We’re one week into the new year, and still suffering from the Christmas comedown in my house

This year we did things differently. We didn’t go overboard with Christmas related activities. There were no trips to see Santa. No mad dash to visit every single friend we have beforehand. No so-called treats in the way of milk and glucose syrup dressed up as chocolate.

There was no advent. No mass hysteria counting down the days, minutes and seconds until the 25th arrived. Rather than get caught up in what other people were doing, we did what was best for us.

And you know what? We had the best Christmas as a family yet

It was a far cry from the way things have been over the last few years. I spent Christmas eve 2014 sitting on my bed, feeding Freddy, crying my eyes out while all hell broke loose in different rooms. The excitement and sensory overload had well and truly got the best of our then undiagnosed Polly (who is high functioning autistic). She was only five at the time, but the misery that was inflicted upon us all – especially her sister – was undeniable. Little did we know back then that her poor little brain just could not handle what was happening.

I spent that evening sobbing into my phone, desperately searching for answers. Reasons why our child was so difficult when everybody else we knew were posting cute photos on social media. I looked at numerous blogs, websites and book excerpts on the Kindle store that night. I found a book which filled us with hope, and we ploughed the rest of December and much of January into implementing the strategies it suggested.

Christmas comedownWe were still playing the ‘lets treat her the same as everyone else’ game at that point, you see

So although some of the advice was helpful, a lot of it wasn’t. Now that we know Polly isn’t the same as everyone else things are very different. We create our own rules. We play our own game. Life is incomparable now to what it was three years ago.

“Isn’t that just what happens around Polly’s age?”

This is the question I’ve been asked a few times recently. Perhaps for neuro typical children who fit a standard mould, this is exactly what happens as they get older. For autistic children though, life can start getting much harder as they get grow. 

So, for all of my positivity, and delight about the end of our year and festive season, my stomach is once again tied in knots. The Christmas comedown has come along and sucker punched me this week. 

We’ve argued. A lot. There has been much resistance to getting back to learning. There have been many tears and screams of I hate you.

I’ve been physically and emotionally battered by the Christmas comedown

I haven’t written about Polly’s autism for a while. I am desperate to write about all the positives. To pass on tips and help other parents who were in the depths of despair like we were three years ago. 

I have articles in draft about getting sleep on track, about home education, about helping my kids get on better. 

But for now, I’d like to dish out some huge virtual hugs. For anyone else feeling a little bit low right now. Feeling the January blues with a side of autism. For those like us, who are feeling the Christmas comedown, and hoping beyond hope, that it doesn’t last much longer!  

Non-Alcoholic Paleo Christmas Cake

I’ve once again teamed up with a fabulous bunch of free from bloggers, to bring you a wonderful selection of free from Christmas food this year. Please check out the links at the bottom of this post for more details. 

My family has been eating the paleo way for almost six years now. We aren’t perfect eaters, and subscribe to the 80/20 principle, which gives our life a healthy balance. By and large however, this means that we do not eat any grains (of which gluten is just one, but the most publicised one), or refined sugar. We do eat a little dairy in the way of raw milk, cheese, and home fermented goat milk yoghurt and sour cream, but steer clear as best we can of commercial dairy.

Between eating like this, and my recent leap into teetotalism, I wanted to create a non-alcoholic paleo Christmas cake. One that we could all enjoy and doesn’t have the excess sugar, unnecessary ingredients and alcohol you would usually find in a traditional version.

Sugar is sugar people!

Unrefined or not, dried fruit is exceptionally sweet, and the icing alone on most Christmas cakes (especially shop bought) amounts to diabetes on a plate. Apart from anything else, my Hubby is not a fan at all, so I had to put my thinking cap on, and get creative. 

non-alcoholic paleo christmas cakeDid you know that the purpose of soaking the dried fruit (and nuts if you’re using them like I am) in alcohol is to make them super moist? Feeding the cake with booze is partly for preservation purposes, but also for flavour. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tea which has been brewed and cooled down works just as well to soak the fruit and nuts overnight. Not using booze also means that you don’t have to make the cake too far in advance, and can leave it until the week of Christmas. Also it’s best to use organic dried fruit, because it will be sulphite free which is always a good thing! 

