FTC Dot Com Disclosure Guidelines and Food Allergy Blogging

"Blog and Order" at the 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference (Left, Homa Woodrum, Middle, William Devine, Right, Assly Sayyar)

“Blog and Order” at the 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference (Left to right, Homa Woodrum, William Devine, & Assly Sayyar)

I had the privilege of participating in a panel last month entitled “Blog and Order” at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference along with Assly Sayyar, Esq. (my older sister) and William Devine II, Esq. (a friend of mine from law school).  The usual caveats apply here that all three of us are licensed to practice in Nevada (my sister is also licensed as an attorney in California) and nothing we discussed then (or below) are meant as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.  It is purely information and we’d encourage you to contact counsel in your area with specific questions.

William and Assly

William and Assly

William tackled a great segment about protecting your intellectual property and the rights/obligations associated with that.  Assly spoke about defamation and best practices for communicating online within that realm.  My section was about guidelines (in the US) that impact how and what we share on our blogs and in social media to essentially protect our readers.  Our session started late (AV issues overall during the event had a bit of a domino effect) so I had about 4 minutes to summarize everything I meant to discuss (my apologies!) and promised to post some links and additional information here at a later date.

The March 2013 FTC .com Disclosures file can be downloaded from the FTC here, I’ve also mirrored the file here in case that link doesn’t work.  It isn’t a huge file as many of the pages are examples of webpages so I highly recommend downloading it to your kindle or smartphone or even just printing it out and reading it next time you’re waiting at the doctor’s office.  Or, if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll just read it for fun.

QUID for Responsible Blogging

Interestingly enough, necessity being the mother of invention, I threw together a mnemonic I really like when I realized I had to scrap my planned presentation:

"QUID" for FTC Disclosures

“QUID” for FTC Disclosures (Just realized that I’m channeling my friend Selena with this font since she uses it at Amazing & Atopic – I just liked the swirls!)

So what does “QUID” entail and how do you incorporate it into your blogging practices?  QUID stands for “Qualify, Use Common Sense, Integrate, and Disclaim/Disclose.”  I like that it hearkens back to the phrase “quid pro quo,” which means “something for something” in Latin.  When you receive a product for review, chances are in exchange you’re going to write a post, so the mnemonic really works for this context.

Generally, if you follow all four points when you include affiliate links, product reviews, paid content, and the like, you’ll be protecting your readers and yourself.  What do I mean by protecting your readers?  Well, the whole theme of the FTC .com Disclosure guidelines is that you don’t want to hide the ball, you don’t want to make it difficult for someone to know up front what biases you may have before they take some sort of action.  It could be as simple as having someone click on a link without making it clear that you get a cut from any sale that results from their time on a given recommended site or it could just be that they read some (but not all) of your review of an awesome meal and come away thinking “Blogger A really loved that place, I should check it out” without ever knowing that you tacked on a disclaimer at the end of the post that your meal was comped.

This concept transcends your blog, so if you wrote a review of a restaurant and had been comped for the experience and later have an automatic script that tweets out your old posts to generate interest, or you pin your page to a board on pinterest and don’t repeat/include some sort of disclosure, you could be running afoul of disclosure rules.  Taking our hypothetical restaurant review, say the title of the post was “Great Meal at Chez Allergy” and in the post itself at the very end you disclose that the meal was free.  Later, when tweeting out a link to the post you just say “Read about my great meal at Chez Allergy” or have the post title and a link with no other information.  If you don’t disclose in the medium you’re sharing the link that you received some benefit, you could be causing confusion then and there.  Your followers may never click the link to discover the full circumstances of your dinner but they’ve already taken some information in and internalized it, which is that Blogger A really loved Chez Allergy.  You’ve impacted them without giving them the full benefit of knowing how you came to eat at the restaurant and write about it.

Talking with my hands, as usual!

Talking with my hands, as usual!

It sounds cumbersome in my examples but using QUID we can see how Blogger A could approach the restaurant review. . .

Qualify

Another word for “qualify” would be “characterize.”  We want to ensure that whatever is being presented is going to carry with it the right weight given a circumstance.  In the same way I see bloggers mention “I wasn’t paid to say this, I just really wanted to share this product,” you’d be saying to your reader, “I have independent opinions but want you to know that I did get a free product that I am now sharing with you.”  Simple, to the point, and it actually can increase your reader’s esteem for you in the long run because they’ll know where they stand.  This is what I like to think of as the “I’m not a doctor but I play one on the internet” type of concept – you want your readers to know that just because something was safe for your allergic family, they need to do independent research.  I had one great question at the end of my talk where I was asked how a blogger can share articles of a scientific nature without having people think they are endorsing them or putting them out as something they might not be.  The best solution we discussed in that circumstance was to say exactly what is going on  – something like, “I read this abstract and it sounds fascinating/promising/what have you, so I’m sharing it while also letting you know I’m no expert and you need to do your own investigations.”  You’ll find the right voice and tone for your space, probably significantly less wordy than mine, but I hope that helps.

