Thursday, March 19, 2009

I love this woman.

And contrary to Lesley Stahl, I don't think Alice Waters is a dreamer. I think Lesley is a pessimist. Nothing makes more sense to me or seems more realistic than teaching our nation to grow and consume fresh, organic food. I don't understand the poo-pooing. Okay, maybe here in the Rockies where we can't grow food year-around the idea of having an edible landscape or edible schoolyard is unrealistic. That's why we have Whole fill in the gaps. And greenhouses. Oh, how I'd LOVE to see a big greenhouse at my kids' elementary school.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

One happy chicken

This, my friends, is one happy chicken. Or, uh, was one happy chicken. I know because I have been to the farm where this chicken was raised. I know what this chicken ate. I saw the yards where this chicken lived. And now I see the chicken -- the confirming evidence of a happy chicken is (among other things) in the chicken fat. It's yellow. The chicken has yellow overtones that are hard to see in the photo, but trust me -- it looks like a jaundiced newborn. And the chicken fat itself, at the top and bottom of the breast, is yellow. Yellow. Yellow. Not cream colored, yellow. A bi-product of a happy chicken life is happy chicken fat. And happy chicken fat is yellow.

One other know what I love about this chicken? Look how it's shaped. Little breasts and big thighs. It's so nice to see other creatures with a shape like mine! Pioneer Woman compares herself to this cow on her ranch. I'm more like this happy chicken.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The FTC -- as screwed up as the rest of our government.

Maybe it's because I lean Libertarian. What can I say? I love free markets. And the environment. What an oxymoron. Is it possible to love both?

Maybe it's because I admire Whole Foods' founder, John Mackey.

Maybe it's because I love organic food and (even more) I love Whole Foods' generic brand, 365, which makes the best food products (as consistently rated by America's Test Kitchen) available at any grocery chain near me for less than I'd pay for the crappy name brand stuff (and sometimes cheaper than other generics) that other grocery stores sell. I buy their canned tomatoes, canned tuna, and canned pumpkin, their pasta, their pasta sauce, their butter, their cheese, their sour cream, their cream cheese, their ketchup and mustard, their shampoo and condtioner, their lotion, their olive oil and balsamic vinegar, their flour, sugar, and chocolate chips, their snack foods, and anything else I can get my hands on. Even their chapstick rocks. That only covers some of the 365 products I buy. And 365 also makes some of the most earth friendly napkins, paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper, too (very high on recycled content, very VERY low on bleach and other chemicals -- as rated by Greenpeace). I don't buy everything from Whole Foods, but I do love Whole Foods in more ways than I can count and, despite its shortcomings here and there, I will defend the company to my death. And I don't even work for them. Maybe I should. Maybe I will.

Those are just a few of the reasons I was beyond thrilled to see this editorial in our local paper. I hope other papers are printing similar pieces.

OPINION: Whole fools

March 10, 2009 - 5:38PM
To understand how well our big central government looks out for us, consider the recent abuse of Whole Foods and its owner John Mackey, one of the great pro-gun, pro-liberty, pro-profit outspoken libertarian thinkers of our time.

Our story begins in a Texas garage back in 1978. Mackey, freedom-loving vegetarian hippie, starts an organic food store called Safer Way, risking all the money he has. The health food store takes off, he grows it and renames it Whole Foods. Through the force of competition the chain revolutionizes the grocery industry, raising the bar for lame, run-of-the-mill supermarket chains. To compete with this garage startup, the bigs improve customer service, and add bulk aisles, islands of imported cheese, olive bars, more fresh produce than ever before, and greater selections of fresh organic foods. It inspires much smaller natural food businesses, such as Colorado-based Vitamin Cottage, to open locations near Whole Foods locations with the promise of lower prices. Because of Whole Foods, at the turn of the 21st century consumers have unprecedented grocery options.

Fast forward to 2007. Whole Foods has outperformed a smaller Boulder-based natural grocer, Wild Oats. In a friendly arrangement, Whole Foods buys the smaller competitor.

