My crazy Family Living in Japan

Military Family Living Abroad

Lets get down and “Dirty” December 14, 2009

Monday’s mission – memorize or download the  Dirty Dozen list published by the Environmental Working Group.  What is the Dirty Dozen you ask? I am not referring to the 1967 film, but rather produce. The very produce you probably have in your home now.  This is a list of the top 12 items that, when consumed, supply your body with over 90% of your chemical load from fruits and vegetables. YUCK!

About the pesticides found –

Why are these produce items so bad for you?  They  are heavily contaminated with pesticides.  Two of these are Benomyl and Carbaryl, these have five known pronounced effects. They are known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals. In humans they damage the reproductive system, interfere with hormones, and damage the brain and nervous system. Benomyl and Carbaryl has been found in spinach. Benomyl is also present in peaches and strawberries, while Carbaryl is present in peaches, strawberries, raspberries, nectarines, imported grapes, cherries, bell peppers, and apples. Another major pesticide is Captan, a carcinogen that causes birth defects in animals. In humans it damages the reproductive system, the brain and nervous system, and the immune system. Captan has found a home in peaches, strawberries, raspberries, pears, imported grapes, and apples.

Another one of the pesticides found on produce repeatedly was DDT, which was banned in the United States after December 31, 1972. Samples taken of spinach and potatoes in a 2001 report both contained DDT.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “In soil, DDT lasts for a very long time because it binds strongly to soil particles. Once attached, DDT and its byproducts can persist for as long as 15 years. Moreover, when bound to soil particles, DDT can begin to bioaccumulate, building up in plants and in the fatty tissue of the fish, birds, and animals that eat the plants. Despite a longstanding ban in this country, the United States exported more than 96 tons of DDT in 1991.” The NRDC reported the presence of DDT in breast milk, although there has been a decline in countries that have banned or restricted this chemical. DDT was banned because it caused significant damage to wildlife around the world and was a suspected link to breast and liver cancer. It was also believed to hinder embryo development and reproduction. More information from the NRDC can be found at

Organic produce means that it is pestecide free, and also “non GMO” – Watch about that here –

How do I memorize all of that?

If you are crazy busy like me, and simply don’t have the ability to remember “one more thing” ~ rest assured, there is a solution! The iTunes store has a free app for iPhone and iTouch called “Dirty Produce”. If you do a search for the Environmental Working Group, it comes up. This is very helpful, because you can have the list with you all the time, which makes it convenient for grocery shopping. I know personally I would never remember the entire list, and I don’t know how many times I have used this app while in the produce section!

What can you do?

Now that you have all of this information, how in the world do you keep your family safe!?!??! If you are anything like me, you can not afford to go 100% organic every time you shop. Produce is expensive, and so is the other things you need to buy. The solution? Focus on those foods that come with the heaviest burden of pesticides, additives and hormones. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest. If consumers get their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies from the 15 most contaminated, they could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown produce ingest less than 2 pesticides daily. Please remember this list also holds true for baby foods as well.

The Dirty Dozen List

Here is the list of all 47 items – Those Ranked #1 (toward the top) are the “worst” contaminated, always buy organic. Those ranked near #47 (toward the bottom) are the least contaminated. (Taken from


1 (worst) Peach 100 (highest pesticide load)
2 Apple 93
3 Sweet Bell Pepper 83
4 Celery 82
5 Nectarine 81
6 Strawberries 80
7 Cherries 73
8 Kale 69
9 Lettuce 67
10 Grapes – Imported 66
11 Carrot 63
12 Pear 63
13 Collard Greens 60
14 Spinach 58
15 Potato 56
16 Green Beans 53
17 Summer Squash 53
18 Pepper 51
19 Cucumber 50
20 Raspberries 46
21 Grapes – Domestic 44
22 Plum 44
23 Orange 44
24 Cauliflower 39
25 Tangerine 37
26 Mushrooms 36
27 Banana 34
28 Winter Squash 34
29 Cantaloupe 33
30 Cranberries 33
31 Honeydew Melon 30
32 Grapefruit 29
33 Sweet Potato 29
34 Tomato 29
35 Broccoli 28
36 Watermelon 26
37 Papaya 20
38 Eggplant 20
39 Cabbage 17
40 Kiwi 13
41 Sweet Peas – Frozen 10
42 Asparagus 10
43 Mango 9
44 Pineapple 7
45 Sweet Corn – Frozen 2
46 Avocado 1
47 (best) Onion

