Sunday, November 21, 2010


Abigail and I have recently discovered the "Clementine" series of books by Sara Pennypacker (also author of the "Flat Stanley" series).  Being in 2nd grade, Abigail is encouraged to read independently at least 30 minutes a day.  That doesn't mean though that she no longer wants me to read a book to her at night before bed.  We've read a variety of chapter books, some I've enjoyed, and some not so much.  I don't mind reading any of the "American Girl" books or favorites from my childhood, Ramona, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web, etc., but I find some quite obnoxious, i.e., Junie B. Jones, and won't read those aloud.

From the first chapter of "Clementine," I was hooked.  Clementine is a precocious 3rd grader that quite unwittingly gets into loads of trouble when all she really wants to do is help.  Abigail enjoys hearing the escapades of the 9 year old, and I love the subtle humor.  I love when a book or movie appeals to several generations.  I'm reading this book and laughing out loud at something that Abigail doesn't get.  It doesn't bother her that she doesn't get it because she's too busy enjoying the story.  And, I'm not worried, because even if she did "get it", it's not inappropriate that she did.  Makes the reading bedtime ritual a fun experience for both of us.

Now, you might be wondering why a peanut allergy/healthy living blogger would be reviewing books for children.  It so happens that Clementine's younger brother has a severe peanut allergy. 

In the 2nd book, "The Talented Clementine," Clementine must come up with an act for a talent show, but feels that she has no talents.  She spends the better part of the book looking for one.  She ends up demonstrating an unexpected talent and surprises everyone, including herself.  Her parents ask her to join them for a special dinner out to celebrate.  Here's the peanut allergy part that had Abigail feeling particularly special..."Usually, when my parents go out, it's my job to make sure the babysitter doesn't bring any peanuts and leave them around.  Broccoli (the brother**) is allergic, and if he has even one tiny peanut, he might have to go to the hospital with his neck all blown up or something.  "We'll talk to the sitter," my dad said.  "I don't know," I said.  My brother had never been left with a sitter without me to save his life." I'm skipping some here..."When the babysitter came, my parents told her and told her about the peanuts.  And then I told her and told her and told her, too."  Skipping more...."But when we got to the lobby, I couldn't leave.  "Wait here."  I hurried back to our apartment, got one of my mom's permanent markers, and wrote on my brother's forehead, NO PEANUTS FOR ME! in big, blue capital letters.  Then I felt all right."  Then there's a cute sketch of the little brother with the writing on his forehead.

Children with life-threatening food allergies can and most often go through periods where they feel alienated.  We like to relate to others, to circumstances, to songs, to stories.  Frankly, there aren't a lot of situations where food allergic children can relate to any of those things so when they chance upon a new friend with an allergy, a special activity or a book that they can relate too, they feel special, encouraged, part of something.  The "Clementine" books do that for Abigail.  The brother with the peanut allergy is just a supporting character, but an important one nonetheless.  We read about him having a severe allergy and the steps that Clementine takes to keep him safe, and we're encouraged.

So, here's a big thanks to Sara Pennypacker for including a tough topic in her stories, for making children with severe peanut allergies feel special and for bringing awareness of the issue to my daughter's peers...and their parents that read the books with them!

Can't wait to read the next two books, "Clementine's Letter," and released just this year, "Clementine: Friend of the Week!."  Both of which are already purchased and waiting to be wrapped for Christmas.  The gift tag will read:  "To Abigail and Mommy...Happy Reading!"

**If you're unfamiliar with the books, one of the big mysteries is the name of the little brother (it's a huge author's secret).  Clementine feels it's unfair that she was named after a fruit, and he wasn't, so she refers to him by various names of vegetables.  We've read 2 out of the 4 books so far, and I'm not sure he's been called the same veggie name twice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Food Allergies & Kissing...

Abigail is just 7 years old so we're years away from having to worry about her having a make-out session with a boyfriend that could trigger an allergic reaction. I had to pause there.  The image that statement evoked brought a shudder. Ugh!

Making the headlines this week was a recent presentation that the President of the ACAAI, Dr. Sami Bahna, made at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.  An allergic person may have a reaction after kissing a non-allergic person even if it's been hours since that person ate the allergic food and/or brushed their teeth.

