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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in thanksgiving (4)


Choices. Putting A Study of Gratitude into Practice.  

Surprised by Choices

I've been thinking about Thanksgiving.  (You are all like, "duh, who isn't?")  I confess, my thoughts have not been the golden lights of happiness that I always expect when this time of year rolls around.  I'm an eternal optimist and Thanksgiving is a holiday about my favorite things - food, people, conversation, love ...   Even though this year shines as a better example than past offenders (in terms of life events, tragedies big and small, health and good friends) I find myself NOT being grateful. 

I wonder.  What's up with that?  Though there are tangible reasons to be sad and anxious and really, really disappointed, there are also gads of reasons to be thankful.  I know what is bothering me, but why is my dark side taking over my every thought?

And doing it right now?  When things are pretty darn good?

A Shaman once told me that when your world is at its very worst, being grateful for what you do have can change your life.  Even when life kicks you and then kicks you again, there is always something for which to be grateful.  To prove her theory, she gave me an exercise to do every day.  I was instructed to say "thank you" for at least one thing, one person or one event in my life.  Actually say, "Thank you" out loud.  She said that this simple act of expressing one's gratitude helps re-arrange your bodily functions, your cells, maybe even your DNA.  And yes, it strengthens that aura all of the new agey folks talk about.  And yes, I did say, "Shaman". 

After this magical encounter, I sat in meditation every morning after I rolled out of bed, and every evening before I went to bed.  During each meditation I was grateful for something.  It started to ground me.  It quieted the chatter in my head.  It created a bit of space around me where healing could take place.  I found cool ideas surprising my mind.  I made better, more immediate decisions.  I was less rattled by the whriling dervishes that circled my cage at that time.  I could see that there were good things and great people in my corner.  I could see that I had choices.  

Choices are so important.  Seeing your choices can get you out of all kinds of crap.


Studies in Gratitude

I kept that practice up, until I didn't.   

So when I read the article published today in the New York Times about gratitude, I thought I would  try their suggestion and pass it along for you to try with me.  Should you choose.

The experts in the article confirm what the Shaman told me:

Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.

A bunch of psychologists have been studying gratitude in a big way, and they found that:

Further benefits were observed in a study of polio survivors and other people with neuromuscular problems. The ones who kept a gratitude journal reported feeling happier and more optimistic than those in a control group, and these reports were corroborated by observations from their spouses. These grateful people also fell asleep more quickly at night, slept longer and woke up feeling more refreshed.

Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, used a gratitude journal in the experiements mention above.  Experiments he conducted along with Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami.


Gratitude Journal How-To's

A gratitude journal is simple.  If you follow the good doctor/researchers' advice, you need only list five things for which you feel grateful. Use only one sentence for each of the 5 things in your list to describe it.  Do it only once a week. 

As busy-ness sets in and I try to keep up, I've strayed a bit from my practice of gratitude and I feel the effects.  This latest awareness calls for immediate action, so I'm starting with a gratitude journal toute suite to super charge my cells, and my appetite. 

This post isn't about food, but your food does taste better when you approach it with a grateful heart.  The scientists may not have tested this (at least it wasn't in the article), but this is a fact that I know without a doubt.

I'm also very grateful for out Tender Foodie Community.  Your depth of knowledge and generosity in sharing it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.  I look forward to, and am thankful for, the beauty yet to come.

So go forth Tender Foodies, find gratefulness, wet your appetite, and spread the love!!




Tips to Help Your Food Allergic Child "Belong" During the Holidays


Another installment in our series about the social aspect of food allergies, authored by Melanie Potock from


Building New TRADTIONs


Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  You’ve reminded the relatives about your child’s food allergies and done all you can to ensure that your child is safe at the yearly family extravaganza.   You’ve worked through the emotions that encompass the holidays, especially when dietary restrictions impact not only your little one, but your extended family as well.

Time to focus on what Thanksgiving is truly about: Gathering together with thankful hearts.  It’s about family, tradition and community.  It’s about gratitude and giving.  And yes, we express our thanks around the table, often with recipes passed down from generation to generation.

How about establishing some new traditions for your little one that don’t focus on food, but on celebrating our time as a family and one that is centered on gratefulness and generosity?  Here a few suggestions to do just that:


Designing Delightful Thanksgiving Tables

 While the adults are preparing the food or perhaps at your house the day before, have a special party for the kids to decorate the table.  Older cousins can assist as the younger kiddos make the centerpiece, place cards, napkin rings or place mats.   This is a time to encourage each generation to get to know each other  a little bit better.  What wonderful conversation starters this will be when everyone sits down! 

Try these centerpieces, place cards, napkin rings or place mats.


A Tisket, a Tasket, Who’s Got the Basket?

