The 2011 Clean Fifteen: 15 foods you can skimp organics on

Just as there’s a dirty dozen list of fresh produce that has been heavily sprayed with pesticides (see Tuesday’s post), so too there is a clean fifteen list of foods that are low in contaminants.

If you’re going to save a few dollars and pick and choose which fruit and vegetables you buy organic, then this is the list to start with.

In fact, if you chose your daily 5 servings of fruit and vegetables from the clean fifteen (vs 5 from the dirty dozen), you would reduce the amount of pesticides you ingest by 92%.

As with the dirty dozen, the list is revisited each year by the Environmental Working Group based on the pesticide data from the US Department of Agriculture.

Clean Fifteen 2011

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplants
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

The 2011 dirty dozen: 12 foods to eat organic

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a ‘dirty dozen’ list of the highest pesticide fruits and vegetables: some of the produce on this list has been sprayed with more than 50 different pesticides.

The list is compiled annually based on the US Department of Agriculture data about pesticide residue and ranks foods based on how much or how little pesticide residue they have.

It is estimated that by switching to organic on the dirty dozen alone could reduce your exposure to pesticides by a whopping 80%.

I’ll post the 2011 dirty dozen list below, but bear in mind that this list reflects testing from the 2010 harvest and many not be completely reflective of what your local grocery store is selling.

Also, it’s worth remembering that the benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables far outweigh the known risks of consuming pesticides: I’ll let you be the judge.

(Check out this website: for details on exactly what pesticides we’re talking about)

Dirty Dozen 2011

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens


Stradivari: to be the finest there is

Antonio Stradivari was a genius Italian luthier who’s magnificent violins and other instruments set a standard for violin making that is unmatched even today after 400 years.

He made over a thousand violins in his lifetime, and there still remains around 650 of them – many of which are played by the top musicians in the world.

Many of the violins are known by a sobriquet – which is a nickname given to the violin – such as Ole Bull, Sleeping Beauty and the Red Mendelssohn (which was the inspiration for the 1998 film, The Red Violin).

Not only did Stradivari earn fame and prominence during his lifetime in the 1600s, but his very name has become a word that is often associated with excellence.

In fact to be called ‘the Stradivari’ of any field means to be the finest that there is.

I’ve included a video clip for you of Anne Akiko Meyers playing the 1st part of Mendelssohn Violin Concerto Op.64 in E Minor.

Meyers tours with a 1730 Stradivarius violin called the ‘Royal Spanish’.

She is also the owner of a 1697 Stradivarius called the “Molitor”, which is purported to have been owned by Napoleon Bonaparte.


Satyagraha: soul force – have you got it?

Satyagraha is a sanskrit word that loosely translates to mean ‘soul force’.

At its core is the principle of strength in practising non-violent methods of resistance.

And in light of recent ‘Occupy’ civil disobedience, satyagraha seems more relevant than ever before.

This is a powerful concept founded by Gandhi, and a heavy influencer on many of the great peace leader’s of the world including Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.

Instead of trying to achieve a result at any price – satyagraha says that the means and the end are the same.

If I am using unjust means to achieve justice, than I have become part of the problem and not the solution.

The goal is to cooperate with the opponent to change the outcome and meet a just end that the opponent is un/consciously blocking.

And so I’d like to leave with you some questions to contemplate today:

How are you practicing satyagraha during conflicts in your life today? Are you justifying the means to achieve the ends? Are you finding common ground and removing the obstructions together with your opponent?

I couldn’t find any archival footage of Gandhi that didn’t have advertisements attached to it, so I’ve included this video for you of Martin Luther King Jr, speaking about non-violence.




Satyagraha: an incredible production of a Phillip Glass opera

I was inspired this week by the Metropolitan Opera’s production of the Phillip Glass opera ‘Satyagraha’.

The inspiration was not only the thoughtful and focused melodies of Phillip Glass, but also the magnificent visuals from England’s Improbable Theatre.

With puppetry, projection, live flame, stilt walkers and aerialists: mythical figures would miraculously appear out of newspapers only to crumple away as quickly as they had materialised.

The story itself is based on Gandhi’s time in South Africa where he arrived as a lawyer, only to find himself called to stand up for the social justice of the resident Indian community.

