Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Raw Honey: It's The Bees' Knees

Photo courtesy: Health Benefits of Honey

Honey has long been referred to as “liquid gold”; and, used as an allegory for luxury, ease and comfort. In fact, if a place is wealthy; the climate warm and sunny; and making a living is easy, that place is often referred to as “a land of milk and honey” symbolizing that it is a paradise to live in.

Honey has long been regarded as a medicinal aid used in a variety of ways. Since ancient times, raw honey has been used to cure all manner of ills. Ancient civilizations used only raw honey because pasteurization had not been invented yet. The honey they used was able to aid in maintaining peak health because it hadn’t had its enzymes or nutritional value partially destroyed by the heating process of pasteurization.

As early as 2500 BC, the Egyptians knew of the miraculous healing powers of honey and had an effective wound salve consisting of grease, honey and fiber. The Assyrians, Greeks, Chinese and Romans also employed it for wounds and diseases of the gut. Not surprisingly, due to its ability to stimulate good health, its effectiveness as a wound salve, and its flexibility of use, honey became the most popular Egyptian drug.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine; and, long believed to be a man of vision prescribed a simple diet favouring honey and vinegar for pain; honey with water for thirst; and, honey with water and other medicinal substances for acute fever. He also believed that pollen ensured good health and alleviated many of the problems associated with old age.

Primitive races used honey as a sweetener and medicinal aid while also recognizing the value of pollen. Britain became known among early Druid writers as “The Isle of Honey” and Welsh legends are full of references to honey and pollen. Mead, a popular drink in old Europe, was made of wine, honey and a tablespoon of pollen.

Honey in its natural, raw, unfiltered state contains 2 predominant natural sugars (fructose and glucose) 11 enzymes, 14 minerals, 21 amino acids, all the vitamins that nutritionists consider necessary for health A,D,K, Ruin, Nicotinic acid, B vitamins, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Antithetic acid, Pyridoxine and Biotin as well as Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C.).

Most honey sold today has been commercially processed. Finding raw, natural, organic, unfiltered honey is quite a challenge today; but, worth effort for its healing properties. Raw honey granulates rather easily and loses its rich golden liquid state.

Today’s consumers have a passion for liquid honey so most honey available on the market is heat processed and then filtered through a cloth or fine filter paper. However, pasteurizing the honey results in destroying digestion-aiding enzymes and vitamins while removing protein-rich pollen and comb particulates. This ensures that the honey remains liquid for a very long time. When it finally starts to granulate, the crystals begin to form at the bottom of the jar and work their way to the top. This is a definite sign that the honey has been refined and processed whether it is labeled “pure” honey or not.

Photo courtesy: Carlisle Honey

Ways to utilize raw honey:

BURNS: Apply liquid honey generously to the burned area and cover with bandage. Honey cools, removes pain and aids in fast healing without scarring.
BED WETTING: A teaspoon of honey before bed aids in water retention and honey possesses a calming ability that helps to soothe children’s fears.
HYPERACTIVITY: Replace all white sugar with raw honey. White sugar is highly stimulating with no nutritional value whatsoever. Honey provides the same amount of energy without the “spike” sugar provides and it is a nutritional powerhouse that will help improve the child’s health.
NASAL CONGESTION: Place a dessertspoon of honey in a basin of hot water. Mix well, cover your head with a towel and inhale fumes over the basin. Smells delicious!
FATIGUE: Dissolve a dessertspoon of honey in warm water for a quick lift in energy. Honey is primarily fructose and glucose; so, it's quickly absorbed by the digestive system; and, honey is a unique natural stabilizer. Ancient Greek athletes knew the benefits of honey before and after a competition. The first thing a good Brit does after a shock is reach for tea with a lot of honey in it.
FACIAL DEEP CLEANSER: Mix honey with an equal quantity of oatmeal, and apply as a face pack. Leave on for half an hour, then wash it off. Great as a deep cleanser for acne and other unwanted blemishes.
POOR DIGESTION: Mix honey with an equal quantity of apple cider vinegar (with mother) and dilute to taste with water or herbal tea. If honey is being added to a hot liquid, allow the liquid to cool before adding honey. The recommended temperature for honey is 95˚ or lower.
ANEMIA: Honey is the best blood enricher by raising corpuscle content. The darker the honey, the more minerals it contains.
FOOD PRESERVATIVE: If you replace the sugar in cake and cookie recipes with honey, they'll stay fresher longer and retain their moistness. Reduce liquids in the mixture by about one-fifth to allow for the moisture present in the in honey.
LONGEVITY: The most long-lived people in the world are all regular users of honey. Beekeepers suffer less from cancer and arthritis than any other occupational group worldwide. Personally, I think it’s the ingestion of the raw honey along with the occasional sting they receive. There has been some very exciting work done with Bee Venom Therapy.

Photo courtesy: agapigirl

Good video:

Be warned - there are a couple shots at the beginning that show an injured dog. The video should be alright for most viewers; and, it goes into good detail about the wound-healing properties of raw honey. I recommend watching it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Will This Rug Give You Lung Cancer?

Photos courtesy: designboom

As I am always saying, I adore creativity; but, I have to wonder about this one. It is definitely creative, looks amazing and makes use of what others throw away; but, is it practical?

Artists are always looking for new mediums with which to express themselves; and, a growing number are looking toward using garbage as an art form. These artists are trying to find ways of utilizing things we usually throw away to express themselves artistically - like dryer lint; egg shells; broken pieces of jewellry and shiny objects; items bound for the landfill; and, many other items considered as garbage by the vast majority of people.

Puerto Rican artist Jesus Bubu Negron has taken using garbage for art to a new level - he makes rugs out of cigarette butts. Not only does he used these discarded items for his projects; but, he has managed to talk the city street cleaners into giving him all the butts they collect during the day. The rug shown in the picture above is the result of his labours.

Designboom states, "The art project was presented at the Sharjah Biennale documenting the street cleaners at work and helpers fabricating the carpet. The carpet itself uses the paper of the cigarettes unrolled and layered on top of each other. The design utilizes the yellow and white pieces from the paper to create a pattern similar to a woven textile rug."

Close-up of design.

It just goes to show that even when it comes to cigarette butts, "trash" is really just raw materials in the wrong place.

Via TreeHugger

Monday, March 29, 2010

Interflora Scientists Develop a Polka-Dot Rose

All photos courtesy: Interflora

They are certainly unique; however, I'm not sure what the purpose of the experiment was beyond consumer whim. It's obvious though that the experiment has succeeded after 10 years of patient, painstaking research by the scientists at Interflora's plant cultivation facility. Behold, the world's first polka-dot rose.

The flower cultivation team was headed by Professor Winston Davies - a renowned authority on micro-propagation and plant biochemistry. The team has, in effect, developed a new plant variety - the world's first white rose with pink spots.

