SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

April 30, 2012

Mercola – Oschman on Earthing

Dr Mercola is sharing a marvelous interview with Dr. James Oschman on EARTHING. Actually this is one of David Wolfe’s favorite topics,  so I am very familiar with the subject and been wishing that I could avail some of these tools.  But you know, the way this doctor is explaining  it, we don’t have to go buy something, if we would just take this advice and do a few simple things – no money at all.

The two doctors are really enjoying this conversation, you can tell by their enthusiasm.  I really enjoyed it too. It is a bit long over an hour, but so worth it.  Obviously, I have been wound up on the inflammation thing as there is so much to it.  So many things can cause it and since it is at the core of so many illnesses, it pays to understand all you can.  Dr. Oschman does a very good job explaining something important to us all.    It’s worth your time.

Caution: Wearing These Can Sabotage Your Health Caution: Wearing These Can Sabotage Your Health    Caution: Wearing These Can Sabotage Your Health
Almost everyone places these on their body on a daily basis, but if you overdo it, it can lead to all sorts of dangerous health problems because they shield you from some of the most potent antioxidants known to man. Take them off for 15 minutes now to help slow down the aging process, relieve pain and lower your blood pressure…

Sharing an “herbal asset”

John Gallagher of LEARNING HERBS

(John Gallagher of LEARNING HERBS   is a treasure of a source for all things herbal.  I am embarrassed to say that I possibly have not posted on him and his valuable site before now.   I am sorry.  John so often has these wonderful training sessions online which are great for someone like me (and maybe you).  Of course, I found out about him a year or two back on Mountain Rose Herbs.  I have learned how to make lip balm (for my granddaughters) and kept some for me too.  It’s nice – never used it before. 

Then watching a teaching demonstration he arranged online for making the best ever face cream, I was hooked.    He had some lady in her kitchen and I remember that her blender broke down – but she saved all while continuing on til all was completed and looked great.    Her gracious commentary while she casually worked was so helpful as she explained her preferences and so on.    If I remember right, she might have used some olive oil in the mix which I didn’t use as others online had said it can leave a greasy looking shine on skin

This is John’s field, so it is no wonder that he is so well connected, and has all these great people on to teach one thing or another.   He has taught how to make essential oils, tinctures.  He’s done the tooth cleansing powder too, as a matter of fact, it is from him that I learned of the Kaolin Clay to use in my tooth powder recipe which I have given out, because I tried essentially using some of the ingredients I copied down from Nadine Artemis of  Living Libations.   Kaolin Clay made sense to me, so I added this too. 

At the end of this post, I left the comments there, which I would normally no do since they were written for another’s blog.  They are totally related to the subject at hand and seem relevant and useful, so they are in.  

The subject here is a recipe for everyone’s favorite sandwich.  Got my salivary juices flowing.  Enjoy.  Jan  )
Issue 81

The Herb Fairies are coming!
Catch them before they disappear…

LearningHerbs.com is VERY excited to introduce our new children’s herbal learning system.

Kimberly has been working on this for nearly 3 years, and we have never been more psyched about a new project.

GO TO THIS SITE NOW to find out about this unique opportunity for the kids in your life.

Herb Fairies will not be listed on this site again until mid-2013.

In order to learn about or participate in Herb Fairies, you need to visit HerbFairies.com today…

…before they fly away. :)

By the way.. Hailey also shows you on video (with Kimberly) how to make candied violet flowers…

Chickweed Grilled Cheese!

by Rosalee de la Forêt


At LearningHerbs.com we love to love weeds. So many of those green pests that grow so easily and so abundantly are actually medicine chests in disguise.

One of the first of these green allies to emerge from the snow or ground is a little star of a plant, chickweed (Stellaria media).

A member of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae), its delicate stems and tiny white flowers sit unassumingly in garden beds and other disturbed soil areas. It spreads well (it is a weed!) and thrives in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. If you’re wondering where chickweed gets its common name from, feed a plate of it to chickens and you’ll see them go bonkers for this nutritious feast.

Energetically this plant is moistening and cooling (think of eating a slice of watermelon on a hot summer day and you’ll get the idea). It is often classified as a demulcent and refrigerant. Therefore, in herbalism we tend to use it for hot and dry conditions like inflamed tissues. It’s especially adept for external use such as a poultice, or made into an ointment or salve. Try it externally on rashes, pink eye, styes, diaper rash and other inflammatory skin conditions.

It has a special affinity for bringing moisture to the mucous membranes, whether it is for soothing a hot and irritated urinary tract such as a bladder infection, or for relieving dry inflamed mucous membranes of the lungs that have resulted in a hot irritating cough.

Nicholas Culpeper (1616 – 1654), an herbalist from England, recommended placing chickweed poultices over the liver; it “doth wonderfully temper the heat of the liver and is effectual for all impostumes [abscess] and swellings whatsoever; for all redness in the face, wheals, pushes, itch or scabs.”

Chickweed isn’t just for medicine, however; this spring green is packed with nutrients. I learned from Paul Bergner that an Amish herbal treatment for increasing breast milk features our starry wonder.

“Chickweed is highly nutritious, with an ounce of the dried herb containing 400 mg calcium, 8.4 mg of iron, 176 mg of magnesium, and 280 mg of potassium. Directions: Place an ounce of chickweed in a quart of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer on the lowest heat for an hour. Strain and drink the quart throughout the day.”

