2015 Food Allergy Awareness Week: Be Aware. Be Prepared. Don’t Scare.

Courtesy of KFA and AAFA

Courtesy of KFA and AAFA

Much of the below is part 1 of a series of posts I came up with to celebrate Food Allergy Awareness Week 2014.  And these posts and this slogan are so near and dear to my heart, I’m sharing it again this year with some updated information. Enjoy!

I’ve been contemplating my posts for Food Allergy Awareness Week for quite some time.  What issues should I cover?  Who should I reach out to?  How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?

Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts:  “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”   It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.

For today, let’s focus on how we as a community can, “Be Aware.”

When I think of raising awareness for anything, I think the key is to do so in a positive way.  Let me say that again, because I think it is absolutely worth repeating.  When I think of raising awareness for anything, I think the key is to do so in a positive way.

Being positive doesn’t diminish your message or take away from it’s importance.  In fact, in most cases, it increases reception with your audience and, at times, can establish a motivation for their involvement in the cause.

As we begin food allergy awareness week, remember that you are acting as a face and voice for the food allergy community.   We want to communicate the definition of food allergies and anaphylaxis.  We must communicate the life-threatening seriousness of food allergies.  We need to communicate thanks for all that is already being done to help those that make up the food allergy community.

Whether you have food allergies or not, here are some ways you can help create food allergy awareness this week:

  • Wear the color teal today and all week long.  It is the official color of ribbon worn for Food Allergy Awareness Week.  If someone asks you about it, take that opportunity to share why you are wearing teal.
  • Use social media like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to share this post (see the share buttons below this post).
  • Use social media to share a food allergy fact every day.  Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has some great suggestions for Twitter and Facebook here.
  • Visit Kids with Food Allergies’ (KFA) for some great Food Allergy Awareness Week tools and resources.

Especially if you have a family member with food allergies, consider these additional ways to raise food allergy awareness this week:

  • Post a note of thanks on social media to those who make life with food allergies a little brighter.  It is a fantastic way to positively raise awareness.  Thank you is always nice to hear!
  • Thank a friend, teacher, nurse, doctor, or family member for all they do to keep your family member healthy and safe!

What will you do to make a difference and positively raise awareness for food allergies this week?  Have a great idea that others might benefit from duplicating?  Be sure to share it here!

Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week

Today begins Food Allergy Awareness Week!  Some will celebrate their family or friend living with food allergies and pay acknowledgement to the struggles they face each day.  Some will fundraise for their local FARE walk so there will be more funding for education, advocacy, and research.  Some will simply use this opportunity to educate others about food allergies.

For my family, we are celebrating my son and his success at not letting food allergies define him!  He lives every day with a smile and seldom, if ever, complains about his diagnosis.

To kick off Food Allergy Awareness Week, The Food Allergy Mom Team registered for the Houston FARE walk.  Want to support us?  Visit our fundraising page here.

What will you do this Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Need a few ideas?

  • Register for your local FARE walk
  • Make a donation to support a friend walking for FARE
  • Make a new allergy-friendly recipe for your loved one
  • Write your state representatives to let them know you need their support with food allergy legislation
  • Give your family/friend with food allergies a hug and tell them they are loved

Want to educate others with some fast food allergy facts?  Check out the below statistics and visit FARE for some fantastic resources and tools for food allergy awareness to share with others.

  • 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy. That’s two in every classroom.
  • Every 3 min, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER – that’s more than 200,000 visits per year
  • Eight foods account for the majority of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish
  • Food allergies can begin at any age and affect children and adults of all races and ethnicity. Learn more: www.foodallergy.org
  • The number of people with food allergies is growing, increasing 50% among children between 1997-2011

How are you participating in Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Please comment below and on our Facebook and Twitter pages to share.

It’s World Asthma Day: Where Is Your City On The 2015 Asthma Capitals™ Report?

Today is World Asthma Day.  My son lives both with multiple food allergies and asthma and so the folks at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and their work are very important to us.

Courtesy of AAFA

Courtesy of AAFA

Check out the below report which ranks the most 100 challenging cities to live in the U.S. with asthma.  Is your city on the list?  Wondering what you can do?  Check out the below press release and learn more.