1 (lowest pesticide load)

Note: We ranked a total of 47 different fruits and vegetables but grapes are listed twice because we looked at both domestic and imported samples.

The EWG Methodology – (taken from

The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 87,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies used to create the list test produce after it has been rinsed or peeled. Contamination was measured in six different ways and crops were ranked based on a composite score from all categories.

The six measures of contamination we used were:

  • Percent of the samples tested with detectable pesticides
  • Percent of the samples with two or more pesticides
  • Average number of pesticides found on a sample
  • Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Number of pesticides found on the commodity in total

The philosophy behind the guide is simple: give consumers the information they need to make choices to reduce pesticides in their diets. In this spirit, the Guide does not present a complex assessment of pesticide risks, but instead simply reflects the overall load of pesticides found on commonly eaten fruits and vegetables. This approach best captures the uncertainty of the risks of pesticide exposure and the value judgments involved in the choice to buy food with less pesticides.

Pesticides cause many adverse effects in well designed animal studies, from cancer to nervous system damage to reproductive effects. Rather than assign more weight to cancer than birth defects, we simply assumed that all adverse effects are equal. There is a significant degree of uncertainty about the health effects of pesticide mixtures. This ranking takes this uncertainty into account in the most defensible way possible, by simply ranking fruits and vegetables by their likelihood of being consistently contaminated with the greatest number of pesticides at the highest levels.

What will you do now?

Now that I have overloaded you with information on the “Dirty Dozen”  take a moment to vote in the poll about your thoughts.



If it kills pet birds, what is it doing to my kids?!?!? December 6, 2009

Filed under: Around the House,Going Green,Your Health — Annastasia @ 22:35
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I am talking about Teflon. I am sure most everyone probably has something that is Non-Stick to cook on in their house.  Growing up, I am sure your mom used an icky,  flaking,  beat up Teflon pan to cook eggs for breakfast in (I know mine did). I am sad to say, I actually think I have a Teflon pan in my own kitchen as I type this.  So the question is, “What is Teflon, why is it so bad, and what can I replace it with?”.  First, let’s go over what Teflon is.

What is Teflon?

Teflon is the trademarked name for Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). This chemical, which makes things “non-stick”,  should be classified as a “likely carcinogen” (cancer-causing substance) according to the scientific advisory board of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The EWG (Environmental Working Group) links the chemicals used in nonstick coatings to cancer, stroke and high cholesterol. A breakdown of the chemicals used can be found HERE.

Why is it bad?

When non-stick/Teflon pans are heated, they emit fumes that are toxic. These fumes can kill birds, and sicken humans.   Most teflon is made to be used at only low/medium heat.  When used at higher temperatures than that, they become toxic.  The chemical PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) is found in the blood of most humans on earth.

Toxicologist Tim Kropp, PhD, senior scientist with the watchdog group Environmental Working Group, finds the situation alarming.

“It doesn’t break down — ever. It is the most persistent synthetic chemical known to man,” Kropp tells WebMD. “It would take your body two decades to get rid of 95% of it, assuming you are not exposed to any more. But you are.” (From WebMD)

Animal studies of PFOA have shown that it causes cancer, liver damage, growth defects, immune system damage, and even death. (Please note, I don’t necessarily agree with animal testing at all)

Now, I don’t know about you. . . but I see all these bad things listed about my cookware. . . the stuff I use everyday to feed my family and I have a huge red flag go up!! I do not want to make my family sick. I take all kinds of care and precaution to make sure I am making them healthy, organic, homemade meals. . . then I cook them in toxic chemicals?? Ughh . .It makes me sick to think about it!