Paul Bergner

Chickweed’s flavor bursts of fresh spring goodness. A perfect food following the heavy and rich foods of winter.


Chickweed in harvesting basket.

And luckily for us this is a nutritious, easy to grow and easy to harvest weed that tastes delicious! It makes a wonderful fresh salad, or can be gently steamed as a side dish. Just in case you have some picky eaters at home, today’s newsletter shares a meal that is a slight twist on some good old comfort food.

Okay, admittedly I did doll up the recipe a bit, calling for goat cheese and fancy olives, but I am sure you can easily adapt this recipe for your own version of grilled cheese.

Chickweed Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

To make this recipe you’ll need:

  • 2 pieces of bread
  • Soft goat cheese that spreads easily
  • 1-2 minced kalamata olives (or other high quality olives)
  • Fresh chickweed
  • Butter

Begin by spreading the goat cheese on your sandwiches.


Next mince your olives and sprinkle them over the cheese.


Mince up the chickweed and cover the slice of bread well.


Place the other slice of bread on top and cover it with a layer of butter.


Warm up a cast iron pan (or whatever you use for grilling sandwiches). I like it to be sizzling hot when I put the sandwich on.

Place the sandwich butter side down on to the pan.

Grill until the bottom slice of bread has turned golden brown, taking care not to burn it. Spread a layer of butter on the top piece of bread.

Flip the sandwich, turn to low heat, and cover. It’s done when both sides are golden brown and the cheese has been melted.


Sometimes we spice this up a by adding minced garlic or a dash or two of cayenne pepper.

However you choose to eat it, I hope you get your fill of chickweed this spring. And remember to harvest this plant gently, keeping your eye out for fairies!

How do you like to use chickweed? For food? Medicine?

Enjoy,

~Rosalee

Speaking of chickweed…
meet Stellaria, the Chickweed Fairy…

Click her before she flies away…

Nancy
Good heavens. This photo looked so yummy I shared it around the office. It looks AMAZING! Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for a great idea!!
Today, 2:10:52 PM
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Angeline
YUM! I can’t wait to try this! I just started eating chickweed in my salads and will definitely try it in a grilled cheese. It seems to be the theme this week as I just got a post from another blog about grilled cheese with maitake mushrooms! Anyway, I had a question… I see chickweed everywhere now and am trying to get my neighbors and friends to love chickweed too but we were unsure about where it was safe to harvest. There is one yard that is tiny and really close to the driveway.. could that be dangerous from the residue toxins from cement driveway? And another friend who has lived at her property for 3 years and hasn’t put any fertilizer or pesticide in her yard, but is unsure of the residents before her..?? I appreciate any advice. Thanks!!
Yesterday, 3:27:53 PM
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Rosalee de la Foret
Hmm… in general I don’t harvest next to driveways because of the reasons you already stated. As far as your friend… I could only guess. I know it takes a farmer three years of organic farming before they can be certified, but I am not sure if some pesticides stay in the soils longer than that or not. Sorry to not be of more help!
Yesterday, 7:10:35 PM
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Guest
This was so amazing to learn about. For us women, iron and calcium intake become increasingly important with age. I plan to add this to my diet right away. Thank you so much.
Yesterday, 3:27:31 PM
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Angie
Hi, I’m currently using a chickweed poultice for a couple of ‘blind’ spots on my leg and it’s working a treat! I’m interested to learn that it’s ok to eat chickweed as I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that if you eat too much it can be poisonous – can you please tell me if it’s completely safe to eat? I’m from across the pond and haven’t yet come across a living plant – only dried from the internet, is this something I could buy from a garden centre (as it’s classed as a weed rather than a herb)? I’d love to grow my own! After coming across your website I’m hooked! Thank you (all) so much for providing such fab information on all things herbal! I wish you all the best with your Herbal Fairies – I’m sure it will be a huge success!!
Yesterday, 10:28:23 AM
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Rosalee de la Foret
Chickweed is completely safe to eat (as long as it is grown in a safe location). I’ve eaten plates of salad made entirely of chickweed before. Probably the best way to grow it is to order some seeds and plant them in your garden. I’ve never seen it sold in nurseries before, but if they have it, great!
Yesterday, 11:50:28 AM
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Guest
Where do I buy chickweed?
Yesterday, 7:59:26 AM
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Rosalee de la Foret
I don’t know where you can buy fresh chickweed and dried is not very useful (in my opinion!) it turns to straw too quickly. The best thing to do is buy seeds and plant some in your own yard or find local organic farms who don’t mind you doing a little weeding.
Yesterday, 11:53:17 AM
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Catherine
Excellent twist on a classic…I will make this very soon….Yummy!!!
2 days ago, 10:30:58 PM
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pat
Chickweed is our winter salad and garden nibble. My chickens adore it and it is the first green food we offer our new chicks. I also use it as a cover crop for the garden.
2 days ago, 8:18:50 PM
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De Anna Muecke
Dear Grapenut: what is the name of your yahoo PLANT group, I would like to join…Thank you,DeAnna Michelle
2 days ago, 7:45:30 PM
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grapenut
How would you go about asking for free chickweed? :) I am in a yahoo plant group that gives advise but also keeps me up to date with plant exchanges,free plants other have to give etc. But having to ask about a ‘weed’…seems silly . Can I buy weeds at a nursery? I am not sure if I would find it in my yard or garden.Thanks for any suggestions you might have
2 days ago, 4:16:53 PM
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John Gallagher
Do you have an organic farm near you? I often harvest from green houses in winter or in the rows in summer. Great way to meet your local organic farmers. They love you weeding their farms :)
2 days ago, 4:23:01 PM
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Kimberly Yoder
This morning I saw in my yard what looked like chickweed. I first ran to my Wildcraft game I purchased from you several months ago. The card was somewhat of a help, but after seeing this picture I ran out and sure enough it was. Chickweed it was. I think I will try hummus instead of the goat cheese later on today as I have just finished lunch. Thank you once again for all your knowledge…..
2 days ago, 3:34:06 PM
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John Gallagher
Awesome!
2 days ago, 4:23:16 PM
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Guest
I enjoyed some mixed greens that included chickweed this week. Yum! Cooked them with a bit of olive oil and garlic greens.
2 days ago, 2:18:14 PM
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Cherri
And for breakfast, chickweed, feta cheese, red pepper, in scrambled eggs. Thanks for the inspiration. Your photos are perfect and so helpful.
2 days ago, 12:42:28 PM
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Ruth
Love chickweed! I have used is as an external wash. BTW where did you get that gathering basket?
2 days ago, 11:51:14 AM
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Rosalee de la Foret
John bought that basket for Kimberly from herbalist and story teller Doug Elliot. I believe it is made from tulip tree bark. Kimberly let me borrow it to harvest some chickweed – it is beautiful!
2 days ago, 12:36:05 PM
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John Gallagher
Yes… http://www.dougelliott.com/ Seems as if you can arrange to get them from his site. Great baskets and supports a great herbalist. :)
2 days ago, 4:29:47 PM
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Ashley
Wow that looks amazingly yummy!
2 days ago, 11:38:04 AM
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Beth Adelsperger
I actually haven’t found any chickweed around my area…maybe I need to look better! ~
2 days ago, 11:13:51 AM
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Beth Adelsperger
~ Yummy, Yummy, Yummy!! ~
2 days ago, 11:11:56 AM
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Guest
I have a small back yard, and my 2 chickens found my chickweed….!
2 days ago, 10:48:46 AM
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2 Guests
Ysha
Love this, thanks for the reminder, and tell me more about the lactation enhancing properties? I remember eating this plant – doesn’t grow in Albuquerque either best I can tell.
2 days ago, 10:39:04 AM
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CrunchyMommaK
I have Chickweed in my yard. Never knew you could eat it. That look awesome.
2 days ago, 10:31:58 AM
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Guest
Looks divine. Wish I could try this but here in Egypt it doesn’t grow!!!!!
2 days ago, 9:58:01 AM
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Kate
Oh, chickweed is one of my FAVORITES! I use it in my smoothies and spring tonics and now I will DEFINITELY try it on grilled cheese. :)
2 days ago, 9:53:37 AM
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Today is April 30, 2012