Thank you to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America for all they do!

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Reprinted with permission from Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

BREATHE BETTER NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE
Memphis, TN, is Named the New 2015 Asthma Capital™, but Asthma Can be Controlled Everywhere, Everyday

Today, on World Asthma Day, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) released the 2015 Asthma Capitals report which ranks the 100 most challenging cities to live in the United States with asthma. The report looks at 13 critical factors relating to asthma prevalence, environmental conditions and healthcare utilization. Asthma is
a chronic inflammatory disease of the large and small airways of the lungs causing wheezing, coughing and other symptoms that make it difficult to breathe. But with proper diagnosis, treatment and care, people with asthma can successfully manage their asthma to prevent and control symptoms, lessen the severity of attacks, improve lung function and breathe better no matter where they live.

Memphis, TN, is the #1 Asthma Capital this Year
Several significant factors contributed to Memphis’ #1 spot this year such as poor air quality, inadequate public smoking bans, high reliance on asthma medications and many emergency room visits for asthma. The top twenty-five most challenging cities to live in with asthma this year are:
1. Memphis, TN
2. Richmond, VA
3. Philadelphia, PA
4. Detroit, MI
5. Oklahoma City, OK
6. Augusta, GA
7. Knoxville, TN
8. Chattanooga, TN
9. New Orleans, LA
10. Chicago, IL
11. Indianapolis, IN
12. New Haven, CT
13. Fresno, CA
14. Providence, RI
15. Tulsa, OK
16. Atlanta, GA
17. McAllen, TX
18. Dayton, OH
19. Allentown, PA
20. Cleveland, OH
21. Louisville, KY
22. Milwaukee, WI
23. Springfield, MA
24. Toledo, OH
25. Jacksonville, FL
To view the full list of 100 Asthma Capitals and the ranking methodology, visit http://www.AsthmaCapitals.com.

“Each year for our report, we look at the largest cities across the country and measure the things that people with asthma care about the most,” says Mike Tringale, AAFA Senior Vice President of External Affairs and principal investigator for the report. “Obviously we look at pollen, pollution, and ozone because nature affects adults and kids with asthma. But we also look at poverty, uninsured rates and city smoking bans because public policies matter too,” said Tringale. “Communities can press release work to make progress on many of these factors and we want our report to provide communities with a blueprint for change.”

“The good news about asthma today is that it can be controlled in patients regardless of where they live,” says Tringale, “and having a serious conversation with your doctor is the first step.” The U.S. asthma care guidelines from the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (NHLBI) emphasize the importance of assessing and monitoring patients with asthma, education, avoidance of environmental triggers and proper medication. The NHLBI guidelines recommend a “stepwise” approach to asthma treatment which begins with a daily inhaled corticosteroid, also called a “controller,” which is the cornerstone of modern asthma management for adults and kids. Good care also includes having emergency inhaler medication – a “quick-relief” inhaler – on-hand when needed. The Asthma Capitals report also looks at medication usage by patients across the country and identifies which cities have higher or lower asthma medication utilization.

The Asthma Capitals report is an independent research project of AAFA sponsored this year by Teva Respiratory and QVAR® (beclomethasone dipropionate HFA) Inhalation Aerosol. QVAR® is an inhaled corticosteroid used in the ongoing treatment of asthma as preventative therapy. It works by helping to reduce airway inflammation. QVAR® has small particles of asthma medicine that are designed to reach the large and small airways, where asthma inflammation exists.

Raising Awareness on World Asthma Day and Everyday
AAFA raises awareness about asthma and provides education and support for the 25.9 million Americans living with this disease. The prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups. Each year, asthma accounts for more than 8 million doctor visits and 479,000 hospitalizations; and the annual cost of asthma is estimated to be $56 billion. These statistics prove one thing – there is a need for better asthma control.

