Tag Archives: Holidays

Food Allergy Awareness Week- May 12-18, 2019

This week is food allergy awareness week. It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about food allergies and anaphylaxis, and help remove the isolation that can be associated with having an allergy.

Food allergies like many diagnosis in life have the ability to isolate, ONLY if we let it…

The first step in eliminating ignorance is to EDUCATE! So here it goes…

  • 1 in every 13 children in America has a food allergy. That is two in every classroom!
  • Food allergies can be life threatening and need to be taken seriously.
  • Strict avoidance of the allergen is the ONLY way to prevent a reaction.
  • 35% of children with allergies have been bullied due to their allergy. That. Is. Not. Okay. Bullying is NEVER okay!
  • People can be allergic to ANYTHING! However, 90% of children are allergic to the top 8 allergens:
  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree nuts (all nuts other than peanuts)
  5. Fish
  6. Shellfish
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans
  9. Sesame (which still does not yet have to be labels on food packaging)
  • The top 8 allergens must be labeled on packaging.
  • However, more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions.

The symptoms can range from mild to moderate ones like hives and stomach pain to severe ones like anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). Reactions are NOT all the same. Symptoms can change from reaction to reaction. Just because someone didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction the first time, doesn’t mean they can’t the next. Also, just because you were not born with an allergy, does not mean you can not develop one.

* These facts are not to provoke fear, but instead to spark awareness and instill understanding. Once we have the facts, we combat the fear that tries to associate itself with it all … with faith.

“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/111/isa.43.1.niv


What is important for us all to know?

  • Reactions DO NOT just happen when someone ingests the allergen itself.

    • They can happen due to cross contact (the presence of unintended allergens), inhaling it, and from saliva (sharing utensils, instruments, chapstick, drinks, kissing).

    • My son’s last reaction at the age of 2.5 was this type of reaction. He had tried a new oat milk and while the company did not have the container labeled for it, the production lines were not thoroughly cleaned from his other allergens. Thus, it caused a reaction that was less severe and very different from his initial one, but still needed epinephrine and a trip to the ER.

    • Cross contact issues and food allergies in general take diligence. Just because the product dues not have the cross contact information labeled doesn’t mean we don’t need to call the companies or do more researching and double checking on line. Also, even products that we have used for years, we still must double check their labels as companies sometimes change the makeup and ingredients in their products. It is not a burden; it is a way of life that ensures safety.

  • Many of these people must carry EpiPens (Epinephrine) with them everywhere they go. It’s beneficial for everyone to know how to use an EpiPen. So reach out to someone who is trained in it and ask to learn. It does not take long to learn, but it also does not take long to react and need assistance. So spend the time now. It is greatly appreciated.

What can we all do? – nationwide initiatives to get involved with

Join the Teal Pumpkin Project

  • Halloween can be a difficult time for those with allergies.
  • This project promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies.

How can you participate?

  • Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters (see FARE website for suggestions)
  • Place a teal pumpkin (the color of food allergy awareness) in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available
  • Spread the word! Tell your families, friends and neighbors about this initiative.

Snack Safely

  1. Check out the Snack Safely website.
  2. This is a site that has safe snacks and foods for those with allergies.  
  3. Schools use this. We all should use this. 
  4. When you are planning an event or party, check it out to ensure everyone is safe and included. It’s not always easy or convenient to “think outside of the box.” But, that’s often where the difference is made. What may seem small to one person is huge to another.  “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”Aesop

Turn It Teal

  • Teal is the color that represents food allergy awareness.
  • This initiative started in 2014 and now their mission has expanded into going throughout the country, lighting up buildings, bridges, and attractions in teal everywhere.
  • You don’t need to light up a building to spread awareness. You can do this at your school, work or church, by setting a day in May to “turn it teal” and encourage everyone to wear teal! We are doing this at my work this Friday!
  • For more information: Turn it Teal

What can we do? – ways to help everyday

Be Mindful

  1. Wash your hands after eating.
  2. Wipe down surfaces after eating an allergen.
  3. Don’t share food or utensils.

Empathy/Ask

  1. Get the specifics. Find out which foods your friends, family members, classmates, co workers, church members, etc. are allergic to and what the symptoms of a reaction are.
  2. Simply be aware and have an open mind to it. Empathy goes a long way.
  3. If hosting an event, ask what products and foods are safe.
  4. Take it seriously. It is not a joking matter.

Like with anything in life, listening wholeheartedly and empathetically goes a long way. So while our messy counter top may not have everything others have on it, we all deserve to feel included, safe and loved.

