Thursday, April 30, 2009

Very uncool

Egypt ordered the slaughter of 350,000 pigs over the Swine Flu - even though eating pork has nothing to do with the spread of the Swine Flu. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have indicated influenza is not passed through food. This is very uncool. Calling all PETA members...

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precautionary measure against the spread of swine flu even though no cases have been reported here yet, the Health Ministry said. The move immediately provoked resistance from pig farmers. At one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, farmers refused to cooperate with Health Ministry workers who came to slaughter the animals and the workers left without carrying out the government order. “It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country’s slaughterhouses,” Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly told reporters after a Cabinet meeting with President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt’s overwhelmingly Muslim population does not eat pork due to religious restrictions. But the animals are raised and consumed by the Christian minority, which some estimates put at 10 percent of the population.Health Ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman estimated there were between 300,000-350,000 pigs in Egypt. All major news outlets are reporting that it is ok to eat pork and that the virus is not spread through eating pork.

Cleaning products don't need to be products at all!

A loyal blog reader (who may also be my sister and best friend) just alerted me to a great interactive up on MSN about the cleaning power of common household items like lemons, essential oils, and salt.

Natural solutions to everyday quandaries + Cleaning = Two of my favorite things!

Who knew baking soda could remove those stubborn tea stains?

(thnx Bec)

speaking of proud...

Guess what's starting to bloom?!

At least eleven picture-perfect peonies to come!

Quite proud of myself right now...

In the most recent installment of Martha Rose Shulman's online series for The New York Times, “Recipes for Health,” she suggests 12 staple foods for a healthy pantry. I stock all 12 as well as most of the other suggestions/options and while I know this is one of a googleplex of published opinions on the topic, I can't help but feel good about my choices. Here is Shulman's list:

Romaine lettuce
1 or 2 green vegetables
Extra virgin olive oil
Rice (or another grain)
Canned tomatoes
Parmesan cheese
Canned chickpeas

Other options: Canned tuna, Firm tofu, Dijon mustard, Plain organic yogurt, Good whole grain bread, Corn tortillas, Nuts (such as walnuts and almonds), Fruit: berries, bananas, citrus, apples

Anything you would add? I'd say some frozen veggies, raisins, dried fruit, and granola. There are lots of other great suggestions in the reader comments too.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Case against red meat continues to build

The NY Times published an excellent article about the results of the decade-long study directed by Rashmi Sinha, a nutritional epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, on the effects of red meat consumption, published in the March 23 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine. The bottom line: those who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to suffer from heart disease and cancer and die sooner than people who consumed much smaller amounts of these foods. Epidemiologist, Dr. Barry Popkin, weighs in on the personal and environmental risks:

"...people should eat a hamburger only once or twice a week instead of every day, a small steak once a week instead of every other day, and a hot dog every month and a half instead of once a week... Anyone who worries about global well-being has yet another reason to consume less red meat. Dr. Popkin said that a reduced dependence on livestock for food could help to save the planet from the ravaging effects of environmental pollution, global warming and the depletion of potable water... “In the United States,” Dr. Popkin wrote, “livestock production accounts for 55 percent of the erosion process, 37 percent of pesticides applied, 50 percent of antibiotics consumed, and a third of total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface water.”

Learn more here and here.

Bee:1, Dog:0

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

love people who love squirrels

Buzzfeed just posted this great video showing just how much squirrels can accomplish with a little help from humans. It's a little long so... highlights are about 1:30, 2:00, and 3:45.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Ahh... looks like we're going to have another "hot April day" today. I guess that's normal now. Hot April days. On our ride home from FedEx Field yesterday, Redskins Radio commentator Steve Czaban said this puzzling phrase as if April is supposed to be as warm as August. Just doesn't sound quite right to me...

Today's forecast: High of 92 degrees Fahrenheit. If we reach it, that would be a record high, according to What is the "normal" high, you ask? 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Just saying.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Peony Progress

I know this isn't as exciting to everyone else as it is for me but... man, am I proud of my peony plants!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In completely unrelated news...

