Advent Calendar

One of the ways our family prepares for Christmas is with an advent calendar. Since advent calendars are usually made with chocolate and chocolates are usually made in facilities with other chocolates that contain nuts, we have never had a store-bought advent calendar. We have a homemade calendar like this from Pottery Barn.

Today, the kids filled the calendar with Andes candes, Peppermint Andes Candes, and holiday wrapped York peppermint patties.

Then, I got a text message from an extremely thoughtful friend who also has a son with nut allergies. She knew we were not feeling well today (OK, I am sick. A mom + 2 kiddos. Sick. Hardest day ever.) And her little mailbox drop off was the perfect pick- me -up for all of us.

Look! Nut-free advent calendars! I am so grateful for my friend, her thoughtfulness and generosity. She said she found these calendars at Farm and Fleet if you are interested in a nut-free calendar!

Vermont Nut-free Chocolate company also sells advent calendars, for $18 + shipping.

Our calendars start in just 2 days – so exciting! It’s the most magical time of year. The kids are so fun to watch right now – everything excites them (and me, too)!🎄

Cheers to a healthier week!😷

Nut-free Vacation Planning

Pre-kids, my husband and I had grand expectations of worldly travels with kids in tow eating baby crêpes in Paris and schnitzel in Stuttgart, and Bangers and Mash with a few pints in the UK. Then, reality set in.

Colicy baby, an entire vacation cancelled last minute due to whooping cough. Eventually a nut allergy diagnosis. Bad colds, never ending sick kids. Ear infections on top of ear infections and exhausted parents. We quickly learned that our dreams of extravagant travel were pretty far off in the distance. If we wanted to actually enjoy it, anyway.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, or something.

We have adapted over the past 6 years and have found things that work for us that we consider”fun” travel.

  1. Low key trips “up north” Wisconsin
  2. Visit family 
  3. Kid friendly states; Tennessee + Colorado
  4. Museums and aquariums
  5. State parks
  6. And Disney, for when you’re missing the world and want to feel “fancy”

So that brings me to #6. This year marks our third time to Disney in 6 years. Partly, we love Disney. Mostly, we have severe food allergies, and Disney has it handled, like a boss. 

Today, we logged on to My Disney Experience and selected a few activities, and meal reservations. After choosing the time, restaurant and guests, we were prompted to add food allergy information. We can also view all food menus and allergy information way before we get into the park. Disney also has first aide stations clearly marked incase we come in contact with our allergy. Not to worry, we generally pack 3 twin packs and loads of benadryl.

Today’s post is me tooting Disney’s horn for being over the top excellent about handling our precious children and their various dietary needs. Thank you, Disney, for making this trip the most stress free trip we will take all year. From the Magical Express airport pick up, luggage handling, kid camps, spas and delicious dining, it’s all covered so we can enjoy 100% family time. 

Saltine Cracker Brickle

My Dad and his wife had us over for dinner yesterday + my brother and his girlfriend were there, too. It was a fun time and my Dad always has a ton of delicious food for snacking. This year he didn’t disappoint. His BBQ ribs were amazing.

Doug and I both brought a dish. He made olive stuffed cheese balls and I made Saltine Cracker Brickle.

This recipe is so easy, you can literally make it in 5 minutes (even just after stepping out of the shower with your towel still on, thinking Ohmigod, I forgot to make dessert!) It’s so easy.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 sleeves Saltine Cracker
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups favorite chocolate (we used 4 standard size Hershey Chocolate bars, they are safe. Not mini, not holiday, not king size. Just regular size. You can find them sold in bulk during summer near smore + camping stuff in most grocery stores. Otherwise, Enjoy Life Brand is my go-to)
  • Jelly roll pan (rimmed cookie sheet)
  • Foil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400*
  2. Prepare your cookie sheet by lining with foil and spraying it with non-stick spray like Pam.
  3. Line the cookie tray with one even layer of Saltine crackers. set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the two sticks of butter with brown sugar. Stir frequently over medium heat.
  5. Once it’s melted, pour evenly over crackers. Use spatula to evenly spread out.
  6. Bakr at 400 for 5 minutes.
  7. Prepare your chocolate while it’s baking.
  8. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the crackers immediately after its out of the oven.
  9. Use spatula to gently spread the chocolate around to create a nice even layer.
  10. Cool at room temp. It will harden and you can cut with a big knife.
  11. Enjoy!!

Toppings to sprinkle over the warm chocolate: crushed candy cane, crushed pretzels, dried fruits, Andes candes, nerds, red hots, sea salt, anything crunchy or salty. Nuts would be awesome if you can have them in your home!

    Gillian’s Stuffing Review

    If you’ve tried gluten free/nut free items, you are aware that the flavor is not always terrific. I have to give a huge shout out to Gillian’s for making a stuffing that tastes EXACTLY like real stuffing, only nut-free and safe for my kiddo.

