Roses and Thorns

February 22nd, 2010

Say what you will about President Obama. He’s too liberal. He’s not liberal enough.  He needs to move to the center. He’s doing just fine. Whatever. But here’s what we can all agree on:  his family is cute.

So when I saw a Parade cover story  about the adorable Obamas, of course I read it. It was one of those “soft” pieces for which the White House press office was so roundly criticized, right around the time of the Inauguration.

What struck me about the article was a simple story about their family dinners. Each person at the table takes turns sharing the best thing that happened to them that day (the rose) and the worst thing (the thorn).  The joke was that Obama’s daughter Malia thought her dad had a “thorny job” as president.

Source: Freefoto.com

Source: Freefoto.com

We adopted the Roses and Thorns tradition a year ago, and it’s been a blessing for our family. It is such a low pressure way to find out what’s going on in my second grader’s life.  Our 3-year-old doesn’t understand the concept of thorns yet, but he does eagerly share his roses.

Apparently The First Lady has been telling the Rose and Thorns story again as part of her new anti-obesity campaign. As this great post explains, Roses and Thorns not only helps families connect, it encourages the proper expression of emotion – so that we talk about our feelings rather than eat them away…

Rose and Thorns…have you tried it yet?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

The $5 Loaf of Bread: Will You Keep Buying Organic Foods?

May 13th, 2008

With food prices on the rise, it seems nearly everyone is reconsidering their organic purchases. And of course it’s all over the media – in  Newsweek and even in local newspapers like this one. That’s one reason why OrganicMania is tracking some of the few remaining “good deals” on organic foods every Friday, and why we’re even gathering tips like these from organic grocers themselves.

I’m not the only one who has resorted to buying the ingredients to bake bread, instead of shelling out $5 a loaf. Fact is, I’ve heard from several people who have started baking their own bread. And these are busy parents who have better things to do than to bake bread! If that’s not a sign that people are changing their buying patterns, what is?

But what about those items that you can’t simply replace with home made? Will you keep buying organic?

Most people who go organic do it out of health concerns for their children. Increasingly, women go organic during pregnancy. That’s not going to change. OrganicMania’s prediction is that USDA certified organic foods targeted at pregnant women and children will continue to sell well.

And of course, the main reasons – Organics’ Four Factors – haven’t changed. Buying organic is still the best bet for people concerned about avoiding chemical pesticides, protecting the environment and farm workers, animal rights and taste.

But with home values shrinking and gas and food prices up, for most folks, something has to give. And that something will include some organic foods. But as any parent knows, we’ll sacrifice something for ourselves before we deprive our kids. OrganicMania is betting that cut-backs in organic spending will not affect foods purchased for pregnant women and children. If anything, there’s more and more focus among women on going green and organic – which will offset any cutbacks on organic food spending for pregnant women and young children.

What do you think? Have your buying habits changed recently? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Interview with Big Green Purse Author Diane MacEachern

April 14th, 2008

If you’re anything like me, your list of “must read” books is longer than your list of “recently read” books! Prior to interviewing Diane MacEachern, author of the new eco-handbook Big Green Purse, I admitted that I might not make it through the entire book prior to speaking with her.

As the author confessed to OrganicMania, “None of us have any time! It’s hard to concentrate and read. The book is intentionally designed so that if don’t need to read the whole book, you can just check out the sections of interest to you.”

biggreenpursepic.jpg

Imagine my surprise when a week or so later I had read a great deal of the book, which aims to inspire women to use their collective purchasing power to “create a cleaner, greener world.” Easy-to-read, informative, I could go on and on…but check out this review from EnviroMom.

Following is Part I of OrganicMania’s interview with Diane MacEachern. Check here for Part II.

OrganicMania: Some pundits dismiss women’s interest in the environment as just a passing fad. You’ve been writing about the environment for nearly 30 years now, so you’ve seen interest come and go. Do you think this latest upsurge in interest is a reflective of a real change in people’s priorities, or just the latest cool trend?

Diane MacEachern: I’m very optimistic. We suddenly realize how serious these environmental problems are. I don’t think this is just a trend because we are becoming so educated about the relationship between the environment and human health. It’s not just buying cool organic tee shirts, but it’s women recognizing that they need to buy products without phthalates so that my unborn baby has a healthy life and deodorant without parabens so I don’t get breast cancer. And this only will get stronger as more and more research goes down this path.

Another big issue is air pollution. Women suffer more heart attacks than men because our blood vessels are smaller. We’re more severely impacted by poor air quality. Our children are also suffering from more cases of asthmas because of environmental issues. The only way that will change is to protect the environment, or else we’ll have more heart attacks, more asthma, and more health consequences to every environmental problem that we’re looking at.

