Weekend Project – Feed the birds

We like to make our own bird feeders so that there are no Allergy Brother allergens lurking in them when the boys handle them.


250g Suet or lard (you can get vegetable suet, if you avoid animal products)

250g Berries, nuts, dried fruit, oats, cheese, birdseed (choose the things that you are not allergic to)

Garden twine

Yoghurt pots or small plant pots

Dolly pegs, lolly sticks or twigs20171224_132038 1

  1. Melt the suet or lard either by melting in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or by putting it in a bowl in the microwave for a minute.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients into the suet or lard.  Set this aside to cool until the lard or suet becomes opaque, but it is still soft enough to spoon into your pots.
  3. While, the mixture is cooling, assemble the pots.  Make a hole in the bottom of the pot.  Tie the twine on to the peg, stick or twig then thread it up through the hole.  Finally make a loop to hang the feeder.  20171224_114332
  4. Fill as many of your containers as you can with your mixture and allow it to cool and solidify completely.20171224_131934 1
  5. Cut away the plastic pot and recycle.
  6. Choose a suitable spot in your garden, at least 1.5m off the ground with some foliage to shelter shy species of birds.20171228_125115You might like to make a variety of bird feeders.  There is another idea here.20151123_140648







Advent Update

The Allergy Brothers are loving their Playmobil advent calendars and their picture advent calendars, which is fantastic.  I have finally cracked this after 6 years!  (I am a slow learner!)  I talked about all the different types of advent calendars that we have tried here.

I recently read about Reverse Advent Calendars.  The idea is that, instead of getting every day of December, you give an item of food.  I have often wondered how we would manage if we needed to rely on food banks; I can’t imagine that there would be very much food that the boys could eat available.

We live on the North Essex coast in the UK.  A few years ago, there were very high tides and storms; our house was at serious risk of flooding.  We had a few hours to prepare and move the most important items to the top floor of our house.  It was interesting what became essential.  I moved the boys’ medical records, their prescription medications, our photograph albums, our passports, and a stockpile of their food.  Since then, I have always wondered/worried what would happen if it became difficult for us to get the foods that the boys need.  This year I am preparing a free from foods reverse advent calendar for a local food bank.  I hope it makes someone’s life a little easier at a difficult point.  It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas…


Advent Calendars with Allergies

When I was a child, advent calendars meant poorly printed pieces of cardboard with small, tricky doors.  Towards the end of my childhood, chocolate advent calendars became a thing, but my Mum wasn’t impressed by this commercialisation of Christmas.  Goodness only knows what she thinks this year as we seem to have hit peak Advent Calendar.

Unfortunately, the Allergy Brothers aren’t able to take advantage of the more extreme advent calendars this year: Greggs bakery advent calendar (too gluteny), the various gin/wine/beer advent calendars (too underage), the Asda cheese advent calendar (too dairy), nor the Snaffling Pig pork scratching advent calendar (actually Allergy Little would probably love this as pork scratchings are basically a hybrid of his two favourite foods – crisps and Pepperami – so he needs to be kept away from this as long as possible for the good of his health).

We can’t even take advantage of the widely available Moo Free advent calendar, which is dairy free, gluten free, soya free, and vegan, but contains rice (an Allergy Brother allergen, no really!).  In the past we have tried the Hotel Chocolate dark chocolate advent calendar.  It is vegan and gluten free, but contains soya lecithin.  It is also good quality chocolate, which the Allergy Brothers found too much.  Two years ago, I even tried making my own chocolate coins as an advent calendar, which was a very bad idea.

This year, I think we have advent sorted.  I need to get over my childish obsession with chocolate advent calendars.  We have lovely traditional picture advent calendars provided by family friend, J, and I have finally accepted that a toy advent calendar might be the way to go.  Obviously, I can’t reveal exactly the type (click here to see what we chose), but I think it will have lots of play value beyond the Christmas season.  There are a lot to choose from with all the main toy manufacturers producing them: Lego, Megabloks, Schleich, Playmobil, Disney, Paw Patrol, etc.   I did balk at the price, but I reasoned that the Allergy Brothers miss out on lots of food treats throughout the year, and I could deduct it from Santa’s budget.  So it turns out that the answer to advent calendars with allergies might not be food at all, although the Diptyque calendar might be a step too far.

Chestnut Shortbread

werbackWe’re back.  After a long sabbatical involving illness, kitchen renovations, and other dreary things, we are back with lots of original recipes to share with you.

And I thought I would start off by treating you to a shortbread recipe.


100g chestnut flour

100g cornflour

100g gram flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

75ml maple syrup

125ml sunflower oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3.  Line a tin with baking parchment.
  2. Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  3. Pour in the oil and maple syrup.  Mix thoroughly to create a soft, crumbly dough.
  4. Tip the dough into the lined tin and press it into an even layer, smoothing down the top with the back of a spoon.  Prick the shortbread all over with a fork.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes until the shortbread is a rich brown colour.  Take it out of the oven and immediately cut into 8-12 pieces.  Then leave it to cool in the tin.

I served this slightly warm with fresh raspberries and whisky cream (for the dairy and alcohol eaters).