Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Fun for Everyone: Candy Bar Birthday Party April 12, 2017

I wish I could take credit for this adorable idea.  But I can’t.  My friend is just a genius.

 

Her own kids aren’t allergic, but my thoughtful and creative friend had kids with food allergies on her mind when she thought about what special treat her daughter could share with ALL of her party guests.  Like my friend, many parents are concerned with how to be inclusive of guests with food allergies.  Sometimes, the best answer is also the simplest.

 

After singing a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday” to our favorite 7 year old, the kids were each given a festive party bag that they could fill with any (or ALL) of their favorite candy.  Best of all, everything was dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and most was also gluten-free.  There’s nothing that makes a child happier than being included in on the fun!

 

Plus, no goodie bag needed!  The kids all got to bring their loot home.  HUGE bonus in my opinion!

 

If you’re going to replicate this fantastic idea, I would recommend a few things:

  1.  Check Allergy Shmallergy’s Safe List of Nut-Free Candy page.  This is not a comprehensive list.  And, it doesn’t account for other allergies.  But you’ll find that many of the candies listed are also dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.  Read ingredient lists carefully and if you have any doubts of an item’s safety, snap a photo and email the child’s parent to verify.
  2. Save ingredient lists and bring them to the party.  If anything needs to be double-checked, you’ll have all your information at hand.
  3. Be careful when serving similar looking items (like M&Ms and Skittles).  Not only is chance of cross-contamination a concern with unwrapped candy, but I’ve seen unsafe candy fall into safe candy bowls.  For the purposes of a party, I would stick to the idea that “everything on the table is safe for party guests” principle.

 

Look at this fun, inviting table set up!
Looking for containers and scoops like the ones above?

Set of 12 Clear Plastic Candy Scoops

Penny Candy Jars (set of 2)

Amcan Scalloped Container, Large

Vista Premium Quality Plastic 10″ Serving Bowl (set of 2)


  
Smarties.  A classic!


Caught red handed!  My son and his best friend/brother of the birthday girl.

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping low income and at risk families with food allergies.)

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6 Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies March 7, 2017

pool-690034_1920 via pixabay

 

Spring break is on the horizon!  Can you smell the fresh air already?  Are you mentally packing your bags? (I am!)

 

Here are a few tips when traveling with food allergies:

locking-knob-883059_1920 via pixabay

  1.  Call your airline and inquire about their food allergy policy in advance.  Ask specifically about early boarding and in-flight announcements.
  2. Most airlines will allow passengers to board the plane early in order to wipe down surfaces (this includes seat backs, seat belts, tray tables and knobs, armrests). Be sure to bring enough baby wipes or antibacterial wipes (such as Wet Ones) to cover all the legs of your travel.  Again, ask about pre-boarding at the gate.
  3. Carry your epinephrine auto-injectors and antihistamines ON BOARD.  Do not pack these away in your luggage.  [*ALLERGY SHMALLERGY TIP*: Zyrtec makes dissolvable tablets which eliminate the worry over bringing liquids through security as well as anything spilling in your bags.]
  4. If you’re traveling to a warm weather destination, you’ll need to remember to keep your epinephrine auto-injectors at room temperature – even while enjoying the beach or pool.  Pack a cool pack (like this one) and an insulated bag (like this cute lunch bag).  Store the cool packs in your hotel’s mini-fridge (who needs a $15 bag of M&Ms anyway!?) or plan on ordering a to-go cup of ice to keep the medicine cool poolside.
  5. A hotel or resort’s food services manager can usually help you navigate menus.  On our last vacation, the food services manager had food allergies himself and was invaluable in hunting down ingredients and safe alternatives for our family.  Befriend this fantastic person!
  6. If you’re planning on visiting an amusement park, taking a hike or being similarly active, consider packing a backpack into your luggage (or use one as your carry-on!).  You’ll need to bring your epinephrine auto-injectors wherever you go – especially on vacation when you’re away from home cooking, familiar restaurants and local knowledge of hospitals and doctors.  Backpacks can make carrying it easier depending on the activity – simply slip the insulated bag into your backpack and go!

 

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Two more notes:

  • Airline travelers should bring their own snacks/meals on board flights to ensure their safety.
  • Refrain from using airplane blankets and pillows as allergen residue may reside there.
  • Bring a baby or antibacterial wipe to the bathroom to wipe down door  and knob handles.

 

 

 

MLK Day: Inclusion and Action January 13, 2017

Filed under: Advocacy,Uncategorized — malawer @ 12:01 am
Tags: , , , ,

One week ago, I found myself chaperoning a large group of 6th graders on a field trip to the National Cathedral.  You could tell right away we had a great guide.  She was 84 years old and wore a headset microphone that was clearly turned off but still commanded the kids total attention.  A former educator, she wasn’t just a teacher (and a student) of history.  She was part of it.  She lived it.  She was woven into story after story about the cathedral and its visitors.  As our guide led us to the pulpit where Martin Luther King, Jr gave his last sermon, she described the mood of the sermon as solemn – almost as if he knew he may not make it. And, she would know.  She sat and listened only a few feet from the man himself.

