2018 Christmas Event Guide

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Here is your 2018 guide to Christmas Events happening in and around the Tampa Bay Area.

Parades, Lights, Santa, and more!


ChristmasEventGuide

Please verify all information on events website before attending!

Parades.jpg

prade icon 12/1 Santa Fest and Christmas Parade prade icon

  • When: Sat, Dec. 1, 11 am
  • Cost: FREE to attend, parking fees may apply
  • Where: The parade begins at Madison and Pierce streets. Heads west on Madison Street then turns north onto Ashley Drive, and ends at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
  • More Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/286553938604567/

prade icon12/01 Alafia Lighted Boat Parade in Riverviewprade icon

prade icon12/7 Plant City Christmas Parade prade icon

prade icon 12/07 Boat Parade and Winter Festival in the Park

prade icon12/8 Pinellas Park Christmas Paradeprade icon

prade icon 12/8 Zephyrhills Christmas Parade prade icon

prade icon12/8 Christmas Parade and Santa visit to Whoville

  • When: Sat, Dec. 8, 11 am
  • Where: St Pete Beach City Hall (155 Corey Ave) and heads west down Corey Ave, south on Blind Pass Rd, east on 73rd to Bay Street and back to City Hall., St. Petersburg, Florida, 33706
  • More Info: http://www.spbrec.com/special-events/

prade icon12/8 Snow on 7th Ybor Holiday Paradeprade icon

prade icon12/15 Largo Old Fashioned Christmas Paradeprade icon

Parades.jpg

christmaslights.jpg 11/10 – 12/31 Wiregrass Symphony in Lights

christmaslights.jpg 11/17 – 12/31 Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

christmaslights.jpg 11/22 – 12/29 Wonderland of Lights

  • When: November 22 – December 29
  • Hours: See website
  • Cost: ONLY $20 per vehicle- through November 21! ONLY $25 – after November 21!
  • Location: 215 Sydney Washer Road, Dover, Florida, 33527
  • More Info: https://thewonderlandoflights.com/Default.asp?

christmaslights.jpg 11/23 – 1/03 Oakdale Christmas House

  • When: November 23 – Jan. 3
  • Hours: 6 pm – 10 pm
  • Cost: FREE
  • Location: 2719 Oakdale Street S., St. Petersburg, Florida
  • More Info: http://www.christmasdisplay.org/

christmaslights.jpg 11/23 – 12/24 Christmas Lane

  • When: November 23 – December 24
  • Hours: 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
  • Cost: Tickets are $5 for ages 13 and up, $3 for ages 12 to 4, and free for those 3 and under. Rides are a separate ticket.
  • Location: 2508 W. Oak Ave, Plant City, Florida, 33563
  • More Info: https://christmaslane.com/

christmaslights.jpg 11/23 – 12/30 Holiday Lights at the Florida Botanical Gardens

christmaslights.jpg11/24 – 12/23 Nights of Shimmering Lights

  • When: Select Nights from 11/24 thru 12/23
  • Hours: Open Thursday to Sunday weekly Closed Monday to Wednesday Time: opens at dark – 10 p.m
    Cost: $6 pp, 3 and under FREE
  • Location: 2302 N. Dover Road, Dover, Florida, 33527
  • More Info: http://www.thesunkissedacres.com/christmas-lights/

christmaslights.jpg 11/28 Centro Ybor Tree Lighting

christmaslights.jpg 11/30 Grinchmas and Christmas Festival

christmaslights.jpg 11/30 Tampa Tree Lighting

christmaslights.jpg 12/1 – 12/31 LIghts of Lake Park Estate

  • When: Dec. 1 to Dec. 31
  • Hours: 6 pm – 10 pm
  • Cost: FREE but donations are appreciated
  • Location: 102nd Ave & 109 Ave N, Seminole, FL, 33777
  • More Info: http://lightsoflakepark.com/

