Thursday, December 31, 2009

Talkin' 'bout a resolution.

New Years Resolution #1 for 2010 - blog, blog, blog.

It has been a crazy month. Looking back over the past 30 days, I can't believe how much I managed to get done. It should go without saying that most of it was crafting and little of it was blogging. And oh, how I've missed it here. I didn't want the year to end without a post, though, so here it is...for what it's worth.

Several weeks ago I was talking to my mom and he conversation turned to Christmas gifts. We talked about how we already have so many "things" and Christmas shouldn't just be about feeding the corporate machine, but should be about showing your loved ones how much you care and all that warm-fuzzy stuff. Yadda yadda yadda. Since I was already planning to take the "Handmade Pledge", I extended the challenge to her. I couldn't wait to see what she would come up with and today I finally received my package in the mail...a few days late (snail mail is an understatement!), but well worth the wait.

For the Jakester: 2 chickens and a rooster were given in his name to a family in Africa. Yay! (No, not technically "handmade", but it's a "hand-up" and that's good enough for me! Plus, it's one less thing that I have to nag him to pick up.)
For me: a cuff bracelet that Mumji made from dozens of white and gold buttons. Love it! Not only is it super-cute, knowing that my mom made it just for me makes it even better. (You've really got to love somebody to sew on that many buttons!)
For both of us: cash, which I think we're going to spend it at the paint-your-own-pottery place that we've been threatening to go to...

All-in-all, I would say that it was a very successful experiment. I know I'll be smiling every time I wear my bracelet!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Respect & Protect

World Aids Day - Dec 1, 2009

People living with HIV:
33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide
31.3 million adults
15.7 million women
2.1 million children under 15

New HIV cases in 2008:
2.7 million people
2.3 million adults
430,000 children under 15

HIV-related deaths in 2008:
2 million total deaths
...

Monday, November 23, 2009

On anger, quotes and blog-neglect.

I have been so busy with stuff around the house and craft sales, that I have been neglecting my poor blog. I will be back in full-force, though, once the holiday madness is out of the way.In the meantime, I am going to be posting a few of my favourite quotes.

Lately, most of the quotes and sayings that I have been saving come from one of my Buddhist "thought of the day" emails. I am an avid collector of quotes, but these just seem to strike a chord with me. This one, in particular, is especially topical.

"Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." - Buddha

I have long believed that anger, like hatred, is an emotion that takes too much energy. These days, I simply don't have the time to be mad or resentful. Letting go of all of that negativity frees up so much energy...you'd be surprised.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Earth


sask fields 3
Originally uploaded by zenbecca
It is our earth, not yours or mine or his. We are meant to live on it, helping each other, not destroying each other. - J. Krishnamurti

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Faves - Food, Inc.



I had the opportunity to watch "Food, Inc." yesterday and I liked it so much that I am making it my "Friday Fave". With all of the reading I have done on the topic, there wasn't a lot in it that I didn't already know, but having it all together like that really drove home the message.

The information is really well presented and, unlike other docs I have seen on this subject, not full of over-the-top scare tactics. The makers of this film just put it out there on the table, so to speak, and allow you to draw your own conclusions on factory farming, GMOs and the big business that is Food (with a capital "F".)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Faves - North American Hemp Co

Did you know that hemp has been used for textiles, paper, building materials, fuel, food and personal care products for over 10,000 years?

Did you know that hemp grown in most parts of Canada will require no herbicide, fungicide or insecticide applications?

Did you know that hemp seed oil is high in Essential Fatty Acids and, when applied to hair, will improve the structural quality of the hair-shaft and increase its elasticity, volume and shine?

Did you know that in the week that I have been using items from the North American Hemp Co's hair-care line, my curls have never looked healthier or, well...curlier?

I am absolutely in LOVE with this product. I came across it in the Pharmaplus down the street and bought it out of near-desperation. Nothing has been working for my parched hair for months; not even my usual arsenal. To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for this stuff either, but I liked that it was organic, paraben-free and vegan...and, ok, I liked the brown bottles.

I started with the "Never Too Late to Repair" Treatment Oil and the "Curlmega" Curl Activator/Reactivator Spray. I was so impressed that I went back the next day and bought the "Area 369" Serum. A week later and I am hooked.

My post-shower routine looks like this -
Step 1: apply treatment oil to hair and finger-comb to detangle.
Step 2: gently work in a little serum.
Step 3: spray with curl activator. Scrunch. Twist. Scrunch. Leave to air-dry while I make breakfast, get ready and drive to work.
Step 4: No, that's it. There is no step 4...just bouncy curls for the rest of the day.

The best test of the products, though, was my "omg, I'm running late and don't have time to wash my hair" test. I sprayed my slept-on hair with the reactivator spray, scrunched-in a little more serum (couldn't hurt) and gave my hair a toss. The result? My curls sprang back to life, I had zero frizz and my "do" looked even better than the day before! I should sleep in more often...

I haven't tried the shampoo or conditioner yet, but you can be sure they're on my shopping list!

Tomato, tomahto.

We tend to use a lot of canned tomatoes in our house. Not only are the convenient, they are consistent in taste and quailty year-round. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled to hear that they are now carrying a warning for Bisphenol-A, a chemical that mimics estrogen and has been linked to reproductive problems, diabetes, heart disease, hyperactivity and obesity.

According to University of Missouri endocrinologist Fredrick Vom Saal, PhD, resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A. Acidic ingredients, such as canned tomatoes, cause BPA to leach into the food. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

To avoid BPA entirely, do not purchase or use anything and do not leave the house. :wink: To avoid BPA in your tomatoes, choose those that are packed in glass bottles or tetra packs. I like the Italian brands…especially the ones that come with a basil leaf in the bottle! (I'm all about the freebies.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Eating Animals



"The notion that human life has greater value than any other form of life is both unjustifiable and arrogant." - Fingers Pointing Toward the Moon (Wei Wu Wei)

This is an excellent interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, author of "Eating Animals", on Larry King Live. Watch me!

The author raises some interesting points regarding factory farming and how animals are treated in general. His message is not necessarily "pro-vegetarian" or "anti-meat", but rather one of increased awareness and ethics. I believe that if you are going to take a life for your own sustinance, then you should honour that life by carefully preparing your meals and taking the time to enjoy them.

That said, I choose not to eat red meat and poultry simply because I can't justify the effort/expense/resources that goes into its production. Plus, I think that the conditions and methods of commercial meat production are basically deplorable.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Be Happiness itself.

Live your life in happiness, even though those around you lead lives which are unhealthy, and wish to spread their illness to you. Be Happiness itself. - Buddha

Thanks, Buddha. I needed that reminder.

It seems that there are people in my life, both near and afar, who think that making me unhappy will make themselves seem happier by comparison. That was my main reason for leaving my last job...besides the utter lack of opportunity for advancement, of course. Unfortunately, I don't have the option of walking away from every situation that presents itself with this sort of negativity. I figure my best option is to cherish what I have and let those who choose to wallow in their own misery, wallow in it. I refuse to let it infect my life and my house any longer.

So there. :-p

Friday, October 30, 2009

How big are your shoes?

I am loving the carbon footprint calculator at Eco Hatchery. I did a quick calculation and let it pick "national averages" for me, but I am definitely going to return and try it again with non-estimated answers to get a more accurate result. Based on my peliminary results (below) it looks like we're not doing too badly.



It only takes a few moments - try it and let me know how you do! (One caveat - it is geared towards the US, so my Canadian peeps will have to pick their closest state. I'm pretending to be in North Dakota!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. ~ Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Neccos can't be beet!



As a response to consumer demand for all-natural products, Necco Wafers, have recently undergone a “make-under”. Artificial colours that had been previously used have been replaced with plant-based colourants such as beet juice, purple cabbage, turmeric, cocoa powder and paprika; while natural extracts of lemon, orange, clove, wintergreen, cinnamon and licorice replace artificial flavours. Ironically, the only flavour that couldn’t be “greened” was lime, as the green colour was too difficult to duplicate. There are now seven flavours in the classic assortment and four varieties of chocolate – white, milk, dark and mocha.

I have yet to sample the new and improved Neccos, but according to the company they are apparently a bit paler in colour and a bit stronger in taste. I think this is a fair trade for doing away with artificial ingredients, though, and I can’t wait to try them for myself.

