Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Blog Has Moved

Dear readers,

We have lovingly moved our blog here:

We hope you continue to follow us on our company's journey.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Maxim's Summer Reading List: Yoga For A Healthy Menstrual Cycle

I'm convinced that our bodies crave movement. Albert Einstein once said:

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."

Whether it's sky-diving, pottery throwing, or turning a page, our bodies and our minds are always craving movement and change. For women, who are more naturally inclined to experience physiological changes with their menstrual cycles, it's impossible to avoid the struggle to maintain balance or the quest for healing each month when your period is making you snippy and at times inconsolable.

If you've somehow avoided taking the sweaty, yet graceful leap onto the Yoga bandwagon or you're like me and have attended hundreds of yoga classes yet have the memory of a goldfish, here's a foundational fact: The word "Yoga" comes from the gorgeously poetic and ancient language Sanskrit, and it means "union." Sanskrit is a holy language from 400 BC. The practice of yoga was developed as an extension of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs in maintaining balance in every area of life.


Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden's book Yoga for a Healthy M enstrual Cycle is a unique and concise manual you can use for implementing healthy movement into a time of a woman's life where it seems counter-intuitive to stretch and welcome movement and change into her life. This is my attempt at welcoming movement into my life....

Don't judge... I'm working on it :)

Back to the book... Walden has numerous recommendations for yoga sequences that are tailored to help all kinds of menstrual issues or just to keep your body feeling happy and healthy. If you want a sampling of the book, for a generally healthy menstruation cycle, Walden suggests:

1. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
2. Child's Pose (Adho Mukha Virasana)
3. Head-on-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsana)
4. Three-Limb Intense Stretch (Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana)
5. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
6. Wide-Angle Seated Pose I (Upavistha Konasana I)
7. Wide-Angle Seated Pose With a Twist (Parsva Upavistha Konasana)
8. Wide-Angle Seated Pose II (Upvistha Konasana II)
9. Inverted Staff Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
10. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
11. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Now, I couldn't flex and photograph all of these poses, so you can ::click here:: for a cool website with illustrations of yoga poses.

There is also an interesting debate about using yoga to maintain menstrual health that I'd like to bring to your attention. This:

(Photo Compliments of

is the peacock pose, and it's considered an inverted pose because you are challenging the typical flow and orientation of your body. In Ayurvedic medicine (an ancient holistic medical practice from India) it's said that inverting the body and altering blood flow shouldn't be done when a woman is experiencing menstruation, but there are many people who believe otherwise. ::Click Here:: to read further about inversions.

Overall, Sparrowe and Walden's book is a quick read and a great book to have on standby for reference. Much enjoyed!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mucous Membranes

So I've been working at Maxim for what is it... two months now. I think I could let you in on a little secret about me... I'm a bit of a nerd. If nerdiness could be quantified on a spectrum of mass, almost like the one shown below:

I think I would measure out as a beluga whale on the nerdiness scale.

Jerry Seinfeld is of course the equilibrium, because I doubt he plays World of Warcraft or live action role plays in his spare time, yet he definitely has the I-lock-myself-in-my-room-sometimes-to-read-Phillip-Pullman and the I-evaded-a-swirly-in-high-school-after-quoting-Camu vibe about him. I respect the guy, really.

I've never held a Magic card for more than 2 minutes, but my best friend was voted teacher's pet in the 12th grade superlatives and I am on a first name basis with a goodly number of librarians.

Point is: I took a clinical herbalism class and started caring about obscure things like home remedies for inflammation and chakras, but hey! Everybody's got to have their kicks in life right?

And another nerdy interest of mine is healing and understanding body systems.

So today, I present you with MUCOUS MEMBRANES! This post will be the first of two or three posts to introduce you to the functions and execution of mucous membranes in our bodies.

For those of you who think I'm talking about boogers, you're on the right track, but think deeper, think source and origins... Think:

Along the lining of the mouth (under your tongue, the back of your throat, behind your lower lip) there exists a constantly moist layer of mucous membranes. The interaction between the foreign particles and the membranes in your mouth will enable the activity of certain enzymes. For example, if you're munching on a pretzel, some carbohydrate and salt molecules will travel through the membranes in your mouth and signal the enzyme amylase to be released and begin the breakdown of carbohydrates into usable sugar particles that will eventually be converted to energy.

As you can see in this elegant photograph, your nose has hundreds of little hairs that capture bacteria and wayward particles that come into your nose. Your nose has a mucous membrane lining that will frequently release mucous to encase all of the foreign particles and make sure they don't pass through your mouth or your air track to your lungs.