Professor Davies said: “The polka dot rose – which looks both beautiful and, one might say, at the same time strangely unnatural – is the result of more than 10 years of research by the team at the Interflora plant cultivation facility.

“The key to unlocking this puzzle – how to engineer the plant’s DNA to produce highly regular colouration patterns in a uniform fashion we simply don’t normally see in nature – lay in using recombinant technology, in which DNA molecules from different sources were combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes.

“The result is our polka dot rose, which I think is rather pretty. My wife Annie loves it!”

The polka-dot roses came about as a result of consumer demand. Over the years, Interflora had been contacted by a significant number of clients asking about the possibility of being able to buy flowers with "artificial" patterns. These clients wanted to be able to send flowers apropos to those intrigued by a particular design; or, patterned with shapes such as hearts for Valentine's day.

Unbenownst to customers, Interflora had listened to the requests and had been diligently working (in total secrecy) to fulfill this consumer desire. Now, they are ready to show the results to the world.

At this time, there has been no finalized release date for the marketplace launch of the Interflora polka-dot rose. However, it is expected that they will be in florists' shops in the UK (United Kingdom) before the end of summer. The intention seems to be to debut this specimen within Interflora's popular Six Stolen Kisses bouquet.

The polka dot rose – which is sure to cause a stir in the fields of botany and plant cultivation – was developed amid tight security at Interflora’s Lincolnshire plant cultivation facility.

Via Interflora

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Genetically-Modified Trout: Bricks or Bouquets?

Do these genes make me look big? The modified rainbow trout boast more flesh per fish. Photograph courtesy: Terry Bradley

Once again mankind has decided to play God and tinker with the building blocks of life. This time, the victims are some very unlucky rainbow trout.

Scientists have created hundreds of mutant fish with "six-pack abs" and bulging "shoulders" by beefing them up (literally) with new genes. (These fish look like they are riddled with gigantic cancerous tumours under their skin, if you ask me.)

Obviously, these fish are not going to make it in the marketplace if good looks is any criteria. Researchers are counting on the fact that these fish will each provide approximately 15% - 20% more flesh than the average, non-tampered with trout to be a huge selling point.

Developed with fish farming in mind, the genetically-modified trout are the result of ten years of experimentation. The team that conducted this experimentation was led by Terry Bradley of the University of Rhode Island's Department of Fisheries, Animal, and Veterinary Sciences.

Twenty thousand rainbow trout eggs were injected with different types of DNA from other species. Animals that have had foreign DNA inserted into them are known as transgenic. The added DNA was intended to suppress a protein called myostatin. Myostatin suppresses muscle growth so the world isn't populated by muscle-bound Green Hulks. They got the results they were looking for in about 300 of the eggs.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

These transgenic trout now contain genes modelled on the myostatin-inhibiting proteins in the massive, powerfully-built Belgian Blue cattle. What makes the Belgian Blue so unique is that the amazing muscle structure gives the animal a "double-muscled" appearance. (Note the cesarean scars on the heifer. Sometimes, the intense muscling can interfere with other natural functions, such as birthing.)

Myostatin is what is what prevents all cows from looking like a Belgian Blue. Researchers are now looking at the ability to control myostatin as a possible way to reverse muscle-wasting diseases in humans.

Mutant trout (left) vs. unmodified trout. Photographs courtesy: Terry Bradle

For better or worse, this test is the first piece of evidence researchers have that myostatin inhibition has a similar effect on both fish and mammals.

"Our findings are quite stunning," Bradley said in a statement. "The results have significant implications for commercial aquaculture."

If these fish are given the green light, the modifications could mean cheaper trout for consumers as farmers could grow larger fish on the same amount of food. Sounds good on the surface (if you can get past the unhealthy, lumpy look of the fish). However, danger could loom...

Some trout with altered genes have been approved for release; but, trout with DNA added from another species have not been approved for commercial use yet, says Fredrik Sundström, zoologist with the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Other genetically-modified trout soon to make an appearance on a dinner plate near you have been engineered for faster growth; disease resistance; or, survival in frigid waters (the "antifreeze" gene).

Sundström, who has investigated the potential risks of transgenic trout escaping into the wild, said studies suggest not only that the fish can breed in rivers; but, are capable of passing on their lab-altered genes into the natural populations. (Read about threats to freshwater fish.)

"Under certain conditions the transgenic fish do better than the wild types; but, under other conditions we see the opposite," he added.

"If they have a lot of food, transgenic fish can use that food to a greater extent; but, if you have predators nearby they also seem to be more susceptible to predation," Sundström said.

Sundström states that he doubts that this latest transgenic trout would find enough food in the wild to support it's larger body size. (Just a minute...wasn't the whole allure of these trout that you got a bigger fish for the same amount of food?) He also states he wonders whether the bulky fish would be able to maneuver swiftly enough to escape predators. (But wasn't their larger size supposed to reduce predators?)

However, he does go on to admit that if these fish did survive in the wild, they could overturn their ecosystems by out-competing their unaltered cousins leaving them with little food and an uncertain future.

Via National Geographic

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Did You Know That...

Madagascar is the home to a rainforest where 60% of it's 12,000 different plant species are unique to that island.

When you visit a pharmacist, one in every four purchases will have come from a tropical forest.

Medicine produced in tropical forests bring in commercially 30 billion dollars a year. (And we're destroying them?!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dharamsala, India Bans Plastic Bags

Photo courtesy: Care2

Dharamsala India, the exiled home of the Dahlai Lama, has banned plastic bags.

The government of Dharamsala found that the followers of the Dahlai Lama were wreaking havoc on the local environment. Not intentionally, of course; but, with the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came a mountain of garbage and plastic bags. One of the biggest problems was the non-biodegradable plastic bag pollution. To combat this problem, the government looked first at the merchants since they were the ones handing out the plastic bags in the first place. If the merchants didn't hand them out, the customer couldn't leave them behind as litter.

The government has decreed that if you go into a shop in Dharamsala and don't bring your own bag, you are given a bag made out of discarded paper that has been hand-glued by a local worker. This has created new jobs in the local economy besides tackling the plastic bag problem. Each hand-glued bag is different because there is now also a growing market for used paper; and, home collections are becoming exceedingly popular. An example of this is the bag created from the discarded physics homework of a high school student. How interesting!

Dharamsala is a small city in India; and, they are taking extremely progressive action on pollution. The USA, larger and wealthier, is sending a million plastic bags a minute to the landfills. What is wrong with this picture? Surely if a small city in India can do this; so, can we. Time, effort and a few changes to the consumers' shopping habits is all it will take to eradicate one of (if not the largest) contributor to environmental pollution.

Dharamsala may have discovered the true path due to their smaller size; thereby, reaching a quicker understanding of how their trash footprint was affecting them in particular and the environment in general.

If you think we should and could follow Dharamsala, contact your local representatives and ask them to ban the bag today.

