Wellapets: A Must For Children With Asthma!

Asthma can be difficult to deal with at any age, but it can be especially challenging for young children trying to grasp how the diagnosis translates into daily life.

Alex Ryu, Co-Founder and CEO of LifeGuard Games, Inc., has risen to the challenge by creating the Wellapets app. “Wellapets focuses on teaching and motivating kids around the 3 educational objectives of correct asthma management, as described by our pediatrician advisor:  1) Correct inhaler technique and timing  2) Trigger avoidance and 3) Symptom recognition.”

Courtesy of Wellapets

Courtesy of Wellapets

Sounds great in concept, but why educate with a game?  According to the Wellapets website, “In studies involving kids ages 6-11, studies have shown that educational games can help kids understand their health and treatment, feel confident about managing their health, and stay well. In these studies, kids more often took their medication when they were supposed to and had as many as 70% fewer flare-ups.”

My son was diagnosed with asthma almost ten years ago and is still battling it today.  So rather than playing the game myself as an adult, I thought it might be more appropriate to have my ten-year-old review it since it is for his intended age group.

I looked on as he played and will admit that at first, I was not sure what to do.  Sadly, I believe that is a personal issue more than an app issue.  My son dove into the game and immediately understood what to do with the help of pop-up directions.  I may or may not have dragged out the iPad after he went to bed so that I could do a little catching up.  :)

Courtesy of Wellapets

Courtesy of Wellapets

In this app, the player helps his Wellapet (ours looked like a baby dragon) conquer his asthma by administering a virtual inhaler (great for inhaler demonstration), practices how to take care of their Wellapet (great for learning proper nutrition and other ways to care for the body), and learns how to create and use an asthma action plan.  Each of these concepts are achieved through a series of mini-games.

According to Ryu, “The app uses virtual pets to convey health concepts and engage kids and provide a relatable character that shares kids’ health conditions, thereby alleviating the stigma that many kids experience.  Finally, Wellapets also incorporates a soft limit on screen time while still encouraging regular play, by only refreshing missions twice per day, corresponding to when kids should be taking their maintenance inhaler.”

Courtesy of Wellapets

Courtesy of Wellapets

I have to say, thinking back on the days when my son was younger, I think the concept of timing missions so that they coincide with treatments is pure genius.  If a young child is going to have to do his inhaler, maybe he can help give his Wellapet the inhaler at the same time.

Although currently, Wellapets features the asthma app only, in subsequent releases, it will feature apps for food allergy, as well as other conditions. Existing apps will be updated with fresh new content to help keep children engaged.

Wellapets3

Bottom Line:  I absolutely recommend this game for children who have asthma!  It is a positive way to reinforce the ABCs of asthma treatment in a fun, non-threatening way.  As a parent, I wish I’d had access to something like this when my son was diagnosed because it can be just as informative and educational for parents new to asthma as it can be for children.

Thank you, Alex Ryu and LifeGuard Games, Inc., for making it fun for parents and children to learn how to manage asthma.  I can’t wait to see the food allergy app!

Cotton Patch Cafe: A Restaurant Review

A very dear friend of mine recently got married and that meant a rare road trip for just me and the hubby.  And I do mean rare….

After a delightful six-hour road trip (and no that’s not sarcasm…we had a fabulous visit) up to Wichita Falls for the wedding, we dined at Cotton Patch Cafe.  We first ate here at this exact location a year or two ago on a different road trip, and had such a wonderful experience.

With some advance research, my son (peanut and nut allergic) and myself (gluten-free) were able to eat safely here and had fabulous service.  I really can’t say enough wonderful things about this establishment.  However, for the purpose of this review, I will focus on my own experience from this month when I dined at the Wichita Falls Cotton Patch.

When we pass through small towns on a road trip, the food isn’t something I really want to get carried away with.  While I am usually able to find something safe to eat, I prefer to save my calories for a nice sit-down dinner when we reach our final destination for the day.