For more information, visit: FARE website

 

 


“Peace requires everyone to be in the circle – wholeness, inclusion.” – Isabel Allende

 “When everyone is included, everyone wins.” – Jesse Jackson

 “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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Honey Oat Bites

I love granola bars.   Over the years, I have gone through phases of several brands.   However, the more and more I learn about food; the more and more I want to create our own version.   A very close friend of mine shared a similar recipe with us back in March of 2018; however, it used peanut butter.   Therefore, we switched it up and made it safe for us. It is a hit not only with everyone in our house, including our picky son, but also a huge favorite for anyone who visits.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup of almond butter (We use Barney’s almond butter because it is free of peanut contamination, unlike many other brands.)

2/3 Cup unsweetened coconut flakes (toasted at 350 degrees for 6 minutes, flip them half way through)

1/2 cup chia seeds or grounded flax

1/3 cup raw honey

1/4 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients.

  2. Chill for 30 minutes

  3. Roll into balls

  4. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

  5. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • Substitute any other nut butter including peanut butter if safe for your family.
  • For a protein boost, add in some protein powder.

These are a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth and get some much needed energy along the way.

 

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Chocolate Covered Heart Cookies

I have always loved to bake and experiment with recipes out there. However after TJ’s anaphylactic reaction, I became paralyzed in many aspects of my life including my passion for baking. Like I’ve stated in previous posts, I spent the next two years, avoiding… avoiding and avoiding, paralyzed by that fear. For most of my life, I was the person who would enthusiastically volunteer to bake for events,.  However, I avoided this at all costs now. It was easier…

it was safer …

it was what I did to handle the fear the world of allergies brought.

I mean they do say FEAR = false evidence appearing real.

However, soon I started to learn that I didn’t need to do this and that in fact, parties and events that set up an incredible challenge for us…

…were really bringing us an incredible opportunity.

FEAR = forever embodying amazing revival

That’s when we started to experiment with recipes and began to create our allergy-safe recipe book. Yesterday, I took the day off to prepare a couple items for my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower today. One of those preparations involved creating this very recipe with TJ (who has already eaten 3 of these cookies).

So here you go: the perfect heart cookie drenched in scrumptious chocolate and everlasting love.

Heart Shaped Cookies (dairy, egg, peanut free)

Oven: 350 degrees

Time: An hour (But the dough should sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using.)

  • It makes 24 cookies.  I doubled it to make enough for the event.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup non-dairy butter (We used Earth’s Balance)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chunks
  • 1 tablespoon Nutiva Shortening
  • sprinkles of your choice

Directions:

  1. Melt the dairy free butter. in a saucepan.
  2. Mix the DF butter with sugar.
  3. Stir in apple sauce.
  4. Then, add vanilla.
  5. Slowly mix in 3 cups of flour.
  6. Place dough in plastic wrap or even a plastic baggie after shaping them into a disc. Place in the refrigerator for at least hour, or up to 24 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or use some of the DF butter and flour to grease the pan.
  8. Roll the dough in a 1/2 thick rectangle and use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many as you can from the dough.
  9. Repeat until the dough is done.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  11. Have the cookies cool completely.
  12. Use a double boiler or create your own.  I used sauce pot of boiling water and put a mixing bowl on the top of it.  In the mixing bowl on top, add the chocolate chip chunks and shortening. Stir until melted and smooth.
  13. Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate, removing excess by tapping it into the bowl.
  14. Place the cookies on a sheet of parchment paper and quickly add the sprinkles onto the west chocolate. Let set completely.
  15. Keep the cookies refrigerated until time to serve or an hour before to ensure no melting chocolate.
  • Final note: If you battle anxiety from anything,…no matter how long…no matter how deep the scars go… I promise you…you can heal.  You can defeat it.  You can overcome it.  I will be doing more posts about this and mental illness because healing happens…prayer and believe…and eat yummy cookies throughout it all!

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And Then There Was Sesame…

Are you kidding me 2019? That was the first thing I thought of when we were leaving the allergist’s office that Monday morning in January. Really… sesame…another allergy to add to the mix.

Like I wrote about in “Some Days Just Stink,”

we had just learned that …

  • TJ’s allergy levels for this year had pretty much remained the same unlike the previous few years.
  • That he would be going into kindergarten with dairy, egg and peanut allergies.
  • Then, Madison had unsuccessfully tried straight milk with her allergist the week before. This was her final step in being able to eat anything!!!

I felt blessed that soon I would have one child who could eat whatever I ate… could eat anything at parties or play dates or restaurants …. but then …

sesame struck …

 

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Now, three times in the summer Madison had tried hummus and loved it. However, all three times her cheeks got a little red and irritated. The third time her mouth got itchy so we knew it was something to avoid and ask the allergist about.

In January, the skin test showed what we expected although we prayed and hoped for the opposite:

She had an allergy to sesame and needed to avoid it until next year when we could retest in skin and blood work.

Are you kidding me 2019? Another allergy added to the mix… and so I allowed myself the next day or two to be bummed and annoyed. But like anything, those 48 hours of sulking was enough. It was time to turn it around.

