Monthly Archives: July 2009

Dear Convenience Food Marketers

MacDear Junkfood Convenience Food Marketers,

In this economy, I feel it is my duty to provide you with some valuable feedback that can help you cut your costs. You see, I’ve noticed some changes to your packaging. Lately it includes copy intended to market to someone looking for a healthy meal.

Consider the following two standard favourites: Kraft Dinner Original and Chef Boyardee Ravioli.

The Kraft Dinner package is now sporting a substational bright green call-out box on the front which reads:

Sensible Solution:
Source of Calcium and Iron
Good Source of Protein

The Chef Boyardee packaging, for its part, has allocated an entire panel on its paper wrap to share the following information:

Thank Goodness for Chef Boyardee!
When you serve Chef Boyardee to your family, you give them more than great taste — you give them a wholesome, nutricious meal as well. Because Chef Boyardee is made with fresh beef and enriched pasta, it is a delicious combination of protein and carbs. And Chef Boyardee has no preservatives. Serve Chef Boyardee. The good, hot and hearty meal that your entire family loves.

But let’s be real my marketing friends — I’m not buying these foods for their health benefits. It’s because I’m being lazy. Or indulgent. Or both.

I am very aware that whenever I veer away from the perimeter of the grocery store and down the centre isles that I am entering into different territory. Territory in which a pasta can be magically created from florescent orange powder. Or where there is no need for an expiry date, even though the food inside contains meat.

However, this little “health” promo on your packaging caused me to take a closer look at the ingredients. Here’s what I found:

  • Kraft Dinner contains tartrazine. This additive is a synthetic dye used as a food colouring. Norway and Austria banned the use of tartrazine and other countries issued warnings after it was found to cause hyperactivity in some children. In addition to hyperactivity, research has also linked tartrazine to asthma, skin rashes, and migraines. While the United States and Canada have not banned this additive, it is now mandatory for it to be clearly labelled on a product’s ingredient list.
  • Chef Boyardee’s ingredient list includes the infamous “MSG,” or Monosodium Glutamate. Although you’ll find virtually every Chinese food take-out place defensively advertising “No MSG” in their foods, there is no real answer as to whether this ingredient is harmful or not. Countless research studies have shown only that it can cause a reaction in some people that is similar to an allergic reaction. But one thing is for sure: MSG is used to enhance the flavour of food. Why? So you’ll eat more of course! Just what us chubby first-world folks need. In addition, Chef Boyardee contains glucose-fructose, more than one type of salt and caramel. (I don’t know if caramel is actually bad for you but I thought it was so wierd that it was worth mentioning).

This brings me back to my starting point, which was how you could save yourself some money.

And here’s how: don’t bother hiring any more copywriters to develop “healthy messaging” on your packages! It is completely unnecessary. Perhaps even counter-intuitive.

If you must keep adapting your copy on your packages, here are my suggestions:

  • Feed this at dinner tonight and you won’t have to endure any whining or make idle threats related to dessert!
  • If you make this for dinner, you can get the kids into bed before “So You Think You Can Dance” starts!
  • This requires only one pot — that’s right, only one pot to clean!

I know, I know. You’ve likely spent thousands and thousands of dollars on market research that told you to include that health-conscious messaging. But trust me — don’t bother. It just makes you look silly.

A sometimes lazy and indulgent mother.

Note to Husband: Er, you’re actually reading my blog?? Okay, this post has absolutely no connection to the fact that you’ve been away. I’ve been cooking up all those frozen homemade casseroles you left me. Honest.


Filed under Family, Fitness & Food, Living, Observations, Saving Time, Shopping

My own personal BOLO

As I drove home from Blog Out Loud Ottawa, I had the summer wind whipping through the car and the music on high. And something strange happened; I started to cry. But it wasn’t a bad cry. It was a good cry, if you know what I mean.

I think it was a release of sorts. Because, truth be told, I’ve had a tough time adapting to life back in Ottawa after a year away in Australia. It’s something I don’t dare to say out loud, for fear of offending my dear friends and family here. But there it is.

Life in Australia was exciting, busy and fun. I lived in, comparatively speaking, a mansion and had few responsibilities on my plate for the entire year. I also made some deep friendships that I miss terribly. Oh, and did I mention I also gave birth to the most darling little boy there too? I mean, really, poor ol’ Ottawa had no hope of living up to Australia. It sure didn’t help that I returned in the bitter cold of January, either.

But this “coffee with julie” blog has really made a difference to me. It’s a new and exciting project, and it provides a much-needed creative outlet. My family doesn’t quite get this “blogging thing,” but at BOLO, everyone did. We were a community of our own making. Ottawa bloggers. And I was so happy to have been welcomed into it.

BOLO feels like it was a turning point for me. A turn back to my Ottawa, my home, my community.

If you’d like to read the posts from BOLO, please do! They are a great mix of life stories that include first loves, true loves, mothering angst, depression, and some awesome bits of twisted humour. Thanks again Lynn!  