Via Care2

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Global Warming Solves Three-Decade Old Argument

New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged. Photo courtesy: Das/AP

The argument had been raging for nearly 30 years with no end in sight; but, the argument is over now. Mother Nature has done for the combatants what they refused to do for themselves. For nearly three decades, India and Bangladesh have argued over ownership and control of a tiny rock island located in the Bay of Bengal.

Now, thanks to global warming and rising sea levels, the island has become submerged. There is nothing left to fight over. New Moore Island in the Sunderdans is no longer. Its disappearance has been confirmed by both satellite imagery and sea patrols. Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, says: "What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming.”

Scientists at the School of Oceanographic Studies at the university have noted an alarming increase in the rate at which sea levels have risen over the past decade in the Bay of Bengal.

Hazra goes on to point out that until 2000, the rise in sea levels remained reasonably constant at about 3 mm (0.12") a year; but, over the past decade they have risen approximately 5 mm (0.2") annually. This rise in the sea level has already caused another nearby island, Lohachara, to become submerged. Lohachara sunk in 1996 forcing its inhabitants to move to the mainland. Today almost half the land of Ghoramara island is underwater; while at least 10 other islands in the area are at risk as well.

"We will have ever larger numbers of people displaced from the Sunderbans as more island areas come under water," Hazra said.

Bangladesh is a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people and one of the countries most-affected by global warming. Already there is shifting of land masses in the deltas forcing the approximately 20 million people who live there to constantly be physically one step ahead of the erosion. If the sea levels continue to rise just 1 m (3.3') by 2050 as projected by some climate models, officials estimate 18% of Bangladesh's coastal area will be underwater and these 20 million people will be displaced.

India and Bangladesh both claimed the never-developed, totally uninhabited New Moore Island which is about 3.5 km (2 mi) long and 3 km (1.5 mi) wide. In a war where each country refused to back down, Bangladesh referred to New Moore island as South Talpatti and India sent paramilitary soldiers to its rocky shores in 1981 to plant its national flag.

The demarcation of the maritime boundary — and who controls the remaining islands — remains an open issue between the two South Asian neighbors.

Via Yahoo! News

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Iberian Lynx: On The Threshold of Extinction

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

If you haven't heard of the Iberian Lynx, you are not alone. The Iberian Lynx is a rare cat native to Spain and Portugal inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. It is the most critically endangered cat species in the world.

According to the conservation group SOS Lynx, if this species dies out, it will be the first feline extinction since the Smilodon 10,000 years ago.

Look at the size of those teeth!! Smilodon californicus fossil at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

In 2000, the lynx population was approximately 400; but, now there are only 150 - 250Iberian Lynx left on the planet. However,the news is not totally bleak. There are indications that numbers could be on the increase; and, incredibly, a new population has been found in central Spain that is genetically distinct from the already-known populations. This means that inbreeding can be limited to the surviving population.

The Iberian lynx and its habitat are fully protected and are no longer legally hunted. Its critical status is mainly due to habitat loss, poisoning, road casualties, feral dogs and poaching. Its habitat loss is due mainly to infrastructure improvement, urban & resort development, tree monocultivation (pine, Douglas-fir, eucalyptus) which serves to break the lynx's distribution area. In addition, the lynx's major prey - rabbits - is also declining due to diseases like myxomatosis and hemorrhagic pneumonia.

Photo courtesy: gliving

The Iberian Lynx closely resembles a Bobcat. They can be distinguished from each other by the tail. The lynx's tail is black all the way around the tail; while the Bobcat's tail is black on the tip and white on the bottom. The tuft of black hair on the tip of their ears and sideburns helps it detect sound sources; the edges of its feet are covered in long thick fur that acts like a snow shoe and enables them to move silently while stalking their prey; their coat is a light gray with some brownish-yellow colouring mixed in and marked with distinct leopard-like spots all of which combine to make a unique cat species.

A captive-breeding program near the Coto Donana wetlands, a center for conservation, should help the population rise again.

Via gliving

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Painting of Last Supper Shows Dietary Changes

Actors perform in a re-enactment of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in San Ignacio, Misiones province, March 21, 2008. Photo courtesy: REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

For many, the Last Supper is not only inspirational - it is a representation of the last time Christ and his companions were together in harmony. No one expected the paintings to become part of a commentary on our dietary habits over the past 1,000 years.

A US study has revealed that since Biblical times, people have been gradually increasing the amount of food they are eating. The researchers studied more than 50 paintings of the Last Supper before reaching these conclusions.

Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professorand director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab; and, Craig Wansink, his brother, a Presbyterian minister and religious studies professor at Virginia Wesleyan College, were responsible for bringing this intriguing piece of information to light. They discovered that the sizes of food portions and plate size in artworks have gradually increased by between 23% - 69% over the past millenium.

"The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food," Wansink, author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," said in a statement.

"We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history's most famous dinner."

The brothers analyzed 52 paintings featured in the 2000 book "Last Supper" by Phaidon Press. Then they used computer-aided design technology to compare the size of the main meals, entrees, bread and plates to the average size of the disciples' heads.

At the end of the study the results were that the main meal has increased in size by 69%; plate size by 66%; and bread size by 23%.

The results were published in the April edition of The International Journal of Obesity.

Via Yahoo! News

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today, 1000 Children Died From Drinking Contaminated Water

Photo courtesy: hdptcar/Flickr

Reprinted from Mother Nature Network:

March 22 is World Water Day. You may be reading this article after the fact. It doesn't matter, because the state of affairs today will be largely the same as each day since the event was created in 1993: Every 24 hours, 1,000 children will die from drinking unsafe water.

They'll die from diarrhea, the result of drinking water so filthy most of us would be shocked to see it even in our toilets. They'll die in remote villages and crowded urban slums. They'll die in areas too poor to afford the inexpensive medicines which might save their lives, or the $200 it takes to dig a safe and modern water well. Mostly, they'll die in the Southern Hemisphere.

And these are just the children. Here, a decade into the 21st century, humanity's most pressing health need remains access to sanitary, fresh water. It sounds like such a simple thing. But without clean water, economies crumble. Livestock dies, and it becomes impossible to grow even basic staples. The lack of safe water is the mother of famine, disease, poverty and warfare. Some 2.6 billion people live in squalid conditions, without access to even basic sanitation.

It can happen to you, too. While water issues are particularly acute in the developing world, shifting climate patterns and soaring demand are creating significant shortages across the planet. In 2007, the city of Atlanta was nearly brought to a standstill when Lake Lanier, the area's primary water supply, dropped to its lowest levels in a century.

In the U.S., Southwestern states are contending with a multi-year drought that threatens the region's growth. Depletion of groundwater resources in Mexico City has gotten to the stage that geological faulting has damaged portions of the city's historic center. And hundreds of Australians died this summer when lack of rainfall created the conditions for devastating wildfires.

What you can do. World Water Day is an opportunity to step back for a moment and consider a commodity many people take for granted. It's as easy to forget water's value when you have it, as it is to never forget your thirst when you don't.

