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Your One Stop Free-From Tea And Biscuits Guide

So here’s the thing. I’m the first one to stick my hand up in the air and declare myself a complete and utter loser, for multiple things in life, but in this case for being THAT person who would choose a nice cup of tea over vodka shots. I’ll take the complete mickey out of myself for the joy I get from sitting down with a nice brew, a biscuit (or five), putting my feet up, and watching This Morning, and I’m more than aware that I’m probably old before my time. 

I’m not gonna lie, I just took a moment to read back what I’ve written and reflect on the fact that I’m twenty two years old and sitting here writing a blog post about my favourite tea and biscuits. But you know what? I stand by my belief that the humble tea and biscuit break is completely under-rated, and I can almost guarantee that I’m not alone in this. LET US ALL ENJOY TEA AND BISCUITS WITHOUT SOCIETAL JUDGEMENT.

In line with that, it just so happens that I am allergic to life. It’s great. My food allergies are kind of complex, but as a rough overview… I have a severe peanut allergy (anaphylaxis) so must avoid peanuts, including traces, at all costs. Then I have a ‘normal’ nut allergy (oral allergy syndrome), meaning I can’t eat tree nuts but can eat *may contains* products, provided this definition doesn’t include peanuts. This is the bit that confuses people the most, since different manufacturers have different guidelines on what constitutes ‘nuts’ in their warnings: I can eat *may contain nuts* for some brands, such as Sainsbury’s, but not others, such as Tesco, due to differences in labelling regulations.  THEN I have milk intolerance: pretty straightforward, I avoid milk but don’t avoid *may contains*. We’ve found that yeast, soya egg white and a few others are not my friends due to my awesome immune system, and whilst I don’t strictly avoid these, I try to limit my intake of them. Finally, I have no problem at all with gluten, but most of the foods I eat just happen to be gluten free. Phew. Got all that? Me neither.

Anyway, here’s the important bit and a huge disclaimer before I get to the all-important snack guide. The foods I mention below are safe for me; no peanuts, but may contain traces of tree nuts and milk, and many of them contain other allergens. Labels change all the time: if you choose to purchase any of these foods, PLEASE check the labels and do your own research into the manufacturer before consuming. If you’re in any doubt, don’t risk it. Easier said than done I know, but it’s not worth it, even for the most delicious looking biscuit.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, lets move on to the important bit: THE FOOD. Keep scrolling for my top free-from tea and biscuit recommendations corresponding with  different time points in the day. It’s probably socially unacceptable to acknowledge that I have an organizational system for my biscuit consumption but if you know me personally, I’m sure this won’t surprise you. I take my tea breaks very seriously.


Tetley Original with Alpro Oat Milk, with Lovemore Digestive Biscuits

I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that my day doesn’t begin until I’ve had my first cuppa. Tetley Original gives me life, and for me personally, oat milk is my non-dairy alternative of choice. Choice of brand is important here: I’ve found that Oatly oat milk curdles in hot drinks (and yes, that’s as appetising as it sounds), so I always choose Alpro when I can; to me, it tastes the most natural. A nice big cuppa and a cheeky Lovemore digestive biscuit? Excellent start to the day.


Chill-Out Mode: Tetley Pure Green Tea with Lovemore Custard Creams

This is my go-to lunchtime combo. It took me a while to really come around to green tea when I first tried it a few years ago, but Tetley do a lovely smooth pure, as well as a decaf, green tea. Now, let us talk about Lovemore’s Custard Creams. These were the biscuits that first introduced me to their brand and let me tell you, they give me life. I stand by my statement that they actually taste nicer than their non- free-from counterparts, and I legitimately have inner angst when there’s not a packet in my cupboard. Some people become addicted to drugs and harmful substances, I become addicted to Custard Creams. We all have our battles.

Productive Mode: Twinings Pure Peppermint Tea with Dove’s Farm Chocolate Chip Oat Bar

If you’re going for more of a productive vibe, I’ll always recommend a Twinings Pure Peppermint Tea. I first gave this a go when I read online that peppermint tea helps to alleviate migraines and whilst I don’t know if that ever actually worked for me, I did find that I liked the taste: refreshing and not too sweet. Dove’s Farm Freee Chocolate Chip Oat Bar is a relatively new addition to my life, but it’s honestly a multiple allergy sufferer’s DREAM. I first discovered them when one was in my complementary meal pack aboard the Eurostar on my recent trip to Paris, and I legitimately nearly cried when I realised that 1) this was something I could actually eat, and 2) it tasted AMAZING, without creating the crumbly mess that can sometimes arise when tackling a snack bar on public transport. 10/10 would recommend. I’ve actually just paused in writing this blog post so I can go and order myself some more.

Indulgent Mode: Teapigs Chai Tea with Lovemore Chocolate Chip Cookies

So it’s coming up late afternoon and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be feeling like indulging yourself after a long, hard day of existing as a person. I only recently discovered Chai Tea but oh my goodness, it’s the REAL DEAL. I’ve tried a couple of varieties from more low-budget brands over the last few months, but the Teapigs 'bolly good' one is still the real winner for me. I can’t wait to treat myself again in the winter months: even the scent of it makes me feel cosy and festive and HYGGE AS HECK. And an equally as stunning accompaniment? A good old double chocolate chip cookie: initially, I didn’t think I’d love these since I’d tried Lovemore's single chocolate variety in the past and not really rated them, but the double chocolate ones are so rich and tasty; absolutely perfect for when you’re craving something sweet.