April 28, 2012

Inflammation, tool and symptom

   That’s Right, Inflammation is a tool

And a pretty effective tool at that.  When our body has an infection as an example,  it can marshal it’s army of soldiers in to  handle things and one of the ways this is done is by mounting heat (inflammation) to the site to burn out the invading force.  Most effective!  It works as I can personally attest as I have been prone to high temps  (I’ve gone to 106 a couple of times with a raging flu and when the temp broke, I came out of it fine and swiftly.)  Ditto for my son Jeff when he was a boy.  A high temperature can be a powerful response of a strong immune system.

Of course, when a doctor is handling such a situation, every attempt is made to minimize the temperature as going that high is said to be dangerous with the potential to damage the brain etc. .    I dunno.  When I am undergoing such an episode,  instinct demands that I get warm – – I am freezing with body a-tremble and feel I’ll never be warm again.   In my opinion, the body seems to know what to do.

 Inflammation can be a SYMPTOM too. . .

David Wolfe discusses in his interview on Aging many things which contribute to the aging process with especial regard to calcification and it’s impact on chronic inflammatory conditions.  He cites kidney stones, atherosclerosis and  cataract formation,  all with the commonality of over-calcification.  The take-away on this interview is to understand that one does not find improved bone health with taking Calcium supplements (which actually are little more than chalk), but rather – by making sure that one’s nutritional needs are met with the food ingested.  In other words – from plants, especially green leafy plants. (the way the cows do). You might check out his article “Beauty through Mineralization.”

Tho I don’t recall David mentioning arthritis as one of the chronic inflammatory afflictions – – it is by a huge margin one of the most devastating conditions besetting humankind.  And truthfully, there has been no progress on this front in allopathic medicine.  Pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms are not an answer.  Instead, what is necessary is to identify and eliminate the causative factors of the illness

Mainstream medicine has long thought “high cholesterol”  to be the main culprit with regard to heart disease, but this focus has proved to be not accurate.  That in fact, high cholesterol is itself another symptom, not a cause.  Newer thinking now identifies inflammation as a likely cause of heart disease.  Lets face it, inflammation is a symptom of still other causes, as well.