Filed under Blogs, Internet Love, Living, Media, Observations, Ottawa Fun

Out of the mouths of babes.

Me:  So … did you hear Mommy on the radio yesterday?

6-year-old Daughter: Well, yes I did. But I didn’t recognize your voice.

Me: Yes, people can sound different on the radio. I think it’s because of the microphones.

6-year-old Daughter: Oh, I see. It really didn’t sound like you at all. Because I heard the voice of a really calm lady.


Filed under Blogs, Family, Living, Media, Observations, Ottawa Fun, Radio, Tales

All In A Day

Okay, now it’s my turn to panic!

All In A Day called (you know, CBC’s afternoon radio show) and asked if I would come in to be interviewed on the show to talk about Blog Out Loud Ottawa. I love All In A Day, so I swooned and said ‘yes’ immediately. Here’s how the show is described on their site:

All In A Day is Ottawa’s number one afternoon drive program, not surprising considering that CBC Radio One 91.5 is Ottawa’s number one radio station. More people listen to CBC Radio than to any other station in town.

Yikes, WHAT WAS I THINKING — I’ve never been on radio before … I could stutter, and stammer and giggle like a fool. The last time I agreed to do something like this was in 2002 when Kim Brunhuber invited me to a televised book club chat. And YES, I did come off like an idiot then. But, hey, my family still gets a good laugh about it to this day, so I guess it was worth it.

Tune in! It’s scheduled for 4:50 pm this afternoon.


Filed under Blogs, Living, Media, Ottawa Fun, Radio

Let’s Panic!

Oh my! I can barely write I am laughing so hard at this new website launched by mommy-blogger Alice Bradley of Finslippy fame, and her co-hort in tongue-in-cheek-crime Eden Kennedy. Although I’d seen Bradley before from Momversations, I hadn’t come across Kennedy as of yet. You can immediately get a feel for Kennedy’s humour style though by visiting her blog yogabeans, where her son’s action figures demonstrate ashtanga yoga.

These two women recently launched Let’s Panic!  It’s a “resource” site for the newly pregnant as well as the new parent. The advice here is so precious.  Take, for example, these offerings:

There’s also the rotating banner of quotes that include: “Say goodbye to your pert breasts forever” and “Hey, it wasn’t our idea for you to get pregnant.

But the thing that cracks me up the most? Go check out the “sponsors” for this site. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go! (But don’t say I didn’t warn you if it causes you to spit your coffee out all over your keyboard.)


Filed under Blogs, Media

You know you’re not the next Martha when …

…before your husband leaves on a trip he fills the fridge and stocks the freezer with casseroles. If I’m lucky he’ll leave me a little stash of cash and some take-out menus too. We don’t want the children to get scurvy now, do we?


Filed under Family, Living, Observations, Tales

His next great adventure

robsonPeople who meet us now, after 12 years of marriage, invariably like to say, “Opposites attract!” But it wasn’t always this way.

When we first met, we both shared a love of nature. Not a love from afar, a love that compelled us to trek deep into its midst. As far as we could go, to places where you really felt no other human had ever stepped before. The peace. The quiet. The conquest.

My husband’s thirst for adventure has only continued to deepen over the years. Whereas, mine? Well, let’s just say that while he’s grown more heavily into a hard-core outdoorsman, I’ve gotten soft — both in mind and body. I like to blame it on having children, but the truth is that I can’t really explain my radical shift. I just no longer do insects and pit toilets.

Yet, the excitement bubbling in our house lately is palable. My husband is like a kid waiting for Christmas. And that can only mean one thing: his next great adventure is on the horizon.

I’ll admit that I’ve taken a sort of “uh, huh, yeah, that’s great honey,” sort of interest as of late to these adventures. I don’t feel bad about this though, I consider it a basic survival mechanism. Much the same way he responds to hearing about scrapbooking or even blogging for that matter. And we are undoubtedly both guilty of doing this with my daughter’s non-stop chatter about Pokemons and DS games.

This morning, though, I found an article on the breakfast table. It was an opinion piece authored by Backpacks Premier. Hubby, my father and my two brothers are heading out to climb Mt. Robson. And here is how the area is described in this article:

“It’s the stick that stirs the drink: so high it creates its own weather. It’s the loftiest peak in the Canadian Rockies, towering 528 m (1732 ft) above its nearest challenger. And it looms more than 3000 m (9840 ft) above the trailhead, which is in one of the lowest valleys in the entire range. It’s 3954-m (12,970-ft) Mt. Robson, a preposterously vertical, staggeringly atmospheric summit. If not veiled by swirling mist or shrouded by sodden clouds, its gleaming white, glacier-laden immensity is a jaw-dropping spectacle.” 

Um, do you think it’s too late for me to increase his life insurance coverage?

Photo byKent Gulliford.

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Filed under Activities, Adventure, Family, Family, Living, Observations, Travel