Teapigs Snooze Sleepy Tea with Lovemore O’Chocos

Finally, let us discuss a wind-down, ready for bed combo. Teapigs Snooze Sleepy Tea has been an absolute Godsend for me: I have clinical insomnia, which has only partially been controlled by occupational therapy and long-term medication. Sleep just doesn’t come easily to me, and whilst I’m not going to claim that a humble teabag is more effective than clinical intervention, I believe these sleepy teabags have genuinely helped me to experience more restful sleep. The lavender and chamomile combo looks, tastes and smells heavenly, and pouring myself a cup of one of these bad boys really signifies to my brain that it’s the start of wind-down time for me. Due to my insomnia, I don’t snack in the evening, but I imagine that an equally as lush accompaniment for the sleepy tea of your dreams would be Lovemore’s O’Chocos: basically, they’re free-from Oreo-inspired sandwich biscuits. The biscuit bases are satisfyingly crunchy, and the vanilla filling is just heavenly. The challenge lies in not consuming the whole packet in one sitting. What kind of ANIMAL would do that? * looks shiftily around and backs away slowly*.

And there we have it: my favourite allergy-friendly tea and biscuits. Do let me know if you decide to give any of these a go, and PLEASE leave me a comment below (or on Instagram) if you have any recommendations of your own; I’m always looking to broaden my tea-drinking horizons, and finding suitable snacks and treats is genuinely a bit of a struggle. 

I hope this guide has given any fellow allergy sufferers some foodie-inspiration! Some of the above products were initially PR samples, but everything included in this guide are things that I’ve since then bought for myself and consumed in excess. Now, does anyone fancy a cuppa? I’ll pop the kettle on.  

The Addams Family UK Tour - Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Expectations: 4.5/5
Reality: 5/5

Chronic Illness Friendly: 2/5 - Lots of strobe lighting and pyrotechnics throughout with no build-up, each instance lasting for a couple of seconds: I’d be particularly cautious if you suffer from photosensitivity, migraines or any similar conditions. Some surprising, jumpy moments too, enough so that the woman sat next to me physically levitated out of her seat in shock a handful of times throughout the performance… Regardless, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to tolerate odd moments of these things, like me, this is definitely one of those shows that’s worth the payback. 

I’ve just settled down to write this review, and I’m already smiling. The Addams Family UK Tour, directed by Matthew White, was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year, and it feels like a privilege to have experienced it for myself. Ironically, it was only because my best pal Izzy was desperate to see the show that I booked us tickets for her birthday; and once again, something that wasn’t initially my choice has ended up being one of my all-time favourites.

Day One Theatre's No Exit: Theatre Review

“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.” 

Expectations: 3/5
Reality: 4/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 3/5 - the performance itself was very suitable for those with sensory issues, although the lack of interval may be something to take into account. The venue is inaccessible to wheelchair users; I've emailed to ask what their plans are to address this, but am yet to hear back. Will update if they do get back to me!

Upon entering Sheffield Montgomery Theatre (with difficulty because lol, steps), I had no idea what to expect for the next 90 minutes. However, I really enjoyed Day One Theatre Group's performance of No Exit; a harrowing play by Jean-Paul Satre, first performed in 1944. This kind of piece is quite far out of my usual comfort zone, but under Laurie Nelson's direction, proved to be engaging and thought-provoking nonetheless. In short, a Valet delivers three seemingly random strangers into a minimalist room located in hell, where they are to spend the rest of their existence. A kind of existentialist Big Brother, if you will. Channel 5, where are you at?

The set and costuming were both appropriate and non-intrusive, and the small cast of just four performers were all committed to their roles. Although brief, Matthew Carroll's performance as The Valet was captivating and a solid introduction to the piece. Throughout the rest of the performance, it was so enjoyable to have three talented and committed actors to watch. Not only were their individual parts strong and convincing, their relationships between each other had clearly been thought about in depth, and added an extra dynamic to the piece. 

John Paul Kubon as Garcin gave a particularly notable performance, with the anguish radiating off him really drawing the audience in. Kate Spivey as Estelle added a comedic portrayal of an ultimately disturbing character, and I found that her parts really helped me to remain engaged throughout the performance. This contrasted nicely with Jade Strain's role of Inez, delivered with certainty and an air of authority which really captured Inez's underlying wit and insight into the nature of the other characters. 

Above all, this performance appeared to be successful in encouraging audiences to think about and question their own definition of what hell is. As referred to in the play, is hell really the physical pain and anguish it's typically portrayed as, or is it mental torture that arises from being trapped in a room with those put there to see the worst in yourself? Personally, I'm not sure which seems like the safer option any more. If you had to, which would you choose?

Many thanks to Day One Theatre Group for initing me to review, and congratulations for putting on an excellent (and now sold out!) show: find out more about their work here!

If you liked this post, you might like this one: my review of What We Wished For by Sheffield People's Theatre!

Current TV, Film and YouTube Faves

It’s no secret that us chronically ill people spend a lot of time in bed, due to our conditions. Whilst not all of us are well enough to handle watching TV/films/videos, many of us do spend a good chunk of our rest and recovery time becoming emotionally invested in various programmes and channels. I’m always on the lookout for new recommendations, so I thought I’d share some of my current favourites and you can judge me on how bizarre/uncool most of them are. YAY!

Discussing Accessible Theatre With West End Wilma (Wilma Awards 2017)

I jumped at the chance to interview the theatre blogging legend that is West End Wilma; what with the upcoming Wilma Awards nominees just being announced and the inclusion of an accessibility award this year, there were a lot of topics about inclusive theatre that I was eager to discuss! 

Hey Wilma, thanks for chatting with me today!

I absolutely love that The Wilma Awards have a category dedicated to accessibility this year. What encouraged you to take this step?
I think it’s a really important thing and so I’m trying to do anything I can do to raise awareness of the importance of the issue.