Parades.jpg

satnaicon.jpg11/10 – 12/31 Christmas Card Lane

satnaicon.jpg11/16 – 1/5 Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

  • When: November 16 – January 5
  • Hours: See website for hours
  • Cost: Winter Village is free to attend. Additional cost for special events, food/beverages, ice skating, Winter Village Express, Shopping etc
  • Location: 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, Florida, 33602
  • More Info: http://www.wintervillagetampa.com/

satnaicon.jpg11/17 – 1/6 Christmas at Gaylord Palms and Ice Attraction

satnaicon.jpg11/17 – 12/16 Tampa Theatre Winter Classics

  • When: Select Fridays and Saturdays
  • Hours: See Website
  • Cost: free
  • Location: 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, Florida, 33602
  • More Info: http://www.wintervillagetampa.com/
  • Movie Lineup: Friday, Nov. 17 – White Christmas
    Saturday, Nov. 18 – Home Alone
    Friday, Nov. 24 – Miracle on 34th Street
    Saturday, Nov. 25 – A Christmas Story
    Friday, Dec. 1 – The Polar Express
    Friday, Dec. 15 – Elf
    Saturday, Dec. 16 – It’s a Wonderful Life

satnaicon.jpg 11/17 – 12/31 Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

satnaicon.jpg11/17 -12/31 SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration

satnaicon.jpg 11/22 – 12/29 Wonderland of Lights

  • When: November 22 – December 29
  • Hours: See website
  • Cost: ONLY $20 per vehicle- through November 21! ONLY $25 – after November 21!
  • Location: 215 Sydney Washer Road, Dover, Florida, 33527
  • More Info: https://thewonderlandoflights.com/Default.asp?

satnaicon.jpg 11/23 – 12/24 Christmas Lane

  • When: November 23 – December 24
  • Hours: 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
  • Cost: Tickets are $5 for ages 13 and up, $3 for ages 12 to 4, and free for those 3 and under. Rides are a separate ticket.
  • Location: 2508 W. Oak Ave, Plant City, Florida, 33563
  • More Info: https://christmaslane.com/

satnaicon.jpg11/24 – 12/23 Nights of Shimmering Lights

  • When: Select Nights from 11/24 thru 12/23
  • Hours: Open Thursday to Sunday weekly Closed Monday to Wednesday Time: opens at dark – 10 p.m
    Cost: $6 pp, 3 and under FREE
  • Location: 2302 N. Dover Road, Dover, Florida, 33527
  • More Info: http://www.thesunkissedacres.com/christmas-lights/

satnaicon.jpg 11/24 – 12/30 Christmas in the Wild

From all of us here at Everyday Moms, we wish you and your family and Happy and Safe Holiday!

Please verify all information before attending!
Written By: Shineta A
Please verify all information before attending!
Written By: Shineta A

Airplane Travel With Kids

We recently took our two kids on their first cross-country airplane ride- 4 hours and 20 minutes in the air!!

Here are some of the things I packed to help keep them busy and help us keep our sanity!

Play-Doh

Don’t get me wrong, I hate Play-Doh as much as the next mom, but I packed a snack-sized Ziplok with three small containers of it as well as some toothpicks so my kids could make cacti with them (we were going to Arizona).

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Felt

I cut out some green felt (also in a cactus shape) and put some velcro on the back of some buttons for them to play with.

Playmats

I created two playmate for my kids. One was Disney Cars theme and I had the Hot Wheels type cars to go with it.

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The other one was a desert scene and I bought a tube of animals to go with it.

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Legos

These got played with more in our hotel but I bought the Disney Cars Legos also.

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Shapes

I brought our shapes in a Ziplock as well and while we were waiting for our plane to board, we created flowers, cacti and suns.

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Coloring books

For adults too! I got us special Arizona coloring books as well as ones from the dollar store. We brought markers and colored pencils.

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Pillows/ blankets/ pajamas

In other words, COMFY!

Magnetic Tic-Tac-Toe

Velvet Art Posters

iPads!!!!!

Seriously, a lifesaver. Loaded up with movies and games.