We’ve all heard it over and over . . .“you are what you eat.”   And it’s not just ‘be sure to eat your veggies’. It is actually making an investment in time to understand what it is that you need to do to take care of that body of yours so that it can serve you well all the days of your life.  Smokinchoices is only one of thousands of wonderful online sites where you can sift thru and discover what appeals to you.  Juice or don’t juice.  Go Raw totally or partially;  go vegetarian or include animals proteins of your choice and taste.  We are all different and will make varying decisions of what is right for us individually. . .and that is how it should be.  I have changed and no doubt will continue to do so.  Information is out there.  It’s everywhere.

But at this place,  the preference will always be the cleanest, purest, closest to the way nature grew, designed and made stuff.   Am opposed to genetically modified foods,  Am repulsed by the way animals are caged, fed and bred for one main thing – – the bottom line of the meat processors.  The animals are treated cruelly, fed pap that makes them sick and need to be medicated.  We need to eat organic everything, but most of us can’t afford to so we make choices and need to be highly selective.  Each of us do what we can without guilt or judgement.  As usual, I run on and on, . . .  . back to inflammation.

Refined carbohydrates and sugars (all kinds, natural or synthetic) is a major cause of inflammation.  Actually, it is probably the main culprit in our country as Americans have long loved the taste of sweetness.  It may start with Mommy and her always baking something loving from the oven.  We all grew up with memories of those comfort foods.  If you think back and be honest,  it was probably loaded with sugar somehow.  Sweetness in general and empty calories foods (refined – anything coming in a box or can or package) are leaving the body depleted, mal-nourished and always hungry.   Because the body is seeking much needed minerals which can be found in plant food.

Homocysteine

The amino acid Homocysteine, some claim causes heart disease,  and is another source of inflammation.  The body makes it in the process of breaking down dietary protein.  It performs many useful functions in our body, but there must be necessary co-factors present for all these functions to efficiently take place as well as breaking down the homocysteine.  If those elements are missing,  homocysteine accumulates in the blood and can begin to damage the walls of the arteries, seeming to sear the inner surfaces.  With this action, it is in fact, an underlying cause of inflammation.   The mounting levels of homocysteine then burn the lining of the blood vessels, and as the body tries to heal itself – plaques form.  With the passing of time, as pieces of the plaque break off. . this causes heart attacks and strokes.

Why our body sickens

When the body breaks down,  it is usually a lack (something we need) or a toxin (something harming us).  In this case, it is a vital nutrient we need.

What is lacking:   “The Fix”

A diet deficient in folate,  vitamin B6 and B12 which is a very common thing, will cause homocysteine to build up to dangerous levels.   But a diet rich in the B vitamins helps the body to quickly metabolize the homocysteine  and it has been reported that this excess can be treated effectively in more than 95% of cases reported.

Of course, there are supplements one can take  ( I have posted on Vitamin B’s Read the Label).  I have also written about Fermented Veggies.  The fermented foods can provide one’s body with more B vitamins than almost pill one can buy – – and it’s the very best thing one can do.  Your best choice should always be the foods you eat rather than looking for a pill of any kind.    You see, the package that nature gives us with our foods is a complete package, has all the co-factors needed to get the job done.

Good food choices for folate, B6 and B12 are:  leafy greens, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, beans, pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef and wild salmon.

Stay well.  Reach out to some one.       Jan

April 27, 2012

Kidney donation – new hazard

( Gotta be really careful who you give a kidney to, could be troublesome. . . .Jan)

Donating kidney for boss led to pink slip, filing says

By Jonathan Allen REUTERS

NEW YORK — A woman who donated a kidney so her ailing boss would move up the transplant waiting list says she was fired shortly after the operation, according to a complaint she filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

Deborah Stevens said her former employer, Atlantic Automotive Group, discriminated against her over disabilities brought about by complications from the surgery. She plans to sue the company for damages and lost earnings.

Stevens, of Hicksville, N.Y., said she learned that Jacqueline Brucia, who worked at Atlantic Automotive, was in need of a kidney in November 2010.

Stevens said she told Brucia that she would donate a kidney.

“Brucia declined, but told her, ‘You never know, I may have to take you up on that offer one day,’” the complaint said.

Brucia later told her that a potential donor had not been approved by the hospital and asked whether she still was willing to donate.

Stevens’ kidney was not a good match for Brucia, but she agreed to donate it to a stranger in St. Louis, setting up a transplant chain that enabled Brucia to receive a kidney from a donor in San Francisco.

Surgeons removed Stevens’ left kidney in August, and she returned to work about a month later. The surgery left her with damaged nerves in her leg, digestive problems and mental-health issues, her attorney said.

On April 11, the company fired her, citing performance reasons.

Earth Fare, glad you’re here!

FRED SQUILLANTE DISPATCH    Trevor Baker, left, and Roger Harper set up the banana display at the new Earth Fare, a chain that calls itself “the healthy supermarket.” The new grocery opens today at 1440 Gemini Place in the Polaris area.

