Archive for July 2010

Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Seafood   2 comments

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her new book. I’m taking the challenge and posting my results here. The first part was a self-exam, the second was about shopping, the third was about fruits and vegetables, the fourth was about meat, and the fifth is about seafood. I haven’t read her book, so the challenge is limited to what she posted in her blog. This part of the challenge is just me and not my husband since he avoids almost all seafood. To be honest, I don’t eat nearly as much fish and seafood as I would like, either.

At the same time that Alexandra posted the seafood challenge, Marion Nestle was doing a series on the Alaskan salmon fishery in her blog, Food Politics (June 18, 19, 21), which I found very informative. Since the salmon fishery in the Pacific Northwest was closed a couple of years ago, and Atlantic salmon is on the Monterey Bay Aquairum’s red list (not to mention that I’ve heard Atlantic salmon are died pink since they are farmed and therefore don’t have the characteristic pink flesh), the only option remaining is Alaska. So far, the Alaskan fishery has managed to remain “sustainable”, but I am concerned that with all of the pressure it will eventually fail. As a result I try to avoid eating salmon at all (reduce the demand, reduce the harvest to create supply).

The first step of the seafood challenge is research. I do my research passively in that I keep the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Guide in my purse. I refer to it before I buy any seafood at the store or order in a restaurant. The exception is sushi, but I see that they’ve now put out a guide for sushi, so I’m printing it out as I type this (and printing out the updated West Cost Guide as well since the one in my purse was a little out of date). This guide is primarily focused on ocean health but it does have a notation indicating seafood with contaminant concerns. I really need to do more research into the contaminant concerns before I get pregnant.

Like I said, I do refer to the list before buying or ordering seafood. In the store, if it isn’t on the green list I won’t buy it. Period. In restaurants the server often doesn’t know they type of fish if it isn’t on the menu (“white fish”? which white fish?), and they never know how it was caught. I’m always nervous about being a “problem diner” so I rarely push the issue and often just don’t order the seafood dish no matter how delicious it looks. And then there’s sushi, which until now I have eaten without consulting my conscience. I love tuna sushi, but unfortunately most tuna is not eco-friendly and it is contaminated. Life without the occasional spicy tuna roll is hard to imagine, though.

Posted July 9, 2010 by mayakey in environment, food, shopping

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Bare Floors, For Now   5 comments

At the end of the week last week we finally closed on our house. And what was the first order of business? Ripping out the old carpet.

When we started our house hunting we knew that we would be replacing any flooring other than tile or hardwood, so it was one of the things that we considered when deciding how much we would offer on a given house. We didn’t look at houses that were flipped so that we were less likely to be in a situation of ripping out new flooring (that would have been such a waste). The age of the flooring would have little to do with my desire to replace it.

Here are my reasons for removing the existing flooring:

  1. Carpet traps particulate matter and as a result may harbor residual concentrations of heavy metals, pesticides, or other chemicals of concern. Without knowledge of what the previous owners may have tracked into the house, I have no way of knowing what my future baby may be exposed to when crawling around the house.
  2. “Conventional” carpeting offgasses volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are toxic and/or carcinogenic (guess what that new carpet smell is). I don’t really know how long carpet continues to offgass. When I did some internet research a while back for a friend I found somewhere that it takes approximately 10 years for the carpet and carpet pad to finish offgassing; and I found somewhere else that carpet and carpet pad never stop offgassing because by the time the materials of construction have stopped offgassing they have started to break down, which releases more VOCs into the air. I don’t know what the truth is and I don’t care; I prefer to just avoid “conventional” carpet altogether.
  3. Vinyl linoleum is PVC and laminate flooring may contain formaldehyde. (See my Making Scones post about PVC; I should just do a post about PVC so that linking is easier) Both of those compounds have potential indoor air issues due to offgassing. Absolutely got to go. I would like make our house as PVC-free as possible (The windows may well have vinyl frames, and that is the one source of vinyl that I don’t anticipate removing right now since the windows are otherwise good windows.)
  4. Carpet can also provide shelter for unwelcome bugs, like chiggers. I had a friend who had a chigger problem that even repeated bug bombing couldn’t eliminate. I don’t want to bug bomb the house since we will soon start a family, so the carpet has got to go.
  5. Old carpet is just gross.

