Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pesticides in Kids

The Seattle P-I had a front-page article yesterday entitled Harmful pesticides found in everyday food products. Twenty one kids from our area aged 3 to 11 were given conventionally grown food to eat. Researchers found malathion and chlorpyrifos, two insecticides, in the kids' urine and saliva. Within a day and a half of switching to organic foods, the childrens' urine showed no signs of the pesticides.

What's so bad about malathion and chlorpyrifos? Chlorpyrifos is developed from nerve gas, is causing people to get sick in agricultural areas, and there have been lawsuits to get the EPA to ban it. Malathion also messes with the nervous system.

Read the article. Ask your farmers what they spray their crops with, or if you can't, go organic.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Vitamin D, Northanger Abbey and Winter

I woke up to a sunny*, frigid day. The nighttime low was 19 degrees (that's -6C). I won't deny that the sun is very welcome - we're up to a whole 9 hours of daylight now. But I could do without the nights being quite so chilly.

I went to the doctor's for a checkup the other day, and my Vitamin D was WAY low. Apparently it's not uncommon for us northwesterners to have very low D during the winter months, and everyone they've checked lately has been low. And I drink gallons of milk! So I'm on 50,000 IU once a week for 10 weeks, and then they'll recheck me. By then it'll be March, and I'll be outside working on the veg garden, so I'll assume that I'll be ok by then.

Vitamin D helps get calcium and phosphorus into your bones, helping to prevent osteoporosis. It also helps prevent cancer formation. It's rather a catch-22 situaition: We put on sunscreen to prevent UV from giving us skin cancer, yet at the same time, we're also preventing Vitamin D formation, which is preventing it from preventing cancer. Personally, the last couple of years, I've been in the old-fashioned, sun yourself slowly, avoiding the peak hours of the day during summer, camp instead of slathering on greasy goop all over myself and daring the sun to burn through it.

I read online that they think the USRDA of Vitamin D is too low anyway, and Canada is suggesting that everyone there take 1000 IU daily from October to March, which is 2.5 times the RDA here. I bought Mr. E a huge supply, as he doesn't drink much milk, and doesn't get outside much anymore.

Northanger Abbey:

OMG, was that good, or what? Absolutely perfect casting, and very little to complain about in the script. My friend, J, wanted to see the scene in the baths, but since it wasn't central to the story, I don't blame them for cutting it. I didn't like the vilification of General Tilney at the end. Well, no more than he deserved at least. But the whole "he killed off my mother with his cruelty"? What was up with that? It wasn't necessary at all. At least I don't remember it in the book. I thought Henry said they really loved each other.

Did the passages they read really come from Udolpho? Hi-yi-yi! Talk about needing to fan myself after hearing that! Whew! Is that how they kept themselves warm in those flimsy dresses? I'll bet there'll be a run on Udolfo in the library!

In other news:

Yesterday I loaded up the wood storage area with the end of our woodpile. We didn't get any last fall, and we'll be out well before spring. I also covered all but two of the crawlspace vents with some bubble wrap we had laying about. It's not much, but it does help our floors downstairs from getting quite so chilly.

Thing 1 has been layed out with a nasty virus that shoots your temperature up to 103-105 for four days. He's been a saint, staying in bed, listening to The Goblet of Fire on cassette. I'm thankful that we had a three-day weekend for him to recoup, but I think he won't be going to school again tomorrow.

I finished one of Mr. E's wool socks. It fits him divinely, and although he's dying for the other one, I'm kind of sick of the tiny needles for now and am cranking out a merino wool sweater for me to, if I finish it in time, wear to a fancy-schmancy party at Mr. E's boss' house. But to get it done in time, I need to get about four inches a day done.

*Hey, there was no school today, okay? I'm allowed to sleep in a little once in a while....

Friday, January 18, 2008

Stem Cell Transplants

Fellow blogger Crunchy Chicken's husband may need a stem-cell transplant. This is a call for people to learn how to become donors. Please visit the National Marrow Donor Program today to see how you can help.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

2007 Utility Usage

It never ceases to amaze me how much power, natural gas, and water we use. The utility bills roll in, and we pay them, thinking "that seems like more than this time last year," thinking that the latest cold snap is to blame. But is it?

We visited some relatives in Germany last March, and I was able to use their washing machine and dryer. TINY! Not knowing the situation, I didn't give myself enough time to wash and dry everything I wanted to. The washing machine, very high efficiency, took an hour and a half to wash, and the dryer was almost as bad. They had lines to hang everything from the ceiling of the laundry room. Electricity is so expensive, you rarely used the dryer.

Every where we went, televisions had special power buttons to eliminate phantom loads. At one hotel, all the lighting was LED. Refrigerators are tiny. Huge freezers non-existant. Freight travels by rail or barge. A much greater percentage of cars are diesel. Fuel was 1.10 Euro a liter for diesel, 1.30 Euro for regular. We took public transport all over Munich, leaving our car and stau (the wonderful German word for traffic jam) behind.