It's a coup for people living near Wild Oats locations, because Whole Foods is a better store. For residents of southeast Colorado Springs, the Whole Foods acquisition of Wild Oats resulted in a Whole Foods at 3180 New Center Point. Meanwhile, a former Wild Oats founder continued growing his new chain of organic food stores called Sunflower Farmers Market.

Somehow, all of this high-performance, free-market activity is a problem the government must solve for us. Apparently it's bad that Safeway has remodeled most of its stores and upgraded its inventory to compete with Whole Foods. And it's a problem that consumers have more Whole Foods locations than they did before the acquisition of Wild Oats.

At first, the Federal Trade Commission tried to stop the Whole Foods acquisition of Wild Oats with an antitrust lawsuit, but a federal judge blocked the move. Last year, an appeals court overturned the ruling and the FTC reopened its Whole Food witch hunt.

Armed with ominous threats to the right of Mackey and Whole Foods to continue succeeding, Mackey succumbed to a settlement in which his company must sell 13 stores, 12 of which were acquired as part of the Wild Oats purchase. One is the New Center Point store, which means the FTC has reduced our local options for shopping at Whole Foods from two locations to one. Somehow, this is supposed to protect us from Whole Foods cornering the organic foods market. Never mind that the success of Whole Foods has resulted in every food retailer up to and including Wal-Mart getting into the business of organic health foods. If you live in the south part of Colorado Springs, thank the FTC when you find yourself driving 30 or 40 minutes to North Academy in order to shop at Whole Foods. Remember, they terminated the other Whole Foods to protect you.

The FTC could not have chosen a greater free-market advocate to attack. Speaking at the 2004 FreedomFest in Las Vegas, a convention of free-market libertarians, Mackey explained a major fallacy in the left's view of economics: for one party to win, another must lose.

Mackey understands that one can win big in business without anyone else having to lose. And he's living proof. Safeway, Wal-Mart, King Soopers and Vitamin Cottage, to mention a few, are better stores because of Mackey. Yet his profits continue to grow.

"Business is not a zero-sum game with a winner and loser," Mackey told FreedomFest.

"It's a win, win, win, win game - and I really like that."

That statement may not sit well with FTC officials, who are charged with ensuring that one company's success does not impede another's to the detriment of consumers. To the FTC, the rapid growth and success of Whole Foods isn't a "win, win, win, win," but a threat, threat, threat, threat to competition regardless of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the FTC's view, the market can't serve the interests of consumers without federal intervention.

If central planners don't like Mackey's "win, win, win, win" view of free markets, they probably don't like much else he says:

• The left's "socialist economic system not only didn't work very well, but in its communist manifestation it justified monstrous governments directly responsible for the murders of over 100 million people in the 20th century."

• "Socialism doesn't work. This was proven beyond a doubt in the 20th century."

• "What the left has done is create a world of victims and a cult of victimology."

• "Remember, the left's goal remains either to cripple or destroy capitalism."

Mackey clearly doesn't care for big government and central planning. And central planners don't care for his brand of success. So they're saving us from too much organic food, by eliminating stores consumers cherish. Sure, FTC, that makes lots of sense.

Thanks for helping out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Callie has an earache

Or, is it a plugged ear? That's what she says it is. I'm not sure. She's generally been in a bad mood this afternoon -- ever since she stepped on a cactus after lunch and got cactus spines stuck in her foot (and won't let me get them out, by the way). So, I went to, my favorite source of all things natural-medicine, looking for some insight into Callie's many issues. On the front page was this article about grass-fed meat. It has nothing to do with earaches. But I liked it and thought I'd share it with you.

How's that for continuity? I don't know how I ever manage to get anything accomplished. I did find out, by the way, that breast milk dropped into an infected ear clears up the ear infection in a few days. Chalk it up to the antibiotic and antiviral properties of breast milk. Wow. Amazing stuff.

Anyway, here's what Dr. Mercola has to say about grass-fed meat.

Why All the Fuss About Grass-Fed Meat?

Grass-fed beef is vastly superior to grain-fed beef, and in fact it’s the clear beef of choice you should be eating. It is far more important to choose grass-fed than to choose organic, as most grass-fed beef are also organic.