So when we finally arrived at Cotton Patch I was starved and ready for a nice meal.  Both the hostess and the waiter were very knowledgeable about food allergies and already had a gluten-free  menu available.  (They have several allergy-friendly menus available upon request.)  I had plenty of choices, but opted for the sirloin steak and loaded baked potato with steamed veggies.  Doesn’t it sound fabulous?  The steak was cooked to perfection as was the rest of my meal and the staff came and check on me periodically to make sure everything was satisfactory.

Dinner at the Cotton Patch where we usually stop on our way up to COMy hubby in front of Cotton Patch Cafe in Wichita Falls, Texas

Bottom Line:  Cotton Patch Cafe is a dining establishment that my family and I will continue to seek out when traveling because of their amazing customer services and attention to special dietary needs.  I give this restaurant an A+!  Thank you Cotton Patch!

Jersey Mike’s: A Gluten-Free Restaurant Review

A very dear friend of mine recently got married and that meant a rare road trip for just me and the hubby.  And I do mean rare….

With a six-hour drive ahead of us, we decided to take our time and really savor the moment.  We made a side trip through Mansfield on the way to Wichita Falls and stopped for lunch at Jersey Mike’s.

Jersey Mike’s reminds me of Subway, but maybe a little more upscale and with less topping choices.  Before I go on, I would be remiss if I didn’t disclose that although the restaurant offers gluten-free choices and offers a detailed allergen listing of their products, there are plenty of opportunities for cross-contamination since all food is made on the same counter (or at least it was at the location we visited).

With that said, most of their cold “subs” can be made into salads, otherwise known as the “sub in a tub,” for those that are gluten-free.  I ordered the Turkey Breast and Provolone Sub in a Tub and requested the server put on a clean pair of gloves before assembling it.  He was very gracious to do so and even took time to clean off the counter before assembling my salad which is made in a bowl (so the ingredients never touch the counter).

Although my salad was good, without the array of toppings that Subway offers, it tasted a little bland.  Ordering a different kind of salad might have done the trick.

My meal at Jersey Mike’s was decent and I appreciate their extensive allergen information available on their website, but overall, this is not a place I will be craving the next time we hit the road.

What are some of your favorite “safe” places to eat when you are on the road?

Mylan Specialty Launches New App

A colleague at Mylan gave me permission to share the below with you about a new FREE app they have launched.  The app has features that make it valuable to individuals with food allergies, as well as their families and loved ones.  Perhaps my favorite feature is the step-by-step instructions on how to use the EpiPen®.  What will be your favorite feature?

Keep reading to find out more about this new app and if you decide to download it, please share your thoughts with us!

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From Mylan Specialty:

My EpiPen App Logo“Mylan Specialty is excited to announce the launch of the My EpiPlanTM App. This resource reinforces Mylan’s commitment to awareness and preparedness for a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

My EpiPlanTM App

  • The new, free App is available on iTunes® and Google Play™.*
  • Features dynamic content, specifically:
  • LEARN:  Articles about living with potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies, travel tips and more.
  • HOW TO: Step-by-step how to use EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors video.
  • TRACK: Patients can keep track of and share personal allergen profiles, along with register their EpiPen Auto-Injectors and receive reminders of where they’re keeping their devices and when they expire.”

Product Review: Wholly Wholesome Gluten-Free Pizza Dough

A few weeks ago a friend contacted me about giving the Wholly Wholesome Gluten-Free Pizza Dough a test run.  If I have to eat a pizza to do some research…fine…somebody has to do it, right?!  :)

whollywholesome_logoTo be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much only because I haven’t had just fabulous luck with gluten-free pizza…the dough or frozen variety.  There are a few products I do use as my go-to’s for pizza, but not much outside of Conte’s frozen plain pizza crusts or King Arthur’s GF pizza dough box mix come close to the real thing.

