For kids: start the new year off with a blessings notebook

Whenever I start a new book, my daughters always ask me what it’s about. At the beginning of 2012, when I was reading this book (at left), I explained how the author started a list of 1,000 gifts from God, in hopes that it might help her live a more joyful life, and I read them some examples.

This moved my one daughter to start her own list of 1,000 blessings, so one morning she brought a new notebook to church and started writing. She already has over 500 blessings listed and is determined to get to 1,000 someday, which I know she will. (Click on each photo if you’d like to enlarge & read them.)

Here are some of my favorites from her list:  #483: hearing the sweet sound of rain falling on the roof; #490: Seeing a big, huge murmuration; #460: squishing your toes in the gushy sand by the waves; #469: going to Niagara Falls and feeling mist on your face; #454: when you have tape and scissors when you need them (very important for a crafty girl); #241: bad people who have changed; #465: getting a song in your head that you absolutely love. #472: Christmas lights in the summer that remind you of Christmas.

I like to keep this notebook in plain view around the house, as it reminds me to mentally list my own blessings (I started a notebook years ago but never had the discipline to keep it going) and to be extra thankful for the life I lead and the family I am part of. It’s fun to leaf through her notebook and read what she sees as blessings. It’s a wonderful feeling to know my own child is capable of seeing so many things in this world as blessings and it also has a way of making those things she finds amazing seem even more amazing to me.

You may be wondering why I’m posting this on a site about g-free kids… Well, it struck me as interesting that she didn’t even think of writing anything about gluten-free until she got to #402: gluten-free foods; #403: gluten-free people; #404: gluten-free books. Those are the only times she says anything about GF. Personally, I think it’s pretty cool that she thought of over 400 things before mentioning her diet.

That tells me that I’m doing a pretty good job of helping her realize she is just a normal kid, that her special diet does not need to be a main focus in her life, and that there is much, much more to life than food… Like #370: pretty irish dancing dresses, #319: laughing families, #255: sunshine shining through the windows, #430: not getting into trouble, #448: having a great imagination, #462: days when you get to relax, and #493: playing games by the fire.

Why not have your child start a list of blessings, and (if they are on a special diet) see how many things he or she can come up with before food is mentioned?  It will help them to be grateful, to keep things in perspective and let them realize that life is about so many more things than just food. What better time to start than the new year? Help your child to keep the focus on the real stuff of life… letting a kid be a kid — g-free or not.

Happy new year, everyone!  🙂
~Katie

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P.S.   If your g-free kid needs a positive attitude adjustment about his or her diet, Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? will help your child to keep it all in perspective.

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4 thrifty, last-minute, homemade Christmas gift ideas

It’s a week before Christmas and all through my house, unfinished projects are scattered about… Well, some of them anyways…

I was scrambling for ideas for a while, but I finally came up with a few homemade gift ideas I wanted to share with you. What do these gifts have to do with gluten-free kids?  Absolutely nothing — I just can’t afford another website to post random crafty ideas on, so I’m sharing them here.  🙂  Anyhow, these gifts all cost about $1 – $3 each, and are easy enough to let your kids help.  I hope that you enjoy them and have time to try a few…

• • •   1st idea — festive mini bouquets   • • •

I have to credit my creative Mom with this idea. A few weeks ago she popped in with a little something for me….similar to this but in a smaller, crystal bud vase. It’s been sitting cheerily in my window and has made me want to make some, myself, for other people…

IMG_5558I was at Michaels yesterday and saw the same type of “spray” that she used, at 50% off ($2.50 on sale) so I grabbed a few. I cut them apart and pulled beaded wires out of the main stem and put them into these little 3″ bottles, which are actually maple syrup bottles from Cracker Barrel. Both are shown here….and, no, I’m not a hand model.  😉

IMG_5584 Last I just glued some ribbon around the bottle for some extra color. Any kind of spray, bud vase and ribbon will work.