Did you know…?
- Necco is an acronym for New England Confectionery Company, which is the oldest multi-line candy company in the United States.
- The iconic wafers have been in production since 1847.
- This year, roughly 4 billion sweet and chalky wafers will roll off the line.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Faves - Mondragon

My Friday Fave this week is one of our favourite places to grab a bite. Part bookstore, part organic market and part restaurant, Mondragon is the perfect if you like your vegan nibbles served in a coffeehouse setting with a side of anarchy. (And who doesn't?)

The menu is eclectic, casual and completely vegan. They also have organic, fairly-traded coffee, gluten-free items and yummy daily specials. On our last visit, the mascot and I shared a couple slices of vegan pizza (veggie & sausage/onion) and a plate of Southern Fried Tofu, which is actually shake'n'baked tofu triangles served with a creamy-sweet dill dip. Yum! I've also sampled their salads, the veggie burger (which was HUGE and excellent) and more than one of their amazing chocolate chip cookies.

The left-leaning bookstore carries a large selection of vegetarian and animal rights books, magazines and T-shirts. Organic veggies, groceries and pantry items are available in the market. I can never leave without grabbing a bag of organic popping corn and a medjool date (or two).


Kid tested, mother approved! The Mascot @ Mondragon - Sept 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Everything Has a Story

It has been said (ahem, Emily and Ruth) that I have a story for everything. The antique, channel-back tub chair in my living room? I discovered it hidden under a blanket at a yard sale, talked the owner into selling it to me for $20 (it wasn't for sale) and reupholstered it as my final project in Upholstery class at RRCC. The rusty railway spike on the bookshelf? Jake carted it around in his backpack for a year before it was found (after an exhaustive search) by airport security in Bellingham, Washington. It’s no wonder that I have such an emotional attachment to my stuff!

That’s why the concept of the Tokyo-based "Pass the Baton" store caught my attention. Unlike other second-hand stores, Pass the Baton ensures that an item's pedigree isn't lost when it finds a new home. The story is literally passed along...get it?

I think it's brilliant; buyers not only get a cool, "new-to-me" item, but they learn a little bit about the objects’ past owner and an anecdote or two about the item itself. Then, in turn, when asked about their find, they can say more than “Oh, I bought that second-hand. I don’t know where it came from…”

On a personal note, story or no story, I am beyond covetous of the picture blocks that they currently have on their site. Exactly how much is 2,800 yen?



I love this quote from the Pass the Baton website. “…there is simply too much. Too much unwanted excess and too much regretful loss. Why not eliminate borders and corporations, and discover the value of personal culture? Cultivated carefully over the years, it’s something to be treasured and shared. Creating something new is a wonderful thing, but taking good care of an object that is already there can be magical. Old ways, current personal values, and future treasures for someone new.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Faves - Gardein Garden Protein


In our house, the ultimate test of a new recipe or food product is "the mascot test". If it passes muster with the kid, it goes into regular rotation. The Dijon Breasts by Gardein (part of my Thanksgiving plate of goodness, above) are the latest to get the mascot's 2 thumbs up.

I am pretty choosy when it comes to "convenience foods", but these are perfect for those rare nights where we have to get dinner on the table AND they meet all my criteria: healthy, healthy, healthy and delicious. The marinated, meat-free breasts are low in fat, cholesterol free and a good source of both protein and fibre. Plus, they are generous in size and cook up in a flash. (In fact, it took me longer to boil the water for my tea than it did to heat up 2 pieces of "fick'n", as the mascot has dubbed it.)

Gardein makes a full range of meatless substitutes for chicken, beef and pork. I have also tried the chick'n strips and thought they were excellent. See the Gardein website for more info, recipes and a list of retailers.




As it is World Food Day, I thought I would share this message from the Gardein website: global food demand will grow 50% by 2030 and there will be significant need for more protein. we think gardein™ is part of the solution. we believe eating more plant-based foods builds good health and is good for our planet too. it’s part of the reason why we like to say, goodness grows.

World Food Day 2009



Today is World Food Day. The day was founded 30 years ago with the intent of drawing public awareness to worldwide hunger, poverty and malnutrition. The date, October 16th, was chosen to mark the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945.

This is an excellent article from Ann Veneman, the Executive Director of UNICEF. To learn more about UNICEF programs and World Food Day, visit www.unicef.org.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Handmade Christmas Pledge

Last night, while we were talking about Christmas, the Mascot and I made a little “gift pledge”. We decided that every gift we give this year has to be either: handmade, vintage, recycled or upcycled. Including the wrapping.

I think this will be a really fun challenge for both of us. I’m especially excited to see what the mascot comes up with. I have offered my technical assistance if he needs any help with cooking, baking, sewing or Jewelry making, but otherwise he’s on his own to get creative.

As for incoming gifts, we are going to try to (politely) keep those to a minimum. I am hoping that if people feel the need to buy us something, that they consider either making a donation in our names (like adopting a chicken or planting a tree) or that they give us something like theatre tickets, a museum membership, or even just taking a chore off our lists...

Thinking of doing the same? I’d love to hear about it! And, if you want to make things “official”, you can even add yourself to the list at Buy Handmade

I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.org

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Faves - Almond Breeze

The other day I set out to bake cupcakes for the mascot's 12th birthday. I was convinced that I had all of the ingredients on hand; flour - check, eggs - check, cocoa powder - check. But, as is usually the case, there was one thing missing. That something turned out to be the milk. We are not milk-drinkers, so unless we need to make something specific (like cupcakes) it never occurs to me to buy the stuff. With everything that I had going on that week, I simply forgot to pick it up. As it was already 8pm and I was in no mood to venture out to the store, I opened up the pantry to see if there was anything in there that I could substitute. I found a carton of unsweetened vanilla almond milk that I had bought on a whim a couple months ago and figured that I would give it a try. We gave it a taste first to see if it was "weird", but it turned out to be pretty yummy. Into the batter it went and the resulting cupcakes were even better than our usual. Talk about a happy accident!

From the website: Almond Breeze® is a non-dairy beverage made from real almonds, all natural, smooth and creamy with a hint of almonds. Almond Breeze® is a great tasting non-dairy beverage without the thin, chalky after taste of rice and soy beverages.

- Almond Breeze® won the 2004 Best Taste Award from the prestigious American Culinary Institute (ACI). ACI is an independent, chef based judging organization.

Enjoy Almond Breeze® chilled by the glass and on your cereal. You will love how it froths in coffee drinks, enhances fruit smoothies, and blends cup for cup in your favorite recipes.


A great alternative to dairy and soy milks, Almond Breeze almond milk is gluten, cholesterol and lactose free, an excellent source of calcium, vitamins D & E and a good source of vitamin A. Plus, the unsweetened varieties are only 40 calories a cup!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Phones for Food

Thank goodness the mascot is too busy hanging out at the community club to read the blog today. If he did, he would know that I bought him a new cell phone to mark his entrance into "tweenhood".

The phone itself is cool, but the really neat thing is the little "Phones-for-Food" bag that came in the box. All I have to do is pop his (my) old cell phone into the little bag, seal it up and drop it into a mailbox. Proceeds from the recycled phone will go to a local food bank where it will help to combat hunger. Every little bit helps!

For more information, visit Phones for Food.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rescued - pt 2

Besides the gorgeous radio cabinet that I scooped during Winnipeg’s “free weekend”, I managed to grab a pair of these chairs:



…and this bread bin:



Both are now being put to very good use in my artcraftsewing room. They add a much-needed burst of colour (and a touch of retro-inspiration) to the space – and you really can’t beat the price!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Good things come in recycled packages.

This little package is proof that you don’t have to go out and buy a box, tissue and wrapping paper every time you have a gift to wrap.



I am sending this necklace (handmade by me!) to my mom in a paperclip box, which I have stuffed with my own hand-cut paper shred. I made the shred from a supermarket flyer page and a couple pink “while you were out” messages that were heading for the recycling bin under my desk. The box was then wrapped in a lovely picture of juicy strawberries that was cut from a Safeway flyer. Total cost for wrapping supplies = $0 (including 3 pieces of “borrowed” scotch tape…)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Faves - C.O.Bigelow All-in-One Protective Day Lotion

I used to have a love-hate relationship with my moisturizer. I loved it because it was lightweight and effective, but didn't leave me looking like an oil-slick by midday. I hated it because it contained (gasp) parabens. Everytime I would get to the bottom of the bottle, I would hem and haw and weigh the pros and cons...and then buy another bottle. I'm only (girl) human.