 

mlk-wikipedia

 

As we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there are two things that stand out on my mind.  Two things that are universally important – but especially critical to food allergy families whose worlds are fraught with uncertainty.

 

The first is INCLUSION.  The effort of inclusion is an act of kindness and humanity.  Everyone wants to be welcomed by their peers, their parents, the people around them. Inclusion is an act of thoughtfulness.  So much of coming together involves food:  in times of happiness and celebration, sadness and consolation.  Food is a hallmark of society, tradition and culture.  When we don’t make accommodations to include a member of our group, we’re sending a message that they are not a valued member of our society.

 

I know I’m preaching to the choir here.  As food allergy parents and those with food allergies ourselves, I know you understand.  It nearly brings me to tears of appreciation when someone goes the extra mile to include my son – even in the smallest way.   It’s not lost on him either.  He feels seen, validated.

 

Efforts of inclusion, of focusing on ways to connect with each other, is more important today than it’s ever been.

 

The other sentiment that keeps circling around my brain is ACTION.  If we want to improve life for us and our kids, we need to live actively.  The path to a better, more understanding community is involvement.  While we wait for extended family, friends, peers, teachers, and school administrators to understand and support the needs of our particular community, let’s connect with one another and actively help each other out.  When you’re sending in a birthday snack, call the other food allergy parent in the classroom and find out if your snack is safe for their child.  Decorate the peanut-free table and make it THE place to sit in the cafeteria.  Talk to your child about what to do if they see a friend having a food allergy reaction.  Help educate a friend who recently received a food allergy diagnosis.  Check in with them and let them know you’re there to vent frustrations to and to celebrate victories with.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”  This is why we celebrate the memory and influence of Dr. King by engaging in service.  When my kids are involved in being charitable with their time and creative with their energy while helping others, they take ownership of and are active participants in their community.  Their world becomes less uncertain and more able to be shaped by their direct actions.  Let’s be inclusive of one another.  Let’s be kind and supportive of each other.  Maybe others will pay that kindness forward.  And, maybe, just maybe, that kindness will find its way back to you.

 

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Photo taken by Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon

 

 

 

Focus on Fun: Thanksgiving Games November 17, 2016


Thanksgiving and other food-centric holidays are tough for families with food allergies.  Traditional foods may not be safe and allergic family members sometimes feel excluded from the celebration.

 

Time to interject fun, family traditions that won’t fill you up and are cross-contamination free-guaranteed!

 

One of my favorite ways to do this is to have the kids go on a scavenger hunt.  If you have a small group dining, the hunt could be for objects in the house or yard.  If you have a large group, the hunt could be for answers to questions from family and friends.  [See attached.]

 

Download here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Pinterest also has a ton of Thanksgiving crafts that kids can complete while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and waiting for the turkey.  The art work could decorate the dinner table or the dining room!  This is a great way to get food allergic kids involved with the meal without worry about allergens.

 

Perfect for indoor or out!  Download the ready-made Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Day of the Dead Halloween Party October 25, 2016

Disclaimer: Allergy Shmallergy received these goods in exchange for an honest review.  I only feature products that I use myself and believe would be useful to the food allergy community.

2016-10-25-14-17-32

Trick or Treat banner from Oriental Trading

 

 

Halloween is almost here!  I hope you are all busy painting and decorating your teal pumpkins.  Teal pumpkins are a great way to let food allergy families know that you support them by offering non-food treats.  And by now, you all know that Oriental Trading has an enormous selection of non-food treats to fill your Halloween buckets.  These trick-or-treat items have a huge impact on kids with food allergies who often cannot collect almost any candy.  Food allergic kids can feel very left out at Halloween which is why it’s important to find ways for everyone to have fun safely.

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My middle son sporting a pair of glow in the dark vampire fangs…

[Oriental Trading supports the Teal Pumpkin project.  Check out their Halloween selection here.]

 

And, don’t forget to check their coupon page (you never know!):  Oriental Trading Coupon & Promo Page

 

We have a tradition of hosting an annual Halloween party at our house.  I began this as a way of ensuring that my son had plenty to eat and lots to celebrate when he was a young trick-or-treater.  Initially, he was allergic to so many foods that I couldn’t find a single candy he could enjoy safely.

 

I’m happy to report that he has since outgrown a few allergies.  Most candy is still off limits to him.  But surrounded by great friends at a pre-trick-or-treat dinner and post-candy-swap, he doesn’t mind.   Every year, the party grows and grows to include more families and more fun!

 

This year, I’ve create a Day of the Dead themed Halloween table.

halloween-middle-table

The playful patterns and colorful sugar skulls dress up any table.  Check out the cups!

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I couldn’t resist these plates and napkins – so I infused a little of the traditional Halloween with the addition of these irresistible black and white plates and napkins.

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Just like an outfit, accessories can make a table.  This sugar skull bowl and small skulls were a great addition to the black and whites at play.

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Are you looking at this table runner?!  You can’t quite tell from the photos, but it has spiders at the center of the webs and glitters in the light.  And, that pumpkin?!  I’ll be using it on my table through Thanksgiving!