Our new house, thankfully has tile on approximately 1/3 of the floor area, including the two bathrooms, so that makes our job a little easier. Number 3 above is moot since there is no linoleum or laminate flooring. And number 4 above becomes more important because the house has been vacant (of humans anyway) for two years.

When I first started pulling up the carpet, I was second guessing myself vigorously. The carpet was still in good shape, and so I worried that I was making the wrong decision. But after finding a few stains and dirty spots I regained my conviction. There is now a pile of rolled up carpet and carpet pad segments waiting for transport to the carpet recycler (more on that later). Some of the formerly carpeted rooms are now just showing the concrete slab, and some have this horrible plastic-looking fake parquet flooring that is well glued to the concrete. As much as I would like to remove it, I think that may be pushing the limits of the practically doable.

Posted July 6, 2010 by mayakey in home

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Freedom Isn’t Free   Leave a comment

“Freedom isn’t free” is a phrase usually used in reference to the sacrifices of our soldiers throughout history. Not to take anything away from those who have served our country in the military, but I’d like to recognize other people without whose efforts and sacrifices we would not be a free state.

  • Civil rights activists today and throughout history. Freedom is embodied in the name. These are the people who have fought (peacefully and not-so-peacefully), and sometimes died or had their lives devastated, in the name of protecting human rights and the rights granted to us in our Bill of Rights. Most people focus on the civil rights movement in the middle of the last century, but the fight to retain our civil rights and make sure everyone is included continues to this day in many forms. When we stop fighting for our civil rights, we lose them; so let’s keep up the good work.
  • Conscientious representatives and regulators who have provided the framework for our governments (at all levels) to protect the citizenry and promote stability. I don’t know about you but anarchy doesn’t sound like true freedom to me. From the broad laws found in the Constitution and Bill of Rights down to local government noise ordinances and the like, these just laws and rules help us to live peacefully with stability that allows for personal and economic growth. The rule of law in our country is something that sets us apart from much of the world, and for me anyway is a source of great pride.
  • Voters and active citizens. The freedoms that we enjoy would not exist today if it weren’t for an active citizenry that takes responsibility. I could only wish Americans would be a little bit more active. In order to enjoy true freedom, there are small sacrifices that must be made by everyone. Those small sacrifices include voting, being educated about current affairs, writing/calling government representatives, following just laws, and generally looking out for one’s neighbor.

Remember that without each of us doing our part individually, the whole does not function.

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” –George Bernard Shaw

Posted July 4, 2010 by mayakey in musings, quotes

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Diet and Lifestyle Changes   Leave a comment

This week during the initial appointment with my new naturopathic doctor, I had a revelation about myself. She was going over my new patient intake form, verifying information, when we got to the supplements section. I take a women’s multivitamin, and that’s it. When she asked if I take anything else, I responded, “No, I don’t like to take things, except for short specific durations. I’d rather change my diet and lifestyle.” Then I paused. “I guess that makes me a little different than the average American.”

I never thought about it that way before. What is the attraction to taking a pill every day when making a change to diet and lifestyle could make the problem go away completely? I don’t know. I hadn’t realized that my path has taken me so far that I don’t know the answer to that question. The last time I took something was the low dose antibiotic that I took for acne for a while in college. That experience taught me a lot (and now embarrasses me). I finally realized that the antibiotic was making the problem worse, not better, and that all of the topical creams weren’t doing anything at all. Improvement came after making some attitude changes, and I’ve never looked back.

I admit, I like to encourage people to make changes, to examine how psychology affects physiology, and to take charge of their lives and health. It is something that I feel very strongly about, on a personal and intellectual level. I don’t want to offend anyone, but sometimes my tongue gets tired of me biting it.

Posted July 2, 2010 by mayakey in health