Friday, June 30, 2006

we did it!

I feel like our team won the World Cup at work this week. We played a killer match this week against Team Evil Country (soccer fans - is there a team that is evil but very skilled? If so, that's who we played), and we won it 2-0. I'd like to carry the soccer metaphor on a little farther, but sadly my knowledge of sports is quickly exhasusted. But damn, we are good.

These are the roses that HWWLLB gave me earlier in the week to cheer me on.

We have been working on this crazy World Cup of Work for over 18 months now, and we are suddenly in a funny extended limbo between the moment that the final match ends, and the moment when the winner is officially declared, this small window of purgatory when it is both highly unlikely, and also terrifyingly possible, that some technicality or mistake could suddenly emerge and negate the results. Or just agonizingly delay them. So I'm trying not to think about that.

this is my lucky suit

these are now officially my lucky earrings

I never used to be superstitious, but last week on a big day, I wore a black suit with a gray top and looked like I was going to a funeral. So did my colleauges. And it almost turned out to be our funeral. So this week, on the Very Big Day, I wore my lucky suit (the same suit I had worn for our first big match-up - against Germany maybe? - last year. In retrospect, it was a cake walk).

It's also a lucky suit because my friend Kim borrowed it once for her Very Big Job Interview, and she got the job. The earrings are lucky because they are beautiful and I found them a few weeks ago in my desk while rummaging for an empty jewelry box. I have no idea where they came from. And they go nicely with the lucky suit, don't you think?

After the big match, I was sure I would collapse exhausted on the couch, or tackle some exciting knitting, or want to go out and party, or just get really plastered at home, but instead I found myself scrubbing down the kitchen, vacuuming the house, and finally dealing with the mystery funky smell in the living room that had been plaguing us for months (as it turns out, one of the cats has been using the fireplace as a litterbox). I can't believe I used that burst of ecstatic energy for cleaning, of all things! There is a little of my mother in me, after all.

Tonight I am sipping tea and catching up on the Amazing Adventures of Billie and Heather, who are spending three weeks breaking hearts and chasing Billie's ancestry across eastern Europe. What a great trip! You can read Billie's travelogue here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

making jam

Sometimes when one project isn't going too well, another totally different one can be a welcome diversion.

Thus it was with the strawberry jam. On Saturday I finished up the colorbox sweater (pictures coming as soon as I find some leaf-green buttons and sew them on), and then I picked up for the umpteenth time this week the top made from ribbon yarn that I metioned in a previous post. I had cast on two or three different times and was still having trouble getting the gauge right. After twenty or thirty rows I realized once again that the gauge was still wrong, and I was going to have to rip it all out and start again.

Why did I ever decide to make this project, anyway? I don't even like knitting with ribbon yarn! I hate how its texture gets ruined so quickly by just some simple twisting, and how it makes a fabric that feels like bunched-up tissue paper against your skin. And this stupid top - I would never wear this! I was planning it for the fall Stitch & Bitch fasion show/auction, but that far-off date seemed to sink more distantly into the horizon as the reality of knitting this weird garmet loomed up ever-larger before me. Motivation... zero.

And yet, here I was at home on a rainy Saturday afternoon, having already done my cleaning and other assorted chores, having already mailed a birthday prize to a special buggy gal in DC, and with a quart of delicious organic strawberries waiting happily for me in the fridge.

So I made jam. Yum! This was the first time I'd ever made jam, and was ably guided by the Joy of Cooking and a couple of phone calls to my mom, who is a master of gardening, canning and freezing. And I enjoyed it so much that I'm giving you the step-by-step, right now.

This recipe makes a small amount - 2 or 3 jars - of jam. It takes one quart of strawberries (or any other berry you have on hand). They should be ripe, and you should remove the stems, clean and dry them before beginning. Some recipes call for pectin, which you use to thicken the jam. Joy of Cooking says its not necessary when using whole fruit, and I found that my jam thickened up quite nicely without the added ingredient.

First, sterilize some jars. To do this, put a pan of water on the stove and put your jars, about 3/4 full with water, into the pan with the tops sitting on them loosely. The jars should not be touching each other or the pan. Slowly bring the water to a simmer and just leave the jars there in the simmering water while you work (at least 20 minutes). Keep them in the hot water until you're ready to use them.

Next, put your berries in a ten-inch pot, add a little water (no more than 1/2 cup), and smash the berries just a little bit with a potato masher to release the juices. Bring them to a simmer and cook them for a few minutes, uncovered.

