Great Articles

On the food allergy front, there have been some great articles and posts recently that I wanted to highlight because they’ve enhanced my knowledge of the development of allergies:

Protect Your Digestion, the First Line of Defense Against Food Allergies by Dr. Eva Untersmayr – This article is fascinating, if I’d seen it before my presentation last week I would have had to mention it.  Be sure to explore the fantastic website AsthmaAllergiesChildren.com (the site’s founders will be at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, see the agenda for details).

From the outside in: How eczema could lead to food allergies by Iona Twaddell – I am trying not to let mommy guilt get to me when I read research articles but I do confess to wondering often whether using Aveeno lotion (which is oat based) with my daughter is related to her severe oat allergy.  I was directed to this article via the twitter feed of Anne F. Russell BSN, RN, AE-C (who will also be a conference speaker and helped us proofread the conference brochure I created… download the brochure here as a pdf – thank you Anne!).

Genetic glitch at the root of food allergies? by Jessica Martin, PhD – I love how Jessica breaks down concepts.  The other day she e-mailed me a detailed response to a question I had and hopefully you’ll see it on her Food Allergy Sleuth site soon.  When she bought a ticket to the conference I was thrilled because I can’t wait to meet her.

Food Allergy Walk and Food Allergy Bloggers Conference

I have a fundraising page again this year for the Food Allergy walk here in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 2, 2013.  I’m on the walk committee and also a co-founder of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference that will be kicking off with the walk and running through November 4, 2013.  So it will be a big weekend for Food Allergy in Southern Nevada!  We need team members and virtual walkers are welcome!  If our team raises $1,000 before August 31, 2013 our team name will appear on the official walk t-shirt!  We’re just about halfway there, donate and/or join today!

(If you’d like to have a chance to win tickets to The Wizard of Oz at the Smith Center, check out the team page of Young Artists Supporting FARE – a $10 donation during their raffle period earns an entry.)

An Allergy Friendly Kickstarter Campaign

Ending September 10, 2013, here is a Kickstarter campaign that might be of interest – it involves a top 8 allergen free, vegan candy that I’ve backed and you may want to as well!  Premium Chocolatiers needs to raise funds for the equipment necessary to manufacture their vegan marshmallow coated with chocolate and candy.

Vegan, Allergy Friendly Kickstarter Campaign
Vegan, Allergy Friendly Kickstarter Campaign

The way the Kickstarter website works is that if the funds needed to achieve the stated goal aren’t raised, the campaign doesn’t get “funded” and none of the money pledged is charged.  They’re almost halfway to their goal with two weeks left and I’d love to see this idea take off.  $7 gets one bag of “No No’s” shipped to US addresses sometime hopefully in time for Halloween, so check it out here.

The VanSquigglebottoms-to-be

Something with a deadline that is a little further into the future is the fundraising campaign my friends Jessica (not the same Jessica I mentioned above) and Jeff have launched that involves changing their last name to “Van Squigglebottoms” permanently and officially if they raise $1,000,000.00 for Oxfam on or before December 31, 2013.  I hesitated to donate only because I like their names as they are but then I got to thinking that I love the positive approach they’re taking.  They care passionately about the causes associated with the less fortunate and they’re willing to do something off the wall to get the attention they feel this cause needs.  You can see their fundraising page here and I can assure you that even the smallest donation will cheer Jessica and Jeff on.  Even if all you can do is spread the word about their fundraising efforts, that may prompt someone else to donate.

Children’s Literature (and Music!) Reviews

Finally, it has been a while since I rounded up my latest Vegbooks.org reviews.  I’ve even had the chance to review some music which was a lot of fun.

Mind of My Own (CD)

Say Daddy

Where to Sleep

Steam Train, Dream Train

Memoirs of a Goldfish & Memoirs of a Hamster

Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America

He’s Been a Monster All Day

Blink of an Eye (CD)


School starts tomorrow and E turns 5!  It is exciting and surreal at the same time.  Have a great week, all!

Summer Reading Suggestions

Book Page Heart

I was sharing some book recommendations the other day with friends on Twitter as I’d hit one of those moments I love as a reader which is finishing a great book and then wanting to find my next target.  Perhaps you are the same way?  All of these should not really have long hold times at the library since they’re not particularly new.  I limited myself to 5, in no particular order, and tried to have fantasy, fun fiction, serious fiction, and non-fiction represented.  I tried to avoid spoilers and give general impressions.  Would love to hear if you have suggestions for me in turn and if you’d like to read more recommendations on the blog in the future!