Depicted above is a nice lady-eye that you may think is an expression of sadness, but this eye is actually utilizing an inherent defense system that cleanses the mucous membranes along your eyelids and releases stored toxins that would otherwise infiltrate the body and be processed by the immune system.

Windpipe + Lungs
Oxygen is one of the most necessary fuels for all of our metabolic systems. The way that it gets into our bloodstream is of course through our lungs, but I bet you didn't know that there was a mucous membrane working along the lining of your lungs to separate out the molecules that don't belong. The mucous that develops in your lungs during a cold is a result of your body's defense systems going a bit haywire and making sure that nothing harmful will get through into your blood system.

Stomach + Intestines

There is a mucous membrane lining in the stomach and intestines lined with cilia that will move nutrients and facilitate digestive processes.

The Ureters + Urethra + Urinary bladder
The uses of mucous membranes in this series of organs is complex and dynamic. See Mucous Membranes: Part II, for an explanation of mucous membrane function in the reproductive system.

What Do Mucous Membranes Do Exactly?

According to, "The moisture found in a mucous membrane acts to protect the body by creating a barrier and preventing the inside of the body from drying out. Mucus also traps pathogens, dirt, and particulate matter so that they can be sequestered and eliminated by the body. The nose is particularly famous for this, using mucus as a barrier between many harmful substances and the respiratory tract. Some sections of mucous membrane also have small hairs known as cilia which act as traps, and can move to push things across the surface of the membrane." When I consulted, they also had a concise explanation about the uses of mucous along the sensitive membranes in our bodies: "The nature of the cells forming a particular mucous membrane (or mucosa) reflects the specialized function at that site. All these functions are related in some way to interaction between the internal and external environments of the body: nutrition, gas exchange, excretion, or the intrusions and extrusions required for reproduction."

If you think about it, mucous membranes are really where all the magic happens. If your body doesn't roll out layers of protective mucous to protect your body or regulate what comes in from the outside world, we would be susceptible to any and all kinds of ailments and maladies. Our mucous membranes are semipermeable (think of them as filters) for a reason.

Sources Used

"What is a mucous membrane?" Wise Geek
"Internal Genital Organs" The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library
"Glossary" Diagnose Me

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Final Days of Roadtripping

It is with a heavy heart that we have to leave our new friends and connections in California and the topsy-turvy hills of San Francisco, but with enthusiasm that we remember home and the loving streets of NYC that smell of daisies and happy things . In the great words of Cher Horrowitz from Clueless, "As if!" California was great. New York is great. Both places suffer from a chronic illness called traffic.

In his book entitled The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac says, "Comparisons are odious," so I will stop myself there. But here is a recap of the things we've done since I last posted:
We found our way to San Francisco and saw...None other than her royal highness, the Golden Gate Bridge. I would just like to note that I wasn't the only silly tourist holding my camera outside of the passenger side window to take pictures.
We also visited with one of our favorite California Worker owned Coops on Folsom Street in San Francisco called Rainbow Grocery who carries our product line.I also made a few frequent visits to the infamous Haight street, as in the district of Haight-Ashbury which served as the Hippie Mecca in the 1960's. Of course there was all kind of graffiti, but this is what caught my eye.A large strip of farms on the way back from Aptos to Napa.

A final farewell feast in Sonoma's Buena Vista Carneros Winery.

It is my hope that the time we spent in California talking with ladies about their feminine hygiene products has left a memorable mark (excuse the pun). Spending time around people who were curious about every product that they were bringing into their homes or close to their bodies ("my temple!" one woman exclaimed to me at a demonstration) was rejuvenating and challenging. I appreciated the questions and the long discussions.

Until the next time we make a trip there, I'll be doing what the Mamas and Papas were most famous for: California Dreamin'

Saturday, June 26, 2010

On the Road: Day 3, Is the Tank Half Full of Half Empty?

Today we had to pack up and head on Northward. We've done what we can to introduce Southern California to Maxim's goodies. Now we're going to try our hand at connecting with the lovely populace of San Francisco and the surrounding areas.

The drive was about 7 and a half hours long with traffic and pit stops. This trip has been quite a journey. So many things packed into short drives, short visits, short meals, etc. Processing the events and the things I've been learning is quite the task, but the one thing I'm always sure of is that this trip has been a privilege and a once in a lifetime experience.

Here are a few pictures from our full day drive.