Just before dinner, give everyone a small piece of paper.  Each person writes down one funny fact about their lives,  such as “My first job was at an ice cream shop and I'm lactose intolerant!"  or  “My husband called me by the wrong name our entire first date!”  Put them in a small basket, perhaps decorated by your child and while enjoying dinner, pass the basket around the table.  Each person pulls out a piece of paper, reads it, and the table has to guess who wrote it.  Then, that person tells the funny story in detail.  This is the perfect game to video tape – family history straight from the horse’s mouth! Make video copies and give them as holiday gifts in December.  Family holiday shopping - done!


Potato Turkey Heads

You’ve heard of Mr. Potato Head?  Give the kids a variety of shapes and sizes of potatoes, toothpicks, buttons, felt and anything from the bottom of your craft box to create their own potato turkeys, each with his own personality.  Hint: Poke the potatoes with a fork in a few places, microwave the them just slightly the night before and then refrigerate so that little fingers can push toothpicks into the potato a bit easier.  These also make fun place cards (but don't make Uncle Fred's place card look too much like Uncle Fred himself)! 

Find a little inspiration here...

I’m Thankful For…

It’s a lovely touch to share what you are thankful for, but here’s a silly twist to do afterward…go around the table clockwise and the first person must start with the letter A, then B, then C, etc..   Always known for practical jokes, Uncle Rob might say: “I am thankful that Andy’s pet snake hasn’t escaped (yet) from the cage under the table.”  The child on his left might say “I am thankful that Basketball season is coming because I am going to score a gazillion points for my 4th grade team!”  or “I am thankful for Carrots because we dug up the last bunch at our Community Garden to give to the food bank.”

How about a holiday gratitude can?  It keeps us counting our blessing all the way through the end of the year.  

Visit Blissfully Domestic for the how-to's .


Warm Hands, Warm Heart

It’s important to help our children understand that many families don’t have a warm place to gather together on Thanksgiving.  Making blankets  or rice-filled hand-warmers to deliver next week to your local homeless shelter or similar charities is a gracious way of giving thanks for our special day together.  Most craft stores have inexpensive fleece for tied blankets that the entire extended family can construct after dinner.  A few years ago, our family of four made blankets and donated them to Project Linus.  It is their mission “to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer "blanketeers."  Gotta love that!

Is there an adult in the family known for sewing?  Prior to the Thanksgiving gathering, ask them to cut 4 inch by 4 inch pieces of fleece and sew them on three sides as “starter” hand warmers.  During the family festivities, help the kids fill the pockets with rice via a funnel, then  blow in a kiss before whip stitching it shut tight.  For those homeless in our community, a convenience store microwave means not only a hot cup of water for tea, but it is an easy means to heat up these rice-filled hand warmers.  Attach a note,  directions for heating and a tea bag.  Then tell them you wish them well. 

Learn more about how to make rice-filled hand warmers from


It’s Not about the Food, It’s about the Presentation

Okay, it’s also about the food – I’m not fooling anyone here!  But, for your little munchbug with food allergies, participating in the presentation of the food helps them feel valuable and included in the holiday meal.  As a feeding therapist, I love for all the kids to join in on this.  Experiencing the feel and aroma of new foods is one of the first steps to becoming a more adventurous eater.  Here a few tips for getting them involved:

  • Handwashing:  This is a golden opportunity to learn about proper hand washing before prepping food!  Soap up and sing Happy Thanksgiving to you (the Happy Birthday song) twice before rinsing hands well.  Dry with a paper towel to prevent your child from accidently being exposed to any food residue that may be on a kitchen towel.  Don’t forget about the soap itself – many contain allergens, especially when the “fancy” ones are put out in the powder room!
  • Fresh herbs can decorate any platter or dish.  If you child can’t be exposed directly to the food, have them tear the leaves onto a fresh plate and the hostess can add them herself.  
  • Remember to take a minute and admire the presentation.  “Ellie, I love the way you made a nest of greens for the turkey to rest upon! It makes the whole dish look beautiful!”
  • Letting the little ones arrange several small allergen-free vegetable trays and then carry them from guest to guest as the adults help themselves is a wonderful exercise in social skills and creates the perfect opportunity for each adult in the family to chat with each child.  So often, kids end up sitting together or playing in another room and miss out on the important feeling of belonging to the extended family. 


Being a Gracious Guest During the Party and Afterward

Demonstrating how thankful we are for the special day together is part of being a gracious guest.  The holiday season is prime time for polishing up on manners, helping with the chores whenever our child can do so safely or offering to entertain the younger children while the adults clean up the  kitchen.  As your child “What is the one thing you would like to offer to do for Grandma today?” and help him follow through.  The very next morning, sit down together and write a thank you note.  Preschoolers can color a picture and kids in elementary school can write a sentence at the bottom of your handwritten note.  It’s all part of the celebration and focusing on what matters most – family

Try a handprint turkey card, if you'd like to be creative!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your sweet families!  I wish you good health andmany joyful memories this holiday season.  _Melanie


More Articles About Thankgiving

Read Aimee's Story:   Second Thoughts About Thanksgiving.