A loyal blog reader just sent me the following awesometastical commercial because, well, it features singing animals.


Rachel Leven wrote a great investigative post for Slate, Green Eggs and Plastic, regarding the reasoning behind the use of plastic in the organic food market. From the article:
...And the ultimate question: Why does organic food involve so much plastic packaging? Doesn't that defeat the purpose? Yes, it does...

...Enter the plastic. Thanks to the USDA's seal, hippies and Luddites were no longer the major consumers of organic food. The game had changed. Organic shoppers of the mid-millennium now cared less about the sustainability and ethical concerns surrounding organics. Instead, they were concerned with the quality, healthfulness, and (unproven) nutritional benefit. Organics also entered the market as luxury (read: expensive) items, which meant consumers expected more convenience. In this environment, the biggest advantage of plastic cartons was literally clear. See-through packaging revolutionized the egg industry by eliminating the tiring task of opening the carton's lid to check the eggs for quality. The result was comforting and easy transparency, promising a superior product. The plastic carton itself is neither better nor worse for the egg...

Obviously the organic trade isn't the only agricultural sector utilizing plastic packaging and there are plenty of perks to doing so - like guarding against bugs, oxygen, and extending shelf life therefore enabling mass consumption - but at some point branding comes into play and that is why I say: Question everything, folks. Are beautifully packaged "organic" eggs from across the country in any way better than those from the local farmer who can't afford the organic certification label? Probably not. Think globally. Act locally.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day, Folks!!

Now get out there and hug a tree! Or if you prefer to do something with a greater impact:

1.) Go vegetarian - even if only just for today.
2.) Become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, receive ten trees, and plant 'em!
3.) Support emissions reduction initiatives with a donation to offset your carbon footprint.
4.) Help an endangered species. Two of my faves: and WWF Adoption/Gift Center.
5.) And an oldie but goodie: If you see a piece of litter, pick it up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tips for a Greener Home

The media is so saturated with tips for going green (especially this week) that even I need a break from the climate change chatter so for now, let's just try and have a laugh. Click here or on the image above for tips and a slide show from *The Onion. I think tip number 9 is my favorite.

*Note to Mom: The Onion is a "fake news" organization. They aren't really suggesting that we use an innocent canary to detect carbon monoxide in the basement. Just saying. Read all about it on their wikipedia page.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I often tell people that eliminating meat from a few meals a week and purchasing a reusable water bottle are two of the simplest and best, eco-friendly decisions they can make. Without fail, I am quickly asked, "What's so bad about bottled water?" and then challenged with a question about the environmental cost of manufacturing my reusable bottle (or the "gas guzzler" within which it often resides). The answer: It's complicated.

In fact, questions such as these are the main reason Just Saying got started in the first place. This stuff is just too complicated to recite during dinner conversation. So thankfully, I can simply post the graphic above, tell you to click on it for a larger, more legible version, or refer you to this NY Times post by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris.

As for the "gas guzzler," well, let's just say I'm looking to trade it in.

cute idea...

Love this re-purposing. Whiskey barrels turned planters. Read about them in this Washington Post article.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Add it to the file...

We really do have to be aware of everything we put in, on and around our bodies these days, huh? I've posted about dangerous chemicals in skincare products and preached against bottled water, but have never touched upon the widely researched dangers of chemicals found in the plastics and the dangers association with their absorption. And since the most recent danger seems to be a connection between the phthalates used to make plastics more pliable (think rubber duck toys and water/baby bottles) and childhood obesity... well... we better take a look at this.

Jennifer Lee, for the NY Times' City Room, offers a great overview of the latest research and talks to leading researchers involved with the Growing Up Healthy in East Harlem" study in her latest post:

...The chemicals in question are called phthalates, which are used to to make plastics pliable and in personal care products. Phthalates, which are absorbed into the body, are a type of endocrine disruptor — chemicals that affect glands and hormones that regulate many bodily functions. They have raised concerns as possible carcinogens for more than a decade, but attention over their role in obesity is relatively recent...

