Halloween, allergies, and the #TealPumpkinProject

2014-10-29 14.02.43tpp

Halloween is a fun time for a lot of people, kids and adults alike. It’s socially acceptable to dress different, scare people (okay, I’m actually not a fan of this but others are), and get free candy. What’s so bad about that?

Well, to put it bluntly—death by candy.

While the majority of kids can happily go door to door, pick any candy they want, and only have to worry about that house that’s giving out raisins or pennies (you know the one), one in 13 kids have a food allergy that makes their Halloween outing less enjoyable. Their parents aren’t just looking for needles in their bag of candy, they’re checking the ingredients. If children eat something they are highly allergic to, there is probably a 100% chance they will go into anaphylactic shock and die if medical care is not received.

I have personally experienced the Halloween horror of “can I eat this?” my entire life. Three years ago, while at college, my friends and I decided to go trick-or-treating. What I came back with was surprising to my friends, but not to me:

325007_10150365284698697_1752353207_o

About 1/3 of the candy I received—on the right—was edible, and the rest was either iffy or a definite no. Notice how there are Kit-Kat and Hershey bars in the “no” pile—Kit-Kat bars are always a no in the US (unless you go to the international food aisle and get the ones manufactured in the UK, as I do) and Hershey bars at this size almost always may contain almonds.

My trip to the candy aisle

2014-10-29 14.05.39

Today when I went to the store to buy our bags of Halloween candy I decided to do an analysis. How many bags of candy in the holiday aisle are safe? Now of course there were other people also buying candy and I was also right in front of customer service, so this isn’t by any means a very scientific test. But I did my best to count how many bags of candy would be safe for someone like me—allergic to peanuts and tree nuts—and how many I would have to avoid. This included bags that had assortments, so if there was a bag of Twizzlers and a bag of assorted candies including Twizzlers, I counted that twice.

What did I find? There were at least 40 varieties of nutty/peanutty candies. How many peanut/tree nut free? 15. That’s about a 27% chance of choosing a safe bag of candy.

Be aware of food labels

Excessive sugar aside (it’s Halloween after all!) it’s always a good idea to read ingredient labels, especially when your choice could affect your life or the lives of others. Some companies make it easy for you:

2014-10-29 14.04.49

Tootsie Roll seems to be pretty good with allergens. This ingredient label is from their limited edition Tootsie Rolls (I forgot the flavor already), and it clearly shows they’re peanut, tree nut, egg, and gluten free, though they unfortunately use milk and soy ingredients.

But some companies try to fool you with their “helpful” icons:

2014-10-29 14.18.03

Flipz chocolate covered pretzels show that they do not contain peanuts, but as many people allergic to peanuts know, peanuts and tree nuts go hand in hand—the label clearly states that the product may contain tree nuts. (This product also contains wheat, milk, and soy.)

I did surprise myself while shopping, however, to find that Dum-Dums are free of the eight main allergens.

2014-10-29 14.04.39

For a long time I thought they were a no-go, and perhaps that has changed in recent years or I was always mistaken, but their label clearly states on the front and side of the bag that the product is free of all major allergens.

What may surprise you though is Hershey’s mini chocolate bars. Though some of Hershey’s other chocolate bars are free of peanuts and tree nuts, their small packs for Halloween are not.

2014-10-29 14.08.26

And though I did not find them in the Halloween aisle—in recent years I remember seeing specific Halloween packs—I think it’s important to mention that Snyder’s pretzels are not necessarily peanut free, since they also make peanut butter pretzels in the same facility, as their label states.

2014-10-29 14.13.58

So if you were planning on handing out healthy treats, please be aware that candy products are not the only culprits. Dried fruit packages also frequently contain or may contain peanuts or tree nuts.

What can you do to help this Halloween?

Again, read the label. Educate yourself and others on how to read ingredients lists, and try to keep the label for when trick-or-treaters come by. The FDA requires manufacturers to state if anything definitely contains one of the eight main allergens: milk, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish, and soy. They are not required to state if an allergen may be present, though if the ingredients list says a product may contain peanuts, then someone with peanut allergies should stay away. Coming home to count how many treats you can actually eat out of your Halloween bag is bad enough, but not knowing if a certain candy is safe or dangerous is just as upsetting. Experiencing the slow drip of politely thanking neighbors for candy that would kill you can really ruin one’s night (though not as bad as rushing to the hospital).

This is where the Teal Pumpkin Project comes in. Last year, the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) began a campaign to raise awareness of food allergies and provide safe alternatives for kids with allergies. The symbol is a teal pumpkin, which helps show allergic kids and their parents that your house has safe alternatives. This campaign has been taken up by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) and is spreading all across the US. The goal is to be aware of food labels and provide non-food alternatives for kids with allergies on Halloween. Personally, I’m going to give out glow sticks (which are also helpful for parents for night trick-or-treating).