For the past twelve years, AAFA’s Asthma Capitals report has served as a checklist for cities to identify the political, environmental and healthcare implications of asthma. The Foundation is pleased that this “blueprint” has made both a national and local impact. From inquiries about what can be done to improve the outcomes of asthma in some areas, to the development of new technologies to reduce the burden of asthma in others, the Asthma Capitals is paving the way to protect the quality of life for asthma patients, and improve the economic effects it has on the nation as a whole.

Get Educated and Get Treated

There are more than 3,300 deaths each year due to asthma, many of which are avoidable with proper treatment and care. Patients need to visit with their doctor to develop an asthma action plan to help prevent, manage and control their asthma symptoms. Working closely with a doctor ensures that patients are receiving the best personalized care. In addition to learning behaviors that minimize the risks of experiencing asthma symptoms, patients can learn about all of the available treatment options.

There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment. Visit with your doctor to discuss the best treatment method for you.

About AAFA
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is the leading national nonprofit consumer and patient organization dedicated to fighting asthma and allergic diseases. AAFA provides free information to the public, offers educational programs to consumers and health professionals, leads advocacy efforts to improve patient care, and funds research to find treatments and cures.
http://www.aafa.org

Showing Thanks for Teacher Appreciation Week

If you have a child with food allergies that goes to preschool, day care, elementary, middle, or high school, THIS is the week to give thanks to your child’s teachers (and school nurses) for all they do to protect our kiddos on a weekly basis.

Every July as I’m completing the bazillion and a half forms required for my son to go to school, I begin to pray for my child’s teachers and school nurse.  That they will:

  • Have a special heart to care for my son and be a good steward of his health
  • Know the proper emergency action plan and be able to implement if necessary
  • Recognize my son is like any other student in the classroom and will not let food allergies define him

Regardless of all my intense preparation and planning I’ve done with teachers, nurses, and faculty, it is never an easy thing to entrust my child to someone who will be caring for my child five days a week and trust that she/he will care for him like you do.  Yet, it is a part of growing up…for us and our children.

This week, take a few minutes to do a small act of kindness for a teacher (school, Sunday School, swim, ballet, gymnastics…you get the picture) who truly loves and cares for your child and their unique food allergies.

Need some fun and inexpensive ideas?  Here are a few:

  • Bring school supplies for the classroom
  • Bake your child’s favorite food allergy-friendly treat and share with the teacher
  • Bring a small potted plant or fresh flowers
  • Have your child write a note or make a special drawing for their teacher
  • Write a note of thanks for all the teacher does to take care of and teach your child
  • Write a note to senior school staff to let them know what a great job your child’s teacher is doing
  • Donate a children’s food allergy book such as Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel to your teacher’s classroom

Your words of thanks and acts of appreciation for teachers do more to raise awareness of food allergies than you could ever possibly know!  Better yet, you are paying it forward for the next child with food allergies comes through this teacher’s class.

Do you have something special you do to celebrate your child’s teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week?  Be sure to share here or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Frenemy Jane, The Sometimes Friend: A Book Review

One of my most favorite children’s authors on the face of the planet is Stephanie Sorkin.  She has the unique ability to appeal to and comfort parents and children alike because she writes with her heart.

And when I say heart, I mean it…Sorkin donates a portion of, if not all, proceeds to organizations that actively work on behalf of children’s issues.

To date, Sorkin has released three children’s books:  Nutley, the Nut-free Squirrel, Chocolate Shoes with Licorice Laces, and Frenemy Jane, The Sometimes Friend.

Nutley, the Nut-free Squirrel is a precious tale about a squirrel with food allergies and his friends.  Sorkin graciously donates 100% of the author proceeds from this book to F.A.R.E., an organization dedicated to food allergy research and education.  If you aren’t familiar with this particular title, be sure to read my review here.

A portion of the author proceeds from Chocolate Shoes with Licorice Laces, a book about a boy who finds himself accidentally wearing chocolate shoes, goes to Soles4Souls, an organization that supplies new and gently used shoes to those in need both domestically and abroad.

In 2015, Sorkin released Frenemy Jane, The Sometimes Friend, a children’s book about bullying.  A portion of the author proceeds are donated to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

Her heart for helping children with the words she writes and book proceeds puts her a step above the rest in my book.

