Vegetarians welcome!

At a bed & breakfast, two things are especially important – a comfortable, non-saggy bed, and a delicious, hearty, nutritious breakfast.

Here at Belgravia, we are happy to accommodate a wide variety of dietary concerns. As is well documented on this blog, our youngest daughter has anaphylactic peanut, egg, and soy allergies, so we understand how important it is to have peace-of-mind about food safety while traveling. We pride ourselves on keeping our guests safe and happy. This summer we have had a number of guests who do not eat meat (whether by necessity or choice) and we are happy to offer meat-free tasty, colourful options to accompany the fruit, yogurt, granola, flax, juice, and D’Arcy’s muffins which are always on the table.

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Practice makes perfect!

As anyone who follows our blog knows, our youngest daughter, Olivia, has anaphylactic food allergies. We save up her expired epi-pens (now Allerjects) and use them for practice on oranges each year. This year each child in our family was able to practice with two devices. The video depicts Olivia setting off her expired Allerject for the first time. You can sense the nervous energy as she wasn’t sure what to expect. I also love that her “child” is allergic to “peanuts, potatoes, and salmon”. Olivia is allergic to peanuts, eggs, and soy; we told her about friends’ child who is allergic to potato, and the child in the waiting room when Olivia was challenging Macadamia nuts was allergic to salmon. She obviously recalls what we tell her. I love all the facial expressions and deep breathing after administration!

We will reiterate to all kids that you do not need to use the new ten-digit dialing system when using 911!

p.s. Her “treat” after each needle/appointment is duct tape rather than food. You can see she is sitting on her beautifully decorated chair!

Someone told me it’s all happening at the Zoo…

At the Zoo, lyrics by Paul Simon:
Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo
I do believe it, I do believe its true
Mmm-mmm-mm-mm, Mmm-mmm-mm,
Ohh ohh ohh, Mmm-Mmm-mmm
Its a light and tumbled journey from the east side to the park
Just to find a fancy ramble to the zoo
But you can take a crosstown bus if it’s raining or it’s cold
And the animals will love it if you do – If you do nowSomething tells me it’s all happening at the Zoo
I do believe it, I do believe it’s true

Our last full day in Portland was spent at the Oregon Zoo. Susan had been up and at work by 5:30 am. D’Arcy had woken in the night, thinking he’d slept until 7:30, but it turned out his watch had somehow been reset back to Atlantic Standard Time, and it was actually only 3:30am Portland time. He did go back to bed, but was up for the day shortly after 6:00. The rest of us “slept in” until close to 7am! A record! Phil was in charge of breakfast and looked after us well. We poked around home until Susan arrived from work around 10:30.
We went out into the neighbourhood and caught the bus to transfer to the the train to get to the Oregon Zoo. It was the coldest day we experienced in Oregon, around 3-4*C. We spent six hours exploring exhibits and looking at animals, who were very active. For the girls, the zoo was the highlight of their time in Portland! I noticed a geocache on the ground beside one exhibit and made the “mistake” of pointing it out to D’Arcy. By the end of our time there, he had found and logged in to three of them!
Waiting for the bus to the zoo. Disclaimer: this photo was staged by their father. They do not have access to that many electronics!

Waiting for the bus to the zoo.

Black Bear

Black Bear

Sea Lions

Sea Lions

Polar Bears

Polar Bears

"Petting" the leopard

“Petting” the leopard

Hippo

Hippo

Rhino

Rhino

Lion

Lion

We stopped close to suppertime to have a little coffee/hot cocoa warm-up break in the cafe. By this time, despite the extra warm clothes Susan had provided us with, we were very cold – especially our feet. We were staying in the park to see the “Zoo Lights” a display of over one million LED lights set up around the park. By the time we got back outside, some cloud cover had settled in and it actually felt warmer. The lights were amazing and our photos don’t do them justice.

Susan, Phil, D'Arcy and myself with the girls at the cafe.

Susan, Phil, D’Arcy and myself with the girls at the cafe. Olivia is at that stage where every pose for a photo is a little crazy.

Playing on the sculptures outside the lion exhibit.

Playing on the sculptures outside the lion exhibit.

Some of the lights as dusk fell. Susan has asked Phil for one of the lit-up crocodiles for their front lawn next year...

Some of the lights as dusk fell. Susan has asked Phil for one of the lit-up crocodiles for their front lawn next year…

Christmas lights everywhere!

Christmas lights everywhere!

Our children in front of an LED display that reminded us of home.