   ” When people come through, I think they’ll be pleased at the affordability.  No one can’t afford to come here”  JACK MURPHY        Earth Fare CEO

Good-food grocer

Earth Fare, a supermarket chain that sells only natural foods, opens today near Polaris

By Tim Feran THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Shoppers looking for natural and organic food have a new option today, with the opening of Earth Fare’s first Columbus-area store at Gemini Place Towne Center.

Earth Fare, founded in 1975 in Asheville, N.C., is a growing chain whose “food philosophy” prohibits products containing high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, as well as artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors or fragrances. The chain also refuses to sell any meat or dairy containing antibiotics or growth hormones.

The Polaris-area store is Earth Fare’s fourth in Ohio, which is the first state outside of the Southeast in which the chain has expanded.

FRED SQUILLANTE DISPATCH    Bryan Landers stocks energy chunk bars at a checkout of the new Polaris-area Earth Fare, the grocery chain’s fourth store to open in Ohio.

Earth Fare opened its first store in Ohio in May in the Akron area, followed by stores in the Dayton and Cleveland areas. The chain is close to finding a location in the Cincinnati area and is considering additional stores in Akron and Cleveland, Murphy said.

“Ohio has responded beyond our expectations,” Murphy said.

Based on the successful launches here, Earth Fare is also looking to expand into Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, he said.

The chain has a wide selection of private-label goods that sell at lower prices than name brands.

“We use the private label as a gateway for shoppers so they can come here and start the journey to healthy eating,” Murphy said.

While Earth Fare’s meats typically are slightly more expensive than at conventional groceries, Murphy said, “it’s not a ridiculous premium.” The reason for the higher meat prices: “Our cows take 12 months to mature, while cows that are on hormones take six months.”

In many ways, Earth Fare is comparable to the two big players among organic grocers in the central Ohio market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. However, Earth Fare’s 26 stores in seven states are far fewer than the more than 300 stores that Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s each operate. At 27,000 square feet, the new Earth Fare store is much larger than Trader Joe’s on Sawmill, which is 9,885 square feet, although both are dwarfed by the Whole Foods on W. Dublin-Granville Road, which at 75,000 square feet is among that chain’s largest.

The Raisin Rack Natural Food Market in Westerville, at 24,616 square feet, is roughly the same size as Earth Fare.

One local industry observer expects Earth Fare to do well locally.

“Their timing’s good,” said retail consultant Chris Boring of Boulevard Strategies, who has followed the sector closely. “We’re coming out of the recession, and we haven’t had too much in the way of upscale grocery offerings added to the market, really in the past six or seven years. It does fit well with Polaris. There’s nothing else quite like it in that vicinity.”

Earth Fare also will likely succeed because the chain, like Whole Foods, is good at selling healthy food to the masses, Boring said.

“It’s not just a crunchy granola thing,” Boring said. “Their stores are like a theater. I think Whole Foods out of all of them understands that. Presentation. They brought presentation to the food category.”

Earth Fare’s presentation includes the now-common specialty food bars — such as cheese and sushi — as well as geometrically arranged fruit and vegetable stands popularized by Whole Foods.

In addition, the store entices shoppers with entertaining do-it-yourself devices such as an orange juice squeezer — “People love to watch this thing in action. It’s like hypnosis,” said community-relations coordinator Emily Broughton — and a peanut-butter machine that grinds fresh peanuts.

Earth Fare also flies in the face of “one quasi-myth about upscale grocery stores — that most people shop there to eat healthier,” Boring said.

“I think the truth is most people shop there to indulge themselves, especially with some of the more-exotic prepared foods. I don’t think you’ll get a lot of tree huggers in the Polaris area. They’re going for the goodies.”

The new store, like all Earth Fare locations, also attempts to carry local foods — defined by the chain as coming from no farther than 100 miles from the store — although some foods do come from farther away.

While the company’s CEO acknowledges that prices are a bit higher than at regular groceries, he notes that Earth Fare offers some discounts and promotions.

Among the promotions is Family Dinner Night, from 4 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, in which as many as six children can eat free with the purchase of one adult meal, $5 or more, from one of the store’s ready-to-go food bars.

The store also offers “weekly freebies” — this week it’s a choice between veggie burgers or a whole chicken — and online coupons.

tferan@dispatch.com

April 26, 2012

Drilling risks still threaten

Risks of drilling ever present

Two years after BP’s Gulf spill, experts say problems are inevitable

By Steven Mufson THE WASHINGTON POST

FILE PHOTO    The offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago, triggering the biggest oil spill in U.S. history

Two years after a blowout on BP’s Macondo well killed 11 men and triggered the largest oil spill in U.S. history, oil companies are again plying the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Forty-one deep-water rigs are in the gulf. The vast majority of them are drilling new holes or working over old ones, while the other behemoths are idle while awaiting work or repairs. A brand new rig — the South Korean-built Pacific Santa Ana, capable of drilling to a depth of 7.5 miles — is on its way to a Chevron well.

But three recent incidents in other parts of the world show just how risky and sensitive offshore drilling remains.

In the North Sea, French oil giant Total still is battling to regain control of a natural-gas well that has been leaking for nearly four weeks.   Meanwhile, Brazil has confiscated the passports of 11 Chevron employees and five employees of drilling contractor Transocean as they await trial on criminal charges related to an offshore oil spill there. And in December, about 40,000 barrels of crude oil leaked out of a 5-year-old loading line between a floating storage vessel and an oil tanker in a Royal Dutch Shell field off the coast of Nigeria.