Sesame is the 9th most common allergy in the United States. However, it is one that is usually not labeled, since only the top 8 need to be. However, sesame can be sneaky.

(Sesame Allergy Post from 2015)

We are no strangers to s sense allergy as TJ once had it too. But since passing his sesame food challenge a couple years ago, he must keep it in his weekly diet 2-3 times a week. (The same protocol is used with all his past allergens.)

While TJ now loves hummus, Madison has her own favorite dip. Sesame free hummus is always an option (look for upcoming post) but also guacamole. We love organic Yucatan guacamole. But here is a simple recipe totally kid-friendly and adaptable to all taste buds.

Ingredients:

2 avocados (mashed)

1/2 of a lime (squeeze out the juice)

1 teaspoon cilentro

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon salt to taste

1-2 tablespoons organic salsa of your choice (amount depends on how large the avocados are)

Directions:

  1. Mix the lime juice with the mashed avocado

  2. Add the rest of the ingredients

  3. For added flavor for adults, add some cayenne and cilantro to the top.

Easy enough to not leave too much of a mess behind and totally not miss sesame one bit.

 

Store Bought Favorites

Oh how busy life gets! There is always something to prep, cook or bake for, but not always the time to do so. Since TJ’s diagnosis, more and more great companies have been creating delicious treats... aka tasty time savers.

*Of course, always make sure to check ingredients and labels every time to ensure it is also safe for you and your family. Check labels with each purchase as companies do change the recipe here and there. Better safe than sorry … so cliche but true.*

Here are some of our favorite go-tos.

1) Mo’Pweeze Cupcakes: Mo/Pweeze Bakery

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2) Abe’s Crumb cake: https://www.abesmuffins.com/the-muffins

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3) Abe’s Muffins: https://www.abesmuffins.com/the-muffins

4) Azure’s Bagels: Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

 

While TJ’s teachers always have a box of Oreos as his special treat in case we don’t know about a party or event at school, we ask for a monthly schedule at the start of each month to try to prevent that.  Therefore, during the crazy weeks where dinner time is late and bedtime is even later, we are blessed to have found such amazing products and trustworthy businesses.