So, what is a mom to do? What alternatives do we have to this icky chemical laden cookware? First off, Look for cookware that is void of this family of chemicals known as PFC’s (Also called PFOA, PFOS, C8, PTFE, and Teflon, see link above for descriptions).

Some safe pans to use include stainless steel, hard adonized, and cast iron.

First up, is stainless steel.  This set here is almost identical to the set I have.  Though mine don’t have the stay cool handles (which at times, I wish it did). One of my  Grandma’s always cooked on stainless steel, maybe that is why her food taste so good!!  Stainless steel is WAY easier to clean than most people think it would be. It really only takes about 1 min more than the non stick stuff does to clean. I good piece of steel wool, and it shines up super fast!  I LOVE the way they cook too!! It honestly isn’t hard to cook on at all!!

Next, is good ‘ol fashioned Cast Iron. This stuff is made to last!! You can use it as a self-defense mechanism, a “you better not be lying” interrogating tool, or for some good home cooked food!!  I actually LOVE cast iron. I would use it for more if it wasn’t so heavy (Weight limit with moving). I use to have a Large 15″ cast iron skillet for camping that I put directly into the fire.  It was my favorite pan!! Not to mention, cooking in cast iron actually is good for you, as it adds much-needed iron into your diet.  The price for cast iron seems a little high, but it is well worth it ~ I swear they last forever.  They also come “Pre Seasoned” now. . so you can just start using them. No long waits for them to get seasoned just right!  If you have never tried one, start with a small on like this (Click here) to try out. I am sure you will get hooked in no time.

Last is one that I have not personally used, Hard Anodized Cookware. I researched and looked for the best reviewed one I could find that met the “safe pan” criteria.  Cuisinart was the winner.  “Cuisinart’s GreenGourmet cookware is designed with an exclusive Cuisinart Ceramica nonstick surface, which features a petroleum-free, ceramic-based coating that is applied at a temperature one half that of traditional nonsticks. The coating does not contain PTFE and PFOA, substances often used in nonstick cookware that have raised health concerns over the years”. (From Amazon) I kind of like the name . . . . GreenGourmet!! Sounds . . . good for the environment too.

I hope you will take some time, and seriously consider what it is that you are cooking for your family with. I personally am going to go get rid of my non stick/Teflon stuff now, I can’t keep using it knowing what it can do.

Here’s to keeping our families safe!

*To Purchase any of the pans mentioned above, simply click on the picture.


Soap and Nuts – Do these go together? December 1, 2009

Filed under: Around the House,Going Green,Your Health — Annastasia @ 22:29
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YES!! They do, and wonderfully might I add!!

So, upon the quest to live more “green” and chemical free, I have been trying to find something that is a little more cost effective (and green) than my Seventh Generation Laundry soap. I do occasionally use Mrs. Meyers laundry soap ~ I ♥ their dish soap, it is to die for ~ and as natural as I can find that still gets the dishes clean.  Anyway, back to my laundry soap delima. . .  so, while researching a greener way to get my laundry clean. . . . I came across soap nuts. Yes, you read that right. . .   soap nuts.  Now, to me . . . those words just don’t go together, but I was intrigued enough to check them out.

Just in case you don’t know what these are, let me explain a little to you.  They come from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. (I know, Where is that? I still am not sure, but it sounds far away)  Soap nuts are known worldwide by many names such as soapnuts, soapberry, washing nuts, soap nut shells, wash shells, soapberry nut husk, Ritha (Hindi) nut shell, Chinese soapberry and many more. Very simply, soap nuts are the dried shells (or husks) from the soapberry (or soap berry nut). These berries are the fruit from a quite unique tree species. These shells contain a substance called saponin that produces a soaping effect. Saponin is a 100% natural alternative to chemical laundry detergent and cleansers. It can replace many chemical detergents such as those containing sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) that are becoming well known by consumers for being a skin irritant and health hazard.

