Sunday, May 30, 2010

Confused about Cosmetics, Soaps, Sunscreens? Check out the Environmental Working Group DATABASE

"Pollution is not only an "environmental" issue, it's a public health issue. Learn about the health effects of toxic chemicals that we absorb through our water, food and the products that we use." EWG
The other day I spent hours on a site  learning about ingredients in common skin care products. You may have recently noticed in the news that the FDA says something normally good for us, Vitamin A, can cause trouble if we wear it on our skin in the sun.

"Recently available data from an FDA study indicate that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions (NTP 2009). This evidence is troubling because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens."
So  says Environmental Working Group.  That is a link to their sunscreen guide...Mommas especially read up on sunscreen for your children.  And might want to read Not so Sexy ..."A rose may be a rose. But that rose-like fragrance in your perfume may be something else entirely, concocted from any number of the fragrance industry’s 3,100 stock chemical ingredients, the blend of which is almost always kept hidden from the consumer."

I was already being careful with sunscreen having looked at the EWG sunscreen guide last year, but then realized one of my favorite  face washes and lotions also has Vitamin A in it. That product  has now been relegated to night time use only.   I started dragging  everything out of the  bathroom cabinet.  Even if a particular product has not been analyzed on the site, you can put in the ingredients and read about those on the Cosmetics Database .     You'll find products listed with their individual ingredients assessed.  Everything is linked and backed up with resources.

 Products get two scores.  One score  has to do with what they call DATA GAPS...some things aren't researched and if products have ingredients on which no study has been done, that is noted.  The other score is a 0-10  number to indicate safety  where 0 is desirable.  I was happy to see that ALOE VERA GEL is rated 0.  Neem Oil which is a great garden product but also used in cosmetics gets a 0 too.   I will let you look up the bad guys yourselves. Once you have figured out whether or not your shampoo, or toothpaste or skin cream is the right choice for you then you can compare radiation emissions on various brands of cell phones or check out water purity reports.   

Of course the obvious answer is to use fewer and simpler products.  There are catchy phrases and endorsements on many products that really don't  stand up to scrutiny. Some words that tend to lull us into feeling safe, "dermatologists-tested,"  "organic,"  or "natural,"  may not really be  trustworthy claims.  With no required safety testing companies can use a lot of chemicals  that can raise havoc with our health.  A little  label reading coupled with a little knowledge beautifully organized and you have a working example of the power of  information.

Consider printing up the Shopper's guide to Safe Cosmetics and carry it to the store with you ...and yes...I had to get my magnifying glass out to see some of this stuff, but I am glad I did.  What is PEG anyway?  And why should we avoid Methylchloroisothiazolinone? 

And now a little aside on last week's technology difficulties. On a whim I decided to see if the USB  port (I just learned that USB stands for "universal serial bus," so excuse me while I type that out in hopes of remembering that ) might just work and after repeated attempts last week to download pictures with no success.. the port put the info on the bus and  downloaded my snapshot of  my computer and the lotions I was investigating.  Maybe it was a vanity issue, how could my computer not download a picture of itself?

In the meatime, the VSC light and check engine light came on in my that got $$ fixed $$.  Good thing my computer hasn't crashed yet! 

Okay, out into the sun...Hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deep Water Oil Spill

"SPILL : to cause accidentally, or allow intentionally, to  fall, flow, or run out, usually with the result of losing or wasting; hence, to lose, or suffer to be scattered; as to spill water; to spill sand."    so says my 1959 blue hardbound Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

To lose, or suffer...there were eleven bronze hard hats at a Memorial Service today, Tuesday, May 25th, 2010.  Eleven men died in the April 20th,  Deepwater Horizon big rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

One barrel of oil is 42 gallons. I think of things I have spilled, running for rags to mop up the milk or the wine  or the ink.  Hurry, before it's all over everything.  Hurry, mop it up.  A quart of milk, a litre of wine...a small dark bottle of ink...Pelican Ink...that's the brand I spilled.   