Once the berries are simmering nicely and have gotten soft, add the sugar. My recipe called for 4 cups of sugar for one quart of berries, but that seemed like a heckuva lot to me, so I used about 3 1/2 cups. Tasting the final result, I think I could have used even less. Stir well with a wooden spoon, and then don't stir again! The berries need to cook undisturbed so that they'll set.

Over medium heat, the berries should turn into a huge bubbling mass. Once they do that, set your timer for 15 minutes, and remember not to stir them. You can probably turn the heat down some and still maintain the bubblingness - this will help keep them from sticking to the pan.

this is what you call a bubbling mass

After your 15 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the berries cool a little. Then sprinkle your jam with the juice of 1/2 lemon, stir lightly, and put the jam into the jars. Close tightly. If you're using the kind of jars with 2-piece lids, you can turn them upside-down to seal. Leave them that way over night. In the AM they will be well-sealed and will keep in storage for a long time.

If want to read lots more about making jam, check out the tutorial at Pick Your Own.

So, anybody need about ten balls of ribbon yarn?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

a good read

When things get really crazy at work or home or just in general, I tend to resort to escapism to deal with the stress. Not to say I don't also turn to the somewhat less healthful chocolate and/or red wine binge, but when I really need to forget everything, nothing will do me better than good fiction.

Lately I have really been leaning on this book, The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass. Julia's last book, Three Junes, won the National Book Award, and though the new book is not a sequel, it does carry forward the story of Fenno, one of the characters from Three Junes. Any rate, I love a good story with lots of crazy twists and turns and emotionally complex characters, and that's exactly what this was. I laughed, I cried, I stopped thinking about work for hours on end. It was delightful.

This is a book I probably wouldn't have picked up for myself, except that it was selected by my book club. That's one of the great things about book clubs - being introduced to new writers and great stories you wouldn't have found otherwise. But best of all, one of our book club goddesses (a.k.a. Dr. D) is actually a friend of the author, so we found ourselves graced by her authorial presence at our monthly meeting last night! Lucky us. We were also joined by a lovely group of women from another book club, who call themselves the Jane Does (they all work at the county courthouse).

It's funny how people's literary experience varies. At most of our book club gatherings, we talk very little about the book and stray frequently into neighborhood gossip (though I have heard that the last few meetings, which I missed, have been much more bookish). But last night we had to focus and behave, since the author was actually there, waiting patiently to answer our questions. Any rate, there are people who you can tell took literature classes in college and ask about symbols and writing process and comparisons to other books, and there are people who read a hell of a lot and ask all kinds of good questions you would have never thought of, and there are a lot of people who really enjoy books but don't know how to talk about them, but want to convey their interest and sincere enjoyment, and ask questions like, "So you like cake? Because I just love cake. I loved all the cake in this book."

By the way, I'm not all that into cake. I prefer pie. But I did enjoy the book a great deal.

And even better than cake or pie, this morning there were many happy faces outside the kitchen window waiting to greet me:

this is a volunteer sunflower from the bird feeder.

a mother & daughter pair of purple coneflowers. we have squillions of them, all very large because of the wonderful rains we've been having the last month.

Hapy weekend to all of you - and if you're looking for a good book at the library or the bookstore this weekend, look for Julia Glass!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

mountains alive, morbid fascinations

Sunday was a great day. We took a long hike along Slate Stone Ridge in the high Pisgahs. It felt so good to push hard up the mountain, get really sweaty and tired just walking and seeing beautiful things.

We did see a lot of beautiful things, too; lots of wildflowers: bluets, galax, fairy wand, flame azaleas, mountain laurel, and sundrops were all blooming, along with a lot of other things I can't name. We flushed up some quail, and we saw deer and red-tail hawk and heard lots of songbirds.

One thing that was unusual for us, was that HWWLLB and his family had never been on this trail before. They all grew up hiking in the Pisgahs and seem to know every hill and holler, but this was a new spot for all of them. And the view! When we came out to a big bald rock we had about a 200 degree view, with nothing but hills and trees as far as you could see. Sitting there looking out, you could imagine that the whole world was just forest. It was a wonderful feeling.

In the car on the way home I made the little hat to go with the baby wrapper.

organic baby cap
luckily there's a model head in my attic for just such occasions. thanks bugeart!