2014-10-29 14.02.43e

If you’d like to learn more, check out FARE’s website.

So please keep kids and adults like me in mind, and provide safe alternatives for a happy Halloween.

mtsignature

P.S. If I gave any incorrect information, please let me know and I will be happy to fix.

P.P.S. This is my 100th blog post. I hope it’s worth it.

Life update and projects

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything. Since then* I’ve graduated, unexpectedly lost a family member, went to a music festival, went on our annual family vacation, and have continued to work as a graphic designer for myself and others. It’s been a bit of an odd whirlwind.

During that time, I was contacted by the folks at DFTBA Records (they don’t forget to be awesome, as per usual) because I had once designed a poster for the fictional band The Hectic Glow from John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, now a movie. Now the poster has become a shirt and is part of the official The Fault In Our Stars store. As I’m sure you can imagine, this was very exciting to me. In all of my excitement, I completely forgot to blog about it!

The greatest band you’ve never heard of—The Hectic Glow.

I have also been trying to be more crafty. Since around April I have been trying my hand at needle felting—a process of sculpting raw wool into any shape—and I’m excited to do more. One of my favorite things I’ve made is this little elephant, and I’m excited to make more!

elephant3

 

And so I’ve begun a handmade craft store, much like Etsy but also free of cost. The store is on Storenvy, and I have felted items and Golden Snitch holiday ornaments (Harry Potter of course).

goldensnitch

So it’s exciting times for me and I hope it continues. I’m planning on making more items, felted or not, and I hope it takes hold. The best part about it is if someone wants me to make something, they can easily let me know and I can do it. I hope soon I will have a wider variety of stock items once I know what types of felted items are popular.

Do you have any project ideas? Let me know!

mtsignature

*Not entirely true, since my last post was Fourth of July fireworks after graduating, but I didn’t really write anything.

Fireworks before the Fourth

Well, it’s almost Fourth of July. That means fireworks everywhere and a lot of me flinching from synesthesia because I sometimes see bright lights from noises (a double whammy with fireworks). But last Saturday I muddled through it, focusing my energy on taking photographs with my camera on a tiny tripod on top of a rock wall (which led to very crooked pictures and thus a lot of cropping).

If you want to learn how to take long exposure fireworks photos like I did, check out Photojojo’s guide to shooting fireworks. The majority of these were 6 second exposures.

IMG_428106282014

Not fireworks, just fire. Long exposure of a fire pit.

IMG_430406282014 IMG_430906282014 IMG_431406282014 IMG_431806282014 IMG_431906282014 IMG_432606282014 IMG_432706282014 IMG_432806282014 IMG_432906282014 IMG_433806282014 IMG_434406282014 IMG_434706282014 IMG_435006282014 IMG_435806282014 IMG_436806282014

Bonus: yesterday we had a weird storm and this is what I saw when I looked at the sky at sunset. IMG_439007022014e

 

mtsignature

Much Ado About Music: A Musical Study of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

This is it: my last essay of my college career. That’s it. I’m done. It took a bit longer to write partly because I didn’t want the classes to end, and partly because I kept forgetting that I was watching a movie for the purposes of writing a paper instead of pure entertainment.

So without further ado, I present my essay on the music of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.

mtsignature

The Ethics of Ebooks: Downloading in the Digital Age

Putting the finishing touches on my portfolio, I only just realized that I’m missing an essay from a year ago that I never published online. It is an ethical look at the illegal downloading of ebooks and how to help the industry change. Let me know if you have any comments!

mtsignature

In the Eye of the Beholder: How College Students View Graphic Design

It has been a while since I’ve written anything on this blog, and for good reason. Instead of writing here, I’ve been writing my senior thesis—and it’s finally done. If you don’t want to read a 22 page paper, feel free to view my more concise Prezi presentation.

mtsignature

Thinking of design ideas

I tend to have difficulty trying to create something just for the sake of creating something. For example, if there’s a contest or a class assignment that just says “make a magazine spread about anything,” it takes me a really long time to figure out what “anything” will be. It’s a lot easier for me to be told to make a spread about a specific topic.

I know this probably has to do with creativity, and maybe this means I’m less creative than I’d like to say I am. But I think the root of the problem isn’t just creativity, it’s just that I need some sort of direction to narrow down the possibilities from an infinite number of choices. Infinity is a daunting concept, and I’d much rather avoid it. Besides, when I work for a client I [hopefully] won’t be told to “just make anything,” as the client would at least tell me what the design should be about.

I think this difference can possibly defined as “art” and “communication,” two concepts that divide graphic design and graphic design schools. Many schools put design in their art department, and if I were at one of those I may be better at designing “anything.” But I’m at a school where graphic design is in the communication department, and so I need to have concepts given to me first so I can convey them through design. That’s not to say that art has nothing to communicate, because it certainly does, but the abstract concepts they come from are entirely different.

mtsignature