According to Dr. Bahna, speaker and lead author of a new study, “If you have food allergies, having an allergic reaction immediately after kissing someone who has eaten the food or taken oral medication that you are allergic to isn’t highly unusual.  But some patients react after their partner has brushed his or her teeth or several hours after eating. It turns out that their partners’ saliva is excreting the allergen hours after the food or medicine has been absorbed by their body.” reports that the typical symptoms of a "kissing allergy" are swelling of the lips or throat, rash, hives, itching and wheezing.  These type of reactions occur in people who are highly allergic to a food or medication.  For highly allergy individuals, it's advised that the partner without an allergy brush their teeth, rinse their mouths out thoroughly, and avoid placing anything in their mouths the other person is allergic to for 16 to 24 hours - then they can probably enjoy a kiss. However, sometimes even these measures are not enough.

And to clarify, we're talking saliva swapping kisses here, not a quick kiss good-bye.  Dr. Bahna ended his presentation with a statement that he did not intend for allergy patients to live in fear.  Also, it's important to note that a reaction is totally dependent on the severity of the food allergy.

While we are years away from both the conclusion of the peanut clinical trial at Duke and from Abigail dating, this issue was a factor in making our decision to participate in the study.  My husband and I had discussed the story of the 15 year old girl that reportedly died after kissing her boyfriend who had eaten peanut butter.  That incident was but just one of the many reasons for us deciding to enroll her in the peanut sublingual immunotherapy clinical trial.  FYI, it was later proved in a Coroner report that the girl died from a severe asthma attack and not the kiss.

I'm still shuddering from that first mental image.  I'm thankful my little girl is just that....still a little girl.  I'm not prepared for the teenage years yet!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not a good day for a showing!

We have our house for sale in an effort to move closer to my husband's new job.  It is not an easy task to keep a house "show" ready with an active family of four, two of those family members being 7 and 3.

I was organizing my recipe books, a project I've wanted to do for years, but never had the time, when I came across a recipe for jalapeno jelly.  My pepper plants are full of red and green jalapenos right now so I thought why not?  I had the jalapenos and bell peppers in my garden and sugar and cider vinegar in the pantry.  All I needed was some pectin, limes and cute jelly jars...easy enough!  Look at that picture.  It looks like a bomb went off in my kitchen.  It was Saturday afternoon, and all I kept thinking was what if someone called and wanted to come see the house in an hour.  Lucky (or maybe unlucky) for us, no one called.  I shouldn't have worried anyway.  Apparently, there are no home buyers right now.

This week's market report from our Realtor shows a 22 month inventory of available homes.  Just in our zip code there are one hundred thirty-six homes available for sell, and only 6 homes in our listing price range sold last month.  I know it only takes one buyer, but it's very frustrating nonetheless.

So, how did my jelly turn out.  Beautiful, aside from the fact that this was all I got from that mess I made.  Can't wait though to try it with some cream cheese and crackers over the holidays, or maybe even served as a relish with a roast.  Next up, the green pepper jelly, and another huge mess to clean up.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shaklee Products

I was recently introduced to the Shaklee line of cleaning products.  With a company history dating back to the 1950's, a stellar record of environmental stewardship and support of social causes and proven product performance, I'm quite surprised that I've not heard of Shaklee before now.

I was lucky enough to be sent a Get Clean Starter Kit by a local distributor.  It felt like Christmas opening the box of cleaning products for all areas of my home...laundry, dishes, bathrooms, kitchen, etc.  I agreed to review the products after the distributor shared with me how his then 3 year old daughter's asthma and allergies would flair up after their routine house cleaning, and that when they switched to this line of cleaning products, her asthma symptoms subsided.  For the last 2 1/2 years since switching to the Get Clean products, she's required neither a Nebulizer or steroid inhalers.  Maybe coincidental, but definitely note-worthy.

With asthma and allergies going hand and hand, I was intrigued, and I thought my readers would be also.  Common cleaners can actually increase the risk of kids developing asthma which has increased more than 160% in children under the age of 5 from 1980 to 1994, and is the most common serious chronic disease of childhood.  And, this is important, with the exception of the Germ Off Disinfecting Wipes which includes soy, the Get Clean line of products is free of milk/dairy, peanut, soy, wheat gluten, fish, shell fish, mango, sesame, sunflower, kiwi, tropical fruits, melons, eggs and seed ingredients making the products a great choice for food allergy sufferers.