Want to help set things right? Consider some of these actions:

•Respect your water. If the water that comes out of your tap is clean and affordable, be thankful. Be thankful when you drink it. Be thankful when you wash with it. Be thankful when you cook with it. Every time you open a faucet, remember that you're doing something beyond the reach of almost 3 billion people.

•Conserve. An ample water supply today is no guarantee that it will be there tomorrow. Groundwater aquifers take hundreds of years to replenish. Do your part — you'll be saving money, anyway. Install water-saving showerheads. Plant drought-resistant gardens, and irrigate them — if at all possible — with harvested rainwater. Find leaks in your home and repair them. Take shorter showers. Replace old washing machines and dishwashers with water-saving, EnergyStar-rated appliances. Never send anything to a landfill you wouldn't want in your drinking water 10 years from now. There are plenty of water conservation resources on the Web. Here at Lighter Footstep, we'd like to recommend our own 5 cheap ways to save 1,000 gallons of water.

•Support organizations that bring fresh water to people who don't have any. Groups such as Water for People, the Blue Planet Run Foundation and H2O Africa are all working to make every day World Water Day. Find an organization that excites you, and help provide what they need.

Share this article (or one like it) with others. Involve friends and family. There are a thousand reasons for you to take action today. And tomorrow — another thousand.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Environmentally-Friendly Chili Hand Grenade

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Talk about creativity and environmental consciousness walking hand in hand. This is one of the thought provoking I have come across so far. First, the invention; then, the ethics.

The world's hottest chili, the bhut jolokia (also known as the 'ghost chili') is now the secret ingredient in the hand grenades being made for use in the war on terrorism. Indian defense officials have confirmed that the Indian military will be manufacturing hand grenades using the bhut jolokia chili pepper.

“The chili grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defense laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defense Research and Development Organization,” said Col. R. Kalia, a defense spokesman in the north-eastern state of Assam.

“This is definitely going to be an effective non-toxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hideouts,” said R. B. Srivastava, the director of the Life Sciences Department at the New Delhi headquarters of the DRDO.

Just HOW hot is this chili? In 2007, Guiness World Records confirmed the ghost chili has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units. Scoville units are the measurement used to determine a chili's heat. Tabasco sauces range from 2,500 - 5,000 Scoville units; jalapeno peppers can be anywhere between 2,500 - 8,000 Scoville units.

The ethics - While this may be a temporarily agonizing situation for anyone hit by one of these grenades; apparently they are not lethal, they do not destroy the environment, they do not use chemicals that can harm millions, they do not affect generations to come like radioactive fallout does; and, again, they are not lethal.

While I am against causing people undue pain and suffering, at least this one is non-lethal, targetting only selected individuals; not, taking out an entire block, neighbourhood, city...

Thoughts, comments, ramblings?

Via Care2

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ingenious Escape System for Hi-Rises

Israel has come up with an escape system for people who work or live in hi-rise buildings. It is simply ingenious; and, should be implemented in every country in the world.

Prepare to be impressed!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is a McHappy Meal McHealthy?

In March, 2009, I wrote a blog about a fellow who went to an unnamed burger chain and bought 10 hamburgers. Then he used the patties to draw a huge reproduction of the Mona Lisa in burger grease. Now there is another revolting reason not to eat fast-food burgers.

McHappy meal bought fresh one year ago. Photo courtesy: Joann Brusco.

Author and blogger, Joann Brusco, decided to conduct a little experiment, document the results and write a blog about it. She chose the iconic Happy Meal as the subject of her research.

She bought a Happy Meal, took it out of the bag; and, placed it on a shelf in her home office. Then she waited.

McHappy meal after one year sitting on a shelf. Photo courtesy: Joann Brusco.

This is that same Happy Meal one year later. She makes note of the fact that she lives in a very dry area; and, that may be responsible for the wavy appearance of the bun. Other than that, the meal looks almost edible.

Joann Brusco says:
My Happy Meal is one year old today and it looks pretty good. It NEVER smelled bad. The food did NOT decompose. It did NOT get moldy, at all.

This is pretty horrendous stuff. Food should decompose, go moldy and smell bad when it is left out in the open for one year.

Does this even fall into the category of real food? I have to wonder about the nutritional content of this "food" (and I use the term loosely).

I wouldn't allow my dog to eat this - why should our children!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Atrazine Changes Male Frogs Into Female Frogs

Photo courtesy: WikiVisual

Atrazine is an organic compound widely used as a herbicide. Its use is controversial due to its effects on nontarget species, such as amphibians; and, because of widespread contamination of waterways and ground drinking water. Although banned in the European Union, it is still one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. Like many herbicides, it is sold under numerous trade names.

In late August of 2009, I published a report entitled "Poisoning The Well" that revealed the levels of atrazine in USA drinking water.

Atrazine has always been suspected to be a hormone-disrupting pesticide; but, a study done by some UC Berkeley zoologists (led by Tyrone Hayes) leaves no doubt now.

The study has shown that atrazine affects the male hormones. Affected male frogs can actually become totally physically female becoming able to mate and lay viable eggs. Wow...what could cause this?

The answer is very simple. It's atrazine - a chemical the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has been aware of for years; conducted experiments on for years; and, is now reinvestigating the matter. Atrazine is considered by many knowledgeable people to be the most toxic herbicide in the world. It is also the second most commonly used herbicide in the world and one of the most common man-made chemicals found in USA waters.

Not surprisingly, atrazine's manufacturer, Syngenta, deny that there is any risk surrounding the trace amounts found in water - whether drinking water or not. They swear there is no risk to either people or animals from the chemical despite a growing body of evidence that supports there is an incredibly significant risk to males due to its ability to interfere with the endocrine system.

Interference with the endocrine system leads to alterations in the hormone levels. Fish, birds, rats and frogs have signs of feminization when exposed to levels of atrazine. Some have developed female traits and/or body parts.

The frogs involved in Tyrone Hayes' research have shown the most confirming evidence so far. The frightening results were that atrazine seemed to target males actually became female in everything; but, their genes. Again, not surprisingly, they were exposed at levels considered safe by Syngenta and the EPA.

Hayes and his team had taken 40 male African Clawed Frogs as tadpoles and put them into water containing 2.5 parts per billion of atrazine - the same level considered to be safe in drinking water. What happened?

Interestingly, 90% of the frogs developed low testosterone levels, suppressed mating behaviour, reduced sperm production; and, an overall decrease in fertility.

The other 10%? That's the really interesting bit. These tadpoles actually developed in "functionally female" frogs. They were female in everything; but, their genes.

These "females" were able to mate and lay eggs that hatched into a new generation of frog. The only problem with the new generation was that they were all male; not a female to be found anywhere. How could this happen? Remember those genes? Both parents had only male genes to contribute to the developing embryo; so, the tadpoles had no biological option to be anything other than male.