And here's a shot of the wrapper - finally finished.

organic baby wrapper
i love love love the blue sky alpacas organic cotton

I'm excited about the small world of knitting projects open to me right now. I could finish the colorbox sweater, or make a pair of socks from my new copy of Knitting Vintage Socks and some lovely Secret Pal sock yarn, or get out the ribbon yarn I ordered eons ago to make a crazy but elegant top I've been planning for this fall's Stitch & Bitch charity fashion show/auction (gotta start early). (I'm not using that awful rainbow yarn color, by the way).

But I also have my eye on the little Dia de los Muertos dolls they have in the crazy summer edition of Knit.1. There's not a picture of them on the website, but they are at the end of the cool Frida Kahlo section. I like this Knit.1 - at least, I like all the crazy colors and photography and wacky patterns. But I kept checking the cover thinking it was an advertising circular for Lion Brand - since every single pattern is knit with Lion Brand yarn. But no - it claims to be a Vogue Knitting magazine. I don't get it - looks like the spawn of an unholy alliance to me. But I still love those dolls anyway... so morbid/cute!

Although you know, as much as I love Frida Kahlo and her paintings and all her chunky jewelry and morbid fascinations, she did not look like Salma Hayek in real life! Not at all! She was short and squat and had a big moustache and a unibrow, so stop it with the willowy babes already!

Whew, rant over. Thanks. I just hate how beauty has only one shape these days: skinny chick with bazoombas. There are other beautiful shapes besides that one. In fact, that one is kind of freaky if you ask me.

So what was this post about? Mountains or something, I don't know. Anyhow, thanks for reading. And check out the espresso art. So cool!

Friday, June 16, 2006

beer cozy

Now that the hot, sweaty days of summer are upon us, it's time to share one of my favorite patterns with you: the beer cozy. I particularly like this project because you can get a bunch of them out of just a little scrap yarn, they make great gifts (real last-minute gifts), and it takes no longer to whip one up than one episode of MI-5. Just about any wool/acrylic/blend yarn will do, but I don't recommend cotton - beer condensation and sweaty palms don't do as well with cotton.

Sizes: One Size

  • Any worsted weight yarn in wool or acrylic (leftovers of Cascade 220, Lion Brand Wool Ease or Plymouth Encore worsted are all very appropriate).
  • US size 7 or 8 double-pointed knitting needles
  • one stitch marker
  • Tapestry needle
Gauge: approx. 4 st/inch

Knitting the basic cozy:
CO 32 st. Divide evenly across 3 DPN's.
PM, join and knit in K2 P2 ribbing (in the round) for 6 rows.
Change to stockinette st and k 12 rows.
Change back to K2 P2 ribbing and k 6 more rows.
Bind off loosely in rib pattern.

This is the basic anatomy of a beer cozy. For variations, you can knit the whole thing in the ribbing, add stripes, get wild with cables or openwork, or add names or pictures to the stockinette portion of the cozy.

If you want to add graphics to the cozy, like 'his' or 'hers,' or your initials, I recommend knitting it flat and then sewing it closed - changing colors in the round (other than for simple stripes) is more trouble than I can handle.

I particularly like making sets of his & hers (or his & his, or hers & hers) beer cozies as housewarming gifts for my stylish lush friends. This is the little grid pattern I use for them.

Have fun with your cozies!

important notice: This is a free pattern and you are welcome to use it for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce this pattern to sell, and you may not sell what you make with it. You may donate what you make with it to charity, and you may use it for charity fundraisers only if 100% of the proceeds are donated to the charity (and by charity I don't mean your kid's college fund). Thanks for understanding!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

veggie bounty

I love Tuesday nights.

On Tuesdays I leave work promptly at 5 to go to yoga class - probably the only night of the week I make it out of there so early. And after yoga, it's always time to celebrate another load of fresh produce from the farm. Tuesday is the day Billie and I pick up our weekly share of veggies from the CSA farm where we're members.

This week's haul: you can see the kale and strawberries in the foreground. Then you have some tender spring onions, the first zuchinni of the season, a big bag of romaine lettuce, a small purple cabbage and a small green cabbage (all organic, natch). Yum!

The strawberries have been particularly bountiful this year. Every week Farmer Fred says, "This is definitely going to be the last week for the strawberries," but every week there are more. I think it must be the cool, rainy May and June we've had so far. I know this is probably the last batch of them - for real - so I will extra-super enjoy them. But soon, it will be time for the Queen of All Fruits, the wee-yet-mighty blueberry!

Last night I cooked up all the zuchinni for dinner, since HWWLLB was out of town. Squash is his worst vegetable enemy (though he has many others). I like to slice them in long, thin strips and saute them with olive oil and LOTS of black pepper. Then I pretend they're veal or something and eat them with pasta and tomato sauce. It was delicious.

