Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's not safe in the water.

First, while buying my organic soy, extra-hot, no whip, gingerbread steamer, I was reading in the New York Times about how dangerous drinking water has become, and how outdated laws to regulate drinking water are... then in my "Peaceful Daily" email, I see this article: (note: this does not make me feel peaceful)
The 7 foods experts won't eat
by Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief, PREVENTION, on Tue Nov 24, 2009 11:15am PST 1045

How healthy (or not) certain foods are—for us, for the environment—is a hotly debated topic among experts and consumers alike, and there are no easy answers. But when Prevention talked to the people at the forefront of food safety and asked them one simple question—“What foods do you avoid?”—we got some pretty interesting answers. Although these foods don’t necessarily make up a "banned” list, as you head into the holidays—and all the grocery shopping that comes with it—their answers are, well, food for thought:

1. Canned Tomatoes

The expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

(I don't eat alot of canned tomatoes, but my question is: how many restaurants avoid canned tomatoes when making sauce... my guess NONE)

2. Corn-Fed Beef

The expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming

The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. More money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Salatin.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers' markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It's usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don't see it, ask your butcher.

(Good News! I don't eat beef at all! One I don't have to worry about! Now, I should look into my husband's diet? Probably.)

3. Microwave Popcorn

The expert: Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group,

The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

(I MUCH prefer popping my own popcorn, it tastes fresher, you can flavor it more easily, and it is cheaper. I did have some microwave popcorn at my parent's house over Thanksgiving... but that will be the last time! Oh, and by the way... microwave popcorn is NOT takes the same amount of time.)

4. Nonorganic Potatoes

The expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board

The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation's most popular vegetable—they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

(This one is tough. Organic potatoes are hard to find. Also, I love French Fries. And I am SURE that no place I order french fries from is using organic potatoes. Whole Foods, you price-gouging wonderland, you will have your shot at me again soon, I presume!)

5. Farmed Salmon

The expert: David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.

The problem: Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. "It's that bad." Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

(Have not been eating alot of fish since I got pregnant, but this one is good to know. It's tough when you have to worry about mercury and whether it's farmed or wild. Sheesh, and it's all already so expensive! I think flaxseed will continue to be my go-to for Omega-3s)

6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones

The expert: Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society

The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. "When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract," says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. "There's not 100% proof that this is increasing cancer in humans," admits North. "However, it's banned in most industrialized countries."

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

(Luckily, our friendly Trader Joe's has organic milk for less than $6 a gallon. One gallon usually lasts us the week. Here is one more I'm doing well with!)

7. Conventional Apples

The expert: Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods

The problem: If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don't develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it's just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. "Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers," he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples. If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them first.

(This one is also tough. Organic apples are only around during local apple season. I guess I'll try to find another source - or try my best to eat more seasonal produce.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Year's Resolution

While I have been reading like crazy lately, I want to be sure I keep it up. So, I have taken note of this list from the Washington Post - their top ten:

AMERICAN RUST, by Philipp Meyer (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95). This powerful novel about two poor young men caught up in the murder of a homeless man scrapes beneath today's economic headlines to show us a community corroded by poverty and despair. -- Ron Charles

A GATE AT THE STAIRS, by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, $25.95). Profound reflections on marriage and parenthood, racism and terrorism, and especially the baffling, hilarious, brutal initiation to adult life. -- Ron Charles

THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE, by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely (Knopf, $28.95). Although it can be read as a simple romance, this is a richly complicated work. Masterfully translated, spellbindingly told, a resounding confirmation that Orhan Pamuk is one of the great novelists of his generation. -- Marie Arana

THE STALIN EPIGRAM, by Robert Littell (Simon & Schuster, $26). In what may be his finest novel, Littell dramatizes the horrific events that followed after the great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam wrote a 16-line epigram that attacked the all-powerful Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. -- Patrick Anderson

WOLF HALL, by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt, $27). A brilliant portrait of a society in the throes of disorienting change, anchored by a penetrating character study of Henry VIII's formidable adviser Thomas Cromwell. -- Wendy Smith

FAMILY PROPERTIES: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, by Beryl Satter (Metropolitan, $30). A penetrating examination of financial discrimination. The most important book yet written on the black freedom struggle in the urban North. -- David J. Garrow

HALF THE SKY: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Knopf, $27.95). Opens our eyes to an enormous humanitarian issue and does so with exquisitely crafted prose and sensationally interesting material. This is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed. -- Carolyn See

POPS: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30). An exceptional biography of, in Teachout's lovely phrase, "a major-key artist." -- Louis Bayard

STITCHES: A Memoir, by David Small (Norton, $24.95). A shockingly candid illustrated memoir of one family's legacy of anger and repression and sadism. -- Michael Sims

A STRANGE EVENTFUL HISTORY: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families, by Michael Holroyd (Farrar Straus Giroux, $40). A completely delicious and wickedly entertaining biography of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, the queen and king of 19th-century English theater. -- Michael Dirda

Have other suggestions? If not, I will try to see how many I can read from this list and I'll report back.