I'm sure there is a little group of conspiracy theorists out there somewhere claiming to all who would listen that it's some nefarious scheme to eliminate the women of the world eventually; but, I tend to doubt it. Well...maybe...

What I do know is that I don't want to drink, bathe in, shower in, cook with, or in any other way come in contact with water that can turn a male African Clawed Frog into a female impostor.

Hayes believes the atrazine is absorbed through the frogs' skin and produces an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. This, in turn, floods the frogs' bodies with the wrong chemical signals. Despite concerns by environmental activists, the EPA withdrew their initial concerns surrounding atrazine a few years ago. Fortunately, they have begun to reevaluate the potential health threats again.

It turns out now that a completely separate study is now linking atrazine use with obesity. Apparently, the greater the exposure, the higher the weight.

Why can't we just ban it?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rock Skipper Frog Uses Leg Waving to Communicate

Photo courtesy: Salford University

When the video first starts, the volume of noise from the river is almost deafening. Nothing can possibly be understood over the roar of the fast-running streams where the rock skipper frog makes its home; so, how do they communicate?

The rock skipper frog is the first frog known to have developed a non-verbal communication system. They communicate by waving their legs; and, the phenomena has been captured on video by researchers from The University of Salford. The leg waving is vital in warning other males of their presence and to advertise their availability to nearby females.

The behaviour was observed on a postgraduate tropical ecology field course at the Danum Valley Field Centre in Sabah, North Borneo. Two University of Vienna students, Doris Preininger and Markus Boeckle, captured a rock skipper frog waving its legs at the edge of a stream.

This behaviour had first been discovered and recorded approximately 20 years ago; but, has only recently been thoroughly investigated.

Robert Jehle, from the University's of Salford said: "This video clip shows an exceptionally rare phenomenon, and at the same time serves as a good example of what we lose through the cutting down of rainforests."

Via WildlifeExtra

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crop Circles on an Ice-Covered Lake?

Ole Johan Hansen, the 77-year-old man who saw the lights. Photo courtesy: Aud Karin Hansen

Ole Johan Hansen, from Arna in the west of Norway, saw a strange light over the lake one night. He grabbed his binoculars; but, could see no one that might be responsible for this light. It was unlike anything he had ever seen; and, was an unreal 6' wide. Since it was already dark and there was a significant risk of falling through the ice, Ole waited until the next day to investigate. He found the strange, symmetric pattern shown in the picture below covering the lake.

Photo courtesy: John Halvor Sæle

For years, the controversy has raged - are crop circles supernatural or are they the result of pranksters? True believers maintain that while pranksters may be responsible for some of the circles, there is no way they could be responsible for all them. There are just too many. Was the strange pattern on the lake a result of supernatural phenomena created by the mysterious white light Ole had watched the night before? Could this symmetrical pattern be the result of some naturally-occurring phenomena?

Photo courtesy: John Halvor Sæle

There are still a minority out there that believes a crop circle is an art form. They are always a sizable pattern created by the flattening of a crop such as wheat, barley, rye, or maize. The term "crop circle" entered the Oxford Dictionary in 1990. In 1991, self-described pranksters Doug Bower and Dave Chorley claimed that they started the crop circle phenomenon in 1978.

Via EpidemicFun

Monday, March 15, 2010

15 Unusual Uses For Honey

Photo courtesy: HealthCare4Me

1.Skin Moisturizer – Honey, when mixed with eggs and some flour, is an effective skin moisturizer. Best of all, it is gently formulated, so it can be used by people with sensitive skin. Mix four tablespoons of honey with a couple of egg whites and a few tablespoons of flour, depending on your desired consistency. Stir the mixture until it thickens. When the mixture is ready, you can use it as a hand and body lotion or a moisturizing face mask, eliminating the effects of dry skin.

2.Antiseptic – Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical used for cleaning wounds and helping them heal quickly. Honey happens to contain a good amount of the chemical. It only needs to be released by diluting the substance in water or body fluids. When applied on an open wound, the glucose, contained by honey, is diluted and gradually releases hydrogen peroxide. The substance facilitates your wound’s faster healing. Due to its viscous consistency, it also prevents wounds from sticking to the dressing and the appearance of scars.

3.Acne Remover – Honey might be a gentle skin moisturizer but it is certainly tough on acne. With constant exposure to the bee fluid, pimples eventually wither and fade. Apply a small amount of honey on the pimply regions of your face. Cover them with adhesive bandages. Soon, your zit attack will be nothing more than a distant memory.

4.Energy Booster – Why buy palpitation-inducing energy drinks when you already have honey? Mix honey with some water then drink the solution. Honey’s glucose content will be absorbed by the brain and in the bloodstream, reducing fatigue in the process. You’ll be healthy and quite happy just by consuming the simple solution.

5.Immune System Booster – Health buffs are known to drink a teaspoon of honey daily,
along with their morning vitamins. Though still not scientifically proven, the daily consumption of honey is said to strengthen your immune system. You can give it a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose anyway.

6.Enhances Vitamin A – Vitamin A is the nutrient that fosters better eyesight, especially when consumed in significant quantities. If you mix items that are rich in Vitamin A with honey, the effects are slightly increased.

7.Improves Blood Flow – Honey, being rich in glucose, is known to improve the blood flow through the fortification of blood’s formation. Glucose provides energy in the bloodstream, which is distributed throughout the body. As a result, the blood produced has the proper consistency, flowing smoothly through the blood vessels. Glucose is believed to prevent capillary damage due to its ability to improve your blood flow.

8.Treatment for Sore Throat – Some people believe that honey is an even better treatment for coughs and colds than over-the-counter medicine. To create the sore throat-relieving serum, squeeze the juice from a lemon and mix it with some honey. Stir the mixture until both ingredients blend. Drink the solution. After a few moments, you will realize that your sore throat has been cured, or at least reduced. Just continue to make more rounds until you are finally free from colds.

9.Colon Damage Prevention – Colitis, a disease that damages the colon, induces much discomfort for the afflicted. You can minimize the effects of the disease if you drink some honey daily. The antioxidants found in honey is said to strengthen and improve the resistance of the colon. In addition, it is used in folk medicine as a means for curing colon-related conditions.

10.Parasite Remover – Honey, when mixed with vinegar and water, can remove worms and other parasites in your body. The combination of vinegar’s acidity and honey’s therapeutic components is more than enough to kill or expel bodily intruders. When you suspect that you have worms in your body, drink ample amounts of the solution regularly. The parasites might build a resistance if you don’t manage to get rid of them all as soon as possible.

11.Remedy for Burns – A burn is not only painful, the marks also last for a good number of days before healing up. By applying honey on your burn, the hydrogen peroxide released cleans the wound and soothes the inflammation. As a result, the burn marks will heal in a few days with less pain. Use honey as a dressing for maximum results.

