Going Gluten-FreeJanuary 4, 2011

A Cozy, Safe Place

The period after the holidays—the short, cold days of January—are times when many of us feel deflated and less than our usual energetic selves. Why? Part of it can be the let-down of holiday expectations coupled with the aftermath of unwanted chores (clearing away the Christmas tree and packing up decorations) or the gray, dreary chill of too many overcast days. As winter deepens, how do you brighten up your space?

I put a little heater under my desk, pile on the sweaters and sip hot coffee or herbal tea as I work. On the weekends, I try to use my fireplace to create a cozy spot in the house. And I confess that now that I live in the country, I comfort myself with the morbid certainty that the ticks (major pests here in Virginia) are frozen—yes, dead!—which means I can hike through the woods without picking up unwanted passengers.

Hot chocolate plays a big role in warming things up, and so I’m passing along Living Without contributor Wendy Mondello’s recipe for allergy-friendly cocoa, along with her thoughts about making things cozy inside when it’s blowing snow outside. An important note: I’m including brand names here not because these companies advertise with us (although some do) but because the Living Without team actually uses and enjoys these allergy-friendly products.

We’re happy to be in the warmth of the house after a fun time playing in the snow. My son Joseph cuddles under a blanket on the couch with his hot chocolate and candy cane, cracking up at the movie Toy Story 3, while my daughter Pamela and I sit nearby perfecting our candy cane dipping techniques. She dips her candy cane into her hot chocolate and lifts her mug gingerly for a sip.

Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane is a favorite winter treat for my kids. There are so many times when we parents fret about how to make sure our food-allergic kids don't feel isolated because they can't have a treat, and we work hard to find a safe alternative. This is important to children like my son, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy.

Joseph savors my quick hot chocolate--a melted Enjoy Life Boom CHOCO Boom dark chocolate bar mixed with Vance's Foods DariFree non-dairy milk alternative and heated. He doesn’t like peppermint candy but the Dum Dum Candy Canes are a hit.

I’m happy that Joseph can enjoy this traditional winter treat--but it’s just food. I'm more delighted that both my children will remember playing in the snow together and then feeling the comfort of snuggling inside a loving home. The hot chocolate warms our bodies and, more importantly, the cozy time together on this frosty winter afternoon warms our souls.

 

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