Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Food Allergy Awareness Week

Did you know...?

(Graphic courtesy of FARE, http://www.foodallergy.org/home - Check them out for some great info, resources, and support for food allergies.)

As most of my regular readers know, my four year old is allergic or sensitive to six of the Top 8. He is also highly allergic to garlic, which isn't in the Top 8 and isn't required to be labelled for in the US, and he has cold induced cough variant asthma and cold uritcaria (which causes hives in response to exposure to rapid changes in temperature from warm to cold). We keep him safe by being very careful with his food - always reading ingredients labels, never giving him anything we aren't sure of, carefully washing hands and surfaces to prevent cross contamination - and by carrying a pair of Epi-Pens, his inhaler, and allergy medicine with us wherever we go. We also make sure that his skin is covered fully anytime it is cold and use extra coverage if it's raining.

My 11 year old also has some allergies - most notably an allergy to latex, and to multiple fruits and vegetables (strawberries, mangoes, pineapple, cantaloupe, and cucumber in particular). She has been loosely diagnosed with oral allergy syndrome - a condition which causes mouth burns and rashes with exposure to raw fruits. Anti-histamines are very helpful for her when she is accidentally exposed, and we take care to watch for natural fruit juice flavorings in food ingredients to help prevent reactions. Luckily she is pretty proactive about her own health and is able to read ingredient labels on her own now.

Ever since Beaker and Bean were diagnosed last year, I have tried to use this blog as an example to other parents of how you can still have fun with food and keep kids safe, even with multiple serious food allergies. I post some of the lunches that I make for Beaker, both as a creative outlet for myself and to give others ideas for preventing allergies from taking all of the fun out of food. I also love to share any new tips or good products that I come across that might help others out.

Here are a few of my personal favorite posts from the last 15 months, in no particular order (click the pic to go to each original blog post):

Food allergies can be scary. They can be life threatening, and the severity can change with little or no warning. And accidents can sometimes happen, even when the utmost care is taken. But generally, with care and precaution, people with food allergies can be kept as safe as possible. And with a little extra effort, the diet doesn't have to be boring or bland - it can be delicious, and fun too!

Have any questions about food allergies? Want help navigating the world of allergy testing? Feel free to drop me an email using the form on the right side of the blog, or leave me a comment here. I would be happy to help in any way that I can!

For more ideas, check out the great posts from these bloggers:

Keeley McGuire Blog - http://www.keeleymcguire.com
Bentos on the Bayou - http://bentosonthebayou.blogspot.com
Biting the Hand That Feeds You - http://bitingmyhand.blogspot.com
Following in My Shoes - http://followinginmyshoes.com/

Want this cool bento gear for yourself? Check out my affiliate links below!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gluten-Free French Toast

No fancy pictures, as it's not really a recipe. For this gluten free French Toast, I used UDI's GF cinnamon raisin bread (which is also free of soy, nuts, and dairy ~ we love this stuff here!), eggs from our chickens, and coconut milk. I whipped the eggs and coconut milk* together and dredged the cinnamon raisin bread through the mix. Then I cooked it with a little dash of coconut oil. They were utterly delicious! Beaker said, "These are the very best dinners EVER!" and then he ate several pieces for dinner, another for breakfast, and insisted I pack them for his lunch, too. High praise, indeed!

(*Tip: Using a sweetened coconut milk, like So Delicious Vanilla or Chocolate flavored coconut milk, adds a perfect sweetness to your French Toast! You can also use soy milk, if soy isn't an issue, and we have had great success in the past using a flaxseed-water mixture instead of eggs. Mix it up and try different things - French Toast is a great forgiving meal to play around with!)

For his lunch, I sliced two pieces of the toast into strips and packed in a small cup of syrup on the side for dipping. He also has another little cup of roasted sunflower seeds mixed with allergy safe chocolate chips. There is a small cup of breakfast sausage sliced up into bite sized bits, as well as some broccoli and peas. To round out the lunch, Beaker has watermelon balls and blueberries.

Simple, easy, delicious ~ our favorite kind of lunches!

Want this cool bento gear for yourself? Check out my affiliate links below!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Star Wars Day, Part IV: A New Lunch

It's May 4th, and in our home that means one very special thing. No, not that tomorrow will be mock margaritas and tacos day (although that will probably happen, too).

It's Star Wars Day!

Hope you have had a wonderful weekend, and May the Fourth be with you!

Took Beaker, Bean, and Lulu on a road trip across the state to visit family for the weekend. Since "road food" isn't really an option for a kid with so many allergies, I packed this yummy lunch up for him to eat on the trip. Four hours in the car with three kids, leaving straight from a soccer game, means a hearty lunch is a must!