The Pelicans fly over us here. They always lift my heart.  "Pelican alert," we call out to each other. "Pelican alert!" I think about the wetlands of the Gulf of Mexico.

Last year I took this picture of a mural on a wall in Monterey, California. 
It's a tall but worthy aspiration ~Protect All Life~and this mural is only focused on sea life.  There aren't even any really tiny not yet breathing on their own human babies pictured.  It's a good goal to think about; what can one do?  One me, one you, what can we do?  How to achieve the will as a people, as a culture, as an economy to prioritize taking care of what is?  Pick a realm, any realm, and apply this hope, this goal.

                                                 F I L L _______I N ________

                                                T H E _______B L A N K S __________

 Sustainable is a very popular word these days, and rightly so.  You know what it feels like to burn the candle at both ends?  You can do it once in a while and then rest up and restore yourself.  But if you are down to one or two candles and it's a long dark night,  maybe it's best to only burn one end at a time and only when you really need the light.  And if you are out in the woods, then you need to care for the flame because it's best not to unleash what we can't contain.

So the blowout prevention failed, the inspectors may have been watching porno or under the influence of crystal methamphetamine and now the big hope is piles of heavy mud with concrete on top of it,  a plan called  "TOP KILL."   

Maybe the oil will eventually get eaten up with DNA altered microbes.  How many  Alcanivorax borkumensis, these are little  rod-shaped bacteria that can eat and get energy from oil, could be safely introduced to the gulf?   That makes me nervous.  Here we are drilling miles below the surface unleashing crude oils into delicate ecosystems and then such a mess could inspire solutions involving synthetic and modified life forms.  Are we sure about that?  What might that do...?

Last week we watched the movie "The Future of Food."  It brings up a lot of questions.  Is it really a good idea to use E-coli  to break into the DNA of one organism so you can splice in the attribute of some other entity?  I am not making this up...

Enough late night reading and musing. I am not going to read anymore about the oil spill tonight.  I am putting out my little candle and going to bed.  I hope that the planned efforts to cap , after five weeks of spilling, are totally successful.  The real mopping up can't really happen until the gushing stops.  Thank you, people who are out there working to stop the damage, washing off turtles and trying to save birds.  I'm sad for the human losses, the lost lives, the suffering of the survivors,  and the enormous number of people who are suffering acute loss of  livelihood and a way of life.  Off shore drilling,  miles below  in the terrain the Beatles called "under the sea an octupus' garden in the shade," may not be where we want to be drilling.

Apparently what happens offshore, doesn't stay offshore...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Slow Down I want to Keep up with You.

Yes, that is the innards of my computer.  The fan was making so much noise we vacuumed it out  and  treated it, like a piece of French bread hot from the basket, to a little bit of oil.  Fortunately it's quieter when it boots up now, but a few days later the one functional ISB port stopped working so I now can't upload photos.  When in doubt vacuum?   

Last week, late in the afternoon,  my cell  phone quit.  I admit that I don't like to relearn new technology. 
 I need the phone for work and knew which buttons to press and suddenly when I had been thinking of calling it a day, there I was standing in an AT&T store getting a high tech lesson in fast talk.
 The salesman we had who seemed to know his stuff and have his spiel down, put a whole new gloss on the word "glib." 
  It's not like it would turn my whole world upside down to deal with a new phone, I'm not growing completely in the dark, but I decided I could takeover  my husband's phone which is only a slight bit newer than the one I had and he sprang for the 
new iphone.   Mr. La Glib was quickly showing us "all" about it.  "See...there you have it...and that's all there is to it... and if you buy this  then you get that for less and if you add this it won't really cost you more because you are saving so much and ... "  Those guys probably had a pretty good laugh when we left.
"Did you see her eyes glaze over...?"

One computer, one phone or two...but  a whole room full of phones and blue teeth and computers and tech savvy's a wireless jungle of electric magnetic fields....let me get back to the flowers and bushes...
but of course even to snap these photos I was the beneficiary of the work and knowledge of others who have worked in intense indoor environments.