Snacks

We had applesauce pouches, bags of chips, granola bars, lollipops, pretzels, Teddy Grahams, raisins, mini muffins, animal crackers, gummies, Pringles, etc.

Water bottles

We got the ones with the straw that snap close so we didn’t have to worry about any spills.

Hope these tips help!

Happy flying!

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Jennifer Silverstein is a SAHM of two infuriating girls, one husband, one dog, six chickens and a tortoise. She lives on 6 acres in Plant City and her hobbies include: Disney, hiking & camping, running, gardening and reading. She loves tacos, tea time and the beach. Her bucket list includes holding a baby cow. Follow along at http://www.growingupsilverstein.com.

Clean Eating Crockpot Meals

Written By: Lisa Valentine

Being a mom can be hectic and being a working mother makes it even crazier, especially when I’m at work in middle of dinner time. That makes it even harder to make sure my family is fed a hot meal. When I first became a mom my husband and I both worked different shifts and neither were the typical 9-5. With my husband working 12 hour shifts and my first baby starting to eat real food, I was at a loss for how to have a hot meal for my family when I could not be there. That’s when I started my crockpot experimenting.
Pinterest became my friend. I just started trying different recipes that I found and started making a list of which recipes were at hit. Not all got put on that list, some got altered and tried again, some got the boot. There were a lot of failed attempts and wasted food but I got better at picking meals to cook in the crockpot and it became my saving grace.

   I’m not just talking to working mothers here. I know how crazy kids’ schedules can be and it’s hard to cook dinner every night, especially when your kids have sports and different activities after school. We end up hitting the drive through because we are at a loss for what to cook or you just don’t have the time.  No matter what kind of mother you are; working, stay at home, work from home or homeschooling, the crockpot is THE go-to mom hack. Even when I’m not working I use it because there are some nights I know I won’t have the time or energy to cook. You know, those days you are out all day running errands or doing something fun like going to a theme park, the last thing you want to do when you get home is cook.

   Before I had my second baby I knew I needed to plan ahead this time. That’s when I made a list of our favorite recipes and made some freeze ahead crockpot meals to have on hand post baby. Nutrition is so important when you are postpartum and getting little to zero sleep usually leaves us in survival mode, eating whatever comes our way. This was a life saver when we got home from the hospital! All we had to do was decide the night before what we wanted for dinner, let it thaw out a little bit in the refrigerator and throw it in the crock pot the next morning.

When I became a health and fitness coach and started getting into clean eating, I started altering the recipes to fit our clean eating lifestyle. I knew this was something that I could not keep to myself and could use to help other moms who struggle with putting nutritious meals on the table because time is limited.
   Sometimes time plays a factor, even with the crockpot. Sometimes I forget to put it on in the morning or just didn’t find the time. My shortcut for that is adjusting the cook time. Below is a conversion chart for crockpot cooking.
LOW setting   HIGH setting
7 hours            3 hours
8 hours            4 hours
9 hours            5 hours
10 hours          6 hours
11 hours          7 hours
12 hours          8 hours
My go-to versatile crockpot hack is chicken. Throw in some chicken breasts with a little bit of water or chicken broth (low for 8 hours) and shred it when done. You can use this throughout the week for several recipes and alter to your liking. Some ideas are,
Chicken Salad
Buffalo chicken
BBQ chicken
Quesadillas
Enchiladas
Burritos (or burrito bowl)
Stir fry
To put my clean eating twist on it, I use organic chicken. I will serve atop of a salad, quinoa or brown rice or wrapped in romaine hearts or Ezekiel tortillas. I also recently discovered NUCO coconut wraps, they are a natural alternative to tortillas. I thought they were more flexible and held together better than the Ezekiel tortillas. They tasted good to me, but if you don’t like the taste of coconut, you may not like them. I ordered mine off of Amazon.
I hope these tips bring you some relief so you can still eat healthy while surviving parenthood. Bellow I added some of my favorite freeze ahead crockpot meals with grocery list to help on those days you are in a pinch.