I have used Earl Grey tea, because it gives the cake and wonderful smell and flavour. For some reason, bergamot reminds of the beach, and elicits happy memories of far flung holidays and adventures. Not exactly Christmassy, but it makes me smile so I’ll call that a win.   

If you really want a boozey cake, then you can substitute the tea for alcohol of your choice, make it a month in advance and feed with 1-2 tablespoons each week. 

Non-Alcoholic Paleo Christmas Cake that is free from all Grains (including Gluten), Dairy and Refined Sugar

Ingredients for a very large cake, approx 20 servings  
250g grated carrot
200g chopped dried dates
200g sultanas 
200g cashew nuts
100g chopped dried apricots
100g ground nuts (almonds or pecans work great)
non-alcoholic paleo christmas cake100g coconut flour
120ml coconut oil
250ml cool brewed Earl Grey tea
4 large free range eggs
tbsp vanilla

Method
– Get a large bowl and add the dried fruit, cashews and carrot
– Give it a good mix, then pour over the cold tea 
– Cover the bowl and leave the mixture to soak overnight
– In the morning preheat your oven to 150C and prepare a large cake tin by greasing it well and lining with baking paper
– When you’re ready to start cooking add the ground nuts and coconut flour to your bowl of soaked loveliness  
– Give it a big mix
– In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla and coconut oil together
– Pour the wet mixture all over the bowl of other ingredients and give it a good stir
– Pour the batter into your tin and brush with a tbsp of coconut oil 
– Bake for an hour, ensuring that the cake is completely covered in baking paper
– Take out of the oven and allow to cool completely
– Store in an airtight cake tin and decorate as you please on the big day 

non-alcoholic paleo christmas cakeCheck out the other #FreeFromChristmas posts from these fabulous bloggers

Dairy Free Kids

Easy Peasy Foodie

Free From Fairy

Free From Farmhouse

Glutarama

Gluten Free Alchemist

Intolerant Gourmand

Julie’s Family Kitchen

Le Coin de Mel

Paleo Crust (aka Modern Food Stories)

The Adventures of an Allergy Mummy

The Peachick’s Bakery

**I created this recipe for non-alcoholic paleo Christmas cake myself, but would like to say a huge thanks to the wonderful people at Unsplash for the gorgeous photos**  

Pinch punch everyone, happy November. It’s hard to believe that we’re already staring down the barrel of the Christmas countdown, but time flies and here we are. Never was there a more pertinent phrase when you are raising children than the days are long but the years are short. I’ve had a few ruthless clear outs lately, which got me thinking about all the toys my kids have enjoyed over the years. So I’ve put together this A to Z of gift ideas, just in case you’re in need of present buying inspiration over the holidays (and beyond).

In the interest of transparency I’d like to say that I’ve not been incentivised to write this piece, but was sent the items marked with an asterisk (*) free of charge. I have only included the products that have been a hit with my kids, and rather than share affiliated links, I’ve searched for today’s best prices.

A-Z of Gift Ideas 

Alphabet Lotto by Orchard Toys (£9.50). A gorgeous game which can be played four ways, aimed at pre-schoolers. This was originally bought for Polly and has been played with by all three of my kids over the years. It’s brilliant for learning the alphabet in a fun way.  

*Blaze and the Monster Machines Play Set by Fisher Price (£33.49). I’m not a huge fan of plastic toys, but the one exception I will make time and again are Fisher Price toys. Largely because they are always sturdy and last for ages, whereas other brands will break really fast. We were sent this for 3yo Freddy, and although he loves it, so does 5yo Clara. Have to say it does make me happy when they play with toys typically meant for the other gender.