You can imagine how excited I was when I discovered that the C.O. Bigelow Extra-light Oil-free Moisturizing Lotion had been replaced by a new, paraben-free product! It's not exactly the same, but the new "All-in-one Protective Day Lotion SPF 25 (lightweight formula)" has become my new go-to moisturizer.

What it lacks in parabens (yay!), it make up for in free-radical destroying antioxidants, vitamins and UV protection. (That's good news for my not-getting-any-younger skin!) Plus the lightweight, greaseless formula is perfect for my slightly oily complexion.

The only thing I would change is the box that it comes in. And by "change", I mean "ditch the box, Bigelow!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Glove Love

We’ve all herd the idiom “No glove, no love”, but have you ever heard of “Glove Love”?

Glove Love is the brainchild of the eco-clever folks over at Green thing, a UK not-for-profit organization that supports and promotes “green living” through its registerd charity Green Thing trust.
Once relegated to a life of obscurity at the bottom of the lost & found bin, orphaned gloves and mittens are finding new lives thanks to the Glove Love program.

It works like this: Green Thing receives single gloves that have been separated from their mates (and owners!) and pairs them up with a similarly fated partner. Before they are released back into the wild, they are thoroughly cleaned, named and tagged with a label that tells their “story” of where they were lost (or found). The newly-matched (or, rather, mis-matched) pairs are available from the organization’s website for only £5 + VAT/postage!

People who have purchased Glove Love gloves are asked to upload photos of themselves wearing their new pair. They are also asked to enter a special code which notifies the person who sent in the strays that their gloves have found new homes.

I think this is an awesome idea. I hope they ship to Canada, because I would like to order a pair for myself. It would be a good thing to keep in mind for Christmas, too. I have a few friends who would probably love to get a one-of-a-kind, eco-wonderful pair of mittens and it would fit right in with my "handmade/repurposed" pledge.

To buy (or donate) gloves and mittens, click here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rescued - pt 1

This was one of the pieces that I managed to snag during "Winnipeg's Free Weekend". I still can't believe my luck!

I drove past it on my way to R's house, but didn't have time to stop. I figured that it would be gone by the time I returned from our Costco trip and much to my surprise, it was still there. The fact that I already had two chairs in my car didn’t stop me from trying to get the cabinet in there as well. After a few minutes, the lady who had put it out on the curb came out and offered to hold it for me. (I know…leave it to me to have trash put on hold…) Anyway, R and I returned in his truck a few hours later and it was mine!

The radio itself isn’t functional, so I’ve filled the space with a tiny collage that includes a piece of the original numbered glass. I kept the knobs, though, because they just look so darn cute. Other than that, it's pretty much in the condition that I found it in.

Yay me!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

oh, my.

Crafters, and maybe “green” crafters in particular, are always looking for things to DIY. Maybe some things are just better when they're NOT homemade…

That ain't no granny square she's knitting.

Warning! Before you click, I have to warn ya. It’s girls-only up in there!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Free Weekend Recap

The City of Winnipeg is calling the recent “Free Weekend” a complete success. I couldn’t agree more.(Ok, that’s not entirely true, but more about that later…)

First of all, I should say that I scored big time. Huge. I came out of the 2-day scavenging free-for-all with an antique radio cabinet, 2 lime green and black 50s kitchen chairs, 2 teal and chrome 50s kitchen chairs, a set of brand new cork-backed placemats, and a sweet vintage bread bin. Pictures to follow!

I didn't have much to give away, as I spent Saturday de-stashing craft supplies in a separate event. I did, however, manage to get rid of a big box o' plastic hangers that were left over from my closet makeover.

The thing that I found very weird about the Free Weekend was that despite the positive eco-message that it was supposed to send, it actually seemed to have the opposite effect. Sure we were recycling/reusing/repurposing…but neighbourhoods throughout the city were swarming with people in cars looking for freebies. On our way to the grocery store on Saturday morning, we drove down several streets that were literally clogged with numerous slow-moving and idling vehicles. And, it seemed that most people were out “trolling” neighbourhoods other than their own. (God forbid the guy next door should catch you scamming his old toaster!)

Our landfills may have seen a little bit of relief (for now), but at what expense?! Oh, people are funny.

Monday, September 21, 2009

psst...

You know those little stickers on your apples and bananas? The ones with the 4-digit code number? Yeah, those. If the sticker shows a 5-digit code starting with a "9", then what you've got there is organic, baby!

When it comes to the choice between organic/non-organic, it's really up to you. Everyone has their own reasons for choosing organic produce. The following list, however, is a collection of the top 10 "high-pesticide" foods. If there are only 10 items that you buy organic, buy these:

Strawberries
Bell peppers
Spinach
Cherries
Peaches
Mexican cantaloupe
Celery
Apples
Apricots
Green beans

Friday, September 18, 2009

slacker

You can tell how busy I am by how much love my blog gets (or, rather, how much love it doesn't get). This week has been a nutty one, but things are looking like they should be back to normal soon. I hope! With the mascot at home and our household running as smoothly as a...smoothly running thing. We’re still staying vigilant with our efforts to stay “green”, although some members of our household *ahem* have a bit of a problem with turning off lights and computers. Everything else is going well and I’m pretty happy with our progress. We’ve come a long way in such a short time.

The next big challenge that we are going to have to face is a financial one. Possible circumstances that are WAY beyond my control are going to force us to tighten our belts once again. The irony with all of this "clean living" is that it is crazy-expensive sometimes. We cut back where we can (reuse, reuse, reuse), but I find a huge part of our budget goes to "good" food and household products. I need someone to sit me down one day and tell me why a product with 3 ingredients costs more than a product with 87. And, why it's cheaper to put a chocolate bar or a bag of chips in your kid's lunch than it is to give him an organic apple. But, that's another post for another day. :sigh:

Trimming the power-bill is probably a good thing to focus on. I think that maybe a “lights out” challenge is in order. That way, we can kill two birds with one stone…but without actually killing anything or resorting to needless violence. We’ll save that for the video games (speaking of power-suckers)…

friday faves - organic maple flakes

Equinox Organic Maple Flakes are one of my favourite things in the pantry. They are Canadian, organic, and addictively delish. Just like me! ;-)

The maple flakes are made in Quebec from 100% pure, organic maple syrup. The freeze-drying process used to create them results in small, crunchy, sweet flakes that are fast dissolving, shelf-stable and do not harden in the bag. They are also surprisingly low-cal (about half that of sugar) and lower on the glycemic index than sugar and many other sweeteners.

I'm sure you could sprinkle them on all sorts of things (pancakes, waffles, french toast...), but I like them on oatmeal, ice cream, and as part of a dry-rub for salmon. I find myself reaching for them more and more; any time I need a touch of sweetness, but something with a bit more character than sugar. I've even got the maple flake grinder for when I want a finer product that dissolves instantly - perfect for fresh berries.

Check out the website for more info and recipes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

friday faves - st norbert farmer's market

This week’s Friday Fave is one of my “zen places” – the St Norbert Farmer’s Market in St Norbert, Manitoba. I try to go as often as I can, although sometimes it’s hard to get out there early-early on a Saturday morning. That said, I have never been disappointed by a visit and it's always worth the effort. If figure that since the farmers are good enough to get up early for me, I should return the favour for them!

Waiting for me at the market each week is an ever-changing variety of vegetables (including the radishes pictured), fruits, crafts and baking; as colourful as the people who flock to the market to buy them. The people watching is (almost) as good as the shopping!

I have my usual vendors, but my absolute favourite is my “green bean & corn lady”. I always stop at her stand first and load up on her amazing green beans and sweet, peaches ‘n’ cream corn. If I am lucky, though, she’ll have her “Fred” corn for sale. No word of a lie, it is the best corn in the whole, wide world. Last week, the Fred crop wasn’t ready to harvest, but I still managed to snag two “picked just for me” cobs. It pays to have connections!

Sadly, the season will soon be coming to an end. I have enjoyed watching the progression of the selection – from the first, tender greens of spring to the hard-skinned sturdy squashes and gourds of fall. Each week is a surprise and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for me. Or, rather, in “market” for me.