Stephanie was so kind to forward me a copy of Frenemy Jane, The Sometimes Friend and I’m so honored to share my review here with you.

Frenemy Jane is a story about a young girl named Maddie who thinks she is friends with Jane until she realizes that Jane is only a “sometimes” friend.  Rather than the book telling a child exactly what to do about bullying, it opens the dialogue between parents and children so that they can come to a solution TOGETHER!

The book is relatively short, but extremely well-written and is easy for children to understand.  The illustrations, by Susan Robinson, are soft in color and beautifully done.  The book closes with a list of classroom discussion questions and a recipe for Smiley Face Cupcakes, with some suggested modifications for those with food allergies.

I truly love the way Sorkin opens a conversation on bullying with her story and supplements the book classroom discussion questions.  She addresses the issue of bullying, encourages students to troubleshoot together, and then introduces cupcake decorating as a team building activity.

My 7-year-old daughter thoroughly enjoyed the book and decided to read it to her “class” that afternoon when playing teacher.  And I even caught my 11-year-old son listening in as she read it.

I very highly recommend Frenemy Jane, The Sometimes Friend and think it will make a wonderful addition for your home, classroom, Sunday school, local library, and so, so much more.  Even better, your purchase of this book will touch the lives of the children it is read to and the lives of children helped by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  It’s simply a win-win.

The BEST news is that Stephanie Sorkin is giving away one copy of Frenemy Jane, The Sometimes Friend.  To be eligible, leave a comment here on this post letting me know which of Stephanie’s books listed above sounds like it might strike a chord with you and why.  One comment will be chosen at random and the author will receive a free copy of Sorkin’s newest book, Frenemy Jane, The Sometimes Friend.  The winner will be announced here on this post and on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, May 6th.

 

******UPDATE:  KATHRYN (@MAMACADO) WAS RANDOMLY CHOSEN TO RECEIVE A COPY OF STEPHANIE SORKIN’S BOOK, FRENEMY JANE, THE SOMETIMES FRIEND.  CONGRATULATIONS, KATHRYN.  LOOK FOR AN EMAIL FROM ME WITH MORE DETAILS.*********

ZEGO Bars: A Product Review

I love to read about new allergy-friendly products.  Sometimes it’s a product that’s not for me, or one I’m already familiar with, but every now and then there is a product that is new-to-me and intrigues me.

Such was the case when I came across ZEGO Bars.

And with a description like the following that can be found on ZEGO’s website, who wouldn’t be interested?  “Allergen friendly protein bars made without peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, egg, and gluten.  Great for nut free schools.  Organic.  Vegan.  Kosher.  Low-glycemic.  Celiac, Diabetic, Paleo, and Macrobiotic friendly.  Each batch tested for cross contact.  Made on shared equipment.  See Allergen page for more.  Contains coconut.”  It’s also worth noting that ZEGO donates a portion of every purchase to improve nutrition for low-income kids.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Allergen page referenced in the above quote from Zego’s website states the following, “ZEGO bars are crafted without the most common allergenic ingredients.  Our shared facility has careful allergen control procedures to minimize cross contact with peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, egg and seeds which are processed on the same equipment as ZEGO bars.  We also take the extra safety step of testing each batch for the allergens below and linking the results to each bar so you can decide if ZEGO bars are right for you.”

I quickly contacted ZEGO bars to learn more about their product and asked if they would send me a few bars to sample and review (for consumption of the product as much as checking out the testing standards they use).

Colleen Kavanagh, CEO and Co-Founder of ZEGO, was kind enough to quickly send me two ZEGO bars (Chocolate and Sunflower) for review.  The delivery and customer service were exceptional!

Before opening the bars, I wanted to check out the individualized allergen testing results for each bar.  Both the chocolate and sunflower ZEGO bars came with a Z-Code on the front of the package.  I used a QR code app on my phone to find out the allergen testing results for my specific ZEGO bars.  The allergens tested by ZEGO are:  gluten, peanuts, dairy, almonds, soy, hazelnut, pecan, pistachio, walnut, cashews, egg, and GMOs.  However, my specific batch of bars also tested for the presence of sesame.

