Sunday, December 27, 2009

Advertising at its worst.

We don't allow our three year old daughter to watch much television...she's way too smart for it anyway. However, during football season, we like to watch a good game, either at home or a relatives house. What's upsetting to me, and apparently other parents, is that we can't just watch a football game, we have to see the latest gory, violent or overly sexual movie clip, or commercials for a T.V. show with the same content. It gets annoying having to change the channel every time a commercial break occurs, but we do it for the sake of our sanity and so our daughter doesn't get these images in her head. I now know that we aren't the only ones that have a problem with this. A NY Times blog article discusses the same issue, with a slew of angry parents voicing their concern.  One suggestion that I read was great: networks should be required to avoid all commercials that have a rating greater than the show currently being broadcast. I think I'll write/call/email the FCC and give them this idea (not that it would change anything - but maybe it might).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Organic: To buy or not to buy?

Most people that know me well, know that I like to buy organic food, especially produce. Unfortunately, organic food is often more expensive and with the economy being the way it is, most of us (myself included), can't buy everything organic. So, when should one splurge on organics, and when is it okay to eat conventionally grown produce? I found out that certain fruits and vegetables, considered the "Dirty Dozen", carry a lot of pesticides and these are the ones that are best to buy organic. They are: peaches, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, imported grapes, pears, sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach and potatoes. The Environmental Working Group (I just love them) compiled a list of foods found here and also gives tips on how to reduce your exposure to pesticides.  Now, the national economy might be bad, but my personal economics absolutely suck!! I try to stick to fruits and veggies that are relatively inexpensive, but also have a protective skin, like bananas. Organic bananas are probably a waste of money because you don't eat the outside of the banana!  This article also contains some very good information about buying organic. Ultimately, we all have the ability to educate ourselves and make the best decisions possible.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In my post on October 15th, I posed the question of why it is important that there are significantly more toxic and industrial waste sites located near poor and predominately minority communities than near more affluent communites. The answer: endocrine disruptors. In a nutshell, endocrine disruptors, such as PCBs and Dioxins (which are probable carcinogens), among others, are synthetic chemicals that when absorbed into the body, affect the behavior of hormones, either mimicking or blocking them, and disrupting normal body functions. Helloooo, this isn't supposed to happen! 
Industrial activities are just one culprit for the release of endocrine disruptors into the environment. For example, over a period of 30 years, GE released over 1 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River, which has been contaminating the sediment for years. Clean up just recently began, but is going to be a long and costly process. In the meanwhile, people are continuing to eat fish from this river, even though it is strongly recommended that this practiced be avoided. We don't know yet how this is affecting people and we may not know for years. The point is this: more minorities and poor people live near toxic waste sites, toxic and industrial waste sites can be ground zero for chemicals that are known to cause illness. Generally speaking, if one is poor in this country, one doesn't have the access to healthcare that more affluent people have.  There is already a double whammy here, my theory is that spending the majority of your time near a toxic waste dump doesn't help much. I'm no expert, but it seems problematic to me.

Click here and here for more information about endocrine disruptors.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New look for the winter.

This year, I've decided to take extra special care of my natural hair. I've been natural for over 10 years, but I haven't been as gentle with my hair as I should have been, so I have yet to see 10 years worth of growth. So, I've been searching the internet for inspiration and tips on maintaining super healthy hair because I really want it to grow to the length that it was when I was younger, before the relaxer days (think Rudy on the Cosby Show). I've found a few sites that I can't seem to stay away from like; and Right now I'm wearing a protective style, which I'll be rocking through the winter (if hand in hair disease doesn't get to me first). So, this is my starting point:

right before I put it into my newly discovered protective style:

I love this because I can remove the ponytail and pamper my ends every day or every other day. I also "baggy" at night after spritzing with water/lavender essential oil mix and adding coconut oil mixed with lavender essential oil - smells soo yummy! I'm really hoping that this technique will allow me to retain any growth that will occur so I can have that big hair that I want so badly. Wish me luck!

PS. I must mention that this is a "phony pony". My girl S.B. helped me to attach it and my real hair is in a bun underneath.

Recipe for Red Velvet Cake (no red #40 food coloring!)