Now, I am going to share a little scientific mumbo jumbo with you. Sapindus (the botanical name) is a sustainable agriculture and forest product. In many ways it is similar to an olive tree. There are several common varieties of the soapberry tree. Sapindus Mukorossi and Sapindus Trifoliatus are the primary sources for the soapberry that has become know as the soap nut. They are both of the family Sapindaceae, and the genus Sapindus. The botanical name is derived from the Latin words, sapo (soap) and indicus (Indian). Based upon its high amount of ‘soap’ content and consistency, the highest quality soap nut is Sapindus Mukorossi, which grows primarily in northern India and Nepal. It grows uncultivated in poor quality ground and helps fights erosion, particularly in the Himalayan foothills. It also provides needed income to the local population. It is a relatively hardy tree being resistant to diseases and insects. The tree grows to 10 to 20 meters in height and begins flowering and bearing fruit after about 9 years. It blooms with small, white grouped flowers in spring and early summer and is harvested annually during the fall season. The soapberry fruits (the soap nut) are round yellow berries that become gummy, reddish tan and wrinkled as they ripen. Its appearance is somewhat like that of a date. The tree synthesizes its own natural saponins, (soap) which coat the shell of the fruit. The tree has great longevity and will produce fruit (soap nuts) for about 90 years.

The Sapindus Mukorossi variety produces the most consistent quality of soap nuts of high saponin content. Sapindus Trifoliatus, which grows primarily in southern India, Indonesia and Pakistan, is a smaller tree producing smaller fruit that lack consistency and saponin content compared to Sapindus Mukorossi. The soap nuts from the Mukorossi tree are larger, brighter in color and gloss and are more effective in producing the ‘soapy’ effect. These soap nuts are typically exported from New Delhi (closer to their growth areas in the Himalayans). Soap nuts from the Trifoliatus tree are less desirable, of lower cost and are often exported from Indonesia. All soap nuts being marketed throughout the world contain the all-important saponins. Consistently high saponin content is the primary measure of quality. In this regard,Sapindus Mukorossi reigns supreme.

After learning ALL of this information, I had to try these out!! I called and talked with the lady and ordered mine right away. I gave her the promise that if I loved them, everyone I knew would know about them. I also inquired about becoming a reseller of them as well, cause I am all about helping others follow a more green and chemical free lifestyle.  I ordered 1lb to start, which is supposed to wash 160 loads!!! This was under $20 too!!

Finally today my box arrived, I got in the car and couldn’t wait ..  I opened it up in the parking lot of the post office. I am not sure what I intended to do with a muslin bag full of nuts in my car. . . . but I wanted to check them out. Well, it looked like a bag full of nuts.  I was a little mesmerized as to how these things were supposed to clean my laundry.  I got home, and found some laundry to throw in (this is not a hard feat in my house, there is ALWAYS dirty laundry with 3 kids). I put 5 little nuts into this small muslin bag, and threw them in the machine. I ran some warm water for a few minutes to let them “soak” some, then I switched it to cold and threw in my clothes and closed the lid.  I threw them in the dryer when they were done, and I was so impressed. They smelled wonderfully clean, and I could find nothing wrong with them.  Even my dishtowels came out clean!! I didn’t even need to use a dryer sheet (which are not good for you either), and they were super soft!!  I am a HUGE advocate of these things. I have now washed 4 loads of laundry since I got them home, and I think I am in love. I have found a chemical free way to get all of our clothes clean!!  Now, I am just waiting for the time to be right stateside to call the woman about becoming a reseller for these things!!