OrganicMania: There’s also a perception that this rising green consciousness is a very upper-middle-class phenomenon. There was a lot of sniping about that in the blog chatter about The New York Times article on Eco-moms. I was pleased to see your book included money saving tips, making it seem very accessible, like it was written for Everywoman. Do you see women from all walks of life embracing the green movement? Do you think this is a real shift that will embrace all women?

Diane MacEachern: I’ve been to a lot of bookstores for book readings, and my observation is that there are definitely people there who are interested in this topic who come from all economic levels. There are a lot of upper middle class women who will ask indignantly, “Isn’t this just for wealthy women?” I have two responses to that.

Everybody can do something. You can turn off your lights. Everybody can afford 99 cents for a reusable shopping bag. Anyone can shop at thrift stores. It’s fabulous. We need to dismiss this notion that eco-consciousness is only for wealthy people. Environmental degradation doesn’t affect only wealthy people.

But those who are wealthy do have a responsibility to be to be leaders and early adopters to protect the environment. They can ultimately help to drive down price if they buy these green products until supply and demand really kicks in, and prices decrease. I remember when I bought my first compact fluorescent bulb. It was $25. Today you can buy them for $1.99. I’m proud to be an early adopter, a woman who uses money to make a difference. That’s a really important part of the book.

OrganicMania: Big Green Purse talks quite a bit about the connection between phthalates and early onset puberty, but you don’t write about a possible connection between early onset puberty and hormones in milk. Many people use that possible link as a reason for buying organic milk. Do you disbelieve that?

Diane MacEachern: I didn’t have time to do all the research into the consequences of hormones and milk. I’m going to put that information on the Big Green Purse website, along with information about hormones in meat. The website will constantly refresh the book.

Go here to read Part II of this interview.

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

“Non-Toxic Tots”

March 1st, 2008

Thought you might be interested in this Washington Post article about how parents are shelling out big bucks for natural and organic baby products in an attempt to buy peace of mind given the safety concerns surrounding so many baby products. The article includes lots of interesting research and a quote from yours truly!

– Lynn

Don’t Throw Out That Baby Shampoo!

February 29th, 2008

Since this month’s publication in the medical journal Pediatrics of a study linking infant exposure to shampoos, powders and lotions with increased urinary concentrations of phthalates, many parents have been replacing their favorite baby brands with organic alternatives. There’s cause for concern, since phthalates have been linked to changes in male reproductive development.

But there’s a difference between replacing and throwing out. In their zeal to get rid of questionable baby products, some parents are throwing out bottles of shampoo. Talk about an eco-mistake!

Instead of throwing the packages out, why not donate them? Of course, you won’t want to donate them to children’s organizations, but there are some great options that will enable the products to be re-used by populations that won’t be at risk for reproductive damage by phthalates – and where the health benefits of a shower or bath would far outweigh any other potential risk! (And of course, you can always use them yourself. In fact, many people dismiss this study. Here’s a counterpoint.)

If you do decide to donate the products, here are some options for re-use. Consider the following:

• Check out freecycle.org You can post a message offering the products and cautioning people to use them only for adults.
• Many charitable organizations offer showers to the homeless, and are constantly in search of toiletries. A great example of this is the “Water Ministry” run by Saint Columba’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. But organizations like this exist nationwide. Contact your local homeless agency to see where you can donate shampoos, soaps and lotions.

For a comprehensive list of natural baby products, check out the EWG’s research here.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

When Green Means Chic

February 22nd, 2008

There was a time when the Greens conjured up images of anything but fashion. The original “Greens” were a political movement that rejected fashion and other bourgeois values. But today’s “Greens,” at least in the US, are primarily female and, as the New York Times pointed out, increasingly bourgeois. So of course they’re interested in fashion. Perhaps that’s why twice in the past few hours I’ve stumbled upon green fashion launches – Organic Style, a new online “green style” magazine, and today’s launch of Mimi and Motherhood Maternity’s new lines of organic cotton clothing and “eco-accessories.”

Organic Style is a brand extension of Organic Bouquet, and an adaptation of a print magazine published for several years by the venerable Rodale Press, the leading health and wellness publishing firm. Organic Style is quite highbrow, promoting items such as cruelty-free footware “custom made to your specifications” for $450 to $800 per pair, luxurious eco-friendly resorts with suites costing $1500 per night, and “the world’s tallest roses,” starting at $249.95. It’s like Town&Country for the eco-set.

At the other end of the spectrum is Motherhood Maternity, offering organic cotton maternity tops for just $17.  The selection is quite small, with just fifteen items encompassing organic t-shirts, Burt’s Bees potions, and organic pregnancy and baby books. Mimi’s selection is more upscale than Motherhood’s, so you’ll pay a higher price for an organic cotton top – about $30 more than at Motherhood.

