Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brave New Water

Pigs are flying, folks! We can mix birth control pills, chickenfarm runoff, and drinking water! No more hermaphrodite fish! And soon, no more bottled water!

MamaBird faints with happiness, pledges to name next dog (firstborn already monogrammed) after scientists who figured out how to get rid of hormones during wastewater treatment. via ScienceDaily

Shappell! Heel, Shappell. Now go, Shappell! Go get WASA Jerry. Nip his heels, Shappell. Take him over to the research department. Make him promise to neutralize those hormones before dumping wastewater into the Chesapeake...and while you're at it, see if he can throw a bunch of the catalyst right on into the Bay.

Image courtesy of the Simpson's episode guide at
Read more!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kinetic and Filled with Humor....

"Calder was...known for his work in the 1920s and 1930s, making kinetic sculpture filled with humor." Pretty much captures a little boy, no?

see DCist review of Alexander Calder's Untitled @ The National Gallery of Art Read more!

scritch scratch

These recipes completely fit my worldview. We should be able to eat comfort food, delicious, not-particularly nutritionally admirable food (ok, not plants), without worrying about evil ingredients far worse than a little sugar or fat (what, really, is Velveeta? cheese food? and why did anyone create partially hydrogenated vegetable oil when sticks of butter are there for the melting? c'mon...PHVO! faux!). I so totally am going to make the following...

via A Mighty Appetite, a recipe for queso without the Velveeta

via not martha, recipe for homemade samoas at baking bites (you know, the most universally beloved of the Girl Scout Cookies? and depending on the caramels you choose to bake with, you can avoid trans fats despite the worthless Girl Scout cookie vendors who decided to stick with the original scary-ass artery clogging ingredients)

Just to rant, altho the Samoas cookie box may say "trans-fat free" that's just a loophole; anything under half a gram of trans fats doesn't count for labeling purposes. CSPI captures my dilemma nicely (emphasis mine):

That's something for cookie fans to keep in mind as they open a box, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"If it says zero grams, but contains partially hydrogenated oil, people should know it does contain a little bit of trans fat," Jacobson said. "If somebody ate several servings of those foods a day, someone could consume 2 or 3 grams of trans fat, which is significant."

If someone ate, say, a row of Samoas at a time? Because a serving of Samoas is only two measly cookies. If someone tended to purchase, oh, a case of Samoas at a time, much to the delight of the local Brownie troop? That someone should make their own Samoas! I hear that unlike PHVO! faux! untouchables, butter-laden cookies are best eaten in multiples. Ahem.

And since really I am just a hair away from Little House on the Prairie myself, here are a couple utilitarian recipes I want to share that I've used for the past five years (read: since kids) to save time, $, and stay whole-grain. I may love the (organic) Fatty McFat cheese dip (fats are good for brain development!) but I avoid the White Flour like the plague. Inconsistent, yes, I know.

I originally got these bulk recipes during a short-lived Flylady fascination, but the titles are links to the original recipes, which belong to Leanne Ely over at Saving Dinner. I've adapted them but they are pretty close to hers, which teach you how to make your own breakfast mixes. In general, I am indebted to Leanne for introducing me to whole wheat pastry flour -- substituting it for white flour in pretty much any recipe gives you the whole grains without the heaviness of plain whole wheat flour. I might even try to use it in the Samoas recipe....

Pancake/waffle mix:

8 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (stone ground)
1 1/2 cups oatmeal (blend in your blender till powdered)
5 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt

This will make four quarts. Mix all together in a very large bowl and divvy up into gallon sized freezer storage bags. Mark the date with a Sharpie pen and keep it in the freezer. Write the following instructions right on the bag.

To make pancakes or waffles:

1 cup pancake mix
1 egg
1/2 to 2/3 cup milk (start with the lesser amount first and add if you need to)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, stir mix with milk, egg and vegetable oil. Heat your griddle and make your pancakes as usual! To make waffles, double the batter. We are pretty big fans of adding a cup of frozen blueberries to the batter.