12.Antibacterial Solution – Bacteria and germs won’t survive when covered in honey, given its acidic pH balance and viscous base. The microorganisms will be trapped in the sticky acidic base, which is too abrasive for their exteriors, killing them off eventually. Apply honey on a wound, scratches or an inflamed region, in conjunction with an antiseptic. You’ll be astounded at how fast your injury heals after.

13.Relaxant for Anxiety and Nervousness – Anxiety and nervousness are the enemies of a healthy mind. Once both conditions swarm your thoughts, your actions are tantamount to produce negative results. Free yourself from any of the two states of mind by eating porridge mixed with honey. Honey’s nutrients produce a calming effect, especially when taken in significant amounts. No wonder some consider it a part of the breakfast of champions. Honey can also be mixed with a suitable beverage for a good night’s sleep.

14.Cancer and Heart Disease Prevention – Heart disease and cancer are diseases that have claimed the lives of millions of people. Both conditions have a multitude of causes, some of which are hard to identify. You must have some sort of protection from these diseases and that protection comes in the form of honey. Honey’s antioxidants prevent the formation of cancer cells and preserve the quality of the produced blood, preventing heart disease in the process. Though, engaging in acts that promote cancer, such as smoking and excessive drinking, will still trigger the diseases, so be watchful.

15.Diabetic Ulcer Remedy – Curing ulcer entirely is largely done by modern medical techniques. Though, you can speed up the healing process if you use honey as a topical solution. It’s ability to heal wounds will certainly come in handy when other ointments are not advised to use.
Honey is a medical resource used before modern medicine became established. It may not replace many of the technological methods currently practiced in hospitals, but it can certainly match some of the medicine prescribed by physicians. The bee fluid, as it turns out, is a miracle drug that cures quite a number of ailments and diseases. Use it and get good health for a fairly low price.

Via HealthCare4Me

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quotable Quotes

"Demolish the bridges behind you...then there is no choice; but, to move forward."
- Firdtjof Nansen

"Those that dare to venture experience the greatest rewards."
- Anonymous

"What gems of painting or statuary are in the world of art, or what flowers are in the world of nature, are gems of thought to the cultivated and thinking."
_ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In The Market For a Good, Used Cemetery?

If you'd like to purchase property in New York City, there is a 13-acre plot of land that's available. It is Canarsie Cemetery in Brooklyn, the final resting place for 6,500 people. Mark Daly, director of New York's department of administrative services, says the property, which the city owns, has room for 3,000 more graves. He's sent letter to 40 cemetery operators in the hopes of finding a buyer. The city wants to get out of the business of operating cemeteries and is also selling its only other cemetery, located on Hart Island, as well. That cemetery is for paupers, prisoners and the unclaimed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Little Touch of Humour

The squeaky wheel doesn't always get the grease, sometimes it gets replaced.

If we learn by our mistakes, some of us are getting one great education!

It is incredible how much intelligence is used in this world to prove nonsense.

Four-wheel drive just means getting stuck in more inaccessible places.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Did You Know That...

Losing a limb is no big deal for a lobster. It's a creature that can regenerate its legs, claws and antennae. To escape danger, it can even amputate a claw or leg?

Of all the population centers on Earth, Hawaii is the most isolated. The island is 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China; and, 5,280 miles from the Philippines?

The difference between frogs and toads is in their skin. Toads don't spend as much time in the water, so their skin is much thicker and retains water better?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kenyan Ministers Give It Up

In Kenya, elected government officials are turning in the keys to their Mercedes and replacing them with keys to cars that are more fuel-efficient. The finance minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, says Kenyan ministers driving a car with an engine capacity of more than 1,800 cc will have the car taken away if they don't voluntarily give it up. "No vehicle is exempt," he says, adding he has the support of the country's prime minister and president. Ministers will also be given a month fuel allowance. The money saved will be used to help people who have been displaced from their homes.

Good for Kenya. Let's hope this downsizing trend continues in other countries as well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Creating Storage on Your Walls

Photo courtesy: TreeHugger

Storage space seems to be an issue with many of us. I live in a small condo because I believe in doing more with less. I think we all demand too much personal space; and, have altogether too many possessions. But what to do with the possessions we do have?

PSFK shows us Pocket Wall, a storage system from Polish Designer Maja Ganszyniec. She describes it:
Look at the house as if it were a package: the room is like a package and the wallpaper is like wrapping paper. The project turns the purely decorative layer of wallpaper into storage.

Thoughts, anyone?

Via TreeHugger

Monday, March 8, 2010

Is Global Warming Responsible For Increased Lightning Strikes?

Photo courtesy: TreeHugger

In the past decade, Brazil has emerged as the forerunner in a race for most unusual side effects of global warming. Brazil has set a world record for being the recipient of the most lightning strikes in the past ten years - an estimated 57 million strikes.

Sadly, this astounding natural record is not without a human cost. During this time frame, 1,321 people have been struck by lightning in Brazil alone; and, scientists fear the numbers will only increase. New research reveals that global warming may increase the frequency of lightning strikes; and, therefore, loss of life from being struck.

According to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), global warming may dramatically increase the occurrence of lightning. A recently-released hypothesis postulates that each degree of increase in global mean temperature will result in a 10 to 20 percent increase in the amount of lightning.

Casualties from lightning strikes were not the motivating factor behind the research; but, rather, the force behind the research was the resultant fires that often accompany lightning.

Osmar Pinto explains in a report from Globo:

At the meeting, it was hypothesized that the rays would increase the greenhouse effect by causing more forest fires, which in turn release more carbon dioxide, fueling a continuous cycle.

INPE will be working with NASA and other USA agencies in order to test this theory of the correlation between global warming and lightning events.

While the main thrust of the research will be to study and analyze this climate change phenomena, the sun's behaviour will be examined as a possible culprit for the increase in lightning.

According to Pinto, sun-spots may play a role in the creation of thunderstorms that is not fully understood as yet.
[Sun spots] can facilitate the formation of ice in the clouds and the rays only occur when there is ice inside the clouds.

Scientists intend to closely follow the next increase of sun-spots in 2012.

Via TreeHugger and Globo

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Natural Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep

Photo courtesy:

Many parents, myself included, have lost more than one night's sleep due to a cranky baby. In fact, it is only the luckiest of parents who have babies that do not fuss quite a few nights away before they get older. For approximately 30% - 40% are blessed with babies that are not only high energy babies; but, they have colic as well making them very high maintenance especially at night.

Colicy babies have a great deal of difficulty passing gas. For some reason, their tiny, little bodies hang on to it like grim death. This gives them intense stomach pain; and, being unable to express themselves in any other way, they cry and cry and cry...

The baby usually becomes fussier toward the late afternoon or evening for several reasons. Colic is helped by the warmth and closenss of the skin to skin contact they receive during the day and the motion of being carried and/or rocked. At bedtime, they are left alone to sleep and the colic gets worse and worse.

Young children should never be given any kind of medication or over-the-counter remedy without a doctor's approval. There are many things that can be done naturally to help the baby feel better without resorting to medicinal intervention which many times only masks the symptoms and does not alleviate the problem.