Use Common Sense

This is a bit of a catch-all parameter but it goes back to putting yourself in the shoes of your reader.  What do you want to know when you read a review of account of an experience?  Price is often an important factor, so when you get a free product and review it can you really be as fair as you would be if you had to shell out $5 for said bag of gluten free flour?  This also carries into integration and generalized disclosures.

Also under common sense, please give credit appropriately.  If you get permission to use someone’s image, share that, if you’re getting a recipe from another site, why not link your reader to that site and avoid wholesale copy/pasting?  Others will extend you the same courtesy as well.  Watermarking is something else we discussed on the copyright side.  When I see poor practices I usually make a mental note of the person engaging in that behavior and view them with suspicion.  Don’t get on my suspicious list!

Integrate

This is a tough one.  As I mentioned above, if you are sharing a post via twitter and enticing people to click over to your blog, or even sharing a recommendation on instagram, you need to integrate the disclosure with the medium you’re in.  That means you can’t just have a link to your disclosures page at the end of a post or tweet or instagram picture.  If you cannot for some reason perform appropriate integration, you cannot share that recommendation in that medium.  It bears repeating – if 140 characters is not enough to get across that you got a free meal at Chez Allergy, you shouldn’t be sharing on twitter that you had a great meal.  It is probably a better fit for your facebook followers, etc.  So you’ll also be cautious about auto feeding your facebook posts onto your twitter account because even with proper facebook disclosure you know your words will be truncated as they go out onto twitter, etc.

Integration is a platform issue as well – you need to be beta testing your own site on multiple platforms.  A sidebar disclosure that you have affiliate links in all your posts is not going to be enough when someone looks at your site on their mobile browser.  The sidebar in that circumstance collapses into a menu or is too small to read, or the like.  The FTC .com Disclosures even go so far as to say you need to look at where people’s eyes are drawn and not hide disclosures where they don’t look.  I’m personally fascinated by this stuff, so you can check out an article about eye tracking here but generally, there are areas of a page people just aren’t going to be looking so that is not the place to put a qualified disclosure.  What does this mean in a common sense approach?  Just put your disclosure right where you’re making your recommendation or placing your affiliate link.  For affiliate links I state a product name and then parenthetically place an affiliate link labeled as such.  For a post about an experience, I would put information to indicate it was provided by a given company at the start and end of my post.  If the post is lengthy so that you could scroll a ways and not see any indication of a disclosure, it may be a case where you remind your reader the meal or experience or product was comped.  It doesn’t take long to write these disclaimers and it doesn’t take long to read them.  Your readers will appreciate you all the more for respecting their time and energy.

Disclaim/Disclose

So we’ve qualified our words, integrated them into our posts and been reasonable about our approach. . .what exactly are you disclosing in a disclaimer to protect your readers?  You want them to know anything that is essential to understanding your position or understanding that they could be benefiting you by clicking on a link or taking some action.  If I tell you Chez Allergy is great and you find out that they paid me to make the recommendation, it is going to diminish your opinion of my words.  In the more extreme case, if I point you to something and make it sound like I’m a doctor or know something specific about an area and I don’t actually have that expertise, then I could actually cause harm.  You don’t want to do that, and the FTC doesn’t want you to do that.  The more specific your claim or recommendation, the more you’re going to be disclosing.  That doesn’t mean you should shy away from taking positions or making opinions known, but anything you can provide by way of behind the scenes information to let your reader make an informed choice is going to be good.

People blog to inform, to vent, to make money. . .the list goes on, but since you are in control of what you share, you need to view the trust your reader is giving you with a sense of responsibility.  You’ve seen magazine ads that try to look like an article (“advertorial” is the term I believe) and they list clearly that they’re an ad.  Same goes for blogging.

Assly is on Twitter @vistalawyer, William is @devinelawyers, and I am @woodrumlaw (I tried to make the dry erase colors match our outfit colors that day)

Assly is on Twitter @vistalawyer, William is @devinelawyers, and I am @woodrumlaw (I tried to make the dry erase colors match our outfit colors that day)

Let me end by saying you’re allowed to make money for the work you do – for food allergy families a free box of cookies represents a $5 benefit and a nice perk for being involved in writing, researching, recipe testing, etc.  You’re allowed to get a percentage of a sale if a reader orders a book based on your suggestion.  What you can’t do is be sneaky.  Being careless is tantamount to being sneaky for the FTC – just not knowing these guidelines are out there is not enough.  The disclosure pdf is written in easy to understand terms and has a lot of great examples via screen shots.  I just wanted to distill the concepts into something you can implement in your blog right away.