Darth Vader is nestled in a pile of delicious mango pieces, next to a looming Storm Trooper.

He also has Canadian bacon with applewood smoked Gouda, and baby carrots. Yoda and R2D2 are carrying raisins and sunflower seeds.

And for dessert, a delicious Enjoy Life allergen free S'Mores bar! Free of soy, gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, and utterly delicious. Beaker LOVES them!

Now, click on through to see what is up next on the Star Wars Day hop!

Want this cool bento gear for yourself? Check out my affiliate links below!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Planet Box Rover Review

I love this box.

I received a Rover set from PlanetBox to review, and loved it so much that I bought another set just a few days later!

Not only does it look pretty - all shiny steel and separated sections - but it's also a great size for carrying lunch! 

The Rover complete set comes with all you see above, plus coordinating magnets for decoration in your choice of style. There is the main Rover container, a Big Dipper dish for messy/wet side foods, a Little Dipper sealed side dish for dips or very small loose items, the carrying bag, and the decorative magnets. 

As a food-allergy parent, I'm always looking for ways to keep my kiddo from feeling singled out. A lot of the time in our culture, events include food. You get together for a party, there is food. Playdates? Food. Soccer games, afternoon at the park, day at the indoor gym? Yep, food. A lot of our culture revolves around the serving and consuming of food. I'm not knocking that ~ I'm a big fan of food! Especially special party and get together foods; you know, the kinds of things that are yummy, but really too indulgent to eat or serve on a regular day. The kind of deliciousness you save for special occasions are among my favorites!

But that kind of makes things tough for a kid who is allergic to so many common food ingredients! My Beaker can't have anything with wheat, soy, garlic, hazelnuts, or shellfish, and dairy and egg are both only okay for him on a limited basis. Soy and garlic especially are difficult to avoid, and he is very sensitive to them, so we have to carefully avoid even trace amounts of cross contamination. Which means we bring food for him every time we go anywhere, just in case. That goes double for playdates and other special events!

To give the PlanetBox a real trial, I recently packed up a lunch for Beaker to take on a playdate with friends. We were spending the day at a local indoor playground we had never been to before. They have a cafe on site with a pretty extensive menu, but I couldn't trust that anything would be safe for Beaker. This is a pretty standard precaution when we go new places; if we don't know for sure that something safe will be available, food comes with us. And it was a good thing I packed for him; even though the cafe has plenty of organic options, and a pretty decent gluten-free and vegan menu, the only thing they had that Beaker could actually eat was applesauce. Even the apples weren't considered safe, because they slice them in a shared space. I was glad I had packed up the PlanetBox!

And the PlanetBox was awesome! Not only does it hold a perfect amount of food for a long afternoon for a little guy, it's also beautiful. We received many compliments and comments on Beaker's lunch and container while he was eating. Parents walking past our table kept stopping to ask about the box, and I was happy to share the word. It's a pretty fantastic box!

Even the apple hippo* loves PlanetBox! The biggest section of the box has plenty of space for a main dish, or a fun larger side. I've used this bento box to pack lunch for the older kids as well, to check for size. I've even packed lunches for myself, and it held plenty! The separated sections are a good reminder to pack up a little something from each of the food groups, and there is a tiny section in the center that is just the right size for a small dessert treat.

PlanetBox is one of the pricier bento boxes, but it's also worth the cost. It is sturdy, dependable, and very well made. PlanetBoxes are built to last. They are designed to hold up over time, and the high quality stainless steel is engineered for longevity.

They're also pretty. That wasn't the top factor for me, but I can't deny that the shininess held some sway!

Beaker's lunch is entirely gluten free. It is also free of soy, peanuts, tree nuts, garlic, and dairy. Not to mention beautiful and delicious!.

He has half of a turkey sandwich, some carrots and cucumbers, an apple hippo with marshmallow teeth, an Enjoy Life allergy free granola bar cut into bits, some EnerG gluten free pretzel rings, and a Surf Sweets fruit gummy ring for dessert.

Obviously even the best bento boxes can't make the food for you, and they're not going to cure your food allergies. But a pretty, functional, and sturdy box like PlanetBox does help make packing up meals easier, and a lot more pleasant. They look so nice that my Beaker never feels like he is being singled out or left out when I bring one with him to a get together, and that is something big. Instead of feeling like he has to bring his food everywhere, he feels like he gets to bring his food ~ the distinction is subtle, but to me (and many other food allergy parents) it is an important one. Beaker loves his PlanetBox almost as much as I do, and that makes handling his allergies just a little bit easier for me.