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Crock Pot Italian Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 cup whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, grated
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons cornstarch or 2 eggs
2 large clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp salt + fresh pepper
For the sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, smashed
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil  

1. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, garlic and cheese. Using clean hands, mix all the ingredients and form small meatballs, about 1/8th cup each.
2. Flash freeze on parchment lined cookie sheet in the freezer then place into ziplock bags.
3. Make sauce ahead or when ready to put in crock pot – In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, being careful not to burn. 

5. Pour crushed tomatoes into the crock pot with bay leaf. Add garlic and oil.
Drop meatballs into the sauce, cover and set crock pot to low, 4 to 6 hours. When meatballs are ready, adjust salt and pepper to taste and add fresh chopped basil or parsley.
Serve over favorite pasta.
Write on bag:
1. When ready, pour sauce and place in Crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours.
2. Serve over favorite pasta.

Easy Crock Pot Vegetable Beef Soup
Ingredients
1 1/2 to 2 pounds stew meat
32 oz beef broth
1 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 stalk celery
8 oz green beans
1/4 t thyme
1/4 t marjoram
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
Add 1 T oil to a large pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add about 2 pounds of cubed beef and cook until browning some. About 10 minutes.
While the meat is browning, clean and prep veggies. One stalk of celery chopped medium. One carrot cut into 1/4 inch medallions. One medium onion chopped medium. Also 8 oz of fresh or frozen green beans.
Add all to freezer bag. Add 32 oz beef broth (you can do this now or when you dump it all in the crock pot), one 15 oz can diced tomatoes (not drained), 1/4 t thyme, 1/4 t marjoram and one bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix well
Write on bag:
1.When ready, cook on high for 4-5 hours until meat and carrots are tender or 8-10 on low

Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas
Ingredients
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 peppers, sliced
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breast or thighs
1/4 to ½ cup chicken broth, depending on preference (leave this out if you prefer a drier fajita filling)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cumin
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
Squirt of lime juice

Instructions
Combine sliced onions, peppers & chicken in a ziplock bag
Pour chicken broth over top (you can do this now or when you are ready to cook)
Sprinkle everything with cumin, salt, and chili powder.
Give a nice quirt of lime juice over the top.

Write on bag:
1. When ready, cook on low for 4-8 hours (or on High for 4 hours) or until meat is spreadable.
2. When meat is done, shred with two forks and stir back into juices. Serve meat mixture with slotted spoon with your choice of fixings.

Chicken Vegetable Soup
Ingredients
1 – 2 lbs chicken, skinless, boneless
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup corn, frozen
1 cup edemame (soy beans), frozen
1 14oz can tomatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. salt (to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. pepper, ground
1 tsp. parsley, dried
Instructions
Add all ingredients to a zip lock bag and freeze.

Write on bag:
1. When ready, cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

* To shred chicken – I keep the chicken in the Crockpot and take two forks to pull apart the chicken. The chicken should be falling completely apart.

Honey Sesame Chicken

Ingredients
1lb chicken tenders
3 T olive oil
1 cup raw honey
2 T sesame seeds
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Directions
Place all ingredients in freezer bag, toss to coat and freeze.

Write on bag:
1. When ready, place in crockpot and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
2. Remove chicken & shred, and then return to sauce.
3. Can serve over hot cooked rice or serve in lettuce wraps.

Crock Pot SW Steak
Ingredients:
1-1/2 lbs. stew meat
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. jar chunky salsa
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
Directions                                                                                                                                          Place onions and garlic in bottom of freezer bag and top with meat. Mix salsa, oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper in small bowl and pour over meat. Top with drained black beans.

Write on bag:
1. Cook on low for 7-9 hours until meat is tender
2. Serve with favorite rice

Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients
1 – 2 lbs chicken sausage
2 peppers, sliced
2 onions, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp parsley

Directions
Flash freeze sausage on parchment lined cookie sheet in the freezer.
Place onions and peppers in bottom of freezer bag and top with meat. Add in can of tomatoes and parsley, pour over meat.