Exhibit A: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
There was so much zany greenery exploding out of the sides of the trails. The smells of sage, lemon balm, lavender, licorice, chickory, and rosemary were making me delirious. The desert bloom I'm holding in the picture above would be the perfect gift for your most hated enemy.

Exhibit B: The Crazy Trekker ManThis guy seemed determined to walk the entire length of U.S. 101 North by foot. He didn't even stop to see the scenic view for rare Sea Lions! I wish I had that kind of stamina.

Exhibit C:
Miles and miles of driving where I simply couldn't tell if I was awake or dreaming, because it was so gorgeous.Exhibit D: A spur of the moment hike that led us to a hidden waterfall.

Exhibit E: Dinner overlooking Big Sur at a restaurant called Nepenthe.
This restaurant was actually a blast from the past for me. I visited this place when I was a wee one with my family. But this is a must see, because not only is this place a restaurant, it's a peaceful green haven that has a gift shop (complete with locally designed crafts and books about Big Sur) and a set of hot springs.

It's days like this that renew my attitude and help me remain optimistic about our cause and our journey at Maxim.

The active question of the day is about the quality of experience and attitude:

Is the tank half full or half empty?

I'm going to go with half full on this one...

On the Road: Day 2, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"

I know this is a travel blog, so I should be posting pretty pictures of the landscape and trying to make you feel inspired/envious/excited and whatnot, but I also feel responsible to share some lessons that I've learned on this trip. Let's see:
Lesson 1:
Never lock your keys in your rental car. Bad things happen.

Lesson 2:
Always have towels on hand when taking long drives. You never know when a natural lake or a grassy hillside will tempt you.

Lesson 3: People in California love talking about celebrities and sometimes this can be interesting. So, the first two lessons, basic, right?

I'd like to elaborate on the third.
As I stood nestled in between two aisles of vegetarian and vegan snacks today, doing in-store demonstrations, someone asked where his favorite brand of Kombucha was, and a store clerk replied that it had to be taken off the shelves because of Lindsay Lohan.

I know… this was weird to me too. What does the freckle-faced actress-turned-pop-singer-turned actress and star of The Parent Trap have to do with a blend of fermented tea that’s great for your stomach?

Apparently, Ms. Lohan was under some kind of physiological surveillance, and the state attached her to an alcohol detector to monitor her. It seems that she drank Kombucha (a fermented tea product that's really helpful with digestion, that some people claim prevents cancer... click here for more info) in a larger than normal quantity. People say this may have set off her alcohol-detection machine (click here for the article). Normally, I would not care what someone famous is drinking, but after this story became public knowledge, the Food and Drug Administration put Synergy brand Kombucha under intense scrutiny and for fear of upsetting their customers, certain health food stores took their Kombucha off their shelves.

I'm happy that the FDA cares to check up on products to make sure they're not dangerous to our health, but Kombucha? Really?!

That's lesson three.

Lesson 4: is still something that I'm working on understanding and that I've heard over and over again when talking to health fanatics in California:

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

This Maxim (excuse the pun) was made famous by a Greek physician named Hippocrates. Ever heard of the Hippocratic oath? It's in honor of this dude! He was a believer in the balancing the 4 humors of the body (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile), which now that I think about it is a kind of rudimentary or earlier version of the whole eastern belief in healing (yin/yang and chi energy)... But anyway, his ideas were based on maintaining a balanced connection between body systems and that the "humors" your body produced were an indication of how well a person was taking care of her/himself.
I've been musing about this question as we've been traveling around California, and it's only led me to ask more questions...
How often do people sit down at a restaurant and ask themselves how the food they're about to order will effect them in the long run? And I'm not just talking about caloric content... I'm talking vitamins, minerals, hydration... etc. Is it possible for us to think of food as medicine in a culture that constantly scares us about what it means to be overweight and obese? Why does the FDA make "High Country Kombucha" write "These statements [about the nutritious/medicinal value of Kombucha] have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease" when people have found correlations between drinking Kombucha and maintaining a healthy body?

Which leads me to Lesson 5: Be cautious about labels.
People are always trying to sell us stuff, but labels are the easiest way to learn more about what we're being sold.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fighting To Stay On The Block: Columbus Natural Food

Above: Columbus Natural Food store owner and store front.
I know I've been involved with writing about the West Coast, but here's one East Coast news byte that I've just finished...

I read an interesting story in the New York Times last wee entitled, Fear (and Shopping) When Big Stores Move In by Joseph Berger. The article is about some of the obstacles that small organic businesses face, specifically one store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, named Columbus Natural Food. To my surprise, I realized that Maxim Hygiene Products is connected with this story. We're on their shelves!