With my older sister, Assly

With my older sister, Assly, at the registration desk

I can’t thank William and Assly enough for taking the time to come speak at the conference – the volunteer time people put in as speakers, at the registration desk, and helping with set up and take down was so appreciated.

Thank you for reading!

Goldilocks Las Vegas 2014 50K (31 mile) Ride Recap

Where the course got familiar for me, off of Blue Diamond
Where the course got familiar for me, off of Blue Diamond

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, I participated in the female-centered bike/run event out in Summerlin (Northwest Greater Las Vegas pretty much).  It was called “Goldilocks” by event organizer Brooksee.  I’ve never done an organized ride other than a group ride through a local Meetup group (Biking Henderson, which is made up of a great group of supportive riders who accept with open arms all skill levels and share their experience in return – the group is run by the husband and wife team of Ryan and Gayle) so I was nervous about being in a crowd of cyclists even in what was deemed by the organizers as a “noncompetitive event.”

Goldilocks 2014 Packet Pickup

Goldilocks 2014 Packet Pickup

We had packet pickup the day before, the window of time was between 4pm to 8pm out where the event was to be held which can be good as far as finding your way the next day but not great for driving in rush hour traffic to the other side of town when you’re heading out there the next morning anyway.  A minor gripe but only because we had the school trunk or treat to get back to at home and were juggling timing.  My husband drove me and the kids to packet pickup so they could have the outing and we arrived at about 3:30pm.  I helped with a few boxes at registration and the kids got to meet “baby bear” (yes, everything had a Goldilocks story theme).  R was enthralled by the large bear mask and E kept saying “I think that is a person!” so I reminded her it was like Santa where we don’t tell people something is pretend lest we ruin their surprise.  Teachable moment and whatnot.

2014 Goldilocks Vegas' "Baby Bear" tells E and R her age

2014 Goldilocks Vegas’ “Baby Bear” tells E and R her age

There were no course or other details in the packet when we did get to registration – I was assigned a rider number and given a gift style bag with some fliers for sponsors and some lip gloss as well as an event-themed water bottle.  The official shirt was a tech tee with a cycling pocket at back in a bright pink color (see part of it on the image below).  I had sized one up but would have sized two sizes up if I’d known how snug the shirt was.  They said you could swap for another size the next day but I wasn’t going to haul the shirt around when I had plenty of gear as it was.  Still, nice to know if you’re debating registering and participating after reading my review/recap.

One of our favorite bike shops, Irwin Cycles, was a sponsor.

One of our favorite bike shops, Irwin Cycles, was a sponsor.

The 50K riders were the last to start so I was able to hit the road out to Summerlin at about 7am for my anticipated 8:30am start time.  When I parked I got to chatting with a group of really nice ladies from Utah that were getting their bikes and gear ready.  They’d done a Goldilocks event out near Salt Lake City earlier this year and seemed to love the experience.  At that point I spied Gayle, one of the organizers of the meetup group I’m in for cycling, on her signature pink bike.  When I say pink, I mean not just for the event pink, but always pink, down to her tires.  For the occasion, however, she sported a pink tutu to match and it made me feel at ease to see her.  I got to meet her sister and her sister and I hung out a bit before it was time to get started on the course.

When I registered you could create a team to get a discount, so couponer that I am at heart, I created a team called “Spoketacular.”  A bit Halloween, a bit cycling, a bit girl power all rolled into one.  A friend signed on with me, Michelle, and though we only knew each other via email and Facebook (we were introduced a while back by a mutual friend), I felt like I already knew her.  We were both going to ride our own race so to speak though we did see each other once or twice out on the course after we started.

Me and Michelle starting the ride (picture courtesy of Michelle's husband)

Me (purple jersey) and Michelle (pink jersey) starting the ride (picture courtesy of Michelle’s husband)

I’ve seen a lot of people say they liked the signage on the course and I’ll just say that I was glad I had made an effort to memorize the course from the web map before we started because there were several points where I saw people go the wrong way or misunderstand a sign that I would have easily misunderstood similarly if I didn’t have the directions on my mind.  I’ve ridden from Blue Diamond into Summerlin, which was the latter part of the course, but getting out there from our starting line took a couple turns and even some roundabouts.

(Attempt at a photo of my displayed distance while riding, I ended up using text to speech to message my husband instead.)

(Attempt at a photo of my displayed distance while riding, I ended up using text to speech to message my husband instead.)

The advertising for the race called it “fully supported” but there was one aid station fairly early and then nothing for quite some time.  The traffic was something to contend with as well, a lot of construction on the route that made it tricky going for a bit since some of the riders didn’t have experience with riding etiquette.  I don’t mean that as a jab or anything, and I am not seasoned by any means, but there are things I’ve been able to learn from riding with small groups that came in handy for me.  For example, when you are coming to pass someone, you announce “on your left” or “on your right” so that they know you’re coming and don’t make a sudden swerve.  If you see a problem on the road you yell it out, like “car back,” or “rocks” so others can avoid them.  I made a point to say thank you to everyone that followed good practice by announcing their presence, it just helped keep us all safe.  Someone mentioned that for Pedal to the Medal  (another cycling event) they gave a little primer on etiquette right before the race so everyone was on the same page.  That’d be something I’d suggest for Goldilocks as well.