 

 

I also picked out this silicone mold – which can be used for ice or to dress up snacks!

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Here’s a list of the items I used to create my Day of the Dead Halloween table:

 

Day of the Dead Candy Dish

Glittered Spider Table Runner

Foam Orange Pumpkin

Skull & Crossbones Ice Cube Tray

Skulls

“Trick or Treat” Halloween Cardboard Pennant Banner

Spider Web Dinner Plates

Large Polka Dots Dessert Plates

Boo Beverage Napkins

Day of the Dead Disposable Cups

Glow-in-the-Dark Vampire Teeth

Colorful Halloween Spider Rings

Day of the Dead Skull Wall Decoration

 

 

Now that the table – and the mood – are set, stay tuned later this week to see what I’m serving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little More Halloween Magic with The Switch Witch October 19, 2015

Let’s face it:  candy makes Halloween magical for most kids.  As a kid, when else do your parents let you go out after dark and collect candy from your neighbors?  It’s heaven!

Unless you have food allergies.  And then it’s fraught with danger and uncertainty.  Not only is candy laden with dairy and nuts, but wheat, soy and eggs are all potential pitfalls for families with food allergies.  Ingredient lists are often missing – or extremely hard to read – on small, packaged candy.  And what may be safe to eat in a larger size is sometimes no longer safe when miniaturized due to manufacturing practices. Even when candy does not contain a particular allergen, it’s often processed on equipment that poses a risk.

Nothing is more fun-ending for a kid than realizing most of your candy isn’t safe to enjoy – except, of course, having a food allergy reaction.  There have been many years when my son’s “Trade” pile was larger than his “Keep.”

Switch Witch

Enter The Switch Witch.  At bedtime on Halloween night, tired and oversugared kids can leave a heap of their Halloween candy out with their Switch Witch doll.  While they’re sleeping, the Switch Witch trades their stash for a special gift.  It’s brilliant!  Whether, like us, you have a child with food allergies whose Halloween candy isn’t safe for him or -also like us- your kids are just super-stellar candy collectors who have amassed way too much unhealthy sugar, the Switch Witch extends the excitement of Halloween.  This is a great way for food allergic children to have fun trick-or-treating, knowing that their milk and nut-filled loot will be traded for a satisfying surprise.

I’m getting on board this craze now!  It’s sure to be fun for ALL my kids.

[I feel like I need to say it for the record, but I get nothing from the genius that is Switch Witch.  This is not a sponsored post.  I just think this is a fabulous tool for kids with food allergies (and those without!).]

 

Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwiches (Nut-Free) April 10, 2015

You guys already know this:  Desserts are tough to rely on for people with food allergies.  The typical bakery will almost never guarantee that your dessert doesn’t contain or hasn’t been cross contaminated with nuts and most are made with dairy, eggs, wheat, and even corn and soy.

So, every couple of weeks, I would spend an afternoon baking and frosting cupcakes for my son to bring with him to birthday parties, class celebrations, and dinners out.  Sometimes, he’d have the occasion to gobble up a whole batch (minus a few for Dad) before I could even freeze a few!  But I began noticing he wasn’t really eating the cake part.  Which started making my labor of love a lot less lovely.

“Yeah, Mom….” he began one day, “I don’t really like the cake part.”  I thought I would die.  Do you know how much time I had been spending baking cupcakes?!

Turns out he was just using the cupcakes for the frosting.  So, I had to find a new vehicle to get frosting into that kid’s mouth (but ONLY for special occasions, much to his dismay!).  Thus the Cookie Sandwich was born!  At first I used store bought cookies (influenced by my son’s inexplicable objection to my baking).  As they are, they are a humungous hit when I send them into school for both my boys’ birthdays.  And, it’s embarrassing when moms ask for the recipe because it’s so insanely simple.  But this week, the Cookie Sandwich has been upgraded.

Meet the soft, perfectly proportioned, Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwich:

 

And, may I point out that it’s frosting to cake ratio is ideal!  It’s just simple math.  These are perfect for taking with you to birthday parties, serving as class treats, and offering to guests.  I made them for my husband’s birthday this week and plan on making more for a May Day celebration.

Here’s how to begin (based on a suggestions from the Betty Crocker site):

1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker’s Rainbow Chip Super Moist Mix)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 Tbsp milk

1 egg

1 can frosting

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together until soft batter forms.  Scoop onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

[Tip:  You want to remove the cookies from the oven before they begin to turn golden.  I took mine out at 8 minutes sharp.]

Cool completely.  Frost generously on the bottom of one cookie and top with the bottom of another.  Serves 12.

Notes:  I use Pillsbury frosting because it is dairy-free (a holdover from when my son was very allergic to dairy).  Although this recipe isn’t dairy free, I’m certain it would be delicious using dairy-free butter and very vanilla soy milk in lieu of regular.  As is, it’s good for kids who are approved to incorporate baked milk products into their diet.

Optional:  I liked mine with the sprinkles IN the cookie, but you would use another cake mix and roll the frosted cookies in sprinkles, chocolate chips or nonpareils to mix things up!

Quick someone get me a napkin, I’m salivating from TYPING about them!