How to Talk Turkey (And Food Allergies) at Thanksgiving.

For more tips on dealing with schools, read:  How to Feel Less Stress With a Food Allergic Child in School.

About Melanie

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, of  Melanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.  Melanie is also the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids” and the executive producer of “Dancing in the Kitchen.”




Parents: How to Talk Turkey (and Food Allergies) at Thanksgiving

This guest article continues our series on Thanksgiving with social tips to help dicuss food allergies with family and friends.



Phew!  Halloween has come and gone and you managed to  A) Keep you child with food allergies safe and sound while  B) actually enjoying the Halloween events – the class party, perhaps some Trick or Treating, and maybe a spooky Haunted House too!

Now, it’s November, and just as you find an allergen-laced Snickers™ bar hiding under the living room couch, the phone rings and it’s Aunt Apathy.  You know, the one who doesn’t seem to care about your kid’s life threatening food allergies?  “Allergies?” she questions you.  “Can’t you just give your kid a pill for that?” 

UGH!  You were dreading this call.  The entire extended family is gathering for the traditional Thanksgiving feast at Aunt Apathy’s.  Here we go – another holiday and another celebration with the potential to hurt your child, little Elsa, who is severely allergic to peanuts and intolerant to several other common foods.  

In this three part series, we will be addressing how to  1) Prepare your relatives for the cautions necessary to keep your child safe, 2) deal with the emotions when other adults just don’t “get it” and3.) Enjoy the big day while focusing on what Thanksgiving is really all about:  Gathering together with thankful hearts.

Here’s what you know for sure:
1.    You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
2.    You don’t want to skip Thanksgiving or the memories.
3.    You need to keep your child safe.
4.    Again, you need to keep your child safe.

Accept the invitation, thank her and hang up.  Review 1, 2, 3 and 4.  Those three points are what you want to accomplish when you call her back.  So, write a script and call her back within the next 24 hours.  Open the conversation with “Have I caught you at a busy time?” so you are assured she is present and truly listening, then smile the entire time you are chatting with her on the phone.  People can hear you smile.  Be calm, yet friendly  – pretend you are in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.  There’s never ever family drama there.

Here are a few scripts that might fit into your personal scenario:


The key phase here is “Would that be helpful?”

Everyone in our family is so excited to be coming to your house for Thanksgiving!  Elsa can’t stop taking about it! (This points out how important it is to Elsa and makes Auntie feel important in Elsa’s life, which she is.) I know it’s tricky to plan such a big event when someone with a food allergy is attending, so I wanted to offer to help in any way. (Keep talking so she can’t insert a “Oh No DEAR, that won’t be necessary”)  I would be happy to make a side dish or two that everyone could enjoy and Elsa could eat easily.  Would that be helpful so that you can prepare all the traditional dishes that you do so well?  

Now…onto the cross contamination topic…

Your concern (Open with this, even if she never seems concerned) about Elsa accidently being exposed to an allergen is always appreciated.  You don’t have to worry about her touching dairy products – she just can’t eat them or she will get pretty sick.  But, she can’t touch peanuts.  That’s the one you need to worry about the most, but it’s okay, I can be helpful with that.  Gosh, I can’t think of anything that you might be serving with peanuts though, can you?  OH, I just thought of one –my neighbors fry their turkey in the gigantic turkey fryer in the back yard – and I just learned they use peanut oil.  I would never had thought of that – peanuts in turkey!  There are so many hidden sources.  This might be helpful, save me the wrappers from any food and I’ll look over the ingredient list and we can decide then if Elsa can have it.   Or, would you like me to come and help the night before or early that morning?  (Now you have given her options to accept your help.  She maintains some power over her big event while you keep your child safe.)

When a traditional dish is ALWAYS part of the feast in your family, but your kid is allergic to it.


One of the things I am looking forward to are your famous sweet potatoes with that amazing buttery, maple sugar sauce!  It’s such a wonderful memory from my childhood! I know it won’t be a yummy as the one that you will make that day, but how about I bring a similar dish of sweet potatoes for Elsa?  That way, we can still have the tradition of your dish that means so much to all of us, and Elsa can have her own version too.  It is just really important to me that Elsa shares that memory with you.

Try these recipes for squash,  and for sweet potatoes.

When your child has a new or unanticipated dietary restriction...