Our children in front of an LED display that reminded us of home.

A dragon for Emily W.

A dragon for Emily W.

A Christmas wreath arch

A Christmas wreath arch

By the time we left the zoo everyone was tired and hungry. We took the train back into downtown Portland and the girls decided they were still awake enough to go out to dinner one last time. We tried to get back in to Pastini’s, but the wait was 45 minutes and we didn’t think the girls would make it that long. Instead, we went to a pub/sports bar called Buffalo Wild Wings. There, we had my favourite beer of the trip so far – a Butte porter that I’ll have to ask Phil the exact name of. They had an allergy menu and we were able to order “safe” boneless wings & sauce for Olivia with veggies on the side. She tried a couple bites of her chicken and decided she didn’t want it – which I should have taken as a sign. She did, however, eat her veggies. She also asked for a glass of water.

We took the bus home and immediately got into our pyjamas. We were just about to settle in to chat before bed, when Olivia came to me and told me her back was itchy. I looked and her upper back was covered with hives. We sprang into high alert and I gave her a Reactine (which she has been taking preventatively on this trip and it was time for anyway). About twenty minutes later, Susan gave me some Benadryl to top her up and we had the epi-pens on standby. We marked the hives on her back with pen to track if they were spreading, and I monitored to see if she developed any other symptoms of anaphylaxis. She fell asleep in my lap and I took her to bed, putting her to sleep between us so that I would know if anything changed.

One of my favourite photos - Phil & Sarah, deep in conversation at the restaurant.

One of my favourite photos – Phil & Sarah, deep in conversation at the restaurant.

Hives all over Olivia's upper back after supper.

Hard to tell, but a photo of the hives all over Olivia’s upper back after supper.

Luckily she had a good night; we think the hives were from cross-contamination. We suspect that due to the sheer volume of food going out, that her chicken was fried in the fryer rather than baked; her egg allergy recognizes the protein in any form. We consider ourselves very lucky that her reaction did not go any further than it did, and also that we were with two nurses who helped to keep us calm!

Somebody pinch me!

Olivia finally had her almond challenge today. (It had been put off after her bouts with pneumonia.) I will admit I did not sleep well last night – tossing and turning and having crazy allergy-mom dreams. We had some almonds that D’Arcy’s father had given us that contained the allergy warning: contains almonds. I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to find tree-nuts that aren’t contaminated with other tree-nuts and peanuts.

At her last tests, Olivia tested negative for an almond allergy on her skin-prick tests, but had a 4.6 on her blood test. Her allergist was confident that she was no longer allergic. After being thoroughly checked over, Olivia was offered a quarter of an almond. It was interesting for me to watch her. She was nervous about eating it, and afraid to put it in her mouth. In fact, she didn’t want to hold it, so her understanding nurse gave Olivia a plastic spoon to use.

After her first two quarter almonds, she ate the next half almond she was offered with gusto. After three hours, when she had eaten eight whole almonds without reaction, she was declared no longer allergic to them! She ate another four for good measure!

The important take aways from our day at the allergist: She has been cleared to eat almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pine nuts at home because she tested negative on skin tests and very low on blood tests and had this successful challenge.  She is only allowed to eat these particular nuts if her father or I have given them to her. She is still allergic to cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, hazlenuts, and Brazil nuts, and the risk of cross-contamination is huge. She is scheduled to challenge cashews in October and our hope is that eventually she will be left with only peanut, egg & soy allergies to contend with during her lifetime.

Our home will continue to be peanut and tree-nut free to keep both Olivia and our food allergic guests safe.

In the meantime, we celebrated with a box of Honey Nut Cheerios on the way home! 😉

One step at a time…

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Two new gluten-free breakfast recipes (Egg & dairy-free too!)

This morning around the breakfast table, we were dealing with gluten-free and egg-free diets, as well as no cheese for another guest. We tried two new recipes, both which were successful. Since I posted the photo on our Facebook page, I’ve had requests for the recipes, and also from the guests, so thought we’d post them here for easy access.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free banana muffins

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free banana muffins

Gluten, egg, and dairy-free banana muffins

Mix the following together with beaters until smooth:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil (we use canola)
  • 2 tsp. egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup water OR 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the following dry ingredients, then add to the wet mixture and stir until moist. Do not over-mix.

  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (We used Bob’s Redmill)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Line muffin tins with papers, divide batter between 12 muffin cups, and bake in 350*F oven for 20 – 22 minutes.