Here is what a sample of test results looks like.

Both of my bars showed no measurable amount of most of the allergens, but not all.  The testing results did yield a presence of almond and sesame.  My son has life-threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and chickpea/garbanzo so for those reasons the bars are not something I felt comfortable with him consuming.

I have celiac disease and the bars did not show any measurable amount of gluten.  So I, my husband, and daughter (hubby and daughter have no allergies) tried them.  I’m sorry to say that taste and texture of the bars did not agree with my husband’s or my personal preferences.  That said, my 7-year-old daughter did think the bars were “good.”

When I contacted Colleen about the presence of almond in the bars I received, she said she plans to meet with the manufacturer to discuss where the cross contact originated.  As for the sesame, ZEGO does not claim their bars to be sesame-free but simply added the test as a courtesy to consumers who may be living with a sesame allergy.

As the mother of a child with food allergies, I certainly appreciate ZEGO’s efforts to be transparent in the allergen testing of their products.  What a wonderful feeling it would be to scan the wrapping of a food your child is eating and instantly know if there is any measurable amount of an allergen present.  Talk about peace of mind!

While I am thankful for their hard work on behalf of those with food allergies and others with dietary restrictions,  ZEGO bars is not something that I feel is a good fit for my family.

It is worth noting that Colleen did offer that the chocolate and suflower ZEGO bars are the two flavors the company launched with, but that they will be introducing two more bars in the fall with a different taste profile and texture.

Colleen and her staff are currently working within the food industry to encourage transparency beyond just ingredient labels and encourage other companies to begin offering allergen testing results directly to the consumer.  I wish them the very best of luck and can’t wait to see how it will transform the food allergy community!

Make Your Own Allergy-Friendly Version Of Your Favorite Recipes

When I first got the diagnosis of celiac disease, I was so green at reading food labels and such that I only ate pre-packaged foods that boasted the phrase “gluten-free” clearly labeled on the product packaging.  Although it served its purpose at the time, it wasn’t a very fun way to live or eat.  I felt doomed to eat only those things that were prepackaged and gluten-free because I was afraid of an epic baking fail.

Years later…the only epic fail I made was not getting in the kitchen and experimenting with baking.  Now, I make so many of our favorite traditional family recipes and simply sub out a few ingredients to make it allergy-friendly for me and my son (he has several food allergies including peanut and nut).

Every year, I host my husband’s and my family to Easter lunch at our house.  This year we had turkey, pea salad, roasted potatoes, rolls, strawberry feta spinach salad, and corn pudding.  Yum!  Everything was delicious and it was all allergy-friendly except the rolls (I didn’t do gluten-free rolls because I wanted to spend my calories on dessert).

Although I wish I could take credit for all of these savory dishes, that would be misleading because the whole family pitched in and brought dishes for lunch.  The only things I can take credit for were the turkey and the corn pudding.

I did do all the desserts, though.  This year, I tried my hand at a gluten-free lemon meringue pie and a gluten-free Sprinkles Cupcakes recipe.

Both came out fantastic!  The lemon meringue pie was such a hit (even with the gluten eaters) that there was only one piece left when all was said and done.  You can be sure that piece had my name on it…lemon is my favorite.

Now, I’ve never made meringue and I’ve never made a lemon pie before.  The only thing that wasn’t new to me was the pie crust for which I used a recipe by Gluten Free On A Shoestring.

But you know what, I got in that kitchen, rolled up my sleeves, and went for it.  I can have my pie and eat it too…and so can you!

Next time you’re feeling a little deprived or glum because you can’t have one of your favorite dishes from yesteryear, check that bad attitude and head into the kitchen.

You can do anything you set your mind to and food allergies/celiac can’t define you…unless you allow it.

What are some of your greatest baking successes?  What are some of your baking fails and what did you learn from them?  Please share!

Gluten-Free Dessert, Drool, and Kristan Higgins

One of my favorite escapes from the drama of life is losing myself in a fabulous book.  Not much beats crawling into bed early with a great read…especially when it has the trifecta of humor, light romance, and drama.  No one delivers better on that forefront than author Kristan Higgins.