Not only is it raised in a more sustainable way for the environment, and a more humane way for the animal, but it’s the superior choice for your health.

Grass-fed beef, for instance, is lower in fat than regular beef and, more importantly, contains higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid. Grass-fed animals have from three to five times more CLA than grain-fed animals.

CLA has been making headlines for its extreme health benefits, which include:
  • Fighting cancer and lose weight
  • Increasing your metabolic rate, a positive benefit for promoting normal thyroid function
  • Helping you maintain normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Enhancing your immune system
The article “Better Beef,” written by California rancher Dave Evans, gives a great in-depth view of the many benefits of grass-fed beef, from environmental sustainability to the sheer difference in taste and nutrient content of the beef.
Keep in mind that grass-fed meat is almost always preferable to certified organic meat also because most organic beef is fed organic corn, which is what causes the myriad of health problems associated with eating beef. If you can find organic, grass-fed meat, that would be ideal.

Your Best Bet When Looking for True Grass-Fed Meats

Remember, grass-fed meat doesn’t have to be “certified” grass-fed for it to give you health benefits.

Your best bet, which circumvents the labeling confusion altogether, is to get in touch with a local farmer (try finding a farmer’s market or community-supported agriculture program in your area to do this) who can verify that the products are raised on pasture, without antibiotics and pesticides.

By going straight to the source, you’re likely getting the absolute best meat there is, USDA-certified or not. If you don’t have access to a local farmer near you, here is a list of grass-fed beef ranchers in the United States that can ship good quality meats right to your door: Related Links:
If you're in Colorado and you're looking for a source of grass-fed beef, be encouraged! We have many, MANY grass-fed ranches. Here are a few that I like:
Now is the time to start thinking about buying a quarter beef (or splitting a quarter with someone) in the fall. Usually ranches start taking orders in the spring and you get your beef in the fall. If you can afford to buy your meat in bulk, you'll end up with a much better price than buying it cut by cut in the grocery store, even better than what you'd get on the cheap CAFO stuff at the grocery store. Why buy nasty CAFO stuff when you can get something that's good for you and makes you feel good, too? Go local and grass-fed!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oh, Lightroom, how I love thee.

Let me count the ways...

Okay, maybe just one way. For now.

Here's a screenshot of the final photo I needed to upload for Brynn's class page in her school yearbook. I was assigned the job because Laura is in charge of the yearbook. Having friends in high places is not always beneficial. At this point I'm thinking that working on the yearbook is not a good idea for a mom who is a perfectionist when it comes to photos and layouts and stuff like that. Because it takes forever to gather the photos, edit them all, figure out how to lay them all out, re-edit them because you realize that somebody's head is getting cut off in nearly every photo. Of course, if you're like me, you can celebrate because at least you got the color and contrast and saturation right during the first edit...because you're using Adobe Lightroom! My favorite photo editor! I still love iPhoto because it's easy to use and does everything an amateur really NEEDS, but Lightroom does everything a perfectionist WANTS (as long as you don't need layers...then you should empty your bank account and move on to Photoshop).

So, the before and after photo of one of Brynn's classmates, pictured above, took me like three minutes to edit. Admitedly, the photo is still not perfect and the edit could be done better and faster, but I'm still a Lightroom newbie. The photo was originally taken on the school's little automatic camera which, I'm certain, has a white balance setting to compensate for those dreaded fluorescent lights, but I'm also certain that none of the school staff nor the moms who use the camera think about changing the white balance setting on the camera. So every photo taken inside the school looks like it was taken in Mexico City on a Spare the Air day. Hazy and brown -- capable of choking you with just a passing glance. Luckily, with a few quick adjustments in Lightroom, photos like that go from icky to passable, sometimes better than passable.

Here's possibly the best thing about Lightroom. If you qualify for an education discount (you're a student, you're a teacher, you're on a school's staff, you have a neighbor, child, spouse, niece or other relative who is a student and wants to "buy you a gift") you can go to Adobe's education website and buy Lightroom for only $99 plus shipping. Full retail price is $299. WOW!

Totally worth my (always) humble opinion.