  • Many experts say that even with tougher regulations here in the United States, such incidents are inevitable.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t do … offshore drilling, but we ought to go at it with our eyes open,” said Roger Rufe, a retired Coast Guard vice admiral. “We can’t do it with a human-designed system and not expect that there will be occasional problems with it.”

Shell is one company particularly anxious to avoid the slightest whiff of trouble. It is on the verge of getting the final two permits needed to drill this summer in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska’s Arctic coast, a plan that has aroused opposition from a broad array of environmental groups.

So on April 10, when federal regulators told Shell that they had spotted a 1-by-10-mile oil sheen in the 8miles of water between two Shell production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, executives acted quickly. They promptly mobilized an oil-cleanup vessel and sent two remotely operated underwater vehicles to scour the sea floor. It turned out that the oil — six barrels’ worth — came from a natural seep common in the gulf.

“Post-Macondo, there’s no such thing as a small spill,” said an executive from another big oil company, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.

With the anniversary of the BP spill, many experts are reassessing U.S. progress since the accident. And environmentalists are assessing the damage.

A National Wildlife Federation report said, for example, that the shrimp catch increased last year, but since the spill, 523 dolphins have been stranded onshore, four times the historic average; 95 percent of them were dead.

A team of scientists led by Peter Roopnarine of the California Academy of Sciences said oysters collected post-spill contain higher concentrations of heavy metals in their shells, gills and muscle tissue than those collected before the spill.

The members of the presidential Oil Spill Commission that investigated the BP spill said in a report that they were “encouraged” by reforms at the Interior Department, which oversees drilling in U.S. waters. But they said they are dismayed by the failure of Congress to enact some reforms into law, worried about the prospect of Arctic drilling, and concerned that the United States had not altered the embargo of Cuba to allow U.S. vessels to respond if there was a spill from a rig drilling in Cuban waters.

Environmental groups are more adamant.   Oceana, a group opposed to offshore drilling, said, “Offshore drilling safety has not improved.”

That assertion was disputed by Michael R. Bromwich, who oversaw the overhaul of the Interior Department agency now divided into the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Enforcement and Management.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis to get changes,” Bromwich said at a recent conference. He said better regulation was built on three legs: prevention, containment and spill response. He hailed advances in the first two areas but conceded that the ability to scoop up spilled oil “has developed painfully little since the Exxon Valdez,” the infamous 1989 incident in which a drunken tanker captain ran his ship aground close to the Alaskan shore.

“Once oil is in the water, it’s a mess, and we have not demonstrated an ability to get up more than 3 to 5 percent of the oil spilled,” Rufe said.

Many major oil companies say that the surest ways to prevent disasters are to use better well designs and to have containment devices similar to those used to plug the BP well on standby.

Yet well design is a key issue in Chevron’s oil spill in Brazil. Experts say that excessive pressure from drilling mud in the well had forced oil into rock below the well’s steel casing and then into faults leading to the sea floor about 150 feet away. Underwater video showed a line of droplets oozing out.

Chevron expects a Brazilian regulator’s upcoming report to say that the casing should have been installed to a greater depth. But company spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said that deeper casing isn’t industry practice and that Chevron and other companies had used the same design in other wells in the field. Moreover, he said, the Brazilian regulator and Petrobras, the state oil firm that is Chevron’s partner in the well, both signed off on the well design.

“Companies are going to draw the risk line in different places,” said John Amos, president of Sky Truth, a group that uses remote sensing and digital mapping to track environmental issues. “This is just another argument for strict oversight.”

GERALD HERBERT ASSOCIATED PRESS

In a photo from this month, pelicans gather among dead vegetation in Barataria Bay in Plaquemines Parish, off the southern coast of Louisiana.

(Jan’s Comment:

My week-end television watching has changed, in that I now record UP WITH CHRIS HAYES from 8 to 10 a.m. followed by Melissa Harris Perry from 10 to noon on MSNBC.  Both just excellent and beats anything around with the contemporary importance of truly relevant topics. (both Saturday and Sunday)  I have to DVR them as I am generally up 1/2 the night at my blog or researching or reading.  Have about 40 books begging for a fair share of time which I truly love to give them  Anyway,   Melissa’s show on Sunday I believe had very interesting guest on the topic of the Oil Spills.   For information on this you can go online to MELLISA HARRIS PERRY SHOW.COM   The shows are laid out by date and subject – easy to find.  Videos and so on. 

A particular guest Antonia Juhasz wrote the book “BLACK TIDE.”  Know it would be a great read, but just don’t have the time, besides, I have enough books I could open a store. (Virgo’s can be like that – – nasty!)  She and other guests discussed the various oil disasters.    The BP Gulf disaster killed off sea life, and that there is quite a gap between what they are saying and what really happened to Gulf life forms in five states.   The majority of the oil is still there.  200 thousand people are sick with so many afflictions.  The oil can’t leave the bottom of the floor bed – it just sits there, penetrating everything and that’s why the flora and fish are dead and dying.  They  notice the demise of the many bottle nose dolphins,  sea turtles and brown pelicans. Much loss.  And it’s 26 months later now.  BP had a $26 Billion profit in 2011. 

