Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eggs: Cage Free vs. Free Range vs. Organic

If you're looking for organic eggs, the egg cooler in the grocery store can be intimidating and confusing. There are cage-free eggs, free-range eggs, organic eggs...What's the difference?

Fitness magazine gives a very succinct explanation:

Free-range means the chickens are raised with some access to the outdoors, and cage-free means they live in an open room so they can stretch their wings. Neither label is well regulated for eggs, so I look for USDA-certified organic. These are guaranteed free-range and are often cage-free, plus the birds get organic feed, so the farmer doesn't use hormones, antibiotics, or grain grown with toxic chemicals.

Wikipedia explains:

Significant differences cover feed, medication, and animal welfare. Organic hens are fed organic feed - which is the main factor in improving taste, nutrition and health benefits of the eggs; it is prohibited to feed animal byproducts or GMO crops - which is not discontinued in free range environments; no antibiotics allowed except in emergencies (in opposite to free range, which implies usually the same levels of antibiotics as factory farming); guaranteed animal welfare standards in organic farms, which also improves the quality of both the eggs and the meat - low stress levels lead to superior quality of animal products...

Now that I know the differences, I'm definitely going to seek the organic and free-range eggs. All beings should have sunlight, don't you think? And, all beings should eat natural food, yes?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Getting Intimate with My Newspaper

On Friday, I spent nearly the entire day on my computer. I worked, I read news sites, I shopped, I perused blogs, I watched videos on Youtube, I listened to my Pandora stations, I chatted with friends and coworkers. Then that evening, I logged off my computer, kept the TV turned off, and shifted my attention to the pile of newspapers that had been collecting and neglected all week.

For all the hoopla about the immediacy, efficiency, and digital connectedness of a laptop / iPhone/ netbook / iPad / Kindle / Blackberry / enterotherelectronicdevicehere, something interesting dawned on me while I was blackening my fingers with newspaper ink. I realized that there is one thing that electronic media wasn't able to do for me, and that is to give me a true one-on-one connection with the story.

The Internet, in all its glory, is really just a crap load of information-- most of which you don't want or need, but hey, it's there-- or what the CE industry calls "content." Lots 'o content. Lots 'o stuff. All this stuff makes it extremely easy to get distracted. Sure, reading a story online can provide a richer experience, what with all the hyperlinks, the associated videos, audio, etc. Even when I was playing with the NPR app on my mom's iPad, I was mesmerized by all the neat features: the article itself, the links, and the corresponding NPR audio piece with the predictably calm voices. But, what's ironic is that although the Internet can provide this richer experience, it also distracts me. Sometimes, I just want to focus on one medium, like the written word or only the scenes on the television set. Sometimes, I want to focus only on reading about Kate Gosselin's Dancing with the Stars drama and bitchiness and not be tempted to click on the link that tells me about Jon's latest attempts at one-upping his ex-wife.

Look at your browser right now, and tell me how many tabs you have open (I have 8). Now, tell me how many programs you have open (I have just 1: the browser). Lastly, of the open tabs and programs, how many of these are you working on pretty much at the same time (I'm actively looking at 4 websites)?

Going back to my Friday evening newspaper reading...As I read the paper, I felt a more intimate interaction: just the LA Times and me. The stories and information resonated better with me. Even as I recounted to my boyfriend what I had read, I felt that I could recall the details better than had I read it from a website. With the newspaper, there are fewer distractions. (I mean, your eyes could certainly drift to another article but that's not the same as clicking to an entirely different website.) And, because of this, I'm able to feel more connected to the story subject.

They say that the physical newspaper is a dying breed. I hope it doesn't die. I'm not ready to be a widow.

P.S. I purposely did not hyperlink in this post because I wanted you to focus on my words :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pitching at Toastmasters

I just joined Toastmasters in February. For those of you unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it's a group that helps you with public speaking (or any speaking, for that matter).

There's a section during Toastmasters called table topics where members are called upon for an impromptu 2-minute speech about whatever the Table Topic Master deems at that moment. (Side note: the last three times I've done a Table Topic, I'm always the second person called. Kind of weird.)

Anyway, this last week, my table topic was "sell something in 1 minute." So, I thought, Easy! This is part of my job!

I saunter up to the podium. I dive right into my pitch. "I'm going to sell you on a Belkin Wireless Router. This should be easy for me since I do PR for Belkin and selling stories of products is my job." Sounds good so far, right? Well, nonetheless, I was nervous. I should have said, "This should be easy for me...yet I'm still nervous as hell because all you 20 people are staring at me and are probably like, what the hell is a router?"

To summarize, I did a horrible job, and I'm sure my fellow Toastmasters were wondering how I even got a job in PR given my pathetic attempt to sell them on a router. Pitching to strangers is something I do regularly. But what's different is that when I'm pitching, I don't have 20 people staring at me. And, I usually have the product with me, so I'm interacting with both the product and my audience. So, it's not just a one-way dialogue. Although the Toastmaster audience is a captive one, they're not necessarily interested in wireless routers. I realized that I made the mistake of picking a topic that could be too technical. Of all the products out there, I choose one of the most technical ones, a wireless router with advanced apps such as BitBoost, which lets you prioritize what programs you want taking up your bandwidth (am I losing you yet?). The Toastmaster group is a diverse one of various backgrounds and ages. I'm sure some of these folks aren't tech savvy...I should have pitched laundry detergent or something.