Basic Muffin Mix
Makes 11 cups

8 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg

Combine everything in a large bowl and divide into freezer zipper topped bags. Mark date with a Sharpie pen and store in the freezer or cool dry place. Write following directions on the bag:

To make muffins:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together 3 cups baking mix, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup berries, raisins, chocolate chips or whatever else you'd like.

Bake in a prepared muffin pan-that means lightly greased, filling cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool for five minutes in the pan then turn out on to a rack to cool. Makes about 12 muffins, depending on the size of your muffin tin. Read more!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chicken Little Soup

This is a link-rific post. Mostly horrible news. I believe I may be channeling my grandmother, who used to send my mother newspaper clippings of random tragedies. No note, just a neatly clipped story about toddlers wandering across train tracks. I believe these were cautionary type missives. In keeping with my grandmother's unparalleled care packages (the newspaper heartstoppers got tucked into boxes filled with hand-embroidered floursack towels, Sees Candy lollipops, and groovy California duds for the youngsters -- think 7os velour pantsuits and beaded tie-dye v-necks), I promise to give you a happy face sandwich for the bad news.

In that vein, then:

Hey, dental sealants aren't bad for kids! You know how we were all freaked out about a little bisphenol-A in baby formula cans? Well, some of us had a horrible sinking feeling about the relatively huge quantities of BPA in our kids' teeth. No worries! via Science Daily

Dental sealants are a huge pollutant, though, if you plan on being cremated. Maybe keep a pair of pliers with the will? via Wonkette

Um, scientists think there may be some link between pesticide consumption and Type II Diabetes. Now there's a motivator to buy organic grapes: never eating a lollipop again. via Eating Liberally

Bummer, there's rocket fuel in all of us. via Everything EWG

Sorry, ocean. Melanoma trumps. Sunscreen is killing the coral reefs. via Treehugger

All you have to do to make sure your kid is learning? Listen to her. Now that I have some control over. via Science Daily

And finally, to dissipate that little vortex of gloom, via Overheard in DC (DCist):

At a paint-your-own-pottery place in Silver Spring.

The paint colors are numbered, and a mother and her toddler daughter sit and paint at a table.

Mother: "I need more of color 69."
Toddler (screaming at the top of her lungs): "My mom needs 69! My mom needs 69! MY MOM NEEDS 69!!!"
Mother (laughing so hard she can barely get the words out): "Sweetheart, please stop saying that." Read more!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's Getting Easier Being Green

In case I lose you before you read this all -- my latest favorite time/money saver and enviro move (for us! it's all relative, folks) is using Amazon's Subscribe and Save program. I kid you not. We had been shopping at Costco for bulk and savings for things like toilet paper but I have been hankering for the recycled paper products and eco-friendly laundry soap we used to use. Conundrum: I don't go to Trader Joe's all that often, we don't have loads of storage space, and I'm trying to limit my Whole Foods purchases to items that cannot be purchased anywhere else on earth. (I am a sucker for toddler foods like the $8 million/pound Just Organic Strawberries line). Thanks to Green Mom Finds for the tip -- during January, you can get an extra 20% off Seventh Generation products. That's on top of the 15% off you get for signing up to get routine delivery via the Subscribe and Save Amazon program. Sure, I could be more enviro (I figure it's got to get to me somehow, but the shipping/packaging does give me pause) than I am but really, I am going to buy some stuff. I am not, in fact, ready for cloth bathroom wipes or stringing up a clothesline. So this moves us in the right direction.

Ahem. Away from the schill and back to musing...

A few changes we've made in the New Year:

  • using cloth rags instead of paper towels about half the time
  • (back to) using recycled paper products (tp, paper towels)
  • using cloth napkins, ok, rags that are handy
  • (back to) using chlorine-free wipes and diapers
  • walking as much as possible, which involves being more organized and leaving time as well as being less lazy
  • cutting back water consumption (fewer baths for kids, turning off water while soaping up, shorter showers)
  • wearing clothes more before washing them
  • rechargeable batteries (just swapped out my first round to recharge again -- awesome feeling!)
  • bringing our own bags to the grocery store
  • trying not to use plastic bags for produce
  • buying products packaged in as little plastic as possible (ie buying bulk)
  • installing exactly one compact fluorescent bulb
  • switching back to filtered tap water for the adults in the house (go Brita!) now that I am not nursing anymore -- we still get glass-bottled spring water delivery for the kids in absence of any response from any public DC agency re: hormones in our water

The biggest psychological barrier for me was going for the cloth rags. I had a mental block against adding any more laundry to our lives. And storage of both clean and dry rags is still a work in progress. But I had about 75,000 rags already since I am such a huge packrat.