What I really want to know is – where can I find regular (non-maternity) stylish organic cotton tops for around $17?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Organic Frozen Baby Food? And Bloggy GiveAways! Interview with Heather Stouffer, Founder of Mom Made Foods, LLC

February 15th, 2008

Many new Moms make a list of all the things they are going to do for their baby. Making home made baby food is often near the top of that list. But a lot of these new Moms find that time gets the best of them, and they simply can’t follow-through on everything they’d like to do. So they end up like yours truly, with an unopened “frozen baby food ice cube tray” collecting dust on top of the fridge, and jars of organic baby food sitting inside the kitchen cabinets.

Now there’s another option. Back when I posted about a sale on organic baby food, I heard from several companies making frozen organic baby food. Frozen organic baby food didn’t exist five years ago when I had my first born, and last year I left the grocery shopping to Darling Husband (DH), so I wasn’t aware of this new option until I heard about it through the OrganicMania community.

mommadefoodsproductimages_stacked_small.jpgwirkenphoto-mom-made-foods.jpg

Following is an interview with Heather Stouffer, founder of Mom Made(Tm) Foods LLC and another “Organic Mommypreneur” in the spirit of Karen Gurwitz of Mothers & Menus, who was interviewed here as well. OrganicMania was curious about why a mother would choose frozen baby food, and Heather was more than happy to discuss this, along with a host of other interesting issues about organics and feeding a growing baby.

OrganicMania: We all grew up eating jarred baby foods. In fact, the icon of a happy baby was the perfect little “Gerber baby food baby.” What made you decide to look beyond the conventional, beyond jarred baby foods?

Heather Stouffer: When my son Emory, who is now nearly three, was a baby, I found it difficult to find the time each day to prepare home made baby food. I couldn’t find any freshly made, store-bought alternatives that I felt good about feeding him. So I started to think about making my own brand of frozen organic children’s foods. My brother is a professional chef, and he helped and inspired me.

OrganicMania: Why did you choose to focus on frozen baby food? What is it about frozen baby food that is special?

Heather Stouffer: My goal is to produce organic food products for children that are as close to homemade as possible. Freezing is our “preservative.” Research has shown that frozen food can be as healthy or even healthier than fresh food, depending on how long it takes fresh food to get from the farm to your table. It can be quite time intensive to go from the farm to a distributor to the store produce section.

This is in contrast to frozen food, which is picked at peak harvest and then either directly frozen or gently cooked, for example, blanched, to capture peak freshness, and then frozen. Of course, if you’re talking about locally bought produce from a farmer’s market versus frozen, the frozen food might be less fresh, but still pretty close to being on par with fresh food.

But then if you compare it to jarred food, there’s a big difference. The jarring process is very intensive. In order to jar food, you need to cook it at extreme temperatures. You can actually see the color change. The food is cooked to death, and natural nutrients are lost in this process. You see the difference in the color and the loss of texture. Jarred baby food has a “yuck factor” for parents when they feed it to their babies.

I believe babies and young children starting their journey into a lifetime of eating, should be fed the very best from the start – foods that we would welcome tasting along with them.

OrganicMania: So you’re suggesting that frozen baby food tastes better and is more nutritious than jarred baby food?

Heather Stouffer: Yes, it’s sheer delight. We freeze Mom Made products immediately after they are prepared. So it tastes like I’m biting into a fresh Bartlett pear right off the tree, and it tastes like a real sweet potato. It tastes like real food that adults eat, unlike the way jarred baby food tastes.

It sounds simple but after parents taste our food, I often hear them say something like “ooh, yum, it tastes just like a real apple!” It makes me laugh because it’s as though they expected it to taste awful. The great taste of Mom Made Foods means baby has a better experience learning to eat than is typical with jarred foods. It’s better for your baby too.

OrganicMania: You could have chosen to make conventional frozen food, which still would have been a new option for babies and would have provided the taste advantage you describe. Why did you choose to make an organic baby food?

Heather Stouffer: Your baby’s first year is the most important for growth and development. Organic food is best because your baby’s brain, immune system, and hormone system are still developing. Many non-organic fruits and vegetables contain pesticides and toxins, which can affect how our little ones grow and develop. Plus, organic food is better for the environment than conventional food, because farmers use natural methods like crop rotation and composting instead of chemicals.

OrganicMania: How much does Mom Made Foods cost as compared to jarred organic baby food?

Heather Stouffer: The retail price is $3.99 for two 3.5 ounce containers. The price difference with jarred is in the quality and care we put into making each individual serving. We use only fresh ingredients in our products and do not add any fillers, preservatives or junk.

[Editor’s note: This compares to the prices noted in this post of the non-sale price of $1.05 for a jar of Earth’s Best baby food, so this would be $3.99 versus $2.10 for roughly the same quantity of jarred organic baby food].