I just wanted to give you the heads up that we took Nicholas off sugar 3 month ago.  It’s the first time that his immune system has done its job!  He didn’t catch any of those nasty start-of-school bugs that kept him home for weeks last year.  His doctor has encouraged us to keep it up (always good to insert an authority figure, like a doctor), even through the holidays.  I didn’t want to hurt your feelings if we bring him something sugar-free for dessert.  Or, would it be helpful if I brought  two or three of those fabulous sugar-free pumpkin pies from Molly’s Allergen-Free Bakery?
These conversations aren’t always easy: Aunt Apathy just isn’t going to see life the way you do, because food allergies are a new phenomenon for her generation.  But, deep down, we all have the same purpose for Thanksgiving.  It’s about gathering family and friends together, creating memories and establishing traditions.  If the two of you focus on those intentions, you have a common goal.  That means you care about the same thing.  Next thing you know, you’ll have to start calling her by her real name.  But for now, just call her “Auntie” and send her flowers the next day to thank her for all of her hard work and  for creating memories for your child will always cherish.


More Article for Parents

For more tips on dealing with schools, read:  How to Feel Less Stress With a Food Allergic Child in School.

Read Aimee's Story:   Second Thoughts About Thanksgiving.


About The Author

Melanie Potock, M.A., CCC-SLP of My MunchbugMelanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, of  Melanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.


Aimee's Story: Second Thoughts About Thanksgiving.

Welcome to Aimee B. Smith, our new guest blogger and parent of a food allergic child.  This post is part of a series about dealing with food allergies in social situations -- this series will discuss handling Thanksgiving.  

Upon Arrival

From the moment I step out of our car on-to the snow-packed drive of my aunt’s house, my nose catches a whiff of the delicious aromas of roasted turkey, baked stuffing and homemade pumpkin pies.  The smell takes my mind and taste buds back, evoking all the warmth and nostalgia of Thanksgiving. But before my belly has a chance to rumble with the anticipation of gorging on the holiday spread, a sharp pain stabs my gut. Anxiety overtakes me: Will we be met with sly glances or unpleasant teasing again?  Will my daughter’s food intolerances consume the dinner table discussion? Will I be slammed repeatedly from every direction with questions like, “I forget, what gluten is exactly?” and, “Now tell me again, why can’t she eat this?” The knot wrenching my stomach tightens. Am I prepared to handle the slew of well-meaning but perpetually clueless references of, “I don’t understand…” and “Don’t worry so much, a little won’t hurt her.”?

Second Thoughts

I am having second thoughts about being here. Maybe our family’s dietary baggage is too great a burden to others.   Should we even have come to this dinner? This is as bad as, maybe worse than taking Raina to her friend’s pizza party or attending a neighborhood picnic. I’m scared for her safety, afraid she may ingest the wrong foods.  But it’s not just the allergens, disguised in mouthwatering dishes and desserts that I fear. My concern goes deeper –what if my daughter feels like an outcast, or that she feels somehow less of a person because she can’t eat what others are indulging in? 

Giving Thanks

My eyes turn to find Raina. She’s skipping up to the steps with glee. My Uncle Bob opens the door as full of high spirits as my little, bouncing girl. My aunts push him aside and run out with open arms and wide, glowing smiles to welcome and hug Raina tightly. I relax for a minute; my fears are subdued watching everyone’s joy. 

I remember the lessons that Melanie Potock, Raina’s feeding therapist, taught us: Eating should be enjoyable and relaxed.  It’s as much about the act of sitting down and enjoying each other as it is the food.  We aren’t here just for the food. 

I take a deep breath, allowing myself a break for just that instance from the overbearing stress I put on myself to manage these sorts of situations. As I let out a deep sigh, I remind myself of the pressure I place on myself to ensure Raina’s safety and that I’m doing a great job.

As I waddle up to the steps, laden with bags of my own allergen free pumpkin pie, gluten/egg/dairy free, green chili cornbread and homemade gravy I think perhaps this year can be better. I inwardly repeat my daily mantra, “It’s getting easier each day.  It’s getting easier each day…”  

Aunt Margie jolts over to grab a bag and, peaking in, says, “Oooh, look as these goodies! Your cousin, Lizzie, will be so happy. She’s on some crazy diet, off the dairy and gluten as well.” 

“Really!” I reply in shock then burst out a big smile, eager to greet my cousin, our new comrade on our allergen-free team. 

While I can’t always have faith that my family or friends will understand Raina’s needs or bend over backwards to accommodate her, I can hope that each year will improve as we all grow. I’m certain Raina will someday grow to be her own advocate and we, as a family, will find improved ways to cope with our stresses. Now that, is something to be thankful for!


About Aimee

Aimee B. Smith is a mother to four year old Raina, her miracle girl who was born a micro preemie at 24 weeks gestation. Aimee and her family embarked on an allergy-friendly journey after discovering Raina suffered from multiple food intolerances. The process has opened up a whole new adventure of cooking, shopping, dining and socializing for her and her husband. She is an avid writer, who finds inspiration for her art through her strong spirited daughter and the challenges and triumphs of motherhood.