Wholly Wholesome’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust is free of wheat, dairy, egg, soy, nut, corn, and casein.  This is a HUGE plus in my book because if you have multiple food allergies in your family (like we do at our house), this product is free from several major ones which might help you cater to more than one food allergy at once.

The first thing I will say is that the packaging of the product for mailing was fabulous.  The pizza dough must be kept refrigerated and was well-packed with dry ice to ensure the product was kept at an appropriate temperature.  I only mention this because when ordering online, especially something that needs to be temperature-controlled, I think the packaging and shipping says quite a bit about the company and their product.  If the company can’t be bothered to take time in carefully packaging the product, it makes me wonder how much care they take in making the actual product.  Luckily, Wholly Wholesome received an A+++ in this area, so no worries here!

After I opened the box, this is what I found inside.  I LOVE that the pizza dough is already assembled…I really do!  On a night when you’re running to football, ballet, PTA, and who knows what else, it’s the perfect homemade dinner.

Wholly Wholesome GF Pizza Dough1

The directions are simple and easy to follow.  The only thing you really need to have outside of the dough is a pizza pan.  We put the dough in the pan and then topped with mozzarella and asiago cheese, Canadian bacon, and pineapple.  It was fabulous!

Wholly Wholesome GF Pizza Dough

The best part is that the crust handles like I real gluten-filled pizza crust.  It doesn’t fall apart and has a great texture that supports most toppings.  The whole family (even those without food allergies) loved it.  I think this picture pretty much covers it.  It’s what was left after dinner.  :)

Wholly Wholesome GF Pizza Dough3

I’m delighted to say that Wholly Wholesome Gluten-Free Pizza Dough was absolutely fabulous and it is absolutely a product I will keep in rotation for my family.

Are you a Wholly Wholesome fan?  What is your favorite product?

Liberation Gluten-Free Bakery Is A Hit In Houston

Liberation.  The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “the act or process of freeing someone or something from another’s control : the act of liberating someone or something.”

Hold on to your mixing bowl and whisk, because I’m about to introduce you to a Houston allergy-friendly bakery that is going to liberate you from pressure to make a great-tasting dessert that even those without food allergies will covet.  Truly.

Meet Angela Winston, owner of Liberation Gluten-Free Bakery, who caters to baking delicious treats free from many common allergens.

Liberation Angela Winston

Angela is a food allergy mom, much like myself, so she understands first-hand the baking challenge parents face to provide lip smacking, allergy-safe meals and desserts for the entire family…and she rocks it!

Liberation sugar cookies and tea

Her eleven-year-old son was diagnosed with life-threatening wheat, dairy, soy, peanut, and tree nut allergies ten years ago.  Since that time, her son has outgrown several food allergies, but his wheat and tree nut allergies remain.

“For his first birthday, I bought an allergy-friendly cake mix.  It was unpalatable.  So, we started making everything from scratch and sure had some big flops,” says Angela, but she was not deterred in her mission to make allergy-safe treats that tasted sinfully delicious, and not just “good enough for a two-year-old with allergies.”

Liberation Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

“I really got into experimenting a year ago, although I bought my mixer seven months before I decided to go for it.  Once I was baking in earnest, I enlisted a group of neighbors and friends, some gluten-free and some not, to taste test my products.”

If you’re following closely here, this is one of my favorite things about Angela.  A fairy godmother didn’t pop out of the atmosphere and give her the magical gift of baking.  It is something she has worked hard to perfect.  It gives me hope that one day my own baked treats might morph into something as fantastic as hers.

Liberation Vanilla Bean Cake

Speaking of, I’m actually salivating a little as I write this post, so let me just hop to it…

Liberation Gluten-Free Bakery does custom allergy-friendly work.  Their equipment is dedicated gluten and nut-free.  In addition, orders can be placed for dairy, egg, and soy-free and even vegan treats.