Money and fines are just not the answer and at the very least, top decision makers at BP should have to go to prison.  This won’t stop til someone AT THE TOP HAS TO PAY, not some underling doing what he is told to do.  These are disasters in more than one way.   It is impossible to make things right with a few dollars. 

These people don’t make the necessary repairs;  they require modernized, updated designs.   They have no respect for others, their neighbors or the planet.   This is not fair, equal or just.  There are too many who are moved only by the profit motivation.  Ethics and conscience seem non-existent.  Well, I do go on, don’t I?

Be good to yourself, . . .and reach out to somebody.    Jan

Food stamps cut $33B

House panel OKs $33 billion cut to food stamps

By Emily Stephenson REUTERS

WASHINGTON — A U.S. House panel approved about $33 billion in cuts over 10 years from food-stamp benefits, in a largely symbolic and highly partisan vote opposed by committee Democrats and by anti-poverty groups.

The cuts pushed yesterday by the House Agriculture Committee would cut spending on food stamps, which help 46 million people buy food, by $7.7 billion in the first year, $19.7 billion in five years, and the balance in the next five years.

The cuts are expected to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But the vote by voice underscored Republicans’ preference for domestic-spending cuts over defense cuts or tax hikes as they try to avoid automatic cuts set for January.

Rep. Jean Schmidt, R Loveland, cited recent news reports of a Michigan lottery winner who remained on food stamps as an example of faults in the program. “There are those that have benefited from this that may not truly need it,” she said.

The proposal to tighten rules for qualifying for food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — also could show Republican priorities for the next farm bill. The proposal repeals a 2009 increase to the program’s funding, instead of reducing subsidies for farmers.

“I would contend this entire process is a waste of time,” Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the committee’s top Democrat, said in opening remarks.

“Taking a meat ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of hard-working families in an effort to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction,” he said.

Programs are on the table as budget writers try to craft a plan that avoids about $98 billion in across-the-board, automatic cuts triggered by the failure of the debt-reducing “super-committee” last year.

Committee members said the cuts would reduce projected costs by about 4 percent for SNAP. Enrollment in the program grew substantially with the recession.

Republicans on the committee said they did not want to hurt families needing assistance but that lax rules allow some to use food aid who do not need it.

April 25, 2012

Credit Unions, better than Banks?

Credit unions can help economy back to its feet

PAUL L. MERCER President Ohio Credit Union League Columbus

Job-creating, bipartisan legislation soon will reach the U.S. Senate floor in the form of the Credit Union Small Business and Jobs Bill (Senate Bill 2231).   Senate passage is the next step to creating 140,000 jobs and $13 billion in small-business capital nationally that doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime — a common-sense approach to economic development.

The only opposition comes from banks, which are maniacally focused on defeating the measure, costing Ohioans jobs and small businesses much-needed growth opportunities.   Specifically, the bill would double the regulated lending capacity of safe and sound credit unions, thus generating up to $275 million in new credit available to Ohio small businesses and more than 3,000 jobs.

According to the Credit Union National Association, more than 500 credit unions nationally are at or are quickly approaching the current cap, highlighting the need for congressional action. The desperate need for credit is evident by the strong growth of small-business lending by Ohio credit unions.

  • Since the beginning of the economic decline, when many banks began limiting access to credit, Ohio credit unions saw demand soar, increasing outstanding business loans by 98.5 percent from December 2007 to December 2011.

Moreover, during the latest 12-month statistical period, loans to businesses by Ohio credit unions grew by 24 percent to $430 million.   Concurrently, 57 percent of small-business owners who sought financing from a bank were turned down, according to Pepperdine University.

Most important, credit unions are safe, strong and ready to do more.   Ohio credit unions are well- capitalized on average at 10.95 percent, well above the 7 percent threshold recommended by regulators.

Credit unions’ ability to manage a strong loan portfolio during stressful economic times is an indicator of how they can benefit the economic engine and entrepreneurial spirit of our country. If creating jobs is truly the No. 1 initiative of our congressional representatives, then this legislation is absolutely a no-brainer.

Nearly 3 million Ohio credit-union members urge Sen. Rob Portman to join eight other Ohio colleagues and show his support for small business and job growth by voting yes on Senate Bill 2231.

Ologie, Study in success

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Study in success

Ologie gets, keeps ad clients with ‘dive deep’ approach

By Tim Feran |

TOM DODGE DISPATCH Marketing company Ologie, led by senior partner Bill Faust and founder Bev Bethge, strives to be fluent in all media.

In less than a month, Ologie will bust through another wall. It’s the third time in the past decade that the Columbus-based marketing firm has expanded its E. Main Street offices, and it’s part of a 25-year pattern of shattering barriers structurally and professionally.

It all began when Bev Bethge, then newly graduated from the Columbus College of Art & Design, decided to start her own firm, one that has grown to be the fifth-largest advertising agency in town, with $10.5 million in sales and a staff of 70 and growing.

The young artist did face daunting odds for her business, originally dubbed Bethge Design, but was smart and determined, said Donn Vickers, who was then the head of the Jefferson Center for Learning and the Arts and first met her as a student.

“We were used to having CCAD students around,” Vickers said. “But when Bev showed up, she was different. She was bold enough to ask if we had some space there that she could utilize as a studio.”