    The directions are super easy, and my brother added garlic, onion, celery and vegetable broth. He prepared the rest as package states. I was BLOWN away by the flavor, especially after reading the reviews online.

    This product is available at Amazon.com, Metro Market (recently bought by Kroeger) and Wal-Mart (although we haven’t shopped at a Walmart since Hawaii 2009 for some seriously good reasons).

    Hope you are all enjoying Black Friday. The online deals have been amazing. I’ve enjoyed 50% off most items on my list here, a giant cup of chai tea. We are still snuggling in PJs with the kids and eating pie. Time to shower up and head to my dad’s house for some BBQ!😍

    Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!

    Thanksgiving Menu

    2016_11_07_163646

    I’m pumped for our family time this weekend! And so are the kids. Packing up the house and suitcases for a few days of fun was the highlight of the short week.

    For some reason I feel “behind” in my holiday preparations this year. Maybe it’s because the weather has been so nice (just 70* last week Friday) and felt like summer was making a come-back. The little holiday items that I usually take care of quite early, end of October, just did not happen this year. Preparing the Holiday cards, starting to shop for Christmas, family photos, holiday dresses, etc. all felt rushed this year. I ordered a lot of things online this week, and took advantage of the Tiny Prints 40% off + free shipping sale that ended yesterday for photo cards.

    Certainly there will be more sales for all the gifts I’m a about to buy and I’m definitely NOT really behind in anything that important. I need to keep in mind that these are first world issues, my stress is self-induced and what really matters are the people we spend our time with, not all these “things” we have to do.

    So that brings us to the kick-off holiday to the best time of the year, Thanksgiving. A time to remember all that we have and are grateful for. A time to share some laughs, love, big hugs and the biggest meal of the year.

    This year I’m thankful for my health and my family. Without good health you have nothing and I’ve had some moments this year that really put things in perspective. My family is everything and I’m so proud of these two kids and how fun, loving and kind they are. Their hearts are definitely in the right place. And my husband. Without his dedication and very hard work and extremely long hours + call schedule, over an hour commute each way to his outreach clinics 3 times every week + two days in Madison, we wouldn’t have the amazing opportunities or experiences that we have. Never in a million years did I think we would have this life and these experiences.  Every single day I wake up with a grateful heart because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

    For tomorrow, here is what we have planned:

    Nut-Free, Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu at Mom’s House

    • Turkey – free range, organic from Whole Foods (for the meat eaters)
    • Turkey gravy – stock + corn starch and water
    • Rhodes Bake ‘n Serve dinner rolls – spoke to the bakery and they are made in a nut-free facility
    • Gillian’s Stuffing – purchased from Metro Market, free from wheat, gluten, soy, nuts, dairy, but DOES contain egg. We’re making it with vegetable stock.
    • Cranberries – from a can because they are so 1980
    • Cranberries – from our neighbor, homemade
    • Roasted acorn squash + Parmesan
    • Roasted Brussel Sprouts + craisins
    • Green Bean Casserole – frozen green beans, campbell’s Soup + Onions, all safe
    • Bluebunny vanilla ice cream – allergy statement has changed, but this is something we have let Chloe eat forever, and we have not had any issues.
    • Homemade Apple Pie
    • Homemade Pumpkin Pie – Penzeys spices, Libby Pumpkin and Pillsbury crust all safe
    •  Warre’s Warrior Port Wine – for the grown ups!
    • Kim Crawford – did you know Kim makes a rose? must try!

     

     

    Cheers! I hope you are surrounded by love and happiness this Thanksgiving. Thank YOU for stopping by my blog.

    xoxo

    2016_11_07_163937

     

     

     

     

    Trolls Movie

    If you’re feeling a little bummed out and could use a pick-me-up, Trolls is where it’s at, for any age. 

    It’s dark, cold, gloomy, and a whole bunch of little things add up during the week that can put a frown on our face. This movie puts things in perspective. It reminded me that music and spontaneous dance parties are essential parenting skills to brush off the small stuff and keep smiling. Don’t quit. Dont give up. Give kids hope for peace and friendship. And even though everyday isn’t rainbows and cupcakes, there is nothing wrong with seeing the glass half full, all the time!

    Oh! Our movie theater is nut free. They fry popcorn in coconut oil and the only real threat is the peanut M&Ms. And the copious amount of butter!😍

    Snyder’s Pretzels!

    We rarely buy pretzels, so today when Carter and I were grocery shopping, I had to stop and think about brand and manufacturing. At HyVee there are a while host of pretzel options. Usually I try to stay away from any brand that also makes a peanut or peanut butter pretzel. Not the case for Snyder’s.

    Snyder’s manufacturers out of several different facilities, one of which is nut-free. Yay!

    We are making salteen toffee bars and I will post the recipe later!