To read the Liberation menu in full, be sure to visit the bakery’s website here.  In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of some customer favorites:

  • Cookies:  chocolate chip, oatmeal chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, coconut lime sugar, plain sugar, gingersnaps, snickerdoodles ($15 per dozen)
  • Muffins:  apple cinnamon streusel, pumpkin streusel, banana streusel, blueberry ($28 per dozen and can be made in a mini-muffin size if preferred)
  • Brownies:  Aunt Ruby’s Brownies (regular or dark chocolate), Aunt Ruby’s Famous Brownies loaded with caramel and chocolate chips  ($40 per batch)
  • Cupcakes:  chocolate, carrot, coconut, vanilla, lemon, vanilla bean, red velvet, hummingbird, fresh strawberry  ($30 or $34 per dozen cupcakes depending on selection of a standard or premium flavor.)
  • Cakes:  chocolate, carrot, coconut, vanilla, lemon, vanilla bean, red velvet, hummingbird, fresh strawberry  (8-inch round two-layer cake runs $43-$48, ¼ sheet cake single layer runs $53-58, ¼ sheet cake double layer runs $75-$80)
  • Pies:  apple  ($25 per pie)
  • *Valentine Specials:  raspberry brownies, heart shape sugar cookies dusted with sugar in Valentine colors

Liberation works on an order basis only.  To place an order, Angela requests that you contact her by phone at 832-656-8648 so she can personally assess your allergy-free baking needs.  However, you can find Angela at The Farm Stand, a Houston farmer’s market, twice a month (for more details click here) where she often showcases things such as pizza crust, focaccia bread, scones, and more that you won’t normally find on the menu.

Now that I’ve given you the basics, I’ll go on to my product review.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I’m not necessarily a fan of ordering safe foods online or via custom order.  I usually purchase these items only if it is something I feel I cannot replicate in my own kitchen.

With that said, I absolutely envision Liberation Gluten-Free Bakery as a go-to for my family, because the food is just that delicious.  I almost feel funny trying to write a product review only because there are truly no words to describe what a gift Angela has.

My family taste tested the chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, coconut lime sugar cookies, brownies, raspberry brownies, pumpkin streusel muffins, and vanilla bean cupcakes and all four of us simply fell in love.

Liberation GF Bakery (2)

My husband (the Picky Pete of the group) not only liked it and went back for more, but said it was “amazing and didn’t taste allergy-free at all.”  He’s right, you know (but don’t tell him I said that).  Every single baked good from Liberation had an amazing fluffy texture, incredibly moist, and didn’t have even a hint of the crumbly or heavy texture so often found in gluten-free products.

The best part?  My son and I can enjoy these treats together…and still have to fight off little sister and Dad.  It’s kind of a nice problem to have!

Hosting a Super Bowl party?  Need Valentine treats?  Have company coming into town?  Want to treat yourself?  Please consider giving Liberation Gluten-Free Bakery…you will SO thank me for it later!

Mylan Announces Continuation of “$0 Co-Pay Offer” for the EpiPen® in 2014

We are at the start of a brand new year and it’s a great time to take a few minutes and ensure all of your child’s medications (at home, school, and anywhere else they may be) have not expired.  Need to refill a prescription for an EpiPen®?  Boy, do I have some fabulous news for you…

So excited about the below news I received straight from the folks at Mylan about the EpiPen®!  As a mother of a child with food allergies, I sincerely appreciate companies that understand how expensive the food allergy life can be.  Thank you, Mylan, for saving lives AND saving your customers money!

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Epi $0 Copay

PRESS RELEASE FROM MYLAN (Reprinted with express permission from Mylan)

Mylan is excited to announce the continuation of the “$0 Co-Pay Offer” for the EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector through December 31, 2014. Although our 25th anniversary celebration is coming to an end, Mylan’s commitment to access continues.