OrganicMania: Quite by accident, I’m starting an interview series focusing on what I call “Organic Mommypreneurs.” You’re the second interview, with more to come. Why do you think so many Moms are starting organic businesses?

Heather Stouffer: I have found that the organic message hits home with many of us moms once we are pregnant and have children. All of a sudden you’re responsible for this other little person. It’s something Moms are focused on, and so we identify the gaps in the market.

OrganicMania: How do you do it all? What advice do you have about combining motherhood and entrepreneurship?

Heather Stouffer: Focus is critical. At any one time, there are 67 things that need to be done. You need to pick out the top three strategic projects that you are doing and focus on them. Then, at the end of the day, if you didn’t get to a task that impacts one of your strategic projects, you need to ask yourself, what did I get done today? It can be really difficult some days…some days more than others.

Also, I always advise other entrepreneurs to seek out and maximize the existing resources for small businesses. You need to be able to pick up the phone and call people, which can be scary sometimes. But you need to get the word out there about what you are doing and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

OrganicMania: What’s next for Mom Made Foods?

Heather Stouffer: Right now, our products are distributed in the Mid-Atlantic region, but we’re in discussions now with national retailers. We’ll be launching new products and massively expanding our distribution this year.

Update 5/29/08Full disclosure: Lynn’s consulting biz, Miller Strategic Marketing, is now working on an assignment for Mom Made Foods. At the time this post was written back in February, there was no relationship between us. Pretty cool, though – we met through OrganicMania and now will be working together!

Editor’s Note:

And leave a comment to win Bloggy Giveaways of a Mom Made Foods rebate coupon for $3.99, a baby spoon, and for those of you who aren’t yet convinced, my two trays of unused baby food/breast milk storage cubes – a $12 value! (I’ll even wipe the dust off the $12 price label!) I have 10 coupons to give away, so leave a comment with your address (no fears, the comments don’t show up till I enable them, so I’ll delete your address before posting your comment to the blog!) . I’ll mail the coupons out to you. The winners will be contacted by email.

Photo Credit Family Picture: Wirken Photo

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Quick Interview: Organics vs. Conventional Foods – Mothers & Menus Founder, Author of The Well Rounded Pregnancy Cookbook, Karen Gurwitz

November 9th, 2007

Karen Gurwitz of Mothers & Menus with her children

New and expectant Moms in Manhattan enjoy fresh, organic, home-delivered meals, thanks to Mothers & Menus founder Karen Gurwitz. Fresh from her recent launch of The Well Rounded Pregnancy cookbook, Karen sat down to talk with Organicmania about the organics vs. conventional food debate.

Organicmania: I recall when Mothers & Menus first launched, you positioned your service as a “healthy” meal delivery service. Now some of your promotional materials describe Mothers & Menus as an “organic” meal delivery service. Why did you make the switch to organic?

Karen Gurwitz: Actually, that evolved over time when I was able to find a more complete range of organic products. But to me, the emphasis really should be on “healthy” versus “organics.” Sometimes fresh conventional produce makes more sense than organic food.

Organicmania: So you don’t think mothers should make a point of buying only organic foods?

Karen Gurwitz: You know, it’s not all or nothing. I think mothers, especially new mothers, need to do what works for them. Moms have to do what makes sense for them and for their families. And organics can be expensive. If a Mom can afford organics, great. If not, there are good conventional alternatives available. Eating real, whole foods is what is really important for good health.

Organicmania: What exactly do you mean by “whole foods?”

Karen Gurwitz: Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and as close to their original form as possible. Whole foods are especially helpful during and right after pregnancy as they contain fiber, water, complex-carbohydrates and minerals. Whole foods are easier to process, alleviating you of the fatigue associated with digestion, and supporting optimum energy and health.

Organicmania: What do you think is the most important aspect of organic food?

Karen Gurwitz: First and foremost, the health benefits. To me, it makes more sense to eat food that hasn’t been tampered with in terms of chemicals and pesticides. I also love the gentle effects of organic farming on the earth. And, in the final taste test, I find that food tastes better with organic ingredients.

Organicmania: Karen, you’re a busy Mom with your own business, three kids, and a new book. How do you do it all?

Karen Gurwitz: I have a wonderful husband who supports me. And sometimes — I don’t do it all! I think that as moms we put too many expectations on ourselves. Some days are more productive than others. But in the end, I love what I do, and I hope to inspire my children, especially my daughters, to be all that they want to be.

Organicmania: What’s next for you, Karen? When can we get Mothers & Menus outside of the Big Apple?

Karen Gurwitz: Stay tuned. Mothers & Menus has already tested in Florida and Boston and gotten great results. It’s critical for me to maintain the food quality and a high level of customer service. I plan to make some announcements about that in the second quarter of 2008 – sign up for my newsletter for more information.

– By Lynn / Copyright Organicmania 2007