Write on bag:
1. Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours
2. Serve with favorite rice or in favorite rolls

Grocery list
Meat & dairy
4 pounds stew meat
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breast or thighs
2 lbs chicken, skinless, boneless
3 lb chicken tenders
2 lb Ground turkey
1-2 lbs turkey sausage
4 eggs

Pantry
Whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs
Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, grated
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
32 oz beef broth
1 32 oz & 1 can chicken broth
3 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
Lime juice
Honey
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Extra virgin olive oil
16 oz. jar chunky salsa
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

Spices
Salt
Pepper
Sesame seeds
Parsley
Chili powder
Oregano
Bay leaves
Thyme
Cumin
Marjoram
Basil
Cornstarch (if subbing for eggs)
Frozen
Green beans
Corn
Edemame (soy beans)

Produce
2 bulbs garlic
fresh chopped basil & parsley
Carrots
6 medium onion
Celery
5 peppers
*Don’t forget freezer bags, your favorite fixings for garnish and favorite rice/pastas.

Freezer bags
Cheese?
Salsa?
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Rice
Pasta
Romaine (for lettuce wraps) and/or side salad for soups.
Whatever else you like…

My gassy, fussy, poopy little guy

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Photo cred Shannon Brie Photography

E is my second child.  He’s 23 months younger than his brother, my first child.  It hadn’t been that long since I’d done the newborn thing.  I thought, “This is my second little guy.  I’ve got this.  I know what to do now.”  But, as second children do, he threw me some curve balls.  The biggest being that he’s allergic to dairy.

Now, before I go on, let me qualify some information for you.  I’m a neonatal nurse practitioner, I have a friend, who used to be our neighbor, who is dairy allergic herself and I happen to have a close friend who has a child, a bit younger than my first, who has a severe dairy allergy that causes GI issues, similar to what E has.  These things helped me arrive at my findings with E.  I am NOT a pediatrician or an allergist.  If you should think some of this info might apply to you or your child, I encourage you to discuss it with your practitioner, as they will be best suited to help you navigate all of this, because they know your histories.

I had E at home.  I put him to breast within minutes after he arrived.  He breastfed like a champ.  Things were great.  He latched and nursed, no issue.  But from almost the moment he arrived, he screamed.  He was either nursing or sleeping or screaming or pooping.  Now, I know newborns sleep and eat and poop, primarily, but this kid didn’t have a happy waking moment.  And it got worse.  He was inconsolable at times.  He also had very runny breastmilk poops.  I remember thinking, in my fuzzy postpartum haze, that his poop was more on the diarrhea side than I remembered his brother having, but brushing it off as just a variation of normal.  It was yellow (bright yellow, but still yellow), soft and didn’t obviously smell.  So we pressed forward.  He was fussy and gassy.  SO gassy!  I remember talking to our pediatric nurse practitioner about it and some ideas being brought up, but he was growing and he was happy-ish (he still cried so. much.) so we just pushed on.  And then…

He was six months old and we started solids.  I do baby led weaning – which is an easy way to say I skip the baby food purees and just started giving him bite sized pieces of easy to swallow foods, that I was eating.  So of course I offered cheese and yogurt because those were staples in my own diet.  That’s when things got worse.  His poop became vivid yellow or fluorescent green, slimy and mucous-y and it smelled bad.  He never had obvious blood in his stool, but I could guess that if we tested it, it was there.  He was also MUCH more fussy and gassy.  He co-sleeps with me.  He would scream out in pain in the middle of the night, move around and let out a lot of gas.  Then he would calm down and go right back to sleep.

