Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Arsenic in Rice Products!

"Arsenic Found in All Rice Products
: Alarming levels of harmful arsenic have been found in every rice product tested by the FDA in its ongoing investigation, reports the Chicago Tribune.
There is currently no official upside to the amount of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, allowed in food.
But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement: "First and foremost, I want to warn parents that every rice cereal product we tested contained arsenic. These results are shocking because rice cereal is often a baby's first solid food. Parents and caregivers should moderate the amount of rice products they feed their children, while the FDA sets standards to limit this known carcinogen in our food." via Chicago 

Well, given that all** rice produced in the US is GM* as well... umm ... time to ask for non-GMO and non-arsenic products when you shop? When they say sorry, put the stuff back on the shelf. Maybe the retailers will get the message if enough of us do this?

*There is more to this story - click on the Chicago link above.

** Unless, by some small miracle there is a pocket of truly organic rice fields or paddies with water not previously  filtered through mine tailings somewhere in the US.

I'm on holiday right now but will expand on this story later in the year.

Just a Quick Note ...

I am in Thailand!!!

Back home in a week or so and will post some pics and fill you in on my trip. 

In the meantime, have fun.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Typical Saturday Morning in My Neighbourhood

I know, I'm cheating, but I posted this in Okara's Single's Survivors Guide too, because it fits and because it's too nice a day to sit at the computer.

So have a quick read then go out and enjoy the weather while it lasts:

I really cannot function without that first fantastic cup of coffee in the morning so waking up to discover I was out of milk was rather horrifying. Actually, I use Silk which is an organic soya product. A quick shower and I was off up the hill to the local Supervalu - the only store in my part of the West End that sells Silk. The weather is fantastic btw!

Two hours later, after a stop at Denny's for pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs with cheddar (not a normal haunt of mine but I had a craving for bacon), a stop at the Comox Street farmers market and another stop at Shoppers Drugmart for eggs (much less pricey than elsewhere) I realized I had forgotten the Silk and had to slog up the hill again.  

Here is a picture of what I bought at the farmers market.

The place was packed with people lining up to buy local organic produce, honey, soap, artisan breads, organic meat and sausage, jewelry, and checking out the latest information on the City of Vancouver's food waste collection service.  I picked up a small block of beeswax for my sewing kit - not that I do much sewing lately - but running the thread through beeswax makes it a lot easier to get the thread through the eye of the needle. As an aside, have you noticed that as you get older the eyes of needles get much smaller and the thread is really really thick? 

The mixed shard and beets came to five bucks, the buckwheat honey and beeswax was six. I found a great recipe for a raw beet salad and the greens can be steamed and served with a drizzle of vinegar, a pinch of sea salt, pepper, and finely chopped garlic sautéed in butter and/or a few tablespoons of white wine or stock .

The prices at the farmers market tend to be a little higher but if your budget is limited it's still worth it to pick up a few items. After all, you are supporting local small businesses, the food is freshly picked and besides that it gets you off your duff and away from your computer for an hour or two. That is a lot cheaper than a gym membership you don't use anyway ;)

Now I'm going to just sit back and relax and enjoy a great cup of coffee. 

Damn! I forgot the onions! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Caution to Parents About PVC School Supplies

Having raised children myself, reading this recent Discovery.com article about the high phthalate content in PVC materials in school binders, backpacks and other plastic items used by our kids every day sends out big warning signals. Phthalates are used to soften plastics. Many toys and other items with phthalates were banned in Canada, the US and EU but the product continues to be used in the production of school supplies and clothing.
"Vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks and even 3-ring binders were among the 75 percent of supplies tested by an independent laboratory for the CHEJ that were found to have elevated levels of the endocrine disruptors. Research has linked phthalates, which are used to soften plastic, to birth defects, obesity, asthma and infertility, among other ailments. Some were banned in toys in 2008."  news.discovery.com/
It's buyer beware, especially since many products do not list phthalates in the contents labels. Phthalates are also found in food wrap, vinyl lunch boxes, modelling clays,thermoses and water bottles, office supplies, shiny rain gear, electronics and plastic eating utensils. If you sew things for your kiddies or for crafts be sure to ask for contents info from fabric suppliers, too.

For more info check out this pdf publication produced by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. It also contains a green list of safe products, how to determine what has PVC content and related data and info. Well worth spending a few minutes to read.

Update Dec 2014: This website notes it's best to avoid microwaving foods in plastic, and avoiding using items with scented products "as much as possible, including air fresheners, and dryer sheets, and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6, or 7". 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cooperative Enterprise Beats Economic Downturn

Sorry, I've been busy with co-op things but I did run across this BBC article about Mondragon, one of many successful worker-owned cooperatives. There is much on the net about this cooperative's working model that can be applied to many situations, from banking to manufacturing to housing initiatives.

Cooperatives work!