I've also been freecycling, giving away, and selling unused stuff so we can better utilize our space. I totally think that organization is a green move -- if you know where things are, you can use them more efficiently, negating the need to consume more. In the case of our kids' toys, when I rotate them, they seem new again. In the case of art supplies, when I delve into the giant pile of packratted materials in our closet, wala! we have fun new projects. In the case of my clothes, once I gave away all of my pregnancy and nursing clothes, I could actually see through the mess of my closet to my favorite soft t-shirts and hoodie sweatshirts I was going to wear every day anyways....

Things I want to do but haven't acted on for a variety of reasons (help me!):

  • composting our wet scraps/getting our recycling tumbler assembled and working/setting up a system
  • bringing containers to restaurants when we go so we don't get disposable or even (gasp!) styrofoam packaging for our takeout
  • meal planning at least a week out -- reducing food waste, saving $$
  • getting or making cloth bags to avoid using plastic produce bags

I'm sharing all this stuff on the off chance it helps someone else with an easy aha! for how to go a little greener, while saving a little time or money. I've already shared some of these links, but here again are a smattering of blogs I read that give me inspiration when trying to green our lives:

Green as a Thistle, Going Green, Fake Plastic Fish, Crunchy Chicken, Little Blog in the Big Woods, No Impact Man, Living Plastic Free, Organicmania, Save Your Trash, Tiny Choices Read more!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Faux Food Haiku

Loved Tara Parker-Pope's recent contest mimicking Michael Pollan's haiku introducing his new book In Defense of Food:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

The Well winner? Out of 1000 entries...

Ate plants. A big heap. Still hungry.

(...via the Ethicurean in December, also see edible San Francisco's Pollan haiku which notably references offal meats).

And since I couldn't get enough, one last cat haiku in the traditional 17 syllable structure:

The food in my bowl

Is old, and more to the point

Contains no tuna.

(from a 2005 Haiku Slam reported on here in SFGate).

Read more!

Hey Ladies! Get Funky

No, really, this one is just for my women friends right around the anniversary of Roe vs Wade and all.

Apparently there's been a lot of press about Britney Spears getting photographed with her, um, crimson tide exposed. You should just stop now if that image makes your morning coffee do a little lurch. Mom, you're not going to want to read this one.

Anyhoo, I just loved Maureen Cho's retort to the paparazzi's new low... and managed to end up reading this astonishing paean to free-flowing (both items via Jezebel, the latter from a commenter)...and ended up with a lifelong resource in this, a guide to Auntie Flow euphemisms that I found via my mad googling skills. The tamest is probably Rebooting the Ovarian Operating System.

Enjoy. And as long as I am on the topic, check out this enviro idea from Crunchy Chicken: the Diva Cup.

...and the title is from a Beastie Boys song off Paul's Boutique. Read more!

Skeeter Fantasy Coming Soon...

Take a bite out of me and die (a lengthy, torturous, inexplicably aware death). Okay, only that last part was bitter, wishful thinking.

Apparently, scientists are trying to find a molecule that will scramble mosquito metabolisms into hanging onto toxins after biting us, ensuring their swift demise. They're just a step away from developing the next weapon in the 'safe insecticide' arsenal (which naturally has to be an oxymoron, because we all know that Skin So Soft and its worthless ilk is just a red flag-waving tease for the everlasting run of the mosquitoes we've got in these parts, and I'm pretty sure that we were supposed to be able to frolic in fields of DDT with nary a concern, but c'mon, don't you ever want to go camping again?!). The hitch is that for this plan to work, someone's got to get bitten.