Finally, a light bulb went off in my head.  Maybe it’s dairy!  Dairy is the number one food allergen in infants and young children.  “Approximately 2.5 percent of children younger than three years of age are allergic to milk. Nearly all infants who develop an allergy to milk do so in their first year of life. Most children eventually outgrow a milk allergy.” –Food Allergy Resource and Education Dairy allergy reactions come in a range of severity from mild to extremely severe and anaphylactic.  E falls somewhere in the middle.  Fortunately (and I am so very thankful) his allergic reaction does not cause hives or swelling and doesn’t close off his airway, requiring us to carry emergency drugs, that we might have to administer, if he gets an accidental exposure.  His reaction qualifies as FPIES – Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome.  “FPIES is a type of food allergy affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Classic symptoms of FPIES include profound vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. These symptoms can lead to severe lethargy, change in body temperature and blood pressure.” –FPIES Foundation

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Unfortunately, for me, I made this realization right before the holidays.  That’s right everybody, I had to eliminate dairy from our diets before Christmas.  No Christmas cookies, no Christmas dinner, no traditional Christmas breakfast that my mom always makes.  It was a big deal to me.  It was not something I took lightly or enjoyed.  I had played around with the idea of eating cleaner and trying Whole30 before, but had always chickened out when it came to removing dairy.  Well, now my choice was to eliminate dairy from my diet and continue breastfeeding or stop breastfeeding and find a viable formula option for my baby who now, I suspected, can’t have cow’s milk.  For me, the only acceptable answer was to stop eating dairy along with my son.  Unfortunately for people who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, there aren’t a lot of good dairy free formula options.  It can be very difficult to find a formula that works well and provides good nutrition for dairy allergic babies.

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So I eliminated dairy.  About two weeks in, I started seeing some improvement – not so much diarrhea, less irritable and gassy.  And six weeks later… that’s right… SIX WEEKS later, things were normal.  Why six weeks, you ask? Because it took around 2-3 weeks for the dairy protein to clear my system and another 2-3 to clear E’s.  We are now dairy-free.

So now a conversation, with someone new who finds out about this allergy, generally goes like this.  He’s allergic to dairy. Dairy? Yes dairy.  So like… milk? Yes. And Cheese? Yes. And butter? Uh huh. And eggs? Nope.  Not eggs? No… eggs come from chickens. Milk comes from cows.  You’d be surprised how often people confuse that.  I find it amusing, mostly.

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So what IS a true dairy allergy?  Dairy allergic or sensitive people are allergic to the protein in cow’s milk.  It is NOT the same as lactose intolerance.  “Lactose intolerance is caused by not having enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Milk allergy is a true food allergy caused by an allergic reaction to the protein in milk.” –Everyday Health

Ok, I bet I know what your next questions is… what DO you eat? Isn’t there dairy in EVERYthing?!  There is dairy in a lot of things, but not everything and not even in some things that you’d swear it’s in.  Eating dairy free at home was only a bit challenging in the beginning – once I learned what to look for, and how to read food labels, it became second nature.  Eating dairy free when we are out is still VERY challenging and almost makes it not worth going out to eat, which is hard for me because my family enjoys eating out.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to look for dairy on labels.  The FDA requires that food allergens be clearly declared on product labeling.  What this means for dairy allergies is that if the word “milk” or “butter” isn’t clearly stated in the ingredients list, they MUST put a statement below the ingredients list that says “CONTAINS milk”.  It is VERY important to read ingredient labels and not just take products at their name because “non-dairy” items, such as non-dairy creamer, can still contain milk.  That’s right.  There’s no regulation on the words companies use on their packaging like “natural” and “non-dairy”.  In fact, the industry now uses “non-dairy” to mean lactose free, often, which is of no help to me because it still contains dairy protein.

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There’s another statement that ends up on a lot of food labels.  The “May Contain” statement.  This statement is something that a company can choose to include, or not, on their labeling as they see fit.  May contain milk basically means that the product is processed on shared equipment with products that do contain milk and could have some cross contamination from it.  This can be a problem for people with life threatening or severe allergies to milk.  More investigation is usually warranted if someone with a severe dairy allergy wants to eat something with a “may contain” statement.  A call or email to the company can help to discuss what their sanitation and testing practices are between share lines.