What did I learn from this? Cater my speec to the audience (something I do in PR anyway), pretend that I'm pitching to a small group of editors, and hold a prop as a placeholder (if necessary).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Will my CSA box stress me out?

I just signed up for a CSA box. CSA stands for community-supported agriculture, which consists of a group of individuals who support a local farm, sharing in its risks and benefits, by purchasing shares of its produced crop. Each week or every 2 weeks, the individual will receive a box of various seasonal vegetables and fruit. The benefits are immense for both the farmer and the buyer (more here).

My friend Judy and her fiance are CSA supporters, and she, along with my coworker Graciela, got me interested in this neat concept. Here's what else drove me to this:

* Watching the Oscar-nominated documentary Food Inc (which my friend's wife had produced- go Elise!) got me thinking a lot about food-- not just what exactly is going through my body, but also how it's produced, who's producing it, and the business of food.

* Graciela's recommendation of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, who was featured in the documentary and who is a proponent of eating REAL FOOD.

* A piece on Alice Waters in the LA Times, the famed Oakland chef who was the first to pioneer farm-to-table cooking in her restaurant, Chez Panisse. She's very orthodox about her commitment to local and sustainable food.

* Michael Pollan's Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. This is essentially a guidebook about what to eat and what not to eat for those who want to follow the rule of REAL FOOD. I like it because it's easy to read with bite-size (no pun intended) information.

* A phone call with my friend Sharon, who described her struggles with feeding her kids healthy and sustainable fare.

After that phone call, I decided it was time to sign up for the CSA box pronto!

Graciela clued me into the local CSA she uses, South Central Farmers Cooperative. My box comes every 2 weeks (that's the option for Long Beach residents)...first box will hit on April 25. I'm excited!

Although I am excited, I have some minor trepidations. Judy and R receive their box weekly, and she says they have trouble consuming all the produce in a timely fashion. She once had a poker party where she tried to stuff us with carrots and lots of other veggies (not what you'd normally find at a poker game!). I'm hoping that a biweekly box won't be as stressful. In any case, I'm sure it will make my cooking more creative and our bodies more regular (ha).

To find the CSA nearest you, visit LocalHarvest.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mama's got a brand new iPad

Of all the people in my family to get an iPad, who would've thunk that my fobby mom would be the first one?!

Just the other day, my mom was talking about how she's been hooked on watching Thai soap operas on Youtube. The only problem is that my dad hogs the family computer, so she doesn't get much time on it to email the kids or watch her shows. She then talked about getting another computer for herself when I blurted out: "You should get an iPad!!" It's perfect for what she needs it for: watching video and emailing. Also the touchpad and the overall intuitiveness of its design makes the iPad really easy for a tech-illiterate person like my mom to use.

To everybody's surprise, it was easy like Sunday morning to convince my mom to buy the iPad (we even bought it on a Sunday). She was like, "Oh iPad? I hear on the news people wait in line for iPad. $500? That's cheaper than a laptop." The day after I mentioned it to her, we were at the Apple Store buying my mom her first computer.

We set it up so that shortcuts to each of the Thai soap opera episodes were on the homescreen. Watching her navigate on the iPad screen just proved how intuitive that sucker is. She was so happy to be sitting anywhere in the house watching her soap operas from her lap!

We did encounter one problem, and that was setting up her Yahoo email account to the iPad. We believe it's a problem with the Yahoo server (as I couldn't set my own Yahoo account to it either though my gmail worked). Hopefully, Yahoo will get that fixed ASAP!

In case you want to watch her soap opera, it's called Tuddao Bussaya.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Geeky Cookies

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sea of Shoes

A friend at work clued me into this fashion blogger, who has the most amazing sense of personal style and panache. From her beautiful red hair down to her Barney's Co-Op over-the-knee boots, Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes is so darn cute.

After you've perused her site and drooled over her outfits and her shoes (oh the shoes!), get this: she's just a senior in high school (!!).

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Where is my milk from?

My milk is from Northern California.

With the new widespread interest in knowing where your food comes from (widespread as in maybe just in the coastal states), a new site has popped up to tell us where our milk hails from. Simply titled Where Is My Milk From, you enter the code from your milk carton or most other dairy products (yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream) into the field on the webpage, then a map shows detail of what geographic area your dairy goods come from. You can even find out what other dairy products are produced here.

I entered my lactose-free milk (Ralphs generic brand) and learned that it's from Gustine, CA, which is east of San Jose off the 5. I also tried to do the same with my organic Wallaby yogurt, but I couldn't find the code on the container.

There's something similar for blueberries. I bought a blueberry carton last year, and it provided a code that you could enter online to find out what farm your blueberries came from.

So now that I know where my milk is from, how does that make me feel? Well, how is it supposed to make me feel? More enlightened? More connected to my milk? Nope. I don't feel nuthin.