Photo courtesy of Kristan Higgins

Photo courtesy of Kristan Higgins

Kristan is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of 14 novels, which have been translated into 24 languages and are sold all over the world. She is the mother of two teenagers and the wife of a heroic, good-looking firefighter.  (Courtesy of Kristan Higgins Books)

As a devoted fan of Kristan’s books, I follow her on Twitter (@Kristan_Higgins) and Facebook (Kristan Higgins Books) and simply drooled over the Gram’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe she recently shared.  Only it wasn’t gluten-free.

So what’s a hungry girl to do?  Improvise, of course.  I made the cake by switching out regular flour that the recipe called for with King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour and a dash of xanthan gum.   And you know what?  It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Seriously, this cake is no joke.  In fact, as I type this I’m trying to think of an excuse to make it tonight.

Gram’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake has now become my family’s most requested dessert.  I happily take it to work functions and get-togethers and no one knows it’s gluten-free until they see me scarfing down a piece.

So I asked Kristan about the story behind this cake and she was happy to tell me.

“My grandmother was the BEST baker, and she could make anything in about 15 minutes, I swear. Her motions were so efficient and perfect, and she always had the ingredients on hand. My daughter made this cake recipe for our state fair, and it won first, I’ll have you know! It’s so warm and cozy; we make it every Christmas morning and think of dear Gram.”

From the very bottom of this gluten-free girl’s heart, THANK YOU, Gram!

And thank you, Kristan, for allowing me to share Gram’s recipe here with my readers.

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Gram’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake  (A No-Fail Guarantee of Deliciousness)

Preheat oven to 350; grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.

Sift together 2 cups of gluten-free flour; dash of xanthan gum; 1 tablespoon of baking powder; ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In mixer, beat together 2 sticks of softened butter and 2 cups of sugar. Add 2 beaten eggs, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and 1 cup of sour cream. Beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients by hand and mix well.

In separate bowl, combine ¾ cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. You can add a cup of nuts (pecans, almonds or walnuts) if you like. I think they’re better if you toast them first.

Put in Bundt pan in the following order:

  • Just enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • One third of the cinnamon mixture.
  • Two-thirds of the batter.
  • Two-thirds of the cinnamon mixture
  • The remainder of the batter.

Bake for 60 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes, then loosen with a butter knife, lifting the cake up to get air underneath. Invert, and voila! Serve warm with a nice cuppa joe or glass of milk.

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As much as I love this cake, I’d be doing you a disservice if I left it at that.  Kristan is both warm and funny and that is beautifully reflected in her writing.  To read one of her books is like sitting down to coffee with your bestie and laughing until your stomach hurts.

In honor of that, I asked Kristan a few questions about herself and her work.  So grab a cup of coffee (and maybe a piece of this cake) and pull up a chair for this virtual chat.

What about writing novels gives you joy?

Kristan:  “My readers, my characters and my struggles, actually. The latter always makes me a better writer.”

What three words would you use to describe your books?

Kristan:  “Optimistic, funny, emotional.”

One of my favorite things about reading your books is the laugh-out-loud moments created by your characters.  Tell me about the use of humor in your books and how that translates into your everyday life.

Kristan:  “I can’t imagine a book without humor. I think I have a good eye and voice for it in everyday life, just being able to notice and capture a moment. I hope so, anyway! And I do laugh a lot (and cry a lot, too…they go hand in hand). A lot of TV shows make me cry, or people winning things, or heroic moments…baby elephants make me cry, too, for some reason.”

What are you working on now and can you share something about it with us?

Kristan:  “I’m finishing a Blue Heron book and starting a new women’s fiction. I’ll give you the first line of the Blue Heron book (ANYTHING FOR YOU): “Get up, doofus.”

Some of my favorite of your books center around the Holland family.  When I think of them, I think of family dinners, social events, and the like.  Have you ever included a character with food allergies or celiac disease?  How do you think a family like the Hollands would react to having such a character in the family?