(My fingers are crossed for more Fred.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

CSA farm tour - st francois xavier, manitoba

Oooh...this sounds like fun. Too bad it's on a Friday and I have to work. Wuh-wuh-waaaa.

Community Supported Agriculture: A Farm Tour
Blue Lagoon Florascape, St. Francois Xavier
Friday September 11, 2009
Start time 3:00 pm Supper and Networking: 5:00 pm

Come out and learn about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model in organic vegetable production. Whether you want to grow and market food to your community or you want to support a local farmer through becoming a CSA member this tour will equip you with the knowledge of how to get started!

$25 OFCM-COG Members and Manitoba Farm Mentorship participants; $30 non-members. Includes dinner straight from the garden prepared by Chef Stefan Regnier.
Register online through PayPal or by phone:
Becky Elko, Mentorship Liaison: 204.414.3752
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: SEPTEMBER 9th

Thursday, September 3, 2009

is nothing sacred?

There has been a bit of buzz recently surrounding the Swiss water bottle manufacturer, SIGG, and their decision to change the epoxy lining in their bottles last summer. The "improvement" came with little (or no) fanfare, and it seems that there is a very good reason why.

For years, there have been rumours surrounding the lining in their aluminum* bottles. Consumer groups have suspected that the epoxy coating contained bisphenol-A , but were unable to prove it. Finally, in this letter from the CEO, SIGG has admitted that the lining did, in fact, contain the hormone-altering BPA.

Understandably, the public feels outrage and betrayal about the situation. SIGG bottles have been specifically marketed as an alternative to BPA-leaching plastic bottles. Consumers have been paying a premium for this product with the understanding that they were making a safer, healthier choice by choosing the higher-priced bottles over potentially dangerous plastics. It seems now, though, that the alternative was possibly just as bad. (While SIGG is admitting to the presence of BPA in the liners, they are maintaining that the liners did not leach BPA. Hmm.)

This is by no means a simple issue; SIGG is going to have an uphill battle on their hands as they try to recover from this PR nightmare. In the meantime, though, current owners of the “old” SIGG bottles can (apparently) swap them out for the new-style, BPA-free bottles.The first step is identifying which you have. If your bottle was purchased before August 2008, then it is definitely an old one. After that date, there is a still a chance a chance that your bottle has the BPA-containing liner. (Items can remain in warehouses and on store shelves for months.) The best way to check which version you have is to peek inside. The new “safe” liners are a dull beige; the old-style liner is “brassy” in appearance. If you determine that you, in fact, have a pre-Aug ’08 bottle, you should contact your local retailer for details on swapping it out for a new one.


*aluminum bottles must be lined to prevent contact between the metal and the liquid; stainless steel bottles do not require a liner. I am not advocating one over the other, but I will say that my own bottle is stainless steel. ;-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

winnipeg giveaway weekend

Great news for (ahem) upcyclers in Winnipeg! They have just announced a city-wide “throw your stuff out on the curb and let people pick through it day”. (It actually has a better name than that, but you get the picture.) The basic is idea is simple; everyone takes usable items that they no longer need and puts them out in front of their houses for other people to take. It’s like a garage sale, except no money changes hands. The only two main caveats are that the items have to be in usable condition, and you have to mark them “free”. I think the last point is especially important because I can see people getting excited and just helping themselves to anything that is not (firmly) tied-down.

The 2-day “event” takes place September 26th and 27th throughout the city. For more information, tips and “etiquette”, visit Givaway Weekend , or call 311 for more information.

On a related note…look what I found in my back lane yesterday! I don’t know the age or the type of wood, but isn’t it fabulous? I am planning to finish stripping it, paint it pale green (distressed, of course), throw some fabric behind the chicken-wire doors, add new knobs, and put it to use in my kitchen. I think the drawers will be perfect for serviettes, parchment paper, twine, etc…and there’s plenty of room for my Kitchenaid mixer and wine rack on top. Hooray for free stuff!

Friday, August 28, 2009

friday faves - soyganic tofu

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love tofu. I mean I really, really heart it. Soft, firm, smoked, crumbled…yes, please!

There’s one tofu, however, that I put above all others. My type/brand of choice when it comes to tofu is the Extra Firm Soyganic by Sunrise. It’s got exactly the right texture for throwing on the grill, searing in a pan, and tossing in stir-fries. I have found that it takes all sorts of marinades well…and my miso soup would be bupkis without it. (I even eat it cold; thinly sliced, right out of the fridge.)

I’m not alone in my belief that it is the best, either. On a recent episode of “Anna & Kristina’s Shopping Bag”, the Soyganic tofu was rated the best out of four in a blind-taste test. (And before you say “but tofu has no taste”, shush.) AND not only does it taste good, it is good for you! It is cholesterol-free, a source of calcium and iron, and packs 13 g of protein into each serving. Plus, all Soyganic products are made with certified organic soybeans (read: non-GMO), which is as important to me as taste and nutrition.

...and yes, it's got the Mascot's thumbs up, too!

Learn more and get recipes at http://www.sunrise-soya.com/

X-posted to Relish

Thursday, August 27, 2009

thirsty thursday

Mama always said “If you don’t have anything nice to say, shut your gob.” (Nobody ever accused mama of being a saint, but that’s neither here nor there.) That could explain why I have never mentioned McDonald’s in any of my blog posts. Until now.

Did you know…? McDonald's saves 68,000,000 pounds of packaging per year just by pumping soft drink syrup directly from the delivery truck into tanks in the restaurant, instead of shipping the syrup in cardboard boxes!

I’m not even going to mention the fact that…what’s that mama? Oh, right….consider it shut. For now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

wtf? wednesday

Each day, 133 square miles of foil are used to wrap 20,000,000 Hershey’s Kisses. That's equivalent to the size of Grenada (pop 90,000)!

I wonder how much of that gets recycled…

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the happy gardener

Gardening always makes me happy. I love the smell of the dirt and how it feels when I dig into it with my bare hands (gloves are for chumps…and people with nice nails). I always thought that it was a strictly sensory experience. it seems that there may be more to it.

Researchers in Great Britain are now studying the mood-elevating effects of a bacteria commonly found in soil after cancer patients being treated with the bacteria reported improved moods and quality of life. When treated with the same bacteria, lab mice responded in a way similar to those treated with antidepressant drugs.

It is believed that mycobacterium vaccae stimulates neurons in the brain that contain serotonin. Digging in the garden, or even taking a nature walk, will expose you to enough “happy bacteria” to boost your serotonin levels; improving your mood and cognitive functions, and possibly preventing depression.

And, it seems that the fruits of your labour can have a positive effect on your mental health as well. According to the same researchers, mycobacteria can also be ingested either through water sources or through eating the plants, such as carrots and lettuce.

I think that’s reason enough to go play in the dirt.

Friday, August 21, 2009

friday faves - it's all about me!

Well, sorta. Call it shameless self-promotion, but I have decided that my Friday Fave this week is ME! Or, more specifically, my "Going Green" column at Try Handmade. It's my little way to promote handmade, eco-friendly goods and the people who make them. There's so much like left in most of the stuff that we throw away and I want to bring attention to the creative guys and gals who find new uses to items that would otherwise hit the landfill.

My first article went "live" yesterday and I am bursting to tell everyone about it. The subject of my "Geek is Chic" article is my friend Ruth. She is a Winnipegger (like me), an Etsy seller (like me), a crafty upcycler (like me), and super-cool (like me...lol). Mostly, though, she's a friend and (dare I say) my "craft Yoda". I am so happy that she agreed to let me profile her for my inaugural piece.

You can read my weekly column here: Going Green.
Don't forget to comment and show some love for the makers that I profile each week.

Try Handmade

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I am jonesing for sushi in a big way. When I was living in Vancouver, it was something that I had weekly and without any thought given to safety or sustainability.
Now that I am living on the land-locked prairies (and trying to make more informed choices when it comes to the food that I eat), I am paying more attention to things like mercury, farmed-fish, and overfishing. I suppose it was much easier to turn a blind-eye when it came to $1.99 sashimi. Now that I’m paying the big-bucks, I want it to be good in terms of taste and virtue.

Lucky for us, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has made it easy to identify which fish to order and which to toss back (figuratively speaking, of course). You can download your own pocket-sized Sushi Guide here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

buzz off!

