it was the happiest day of my life! (check out my blog post to see how studying English Literature changed me

5) I want to go on the Great British Bake Off because I am a dab hand at baking (if I do say so myself) but I'm terrified of messing up, and Paul Hollywood. His eyes are too damn blue and intense. 

6) Books, cake, tea, and crafts are the way to my heart. Bring me cake and tea, or come with me to a craft workshop and you'll never get rid of me. Buy me a book at a bookshop over a drink at a bar any day! 

7) I'm a writer who is currently planning a fantasy novel series. I've created the plot and divided it into the number of novels I plan (hope) to write, I've made the characters and I'm balancing world building with writing my first draft. Exciting stuff!

Well that was really hard!

My nominations:

1) Georgina at

2) Beth at

3) Marta at

4) Zoe at

5) Kayleigh at

6) Lottie at

8) Emma at

9) Kimberley at

10) The Beauty Analyst at

Hope you've enjoyed reading this! Good luck ladies, can't wait to read yours!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

How To Cast On (Knitting Tutorial)

23rd August 2016

For those of you who followed my previous blog (the knitted cupcake) will recognise this tutorial. 

One thing you should do before even thinking about knitting, is to find your wool. There are two ways to do this:

1. Find a knitting pattern and choose a wool that meets the requirements; i.e if it's Aran wool, or if it needs 4mm needles etc. 
2. Find a wool you really like and then get needles and a pattern to match.

I usually do the latter, and then follow a combination of various knitting patterns to produce something slightly unique but that has been inspired by others. 

My method of casting on is fairly easy, it requires two knitting needles that match the wool requirements that you will be using. 

Casting on:


- LN = Left Needle
- RN = Right Needle
- WY = Working Yarn

I am using 6mm straight knitting needles and Cygnet Chunky wool blend in turquoise. 

Creating a slip knot: 
To be able to cast on, you need to create your first stitch. My preferred method is this to create a slip knot using my fingers. First, get a piece of yarn that is about 10 cms long. 

Place the yarn over your finger like so:

Then take the end of the yarn and wrap it over your finger, towards the back of your hand, to make a cross. 

Pull the first loop up to loosen it slightly. 

Next, pull the second loop through the first loop. 

Continue to pull until it slips off your finger.

Keep pulling until the knot tightens like so:

Pull the WY to tighten, and pull the shortest piece of yarn to loosen.

And you have created your slip knot.

Casting On: Method 1

This method is called the knit cast on.

Take your slip knot, and place it onto your LN; pull the yarn to tighten it, but don't make it too tight otherwise you won't be able to put your needle through the stitch. So this is your first stitch! 

Next, you need to take your RN and place it through the first stitch by weaving it under and then through the first stitch.  The needles should then make a cross.

Take the WY and wrap it behind the two needles

And then put it between the two needles.

Next, take your RN and pull it back out of the stitch but don't pull it out completely. 

When the needle comes close to coming out of the stitch, slowly turn it towards you, and push forward to make another cross with your needles, but with the RN in front of the LN

Once the RN has come back through the stitch, pull the RN away and to the right like so:

Now you need to place the stitch that is currently on your RN back onto the left needle. To do this, you need to hook the stitch on to the LN:

Weave your LN down through the stitch on the RN

Remove the RN.

And you have cast on your second stitch!

Casting On: Method 2

This next method is called the e-loop/backwards loop. It only requires one needle.

Take your WY and place it in your right hand.

Hold your finger and thumb like so:

Place your finger and thumb behind the WY

Move your hand in a circle so that the finger and thumb catch the WY like so:

Weave the LN through the WY that is currently between your finger and thumb and take your finger and thumb away. 

And this is the e-loop method! I find this method to be the quickest and easiest way of casting on. It leaves a much slimmer and tighter row of stitches than the knit cast on method. 

Repeat either one of these methods until you have cast on enough stitches.