And of course, a strawberry hot fudge sundae for dessert. See how healthy it is to join a CSA? You could be healthy like me, too.

Enough bragging about my Extremely Healthful Dinner. Here's a little progress picture of the lacy baby wrapper thing I'm making:

fancy schmancy, ain't it?

It's been a very enjoyable project - just a few more rows of the green, a nice border, and it will be finished. I'm thinking of making a little hat to match, too. I'll have to share the recipe for this one on a Free Pattern Friday when it's all done. Speaking of which... keep your eyes peeled, because I'm going to be posting a new pattern this week!

Monday, June 12, 2006


One of the best things about the onset of hot, sticky, muggy weather (there are good things!) is upping my intake of iced tea.

I am a tea junkie. Just ask my co-workers. I am almost certain that at work the phrase I utter most often is "Is it tea time yet?" Usually that means a cup of hot tea, with milk and sugar รก la anglaise, but this time of year I really start guzzling the cold stuff.

You have to ask special for your tea "unsweet" in North Carolina if that's what you want, because if you don't it will have a thick sugar sludge at the bottom, and taste like liquid candy. I know that some folks consider liquid candy, a.k.a. "sweet tea," to be a nectar of the gods, and so I won't judge. But the thought makes my teeth hurt.

When I was growing up, my grandmother must have made gallons of iced tea every week, which she made from decaf Lipton and kept in two wonderful old dented aluminum pitchers in the refridgerator, complete with foil on top. She made hers unsweetened, and we drank it with lots of lemon. My sister always shoveled in a few spoonfuls of sugar, I think as much for the pleasure of using a long-handled iced tea spoon, but I usually drank mine straight.

Nowadays I make my own special home brew with green tea and mint. Tonight I am trying something fancy with mint and hibiscus, which I had once at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and have wanted to make ever since. I'll let you know after it chills whether the experiment was successful. But here's a recipe for my favorite tasty summer drink:
minty green iced tea

Take an old juice bottle or something & wash it out. Or just use a pitcher. Stick in 4 green tea bags and one peppermint tea bag, and fill almost to the top with filtered (cold) water. I like to sweeten it lightly with a little honey - just pour a little hot water into a teacup with a spoonful of honey in it. Let the honey dissolve, stir well, and then pour it into your pitcher of tea. Make sure you mix it up well. Let your tea cold-brew in the fridge for half a day, or overnight, and then remove the tea bags before serving. This is great served with a slice of lemon or lime, a sprig of fresh mint, or just plain.
If you really want to know, this tea is my secret to winning at Scrabble - whereas beer is generally the kiss of Scrabble death. Just a word to the wise - feel free to steal my winning secret.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

saturday thrift score

What a nice Saturday. I woke up late, drank a whole pot of tea, and got some knitting done. I know I said I was going to make the fishy blanket for my friends' forthcoming baby, but when the new skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas organic cotton came in the mail, I started fiddling with this openwork pattern and fell in love. So I am making the baby wrapper with this lace instead of fish. Isn't it pretty? HWWLLB said he thinks it looks like trees.

There will be a panel of green, then one white, then another panel of green. I will probably crochet a border all around the outside - just a couple of DC rows - first white, then green on the outside. I love the way it just naturally comes out scalloped like that. Almost as cute as the fish...

But then, after several satisfying hours of tea drinking, NPR listening and baby-gift knitting, I got to make an unexpected thrifting trip! There is a little thrift/consignment shop two doors down from HWWLLB's favorite fabric store, which I had never noticed until today. While he was in there buying whatever it is you sewing-types buy, I found some great boxes in which to store my burgeoning collection of old buckles and brooches and whatnot.

a carved wooden souvenir box from mount vernon. it is now holding a mess of buckles.

a lovely flat jewelry box. finally, someplace to put all my pins & brooches!

and look inside! how wonderful!

What a treat. I tried and tried to spend more money in this place, but I came away only $3.16 poorer (they were having a sale). It was a good thing, too. Last week I spent a small fortune in comparison, when we went antiquing in Selma and I bought a whole load of old buttons, brooches, and buckles, which until today had been lying haphazardly all over the place. But not anymore - with all these storage solutions on hand, I could go re-stock on junk jewelry at the flea market soon! Oh, bliss!