Oh, and on the subject of aid stations, I stopped 3 miles before the second station for my first (and only) break and later learned that the aid station I bypassed after my break was out of water when people were reaching it.  I don’t know that information first hand but hopefully no one relied solely on the stations for their water if that was actually the case!  A main aid station feature were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – I avoid nut butters just for peace of mind with E’s allergies and could see that if she ever does a cycling or running event she’ll just have to be vigilant as usual about bringing her own food and water.

Where the course got familiar for me, off of Blue Diamond

Where the course got familiar for me, off of Blue Diamond

The first 14 miles went by at a great pace, I managed them in an hour, but the rest involved a lot of inclined road.  By the Blue Diamond turn I knew the course well and that if I just kept pushing along I would get the glorious downhill to make up some of my time.  Still, being rusty on my training the last few months meant that my uphill pace was 6 miles per hour if I was lucky, and I know when I’m more on my game I am capable of 7 miles per hour or more so it does give me an official time/pace to beat.  But when all was said and done, I made it through without injury, major discomfort, or incident, which was nice.  I did miss the usual guys I ride a portion of that route with, it was strange not to see my husband, JR, and Sam (to name a few) waiting for me at the top of hills.

I finally made it to the point where I knew the downhill was coming when I saw a Honda Pilot go by.  For a split second I thought it looked like our car but shook the thought away since my husband and I had agreed the day before that he wasn’t going to bring the kids out.  They had swimming and other activities to keep them busy and there was no reason to waste the gas.  What I spied at the top of the hill, though, made me so incredibly happy – my husband and the kids were waving and cheering me on.  It was such a rush to see them and to hear “go mommy!”  They drove ahead and stopped another time before heading ahead of me to the finish (where they were given the cutest pink bells to ring by organizers).

My official time was 3:05:53.9 (link) per the timing chip for 50K, here’s a screenshot of the GPS data:

Goldilocks Vegas 2014 50k

Goldilocks Vegas 2014 50k

I think the GPS deducted non-moving time which would be the break I took.  My usual average just on the portion of the map from Blue Diamond to Summerlin and back is 12 mph so I feel good about my average yesterday.  Plus, it gives me something to beat on the “official” side of things since when I do the usual route we get to stop for coffee midway and rest for a bit.

They don’t do finisher’s medals for Goldilocks, they do necklaces!  (They also have free event photos, I haven’t seen mine yet but that is another nice perk.)  Then you can purchase additional charms but I didn’t know when I bought my charm that I needed them to use pliers to add them, I assumed they would just slip on.  Just a tip, I think the volunteers were eating lunch when I purchased my charm or they would have mentioned it to me.  The funniest thing to me was that at the finish they had performers from male revue show on the strip presenting the necklaces.  It took me a minute to figure that out!  In the interim, he said something about riding like the wind but what I heard was a question about win conditions on the course so I rambled about the cross winds up by Blue Diamond (they were worse than a headwind) while another part of my mind read his shirt, thought about the Australian accent, and understood that the last thing he wanted to hear about was the condition of the course.  Oops.  Very nice of the guys from “Thunder from Down Under” to come out for the event, though!

Finisher's necklace with purchased charm (they had nothing for my distance so I got a bike image)

Finisher’s necklace with purchased charm (they had nothing for my distance so I got a bike charm)

Michelle and I chatted for a bit after the ride (she posted a great time!) and she got to meet my husband and the kids.  Her kids had been at the race start so I’d met them earlier, she has such a sweet family.  I love how being outdoors for things like running or riding brings people together.  You get to forget about deadlines and conflict for a little while and just keep moving forward.    My husband and the kids took me out to lunch at Jason’s Deli and we had a wonderful rest of the day.  They were serving food at the finish line but I didn’t try any though at the start I did have a banana from the food tent.  On the ride itself I had water and a Gu energy gel (caffeine plus sugar, essentially).  Normally for this distance I would (and should) manage nutrition better but I had some nervousness that makes me not crazy about eating.  So it is always a mix of listening to your body and keeping in mind that it does need some fuel.  And also, sometimes you have to stop when the lactic acid in your muscles is getting to be too much (the one stop I did make was very necessary and helped a lot in that regard).

Team Spoketacular!  (Michelle on the left, Me on the right)

Team Spoketacular! (Michelle on the left, Me on the right)

I have pangs sometimes where I miss running but ever since the Hoover Dam half marathon last December my right knee just hasn’t played along with running.  I do think the 5k distance is still something I’ve got in me with the right prep but cycling leaves me a lot less wrecked and is simply more fun through the whole process.  When you get to the top of a tough hill on a bike you get to feel the wind in your face as you go downhill at 30 mph while the reward for reaching the top as a runner is not as exhilarating.