Have a look then do some more research:


Friday, March 02, 2012

A Co-op is Like a Village

Sorry for the delay. Crunched my foot two weeks ago and have been feeling sorry for myself ever since. Well, not really. I took a step the wrong way and came down on my ankle hard enough to cause severe bruising to bones, tendons, muscles from baby toe up to and including the ankle. Pulled a calf muscle on the other leg so have been doing a sort of double hobble dance - much to the amusement of folks in the neighbourhood. I'm glad there are no broken bones. I am not glad to be missing work for the doctor's prescribed three weeks. I love my hockey games! And I have missed taking Bruno for his walks and feel very doggy-deprived. Oh, well.

So here's the thing about living in a co-op. Your neighbours know almost everything about you. This is not always a bad thing. When trouble happens your neighbours are always there to offer help, comfort and an encouraging word. Someone left a huge bag of citrus fruits on my doorknob. No note. Someone went to the corner store for me. Someone else drove me to Costco for my semi-annual Big Shopping Day. The co-op has a few dollies for our use so said friend and neighbour loaded up the dolly and pushed the cartload of groceries right to my front door. Then took the dolly back to the storage room.

 The co-op is likened to a small village and so it is. In the past few years we have lost a few co-op residents to old age or to illness. The death of a loved one is always a horrible experience and there is no way just a few words can truly provide all the comfort the survivors need. But there are little things neighbours can do to ease the burden. Some of the neighbours formed a group to provide cooked meals for grieving parents for several weeks. Respecting privacy, others have slipped condolence cards through the mail slot or quietly watered plants and swept outside the doorways. At general meetings those who passed are acknowledged and a few moments of quiet reflection take place before the meeting commences. Collections may be taken for flowers, food or other smalls needs. Laundry is found folded and ready to take home from the laundry room. Little things done quietly and with dignity.

We end up stronger as a community, kinder to one another and more mindful and respectful. 

Folks here don't tend to move out very often.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A New Blog! Okara's Single's Survival Guide

Thought I would share this with you all so pop over and have a look. I've only just started Okara's Guide but I'm hoping it will inspire the newly single - and everyone else - to offer their own tips and tricks on the practical side of doing stuff for yourself.

I will include photos and links and maybe embed some YouTube videos. If you have suggestions, send them in.

P.S. Before I even posted my first article there were 42 viewers according to my stats page. I guess that's a good sign!

Okara's Single's Survival Guide

Thursday, February 09, 2012

I've Been Busy ...

...So have not attended to this Blog as I should. Apologies to my readers who faithfully check in daily and weekly.

I'm on the board of directors at my co-op so that keeps me busy.
My Mom is ill and this understandably enough this keeps me from thinking of things to write about. Focussing is not one of my skills.
Still dog-walking though. I love those walks around the neighbourhood. Bruno is a marvellous, friendly doggy-person.

Anyway, I follow Vegan Reader faithfully and came across a page there about "Being Poor - Words of Encouragement". After reading some of responses I was inspired to contribute the letter reprinted below:    [things in italics added for clarity]

January 27th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
Thank you so much for your latest post. Making money has never been a talent of mine so keeping a roof over our heads and feeding my two daughters has always been a struggle, especially after my husband passed away when I was 31 and very pregnant.

The Canadian system is (was) a little more sympathetic to the needs of the poor so I always managed to cope. Perhaps because of my independent streak and the acceptance that I had to rely on myself – and most importantly that I had 2 precious children depending on me – I knew I had no choice, so get on with it. I am blessed that my children are healthy. [And my family were very emotionally supportive].

The Canadian system is much less interested now in helping out. Funding for affordable housing and co-operatives is laughable although there are strong voices in government now – many of them from people in power who grew up in co-ops, so there is hope for improvement. Medical care funding is a large part of federal budget planning and proportionally we spend billions less on military-related issues [than the USA]. However, the actual costs have sky-rocketed so we get way less bang for the buck.

But unless you are smart enough to know how the system works, what questions to ask and what our rights are – well good luck getting the services you require. There are plenty of homeless people here, too
So, this doesn’t sound encouraging, does it? But here is what my girls learned from our struggles:

*Independence of thought and action
*How to use tools to fix and build things
*Read books, instructions, the fine print, the bottom line, the ingredients
*How to improvise
*How to plan a meal, choose the best foods for the lowest price
*Eating healthy is cheaper than eating junk
*You don’t need designer labels to look good
*Give, share, respect, honour, listen, speak up for yourselves and others
*Write it down or insist on getting it in writing
*How to work and still put yourself through school and pay off student loans
*Walk tall. Look everyone in the eye
*Appreciate what you do have
*If you need help, ask for it. If someone needs help, give it.
*If you borrow or charge to buy, you do not own what you buy until it is paid for in full
*Every experience is positive if you learn something from it
*Be mindful. Be thankful. Remember small kindnesses and pass them on
*Things own you. Decide if you need them or only want them
*Never stop learning – take a course, read a how-to book, ask your friends
*You do not need that second helping. Take it for lunch the next day

All the above in no particular order. My girls are now strong and lovely adults. My pride and respect for them and all they have accomplished grows each day.