• • •   2nd idea — votive candleholders filled with dried nature   • • •

Again, I was at Michaels and saw these red & green, dried, natural decorations on sale. I threw a few bags into my basket (on sale for $2.99 a bag) even though I wasn’t sure what to do with them yet. They looked like tiny seedpods, smooth pinecones and puffballs, but they were dyed Christmas colors. I ended up in the candleholder aisle and this idea just sort of came to me:  a clear vase to hold the dried stuff, and a votive holder that fit into the top, sealing away the dried stuff down below so it wouldn’t be flammable.

IMG_5594So I picked up 10 each of the round vase and votives (all $1 each), found some natural twine (on sale for $1.50) to go with it and went home and put them together. I strategically placed a few acorns & various pinecones (from my own collection) in the vases, and filled in around them with the red & green dried stuff. (Hint: fill up the center area as much as you can w/ some sort of filler — I used pinecones — that will make your red & green filler go further.) Supplies are shown here:

IMG_5559Then I just fit the votive holder on top of it (you could also glue it if you want it to be permanent, but maybe someone will want to change the filling someday) and tied the twine around the neck of the vase. Then I found these great, vintage-style, free gift tags that I printed in b&w from Call Me Victorian and CoreyMarie.com. This project was a piece of cake and I whipped off all 10 in an hour. I went back the next day to buy more supplies so I could make some for myself, as they are just my style.

Can’t find the red & green stuff or you’re not too into nature?  Think outside of the box: fill the large vase w/ buttons for someone into sewing, seashells for the beach lover, real holly leaves and berries, ribbons, sparkly decorations, or whatever you think the recipient would enjoy…then buy ribbon and tags that fit the styles you choose.

• • •   3rd idea — snowman decorations made from clay pots   • • •

Obviously this is not a new idea, although I have yet to see them done this way before with 3 pots stacked up, or stylized this way…

IMG_5638The pots were (again) from Michaels: $.49 — $.99 each. Not sure of the sizes, but just go there and see how three of them stack up. Just paint the pots with acrylic paint, glue them together and decorate as desired. The faces were just drawn with fine point Sharpies, but you could also just glue on buttons or paint on a simple face. I bought a spray of fake berries and holly leaves, and cut the red berries in half with an exacto for the noses. I bought a few spools of ribbon at Michaels ($.99 a roll) that fit the neck of the middle pot where I glued it on for the scarf. Otherwise it’s just buttons glued on and decorations added to the hats. Anything goes.

• • •   4th idea — soap set to scent and decorate a bathroom   • • •

I bought a 3-pack of Dial Basics Hypoallergenic soap (I like a mild clean scent) at Dollar Tree for $1. Then I just glued on (school glue) pieces of scrapbook paper that I had trimmed to size with an exacto, then hot-glued ribbon and wooden shapes (a few dollars a bag from Michaels) onto which I had painted the letters JOY. If you like scented soaps, go for it. If you want to add some kind of base for the soaps to set on, have at it!

soapsGFK

These projects have been wrapped up in my house, but a few other stragglers remain to be finished by me or my daughters… If you happen to be one of their teachers or someone close to us, forget you ever saw this post!   🙂

Do you have any cheap and easy gift ideas to share? If so, feel free to add a link below. We can all use some go-to ideas — the more the merrier!  If you try any of the above ideas, feel free to post a picture of your final project on g-free kid’s Facebook page.
And feel free to pin away if you find any of these ideas worthy.

Merry Christmas!