My trusty road bike (a sale find at REI)

My trusty road bike (a sale find at REI)

I would absolutely do the event again – I think the vibe was upbeat and friendly, the volunteers were great, and riding a route I largely had done many times was a huge plus.  I had to chuckle at the fact that more than one person complimented my jersey as they passed – not that I haven’t complimented men on their jerseys before but I don’t think they feel comfortable doing the same to me.  I was going to wear a new one I’d found but at the last moment wanted to wear my first bike jersey.  I told my husband later it was my lucky jersey because it had gone the Blue Diamond route but then he reminded me it was also my torn jersey from my bike crash on the River Mountain Loop Trail.  He’s technically correct that I have an odd definition of lucky, but the reminder of crashing my bike was actually useful to me on this ride because I stayed focused, alert, and safe.  I also had a lot of fun!  Here’s to the fall/winter cycling season and more good rides!

Shopping at Costco for Food Allergy Families

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People often ask if a Costco membership is worth it when a lot of what you’ll find in any store, let alone a membership based one, isn’t an option when you have food allergic individuals at home.  Produce and basics aside, I wanted to write about a few finds this past week at our Henderson Costco.  Be advised that these selections are specific to our Southwest region of the country and that no one paid me to write any of this though Happy Family and Luke’s were FABlogCon sponsors last year.

This post has been on my mind since I first wrote about Kirkland’s Ricemilk (here and here) but thank you to Sharon Wong from Nut Free Wok for encouraging me to get it done!  The photos are just from my phone so they are more illustrative and informative than pinterest-worthy.  As always, call companies to verify a food’s appropriateness for you.  I uploaded these files at full resolution so you can click on the images and peek at ingredient labels if you are interested in seeking a product out.

Corn Tortillas

Tortilla Land Tortillas

Tortilla Land Tortillas

When E outgrew her corn allergy but had not yet outgrown her wheat allergy, these were a great option.  I usually am not a fan of corn tortillas but you cook these up fresh and they are wonderful in recipes like enchiladas.  60 for $6.39, I’m not sure if they freeze well or not.

Tortilla Land Tortillas

Tortilla Land Tortillas

Kirkland Ricemilk

Kirkland Ricemilk

Kirkland Ricemilk

Read more about the ingredients here and about their stock status here for Kirkland Organic Ricemilk.  We use it almost exclusively even though milk is now technically a safe option for us.  Unlike many Ricemilks, it is not in a shared facility with nuts per my last communication with Costco corporate.  $13.99 for 12 containers with 4 cups in each.

Kirkland Ricemilk

Kirkland Ricemilk

Udi’s Granola

Udi's Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

Udi’s Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

We can’t have oats, peanuts, tree nuts, or sesame so this Granola isn’t an option but I include it here for my gluten free and vegan friends that may not be aware Costco is carrying products by Udi’s.  My favorite nut free and oat free granola is by Enjoy Life but I don’t know if they’ll break into Costco with anything other than Plentils for the time being.  $6.79.

Udi's Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

Udi’s Granola (not safe for nut allergies)

Luke’s MultiGrain & Seed Crackers – Chia Seed

Luke's Crackers

Luke’s Crackers

Luke’s crackers are pretty tasty and though my favorite of their products would have to be their chips (and even some of those have sesame), I love that an allergy aware company is featured at Costco.  This particular box consists of two large backs of the crackers (not snack packs like I assumed when I first purchased them) and the flavor is very neutral.  $7.99.

Luke's Crackers

Luke’s Crackers

Nutiva Coconut Oil

Nutiva Coconut Oil (Peanut Facility Warning)

Nutiva Coconut Oil (Peanut Facility Warning)

I am sharing Nutiva’s coconut oil in a cautionary way since they now carry a shared with peanut oil in the facility warning.  We haven’t bought it since but it may still be a safe option for some!

Peanut warning on Nutiva Coconut Oil

Peanut warning on Nutiva Coconut Oil

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

I purchased this for my sister in law, who is doesn’t eat wheat or gluten products, so I could make an easy treat considering we don’t stock gluten free flours the way we used to at home when E was allergic to wheat.  She really enjoyed baking with these mixes and liked the results.  Great price, but again, I didn’t buy these necessarily for my daughter so I don’t know what other factors may come into play ingredient-wise.  Just nice to see gluten free options for people!  $7.99.

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze

Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze

Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze

When I was a kid we didn’t eat anything out of a pouch. . .well, I guess except for drinking Capri-Sun “juice.”  But I digress.  My kids love all things pouch based it seems and Costco is in tune with that.  $11.99.