During the opera the lighting and subtitles are deliberately minimalist and the text is taken from the Bhagavad Gita and sung in the original Sanskrit.

This lack of distinguishable text further focuses the opera in to pure melody – which deepened the hypnotic sensation of the production.

And in case you’re kicking yourself that you missed it; there’s a repeat broadcast playing at Cineplex on January 14th. (Check out the Cineplex opera’s that are playing here:

I’ve included a video for you that includes a little of the music, as well as some background information for you:

Homeless as ever

This week I read a tweet which said: ‘Maybe the 99% missed the lesson on how life is not fair and no one said it would be and how they still have more than most of the world’.


In the middle of Occupy this-city and Occupy that-city, with people sleeping out in their $700 MEC tents and squatting in our public spaces – I can’t help but reflect on how aimless and self indulgent this whole thing has been.

How ridiculous it must be for the poorer nations to watch those of us who have so much – and yet we’re protesting because it’s still not enough!

I came into this as a potential supporter (and I certainly support the right to protest), but even I’m glad to see the eviction notices being handed out.

Enough is enough.

If even half of that energy had been focused into feeding and sheltering our homeless this winter – now that would be something I could get behind.


Being a Dog Aunty

Today’s blog is about two special little animals that I love to spend time with; Simon and Daphne.

As their dog aunty, it’s the perfect balance of dog time without the full time commitment of owning pets.

Let me introduce them to you –

Simon is an 8 year old Shih Tzu, and very much a big dog in a small dog’s body. He has an outgoing personality and with his ewok eyes is pretty much guaranteed to melt even the most hardened heart.



























Daphne is a 7 year old Shih Tzu-Poodle cross. And though she’s not quite as outgoing as Simon, she is super fit and the perfect dog for a run, a hike or a trek through the Himalayas. She’s fearless and pretty much up for anything that’s going on.
























Who are the special animals in your life?



Movie review: Black Death

Ok, so every now and again I like to watch a good plague movie.

So if that’s the scratch you’re trying to itch, then ‘Black Death’ is the movie for you. (pardon the pun)

This movie is a gritty medieval film set in England during the time of the bubonic plague with an expectantly high body count.

The story has deep themes of faith, religion, superstition and even love! that successfully play against a relatively high gore factor (by my standards anyway).

Given the atmospheric creepy factor and unapologetic violence, this movie is a borderline horror film, but with just enough substance to get you thinking.

There are a number of excellent performances, but I would have to say that Sean Bean steals the movie with his performance as the deeply religious murderer, Ulrich.

And the real shock of this film? Is the realisation that bubonic plague never really died out – with 362 cases reported in the United States since 1944!

Movie review: Man on Wire

Today’s blog is a review of the 2008 British documentary, ‘Man on Wire’.

This movie chronicles the art crime committed by tightrope walker Phillipe Petit when he performed a high-wire routine between the World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974.

One of the elements that greatly impressed me about this documentary was the amount of quality archival footage that they have put together.

There’s all kinds of footage from the 60s and 70s of Petit and his friends practicing and planning for the day; casing the venue, faking identities, testing the equipment and making dry runs.

The documentary also covers Petit’s two previous high-wire escapades at Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

However, although the subject matter is quite exhilarating, this documentary is by no means a thriller. It’s more of a quieter watch and a great insight into the character of Petit and those people around him.

I’ve included the trailer for you to give you a sense of just how amazing this feat really was!

3 things the gym is teaching me about life


It’s been 3 weeks at the gym (see Tuesday’s blog post) and there’s been the obvious curve of learning to run and lift weights.

But there has also been another part of the learning curve – and that’s the realisation that so much of what I’m learning at the gym is just like life.

Here’s my top 3 things on what the gym is re-teaching me about life:

1. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. You really can’t tell someone’s strength by looking at them. It’s some of the smallest who are lifting the most – and I’m not just talking about weights here. You really can’t tell what someone’s ‘bench strength’ just by looking at them.

2. Don’t compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides. Better than, worse than, better than, worse than. We all have our things that we’re good at – and things that we’re not. Just be yourself and do your best.

3. Commit or be damned. Set the goal and commit to finishing it! Be like the little engine that could: I think I can, I think I can.