I interviewed Columbus Natural Food's owner, Anne, to find out a bit more about the struggle of her Upper West Side health food store.

"I opened [Columbus Natural Food] 17 years ago. It was the beginning of the health food store movement and there was an expansion of health consciousness in the mainstream... I knew it was the right thing to do." These were Anne's words as we discussed her way into the Organic and natural food world. She told me that growing up her father was a farmer in the French country side and that she studied Agricultural Engineering before she came to the United States and founded her small business-style store. While her store doesn't carry the same stocks of the infinite aisles of a bigger "box-store," there is a great deal of thought and dedication that's put into selecting the choice products (grocery and personal care mostly) that Anne and her co-workers lay out on their shelves. In addition the store has a fresh and organic salad bar and a selection of prepared foods made daily on the premises for an alternative “fast food” experience that is a given part of the urban life.

" By shopping in small stores people make sure they are able to enjoy a humane environment and keep their neighborhood vibrant, says Anne. Mom-and-pop stores may be less monolithic in their approach to facilitating supply and demand, but that shouldn't make them a less appealing shopping spot.

There are many perks to having a smaller store or a concentrated variety to choose from. One of them is that store owners like Anne at Columbus Natural Food can give shoppers personal recommendations and advice for products that she may have personally selected from the sea of stuff that's floating in the health foods/ organic + "green" categories. Another perk is the attention that customers can receive on the store floor.

In an article entitled, "The Importance of Customer Service," Ryan Schuster conveys a message about diminishing positivity between store employee-customer interactions:

"What really surprises me about the experience and others like it is how rare really good customer service has become. Whether at a restaurant, a big box store or a niche business-to-business firm, really memorable customer service is becoming more difficult to find.

Some businesses still go above and beyond for their clientele. Customer service is one of the key factors that help mom-and-pop operations build loyal followings and word-of-mouth advertising."

When the Maxim crew took a field trip to visit Columbus Natural Food, I noted how Anne was scarcely available for phone calls, but spent ample time discussing the layout of her store, the rarities on her shelves (Vegan Foie-gras?!), and herbal knowledge. The attention we received and the expertise Anne demonstrated about her products made is evident: Though she may be slender and as gracefully put together as the shelves in her store, Anne is not a fabled fairy-like French woman, but a passionate powerhouse of information regarding healthy lifestyles and a great asset to the Upper West Side.

Small business stores like Columbus Natural Food build bonds of familiarity and respect between people whose paths are less likely to cross without a common link like an interest in kale or a desire to invest in a healthier lifestyle. There is an inspiring power that emerges when communities can share something in common, and what better interest is there than developing a collective interest in health?

You could imagine my chagrin when I read the article out of the Times, and discovered that Columbus Natural Food's Landlord has decided to tear down Anne's store in 2013. The community has been putting pressure on the local government to put the shop in a different location, but the Landlord insists on tearing down the small stores in the building in order to build a lucrative residential building with a commercial extension. Problem is he's not promising any of his current tenants that they can remain a part of his big plans.

Some of the Issues that allow this to happen are:

-Competition from larger stores

-Imminent threat of the alteration of zoning laws

-Local governments turning a blind eye to the struggles of independent business owners

When I asked Anne what kinds of things are being done to ensure that Columbus Natural Food will survive, she said that the store has put together a petition to demonstrate the importance of this store to the surrounding neighborhoods. To date, Anne and her co-workers have collected 4,000+ signatures.

The next step in the review process and potential approval of the development planned by Anne's Landlord will take place at City Planning, Manhattan, located at 22 Reade Street. To date, we do not have a confirmation of the scheduling of this case, named Columbus House, 95 W. 95th Street. It could be as early as June 21 but may only happen on July 12. Please go to the City Planning website to check the meetings agenda.

What can you do to help?

-Shop at smaller stores! As Anne points out “Over the medium to long term this is the only way they are going to thrive and compete with larger stores despite the higher rents that can be expected in the future due to the large retail chains being able to ‘pay more’

-Sign Columbus Natural Food's petition at their store located at: 725 Columbus Avenue between 95th and 96th

- Send e-mails to city planning's official, Amanda burden, chair of city planning commission. Click here to do so

-Read the following story for more information on Columbus Natural Food's fight in the New York Times:
Fear (and Shopping) When Big Stores Move In
by Joseph Berger

Additional Sources:
-Prairie Business "The Importance of Customer Service" by Ryan Schuster