Mamma Chia

Mamma Chia

Go Go Squeez

Go Go Squeez

Go Go Squeez

These applesauce pouches are E and R’s favorite – my daughter even wrote the company a letter (with her Auntie’s help) to thank them for being nut free.  You may think, of course applesauce is nut free, but it is nice to see Go Go Squeez taking pride in that.  $10.99.

Go Go Squeez Applesauces

Go Go Squeez Applesauces

Happy Family Fruit and Veggie Twists

Happy Family Pouches

Happy Family Pouches

Happy Family also has a line of fruit sauce pouches but crazily these were stacked right next to the powdered peanut butter in the store (just an observation, I know everything is sealed) and they have this little note on them saying your purchase supports “Operation Peanut Butter.”  I looked into it and it is actually a program to help with starvation around the world in children with peanut butter enriched with other ingredients.  Every purchase supports this project.  You can watch a video clip from Happy Family about Operation Peanut Butter here.  I personally would like to know more about the way they are approaching this program but their hearts are in the right place and it is not an implication regarding the manufacture of these pouches themselves.  I just was surprised by the new reference on the label and looked into it a bit.

Happy Family Fruit and Veggie Twists

Happy Family Fruit and Veggie Twists

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

We stumbled upon this bread a while back and bought some to try when my sister in law visited.  No nuts, gluten, dairy or soy!  It is also delicious toasted or untoasted so do check it out.  $7.99 for two sizable loaves of yummy gluten free bread is a great deal too.

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

Essential Bakery Seeded Gluten Free Bread

 Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

$10.59 for 48 fruit leathers that sell at supermarket checkouts for 50 cents apiece is a substantial deal (22 cents apiece, in fact).  All of these fruit leathers are natural and make for a good purse/diaper bag emergency snack.

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

40 fruit snacks from one of our favorite companies, Yummy Earth!  These are even gelatin free.  I like to buy things like this for my daughter’s class so they have safe treats on hand in case a student forgets a snack at home.

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Yummy Earth Fruit Snacks

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

100 individual bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans for $9.79 – I bought these for my daughter’s school Trunk or Treat so they could pass out peanut free options.  Please confirm that these are safe for other allergies of course.

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Jelly Belly Halloween Mix (Peanut Free)

Annie’s Crackers

Annie's Crackers

Annie’s Crackers

These are wheat based crackers but another option for in class snacks at $11.89.  They do have soy and milk alerts in addition to wheat, I am glad for the absence of oats on these.

Annie's Crackers

Annie’s Crackers

Kirkland Tortilla Chips

Kirkland Tortilla Chips

Kirkland Tortilla Chips

We buy the non-organic Kirkland corn chips for a very good reason – the Organic variety has a nut warning.  Click here to see the front and back of the Organic variety.  We once grabbed the wrong one by accident so I thought I’d mention it.  $4.99.

Kirkland Tortilla Strips (Choose the Non-Organic Variety to Avoid a Nut Warning)

Kirkland Tortilla Strips (Choose the Non-Organic Variety to Avoid a Nut Warning)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

$4.79 for a bag of potato chips bigger than your head can’t be beat.  I like to eat these with salsa which I know makes me weird but I don’t mind.

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Kettle Potato Chips (Kirkland)

Honest Company Shampoo

Honest Company Shampoo

Honest Company Shampoo

I haven’t purchased this shampoo but the label looks promising.  Have any of you tried it?  $14.99 is spendy for me but it might be a good option given the ingredient list.

Honest Company Shampoo

Honest Company Shampoo

Allergy Medicine

Allergy Medicine

Allergy Medicine

I have yet to fill an epinephrine prescription at Costco (see also: my posts about EpiPen and Auvi-Q two packs and expiration dates) but we do get Zyrtec, Claritin, and Benadryl there for time to time.

And on an amusing note…

I spotted this cart at checkout – when we entered the store Costco had a display for singing Olaf dolls.  R wanted one and I said no but a lot of parents had their kids playing with them in their carts so it was funny to see how many ended up on the “re-stock” pile.  Poor Olaf!  Don’t worry, some grandparent is going to buy you anyway so you can sing for the whole family at home. . .

Discarded Olaf Dolls

Discarded Olaf Dolls

So!  I hope this was of interest – I’d love to know what food allergy friendly finds you have at your local Costco because I’m a Costco nerd (Exhibit A).

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Edited 10/27/14 to add:  A reader (thank you, Mary!) communicated to me that Costco will take otherwise safe candy and mix it in with unsafe (for, say, nut allergy) candy to package for Halloween so a trick or treater wouldn’t actually know if their usual brand was safe.  They informed me they’d tried to work with Costco on the issue but they would not budge.  I did want to share that warning as it was not something I’d thought about before.  They also brought up the elephant in the room, so to speak, about samples and cooking in the aisles for samples that involve nut products or other allergens.  There are signs stating that there are allergy warnings but we all know children don’t and can’t sometimes read those signs so parents of food allergic children need to pay special attention.  Sample distributors will ask a child to get their parent’s permission before trying food but I’ve also had them offer my child something while I was standing there and make no statement about allergies.  Of course there is also the risk of a child grabbing something in the rush of people to get a sample and the fact that the reps don’t usually have more information about a product than what is displayed on their packaging.  So my recommendation of Costco comes with caveats, however, you can certainly find a lot of good options from among the multiple aisles of mixed nuts.  