...The findings may presage a new approach to thinking about obesity — drawing environmental factors into a central part of the equation. “Most people think childhood obesity is an imbalance between how much they eat and how much they play,” Dr. Landrigan said. But he thinks the impact of endocrine disruptors on obesity could be more significant than many people believe. “Most people think it’s marginal,” he said, paling in comparison with diet and exercise...

These phthalates are EVERYWHERE, folks. From vinyl siding to perfume. Ugh.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bad News

The Rodenator. Very, very bad news for squirrels. Especially in Spokane, Washington. This machine pumps propane and oxygen into tunnels used by burrowing animals and then sends an electric spark AND THE TUNNEL AND ANY CREATURES INSIDE IT EXPLODE.

"The shock waves kill the squirrels and collapse their tunnels - but in a humane way."

"There's nowhere to run... and nowhere to hide from the Rodenator Pro."

Oh. My. God.

Good News

Maryland legislators approved a bill requiring thousands of homes in "critical areas" near the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries, and coastal bays in Maryland, to install more costly nitrogen-removing septic systems in order to keep the polluting nutrient out of rivers, The Baltimore Sun reports.

While realtors and home builders aren't thrilled about the bill, environmentalists certainly are. The best news is that the state even has about $18 million in grants to aid voluntary septic upgrades.

Next on the agenda: farm fertilizer and sewage treatment plants.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

sweet, sustainable seaweed

The weekend WSJ Magazine published a great tidbit reminding us of the health benefits and availability of an often wasted food: Seaweed. From the article:

Sure the new publicity is focused on health benefits: it’s full of beta-carotene, vitamins B1 and B2 and might be an aid in cancer treatment. But perhaps the greatest value isn’t in helping the body fight fat or reducing cholesterol (it does both), instead it’s the start-to-finish experience of seaweed foraging.

Sun and rain produce the best land-lubber crops, but for seaweed foraging, the intense storms and high winds of April offer the greatest bounty: seaweed varieties in the spring are especially tender and flavorful. Search any exposed shoreline after a particularly high tide or a stout gale. Recently detached seaweed will be strewn across the sand.

I've only ever eaten seaweed cold and covered with some sort of sesame dressing but I'd be interested to try the varieties and recipes the WSJ suggests.

Monday, April 13, 2009

...and a side of feedlot remorse (of course)

Cartoon by Steve Kelley

Costa Rica

As always, Thomas L. Friedman's recent column left me feeling informed and hopeful. (No) Drill, Baby, Drill highlights Costa Rica's efforts and policies to protect biodiversity by placing one minister in charge of energy, environment, water, mines, and natural resources and by implementing the "payment for environmental services" strategy. Did I mention the nation banned oil drilling and get 95% of their energy from renewables (hydro-electric, wind and geo-thermal)?

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bats are the new frogs

The Washington Post reports some devastating news regarding the presence of what has been dubbed "white nose syndrome," a mysterious and deadly fungus responsible for the deaths of approximately one million bats in the Northeast, in Virginia caves and points south. From the article:

Bats, like the disappearing honeybees and frogs, play a critical role in the delicate balance of nature. A single bat will eat 50 to 100 percent of its body weight in insects in a single night. Kunz conservatively calculates that the million bats that have died would have consumed about 694 tons of insects in one year: the equivalent weight of about 11 Abrams M1 tanks.

"You take these bats away, there are a lot of unknowns," Kunz said. "What are these insects going to do that aren't being eaten? They can cause serious damage to crops, gardens and forests, further upsetting both the natural and human-altered ecosystems."

In one study of eight Texas counties, Kunz said, researchers found that if bats disappeared, farmers would have to spend as much as $1.2 million more on pesticides each year. That means more-expensive food, more chemicals in the food supply and the environment, and who knows what other cascading effects on the animals that depend on bats as a source of food or their guano for nutrition. "Eventually, there's a threshold that's going to be reached," Kunz said. "That's not going to recover."