So, a quick look at processed food labels will generally show me if an item contains milk or not.  I’ve taken the advice of other, more seasoned milk allergy moms and use the triple check method.  I check food when I get it off the shelf at the grocery store – every time, because you never know when the company might decide to change the recipe, then check again as I’m putting the food into our pantry and check it once more before I serve it to myself or E.

Meats are not regulated the same way that other foods are, in the US.  They fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA and have different rules.  Why is this important?  Because a lot of meat has dairy components in it.  That’s right.  Turkeys, hams, sausage, lunch meat, all can contain dairy protein and they don’t have to state it directly on the packaging.  The only way to know if the meat you’ve chosen is dairy free is to have a conversation with the company, via email or phone to be sure, or to use a company that has openly declared that they don’t use dairy products, like Applegate Natural and Organic Meats.

So when we eat at home, we eat mostly meat, fruits, vegetables, pasta and some processed snacks that I’ve found that are safe.  I make more of our food now than ever before, so we are definitely eating healthier, which is an advantage.  When we go out during the day, I’m vigilant to bring our own snacks and lunch so that I won’t get stuck without something for us to eat.

Eating out at restaurants has become more challenging because even when I explain our dairy allergy, some restaurants are just not as careful as others about preparing safe food for us.  We have found several go-tos around town that are willing and happy to help.  Ciccio Cali gets it and makes it easy for me because their menu says right on it what is dairy free and what isn’t.  Tampa Pizza Company offers vegan pizza.  That’s right, I said, err… typed it, VEGAN pizza.  Sounds gross?  It’s not!  They have vegan crust with delicious sauce, mushrooms, roasted garlic and vegan (soy based or non-soy based) cheese.  It’s yummy!  Mellow Mushroom has a vegan pizza too, also delicious.  (Side note, it really blows a server’s mind when you order vegan pizza and add meat to it.)  Boca Brandon is one of our favorite brunch places and they have been good about accommodating us with our allergy.  I love to go on Sundays for brunch and get the steak and eggs.  I can’t get the delightfully creamy grits with it anymore, but they sub potatoes instead and it’s still yummy.  Far and away the place I visit more often now than I ever did before this, is Chipotle Mexican Grill.  EVERYthing on Chipotle’s menu is dairy free except for the obvious items – sour cream and cheese.  It’s so easy!  I just ask that they put on new gloves since their last ones likely handled cheese and they are so kind about it.  The best place I’ve found for food allergies all around – Disney World!  The sit down restaurants at Disney are very allergy conscious and very accommodating.  I can indicate online when I book a reservation that we have a dairy allergy and they flag it from the moment we step into the restaurant.  We’ve had some of the most delicious restaurant meals at Disney since we went dairy free and we don’t feel like we’re missing anything.

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There are some very interesting things that fall into the no dairy category that I would never have guessed.  Oreos, that’s right – no dairy in them.  Shocking, right? Or maybe not so shocking because I’m pretty sure there isn’t a lot that’s natural in Oreos, ha!  Original Ritz Crackers – butter “flavored” apparently doesn’t actually include butter.  A lot of microwave and movie theater popcorn doesn’t have any dairy.  Just flavored oil – yum!  Even more strange than those items that don’t contain dairy, are the unexpected places I found dairy.  Ready?  Wait for it… wine!  Some wine.  Not all wine.  Let’s not get too crazy here.  Some wine companies use dairy in the “fining” process of making wine.  I’m not sure what exactly that is, but I discovered this little truth after I had gotten dairy out of our systems and E had a reaction to something.  I couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I stumbled across the fact that the new bottle of wine I’d been enjoying that week (ok, ok it was really over two days…) was in fact from a company who uses dairy in their processing.  Barnivore.com keeps a list, that isn’t yet comprehensive, but has a lot of brands on it, in case you’re interested.

