Thursday, 27 February 2014

Egg Allergy Update

Those of you who have been following this blog will remember that just over a year ago, we had quite the scare when trying scrambled eggs on our son for the first time, which ended with a rushed trip to the emergency department (view original article here). We have had a couple of mild exposures since then but generally speaking, our family adapted well to living in an egg free zone. What I am most thankful for is that Jack's allergy was relatively mild and could be treated with antihistamine drops. Following the instructions of the paediatric immunologist, at the end of last year we commenced a program of controlled egg exposure as luckily, egg allergies are something that children often grow out of. 

My husband was quite happy with the controlled egg exposure program, as it involved eating lots of chocolate cake. We started with a chocolate cake containing one egg and gave jack a small portion. Having had no reaction, we increased his portion size on subsequent days until he was happy eating a normal toddler sized piece of cake. The following week we did the same with a two-egg cake, then a mud cake with five eggs. Jack was fine on all the cakes and despite my paranoia at any red mark that may or may not have actually appeared on his face, it all went well. The doctor had then advised us to try hard boiled egg, first the yolk, then the white. We kinda skipped this phase and went straight to a baked quiche. He's had quiche a bunch of times now and been fine. Yippee!!

Enjoying some egg-free cake.
Most children with an egg allergy are allergic to the proteins in the raw egg white. Once eggs have been cooked for a certain period of time the proteins change and no longer cause the same reactions. I haven't been brave enough to try scrambled eggs again given their short cooking time, but it's wonderful not having to keep Jack away from anything that may have egg in it. He loves sampling whatever I'm eating and it's great that we've been able to work on his cake appreciation. 

As someone who loves to bake, I tried a range of egg replacement products with varying degrees of success. Most egg replacements achieved the raising element but I found the binding element was missing. After much trial and error (and many cakes that broke apart coming out of the tin), I found Psyllium Husk to be the best as it helped bind the cakes together. It's available in most health food stores and health food sections in the larger super markets. 1 tablespoon of psyllium husk mixed with 2 tablespoons of water makes the equivalent of one egg. A word of warning though, mix it up immediately before use as the paste becomes like glue if left for too long. 

Whilst my allergy story has a nice happy ending, I'm constantly reminded of other parents dealing with dangerous allergies on a daily basis. Know the children in your circle, playgroup etc, and remember that exposure to the wrong foods is a very serious health issue for many people. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Noah's Ark Crochet Blanket

The internet is a wonderful resource for so many things, especially patterns. I can't see myself ever buying another crochet or knitting pattern in the store. So many wonderful designs are available free or for a small fee. The pattern for this lovely blanket was my first online pattern purchase and I have now made it twice, once for a friend and again for my unborn baby. I bought the pattern from www.anniescatalog.com after finding the picture on a website somewhere. I loved the whimsical unisex design immediately and eventually tracked down the pattern. The blanket itself is a quite simple wave pattern but the embellishments are more complicated and really did require specific instructions. 

For those of you here in Australia, you will understand my pain when I say I couldn't find pure cotton 8 ply ANYWHERE! It was terribly frustrating. I found a few websites that sold cotton but not in the colour range I required and it was going to cost a fortune. Enter my new favourite website for buying wool, www.loveknitting.com. This UK based company has regular sales, an amazing range and postage is free to Australia with any purchase of $80 or more. They also put out a great newsletter that always includes a free PDF pattern - my collection is now extensive. 
I first learnt to crochet thanks to a lovely friend I had in early high school. Bernadette was such a clever crafter, she gave me something to emulate. I learnt all the major stitches and found crochet so much more satisfying than knitting due to the speed at which you make progress. I started making the first blanket after a rather long time of having not picked up a hook and was shocked that the instructions just didn't make any sense at all. It took a bit of internet searching and watching a few youtube clips to work out - the pattern uses American abbreviations and of course I learnt the Australian/british way. After much frustration I found a conversion chart that finally explained everything to me and now I would have to say I am bi-lingual. A tip for young players getting your patterns on the internet though - check where your pattern comes from! 

All in all, I enjoyed this blanket the first time around much more than the second. The animals got a bit fiddly and I'm always impatient to start the next project. I'm happy with the results and my friend loved the one I sent her last year. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Mama's Moist Banana Cake

I LOVE banana cake and have been making the same recipe since I was a child. I have no idea where the recipe originates from, but it was neatly penned in my mother's hand written recipe book and now resides similarly in mine. It's quick and easy to make and the outcome is a deliciously moist centre with crispy edge.

Ingredients

85 grams butter
1 cup brown sugar (small)
1 egg
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup milk

Method

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, then banana. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with the milk. Make sure all ingredients are mixed together well. Place batter in a lined loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven for 45 - 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I love my slice of banana cake with a scraping of butter, naughty I know. If you wanted to be really naughty, throw in a handful of chopped dark chocolate right at the end. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

World Map Family Quilt


Living in Canberra I feel we can never have enough quilts. Even during the summer it's often nice to snuggle in the morning or evenings when hanging out on the couch. I spend so much time making quilts for other people, it was refreshing to make a family quilt for us recently and I took my inspiration from some wonderful coordinating fabric. It's called 'What a world' by Jill McDonald for P & B Textiles, which I found at my favourite Canberra fabric store Rosemont the Patchwork Shop, during a 20% off sale. Being a language and geography teacher, how could we go wrong with a world map panel, capital cities, and various languages saying 'hello'. Perfect. 

I spent quite a while cutting out the various pieces and working out how to make them all fit. This is where some sort of graph paper is a must. Even for you Australian quilters you really need to work in inches as working out seam allowances etc just doesn't work in centimetres. I also recommend taking pictures of proposed layouts. You can then get a 'big picture' perspective on how the quilt will look and if you've got any colours too close etc. I also like to have a picture as a reference when putting together patchwork just in case things get moved around. To give the quilt some lift I decided on a 1" red border which I also used for the binding. It really brought the various pictures together and looked smashing. 
The fun part was then to get quilting! I did a fairly large stipple over the central panel and five different free motion quilting designs for the patchwork. These ranged from spiral designs to swirls and waves. I kept it pretty simple as I didn't want to detract from the beautiful fabric design. 

This quilt is now a favourite play object for my son who likes to hide his father or the dog underneath. Whilst he's a bit too young to start learning the various countries of the world, he is very quick to point to the different cars that feature in the patchwork. This is by no means the most difficult quilt I've ever made but it's important sometimes to do fun projects that suit your family.

What's your favourite family project?