Monthly Archives: May 2010

Surprising products containing petroleum

Nothing is certain but death and taxes. And oil.

We are surrounded by oil. It’s contained in one form or another in seemingly every product around us. While it’s unlikely, or even necessary, to completely eradicate our appetite for oil, it’s important to be aware of its prolific use in our every day lives and look for ways to cut our consumption.

Twenty (possibly) surprising products containing petroleum:

  1. Disposable diapers
  2. Make up (lipstick, mascara, foundation, concealer, eyeshadow and liners, and so on and so on)
  3. Make up remover
  4. Perfumes
  5. Lotions
  6. Synthetic fabrics
  7. Paint
  8. Tampons and feminine napkins
  9. Shampoos and conditioners
  10. Dishwashing soap
  11. Laundry detergent and dryer sheets
  12. Ibuprofen
  13. Sunscreen
  14. Toothpaste
  15. Chewing gum
  16. Anything and everything plastic
  17. Pillows
  18. Crayons
  19. Deodorant
  20. Food additives

One not so surprising place you find oil:

1. All over the Gulf


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Filed under Environment, Fashion, food, Home, Toxics

Weekend project: cloth napkins

My mother is quite an accomplished seamstress. As a child, she made all my clothes (which I hated because I wanted to be wearing whatever trendy thing everyone else was) and all my Halloween costumes (which I loved, because they were always the best costumes). When I got older, she made my prom dresses. She even made my wedding dress. And now it’s my son who looks forward to her Halloween creations.

I’ve asked my mom to teach me to sew a number of times before, always with the same results: she’s eager to do so, and I quickly lose interest after the first few lessons. Recently, though, the desire to learn has struck me hard enough that I think it might actually stick. In the past, I asked to be taught because it seemed like a useful skill to learn. This time, I simply want to learn; I want to make things for my family with my own two hands. My mother, as usual, is more than willing.

For my first project I chose cloth napkins because 1) I don’t like the wastefulness of paper napkins; 2) since some are always in the wash, you can never have too many; 3) how hard can it be to sew a square?

As it turns out, it’s quite simple to sew a square, but not quite as simple to measure and cut the fabric or pin and iron the seams. It took my entire first lesson to complete a single napkin. I wasn’t skilled enough to measure, fold, and iron the 1/4″ seam without burning my fingers (steam is hot!), so I had to pin the damn things. Unfortunately, it turns out I’m quite slow at pinning and even slower at ironing while removing pins. But I finally finished, and it was quite an impressive napkin, if I do say so myself.

Several weeks later, I set out to complete the other three (I’d cut the fabric for four napkins on the first day). I folded, pinned and ironed the seams on the first one, just as I’d done on the day of my lesson. With the next two, I decided to try the no-pin method my mom had first showed me: just measure, fold, and iron as you go. My seams were certainly folded a little more crookedy this way, but I was more interested in practicing the skill than in getting it perfect. And, by the end, my seams were noticeably straighter and I managed to do it all without burning my fingers!

The actual sewing was the easiest part, since I was simply sewing straight seams. And even though my straight seams weren’t as straight as I’d liked them to be, they were good enough. As a perfectionist, “good enough” doesn’t usually exist for me, but I was again able to focus on the practice of the exercise over the perfection of the final product.

It’s time to schedule the next lesson and figure out the next project. I’m thinking baby gear, but simple: towels, wash cloths, blankets, or cloth diapers. A few more squares before moving on to the trickier projects…

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Filed under Home, Sewing

The dirty dozen

At the grocery store last weekend, a woman near me in the produce section pulled on the sleeve of her boy friend’s jacket and led him to the strawberry display. “Want to see something stupid?” she asked, pointing at the stacks upon stacks of strawberries in plastic containers. “Why would anyone pay for these strawberries, when they can buy twice as many of these strawberries for half the cost?!”

Since I’d recently put strawberries into my basket, I was intrigued. Based on the direction of her points, I’d selected the more expensive option with fewer strawberries. Had I missed a sale? I immediately headed over to investigate.

Ah. Yes. There was a sale I’d missed. A really, really good sale. But those inexpensive strawberries? Sure, there were twice as many of them for nearly half the price… but they weren’t organic. I had a moment to wonder if I was being overly zealous in my commitment to organic produce. Why not save the money? I could get so many more strawberries for my berry-loving son.

So many more strawberries, with so many more pesticides.

As you probably already know, strawberries are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list – a list of the 12 most pesticide-ridden foods.

I once heard a nutritionist claim she wouldn’t stand in the same room with a strawberry if it wasn’t organic. I’m sure she was exaggerating, but who knows? After all, thirteen different pesticides can be detected on a single strawberry sample. Thirteen! And if you think thoroughly washing your food will help, think again. Pesticides are absorbed by the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the skin. In fact, data is collected from produce as it is typically eaten (meaning washed and peeled, if applicable), so those thirteen strawberry pesticides are detected after washing.

Ew. Always good to keep in mind when you go shopping.

The Dirty Dozen:

  • strawberries
  • domestic blueberries
  • peaches
  • apples
  • imported grapes (including wine – ack!)
  • nectarines
  • cherries
  • celery
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • potatoes

Of course, my budget doesn’t always allow for passing up sales on “regular” (not organic) food. And, while I live in an area practically overflowing with organic markets, farmers markets, and CSAs, not all of us are so lucky. Thankfully, EWG also has a list called the “Clean 15” – a list of produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticides. If you need to save a little green, or simply don’t have access to organic options, these foods are your safest bet:

  • onions
  • sweet corn
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocados
  • pineapples
  • mangoes
  • kiwi
  • domestic cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • honeydew

Check out the full list, ranked from best to worst, of the 50 most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables here.

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Filed under food, Toxics

Garden disaster: pests!

Mr. Legume has been eking out as much time as possible on the weekends for our various yard projects, which, of course, includes the garden. I continue to be of no help in this area. It’s not that I’m being lazy, I swear. While he’s been busy digging in the dirt, I’ve been busy digging in the dirty dishes. I’m contributing to the household, just mostly indoors. It’s called “sharing the load.”

(Also, sometimes it’s rainy and I don’t want to be outside in it.)

Having lived here longer than he (both in Seattle and in this particular house), I warned Mr. Legume of some probable garden pests: snails, slugs, squirrels, birds, the usual. Plus cats. This neighborhood has a lot of cats, and garden beds look an awful lot like enormous litter boxes.

So far, it’s really only been the cats that have caused any problems, and Mr. Legume has kept them in check through a combination of garden fabric and strategically placed sticks.

But what we (he) wasn’t entirely prepared for is seedcorn maggots. At least that’s what we (he) thinks they are.

Yuck! They’ve invaded our green beans and Mr. Legume is freshly saddened with every sweet little maggoty seedling he has to pull out.  And me? I’m wondering how I’m supposed to make dilly beans this year without any beans.

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Filed under Garden