The Chosen (amazon affiliate link) by Chaim Potok – I was on our “Battle of the Books” team at Wasilla high school (yes, that, Wasilla for those of you that follow politics).  In case my husband is reading, this was in addition to having been in the Stamp and Coin club at one point and Business Professionals of America so my nerd tendencies run deep.  With Battle of the Books you read a set book list along with teammates and then are quizzed about them.  So a question might be “in which book does the author write about buttons?” or something like that and the answer has to include the title of the book and the author (for that one I think the answer was All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque).  The Chosen is a book I came upon through the Battle of the Books book list and I would have never picked it up otherwise.  The blurbs all say it is about a friendship and a secret but what a friendship and what a secret.  This is a riveting book about two boys in similar but different worlds.  One is being raised in a Hasidic home (his father is a Rabbi) and the other is being raised in a home with a father that is a teacher and referred to as a “Zionist.”  There’s a sequel that catches up with the boys years later called The Promise (amazon affiliate link) that I enjoyed as well.  Everyone I’ve given The Chosen to as a gift or a recommendation has reported back that they couldn’t put it down.  I even recall reading it on a shaky school bus en route to a field trip because I wanted to find out what would happen to Danny and Reuven.

The Graveyard Book (amazon affiliate link) by Neil Gaiman – This is technically a “young adult” book but who cares about such distinctions anyway?  It is a fantasy book and considerably less scary than Neil Gaiman’s Coraline or American Gods (what can I say, I scare easily!) despite being about a boy that is adopted and raised by ghosts in a graveyard.  And if you find you like Gaiman’s style there are so many awesome books that await your discovery.  It helps with that minor sadness that comes with finishing a wonderful book – how will another book take me on a similar journey away from my surroundings?  By the way, have you ever been reading and then realized that you forgot yourself for a while?  That time passed and you obviously were living/breathing during that time but you forgot to pay attention because you inhabited the words in front of you?  I love when that happens.

The Last Dragonslayer (amazon affiliate link) by Jasper Fforde (read an excerpt here, I found this from a note at the end of NPR’s summer reading suggestions for teens) – I think for me the interplay between real life and magic is a hard one for fantasy books to get just right – if you have a world that is too complex with so many made up concepts and words and names the reader gets lost.  If you have just enough of the familiar, though, to let the reader follow along with the action and absorb some of the new ideas (dragons, magic, the idea that marzipan is mined but then makes people drunk when consumed) as they go, you have a winning book.  That may account for a lot of the way the Harry Potter series (which this book is compared to in many reviews) is so beloved.  You have our world with a magical one running parallel.  In The Last Dragonslayer, much like Jasper Fforde’s Jurisfiction/Thursday Next series (beginning with the fantastic The Eyre Affair) we have an England we quickly realize is not our England but there are houses and streets and cars so we can pretend we know what is going on for a little while.  That is, until a team of magicians hired out to do odd jobs change a house’s plumbing without raising a single saw or forming a single weld…oh, and they do it in an afternoon.  An old favorite book of mine is Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede and if you liked the way dragons were depicted in Wrede’s series you’ll really enjoy this book.  The ending had a twist that I didn’t see coming and I loved it for that as well.  There’s a sequel to The Last Dragonslayer coming out September 3, 2013!  Can’t wait!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (amazon affiliate link) by Rebecca Skloot – I don’t like when summer reading lists include sad fiction but this is non-fiction and as much about the journey of the author in investigating an untold story as it is about that story.  I could not put it down.  Even when there was a power outage and I should have been conserving my phone’s battery life I read long into the morning on my kindle phone application.  I had to know more about Henrietta Lacks, the unconsenting source of cells grown in labs worldwide and only known as HeLa for so long.  I also know enough of some of the background cases provided by Skloot to know she really did her homework on the law so you can rely on her for the science explanations featured as well.  She makes it very accessible and you finish the book really feeling that as human beings we should all treat one another better.  I sought this book out after reading The Help for our book club because The Help made me feel like much of the dynamic of what it was really like to be African American during segregation in the United States was not brought through (or dismissed as background information).   If you are on twitter, be sure to follow Rebecca (@RebeccaSkloot) for updates to the story and tweets about science and medical rights generally.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (amazon affiliate link) by Alexander McCall Smith – What is summer without a good series to read through?  This particular series has 13 (14 in November 2013) titles and if you end up liking the first you will certainly enjoy following the rest.   I will say the first title is the strongest and some of the others are appealing more because of the familiar characters versus the mysteries being “solved.”  Also, I don’t always agree with the protagonist, Precious Ramotswe, in how she resolves some cases (sometimes letting people go instead of reporting them) but the setting (Botswana) is worlds away from here.  The stories follow Precious as she sets up her agency and opens her doors, following in large part the advice of a book about “Private Detection” that is periodically quoted.  If you are an attorney by trade you’ll like that the author is an attorney because he throws some funny bits in here and there on the subject of lawyers.  At any rate, the prose is distinctly restful and contemplative while at the same time a source for a number of actual out loud laughs.  I think if the Anne of Green Gables series is one you enjoy, you’ll like all the main and supporting characters in this book (and series).