So...what can a weary parent do?

Photo courtesy:

1. Put your child in a carry cot beside the bed at night. A carry cot is like a crib without legs that can lie on the floor right next to the bed on the floor. Have everything ready before hand and when the baby requires feeding or just consoling, just reach down, bring the child into bed and feed. After feeding, place the baby on your tummy (the skin contact; and, the warmth from your body will help relax the baby making the passage of gas easier) and burp. Roll over and return the baby to the cot. Not having to get out of bed at night makes the experience calmer and gentler for both of you.

2. Forget about keeping up with the housework. Do NOT use any precious time your baby is asleep doing housework!!! They'll wake up refreshed and you will still be exhausted. Your new cardinal rule: If the baby sleeps - so do I! If he falls asleep at 4:00 pm - hit the couch for a few quick winks. The housework will still be there when you get up - I promise.

3. Catnip tea is a mother's friend. While catnip excites a cat, it has the opposite effect on a human. Catnip tea not only calms a child; but, it can help with tummy troubles. Some children have a hard time expelling gas and it gives them an upset stomach. Catnip tea calms the child and makes it easier for him/her to pass the gas. If you are breastfeeding, don't worry about giving the tea in a bottle (1/2 bottle of tea, 1/2 bottle of milk), they will soon drink from either a bottle or a breast. Chamomille and fennel tea work equally well.

4. Prepare simple, easy-to-prepare dinners or order in. The family will survive eating very simple, one pot meals; TV dinners; open a can and heat meals; or something ordered in. The time saved can be spent with the baby or sleeping.

5. Try a nice, warm bath for your baby before bedtime. Warm baths are very soothing and can help prepare her for sleep. Try a drop of lavender oil in the water - very relaxing.

6. Occasionally, prevail on a friend to take the baby for a couple of hours so you can sleep. Have the friend take the baby to their house because chances are if you hear the baby cry you'll wake up. Very refreshing for an exhausted mom!!

7. Set up a bedtime routine for your baby. Children respond positively to routines and they can help prepare your child for what is to come next. In the case of bedtime, a ritual will help your baby sleep because it provides continuity making the child feel safe and loved.

8. Motion soothes a colicky baby. Use a sling or cuddli-type carrier to carry baby close to your body during the day.

9. If your baby is small enough, use the "colic carry". Place the baby face down along your arm, with the chin in the palm of your hand and the legs straddling your inner elbow. Carry your baby around the house like this. The warmth, skin-to-skin contact, motion and slight pressure on the tummy all work to help the child expel any intestinal gas.

10. If the child is too big for the colic carry, try laying the baby across your lap and patting his back.

11. Make sure the baby is hydrated. Babies need plain water just like adults do. Milk and diluted juice are essential for the babies health and continued growth; but, plain water is just as essential.

12. Gentle massage may help to relax the child enough to pass any unexpelled gas.

13. If you are breastfeeding, check out your diet with a doctor. You could be eating something that the baby objects to.

14. If you are using any kind of "grippe water", read the label and use only those that contain organic ingredients.

Good sleep to you both!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Odd Blog (I warned you about)

This from Owenboro, KY (AP) — A woman in jail for public intoxication was accused of assaulting a jailer by squirting breast milk at her. WYMT-TV reported that a 31-year-old woman was arrested Thursday on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication. But as she was changing into an inmate uniform, she squirted breast milk into the face of a female deputy who was with her.

The woman now faces a felony charge of third degree assault on a police officer. Her bond was set at $10,000.

Via SunSentinel

Friday, March 5, 2010

World's Rarest Plant Blooms in the UK

All photos courtesy: BBC News

Camellias, one of my favourite flowers - fragrant, beautiful, totally bewitching in my mind. There is an extremely endangered variety of camellia named Middlemist's Red. It is so rare there are only two known shrub locations: a greenhouse in the UK and a garden in New Zealand. In 1804, the previously-unknown camellia was imported to Britain by John Middlemist from its native China. These were the days when rare flowers were a valued cargo to be imported and sold to the affluent.

Meanwhile, Middlemist's Red became extinct in its original homeland of China; and, many of the imported plants disappeared or died.

The flower is in bloom for the next week or so, and will be the star attraction at the reopening of the Chiswick House, the BBC reports.

That the Middlemist's Red survives today is a conservation success story. "It's the importance of getting as many people as possible to ensure they stay with us on this Earth," Fiona Crumley, the head gardener at the Chiswick House told the BBC.

Even though there are only known locations of Middlemist's Red, it's widely believed (and fervently hoped) that there are still some shrubs living out quiet, unassuming lives in gardens all over the UK; and, perhaps beyond.

Hard to believe that these shrubs were once widely sold to the public.

If you think you may have a Middlemist's Red in your garden, I'm sure the Chiswick House would love to hear from you. Click here to go to their "contact us" page.

Via TreeHugger and BBC Today

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chickens: Half-Cock, Half-Hen

The medical term is gynandromorphism and about one in every 10,000 chickens suffers from it. The chicks hatch out half-cock and half-hen - literally one half (right or left) is one sex while the other side is the opposite sex.

Researchers now claim they have solved this mystery. As the photo below shows, if you are looking casually at a group of them (or even just one) you may not notice the differences if you are not looking at them straight on.

Three half-and-half chickens.

Now, look at the photo below. The differences in the right and left sides of the chicken are not trick photography - this chicken really is much more developed on the left or white side of the bird than on the right or brown side. This is because the cells on left side are all male; while the cells on the left side are all female.

The left, white, side of this bird is male. The right, brown, side is female.

Half-and-half chickens give a unique insight into how birds; and, perhaps reptiles develop. It used to be thought that hormones instructed cells to develop in either male- or female-specific ways.

That's what happens in mammals, including humans and it's what causes the secondary sexual characteristics like facial hair for men or breasts for women.

But scientists at the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh say they now know that bird cells are not programmed by hormones; but, rather are inherently male or female remaining true to their sexual designation even when mixed-up in the same chicken.

It means a half-and-half chicken will have different plumage, body shape, muscle structure, wattle structures and even leg spurs on the two halves of its body.

Dr. Michael Clinton of the Roslin Institute led the research.

Dr. Michael Clinton of the Roslin Institute, leader of the research, has published his findings in the scientific journal Nature.

He said the findings were a surprise.

Dr. Clinton explained: "We looked at these birds initially expecting them not to be half-male and half-female. We thought there'd be a mutation on one side of the body. But we found that they were half-male and half-female and that's what actually showed us that the system was different in birds and mammals."

"If you put female cells into a male body they'll develop into the normal tissues, but they'll behave as female cells," Dr. Clinton said.

Researchers hope that this knowledge will help them in the poultry industry.

Dr. Clinton said: "If we can understand what the differences between the male and female identities are, then we can imagine making female birds with the same growth characteristics as males. That would increase productivity and food security." (Why does the word "Frankenfood" come to mind?)