Egg, dairy, and gluten-free crepes

Egg, dairy, and gluten-free crepes

CREPES:

  • 3 Eggs worth of prepared egg replacer
  • 3/4cup rice milk
  • 3/4cup Water
  • 3 TBSP oil (we use canola)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (We used Bob’s Redmill)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 TBSP potato starch
  • 1/2t Salt

Combine together all ingredients in bowl and whisk until combined. Batter will appear deceivingly thin. Cook crepe in hot, oiled frying pan and top with desired filling. This morning we served our egg-free guests crepes filled with asparagus, tomato, basil, chives and boursin cheese; and our cheese-free guest, the same herbs & veggies in scrambled eggs. (Pictured above.)

As you can see from above, these recipes are also soy-free. However, the flour we used (Bob’s Redmill) is processed in a factory that uses soy and tree-nuts, so we consider these recipes both “unsafe” for our daughter.  If we used a different flour, they would be safe.

Please let us know how they turn out for you! We will definitely serve both of these recipes again!

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast

The Day We Thought Would Never Come

I took Olivia to her yearly allergy appointment yesterday. For anyone who follows along this blog regularly, you know that our daughter Olivia has life-threatening (anaphylaxis) allergies to peanuts, treenuts, eggs, and soy. She has outgrown allergies and intolerances to dairy, cinnamon, avacado, banana, and most fruit. There were times over the years when we weren’t sure what was causing her reactions and questioned shellfish, wheat, and even the possibility of exercise-induced anaphylaxis.

Luckily, as she’s been growing, she’s outgrown most of her allergies and we are left with a short, but dangerous, (and probably permanent)  list. Olivia has had reactions and ended up in the hospital when our B&B guests have been eating nuts in their rooms. As a result, we became a “peanut and treenut free accommodation” – the first in Nova Scotia! 🙂

What was initially overwhelming, has become just the way we live. We’re all very good at reading labels and she is mature enough to understand that she cannot always eat  what those around her are eating. She always asks “Is this safe for me” before trying something new. Our family and friends are supportive and conscientious to ensure she stays safe. Luckily, D’Arcy & I love to cook and bake so we always have safe treats on hand!

Throughout her testing over the years (we received her official diagnosis when she was ten months old) the hope was that she would outgrow as many of her allergies as possible. Because her numbers are so high, and because of the type of allergies she has, she will probably have to navigate her peanut, egg, and soy allergies for life. Based on the results from last year’s blood-work, her doctor tested her skin yesterday for tree-nuts* and egg, to see how they were progressing. Much to our amazement and surprise, her tree-nut pokes (with the exception of cashew) came back negative!

tests

Olivia shows off her poke tests. The doctor ground up actual nuts (rather than the serum they normally use – makes it even more accurate) which was then put onto her skin. They take a tiny needle and poke the mixture so it enters her skin. If a hive appears, the test is positive; no reaction means negative. You can see the hive for egg and cashew on the top left. The hive on the bottom right is the histamine control.

So what does this mean? Although the blood and skin tests are now negative, it is too dangerous for her to just start eating nuts. If the tests are false negatives, she could go into anaphylaxis as soon she ingests them. Olivia is scheduled for an “almond challenge” under medical supervision in June. We chose almonds to test first because they will open up the most options for her: skin creams, cereals, almond butter, almond milk, etc. We’ll continue with challenges throughout the summer until she has passed them all.

To be clear, even if she passes, she still won’t be able to eat nuts in a restaurant or at a party due to the risk of cross-contamination with peanuts, but she’ll be able to eat them in a controlled environment and we’ll be able to eat them around her! 🙂

She was slightly put-out that her allergist decided she could wait until next year to have more blood-work done. I asked him if he’d ever met a child who was disappointed that she did NOT get to have bloodwork? (No.) Turned out she wanted the finger puppet they give the kids at the lab at the IWK Health Centre after their needles are over. Weird kid. We went to Woozles book store instead and got a treat there.

I still can’t quite believe it! Rest assured, we are still committed to being a peanut and tree-nut free property, knowing the peace of mind it brings to our guests with food allergies.

Olivia surrounded by bubbles being blown outside a candy shop in Halifax. Happy her appointment was over.

Olivia surrounded by bubbles being blown outside a candy shop in Halifax. Happy her appointment was over.

* Peanuts and treenuts are not the same thing. Peanuts are a legume and grow in the ground. Treenuts grow on trees and include nuts such as almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, macademia nuts, pistachios, and hazlenuts.