 Key details:

  • The “$0 Co-Pay Offer” is valid for up to three EpiPen 2-Pak® cartons or EpiPen Jr 2-Pak® cartons per prescription, and it can be used as many times as needed through December 31, 2014.
  • According to the food allergy guidelines developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, immediate access to two epinephrine auto-injectors is critical. The “$0 Co-Pay Offer” encourages preparedness everywhere, at home, at school or on the go.
  • This co-pay offer is available to both cash-paying and commercially insured patients. Certain restrictions apply.*
  • The offer, along with more information regarding terms and eligibility, is available for download at EpiPen.com

 *This offer is not available to patients who are in Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, or any other federal or state health care plan. The card is not transferable and the amount of the rebate cannot exceed the patient’s out-of-pocket expenses. Program expires 12/31/2014. Program managed by PSKW, LLC on behalf of Mylan Specialty L.P. Product dispensed pursuant to program rules and federal and state laws. Void where prohibited. The parties reserve the right to amend or end this program at any time without notice. This is not an insurance card.

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Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels: A Product Review

The folks at Enjoy Life (one of my favorite companies because of their largely allergen-free food) were kind enough to send me a package of their Dark Chocolate Morsels.

All of Enjoy Life products are free of wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish, shellfish, casein, sesame, and sulfites.  How many companies do you know that do the same?  Anyone?  *insert sound of crickets here*

At my house, we don’t dislike dark chocolate, but aren’t huge fans either so I was somewhat anxious about trying it out.  The morsels look just like regular chocolate chips, so in an effort to get an unbiased review, I decided not to tell my family I would be substituting dark chocolate morsels for the regular chocolate chips.

As luck would have it, my son requested a cookie cake for his birthday this year…the perfect opportunity to test drive the product.  I used my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe with the dark chocolate morsel substitution, and pressed all the dough into a round pizza pan to make one cohesive cookie.  I followed the recipe for baking temperature and just tinkered with the baking time a bit to make sure the cookie was thoroughly cooked and golden brown.

I even decided to add a little white icing on the top with a special birthday message to make it really look like something the Great American Cookie Company would be proud of!  I was very pleased with the end result and so was my son.

Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips

Apparently, so was everyone else at the birthday party because there wasn’t much left of the cookie cake.  :)   Now, my theory is that if my husband and a group of 10-year-old boys didn’t notice the switch, no one will!

Bottom line, we loved the Dark Chocolate Morsels from Enjoy Life and will continue to be a fan of this company, their products, and their commitment to the food allergy community!  Thank you, Enjoy Life Foods!

Izzi B’s Allergen-Free Bakery Gingerbread House Kit A Real Treat!

For those of you who have followed me for a while, you know that I am a HUGE Izzi B’s fan…for several reasons!

Izzi B’s Allergen-Free Bakery products are vegan, all natural, gluten-free, nut-free, trans-fats-free, preservative-free, casein-free, dairy-free, egg-free, cholesterol-free, and soy-free with no refined sugars or artificial colors or flavors.  And, yes, for those of you wondering…it’s STILL delicious!

I’m not a huge fan of ordering of ordering allergy-free products online when there are so many to be found locally.  However, Izzi B’s is an exception to this rule.  I really love this company because the founder, Chef Pam, has a daughter who had an egg allergy (that she has now outgrown).  So, she gets what it’s like to live with food allergies and still live life to the fullest!

Every year for as long as I can remember, my grandmother, mother, sister, and I came together every December to make a gingerbread house.  Granted, it wasn’t always a masterpiece, but the fun memories we made creating it still warms my heart today!  When my son was first diagnosed with food allergies, this tradition became a challenge.  I mean, have you ever tried looking for an allergen-free gingerbread house online?  We tried everything from graham cracker to sugar cookie houses and it just wasn’t ever the same.  Until we found Izzi B’s gingerbread house kit!

Izzi B's Allergen-Free Bakery (8)

For more detailed information about the gingerbread house kit offered by Izzi B’s (including directions, what comes with the kit, and so on), please visit this previous post.