Via BBC News

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Parsley: A Skin Care Product

Photo courtesy:

Parsley is one of those multi-faceted herbs that doesn't "get any respect" as Rodney Dangerfield would say. Most people think of it as simply an edible garnish, flavouring herb and breath freshener which has been adapted by the restaurant industry almost globally. In fact, it is so highly thought of in culinary circles that it is no wonder the classic French "garnished bouquet" used to flavour soups, stocks and stews is:

- two parts parsley
- one part bay leaf
- one part thyme

These herbs are either tied together, wrapped in cheesecloth or placed inside a tea ball before adding to the pot. When added this way, removal is easy. Personally, when I make vegetable soup, I chop the parsley finely and add it right to the pot.

(Don't forget bay leaves are indigestible, have sharp edges, and are tough to chew; so, be sure not to lose any bay leaves in the pot.)

No matter how familiar people are with cooking with parsley, most people don't think of using parsley in the bathroom. For a refreshing "tea" for those who like the taste or a mouth-freshening rinse for those who don't, pour a cup of boiling water over 2 tsp of dried parsley or a handful of fresh or frozen parsley and steep for 10 mins. Strain. (Parsley freezes extremely well and maintains its wonderful green color when frozen.)

Another way to use your "tea" is to add it to your bathwater for relaxing bath experience. Parsley is also a good way to treat minor skin irritations or to soothe dry, sensitive skin.

So, next time you see a sprig of parsley - remember it's not just a garnish.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Saving Money While Eating Better

Photo courtesy: Care2

Feeding a family (or just yourself) can be an expensive proposition. There is usually some food wasted every week; and, prices seem to just keep climbing. How to save money in the kitchen while still fixing nutritious, healthy meals the entire family (or just yourself) will enjoy for the lowest possible price? Read on, intrepid shopper.

1. Stop eating prepared meals: Consumers have been led to believe that they don’t have the time to cook and it simply isn’t true. You can have a healthy meal on the table within half an hour. Prepared meals have more fat, more sugar, more salt, more preservatives, and more garbage waste than anything you can cook yourself.

Not to mention the fact that you pay premium prices for sub-standard product. Someone has to pay for executive salaries and television advertising, why should it be you? There are many ways to prepare wholesome meals for your family in a minimum amount of time.

My mother did it, I did it; and, now, my children do it. What is it? We put many of our evening meals on to cook before we went to work. There is nothing more user-friendly or useful in a kitchen than a slow cooker. I would put our dinner (a stew, cabbage rolls, or whatever) into the slow cooker, season it, stir it, and put it on low. When I arrived home approx. 10 hours later, there was dinner beautifully cooked, tasty, hot and ready to serve. Of course, with 10 hours of simmering, I could get away with cheap cuts of meat. Cooked this way, even the toughest cuts could be cut with your tongue.

2. Plan ahead: Yes, this is going to take a bit of effort, but once you get going it will be easy. Make sure you have a well-stocked pantry. Dry legumes, rice, pasta, sun-dried tomatoes should all be on hand to make quick, nutritious meals. Everything I use is either dry or fresh, I avoid canned goods and frozen foods for health reasons.

3. Plan your week: Take the time to work out a menu plan for the week. Most people grocery shop once a week and they toss things into their carts without considering what they are actually going to use it for. If you know what you are going to eat ahead of time; and, you have the right ingredients, you’ll be less likely to resort to take-out or the nearest greasy spoon.

4. Cook more meatless meals: Meat will consistently be the most expensive food item in your grocery cart. The ready availability of other protein sources allows you to expand your food repertoire and have a healthier diet. There are many vegetable sources that give you a chewy, meatlike texture - porcini mushrooms, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms (one of my personal favourites), portobello mushrooms, tofu products, eggplant...

5. If you do use meat, use less: No one NEEDS the massive amounts of meat we eat today. In fact, it has been proven that diets heavy in animal protein and fats are not good for our health. Try cutting your meat portions by a third while adding a third more vegetables. Your body will love you and so will the environment. Consider going vegetarian for health and financial reasons.

6. If you do use meat, use a cheaper cut: This is where a slow cooker really comes in handy; or, prepare the meat beforehand and place it in the oven. Set the timer, temperature, etc. for the oven to come on at a preset time and temperature. When you come home the meat is ready; so, all you have to prepare are the veggies.

Alternately, you can prepare a stew on the weekend so everyone can enjoy the inticing, homey aroma. Make extra for a future meal.

7. Use your leftovers: If you are cooking instead of eating prepared foods, you are going to encounter leftovers. There are many different ways to use them up - add them to that vegetable soup you're having for lunch, toss them in the stew at the end or add them to a rice dish. One of my favourites was to save everything (veggies, that spoon of leftover spagetti sauce, mac & cheese, whatever) in a container in my freezer. When the container was full, it was defrosted and used in a from-scratch soup. All those different flavours, textures, spices, colours made my soups extremely rich-tasting and delicious.

8. Plan meals that will stretch through the week: If you make a spaghetti sauce one night, make enough to use in another meal. Use it as a soup base or make an eggplant parmigiana.

9. Make friends with your freezer: When I make something like spagetti sauce, stew or soup, I usually make enough for at least two meals; sometimes three. The other portions I freeze and drag out when I'm in a hurry - defrost, heat, eat. Again, this stops me from resorting to take-out or the local greasy spoon.

10. Brown bag it for lunch: Take your own lunch to school or work. Not only is it cheaper than going out for every lunch, it is much healthier for you as well. While there is nothing wrong with most restaurant food, there is nothing right with it either. Invest in a good thermos and enjoy hot meals at work or school.

11. Forget the pineapple: Unless you live in Hawaii, of course. Buy local vegetables, in season. Support your local farm economy by going to your local farmer’s market.

Via Care2

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pothole Gardening - A Creative Way to Complain

Photo courtesy: Pete Dungey

As I have repeatedly stated, I just adore creativity; and, Pete Dungey has proved himself to be a man of vision. His solution for bringing attention to the potholes in his home town of Oxford, England is nothing short of attention-grabbing while being totally non-aggressive. Everyone should protest in such a manner.

We have had match stick gardening, upside down plant holders; and, who can forget guerrilla gardening; but, this is unique - pothole gardening.

Pete Dungey has been patiently planting flowers in potholes to highlight "the problem of surface imperfections on Britain's roads." He says "If we planted one of those in every hole, it would be like a forest in the road". What a wonderfully environmentally-friendly to draw attention to a problem.

He relies heavily on common, every-day garden variety primulas. Despite the cold weather in Britain, primulas are out now. So far, Dungey is the only known pothole gardener; but, he hopes to have fellow gardeners join him in his protest.

With any luck, pothole gardening; and, the concept of creative, non-aggressive, environmentally-friendly protest will spread around the world.

Via TreeHugger