I have always planted basil with my tomatoes. Partly because it has been ingrained in me to do so, and partly because it just seems to make sense. Add fresh mozzarella and you have a fantastic caprese salad!
I was wondering if it was an old wives’ tale, though, so I did some research. Turns out, I was right all along. Companion Planting
is a time-tested and eco-friendly way to control pests in the garden.

It should be no surprise, then, that studies are being done to see how herb and spice based pesticides can be used for commercial applications. With the growth of the organic agriculture industry, and an increasing public demand for “clean food”, the industry is looking for alternatives to toxic pesticides that pose less risk to both human and animal heath. They are finding the answer in plant-based essential oils, including cinnamon, clove, mint and thyme.

Canadian scientists are reporting excellent results from research into this new class of natural insecticides. Commonly used for culinary, medicinal, and aromatherapy purposes, plant oils are proving to have a broad range of insecticidal activity, by either repelling or killing the unwanted (and often destructive) pests. Unlike conventional chemical products, however, these natural repellents are readily available and do not require extensive regulation. Additional benefits include a reduced danger to agricultural workers who are at high risk for pesticide exposure, as well as a greatly decreased likelihood that pests will develop a resistance to the so-called “killer spices”.

Two to four spice oils diluted in water are the basis for the new natural pesticides. So far, some of the new commercial spice-based products are already proving to be effective in protecting organic crops, such as tomato, strawberry, and spinach against aphids and mites. Unfortunately, the fragile essential oils degrade rapidly when exposed to sunlight and have to be reapplied often. Extending the time that the products remain effective is the main issue challenging the scientists developing them.

Read more at: National Geographic News

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shopping in style

We certainly aren't short of reusable bags these days. Sold at every check-out counter, anyone can have a bag with their grocery store's logo on it. Though we all want to be eco-conscious, for some of us it's important to look stylish at the same time.


Read more: Shopping in style

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, August 14, 2009

friday faves - new sun cookies



Usually, when you see "no sugar added" on a box of cookies, it is pretty safe to assume that they've added an artificial sweetener. That is not the case with these fiber-tastic babies. They are sweetened only with apples...not apple juice concentrate (read: sugar). The result is a product that is very much unlike most commercial cookies. They are rather un-sweet, but that's a big part of their appeal for me. (I am a big fan of cinnamon, too, so that helps.)

The texture is decidedly "healthy", so if you are looking for a replacement for your beloved Oreos, this isn't it. If you are like me, however, and love fiber-y, bran-y things, then you'll love these. (Each one packs 5 grams of fiber in a 25 gram serving!) I haven't tried the plain "Whole Bran" variety, but I can definitely vouch for the Raisin Bran and the Apple Cinnamon.

For more information, or to see the full product line, visit http://http://www.newsuncookies.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1
In Winnipeg, the New Sun cookies can be found at Organza and Bulk Barn.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

it's all drains!

Thanks to a new national advertising campaign, in the interest of saving water, Brazilians are being urged to pee in the shower. Narrated by children's voices, the television ads depict cartoon images of people urinating in the shower and end with the message: "Pee in the shower! Save the Atlantic rainforest!"

While the ads are meant to be humorous, the message is serious. The environmental group behind the ads, SOS Mata Atlantica, claims that if each household avoids one flush per day, they can save 4,380 litres of water annually.

I am all about saving the rainforest, but I can’t help but think that this a little (ok, a LOT) gross. Can’t you save the same amount of water just by skipping one flush, say, in the middle of the night? Whatever happened to “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…”?

And before you jump on the bandwagon and go all George Costanza on us, remember that basic etiquette dictates that you should never, ever pee in a public shower.


*Edit: Moments after posting this, I received an email from The Home Depot informing me that low-flow toilets are now on 30% off. Coincidence? I think not!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

pc load letter??

A few ways to reduce printer-paper consumption in the office:

- The fastest way to cut your paper-use in half is by printing or copying double-sided documents, whenever possible. Check your printer to see if it supports this feature. (Bonus money saver: not only are you using less paper, if you are mailing these documents you may see savings in postage as well!)

- Reducing page-margin and font size can also save a surprising amount of paper.

Tip: follow the instructions below to reduce margins in Microsoft Office
On the File menu, click Page Setup, and then click the Margins tab.
Under Margins, select the options you want
To change the default margins, click Default after you select new margin settings. The new default settings are saved in the template on which the document is based. Each new document based on that template automatically uses the new margin settings.


- Use print preview to review a document, rather than printing countless drafts. If walking back and forth to your printer during the proofreading process is your only form of exercise, join a gym or go for a hike!

- Think before you print! Rather than automatically printing every single email that you receive, make use of the folders in your email program to save and organize them. True story: I once worked with a guy who printed each email that he received, kept them in a giant stack on his desk, and then marked them “complete” with a big black marker before throwing them in the garbage.

- Instead of printing hard-copies of everything, try using the “print to screen” feature to save a digital copy to your computer.

- Print only the pages, or sections of pages, that you immediately require. There’s no sense in printing a 30-page manual if the only information you need is on page 18. When you are printing things such as recipes from the internet, choose the “printer friendly” version to avoid printing ads, banners, and excessive images. Or, better yet, copy and paste the required information into a word document and edit for size/content before printing. You can keep the doc open while you surf, adding content as you go. Print only when the page is full…or just save it for future reference!

- It should go without saying that you’re already recycling your paper, but are you tossing-out perfectly good paper? Use the back-side of junk faxes, transmission reports, draft copies, and envelopes for jotting notes and lists before throwing in the blue-bin.

- Add a line to your email signature reminding recipients to “think about the environment before printing”. I added one to mine a couple of months ago, and was pleasantly surprised to see how many people have adapted it for their own! Mine reads: "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Please consider the environment before printing this email."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

p is for paper

All of my efforts to reduce my paper consumption are going to be negated in one fell swoop when I do my son's school supply shopping later this month. Some highlights from the grade 7 supply list: 1500 sheets of lined loose leaf paper (plus 1 pkg unlined), a dozen tabbed dividers, a dozen duo-tangs, one pkg graph paper, a large package of construction paper, one clear-cut forest, and a stream full of chlorine and toxic run-off.

Oh, wait. Those last two were mine. :sigh:

Monday, August 10, 2009

found! - part 1

They say the best things in life are free. Sure that applies to stuff like cloud-watching and hugs and the smell of the air right before it rains, but it can also apply to treasures found in your neighbours’ bin, a ditch, or washed up on shore.

I found this big window frame laying on the side of the road in a very sketchy part of town. The glass was already missing, so all I had to do was (quickly!) scoop it up, bring it home, and give it a cursory once-over for spiders before bringing it in the house. I heart it muchly. Try as you might (and I have!), you just can’t fake that kind of peeling-paint, weathered-wood goodness. I haven’t found a permanent place for it, but I think it looks right at home beside my fabulous chair (bought as-is at the MCC shop) in my front hallway.

Get the look for less than $12:
Window Frame (road-side find) = free
Shabby-chic Chair (MCC Thrift Store) = $5
Vintage Tool Box (Habitat Re-Store) = $1.50
Plant Pot (Value Village) = $2
Plant (Home Depot) = $3

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I'm at work today. Other than the fact that today is Sunday, the thing that makes today different from any other day is how I got here. I finally got up the guts to ride my bike to the office! It's 20k round-trip, so not un-managable by any means. The only reason that I haven't done it yet was my fear of rush-hour traffic...ok, there's also the chance that the weather could make a horrible turn for the worse at any time. However, I am not completely against the idea of trying it on a weekday, so I am going to take a different route home and see if there's a way that I can do this AND avoid traffic.

(...and I am so counting this on my Two-Wheel Challenge for this week. My efforts to cut down on purchasing things have led to fewer and fewer opportunities to run errands. It's a bit of a catch-22, albeit a happy one.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

friday faves - seventh generation kitchen cleaner

Everyone who knows me knows that I love to cook. Everyone who knows me well knows that when I cook, I make a mess. Needless to say, I spend a LOT of time cleaning up after myself.

In my quest for sparkling clean counters, I have bought and tried countless products...some with great results and some with not so great results. (One pink spray, in particular, left odd pink blotches on everything. Yikes!) I use plain ol' baking soda for scrubbing, stain removal, and anywhere elbow-grease is required, but for everything else you can't beat the convenience of a spray*.