It was hard not to show my despair when they were growing up without so much. Life is a joint family project so please involve the whole family. Rich does not equal happy. Shared effort will pay off one way or another. Blessings and hugs.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Blog Stats - This is So Cool!!!

This blog has been floating around the net since some time in June of 2005 but it was not until June 2009 that Google started tracking viewer stats for me and with an almost 2 year hiatus from internet I didn't even discover the stats page until this past September when I re-upped. And up until then, let me tell you, it was depressing because there I was, sharing thoughts and photos and thinking no one was reading. Didn't stop me though. I like writing.

However, it has been gratifying to see that I do indeed have readers. And apparently they check back for more once in a while. I had no readers in June 2009, but in July of that year 149 viewers read the blogs and by November and December 2010, 571 and 535 respectively. I have to attribute some of this to more assertiveness - using Twitter and my Facebook page to let friends know I've posted a new post. I also joined Bloggers.com and a comment on CHOW.com regarding my Big Bear Ranch blog also made a difference I think; as does the use generous use of labels. Of course, none of this has helped me sell my photos on items available at CafePress, but what the heck. This is fun!!!

My most-read items? I thought for sure anything to do with the 2010 Olympics. I have had a few hundred folks check those out - mostly USA, Russian and Euro viewers. But the kicker is the one I wrote in August 2007 about my sure fire cure for mosquito bites! 314 and counting. The January stats reveal 24 readers so far - the UN Year of Cooperatives and the Christmas Spirit posts being the most popular.

Now, I never set out to be a blog star; not my style. And believe me the numbers are so low that that will never happen. The most successful bloggers specialize in something - anything - and are either experts in that field or are really, really good at finding newsworthy items, articles and/or news on that subject. Me, I'm a generalist. I write about whatever strikes my fancy. I appreciate those who take the time to read my contributions and I am thrilled when my readers spend a few minutes to send a comment about my pics and blogs.

I am still learning how to cross-reference my blogs and link to other sites. And labelling is an art form!

While washing the dishes blog ideas pop up like mushrooms so even if it is just to keep the creative juices flowing - try creating your own blog. I use Google's Blogger but there are plenty more out there to choose from.

It really is fun!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Daily Internet Habits - What's on Your Toolbars?

Now that I'm retired and have a new PC and time enough to enjoy poking around the internet I have established a routine of sorts. After making a cup of coffee - fresh ground Ethical Beans with brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and soya milk - I head for my PC and going in order of priority from left to right on my Google Chrome toolbar:
First up - Tagoria- An RPG I've been playing on and off for years. I collect my ambers from working on the farm, do the obligatory safety fight on some hapless lower level player, chat for a few minutes on the shout box, then -
Second up - Check my email. Sort, delete, read stuff.
Next - Facebook. It's a way to keep track of what my relatives and friends are doing. Sort of. I do not use the multitude of available corporate info-collection apps since they collect way too much info that is no one's bloody business. I like to think I still have some privacy. A myth, I know, but a nice one. Enough said about that!
Moving right along -I check out my work schedule on-line daily. It can change.
Then - BBC news feed. Browse that for a while. This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour or two. Main interests are international events, sciences, tech.
Ditto for the Discovery News feed - Although I'm a little disappointed at some of the content. Supposedly science info but editing skills are often lacking and tend toward sensationalist or just plain misleading headlines. No link - find it if you want.
Much better is Discover Magazine's blog. Excellent science news, in brief. Written by people who know their subject matter. Also, a source for video lectures, symposia, all sorts of interesting science discussions news and debates. You can spend hours here. This morning I watched a discussion about the role of the sciences and the role of the humanities in the 21st century. Great food for thought!
Wired is another science blog. A little more upbeat. Science, tech, a little politics, volcanoes, earthquakes, physics, webcams, etc.
TED has some excellent lectures - Ideas Worth Spreading. I'm hoping much of what they offer is being shown in schools. There is something for everyone here.
Just when you think I'm all science and reason - I check out BurdaStyle and Threads to see what freebie sewing patterns are new to the site. Then hop over to CafePress to see if I've sold anything recently. Ditto for eBay and Etsy.
I also check out YouTube, especially the Vancouver Film School stuff. There is some incredible talent in this city and students come from countries all over the planet. Sometimes in the evening I watch one or two of the free movies on YouTube as well. Check out Robinson Crusoe on Mars - there are several links. Remarkable, considering the film was made before CGI. Plenty of world-class documentaries, some classics, award winning animation, etc.
Some days I spend pretty well the whole day on the net. Other days, I'm trying out new recipes, walking the dog, visiting, serving on my co-op's board of directors, out taking photos, and thinking about my next blog.

Happy New Year. The links above are my gift to you. Enjoy!