24/7 Christmas

I’ve been a bit stuck on Christmas and the attitude, and yes, I know I have the wrong season, holiday, month… the wrong everything! But, there is just something so different about people and life in December. There’s just something so different about my kids.  (Maybe all the Santa bribes..) There’s just something so different about me.
There’s nothing better than giving a gift to a loved one and seeing their face light up. My son for example will make you want to keep giving him gifts with his innocent and honest, “Wow! Take a picture! I just love all my gifts. They are all my favorite!”
“Son of a nutcracker!” – He could make me broke saying stuff like that.
every setback is a setup for a comeback! (3)
My daughter is a different story with gifts… let’s just say… we are working on it 😬
But Christmas is so much more than just gifts, it’s really about joy. The joy we can all have. All.Year.Round.
So what happens to it for the other eleven months? Is it just stored away in our attics, saved for an extra special December of tinsel and lights? Or is it… that the craziness of life finds a way to try to erase the miracle … the spirit of Christmas that can exist every day?
According to James 1:2-3 –“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
And with that, Josh Baldwin went on to write …
“When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow tries to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken …” – Josh Baldwin’s “ Stand in Your Love”
So the truth is just that. It is stated clearly. We are meant to have joy all year round. Joy is meant to live in our hearts, not for just a season.
Why can’t we capture that December energy and spread it out throughout the year?
The question is not …. why can’t we… it is…
How Can We?
  1. Random thank you notes/letters– Who doesn’t like receiving a random kind card or even a letter? Last year, I tried to find a way to do that each month by picking people over my life that I was thankful for, that maybe helped me through a challenging time, inspired or inspires me, or even those who I wanted to apology to for a time I was not proud of. Each month, I picked one person to send a letter to. I admit; it did it for the first six months and then after not hearing back from two in a row, I let discouragement tell me I was too busy. But, I am trying again this year. Deep dig .. find the teachers, family members, friends, people you lost touch with .. remind them how much they impacted your life. Remind them how special they are.
  2. Donate – Whether it is within your church or just a family in need or a food bank, giving changes lives. Last year, when visiting a former neighbor she mentioned that they had just had a huge party with way too much food.  (Sounds familiar – I’ve been there many times and it does not help that we are not leftover people.) Instead, of being wasteful, like I’ve been way too many times, she reached out to a local food bank to find out what and if they could donate the leftovers. Sure enough, they gratefully accepted.
  3. Kind notes-  Similar to number 1, they can be monthly, weekly, biweekly, daily or in the moment. Last year, students at my school in the group Start with Hello wrote thank you notes to every staff member from crossing guards to lunch staff to teachers to administrators. While the letters were short, they were sweet and heart felt, and most importantly, they created many smiles that day. Even one smile goes a long way. What about random post it notes for a loved one or even a stranger? During a school assembly last year, the speaker spoke about how he likes to visit Barnes and Nobles and put random positive post its in random pages of books there so that when they were each bought and eventually read, they would have the opportunity to encourage someone… he would more than likely never know. How cool!
  4. Lead or participate in a fundraiser– No matter how much you raise, it matters.  It makes a difference. So jump in! Join a race or go wherever your heart brings you.
  5. Show up and surprise a friend in need or even call people more – In a world where most people are usually in a rush, being pulled in ten or twenty different directions, make time for relationships. They are what matter. Texting is texting. Visiting or even an old-school phone call goes a long way to let someone know you care. And leave a message if they don’t pick up, and don’t be insulted if they don’t call back. Time doesn’t drag its feet for us, so let’s not forget what and who matters. 
  6. Random acts of kindness – Hold the elevator, hold the door, help someone pick up their bag of papers that just fell all over the floor, etc. The opportunities are everywhere every day. Let’s teach our kids, students and younger generations to do this too.   I always have to remind myself that their eyes are always watching and learning.   Model what you want to see.
  7. Pay it forward – I love hearing stories of people paying it forward.  My in-laws, some of the most generous people I have ever met, had their dinner paid for in this way a few months back.  While I can say that I may not have a large amount of funds right now, imagine what giving away a dollar a day for one month could do.  I just read about how Jimmie Allen, one of my favorite artists, who had once been homeless, started to carry around two dollars a day that he used to pay forward. How awesome of an idea is that? Carry a dollar a day that you can’t use on yourself and you can’t come home with.  Or make it a goal to pay for someone else one time this year even if it’s for their coffee.  I don’t drink coffee but I may go through a Dunkin Donuts drive through this year, just to do that.  Whatever it may be, paying it forward is something I plan to do this year.
  8. Volunteer – Join a church or reach out to your own church about opportunities. Volunteering can be done on so many levels within schools, communities, nursing homes, etc. I plan to find more ways to do this year. I am guessing once TJ is in kindergarten (in a few months) there will be even more chances.
  9. Make connections and listen – Due to my anxiety, for years this was difficult. Sure, I had friends and I think I was a good friend. However, truthfully, my own worries and fears often blocked out time that I would and could spend asking others about their own lives. Once I was able to do this, it was a breath of fresh air to hear people, and to listen in a way that was genuine. I still catch myself just being “routine” with my hellos and how are yous. Mainly because I am usually rushing around and not always as on time for things as I used to be. Always trying to fit everything in … Sigh! However, it is my goal to continue to be an open ear this year, and an open heart.
  10. A compliment a day keeps the negativity away– Give a compliment a day ! I love this one and started it back in January. My hope is to continue throughout the year. It’s free, easy, honest, and uplifting wrapped up in a simple sentence or word.
  11. Be kind to yourself – Self compassion, what is that anymore? It’s crazy how much we lose our old selves after kids or even without kids, throughout life.   That is… if we let that happen.   Everyone deserves happiness though and it starts within. Be kind to yourself. Do something for your own well being. Get your nails done, hair done, read a good book, go for a run, join a dance class, take an epsom salt bath with essential oils (One of my favorite calming activities before bed – I call them detox baths because they detox my body and mind!)Whatever it is…learn to love yourself!
I plan to work on several of these areas and ideas so that they become second nature to me. So while the Christmas tree has been in the attic for almost two months now, you can still find a wise man or donkey from the nativity set laying around somewhere because of the kids … and you’ll still find this picture on my phone … it’s one of my favorites…
It reminds me joy isn’t meant to be saved for one season.
It reminds me joy is all year round. 
It reminds me of my joy. 
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“I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.” – Buddy the Elf

 

Blissful Banana Bread

Who doesn’t love a good baked bread especially when it involves bananas. Here is one of our simple favorites.

 

Ingredients:

First Bowl:

1.5 cups of flour

1.5 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

Second Bowl:

2 mashed bananas

1/3 cup of applesauce

1/2 cups of sugar

1/4 cup cooking oil (We use melted coconut oil, but have used others.)

1/4 cup dairy free chocolate chips (optional but a favorite)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan. We use Earth’s Balance.
  3. Mix in all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the middle of it.
  4. Mix the second set of ingredients in a separate bowl or even directly into the well of the first bowl.
  5. Then mix together everything thoroughly.
  6. Add in dairy free chocolate chips.
  7. Pour mixture into the greased pan.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes.  Test with a toothpick.
  9. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • We prefer Pyrex but have learned (the hard way) to be careful when taking out glass from the oven.  Do not place directly from the oven onto the cool surface like the counter.  It can explode!

Now, let me try to get to that counter…