~Katie

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Favorite gluten-free holiday treats, from our family to yours

Every year there are a few tried and true treats that we love to make in December. I’ve made these recipes so many times that I could do them in my sleep… Even in the midst of this crazy month, I’m always happy to whip up these goodies, as they’re easy, fun and always worth the little bit of effort I have to put into them. If you’ve been following for a while, some of these ideas will be familiar to you. Even though we’re not breaking any new g-free ground here, I still wanted to put our holiday favorites together in one post. Hopefully they become your family’s favorites as well!  Enjoy…

Looking for a g-free treat to send in for a class party?  Every year I make about 100 of these for my girls’ holiday parties in December and every year they are a big hit. They’re a go-to party treat (for other holidays, too — just change the sprinkles!) as all the kids love them and they’re allergen-free. Just poke sticks of some sort through marshmallows, dip in melted chocolate, add sprinkles and put on wax paper. Freeze for a bit to set, then refrigerate if using them soon. If you’re making them ahead of time, you can just freeze them in an airtight container and let them thaw out in the fridge the day before, or just on the counter the morning of the party. You could also use mini candy canes instead of sticks, or crushed candy canes instead of sprinkles, etc….anything goes!

IMG_9396Want a simple candy recipe that will tempt both young and old alike?
Then try our longtime family favorite “Buckeyes” recipe —
• 1 cup peanut butter
• 8 T butter
• 3 cups confectioners sugar
• chocolate chips or melting chocolate disks
(I always double the recipe which makes about sixty 1″ balls). Cream 1st three ingredients together and roll into balls. Melt chocolate and dip the balls in, then set them on wax paper. (We dip them only halfway into the chocolate: it’s not as messy as covering them all over.) Freeze them in single layer until hard, then store in fridge or freezer (depending on how soon you’re going to share them). Either way, keep them out of sight or they’ll be gone before you know it…

395137_320839607941299_819685579_nTrying to find a sweet gift idea that your kids can help with? Then whip out your holiday cookie cutters, some peanuts, chocolate chips and sprinkles. Instead of your classic, free-form peanut clusters, just melt chocolate and mix with peanuts til they’re coated, and spoon the mixture inside cookie cutters til all the spaces are filled. Then add holiday sprinkles, freeze til solid, then pop them out of the cookie cutters and put a few into a festive cellophane bag with a ribbon to give as gifts to neighbors, the postman, etc.

IMG_9392Want a quick, refreshing dessert idea to surprise your family? Then make these mini ice cream sandwiches, using Pamela’s Products cookies filled with ice cream. Get crazy and roll the edges of the ice cream in holiday sprinkles or crushed candy canes for extra color.  Any flavor ice cream and cookie will work!

icecreamsandLooking for a finger food that is sure to be a big hit? Then make these mini pigs-in-a-blanket, using Chebe bread mix (you can use their regular bread mix, cheese bread or breadstick mixes). Just make the mix according to directions, roll out and wrap pieces around GF mini hot dogs, and cook according to directions for mix. So savory and so good…if you’re lucky enough to have any left, they reheat very well, too.

401759_325149900843603_1398804214_nOr maybe you’re looking for a killer appetizer dip for an upcoming party? Look no further. Ask anyone who knows me what I always bring to parties (usually by request) and “feta artichoke dip” (said with a dreamy smile) will probably be the answer. And since I love this dip, myself, I’m always happy to comply. Please excuse the poor photo — it’s much better than it looks below, as many can attest to.  🙂

feta2Hot Feta Artichoke Dip
• 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
• 6-8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
• 1 cup mayo
• 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
• 1 clove garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients and spoon into 9″ pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with chopped tomato and green onions if desired. Serve with G-F tortilla chips.

Hope you’ve enjoyed our holiday family favorites. I have some more recipes to come soon, which are a little more time-consuming than these, but worth the time if you have it. In the meantime, if you’d like to see 27 more of our favorite kid-friendly recipes, you can download a free PDF at this link.

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Super simple g-free toffee brittle

Before Christmas last year, my Mom had tried a version of this delicious brittle (made with Saltine crackers) at church coffee hour and was instantly hooked. After she raved about it a number of times, she tracked down the original recipe, I went out and bought some Glutino original gluten-free crackers to replace the Saltines, and we got the other ingredients together. We whipped it up one night and this brittle was a huge hit over the holidays — especially with my daughter Morgan. We will definitely be making it again this month…

What you will need for this recipe (which is a good one to let kids help with):

  • 1 box original flavor Glutino original gluten-free crackers
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of mini chocolate chips
  • toppings of your choice: toffee pieces, m&m’s, sprinkles, diced nuts, crushed peppermints, butterscotch chips, coconut — you name it!