*For more ideas, visit the complete list:

Friday, December 11, 2009


quick·en (kwkn)
v. quick·ened, quick·en·ing, quick·ens
1. To make more rapid; accelerate.
2. To make alive; vitalize.
3. To excite and stimulate; stir: Such stories quicken the imagination.
4. To make steeper.
1. To become more rapid. See Synonyms at speed.
2. To come or return to life: "And the weak spirit quickens" (T.S. Eliot).
3. To reach the stage of pregnancy when the fetus can be felt to move.

Ahh... quickening - those first fluttery moments when you are aware that there is life inside you. I had already seen her twice on the ultrasound, but it was so reassuring to feel her - like a butterfly or a bird lightly flapping its wings and tapping at the walls of its confinement.

The doctor said it was too early to feel anything. She was wrong. I felt the same movements under the same types of conditions and same time of day for weeks 14 to 20.

But now, the little one is growing stronger. Sometimes still a bird, but more often it feels like little popcorn kicks - pop, pop! pop, pop!

I am sure that there will be times when it is uncomfortable and painful, so for now, I'm just enjoying the knowledge that she is there, growing steadily.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wishes, Dreams, Future and Past...

Ah, my birthday... how I love it so. Reconnecting with friends, spending time with loved ones, and feeling the love... so much love.

I woke up to this beautiful photo above, with the text attached:
Hope your day has had a great start!

Here is a photo that I took in Barcelona, especially with you in mind. I saw the sculpture and thought of you. And I thought I could send it to you when you were with child. So here it is, birthday and mommy-dom, all in one this year.

So, they stand at the entrance to Palau Reial in Pedrables. No, you are not a queen. And the baby is a boy, I think. That cannot be helped. We didn't know then what we know now. But I like how they are having a long, very positive look out, at the world that lays ahead of them. This reminds me of you. In their case, it is a lush and green and gorgeous garden of serenity and calm. With a note of modernity, if you look for it. And the whole city sits just beyond.

So I wish you, for you birthday, a lush and green and calm world, that has the comforts of modernity and always a reminder to what has passed. Because what we have seen helps to make us who we are. And of all the people I know, you TOTALLY get that.

Have a great day! I miss you lots!
She captures so completely what this birthday feels like: the comforts of the future and the remembrance of the past. I am so hopeful and excited for our baby girl to be born, but I have a remarkably heavy heart. I knew that I would miss my grandmother - miss her lovely cards and the annual birthday check. But with the passing of my sister-in-law's mother just two days ago, a woman who was a fantastic grandmother to their 3 young children, I am both humbled by my good fortune of having my grandmother for so long, and the knowledge that our little one will -God Willing- have my parents for many years to come. So I will go forward into this year with hope, with the knowledge that our loved ones are so precious.

But I'm not here to bring this celebration down, I am here to express my gratitude to all of my friends for all the love. I love the love...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BirdQueen told me to...

Reposted from my dear BirdQueen's site:
I really love her post about being grateful. I think it is so important to be grateful for what you have, even in the face of all the things you don't.

I am extremely grateful for so much.

First, I am so grateful that after 34 very long years of searching for a kind man, I finally found one that is so well-suited for me, and shockingly loves me as much as I love him. I know our lives are not perfect, but I can deal with anything if he is by my side.

I have a joke, that single women of any age need four things: 1) a phenomenal best friend or group of friends, 2) a dog or other source of affection and unconditional love, 3) a vibrator or some other source of pleasure, and 4) a masseuse or some other source of non-sexual touch. I feel extremely grateful that I have so many friends that can help me find these things - should I ever need them: 1) I have two amazing best friends 2) I have Ben and soon Sara to visit or borrow should I get depressed 3) I have Jeanette and you to guide me should I ever need help choosing a non-human aid of some variety and 4) For now, I have yoga, my husband, and a growing number of strangers touching me. I am very much looking forward to years of cuddling with the new little one in my life.

I am grateful I have a wonderful job that gives me a great sense of purpose and I hope I will figure out a way to continue to develop my intellect and my ambition in balance with my other interests and family life.

I have a wonderful extended family that reminds me of how far I have come or how far I have left to go - depending on the day. And that has been extremely supportive of me emotionally, financially, and intellectually.

And I have something else. Something that very few people realize they have. I have dozens of people all over the city that greet me, check in with how I am doing, and make my everydays more joyful. So to the doorman at the Four Seasons, the cashier at Starbucks, the cafeteria lady, my hairdresser, my priests, my mother's secretary, etc, etc: to all of you... thank you for caring for me. Thank you for asking about me. Thank you for being so nice and making my life better - a few minutes at a time.