Sunday, August 15, 2010

Party We Love: Maddie's Allergy-Free 3rd Birthday Party

Good day, sunshines! When my dear friend Megan Carswell Gladden (ahem, sorority grand sister from my days at UNC Chapel Hill) pinged me a while back about covering her daughter's very first birthday bash (for her third birthday) I knew instantly that this party promised to be super-sweet and super-stylish. But, when Megan explained to me that this party was an extra-special celebration because it was the first time her daughter (who suffers severe food allergies) could enjoy her very own birthday cake (free of fear!), I knew I'd have to share this event with all of you.

Megan made her very own marshmallows, and allergy-free candy bar, and infused every element of this summertime party with her unique sense of style and sass.  I asked Megan to whip up these tips for throwing an allergy-sensitive soiree. I hope you enjoy her stunning photography (which is available to you in Atlanta!). . .and her tried-and-true mother's wisdom:

"Approximately 3 million children younger than 18 have food or digestive allergy in 2007 according to the CDC...One of the biggest challenges that parents of children with food allergies face is planning for their childrens’ birthday parties. Even more difficult, sending their children to others birthday celebrations. Not only do families with food allergy kids have to face hard decisions on an every day basis like eating outside the home, family gatherings, or play dates; we have to be ever vigilant at birthday parties due to the typical presence of the top big 8 allergens. For most, the threat of anaphylaxis and death looms in that slice of cake or the candy on display within arms reach.

As a mom who has seen with my own eyes my daughter’s own brush with death over a small taste of peanut butter at just under 2 years old, it was my mission this year to throw my daughter a beautiful birthday bash that was more a celebration of all she has been through in her little life (dairy, egg, and peanut allergies, ER visits, anaphylactic reactions, and asthma which is a common problem for kids with food allergies) Our goal was to provide all “safe” foods so she could have fun without mom and dad constantly looking over her shoulder and moving bowls from her little hands reach. It took a lot of planning and researching, but, in the end, it was an amazing day for our family.

If you are planning a birthday party or have food allergy kids attending your own child's birthday party, here are a few recommendations and tips that can make all the difference in making the food allergy child and their parents more at ease:

1. Please understand that all we want for our children is to feel normal and just like all the rest of their friends. If possible, take the time to talk with us about what food allergies our kids have and what you can do to help make things easier for us at your party. Please don’t be offended if we ask ahead of time what the cake “theme” or colors will be and what food will be served. Typically most kids with food allergies will have to bring their own special allergy friendly “treat” to eat and if we as their parent can decorate it to match the theme it really helps make the child feel like they are included in the party. Also, please do not be offended if we have to leave before the “ice cream truck” shows up or at the worst decide your party is just too dangerous for our child to attend. We are only making decisions based on the best interest of our children. It is life or death and that is what can be difficult for others to understand.

2 Think “beyond the bakery”. Although the traditional birthday cake or cupcakes will always make an appearance, think about serving items that you know will also be safe for the food allergy kids. At Maddie’s party, besides her nut, dairy, and egg free cake and cupcakes, I made marshmallow sticks with sprinkles that were a huge hit! I also served lots of fruit (watermelon and mixed) and did a candy bar with candy that I knew was safe for Maddie and her friends. Also, for the two friends whose children had food dye allergies and couldn’t partake in those goodies, I bought candy from Yummy Earth (free of allergens, gluten, and artificial dyes) and set up a private candy bar just for them. Small gestures go a long way with these kids. Last, please refrain from setting out things like nuts or chocolate candies that can be easily gotten into by the kids. Instead of colored m&ms’s for our candy bar, we used skittles instead which is safe for Maddie. Also, I believe the best gift “goodie” bags should be filled with non-food items as “take-aways”. Although we did allow the kids to fill their bags with the “safe” candies provided at the party, our bigger focus was on cute hairclips, an Alexander the Elephant food allergy coloring book (provided through FAAN) to teach Maddie’s friends about her allergies, and adorable crayons done in sunshine and butterfly molds to match our theme.

3. Last, keep in mind that your children’s party should always be about his or her friends and the memories they will remember about that party. The focus should not be about the food, but about the games played, the good times with our friends, and the celebration of another year of life. These years are so important in shaping our children and raising them to be compassionate and strong, confident little ones. I truly believe it all begins with how they see their caregivers treating others and especially their friends. Your compassion goes a long way with food allergy kids and their parents. Our day was incredible because we saw Maddie run around like a normal child, interacting with her friends, and smiling from ear to ear as she blew out the candle on her first ever professional “safe” birthday cake. It was a big celebration for many reasons and one in particular that I will never forget…that every day with her is precious and she is in so many ways our little 'sunshine'. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing vendors to pull off Maddie’s birthday party!"


Cake, Cupcakes, and Cookies       
Cake in the Box Bakery (Atlanta’s only 100% nut free bakery)

“You are my sunshine” cake/cupcake toppers, party hats, pinwheels, invitations, and thank you notes
Mary Had a little party

Fairy Garden Fancy Printable Labels
The amazing Kim at the TomKat Studio

Sunshine Rosette t-shirt
Kristina of Modern Frills

Custom Sunshine Cupcake Sugar Toppers
Two Sugar Babies

‘You are my sunshine” banner
Love September

Tissue paper party poms

Orange Flower hair clip for the birthday girl
Dolce Vita Mia
Polka dot balloons

Custom butterfly and star crayons

To view Megan's full gallery at M.C. Gladden Images, click here!

To learn more about food allergies please visit The Food Allergy and Anaphylactic Network (FAAN) at

Friday, August 6, 2010

Meet Chandelier: NJ BRIDES NIGHT OUT @ The Little Flower Shoppe

Here's a chance to get some bright ideas from Chandelier.

We're so excited that the super stylish gals at Ridgewood, NJ's Little Flower Shoppe have invited us to participate in their super-swank, super-intimate BRIDES NIGHT OUT event in a couple of weeks (Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 6PM). We're teaming up with their incredible designers, and some other likeminded pros including innovative (and chic!) caterer Marion Laraia of Cafe Amici, hair artist Haruo Noro, and invitation designer Meredith McBride Kipp (among others) to show the super-sophisticated set of brides in Bergen County, how to infuse their unique sense of style into their weddings in NJ and Manhattan. 

But hurry up and reserve your spot! This night's got a tight guest list. To RSVP, call (201) 652-7600.

Melissa and I can't wait to see you there!