(Please excuse the photos — we did this on a whim and I didn’t have my own camera.)

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STEP 1:  Empty the entire box of crackers onto an ungreased baking sheet,
all in one layer. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

STEP 2:  In a medium size pot over the stove, cook one stick of butter and 2 cups of brown sugar together until gooey, then pour over crackers to cover them, and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes until bubbly. (Watch carefully so that nothing burns.)

STEP 3:  Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips over top,
let it sit a few minutes to melt the chocolate…

STEP 4:  Then, after the chocolate chips are melted enough, smooth the chocolate layer over with a spatula and top with toppings. Put the tray in the freezer for at least an hour.

STEP 5:  After at least an hour has passed, remove it and break it into irregular pieces
with the help of a stiff spatula. Voila!  A sweet treat for any occasion!

Let me know what you think of this recipe — we call it “toffee brittle” because the taste of it reminds us of toffee, even though we didn’t use any as a topping. After you try it (trust me — you will definitely be glad you did) let me know if you can think of a better name for it. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Snikiddy Review and Giveaway

This post is long overdue…  Snikiddy has been a favorite brand name in our house for the past few years when we first picked up a bag. What kid doesn’t love super-crunchy snacks they can both eat and play with?  We’ve tried a few Snikiddy varieties, but my daughters’ favorite is their grilled cheese puffs, which are little, cheddar-cheese flavored, crunchy balls of gluten-free goodness. They never get sick of them, and if we are buying a bag of Snikiddy, that is the kind they always choose.

IMG_5381Here are the ingredients for the cheese puffs: CORNMEAL, RICE FLOUR, SUNFLOWER AND/OR SAFFLOWER OIL, CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED PASTEURIZED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), NONFAT MILK, WHEY, SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR.

You won’t see chemicals or artificial colors in these babies. Snikiddy products contain no corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no trans fat, no preservatives, are low in saturated fat and are wheat and gluten free.  It’s a healthier alternative to so many other similar snacks.

We have also tried (and enjoyed) Snikiddy mac n’ cheese puffs, and sea salt and bbq baked fries, but the grilled cheese puffs remain #1 in my girls’ eyes — and in mine. Something about that combination of flavor, texture, size and shape just do it for us I guess… We have yet to try their “Eat Your Vegetables” varieties, but I am hearing good things so far…

Just for fun: My one daughter enjoyed making this origami basketball hoop (below) to toss her cheese balls into. Even if you don’t like your kids to play with their food, this is still something they could easily learn to make. Of course my daughter had to make a whole park to go along with hers!  🙂  Instructions for a simple hoop are on this video.

IMG_5430For more information about Snikiddy, please take a moment to visit their website:  You can find out more about the company & its people at: http://snikiddy.com/about and you can read more about their products here: http://snikiddy.com/products.

So — I’ve got a simple giveaway for you… Snikiddy was kind enough to send me some free product coupons which is what I’ll be giving away.  There will be 3 random winners, each receiving a “free full size product” coupon and a $1 off coupon, which they can redeem themselves at a local retailer.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below, letting me know which Snikiddy snack your child would most like to try if you were to win these coupons.

Giveaway ends at midnight on Thursday, December 6, 2012. Then the 3 winners will be notified, and will have 24 hours to get back to me, otherwise new names will be chosen. U.S. and Canadian residents only please. Thanks for your understanding…

Disclaimer: Snikiddy sent me free product coupons for this giveaway.  I only promised an honest review and was not compensated in any other way. Opinions are my daughters’ and my own.

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and be sure to check out the online photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.