I recently found a spray kitchen cleaner that is both effective AND safe for my family and the environment. Seventh Generation Wild Orange & Cedar Spice cleaner contains non-toxic biodegradable ingredients, is pet and people friendly, works like a charm, and smells GREAT. I have used it on countertops, painted cabinets, appliances, and even glass and mirrors. (And, if the need should arise, it makes a really good "freshener" for garbage cans...)

To read more about Seventh Generation products, including full ingredient lists, coupons, and reviews, please visit http://ca.seventhgeneration.com/ or http://www.seventhgeneration.com/



*I know that there are all sorts of "recipes" out there for eco-friendly homemade spray cleaners, but I have yet to make one that I am really happy with...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

south osborne urban market - aug 16th

The South Osborne Urban Community Cooperative is holding an Urban Market at Riverview Community Centre in Winnipeg on Sunday, August 16th from noon to 6pm.

The market will feature a variety of farmers, gardeners and local growers, as well as local artisans and crafters (including yours truly!) As if that wasn't enough, there will also be supervised activities for the kids, and a screening of a film about sustainability, and free fair-trade coffee!

I am excited to be taking part in the event and I will be selling my recycled/upcycled goods, including my domino pins and magnets, bottle cap magnets, altered toids tins, and t-shirt pillows.

If you can make it out to the market, don't forget your reusable shopping bags! While you're at it, you might want to bring a travel mug for the free coffee, too. And be sure to stop by my table to say hey!

The Riverview Community Centre is located at 90 Ashland Avenue (south of confusion corner, between Osborne & Churchill drive).
Map: http://bit.ly/Y6lEL

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

back in the saddle

My "two wheel challenge" had a flat-tire for a couple weeks*, but I am back at it. Last night I ran 4 errands by bike...although I did have to return home to pick up the car after finding a discarded window in a back lane a few blocks from my house. No matter how hard you try, some things just won't fit in the bike basket!

Tuesday: 8 miles (Rogers, Running Room, post office, Starbucks)

*I know I'm only making excuses, but I wasn't completely to blame for my slacking. We had a spell of really nasty weather and I went on vacation for a few days. So there.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

composting is cool

Leftovers turn green: An area company is a pioneer on the next frontier of recycling - Kansas City Star

Shared via AddThis

Step #3 - a movable feast

There is something about hitting the open highway that makes me hungry. It could have something to do with the countless convenience stores, drive-ins, and diners along the side of the road; not to mention the billboards that line the roadside, enticing people to take the next exit for a meal or a quick snack.

These little fast-food diversions don’t come without a cost, however. They are both expensive AND usually rather environmentally un-friendly. A little pre-planning is all that it takes to stay green and healthy away from home.

Bulk up! – stop at your favourite bulk foods store for dried fruits, nuts, and organic snacks. Repackage them at home in reusable containers and bags.

It’s a wrap! – we are all sandwich artists at heart. Wraps, sandwiches, and random stuff on buns can be made at home for a fraction of what you’ll pay on the road. Get creative with fillings and condiments, and be sure to pack ingredients like tomatoes and lettuce separately to keep them from sogging up your bread.

Keep your cool! – perishables, drinks, and fruit can be kept fresh in a cooler even on the hottest of days. Make your own ice packs by freezing tetra-packs of juice or by filling zipper-bags with crushed ice. You can refill your bags with fresh ice at stops along the way. And don’t forget to recycle those empty containers!

...and if you have to stop for snacks, seek out roadside fruit/vegetable stands, local grocery stores and bakeries, and farmer's markets (if you are lucky to be travelling on market days). Some of the best meals I have had on the road have consisted of fresh-off-the-vine fruit, local artisan cheeses, and freshly baked breads purchased right from the people who picked/made them. Be prepared by making sure you have a cutting board and paring knife included with your picnic essentials*.

Lastly, take the time to stop and enjoy your meals and snacks. Pre-plan your stops or keep an eye out for picnic spots and parks along the way. Not only is it a chance to stretch your legs and let the kids run off some energy, it's often the little stops along the way that make for the best memories.

*blanket and/or tablecloth, reusable plates/bowls/cups, reusable cutlery, salt & pepper, bottle opener, can opener, cloth napkins, sharp knife, cutting board, bags for collecting garbage/recyclables (when containers are not available on-site), small container of dish-soap for clean-ups.

Friday, July 31, 2009

friday faves - prairie naturals haircare

I have a love/hate thing going with my naturally curly hair. I love my curls & hate, no...loathe, my tangles. One option is the buzz-cut; the other is a good detangler. There are a ton of products on the market, but few that are made with organic/naturally-derived ingredients and paraben-free.

While shopping at my local organic grocery store recently, I was very happy to come across the Prairie Naturals line. Not only do their products meet my requirements (above), they are cruelty-free, petroleum-free, AND Canadian!

The Mountain Mist conditioning spray caught my eye, so I bought a bottle and went home to see if it really could tame the wild tangles in my mane. I have been using it for two weeks now and I have been loving it. The concentrated spray leaves my hair soft, shiny, and tangle-free. Plus, the product doesn't relax my curls like some brands (ahem*infusium*ahem) and smells fantastic, thanks to the natural lavender, lemon, and chamomile fragrance oils in the formula. It's also very effective for reducing frizz and contains a UV filter to help protect the vulnerable hair-shaft from damage cause by the sun/environment.

I originally purchased Mountain Mist to be used on wet hair before styling, but have discovered that it works great as a style "refresher" on dry hair. A few good pumps and a scrunch and I'm good to go!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

step #2 - on the road again


roadside susans
Originally uploaded by zenbecca
Your car is packed up, gassed up, and you're finally on the road…now what? Is it possible to get to your destination without making a huge impact on the environment and your wallet? Getting better gas mileage is the key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and saving money.

It should go without saying that you should keep your cool behind the wheel, but did you know that aggressive driving causes you to use extra gas? Your gas mileage can be increased by as much as 30% for highway driving (and by 5% in the city) simply by accelerating and decelerating smoothly and slowly. And, as a bonus, you won’t annoy everyone around you!

You've heard the expression “speed kills”. Well, it should come as no surprise that it wastes gas, too. Driving over the speed limit is not only unsafe; it is a huge drain on the fuel tank. Consider taking secondary highways to help keep your lead-foot in check. Not only are posted limits lower, the temptation to speed is reduced when others aren’t whizzing past you like Kimi Raikkonen Optimal fuel economy will vary from vehicle to vehicle, but gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 100 km/h. Tip: if you have cruise control, use it to help maintain a constant speed.

Many urban centres are cracking down on idling and for good reason – idling vehicles contribute to pollution (both air and noise) and get zero kms /litre. It’s a myth that restarting your car uses more fuel than leaving it running, so turn off your engine when packing or unloading your car and while waiting in line-ups for ferries, highway work, accidents, etc.

And, finally, pack light. Before you add the weight of passengers and luggage, remove unnecessary heavy items from your vehicle. An extra 50 kilograms of cargo in your vehicle could reduce your gas mileage by up to 2%. This, of course, affects smaller vehicles more than large, but any little bit helps. Plus, you’ve gotta leave room for souvenirs!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

step #1 - the best laid plans


sask road 1
Originally uploaded by zenbecca

I’m home from my mini-vacation on the farm and back to the world of traffic and computers and waking to an alarm-clock instead of the call and answer of the owls. This week’s posts will all be road-trip related, so buckle your seatbelts and get ready to hit the (green) highway…

Get your motor running...

Before you set off, take the time to get your vehicle in good shape. Not only will you have a safer journey, you’ll save gas AND money!

Make sure your engine is properly tuned and maintained. Check your oil, spark plugs, oxygen sensors, air filters, hoses and belts. Make any necessary repairs and adjustments before embarking on your adventure.

Have your wheels aligned and keep your tires properly inflated. Low tire pressure is not only a safety hazard, it wastes gasoline. You can actually increase your car’s gas milage by over 3% just by properly inflating the tires! See your owner’s manual for recommended tire-inflation.

Plan, plan, plan...

Setting off into unknown territory is part of the fun of any adventure. Getting lost, however, can take the fun out of the trip when you find yourself going many, many kilometers out of your way.

In order to avoid wasting precious gas and time, plan out your route well in advance and have maps handy for last-minute detours and diversions. It’s also a good idea to call ahead to your destinations to check operating hours, etc. Being spontaneous is fun, yes, but have you ever driven an extra-hour for an impromptu treat and arrived only to find that the ice-cream shop is closed for the season? Trust me, it’s an instant joy-kill.