Bethge ended up renting space from Vickers, and Vickers ended up making introductions to area nonprofits. And that led not only to work for her fledgling business but to interaction with those groups’ board members, many of them in the local corporate world.

Connection followed connection and an ever-more-important list of clients began piling up. Then, in the late 1990s, the company began working with Limited Brands.

“That’s where we cut our teeth in retail,” Bethge said. “We did a lot of work for Tween, Victoria’s Secret,” on such things as training manuals, annual reports and window designs for stores.

By 2000, the company needed more space and moved from Park Street near the North Market to the current location, the former service department of a car dealer.

“It was a raw space, but it screams ‘studio,’” Bethge said.

The renovated building had plenty of room for growth, and the company has knocked down walls with regularity, expanding from 3,000 square feet to 13,000 square feet, with another expansion coming soon.

Along with the physical move, the company also made several image changes, dropping the name Bethge Design in favor of Method Integrated.

“Bethge was awful,” she said. “I always had to spell it, and I didn’t want it to be about me.”

Another name change occurred in 2006, when a company in San Francisco turned up with the name Method, too. To avoid confusion, the Columbus firm became Ologie.

  • “Ologie is all about the study of things, and that’s what we do — we study, we dive deep,” she said.

That “dive deep” approach proved key about six years ago, when Ologie made two decisions that seemed relatively insignificant at the time but grow larger every year.

One was to hire a multimedia team to photograph, shoot video, build websites and create animated graphics. The idea was in part to make it easier for Ologie staffers to work — they could walk down the hall rather than drive over to another company to get those tasks accomplished.

Today, marketing companies are expected to have such capabilities, said senior partner Bill Faust, helping companies seek to connect with customers across various media — online, on social media, on mobile phones, as well as on traditional media such as television, radio and print.

“We want to be fluent in all media,” Faust said. “Now when we take on a project, we can do everything.”

The other important decision came when CCAD approached Ologie for help in refreshing its public image. While Ologie staffers initially thought they were just agreeing to do some friends a favor, their meticulous work drew raves, which led to a specialty in work for educational institutions.

The specialty developed almost by accident, even after the CCAD project was followed by work for Wellington School.

When a call came from Ohio Wesleyan University, a surprised Faust told university officials that Ologie really didn’t specialize in schools. “And they said, ‘That’s why we want to talk to you.’”

Other firms that the school had worked with were “very conservative,” Bethge said. “Everything looked the same.” Ologie’s approach was fresh and specific to each school, helping to target potential students with great success.

Today, Ologie serves more than two dozen educational institutions, including Capital University, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Purdue, the University of California-Berkeley and Smith College. What had never been part of the business has turned into a key driver of profit.

  • And thanks to such a booming business, “we chose not to participate” in the recession, Bethge said, smiling broadly.

But just as rewarding as the cash is the fact that working with universities has “deep meaning,” she said.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Faust said. “There’s nothing wrong with selling bras and panties. But we do like to get behind something that has a purpose.”

The client list continues to grow in all areas, which Ologie groups under the titles health, wealth, retail, education and community.

And for Bethge, that community includes her own employees.

“My job is to create an environment where people can do great work,” she said. “A culture, a space, an environment where you walk in and take a deep breath and get energy from it. When someone leaves after working here for four or five years, they can be very successful, whether as a freelancer or starting their own firms.”

tferan@dispatch.com

April 22, 2012

Heard of Face-reading?

FACE READING  (courtesy of Kevin Gianni)

Well, gotta tell ya, I’m impressed.    I’ve mentioned Kevin Gianni of Renegade Health before.  His blog is good, his stuff insightful, his attitude shows depth and breadth,  I say this because I don’t often stay with a site too long.     I’m on my 2nd year, at least.    My inbox is a disaster – way too much stuff, so am always cutting down on volume any way I can.  Kevin holds my interest.  Don’t know how he keeps coming up with all these ideas.

Well, this Face Reading  is amazing and apparently, there is so much to be learned.   Kevin recorded two interviews with this lady Jean Haner  (wonderofyourface.com)  Just listened to the 2nd one and again, I learned something worth knowing.    She described those lines we can get on the upper lip and those words as they tumbled off her lips and into my ears, lightened my load from the guilt of those smoking years to an entirely different cause factor.  This can be the hallmark of one who gives and perhaps is even an over-giver, often to the extent of neglecting to putting oneself on the to-do list of receiving a little care.  I have wondered why these lines didn’t show up til 20 years “after” I had quit.  Not earth-shattering, but glad I know that.

Here is the first reading:

Now on to the face reading…

It’s awesome, so be sure to check out
Part 1 of this awesome interview here:

http://www.renegadehealth.com/blog/2012/04/13/can-your-face-tell-if-youre-healthy-or-sick/

followed by the 2nd:       (Her website is really good, with much to share:.  )   .     .     .       .          .                .

Finally, like I promised, here is a great
interview and summary on what your wrinkles
can tell you — as well as Jean doing a
public reading of MY FACE!

You want to make sure you listen in (or at
least read my comments that follow.)

Here’s where to get this awesome interview
now:

http://www.renegadehealth.com/blog/2012/04/16/what-do-your-wrinkles-tell-you/

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