Cinema Gift Card (any value you would like). We are huge film fans here, and often go to the Odeon kids club cinema the weekend. Instead of costing around £40 for my family of five to enjoy a movie together, it works out just over £10. They usually have one or two films to choose from which have been out for a few months. This half term the Odeon had a fabulous selection including Despicable Me 3.

gift ideas

Dr. Seuss Books (from £5.99). You absolutely cannot go wrong with Dr. S, we love the catchy rhymes and thought provoking illustrations. Our favourites include The Lorax, Oh the Places You’ll Go and The Sneeches. Click on the link to be taken to The Book People, the collection listed is for twenty books and costs just £20, which is great value.    

Ear Defenders (£10.95). If you have a child who is sensitive to noise, these ear defenders are just marvellous for when it all gets too much. We bought a pair for Polly shortly after her autism diagnosis and they have been invaluable over the last two years.   

*Facts! One for Every Day of the Year Book by Tracey Turner (RRP £12.99). Click on the coloured text here to see the full review I wrote for this book a while back. I honestly cannot recommend it highly enough, it’s such a wonderful way to sneak facts into children. Did you know that flamingos pee down their legs to keep cool?   

Grow your own fruit/veg kits (from £4.99). Sewing the seeds (quite literally) for kids to be passionate about growing food is invaluable in my opinion. We  have really gotten into the swing of it this year, and I can’t wait to grow even more next year.   

Helicopter Kit by the Science Museum (£5.99). We’ve bought this as a gift for several of our friends kids now, and it’s always been well received. We love the Science Museum and their build your own kits are great for igniting a spark about how things work.  

I Love You Lucky Coins (£1.99). A Lovely little keepsake for children to squirrel away in their memory box. We all need to be told I Love You from time to time. 

*Journal by My Bright Journal (£13.50). Designed for parents by parents, this journal is packed solid with excellent ideas to help foster mindfulness and emotional intelligence. It’s aimed at 5-10 year olds and the author suggests spending 20 minutes per day filling in the activities together with your child(ren). Activities include gratitude corner, scientific facts and observing nature.               

Kidzania Tickets (from around £20). Check out my full review from our visit last summer by clicking on the highlighted text. My girls absolutely loved going to Kidzania, and have been begging me to take them back ever since.    

Lego kits (from £5). My kids are Lego mad, and love building masterpieces. Although they are perfectly happy with creating something random, thrown together with the bricks we have in our huge box, they also adore the pre-boxed sets. We did one together recently which ended up being a three hour project needing undivided attention. I personally found it really therapeutic to tune out to distractions and just crack on with getting the set built. The instruction manual inside these kits are absolutely fool proof.     

Melissa and Doug toys (from £5). I adore this brand. We’ve had so many of their toys and games over the years, and they are always well made and educational. From building blocks for little ones, to farm sets, dressing up and mosaic kits, lots here to choose from to suit children of my kids ages. 

National Trust Family Membership (around £100 per year). With free entry to over 500 places, and free parking at most of them, a NT membership would come in handy for most families. Perks of a membership also include an NT Handbook with ideas for visit planning, and an NT Magazine sent to you three times a year.

gift ideasOctonauts Sea Snakes and Ladders game (£7.99). This is a lovely take on the original game of snakes and ladders, especially if your kids are Octonauts fans. With two ways to play, this game is suitable for the youngest members of the household, Freddy has been enjoying it since he was two.  

PAW Patrol anything! (from £5). If your little one is like Freddy, they will be obsessed with the Paw Patrol. When it comes to his favourite pups, Freddy’s ethos is more is more. He’s currently hankering after his “very own lookout” guess we’ll have to see what Santa brings him.       

Quilting Keyring Set (£9.99). This first quilting set makes up to six keyrings, and can be made into the shape of a tortoise, penguin, owl, sheep, squirrel or Yin Yang sign. A great introduction to paper quilting. 