You might end up taking one for the team in the form of an itchy bite (or West Nile, malaria or dengue fever, depending on where you live) but you'd be doing your part to redeem summer. And in this swampy region, no matter how much DEET, herbal aromatics or smoke coil you invest in, any reduction in the number of bites is bound to be an improvement. Take that, Asian tiger 'I spit at your traditional dusk feeding times' freakishly workaholic mosquitoes.

"The whole community would essentially become one big mosquito trap," [the researcher] said. Over time, mosquito populations and disease rates would both decline. "It would be a group effort that in the long run could have a huge impact." Science Daily, 1/18/07

Zippity doo dah! There's hope for hammocks!

In perhaps related news, research shows that aggression is rewarded by dopamine in the brain, the same motivator as for sex, food, and drugs. Celebrity Death Match between giant mosquito and a Roomba-riding, barbecue-tong wielding grillmeister, anyone?

Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
photographer Jim Gathany
Read more!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chucking Catalogs

About five years ago I compulsively saved every mailing label from every catalog and every solicitation for credit card offers (and every privacy notice from anywhere on earth) and sent back a form letter with our address/data asking to be taken off their mailing list. I'd say a full year of anality resulted in my putting a finger in the dike, or at least giving them some kind of finger. Sad to say, once I had children, there was no time for keeping up my bit part against the onslaught of junk mail. Online ordering? So easy. And thus the catalogs returned....

Happy to say it's super easy to take care of the catalogs now. Go to Catalog Choices -- right now -- and sign up. Then bookmark the site and return in about 3 weeks when you have saved the address labels from a bunch of catalogs. I just removed myself from 28 mailing lists! So satisfying and only 20 minutes.

Now I just have to stop consuming. Because if you identify yourself as a consumer of a company's products, they will, justifiably, market to you. Repeating to self: reduce, reuse, recycle. Local and handmade, baby. Read more!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I can't get this out of my mind.

It's from Plastic Ocean, an article about, well, more than what kind of bag you use to transport your groceries. A sailor from Southern California named Charles Moore came across a vast dead zone of trash teeming with plastic (including discarded kayaks) when he went off course while racing. He was so aghast at what he found that now he runs a foundation that sends expeditions out to do oceanic research and educates the public about plastic pollution in the ocean. The Garbage Patch in the Pacific he discovered (similar dead zones are found across the globe) is twice the size of Texas.

The picture above (by Gregg Segal) pretty much captures the egregious impact of plastic on marine life. I'm sure you all have heard that the teeny tiny plastic crap we give out as party favors ends up choking baby seals or that the plastic carriers for your six-pack may end up strangling tiny otters as they grow, or, as it turns out, grossly misshaping a sea turtle. What the picture doesn't capture is how omnipresent plastic is in our lives (start looking around your house -- and start trying to even minimally reduce your plastics usage and you'll become truly alarmed) not to mention how dangerous that plastic can be. The BPA lining our cans that may slowly migrate into our food? Try boatloads of tiny wayward particles of plastic called nurdles that each could bring a toxic load of persistent organic pollutants right to your dinner table...

"The word itself—nurdles—sounds cuddly and harmless, like a cartoon character or a pasta for kids, but what it refers to is most certainly not. Absorbing up to a million times the level of POP pollution in their surrounding waters, nurdles become supersaturated poison pills. They’re light enough to blow around like dust, to spill out of shipping containers, and to wash into harbors, storm drains, and creeks. In the ocean, nurdles are easily mistaken for fish eggs by creatures that would very much like to have such a snack. And once inside the body of a bigeye tuna or a king salmon, these tenacious chemicals are headed directly to your dinner table. One study estimated that nurdles now account for 10 percent of plastic ocean debris."

--Susan Casey, Plastic Ocean in Best Life Magazine

Article above via Fake Plastic Fish, a blog about living plastic-free, and a pretty fascinating read in and of itself.