A GPS navigation system is a great way to stay on-course, but pack “old fashioned” maps just in case. I have heard many stories of GPS units directing drivers into cornfields and up long-abandoned roads.

There are a number of web-based trip planners that you can use to make the most of your journey. I like http://www.freetrip.com/ and good ol’ Google Maps. If, like me, you are a member of an auto club, you can let them do your planning for you. CAA also provides members with free maps and travel guides. http://www.caa.ca

Friday, July 24, 2009

friday faves - eden organic apple butter

Eden Organic Apple Butter is one of my absolute favourite things. Not only is it good on toast and english muffins; it is fabulous on vanilla ice cream (especially with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top). I like to stir it into my oatmeal, too.

Can you believe that there are 4 lbs of organic apples in this little jar? No wonder it has such big flavour! As much as I love what goes *into* the apple butter, I really love what doesn't go into it. There is no added sugar, sodium, preservatives, or fat. It contains apples and apple juice...that's it! One tablespoon contains 20 cals, 4g of sugar and 1g fibre, making it a happy-healthy alternative to butter or jam. (Compared to butter -100 cals/tbsp and jam -50 cals/tbsp)

For more information and recipes, visit http://www.edenfoods.com/

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

it's a dirty job

Of all the chores that we do around the house, washing the car is one of the most environmentally un-friendly. The water that runs off is chock-full of chemicals (gasoline, oil, exhaust residue etc), not to mention the phosphate-laden soap itself. This toxic brew bypasses the sewers and septic systems, avoiding treatment, and is allowed to enter the storm drains directly. It makes its way from there into our rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands where it poisons the flora and fauna and threatens our fragile ecosystem.

What you can do:
Good – If you are going to wash your car at home, choose an environmentally-friendly detergent, such as Simple Green’s Car Wash, or make your own concentrate by mixing one cup of liquid dishwashing detergent and 3/4 cup of powdered laundry detergent (each should be chlorine- and phosphate-free and non-petroleum-based) with 10 litres of water. Use this concentrate sparingly with water over exterior car surfaces. Rather than washing the car on the driveway or in the street, wash it over the grass to allow the soil to neutralize the toxic waste water. Be sure to keep children and animals off of the wet grass when you are done.

Better – Take your vehicle to a commercial car wash. Federal laws in both Canada and the U.S. require commercial carwash facilities to drain their wastewater into sewer systems. The water is treated by the municipal water plant before it is discharged back into nature. Also, commercial car washes make use of computer-controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps to minimize water usage. According to the International Carwash Association, automatic car washes average less than 45 gallons per car use, while washing a car at home typically uses between 80 and 140 gallons of water.

Best – Seek out and frequent an eco-friendly commercial car wash. These businesses go a little further to “clean up” the process, employing state-of-the-art technology such as on-site filtration, rainwater gathering, and use of alternative energy sources. Just do a quick Google search for “eco-friendly car wash” (plus your location) to find your local facility. Your car AND the fishes will thank you!

wtf? wednesday

This week’s “wtf?” is a short but sweet. I came across this “tip” while researching drought-resistant plants (of all things) and had to share it. Apparently, they did not read Monday’s entry.

“Wash your car on the lawn so that
you water and fertilize the grass at
the same time. Car shampoos use
phosphates that are similar to
many fertilizers.”

Well, they’re half-right. Go ahead and wash your car on the lawn, but PLEASE choose a non-petroleum cleaning product that is free of phosphates and chlorine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

some trash to go with that shake?

Did you know that China produces and discards 45 BILLION* pairs of chopsticks per year? That's the equivalent of 25 million trees! Holy kung pow!


It just makes you stop and think about the little things that we take for granted in the name of convenience. Everything from disposable drinking straws, to gelati shovels...er...spoons, to the handfuls of paper napkins that end up in your take out bag - it all adds up!

How can we help? As the song says "Control yourself. Take only what you need." Do you automatically grab a half-dozen packets of ketchup to go with your fries or 3 plastic stir sticks for your venti-non-fat-extra-hot-soy-chai-latte? Start with 1 and go back if you need more. If the guy behind the counter gives you a stack of serviettes the size of a crib mattress, keep one or two and politely pass the rest back. If you find yourself 2 kms down the road when you make the million-napkin discovery, keep them on hand to handle spills in the car or take them into the house to use at dinner. I know...fancy! ;-)

Another method to reduce your dependence on disposables is to pack your own reusables. I have a few spoons (and the occasional fork) that travel with me: one in my car, one in a side pocket of my purse, one on my desk, and one in my lunch bag. (I have heard, too, about people who carry a cloth napkin wherever they go...but I'm not sure I'm quite "there" yet...) Lately I’ve been thinking about toting a cute pair of reusable chopsticks, too…especially after reading the stats above! A quick search on Etsy of “chopstick case” turned up a few cute options….but of course, I’ll probably make my own. Or maybe I'll try these: http://dvice.com/archives/2008/05/stix-glasses-hi.php LOL.

Finally, the number one way to cut the number of disposables in your life is to change your habits. Instead of running for the border at lunchtime, pack a sandwich or a salad in a container. If you are lucky enough to have a fridge at your office, keep full-sized bottles of your most loved condiments on hand and say "no thanks" to single-serve pouches of salad dressing and mustard. Take your morning coffee with you from home instead of automatically swinging through the drive-thru. And if you do eat out, make it an event. Sit down and use real cutlery instead of balancing an order of onion rings on your lap while you negotiate traffic. Not only will you be reducing garbage, you'll be reducing car-emmissions AND eating healthier!


*Plus, another 15 million are exported to Japan, South Korea, and other countries. Source: http://www.fon.org.cn/greenchoice/index_eng.php?var1=content/foodaghealth/shopping/shopping_1.htm

Monday, July 20, 2009

lake winnipeg live lake walkathon

Speaking of saving Lake Winnipeg, I received this note today from my friend, Kate:

For those able to help out, there will be a 5 km. "Lake Winnipeg Foundation Live Lake Walkathon" on Sundy, Aug. 9, 2009. All walkathon proceeds will benefit the lake through support for education, awareness and resarch. Get pledge forms at www.lakewinnipegfoundation.org or by calling Barry at 389-5560 (Matlock Location) or Janet at 756-8276, Karin at 756-3378 or Sheila at 756-2367 (Victoria Beach Location).

Help save our beautiful lake!

save lake winnipeg


pier 2
Originally uploaded by zenbecca

the problem with phospherous

Fact: Approximately 8,000 tonnes of phosphorus enter Lake Winnipeg each year, through sewage and agricultural drain-off. A fraction of this will flow-out (2500 tonnes), but the rest remains in the lake.

Fact: Algae use phosphorus to survive and grow. The growing accumulation of phosphorous (and other chemicals) in the lake are causing algal blooms to occur at an alarming rate. Not only are the blooms more frequent, they are bigger in surface area, faster growing, and difficult to control.
Typically it is blue-green algae that naturally forms these blooms. This type of algae can obtain the nitrogen they need from nitrogen in the air, unlike other kinds of algae that take their nitrogen from the water, so as long as they are exposed to air, they can continue to make their own. As a result, the blue-green algae cannot be controlled by reducing the nitrogen supply to them.

Increased blue-green algae causes several negative things to occur in the lake. It causes water to become turbid and unattractive and can produce toxins That make the water taste and smell unappealing. In addition, when the blue-green algae dies it sinks to the bottom of the lake. The decomposition of the blue-green algae consumes the oxygen in the water causing other aquatic organisms to suffocate.

What can we do? As with anything, change starts at home. Choose 100% phosphate-free dishwasher and laundry detergents. These are the main culprits, but check other household cleaners for phosphates, too. I have discovered two things about phosphate-free detergents: they are a little more expensive than “regular” detergents and they work every bit as well.

If you choose to fertilize your lawn (and don’t get me started on that one…), be sure to use ones that contain no phosphorous. (Phosphorous is indicated by the second number on the label. If you are unsure, just ask at the garden centre.)

http://www.lakewinnipegfoundation.org


Saturday, July 18, 2009

basket case

My two-wheelin' challenge has got a flat tire. Figuratively speaking, of course. I haven't been on the bike all week! (In my own defense, I haven't actually had an errand to run that could be run on the bike, but still...) I think I'm going to have to resort to inventing errands to run next week...if just to get "back in the saddle".