After the thrifting adventure we took a short bike ride through a ritzy neighborhood on the other side of town. It's funny how the houses in an urban neighborhood can look like little country estates. I kept expecting to see a buff-colored Rolls Royce pull up with Miss Daisy and her driver inside, but no such luck. It was mostly Range Rovers and little BMW convertibles. We didn't see any other cyclists, but maybe it was just too hot.

Sadly, I discovered too late (just now, in fact), that it was World-Wide KIP Day today. Normally Knitting in Public is one of my most favorite activities, but lately work and other commitments have been keeping me away from our regular Stitch & Bitch gathering night. This week is going to be different though - Robyn and I have taken a pledge. We are going to be there, and dammit we are going to have fun (not like that's ever an issue). But isn't it terrible the way you can guilt-trip yourself out of having some innocent fun just because there's "work" to be done - not that you're going to do any of it, but just that it's there? Well, I do that all the time. Not this week though - I'm going to KIP my cares away. Also there will be wine-drinking and some chocolate consumption - I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

robe and candy cane

Here it is: the much-anticipated bathrobe.

I know I promised a saga, but it's really more of a tale of woe, so I think I won't bore you with all the grisly details. But here are just a few of the grisly details:
  • fusible interfacing. the point of this stuff is clear enough (to make things stiff), but buying the right kind is like picking the perfect melon at the grocery store. it takes some kind of voodoo or sixth sense. any rate, the kind i picked came out to be too stiff and makes the collar seem sort of overly-formal (but i did get a nice steamy facial while fusing it on). does stiff fabric from fusible interfacing get softer in the laundry? (someone please say yes)
  • crooked cutting. to sew with a pattern, you're expected to be able to cut a more or less straight line. this skill is far beyond me. i also suffer from crooked folding syndrome, and the combination of the two is... well, it adds up to a lot of tears and cursing when you go to sew in fancy things like sleeves.
  • hemless hem. well, just hemless robe. they expected me to hand-sew a hem all around the bottom of this thing. pshaw! hand-sewing is just below cleaning the shower caulk on my list of favorite things to do. so this robe really has no hem. it's folded up and basted, but otherwise, a little rough.
I got so wrapped up in making this thing that I sewed late into the night on Saturday... so late that I pretty much forgot we had houseguests coming. Houseguests that I needed to pick up at the airport.

They politely called after about a half an hour of waiting in the baggage area to see whether I was actually coming. Ha ha! Right! Yes! I'm on that! HWWLLB is a master of the quick tidy-up - by the time we all arrived back here, the place looked as if we'd been expecting royalty. Except that nobody had been to the grocery store for days, so the cupboards were a bit bare... but other than that, fit for a queen!

Thank heavens for sock monsters. This dang stiff-collared robe ate up most of my weekend (really, they call this an 'easy' pattern!) and made me swear I'd never touch my sewing machine again. But tonight we watched our friends' 5 year-old son J (they won tickets to the Carolina Hurricanes game on the radio! can you believe that?) and when he got here, he asked if we could make a sock monster. His mom told him about them, I think.

So we did. It was a good, crooked, crazed monster, because I had to pin and sew quickly so as not to bore J to death. He named it Candy Cane (for obvious reasons), did all the design work and some of the cutting. He also invented an awesome tail for this monster - you can see it peeking out from under C.C.'s legs.

j and candy canej is the one hiding behind the pillow while HWWLLB snuggles with candy cane.

Pretty good work for a 5 year-old, huh?

Some of you have been asking about how to make these things, and even whether I would post a tutorial. The bad news is: no I can't. But you can learn how to make all different crazy kinds of sock monsters from John Murphy's wonderful book, Making Stupid Sock Creatures (check out his great gallery of Stupid Creatures here). The book is really well written with very clear step-by-step instructions - much better than any quick & dirty internet tutorial.

Have fun! And if you make one - send me pictures!


It's June! Already! Goodness, I am having trouble keeping up. That calendar thing always bites me when I'm not looking.

Tomorrow I will post a picture of my newly completed bathrobe (I am having computer issues at home), but today it's time to talk about... the Wardrobe Refashionista Pledge!

Maybe I am a little bit sissy, or a little bit of a consumption freak, but I only took the two-month pledge (the minimum - I could have gone for 4 or 6 months). At any rate, for the months of June and July, it's no new clothes for me - only self-made, hand-made, thrifted, re-fashioned and otherwise crafted to keep me out of the G-darn Banana Republic. Out I say! You can become a Refashionista, too - check out the website and the Flickr group.

The Wardrobe Refashion Pledge

I, Fawn Pea,

Pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of "new" manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 2 months.

I Pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recylcle pre-loved items for myself for the term of my contract.

I Pledge that I shall create and craft items of clothing for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract.

I Pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovoated, recylcled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that thy thriftyness brings!

I especially pledge the sharing the joy part. I also appreciate that one "get out of jail free" pass is included with every pledge - to assuage the guilty souls of those who succumb to the siren song of the clearance rack. I swear I'll try to stay away!

Coming tomorrow... the saga of 1 3/4 yards of clearance-rack fabric, one low-budget sewing machine, one McCalls sewing pattern and 43 hours of blood, sweat and tears. My new bathrobe. (I'm sure the suspense is already killing you).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

one big hot spot

I just got back from a public hearing on some proposed rules regarding mercury controls from coal-fired power plants in North Carolina. There were a lot of people there representing the two big power companies - Duke Energy and Progress Energy - that make record profits off sell power to NC consumers. There were also some representatives of environmental groups, and a few private citizens like me.

The power companies were urging the NC Environmental Management Commission to adopt the weakest rules possible under federal law regarding mercury reductions. The private citizens and the environmental groups were urging the EMC to adopt the strictest rules as soon as possible. Here are my comments to the commissioners. (The public comment period on the proposed rule is open through June 30 - if you live in North Carolina, please consider commenting to the EMC on this rule.)

Thank you for the opportunity to voice my concerns tonight.

I am 30 years old. At my age, many of my friends are pregnant, nursing, or contemplating pregnancy. I’m delighted that one of them is also here speaking to you tonight.

As you consider this rule, I hope you are thinking carefully about the impact that your decision will have on the growing brains of many, many babies who are in the womb right now, and many more who have yet to be conceived.

If those babies are lucky, and their parents carefully seek out fish consumption advisories, and follow them conservatively, they will be exposed to lower levels of methylmercury than those babies whose parents don’t know about the fish consumption advisories, or who don’t have a choice about following them because locally-caught fish is what they have to eat. I grew up at the coast, eating fish my family had caught for dinner on a regular basis – almost every night in the summertime. I’m sure that all that fish is now to thank for my healthy heart.

As you know, fish is very good food. Fish is both low in saturated fat and high in protein. It is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce blood pressure. The nutrients in fish also contribute heavily to healthy brain development in a growing fetus.

Unfortunately, eating fish is the leading source of exposure to methylmercury, which as you well know is a potent brain toxin. Women who eat fish more than twice a week have blood mercury levels that are seven times higher than women who eat no fish.

As you also know, the biggest source of this mercury in the environment are coal-burning power plants.

I learned a lot about mercury, and about how it affects the fetal brain, from a biologist named Sandra Steingraber, who specializes in fetal development, and who is also the mother of two young children. Here’s how she describes mercury’s effects on the fetus:
“When confronted with methylmercury, the placenta functions more like a magnifying glass than a barrier. Levels of mercury in the blood of a newborn typically exceed those of its mother by 70 percent.

“Once inside the fetal blood supply, mercury is carried to the fetal brain, where it interferes with brain cell migration.

“Methylmercury paralyzes migrating brain cells... Methylmercury also halts cell division in the fetal brain by binding directly to neural chromosomes. The cerebellum—center of balance and coordination—is a special target of methylmercury. Prenatal exposures to methylmercury have also been linked to deficits in memory, learning and attention span that persist into adolescence and appear irreversible.”
In order to protect that precious developing brain, a pregnant woman needs to carry around a list in her pocket all the time to know what kind of fish to avoid. And she needs to check that list every few weeks, because it is constantly being updated. As of today North Carolina’s fish consumption advisory list warns against 17 kinds of ocean fish, and 5 kinds of freshwater fish.

You have an opportunity to restrict the largest source of mercury in our food supply, from coal-burning power plants. Think about it this way: if you protect our food supply, you also protect our brain supply. We can’t afford to have stupid kids populating our schools and running our state in the future. Cutting back mercury in the environment now means safer food today, less brain damage today, and smarter people running this state in the future. I urge you to make the steepest reductions possible, as quickly as possible.

If you want to learn more and take action on the mercury rule, the NC Conservation Network has a great action page you can use.

Mercury isn't the only pollutant to worry about in fish. Farmed fish eat feed that is often highly contaminated with PCB's and other persistent bioaccumulative toxins. Check your state's fish consumption advisories, and eat only wild-caught fish.

And finally, check out Sandra Steingraber's wonderful book, Having Faith: an Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood.

tuna bad.

flounder good.