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

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 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://
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 or

*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).

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.