Review: Dreamy Desserts Nut Free Bakery in Las Vegas, Nevada

Nut Free Cake by Dreamy Desserts (image courtesy of Dreamy Desserts)
Nut Free Cake by Dreamy Desserts (image courtesy of Dreamy Desserts)

It has been almost two months since E’s 6th birthday and she knew she wanted a “store bought” cake.  Not “mommy made.”  It had to be “Frozen” themed and as her RSVP list grew the prospective cake did as well.  I had been watching with fascination the updates on twitter and facebook of Penny Redlin, owner of Dreamy Desserts (a nut free online bakery based in Las Vegas), and knew that the nut free made to order bakery was my “store bought” solution.

Frozen Birthday Decorations

Frozen Birthday Decorations

Penny was incredibly friendly and helpful with the process.  Given her time limitations she fills up reservation spots on her calendar and as your date nears you can get in touch and firm up what you’d like.  I actually shipped (via Amazon Prime) cake toppers directly to Penny to make the process that much easier.  Advance ordering isn’t just for cakes but for other treats like cookies or parfaits as well.

Elsa

Elsa

Dreamy Desserts is Las Vegas based so if you’re traveling to town for an event you can order in advance and even pay to have your order delivered if you are within a certain range.  I sprang for delivery because I had no idea how to transport E’s cake.  The best part of doing business with a fellow food allergy parent is that you can ask all kinds of questions and never feel silly – there’s a detailed answer in response and even frank discussion of kitchen practices for those allergens that are off the beaten path (oat and sesame for us on top of peanut and tree nut).  Dreamy Desserts can make vegan cakes as well, which we debated to be more inclusive of E’s dear friend K but after consulting with K’s mother she was going to make her own matching cupcakes (see, I’m not the only one!) for the party.

Image Courtesy of Dreamy Desserts

Image Courtesy of Dreamy Desserts

More about Dreamy Desserts:

Dreamy Desserts was created for anyone looking for nut free treats.  Sadly, my son can not have peanuts or tree nuts.  As it turns out, I have over 20 years of baking experience, so I decided to offer nut free baked goods to others with a similar need. 

We are an online bakery based in Las Vegas, NV.  We can deliver any of our nut-free treats within the Las Vegas area!

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, just ask, we may be able to accommodate

 (as long it doesn’t have nuts!) 

(source: Dreamy Desserts).

I should stop rambling and offer the big reveal – the look on her face made it so worth it.  E’s  6th birthday “Frozen” cake…

Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Oat Free, and Sesame Free Frozen Birthday Cake

Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Oat Free, and Sesame Free Frozen Birthday Cake

The snowflakes were a mix of sugar (the smaller ones) while the larger details were a vegan fondant.  The frosting sparkled and the cake was white with strawberry preserves.

Frozen Birthday Cake by Dreamy Desserts

Frozen Birthday Cake by Dreamy Desserts

E was delighted, as was I.  Penny didn’t ask me to write about this but I kept meaning to highlight how wonderful she is to put so much love and care into making special treats for those that live with food allergies.  By the way, Dreamy Desserts’ Facebook page is really close to breaking 20,000 likes so if you’d like to see other delicious options as photos are posted, head on over!

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Also at E’s birthday was my friend Pamela Sundlie, owner of Magic Wand Face Painting, who did a fantastic job with face painting and glitter tattoos for the kids.  Best of all, she had her ingredient sheets with her (and we’d gone over them in advance of course) so there were only adorably painted faces and no itchy cheeks.  I love that we can support the creativity of our local friends while also having a great time.  This was E’s first solo party since before R was born (we’ve been doing joint parties) so I wanted it to be special – I warned her that I can’t really top her 6th party until perhaps her wedding day.  She seemed okay with that.

The Birthday Party Mistake

You know you’re a food allergy mom if…

When a birthday party invitation comes in, you go straight into planning mode.  At leas this is what my preparations usually include, and did, for a joint birthday party for two friends of my daughter from school.

Find out what cake is being served.

Even with safe ingredients in a potentially offered cake, it just never feels worth the risk (or pressure on the host parent) to eat the cake there, so I like to find out what kind of cake is being served so my kids can get a similarly decorated/flavored/themed version.  For Sunday’s party, that was rainbow cake so we broke out the rainbow sprinkles for decorating.

Advance coordination with the host parent(s).