You can buy PlanetBox bento gear at their website, http://planetbox.com/, or click the affiliate link below to purchase from Amazon.

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Want to see another great apple hippo bento lunch? Check out Becoming a Bentoholic here for a little hippo made from apple and watermelon, and his tortilla and ham friend!

* Editing to add that I totally forgot to include the story behind the inspiration for the apple hippo! I went grocery shopping, and the next morning I woke up with this apple hippo in my head. It was just this idea in my head, of a hippo made from a carved apple with watermelon teeth. It seemed cute and simple, and it turned out to be both! Later I was packing the lunch into the Rover lunch bag and tucked an apple juice box into the bag. Turning the box over, what did I see? An apple hippo! I must have seen it in the grocery store when I bought the juice boxes and registered it on a subconscious level. The hippo on the juice box looks quite different from mine - for one thing, it's CGI and mine is an actual apple - but the inspiration was there. Now if I could just remember the juice brand.... The store was out of our usual brand so I just grabbed the first 100% apple juice I saw.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Love Makes the World Go Round

This is my little Beaker:

Beaker is a fun and fabulous four year old boy. He has soft and wavy hair that he likes long, and lovely hazel eyes. Beaker's favorite TV shows are Jake and the Neverland Pirates, My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic, Ninjago, and Strawberry Shortcake. He loves to play Minecraft and Barbies, likes to color, draw, and practice writing letters. He loves to cuddle and be read to - his favorite books are Green Eggs and Ham and Fancy Nancy. He loves the movie Frozen right now, and also The Lego Movie, and he spends all day long singing the songs from both.

I have been criticized for keeping his hair long (his choice). For painting his nails (he loves the pretty colors). For letting him watch "girl shows" like Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Ponies (his first choices during TV time in the evening). For buying him the pink twirly tutu that he begged for at the store, and sparkly silver flats to match. All of these criticisms, because he is a boy. My girls were encouraged by strangers to like these things.

I'm not naive enough to think that we can raise our children to be entirely gender neutral in the current society, but I am darn sure going to try. My children, regardless of their gender or sex, can love anything and anyone they choose. I will, again and again, stand up for their rights to do so, and to not face harassment for their choices.

For the BBF Anti-Bullying Blog Hop, I am re-running one of Beaker's favorites, the Strawberry Shortcake lunch I made for him:

He adored this lunch, just as he loves the show. And why shouldn't he? Because he is a boy? Ridiculous notion!

The sandwich is gluten free bread with spinach, turkey, bologna, sweet red pepper strips, and with strawberries tucked in the side, all served in an Easy Lunchbox.

Click the button below to follow the hop to see all of the wonderful messages of love and acceptance the BBF community has put together to share!

Bullying has always been a problem, but lately there has been a slow, steady increase in awareness of the problem. Victims are gaining support and schools are putting policies in place to discourage bullying and protect the children in their care. The issue is being address with a rising amount of seriousness by many.

However, the mark is still frequently being missed.

When the victim is being blamed; when children are being told that in order to avoid bullying they should conform to fit in and repress their own selves; when kids are being punished for not being feminine or masculine enough... This is a problem. This is not okay. This tells us that we, as a society, have a very long way yet to go.

I would like to say that things have improved since I was a child. When I was a kid, especially in middle school, I was bullied. I was a kid who did not fit into the mold. I was very into books and sketching - my favorite things to do in the world was to escape the world, either into art or a good novel. I was completely oblivious to fashion, never cared about makeup or hair. I would read anything I could get my hands on, and all of my notebooks were full of sketches and doodles. A sketchpad, colored pencils, and my library card were the greatest things in my world. They were magic.

There were those who clearly did not like me, and they set out to make my life difficult. I couldn't really say why, except that I was different and to some, different is bad. I responded by attempting to blend in to the background, never doing or saying anything that would make me stand out. By the time I was halfway through high school I had ditched that idea and had found a niche among other bookish and art-loving kids. Now, as a grown adult? I am happy to say that I like who I am, and I am not at all afraid to show it.

One of my main goals as a parent is to help my children find their place in life without the struggle. To help them to be who they want to be, and not wait 30 years to get there. And to instill in them a strong sense of kindness and love for those around them. It is very important to me that my children accept and love people for who they are, and that they also accept and love themselves. We are all a work in progress, but I think we are getting there.

I would like to say that things have improved since I was a child, and they have, in some ways... but not enough. We still have a very long way to go as a society. Inequality is still a current issue. Bullying is still a major problem. We need to work on loving each other, being accepting and tolerant of our differences, and celebrating the diversity that makes each of us so special and wonderful.

Love makes the world go 'round. So let's send more of it out into the world!

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