At another relative's home, there was a chart plotting the household electricity use. They were trying to minimize power use in their small home. A light bulb (cfl, of course) came on in my head, and as soon as I was home, I plotted out our household natural gas, electricity, and water use.

So how did we do in 2007? Pretty well, all told. Our electricity use went down 11%. We've been slowly replacing incandescent with CFL bulbs as they burn out. I also started using a clothesline when it's been warm enough. Somehow in the last month we reduced our use by 5kWh a day over the year previous. Not sure how that happened.

Our water use went down 4% as well. We had a very rainy summer which helped with watering the garden (we don't water the lawn). Thing 1 is taking more showers now that he's getting closer to teenagerhood, although he's only turning on the water to rinse off.

The one area we didn't do so well was natural gas. Our usage went up 7% over last year. The reason, I belive, is two-fold. We now cook with gas (we didn't before). Also, it really has been a cold fall. I'm going to get the furnace tuned up, and hopefully that'll help.

But how are we doing compared to the average American?

Electricity: we use 9% less
Natural Gas: we use 5% less
Water: we use 38% less

Obviously we still have some work to do....

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Link Between Asthma and Pesticides

You coulda knocked me over with a feather.

Read about it here.

And They're Off...

I've just made my first veg harvest of 2008. A whopping five ounces of carrots for tomorrow night's dinner. The reason I've pulled them today is that it's really warm and sunny right now, and tomorrow they're talking rain and snow. I just didn't want to try pulling carrots from frozen ground.

Tonight PBS is starting a Jane Austen series on Masterpiece Theater, and my "sisters" and I are getting together to watch the new adaptation of Persuasion and, I'm sure, critique the heck out of it. I find it odd that they're starting with Jane Austen's last book. Maybe because it's one of her best?

I don't recognize many of the actors, but I am a little fearful about the guy (bloke?) who plays Mr. Elliot. He plays Brutus in Rome*, and frankly, he needs to find a good orthodontist. It's hard getting around that horsey mouth. I hear he does a great job, though, so I'll try to be optimistic. It's just that Mr. Elliot is supposed to be so handsome. Maybe that's just my vision of him.

I'm looking forward to shots taken in Bath. It'll bring back many memories of when my sisters and I went for the Jane Austen Festival. Someday I'd like to go back, Mr. E in tow. Of course he'll be more interested in the Roman history of the place, which is, I admit, very fascinating.

I'm jealous that the festival ball takes place in the Assembly Rooms this year. The ball took place in the Guild Hall the year I went, and it was absolutely beautiful. However, it seems like a Jane Austen ball should take place in the Assembly Rooms. I just wish I could've seen it. There were weddings going on all the time we were there, and we weren't allowed to peek in.

Well, I'm off to finish raking leaves up for compost. Then, I think, a little reading of Persuasion to prepare myself for tonight's soul-piercing. Sigh.

* Rome, if you haven't seen it yet, stars so many actors from BBC and other (Bollywood) productions of Jane Austen books, it's fun to try and pick them out.

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's Dark

January has settled into my psyche. It's not light(ish) until an hour and a half after I get up, and it's dark within half an hour of the boys being home from school. I'm snapping at everyone for no good reason, and not getting anything done during the day.

About this time every year, I print out the sunrise/sunset times for my locale. I am that desperate to know that tomorrow I'll have two more minutes of light. Unfortunately, I checked to see my parents times as well, and found out that, although they live less than an hour south of me, they get five more minutes of daylight! Turkeys.

I knew that the short days messed with me, long before Seasonal Affective Disorder became popular. Every boyfriend I had at the beginning of January, wasn't around at the end of the month. Except for Mr. E. That's how I knew he was the one.

Thankfully, Sunday is supposed to be sunny, and the night before above freezing, and I'm planning on getting loads of yardwork done (Major sunlight asbsorption!). I've pruned the perennials out front, but I haven't dealt with all of the leaves. I'm sure my has-a-yard-service neighbor would like me clean them up. So I'll be doing that, starting some lettuce and spinach seed, and hopefully edging the lawn around the front beds. They look like H-E-double toothpicks right now.

Doh! I just realized that I forgot to pick some parsley for dinner (buttermilk fried chicken. Can you say "comfort food?"), and now it's dark. So I'll be going out to the herb garden, flashlight in hand, hoping I don't run into any creatures. Not that I ever have, it's just the thought. I mean, I know they're out there, right? Opossums (opossi?) creep me out, and racoons can be mean, and rats...ick. Not to mention that the coyotes are back, which is a good thing, really, although my cat hasn't left the garage for more than five minutes in over a month.

So I'm off, in the dark, foraging for herbs for dinner....