Monthly Archives: November 2013


Best Kid Holiday Gifts Under $30

I get holiday shopping out of the way early so I can use my December free time for fun family stuff like baking or reading holiday stories by the fireplace. The more I can get online, the better. Below are my top picks for kids ages 5-10, all under $30. Click the images to go directly to the products.

Snow Anytime Snowballs

The weather doesn’t always cooperate. Now your kids can pelt each other with snowballs whether it snows or not! Bonus: no rogue snow chunks sliding down the backs of shirts. ThinkGeek. $19.99.

Tekno Black Light Bubbles

Pinterest be darned! I can never get the DIY glow-in-the-dark bubbles to work. These are a guarantee. ThinkGeek. $7.99 (black lights separate, $10+ on Amazon)

Cotton Candy Maker

Seriously. Is there anything cooler than this? It’s especially great at Christmas, because you can toss a candy cane in for peppermint cotton candy. Great for kids who can’t have corn syrup or food dyes. Amazon. $27.96.

Mentos Geyser Tube

25 foot soda geysers don’t make enough appearances in life. Especially in the snow. Steve Spangler Science. $4.95.

Scavenger Hunt

Perfect indoor game for a wintry day. Fun enough for the whole family to jump in. Amazon. $10.99.

Gotcha Gadgets

Turn pranksters into electrical engineers with this funny kit. MindWare. $24.95.

Carpet Skates

An awesome set of “ice” skates for those who live in warm climates, and also for those who dislike the elements as much as I do. Steve Spangler Science. $19.99.

Bouncing Bubble Kit

I love bubbles. I will never outgrow bubbles. Especially if they continue to increase in their coolness. These bounce. Need I say more? Steve Spangler Science. $29.99.

Easy Dollar Bill Origami

Any kid with this gem is sure to be a superstar in the school lunch line. Low priced enough for you to slip a couple of singles in. Barnes & Noble. $4.95.

uKloo Treasure Hunt Game

Treasure hunt games are always fun. This one’s geared toward beginning & reluctant readers. Mindware. $18.95.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and other Scary Things

I have a soft spot for anxious kids in both real life and fiction. Little Alvin doesn’t get enough hoopla for the quality of his stories, in my opinion. Barnes and Noble. $6.99.

Real Walkie Talkies

These are not babyish walkie talkies that don’t work. These are the real deal, for elementary school kids who want to hide under their beds & talk to neighbor friends late at night, or who want to make games like Cops & Robbers a lot more interesting. Amazon. $21.99.

Planet Frog

Like the ubiquitous classroom butterfly kits, these things are an awesome lesson in transformation. Fat Brain Toys. $29.99.





Dairy-free Chocolate Advent Calendar

AdventCalendarNo kid should miss out on fun because of food allergy or intolerance. Though not recommended for children with severe allergies, this dairy-free advent calendar is quite easy and is a good solution for kids who don’t react if there’s a little cross-contamination.



What You’ll Need

Chocolate advent calendar from Trader Joe’s (or similar)
Enjoy Life chocolate chips


  • Run a knife under the seals on both ends of the advent calendar to open it. Run your hand carefully down the inside to free the candy tray from the box, as it will be glued in spots.
  • Remove the candy tray.AdventCalendarTray
  • Pop out the chocolates gently. If they don’t come out without damaging the designs, skip this step.
  • Run the chocolate tray under hot water until completely clean. Dry.
  • Microwave the chocolate chips on 50% for one minute. Stir. Continue microwaving at 50% in 30 second increments until smooth.
  • Carefully spoon the melted chocolate into the molds. When finished, gently tap the entire tray against the counter until they are all level.
  • Leave chocolates on counter for several hours or overnight until hardened.
  • Re-insert the tray into the calendar, ensuring that it is not upside-down.
  • Glue or tape the box closed.
  • Give your safe advent calendar to your happy child!

Gluten-free, Casein-free Cranberry Bread

CranberryBreadBetween the mushy food, the fancy clothes and all that grown-up talk at the table, Thanksgiving can be a source of stress for a lot of kids . One way to overcome this is to give kids control over as many aspects of the holiday as is reasonable. When I was a kid, my family put me in charge of a very important thing: the cranberry bread.

Every year, my wonderful sister and mother read the classic “Cranberry Thanksgiving” by Wende and Harry Devlin with me. It’s a picture book for school-aged kids, one of those quiet books from the 1970’s, with gorgeous illustrations. The plot centers around a world-famous secret cranberry bread recipe, which is published for the reader in the last pages (and on Amazon’s Look Inside).

Every year I made that “secret” recipe. Every year, I had at least one not-mushy thing to eat. Every year, I had a tiny but important amount of control at an otherwise stressful event. CranberryThanksgiving

Now that I’m older, I’ve passed the “secret” recipe down to the kids in my family. However, with food allergies rampant, not everybody in our family can eat those old mainstream recipes anymore. So, I’ve adapted it to be more allergy-friendly.


  • 2 cups Cybele Pascal’s gluten free flour mix recipe
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/4 cup ghee or dairy-free butter (chilled)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2  teaspoon orange rind, grated
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries, (the recipe calls for coarsely chopped, but I prefer them whole)


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Put flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and xanthan gum in a stand mixer. Mix.
  3. Cut in butter and mix until crumbly.
  4. Add egg, orange juice and rind all at once. Mix until just combined.
  5. Add cranberries and stir.
  6. Spoon into 9x5x3inch greased pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from pan, cool on wire rack.
  8. Enjoy!