As if that's not enough, Shaklee claims that the Get Clean product line out-cleans or matches 22 national brands, and if you don't see that type of performance, they offer a 100% money-back guarantee.  Unlike many of the competitive brands, the products are safe and do not include hazardous chemicals.  All of the product packaging is "green", i.e., the ingredients come from natural sources, the packaging is recyclable and the products do not include chlorine bleach, phosphates, nitrates, borates, etc.

For example, the Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate can be used indoors or outdoors, and when used as directed, can tackle grease, grime and dirt on any washable surface..  One bottle (at just $12.15) equals the cleaning uses of 5,824 bottles of the 26 ounce size of Windex.  In fact, by me receiving the starter kit, 108 pounds of packaging waste should be kept out of landfills and 248 pounds of greenhouse gas eliminated.  For someone that becomes more of a tree-hugger by the day, that's exciting!

But, how did I like the Get Clean line of products?  My dishes are spotless, my windows shine and my clothes look, smell and feel great.  Truthfully, I expected all of the products to work well.  What was surprising was the feeling that I was doing something really good for my family, for my home environment and for my planet every time I used them.

What is my favorite?  So far, I think the Soft Fabric Dryer Sheets are the most clever.  Shaklee makes them with a 100% vegetable-derived softener on fragrance and preservative free, biodegradable sheets.  The sheet breaks in two in the dryer so that there is a more even distribution of softener and less static cling.  What I find really cool is that when your laundry is dry, you can put the used dryer sheet in with your recycling.  My favorite product though is the Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate that I mentioned earlier.  Per the instructions, I put 16 ounces of water and just 2 drops of the concentrate in the spray bottle.  Using the special cleaning cloth that came in my kit, I tackled my chandelier.  The results were so phenomenal, that I literally went around my house and cleaned every single item (excluding my windows...wasn't up for that project) that I could...mirrors, picture frames, computer monitors, TV screens, light fixtures, etc.  Love, love this product!

I'm quite impressed with the Shaklee products, economical pricing, support literature, company history, award portfolio and corporate environmental initiatives.  I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to try out and review the cleaning products.  And, rest assured, had I not liked them, you would have known.

If you would like more information on the products that I've mentioned or the other Shaklee products including their line of nutritional, weight management or beauty products, then check out their website at

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween Success Story

Halloween is but a fond memory already pushed aside by Christmas merchandise and Christmas music playing in the stores.  But before we put Halloween completely away until next year, I wanted to reminisce about a positive experience we had this year.

Holidays are difficult for people with severe food allergies because food is often the center of attention.  Kids especially have a difficult time with Halloween and trick-or-treating.  At 7, Abigail has a complete understanding of the fact that she'll get a lot of candy that she cannot eat.  New this year though was that instead of sorting candy with me, she traded with a friend.  As soon as they got back from trick-or-treating, the girls dumped out their bags of candy in the floor of the garage and proceeded to trade non-safe candy for safe candy.  Abigail has gotten so good at knowing what candy she can eat that she ended up with not a single questionable piece.  I was very proud that she did this on her own, but somewhat melancholy that I was not needed.  And, maybe a little disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to sneak a candy bar or two knowing that most of those end up in the discard pile.  That was until I remembered that my 3 year old also had a big bag to sort!

Speaking of parents sneaking a piece or two of their kid's candy, I came across a few fun Halloween candy facts in the weekly "Parade" newspaper insert that I wanted to end with.
  • 68% - the number of adults that admit to pinching their kid's Halloween candy.  See, I'm not alone!
  • 7.2 billion - the number of Smarties (15 per roll) in kid's trick-or-treat bags.  And...Smarties is safe for peanut allergies.
  • $2 billion - the amount spent on Halloween candy this year.
  • 9 billion - the number of pieces of candy corn produced in 2010 - enough to circle the moon nearly four times.  I never did find any this year that were safe for Abigail.
  • 19 million - the number of pounds of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups made in October (about as heavy as the Eiffel Tower). 19 million pounds of potentially hazardous material for our peanut allergic kids!
Now on to Christmas preparations.  But stop...wait a minute!  Aren't we forgetting about Thanksgiving?  Apparently, there's no money to be made in Thanksgiving.  Guess the stores are skipping that holiday.

We're not and will be celebrating Thanksgiving with our families.  At Thanksgiving, Abigail always looks forward to her GiGi's pecan pie made with pecans from the tree in their backyard.  It's the only tree nut she can safely eat because there is zero chance of peanut cross-contamination.

Here's to making it through another Halloween safe and sound and to the upcoming celebrations with family and friends.