Book Review: The BugyBops: Friends for All Time

This book is a sequel to one of our favorite books, The BugaBees: Friends With Food Allergies (amazon affiliate link).  I’ve mentioned the BugaBees here on my blog, reviewed it for Veg Books, and included it in my my roundup of great food allergy books for young kids over on the SunButter blog.  So you can imagine we were really excited to hear that author Amy Recob had teamed up with 64 Colors for a new book!

The BugyBops: Friends for All Time (amazon affiliate link) is geared for not only food allergic families, but those without food allergies that act to support their food allergic friends.  I entered just about every contest I could find when the book was released during Food Allergy Awareness Week and as luck would have it I won two copies of the book, both personalized by the author.  E instantly said, upon seeing the little sketch and note in her book, that she had to write a thank you card which I thought was so sweet (Ms. Recob, if you’re reading this, I’ll get the card in the mail soon!).  Thank you to the BugaBees Blog and Avoiding Milk Blog for your giveaways of the book, E is so excited to give her extra copy to her friend K who also has multiple food allergies.

The book did not disappoint, it was just as polished and well written as the previous book in the series and I hope we get to see more of these cute little characters in the future.  

Who are the “BugyBops” you may ask?  They are the friends that help the food allergic BugaBees stay safe.  If you haven’t read the first book this book still makes sense on its own.  We see little ladybug (a BugaBee) having an epinephrine injector put in a backpack while the book let’s us know that:

These special shots of medicine they must bring everywhere.

Certain foods can make them sick, so they take extra care.

Not to eat or touch the foods that they’re allergic to,

But EpiPens can save their lives if they accidentally do.

In the wake of the FDA warning letter to the manufacturer of EpiPens over their recent ad campaign, I really liked this passage of the book because it characterizes the appropriate use of EpiPens while still emphasizing avoidance as a first line defense.

Other things the BugyBops do for their friends to keep them safe in the book include washing their hands, choosing safe foods, not teasing, and calling for a grown-up if there’s an emergency.  I like that the idea of giving kids phrases like “Our friend is sick, we need some help, find a grown-up right away!” to make their own was continued from the BugaBees in to this book.  Nut free tables, wiping water fountains, an iPad, and a chair are depicted to “help stop the spread of cross-contamination.”  All the bugs seem cheerful as they do these activities which I appreciated.

We’re planning a camping trip so E was especially interested in the pages about that scenario – including details about asking ahead about safe foods and keeping unsafe foods away.  Some of the bugs are shown roasting marshmallows while others look at shooting stars.  I’ve been meaning to try a safe, vegan, marshmallow recipes Elizabeth Goldenberg of OneSpot Allergy emailed to me (the vegan varieties have soy and we don’t eat meat so gelatin is out) before we go on our trip.  Fingers crossed that one of them works!

Visiting an art gallery, treats during holidays, and just being together and having fun are also featured in the book along with 8 supplemental pages of “Activities and Talking Points” that cover signs of reactions, true/false questions, and details on how to inject an EpiPen.

I like a lot of detail about books, especially considering that most food allergy books are not available at local libraries, so I hope this review has been helpful.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments but I highly recommend both The BugyBops: Friends for All Time (amazon affiliate link) and The BugaBees: Friends With Food Allergies (amazon affiliate) for food allergic families and their friends.