(information above taken from Naturoli)


Cleaning Green November 30, 2009

Filed under: Around the House,Going Green,Your Health — Annastasia @ 16:00

So today I had to clean, the most dreaded room of the house. . . . .My Kitchen. I have no dishwasher and the dishes all have to be washed by hand. I normally have to do this 1 -2 times a week because my pre-teen can not seem to get them clean (I think she does this on purpose thinking that she won’t have to do them if they are dirty).
I started my kitchen by cleaning the counter. We have a bar/counter thing that we eat on, that also seems to “collect” all kinds of treasures. Once all the junk was gone, I grabbed my trusty bottle of homemade Super Ant repelling super yummy smelling Major disinfecting cleaner. As I sprayed it onto my counter, I thought of what other people use to clean things like their counters and such where their kids always are and where they eat and things. I personally don’t like using any chemicals that aren’t necessary (such as Raid, I swear the Cockroaches here are on steroids). That got me to thinking that I should share some of my “household concoctions” with all of you, my readers!


2 cup water
5 drops lavender oil
5 drops tea tree oil
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons baking soda
Combine all ingredients in spray bottle. Close TIGHTLY (nozzle too) and shake to blend. If the nozzle is left open, it may “spit” solution as the bicarb and vinegar interact.


I use this on EVERYTHING that needs wiped down in my kitchen! It is a wonderful cleaner! I also never have any ants in my kitchen, could be the tea tree or the vinegar? Vinegar is such a great cleaner. It cleans windows, deodorizes, cuts grease, dissolves stuck on stickers, and more!  To Learn more uses for Vinegar click HERE.

Vinegar is acidic and astringent and can be an irritant if used undiluted. It works as a solvent on some things which is why it is such a good cleaning agent. Generally it is a very safe product and has been used for generations, so its properties are well understood, unlike those of many modern cleaning chemicals. It has been in use from ancient times, as it occurs naturally when wine, beer or other alcoholic drinks are exposed to the air. This is a much better cleaner to use in your house than all those super harsh chemicals from the store. Half of the ingredients you can’t even pronounce, let alone know what they do!

Baking soda is another great cleaner. I use it in conjunction with vinegar often. Aside from my super cleaner, I also sprinkle it down my sink drain.  I then pour vinegar down the drain. Once it is done bubbling, I flush with super hot water.  Makes all the icky smells go away and leaves it clean.  Baking soda can be used as an abrasive and can be used to shine your sink in place of things like comet or ajax.  I also use baking soda as a deodorant (and it actually works better too), I simply take a small amount and moisten it some, then spread it on the underarms and let dry.  It works great, even in this super humid weather! It can also be used a couple times a month to help whiten  your teeth. (don’t use more than that, or you may possibly get irritated gums), simply put on a toothbrush and brush, then rinse.  I also use this in place of shampoo. I take some baking soda, sprinkle it onto my scalp and massage with some water, then rinse well. I do this about once every 4 -6 days.  I then spray Apple Cider Vinegar on my hair as a conditioner (2 Tblsp +1 Cup water) just spray it on, let it sit a minute, then rinse really well. Both Kiwi and I use this method for hair care.

Both items are also great in your laundry, use baking soda for stain removal (in the wash cycle) and vinegar for ph balancing (in the rinse cycle).  I actually just ordered some soapnuts too. I will be writing about those soon!!

I hope you all got tons out of this post.  There are tons of inexpensive ways to use normal non toxic household items to clean and disinfect your house.  They are safer for you and your family, and you know what is in it (which I always like to know).

Good luck mixing your own concoctions!! (If you already use some of your own, post them in the comments section here to share with all of us!)


*All the Essential Oils I use for cleaning are the same ones that I have available in my store.


I have opened a store! November 24, 2009

Filed under: Around the House,Going Green,Herbal Remedies,Life,Your Health — Annastasia @ 20:23

Due to the overwhelming popularity of my “natural living” and what I use for tons of stuff, I have created a store on my blog. You can now go there to buy books that I talk about and review, buy herbs that I use, or the cooking supplies I talk about in my recipes. I figure this will make it easier for you all to see what I am talking about and purchase it for your self if you would like to.

To find my “store” click on the tab on the top of the page to the right of the “about me” tab.  It is titled “store” (duh).

Thanks so much for following my blog.