I think I am going to start working on my design for a set of saddlebags for the bike, too. Having more cargo room than the basket on the front allows might help. If I come up with something that works well, I might try to do my weekly grocery shop by bike. Hmmm...now I just have to come up with something clever to make the bags out of...

Friday, July 17, 2009

friday faves - tom's of maine toothpaste

TGFFF – thank goodness for Friday Favourites! I have been waiting all week to wax poetic about my very favourite toothpaste – Tom’s of Maine. I bought my first tube a few months ago and I have been a super-fan ever since. First of all, I heart the company for their high-quality natural products, but also their “upfrontness” in regards to ingredients and desire to educate the consumer. I am a big-time label reader, so this stuff really matters to me!

Back to the toothpaste…to be honest, I was a bit surprised the first time I used it due to its lack of sweetness. It was minty, yes, but definitely not sweet. I wasn’t sure that I liked it at first, until I realized that what I *don’t* like about other commercial brands is how unbelievably cloying they are. I find that no matter how much you rinse, most leave a weird candy taste in your mouth. Good if you like candy, I suppose, but bad if you just want your mouth to feel clean. Once I got used to the non-sweetness of the product and embraced the extra-freshness of the natural peppermint, I was hooked.

The other big difference with Tom’s is how well it cleans your teeth and how long the “just brushed” feeling lasts. The ingredient responsible here is silica, derived from natural sand, and calcium carbonate which work together to gently and effectively clean and whiten. For the first week that I was using the Whole Care toothpaste, I couldn’t stop obsessing over how smooth my teeth felt. (Now I just take it for granted…)

And, finally, I have to admit that one of my most-favourite thing about Tom’s toothpaste is the old-schooly metal tube. Unlike plastic tubes, you can actually roll it up as you go and get every. last. drop. Love it.

http://www.tomsofmaine.com

Thursday, July 16, 2009

thirsty thursday

Are you guilty of running the water while you brush your teeth? In the time it takes for you to *properly* brush (two minutes, according to my dentist), 8 gallons of water can go right down the drain! Turn off that tap!

A few more ways that you can cap the tap:

- Plug the drain before filling the bathtub. The temperature can be adjusted as the tub fills.

- Multi-task in the shower. Wash your body or your face while your hair conditioner soaks in. Cutting your showers short by 1 or 2 minutes can save 120 gallons/month. Aim for showers of five minutes or less (I know, I know...working on that...)

- Speaking of which, showering "with a friend" doesn't save water. Quit fooling yourself and rent a room! Baths are a different story, though. The more people you can fit in a bathtub, the better. ;-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

composting is fun!

Wanna know something tragic? According the the David Suzuki Foundation, “roughly 40% of the waste in our landfills is compostable organic matter”. WTF? That’s nuts…and coffee grounds…apple cores…carrot peelings…you get the picture!

Wanna know how to make a difference? COMPOST! Composting is the #1 way to reduce your household waste and I can vouch for that 100%. We have been composting for just over a year and I am amazed at how much good, organic material from our kitchen is being diverted from the landfill and into our big, black beast in the back lane (aka the composter). Just one day’s worth of our food scraps and trimmings is enough to fill a small ice cream bucket. Multiply that by 7 and you’re looking at a significant amount over the course of a week. Believe me, your trash collector AND the environment will thank you.

A few myths about composting:

Myth - compost bins are stinky! If you compost properly, composts don’t smell. If your bin starts to get a little ripe, blame it on anaerobic microbes. While they are working to break down the organic matter, they can create a bit of a pong. To cut down on the anaerobic process, be sure to aerate your pile regularly. Use of an aerating tool every two weeks or so will create air pockets and actually speed-up the composting process!

Myth - compost bins attract vermin! Compost piles that do not include animal products or pet droppings will not attract pests. Fill your bin with plant-based materials only. This includes fruit and vegetable peelings/trimmings, coffee grounds, tea bags, paper towels, shredded newspapers, wooden toothpicks.

Myth – composting takes a lot of effort! Let me put it this way…my 12 year old takes care of most of the composting at our house. He takes the bucket of goodness out to the back lane once a day, dumps the contents into the bin, and returns it (empty) to the kitchen. My part is even easier…all I have to do is fill the bucket (and aerate the pile a couple times a month).

Tips to successful composting:

Balance your “greens’ with some “browns”. Adding dried leaves and wood chips to your compost pile will help to keep your mix from compacting too much and becoming anaerobic. I find that creating a layer of brown materials also helps to keep fruit-flies at bay in the summer months. Plus, it’s a little more esthetically appealing when you open the bin. (Not that it should matter…but it cuts down on the “ewwwwww’s” that come from the person opening the bin every day.)

Place your bin in a warm-ish spot. Compost breaks down best between 120 – 160 degrees f. Use of a black plastic compost bin in a sunny spot will also help to create and hold heat. (This is probably a good time to mention the “winter” issue. Obviously, a frozen-solid compost pile will do absolutely nothing. Rather than fill our composter with an endless supply of material that won’t break down throughout the winter, we toss our compostable scraps out in small biodegradable kitchen waste bags, separate from the household garbage. It’s not ideal, but it seems to be the lesser of two evils. Next winter, we’ll be introducing an indoor worm-bin to our happy family, which should help a bit.)

Resist the urge to water your compost bin. Compost should be moist, not wet. Remember those little “air pockets” that speed things along? Water will fill them right back up. If you think things are looking a little too dry…add more “greens”.

One exception to the “no animal products” rule: eggshells that have been rinsed, dried, and crushed can be added to the compost mixture with no problems.

…and how do you know when you’ve got compost? Compost looks just like good, rich soil…go fig. Also, you should not be able to recognize anything that you put in there…save for the occasional rubber band. ;-)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

tuesday = chooseday

This week's choice: local or organic?

Ok, that one is a trick. Ideally we should be choosing local AND organic. Here's why:

Local food is good for so many reasons. The obvious one is that buying local reduces the distance our food has to travel from field to market. Shorter distances mean less transportation costs and a smaller carbon footprint. Local food also spends fewer days in transport, so goods can be picked closer to ripeness and require less packaging, cushioning, refrigeration and so on and so on and so on. Literally, it is the difference between a semi truck full of ethelene-gassed green tomatoes and Farmer Joe hauling his wagon of vine-ripened goodness to your door. Or close to it. ;-)

The less-obvious argument for buying local is the economic impact that your purchase has on your local economy. Not only are you helping the farmer, you are helping everyone that they do business with along the way. They say that a dollar spent locally equals $7 (by the time it changes hands in the community), but a dollar spent at a big-box store turns over only twice.

As for organic...where do I start? Maybe I should save that for another day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

zip it!

When I was in Jr High, there was a girl in my class who we used to giggle at for (of all things) saving and reusing her paper lunch bag. Every day she would eat her lunch, then carefully fold up the paper sack, and take it home to be reused the next day. Had she done that now no one would have batted an eye, but back then it was one step above wearing a tin foil hat. I suppose she was just ahead of her time.

I was thinking about that girl the other day as I was standing at the kitchen sink rinsing out a couple Ziplock bags. I love the convenience of them, but because they can't be recycled, the only way that I can really justify buying them is to use and re-use each one about a million times*. Since I don't use them for meat and/or gross stuff, they literally have to be in shreds before I'll toss them. The two that I have in my lunch bag are practically ancient.

It's pretty straightforward, so I am not going to explain how to rinse out a bag (this isn't the famous instructables.com "how to refrigerate a banana" post). I will say, however, that other than using really hot water, the secret to success is all in the drying. You probably have something around the house that will work. I use a 10-arm stand that I think is supposed to be for displaying photographs. Wooden plate display racks, mitten drying stands, mini hanging clotheslines/racks, etc will all work. You could even use the empty rack in your dishwasher, but if you're like me, the dishwasher is *never* empty. Whatever you use, though, just make sure that the insides are not touching and that there is good airflow from the bottom.

Tip: if you are really going to go for it and reuse the heck out of your Ziplocks, invest in the thicker & stronger freezer bags, rather than the regular sandwich bags. They'll hold up a lot better and save you $ in the long run.


*And I am totally not exaggerating about that either. I am still on the same box of bags that I bought a year ago when I moved into my house. Some of my bags might even be older...as old as my tin-foil hat, even.