Interested in ordering a gingerbread house kit for the holidays?  There is still time!

To order through Izzi B’s, the company will ship via UPS with a $10 shipping fee and an average shipping time of four business days.  Shoppers can also purchase the kit for $29.50 through Amazon, but if you order at least $35 of purchases, you should qualify for free shipping.

Take a few minutes to research Izzi B’s and take back great tasting holiday traditions that are allergen-free!  Thank you, Izzi B’s, for bringing the gingerbread house tradition back to my family!

Allergy-Friendly Advent Calendar For Christmas

As a child, I always looked forward to counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar.  Heck, I’m a full-grown adult, and the idea still holds appeal.

Most of the advent calendars you find in the stores are of the chocolate variety.  You know the kind, you peel back a square for that day and just inside waits a delicious mouth-watering chocolate.  The best part is that you get a little piece of chocolate every single day from December 1st to the 25th.  The sad part is that the ingredient labels and allergy warnings on the back of most of those packages are ridiculously long and complex stating that it does or may contain just about every allergen there is.

So what is a mom to do?  Get creative, that’s what!  :)

Once my son was old enough to enjoy an advent calendar he still couldn’t have the average chocolate variety because of multiple food allergies.  So back to the drawing board we went looking for something a little different, but just as fun.  We were visiting a friend’s house and she had a board she had by the calendar full of fun Christmas things to do as a family before Christmas arrived.  What a fabulous idea for an advent calendar!  She let me steal her idea and now every year as the holidays approach, we usually send an email back and forth trying to decide if either of us has an activity or two we want to steal for our own calendar.

The best part of this idea is that it can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.  On a budget?  No problem…my idea shouldn’t cost more than $10 and is reusable from year to year.  Want to get crafty?  Go for it!  Would love to see what you come up with here and hope you will share!

Here is how to make your own advent calendar:

photo

Supplies:

  • 2 poster boards
  • Wrapping paper (scraps or a roll)
  • Miniature gift bows (the kind that peel and stick)
  • Sticky notes

Instructions:

  • Turn your poster board vertically and write a title at the top.  Ex:  Smith Family Advent Calendar
  • Take second piece of poster board and cut out twenty-five 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch squares (or whatever size you desire)
  • Wrap each of the 25 squares in wrapping paper.  Place a miniature bow on each so that it resembles a present.
  • Arrange squares on the titled poster board in desired design and tape down only the top border.  Now go back and put a small number above each square 1-25 to aid in counting down to Christmas.
  • Take 13 sticky notes and cut them in half.  Hide one sticky under every “present.”
  • Almost done.  Now write a fun family activity on each sticky note.  (I usually throw in a Christmas Bible verse too.)
  • You’re done.  Now, when December 1st rolls around, you simply lift up the “present” marked with a 1, and do that activity as a family!

I love this idea because it is food allergy-friendly and because it allows you to come together as a family during the holidays.

Need some ideas to get you started?  Here are some of the activities I like to list on my family’s advent calendar:

  • Go caroling.
  • Take Christmas cookies to a friend in need.
  • Visit a live nativity.
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
  • Drink hot chocolate and stir it with a candy cane.
  • Watch The Grinch.
  • Have PJs and Polar Express movie night.
  • Build a gingerbread house (Check out Izzi B’s).
  • Visit Santa.
  • Buy a Christmas present for a child in need.
  • Make and red and green Christmas train.
  • Go ice skating.
  • Make a snowman (in Texas we have to get creative).
  • Camp out in your sleeping bags by the Christmas tree.
  • Make reindeer food (oatmeal and glitter in a ziploc).
  • Go to a local nursing home and bring cookies and board games and spend an hour or two.

This should be enough to get you started, and leave plenty of blanks to help you tailor it to your family’s annual activities and preferences.

What activities will you put on your advent calendar?  I’d love for you to comment and share!