And now, since it is incredibly difficult to avoid plastic even when you try pretty hard, I thought I would allow a marine mammal to cheer us on up. Thanks, Treehugger, for the link. Hope we can all do Flipper the favor of examining the plastics in our lives to see just how essential we think they are....

Dolphin Play Bubble Rings Read more!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fishing for Absolution

Organizing the abode and eating well. Valid goals. I am sure that you already got the news that wild salmon is well beyond the reach of most middle class Americans better for you but like me, may occasionally be unable to present a cogent argument as to why this is so.

Environmental Working Group to the rescue once again! Always buy wild salmon because it's got less mercury than farmed salmon, which is fed scary bits of other animals and/or genetically modified monocrops blecch has problematic polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs which have no safe ingestion level. For us on the East Coast, this means no salmon if you want to eat local. Alas, there is no wild Atlantic salmon anymore....

Other, more affordable good choices? I was just pondering this at the fish case yesterday when I could not for the life of me remember whether I should buy that cheap frozen multi-pack of orange roughy (hah! I knew I shouldn't get it! Not sustainably fished and high in mercury! But I had to go back and look at my November 11 post). I really will print out a wallet card that has all of the permutations I care about on it soon, but until then, repeat after me: mahi-mahi, haddock, tilapia, flounder and sole are not only low in PCBs, but mercury as well. And you can't go wrong with a can of sardines. Obviously, women who haven't had kids yet (nasty chemicals accumulate in your body and then go right into your infant when you breastfeed), pregnant/lactating women, and small children need to be especially careful about which fish they eat.


Via Baby Toolkit awhile back, the word of the day is...

a hasty tidying of the house between the time you see a neighbor coming and the time she knocks on the door. (Informal English).

Now, what might we call it if, say, a person knew that a good friend was visiting soon and, eh, decided to attend to pressing etymological matters and researching paper-making techniques rather than tidying? Even if the host in question had an unrelenting head cold?? Hmmmm? (Languorhovelling? Procrastisqualoration?)

Love this essay on gratitude, from Chris Glass, about unexpected hospitality and pleasure. Suffice it to say, that, amongst other things, the author learns about the joys of having an unwrapping "compadre." And I think he might extrapolate that togetherness trumps the downside of squalor. Wild salmon lox or no. Read more!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wake Up and Smell the Huckabee Top Donor List!

Via BBLinks, a surefire way to keep your New Year's resolution of waking up at the crack of dawn: a wireless alarm clock that pours real money from your bank account into the most detestable nonprofit or political campaign you can imagine, every second after you hit the snooze bar. It's called SnūzNLūz. Awesome.

...from the company's website:

  • Are you a butcher? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to PETA
  • Are you a republican? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to the ACLU!
  • Are you a land developer? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to the Wilderness Society!
You get the drift.

(Huckabee could set his snooze bar to support publicity efforts for the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine's new booklet, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, which was designed to give the public a heads-up that creationism belongs in our curriculum about as much as the Tooth Fairy's memoir. via ScienceNow) Read more!

Beckham Bends Brain

Cockroaches the world over are cheering the carbon creation of LA fuckwit footballer David Beckham and wife Victoria, who have won the dubious honor of the world's most enormous carbon footprint. For the second time.

What's a jet-setting celeb couple to do? Carbon offsets are trendy and lucrative these days, but the Federal Trade Commission's set to study the industry to see if the companies involved are legit (story via NPR). For example, were the companies already going to reduce their carbon emissions anyways to, say, save money, before they double dipped by selling that puppy? Are they selling offsets to multiple bidders? Should the Beckhams consider paring down their fleet of their fifteen cars in addition to turning to professional greenwashers?

Treehugger's got comprehensive advice for carefully offsetting carbon use -- and notes that offsets are not a Get Out of Jail Free card for a planet needing to slam on the brakes of consumption and warming -- plus a wealth of background info, from the climate-neutrality of Syriana to a comparative look at carbon offset entities, non-profit and for-profit alike (via Ecobusinesslinks.

In case you're curious where the presidential candidates stand on Posh's flight plans enviro issues, here, here, and here, are green election guides. Read more!