Kristan:  “Food is always a big part of my books, because I think we all love to eat, and when and where and what say a lot about the moment, don’t you agree? The Hollands would take a food allergy in stride, though the older grandparents, Goggy and Pops, might be a little confused. “Wheat? How can you be allergic to wheat?” I based them on my own grandparents, whom I just adored, and anything that was different, food-wise, always confused my Gram a little. I haven’t written a food allergy in yet, but I just might. So many people, including several of my closest friends, have issues with this, so it would feel pretty natural to include that element.”

Because your heroines know the value of a good glass of wine paired with a dessert, I have to ask- what is your favorite of each?

Kristan:  “I love a full-bodied Chardonnay with all those flavors and a nice buttery texture. Favorite dessert? So hard to pick! I just ate a vanilla cupcake, so I’ll go with that.”

Don’t just take my word for it.  Visit Kristan Higgins’ website where she shares her favorite recipes from food in her books and so much more.

Kristan:  “And pop by Facebook and have some fun there. I can pretty much guarantee at least one smile a day. www.kristanhiggins.com, and www.Facebook.com/KristanHigginsBooks.”

Treat yourself and pick up one of Kristan Higgins’ books today.  Not sure where to start?  Two of my favorites are Just One of the Guys and The Best Man.

Courtesy of Kristan Higgins Books

Courtesy of Kristan Higgins Books

Allergy Friendly Easter Egg Hunts

We LOVE egg hunts!  There are always a million and one Easter egg hunts in our neighborhood every year.  The neighbors have one, the church has one, the school has one…the list goes on.

I still remember the first church egg hunt we attended.  My son was able to pick up as many eggs as he could find and stuffed them in his cute little basket!  But all he got to keep was the plastic eggs.  It was anyone’s best guess what kinds of candies were inside those eggs and what the ingredients were, so they were off-limits.  It took a little of the fun out of the whole experience to see so many other kiddos ooohing and ahhhing over their treasures while my son had to wait until we could get home and I could switch out the “bad candy” for allergy-friendly candy.

What is a mom to do?  If you don’t like the situation, change the variables!

The next year, I served on the egg hunt committee for our church along with our entire Sunday School class.  Because my family and one other family in the class had children with food allergies, we added a new component to the egg hunt that year.  And it went a little something like this…

Every child who came to the egg hunt was asked to bring a dozen stuffed eggs to contribute  for the hunt.  The families of our Sunday School class only brought two dozen non-food stuffed eggs each and they were set aside in a special bin at the “Official Egg Trading Booth.”  When it was time for the begin hunt to begin, the kids ran wild and started hoarding eggs!  After the hunt was over, children with food allergies were invited to come to the egg trading booth to trade their candy-filled eggs for some special non-food stuffed eggs.

I’ll admit, I think we knew the kids with food allergies would LOVE that they got to go home with real egg hunt treats, but we had no idea the children without food allergies would want in on the action too!  Everyone wanted the non-food eggs because of the stickers, erasers, tattoos, and other cool stuff inside.

Last year, even several of the community egg hunts followed suit and either had an egg trading station or used only non-food stuffed eggs.

Get involved in your neighborhood, church, or community egg hunt this year and spearhead the effort to include an egg trading station or use only non-food stuffed eggs.  Yes, it is another thing to add to your to do list, but the inclusiveness your children will feel and the happiness they will bring home from the event is the real treasure!

Egg-Free? Now You Can Dye Easter “Eggs” Too!

When my child was first diagnosed with food allergies, egg was one of them.  Thankfully, he has outgrown that allergy.

Still, I remember how hard it was to find good allergy-friendly substitutes and I definitely remember how challenging Easter would be every year.   Afterall, the entire holiday revolves around eggs.  Granted, plastic eggs work just fine.  But what about making those memories with your kiddos as you dye a dozen beautifully colored Easter eggs?  That was a little harder to find a substitution for…until now.

Take a minute to check out this product called EggNots (https://www.eggnots.com/Products/EggNots/).  What a simply egg-cellente idea!  It is perfect for those families with egg allergies.

Now those with egg allergies can safely join in the Easter egg fun!