I am truly lucky that when we’re invited to a party, parents go above and beyond to include E in the festivities.  This time, it meant getting contacted by the family and being asked what candy would be safe for a piñata so that they could have options for E and R to enjoy.  How awesome is that?  And just the other week, a friend offered to bake a cake in my kitchen so that my kids could enjoy the results.

Birthday presents & wrapping.

Okay, this is something everyone does for party prep, but my son and daughter love choosing gifts for their friends.  We talk about what they might enjoy, we plan within a budget, and they help me in the whole wrapping process.  I was even tweeting a picture of the great drawing E did on her present for one of her school chum’s gifts.

Cupcake in Crayon on Kraft Paper

Cupcake in Crayon on Kraft Paper

Feed the kids before the party.

This is a major safeguard – fed children are less cranky and even armed with snacks or similar food to the party food if it isn’t going to be safe for them, if they’ve already eaten they are more amenable to hearing “no” if there is something they can’t have.  I was feeling pretty much like super mom Sunday as I watched R gleefully eat salad with his lunch (I’ve never seen a child enjoy lettuce the way he does) and E eat her mashed potatoes and corn.

Off we go….

Decorated cupcakes and gifts in hand, fed and happy children, and out the door in time for the party (per google maps and google calendar, that is). . .check!  Or, so I thought.  We arrived to a pristine and empty play structure at the park.  My first thought was that I got the address wrong, so I pulled up the invitation on my phone (I scan them in when they arrive) and my heart sank.  The address was correct but the time most certainly was not.  You see, my phone has this glitch sometimes where I put a time in and it adjusts it for eastern time, then I correct the setting to pacific but instead of adjusting the time back again, it leaves it alone.  Which is how 11am became 2pm on my calendar and the party had wrapped up at 1:30pm.

So why blog about one of the more mortifying parental mistakes I’ve made?  About as mortifying as wearing skirts around a toddler that likes to play peekaboo with strangers from behind said skirt?  Well, we were able to turn the day around and I was able to find a lesson for myself in the whole thing.

Sometimes it is refreshing to make “regular” mistakes.

I had never really reviewed all my steps in birthday party preparedness until yesterday.  When I did, I realized that showing up to the right place at the right time needs to be on the list,  I had to further realize that I need to back off a bit on the food allergy front, stop being so crazy busy with work and what have you that I rely on my digital calendar as much as I do, and get the basics right first.

The best part?

When I messaged one of the moms to apologize for being a no-show (I am not the sort to no-show!), she was incredibly gracious and was okay with us dropping our gift off at their nearby home.  My kids were most disappointed that their friends might think they forgot about them that they shook off the whole missing the park aspect and railed against my calendar instead of me.  Which was pretty nice of them, I’ll admit, though I take full responsibility for my distraction (and late night calendaring).

Not only did we get to drop the gift off, we were invited in for an impromptu playdate – they simply understood that these things happen and wanted to make sure the kids got to have some fun.  We called the other mom (it was a joint birthday party because the boys had birthdays close to one another) and offered to drop off our gift.  She was having friends over that hadn’t been able to make the morning party and invited us in as well.  My kids were over the moon to discover that the grandmother of E’s classmate had even saved some of the safe candy from earlier in the day.

Candy!

Candy!

This post is my thank you to M and K, the moms of K and L, for being such great sports and turning my birthday party mistake around.  I swear I am not one for inviting myself to people’s homes (at the last minute, on a Sunday) but they were both so awesome and chill about the whole thing.  It really does take a village.

And a more punctual mama.

The Little Red Hen

There’s a folk tale called “The Little Red Hen” (Project Gutenberg link) and it generally goes step by step in the process of a little hen growing wheat, harvesting it, making flour, and baking bread.  At each stage she asks other animals for help and they are always too busy or not interested, I can’t remember which.  Finally it comes time to eat the fruits (well, bread) of her labor.  The other creatures are keen on taking part only to be told that our protagonist is not going to share her bread because no one helped her at each stage of preparation.

I told my son the story last night – he was keen on baking sugar pumpkins so I asked for his help taking out the seeds and pulp from inside.  The “pumpkin guts” weren’t appealing and my story ensued.  He, by then helping me scrape out the pumpkins, frowned and asked, “can you tell me a happy story about the little red hen where she shares with her friends?”

Baked Sugar Pumpkins

Photo: Our baked pumpkins

Anyway, I’m not going anywhere in particular with this, it just made me contemplative.

Thank you

Image by Mary Fran Wiley
Image by Mary Fran Wiley

I wanted to write and thank publicly all of those who contributed time, energy, and passion to the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference this past weekend.  The gratitude I feel is intense and humbling.  I hugged so many people so many times I am guessing it will come as a surprise that I am an introvert by nature but without going into detail about my life so far, to have friends is something that never stops feeling surreal.

FABlogCon Stage

FABlogCon Stage

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