My husband J's favorite cake is Red Velvet and for this past Father's Day, I decided to make one. I couldn't bring myself to put all that artificial dye in it, so I adapted a recipe that I found on the web and replaced the food coloring with a natural color called "Beet Red Color" by Bickford Flavors and made some other changes. This cake has been a hit!! I have made this cake 3 more times since Father's Day and each time, the cake basically got vaporized. I mean, I barely got a second slice (not that I even needed one slice). So, enough with the chatter, here is the recipe:

2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 ounces Beet Red Color
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In separate, small bowl, mix together beet red color and cocoa powder until fully blended and forming a thin paste; set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until blended and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the beet color cocoa paste.
4. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of the flour mixture, then the second half of the buttermilk. Add the last third of the flour mixture, until well blended, using a spatula to scrape down the sides.
5. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda, causing the mixture to fizz. This will make your cake light and fluffy because of the air bubbles!! Add the fizzing mixture to the cake batter and stir well to blend. QUICKLY, divide batter between the two pans (make sure your pans are ready). Place them in the preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for about 27 minutes, but check the pans early. Better to be undercooked than overcooked! Cake is done when toothpick or fork inserted in the center comes out clean.
**Note, my grandmother always made sure that no one stomped, ran, or screamed in her house when her cakes were baking, this would make them fall flat. I found it to be true!
6. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove them by putting a plate on top of each pan and invert, tapping the pan gently if necessary. Make sure cakes are cooled completely before icing.
Here is the cream cheese icing recipe:
16 ounces (2 packages) of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (one stick) softened unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
a pinch of salt

Blend the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Blend in salt and vanilla extract. Gradually add confectioners sugar until completely smooth and voila! You have the best cream cheese icing ever. Happy baking!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sulfur in Drywall?? Are you serious??

My husband (conscious brotha that he is), just informed me of the fact that people have been getting sick from the presence of sulfur in drywall imported from China. Apparently, at the height of the real estate market and after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there was a shortage of drywall so builders decided to import it from China because it was abundant and cheap. This drywall emits sulfur and the gas has corroded pipes and copper wires, turned sterling silver jewelry black and destroyed air conditioners and television sets. Check out this article at USAToday for more information about the problem. What's worse is that insurance companies are not only denying the claims filed by homeowners, but dropping them altogether after they disclose the presence of chinese drywall. Apparently, this situation qualifies as a "pre-existing" condition and isn't covered by the policies! So, then these homeowners have no way of fixing the problem, their insurance gets cancelled, and since insurance is a requirement for a mortgage, they are at risk of foreclosure! This is madness. Here are all the gory details.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

NRDC: Endocrine Disruptors

NRDC: Endocrine Disruptors

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Where is the diversity in the environmental movement?

Recently, my husband and I have been to some events focused on green living/green technologies, including the Solar Decathlon on The Mall in DC and The Metro DC Solar Homes Tour. At each of these events, there was a glaring lack of minority presence. I know that there is a perception of what an "environmentalist" looks like - white, well-educated, upper class. There is also the perception that caring about the environment means that one is a "tree hugger" or that the environment does not include places where we live and work, but coral reefs or wildlife preserves. I believe these perceptions keep more minorities from getting involved and are also what keep the mainstream movement from including these groups. The reality is that environmental issues affect minorities more than any other group of people. Studies have shown that there are significantly more toxic and industrial waste sites located near poor and predominately minority communities than near more affluent and majority white communities. Why is this a huge deal???? Look for the answer in my next post.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Eco Friendly Jewelry Materials for Crafters

I have been making jewelry for a few years, but it has really only been a hobby. Now, I feel ready to try and take it a step further and make some really high quality and unique pieces to sell. Since, I have become more conscious of how my actions impact the earth, I have decided to use eco friendly and fair trade materials. Surprisingly, they are not hard to find. I am planning to start with Tagua Nut beads, which are also called vegetable ivory. This is an eco friendly alternative to ivory, harvested from seeds of palm trees in South American rainforests. Harvesting involves no killing or injury to animals. In fact, the seeds when ripe, fall to the ground and are gathered and dried from 1 to 2 months. How cool is that?? No heavy machinery, no slaughtering of animals and from what I've read, the harvesters are paid fairly for their labor. I do realize that it has to be shipped to America, but unfortunately no Tagua Nuts are found in the USA.
I am also planning to use recycled sterling silver and gold in my pieces. I have found a few suppliers, but am continuing to look. I will update my progress.