 I 'm glad that a few of the pictures I took this week downloaded before my computer port closed shop.

I know that people who live in stone houses shouldn't throw away opportunities to keep up with technology or be anything but appreciative of nerds, that is to say, people who actually know what it is they are doing.   To have a digital camera is an amazing privilege.   Instantly seeing pictures I have taken... It's just easy to get lazy about honing in on all the advancements;  even the slight differences in the phone I had and the one I just inherited foiled me the other day and now  it is time to figure out what to do about this aging computer before it goes and takes everything that is on it with it.  And I know a new computer will require learning new technology, I just hope the next brilliant young technologically savvy salesperson for computers talks a little slower.
                 Maybe I should give them a little ring before I go into the store and see if I can find someone
                                                                  on the right wave length?

                                                                                ~ ~ ~

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Flowers on Foggy Ocean Day

We are sensitive to warmth

and it was a chill gray all day

the waters slate,  the sky fogged like smoke

but not the flowers

they were heavy with fragrance and color cajoled from the light and warmth of other days.

Short lived glory...time waits for no rose...Today yes..

Walking warmed us up.  We left the path above the sea and enjoyed the gardens along the more protected lanes.

How gray is a day on a street named Inspiration
when golden roses are blooming?


Friday, May 7, 2010

Got Giant Chard? Stuff It. An Old Recipe from Laurel's Kitchen

I didn't have time to look at my garden for a time and a half a time and I found the chard not quite "as high as an elephant's eye " but the leaves were rather daunting at close to two feet tall.

Years ago I learned a recipe out of the Laurel's Kitchen recipe book for stuffed chard leaves.  Over the years I improvised based on what was on hand and generally stuffed chard leaves are always good.
The other day, relying on memory, I was sharing the basic idea of the recipe with a friend who was kindly rescuing me from some of these giant leaves.  I could visual the ingredients, I could see a 1/2 cup of green and I was remembering the delightful flavoring of dill weed .  "And 1/2 a cup of chopped dill, "I told her.  She, being a smart woman, didn't believe me.  " It does seem to be a lot," I agreed.  "Maybe it's because I use fresh, " I reasoned.  "Dry is more potent, right? "   My friend told me she would use about a teaspoon... but I could still see that 1/2 cup in my mind of nice chopped green and smell the lovely dill.

When I got home I checked the recipe and tried to telephone her to tell her it is indeed only 1 teaspoon of dill and a 1/2 cup of parsley which I had neglected to mention at all.  Her phone was off the hook and all I got was a busy signal.  After dinner I caught up with her.  Fortunately she had made stuffed chard leaves according to her own lights, using 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed.  They were , she says quite good.  so in case anyone else around here has to help me eat all the chard I have grown, I am showcasing the actual  recipe, unspoiled by my errant memory. 

Just click on this photo to make it bigger.
 The bottom of  page 241 of  the 1976
 Laurel's Kitchen A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery & Nutrition

I should be embarrassed, I suppose, to let you see this old dirty page, but hey, it isn't as bad as the page that sports oatmeal cookies and  it means I did some cooking and that is always a victory. 

If you like to read about Kale click here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Celebration...a quiet anniversary

These days we don't live near enough to have a party...but as we celebrate our anniversary together we think of  those who gathered around us that day thirty-three years ago. 
We spent the morning pruning more windows to the sea from our outdoor table.  Only the last few mornings has the sun been hitting this spot. I took this photo this afternoon after we trimmed the thicket. 

We wandered into Carmel for a late we waited for a table at Dametra Cafe we walked  in town

and enjoyed the window shoppers.

A young couple was on their honeymoon and  we were mutually feted with a song at Bashar Sneeh and Faisal Nimri's restaurant.

This little diner stood and gently danced to the music. She brought smiles to many.

So it has been a restful day full of flowers and sunshine and the kindness of those nearby...
as we carry love in our hearts for those gone on before us and send our love to those too distant to share with us today.