*Rubik’s cube (around £10). As well as the original cube, which needs no introduction you can now buy a less difficult version for smaller children. There are four Rubik’s juniors to collect, which come in the shape of animals and are aimed at children four and over. Compared with the original cube, the juniors have relatively few combinations to crack. Great to get the kids into a problem solving mindset.  

Skateboard (£10.99). I bought this skateboard for my husband as a joke gift a few years ago, but the kids have been loving it recently. Especially Clara, who has wonderful coordination and balance skills.    

Times Table Tiles by BigJigs (£5.99). This is a fab way for kids to learn their times tables, and has really helped Polly get to grips with hers.     

Uno (£3.75). I bought Uno for Polly when she was three, and it’s still our go-to card game when we’re out and about or in need of quiet time. It’s a simple matching game, and one that is enjoyed every time we play it. 

*VTech Kidicom Max (£79.99). This is a great first tablet aimed at children who are 3-7, which features a 5″ shatter proof touch screen. Parents can manage their child’s apps, time limits and kid-safe web access, and also download interactive educational games from the VTech Learning Lodge. The Kidicom Max has a 2MP rotatable camera, which Polly has been using to film videos, as she will be branching further into vlogging in the new year.     

Wilson, Jacqueline 2018 Album (£3.49). From the Tracy Beaker Trilogy and Dumping Ground, to Hetty Feather and Clean Break, Wilson’s books are adored by children across the country. This album would make a great stocking filler.    

Xylophone (£14.59). Yes it’s noisy and will drive you mad, but I can’t think of a pre-schooler on the planet who wouldn’t love to play with this. It’s an ideal beginners instrument, which is aimed to inspire children in a colourful and playful way. 

Yellow Minions (sorry this is a massive cheat!) We’ve watched all the films, and we have tons of Minion themed clothes and toys. They are not always fabulous quality, it has to be said, but they do always bring a smile to your face. 

Zebra Fancy Dress (£3.75). My kids love their imaginative play, and our huge fancy dress box is overflowing. Buying brand new costumes gets expensive, so it’s good to have plenty of headbands, bow ties and tails, as contained in this set. That way you can transform any old plain outfit into the animal of your choice.

I hope you found my A-Z of Gift Ideas Useful. What would you add? Tweet me @mummytries

family-christmas-card-2016

Polly Tries: Making Salt Dough Christmas Tree Decorations**This post has been written by my 7yo daughter Polly.**

Yesterday our kindness challenge was to make salt dough decorations. We made the dough, then cut out shapes with our cookie cutters. 

Afterwards we sprinkled them with glitter and baked them in the oven on a very low heat. We let our decorations cool down over night, and painted them with our special pens this morning.

Which was lots of fun.

It was mostly very easy, but mummy mixed the ingredients and rolled the dough for me. I really enjoyed this activity, my favourite bits were squishing the dough, cutting the shapes out and decorating them.

salt dough decorationsHere’s what you’ll need to make your own decorations (batch of 20)

2 cups of plain flour
3/4 of a cup of cold water
1/2 a cup of table salt
1 tbsp of oil
Glitter if you like sparkles
Fabric pens such as these 
String

Here’s how you make them

  • Pre-heat your oven to 130C
  • In a large bowl mix together the flour and salt
  • salt dough decorationsThen pour over the water, oil and mix well
  • Bring the mixture together into a  ball shape with your hands
  • Roll the mixture out on a flat surface
  • Cut your decorations out with cookie cutters 
  • Don’t forget to poke the holes in the top  for the string to go in (we used a chop sicks)
  • Sprinkle a bit of glitter if you wish
  • I made letters out of the left over dough for my name, and my brother and sisters names
  • Put your decorations onto a baking tray and bake for 2-3 hours
  • Let them cool down completely 
  • Decorate as you wish
  • Thread your string through the hole
  • Now they are ready hang them on your tree