In the beginning I thought a dairy allergy was going to be a devastating diagnosis for us.  I was so sure that I would miss cheese, ice cream, butter, and milk shakes, and I do, in theory, but in my every day life I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all.  And ultimately, I’m happy to do what needs to be done to keep my baby feeling happy and healthy.  I did feel like once it all cleared my system, I wasn’t craving it any longer.  I consulted my milk allergy friends a lot through the beginning of this journey and one even added me to Milk Allergy Mommas, a great facebook group for all things milk allergy related.  I learned a lot from just scrolling through the board and reading posts, or searching posts to find answers.  It was this group that helped me find my now favorite dairy free substitutes for so many things including, but not limited to, ice cream, chocolate, and even pudding!  I also use godairyfree.org fairly often if I’m out and about and need to find something to eat.  As far as cooking goes, I have found that almost any recipe can be adapted to be dairy free – even green bean casserole!  Don’t believe me?  I made this recipe hummusapien.com for Easter and my family gobbled it up without complaint.  It’s also easy to search for Paleo or Whole30 recipes for good ideas and helpful substitutes.  I even made pressure cooker butter chicken without butter!  I subbed butter flavored coconut oil, instead of using ghee.

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Going dairy free isn’t easy, but it turns out it’s not all that hard either.  If you find yourself facing a similar challenge, take heart!  Consult your healthcare professionals, talk to others who have walked where you are about to tread, and reach out for help.  Hopefully E will outgrow this allergy, but even if he doesn’t, I now know we can handle it!

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Photo cred Running Circles Photography

Pinterest Picks: Winter Break Crafts

Winter Break is right around the corner and that means LOTS of time alone with your kids asking “what are we doing today?”

Fill in those days with some winter break crafts!

So far, these are the ones we’ve done:

Name Recognition Lights 

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                     Pinterest version                                                                    My version

I cut the lights out (freehand) out of construction paper and drew the bases of the lights with permanent marker. I took a piece of paper and folded and cut it in half and drew a squiggly line for the lights.

Then, I gave them glue sticks and let them go to town.

Lights (Patterns for older kids)

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        Pinterest Version                                      My version

I found this idea here and she used wine corks for the paint, but I had Do-A-Dot art pens laying around and used those! Much easier and less to clean up afterwards!

Cutting Practice trees

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     Pinterest version                                      My version

This one was super easy: Just draw triangle-shaped trees on a green piece of construction paper and let the kids cut them out! My girls actually used the Do-A-Dot makers again since they were laying around and “decorated” the trees.

With all the crafting, your kids are bound to get hungry. So, in addition to our crafts, here are some Pinterest picks for some holiday snacks and food:

Rudolph pancakes

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                   Pinterest version.                                                     My version

I buy pre-made frozen chocolate chip and mini pancakes just for breakfasts like these!

I bought a HUGE bag of holiday M&Ms (which I’ve read I can save and use the red ones for Valentine’s Day and the green ones for St. Patrick’s Day).

I used one red M&M for the nose, two chocolate chips for the eyes and pretzel sticks broken up for the antlers.

Muddy Buddies

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           Pinterest version                                               My version 

Did you know you can buy these pre-made now?! Genius!

I just dumped a bag of muddy buddies, holiday M&Ms and pretzel sticks in a gallon sized Ziplok baggie and mixed it up!

Ruldolph PBJ

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Pinterest version                                 My version

Once again, red M&M and two chocolate chips for the face!

I’ve pretty much figured out that if I put 3 pieces of candy on anything, my kids will eat it ALL!

I cut the shape with my butter knife (it was supposed to be a heart-shape) and put mini pretzels in between the bread.

And just for some LOLZ and to show you that everything doesn’t always turn out just like Pinterest, here is my Pinterest FAIL!

Snowman pancakes 

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Pinterest version                                           My version

I had seen this lady’s post on a cute snowman breakfast and tried to replicate it.

She used mini chocolate chips and apparently, mine are enormous.

I used 3 green M&Ms for the buttons and pretzel sticks for the arms. Mini marshmallows for the snow beneath the feet.

Then, it went terribly wrong. I didn’t have anything cute to use for the nose. I attempted to use a candy corn, but then my snowman just looked like a penguin!

Oh well, the kids still ate them!

Happy Winter Break!