It has yet to be determined how the disease is spreading, whether the bats are infecting one another, recreational cavers are carrying the spores, or some combination of the two. Experts are also trying to determine how the fungus, which is essentially just a skin irritant, leads to death:

The best hypothesis is that the fungus is somehow disturbing the bats, causing them to wake more often than usual. Each time they wake, they use 60 days of the fat reserves they need to make it through the winter. They might be waking up so often that they use up their fat stores and starve to death. That's why infected bats are seen in the daylight, emaciated and searching for food they won't find in the middle of winter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

taxing soda

Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., and Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. recently published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about the controversial debate of food taxes, specifically, the idea of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which "may be the single largest driver of the obesity epidemic."

The co-authors propose that taxing beverages containing HFCS and sugar, i.e. increasing the cost of these drinks, will decrease the demand for and the consumption of them, which encourages consumers to switch to more healthful beverages and reduce caloric intake.

I think I'm on board with this. Why shouldn't the government step in? But then again, I don't drink soda. If folks start blaming Peanut MnMs... well... that's another story.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Raising Kids & Tomatoes - by Rob Kasper

I just added this book to my recommendations list. Like so many others, it should have been there all along but I only just discovered it.

Raising Kids & Tomatoes, published back in 1998 by The Baltimore Sun, is a collection of columnist Rob Kasper's musings about food and family. It's delightfully sprinkled with recipes, food-lore, and all things Maryland (think crab cakes and ducks). Most stories/columns are less than three pages long so it is an easy book to explore at your leisure.

And although I am not a beer drinker, if you are, I highly recommend stopping by Rob's blog, Kasper on Tap.

Peony Progress

I know you've been on the edge of your seats so here you go:

I'd say the tallest stalk is about 12 inches. And in other gardening news - it turns out that the mystery plant (which was inherited from the previous owners, butchered by electricians, and salvaged by yours truly) is... well... this perfect specimen:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


With Easter just around the corner, I thought it was time to break into the bag of jelly beans that have been sitting at my desk since Jelly Belly was an official sponsor at an inaugural event I attended in January. Why would Jelly Belly sponsor an inaugural event, you ask? I'll tell you. Ronald Reagan. Huge jelly bean fan. So fond, in fact, that he is credited for the creation of the blueberry flavored bean. He wanted to serve red, white and blue ones at his own inaugural events. Go figure.

Anywho, back to the bag of beans at hand. The only word that comes to mind to describe this experience is: blehh!! (I'm borrowing it from a recent text message from my 13 year old sister)

It took a few samples before I discovered the legend on the back of the package and I'm not sure what's worse, eating a yellowish jelly bean thinking it will have some hint of lemon but instead tasting butter and salt? or knowing from the start that you are about to eat a gummy ball of HFCS that somehow tastes like buttered popcorn? Possibly one of the creepiest sensations I've ever experienced. But then again, I haven't tried peanut butter or jalapeno. I would love to meet the folks who participated in those focus groups.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Another image from the weekend:
The pier in St. Mary's County Maryland upon which I enjoyed early morning yoga, late evening sunsets, a fun photo shoot with family members near and dear to me, and an absolutely priceless sense of peace.

(thnx Carter fam)

Monday, April 6, 2009

"The Germinator"

I love this article that appeared in the NY Times last week. The dialogue about what to grow gave me a laugh and artichokes are to Michael Tortorello as asparagus is to me - although he is clearly more courageous. Also, there are some bright sides to the recession, huh? More time with friends and family, less careless consumption, and a potential 20% increase in first-time household food gardens.

And while we're talking about household gardens, here are a few early shots of mine. Hopefully I'll have some extra kale to leave on the doorsteps of justsaying supporters.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I let the boat do all the work. That's my secret.

I just recently returned from a lovely weekend getaway with the Carter family at their home in St. Mary's County and I have so much to share with you all but am too tired tonight so... for now I will just post this photo of the darling little *snapping turtle* that tried to give me Salmonella.

**UPDATE** I stand corrected. This little fellow is actually a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta). See comments for more details. Thnx, filatore.