Love-Hate Relationship

Have you ever been entwined in a love-hate relationship? I find myself caught up in the web of one such bond at present…with my Keurig coffee maker. Yes, you heard right. The convenience and speedy delivery of coffee to my body makes me swoon with pleasure while the environmental and health impacts trouble me greatly. So much so that I have shunned my Keurig brewing system in favour of slow-mo brewing techniques. Again.

 

If you’ve been around here long enough or are a friend or co-worker (which makes you and automatic friend) of mine, you are very aware of my deep-rooted desire to be constantly caffeinated with the strongest and fiercest cup o’ heaven I can get my mitts on. Before the K-brewer of Evilness was dropped on my lap a few Christmases ago, I immersed myself in the process of making a perfect cup of coffee each and every time. I think the beverage was originally more about the ritual than the drink itself. I did away with an automatic coffee pot and opted for a French press, a cone filter-drip doo-da for on top of my single cup, and a stove-top espresso pot. I adore each system for different reasons. Then I was swept off my feet by a handsome new stranger; his name was Keurig. He gave me everything I wanted and all of the things I didn’t really need. My friends and I joke about resorting to dragging around IV poles to keep the coffee flowing into us 24/7 and Mr. Temptation (Keurig) was the closest I was going to get.

 

 

 

Image found on imgfave.com

Image found on imgfave.com

 

 

 

Before Sir Hotness landed on my kitchen counter I had considered the pros and cons of introducing another brewing system in my home. I had decided to forego said machine due to its wasteful nature while looking longingly at it every time I was in ones vicinity. Here’s the flip side of this passionate vortex of quick caffeine supply…

 

I don’t know which is worse, the fact that hot water is blasting through plastic, leaching particles of nastiness into my coffee to be absorbed by my body or the horrific amount of waste from the stack of K-cups that accumulates. There’s a lot of buzz at the moment in regard to convenient brewing systems such as the Keurig and Tassimo. I highly recommend doing some personal  research for yourself on this. As far as my research has concluded, there is no recycling program for K-cups other than the Grounds To Grow On program through Keurig themselves. This program appears to be a step in the right direction but is limited as far as access goes, is expensive to utilize, and depending on your opinion may not be a viable form of plastic aftermarket utilization. I struggle with the notion that burning plastics as an energy source is acceptable. The Green Mountain Coffee Co. has a target of making 100% of K-cups recyclable by 2020. For more info see the sustainability report here. I have a few options as far as disposal of the single use cups go.

 

1. I can toss it in the trash bin which makes me feel guilty at creating excess and unnecessary waste for the landfill.

2. I can save the used K-cups and become an episode of Hoarders until a recycling option becomes available.

3. I could take apart each K-cup myself and compost the coffee grounds, recycle the foil liner, and re-purpose all those pesky little plastic cups somehow.

 

 

 

None of these options are particularly appealing. I have purchased a reusable My K-cup to use my own ground coffee in a wire mesh basket inside a plastic case. There is yet another issue…more plastic. It seems like a never-ending cycle, doesn’t it? In my constant quest to “do the right thing” I have been hunting down a stainless steel reusable My K-cup. I have located such a thing on Amazon (of course) with a price tag of $19.99 Canadian. Do I want to shell out another $20 so I can brew coffee in single cups? I actually loathe the refillable K-cups for one reason only; I use a gigantic cup in the morning and need to refill the cups twice. It is not fun trying to dump the used grounds into the compost bin when they are piping hot and I have not yet consumed any of my beloved liquid gold. I am a patient woman but this tests my limits most mornings.

 

 

Besides the disposal of these little cups of enviro-doom there is the issue of how they are made to begin with and the environmental impact before use.

1. Made from plastic that may or may not be heat-grade and/or food grade, plastic is a product of the oil industry which is an environmental nightmare.

2. The amount of energy used to manufacture and fill the mass amounts of individual sized cups is wasteful.

3. The cardboard boxes that the K-cups are packed in. Although recyclable and occasionally made from a percentage of recycled paper themselves it is still unnecessary excess packaging.

 

 

I have only touched on the notion of health risks due to heat and unknown plastics coupled with an acidic element such as coffee.  This is a topic for further research before I can have an opinion other than, “why risk it on a regular basis?”  I don’t claim to be the picture of perfection as far as my environmental footprint is concerned but I always strive to do the best I can to reduce my impact. Every little thing each of us does makes a difference and it adds up. I have returned to my original love of perfectly, and sometimes leisurely, brewing techniques that produce a far superior cup of coffee.  Even if it means letting go of express coffee consumption! Egad!

 

 

 

 

“And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use.  And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried:  “Look at this Godawful mess.”  “~Art Buchwald, 1970

 

 

 

 

 

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Inner Child Visits Disney – Part 2

Starting the day at 3 am before the sunrise, it was both a thrill and a relief to finally arrive at the hotel.  Pulling into the Disney Pop Century Resort, our home away from home for the next five nights, the exhilaration was palpable. There is great joy in finally announcing, “We’re here!” when travelling with kids as many of you know.   Everybody off the Disney Magical Express!

 

 

I have never been in the presence of so many genuinely happy people as when at Disney. There is no fake joy being tossed about here, just ear to ear grins of folks that love spreading happiness – and their jobs. I found myself constantly smiling! Yes, I do frown occasionally (I know, it’s hard to believe) even though I try to stay upbeat. I shall apologize now for the blurriness of some of these photos. The night before leaving home I decided to treat myself to a new iPhone 5  and was still trying to figure it out. You are all a nice bunch so I know you will look past the static. Moving on.

 

 

 

Home Away from Home

Home Away from Home

 

 

 

Hotel check in

Hotel check in

 

 

 

A game of Twister anyone?

A game of Twister anyone?

 

 

 

giant foosball

giant foosball

 

 

 

Pop Century Hotel

Pop Century Hotel

 

 

 

The trek through the hotel grounds included three pools, an arcade, numerous photo ops, playgrounds, and the plant and animal life to just touch the tip of the iceberg. One could stay at any Disney themed resort and never have to leave it the entire stay there is so much to do! My two kids were entranced by the geckos (or whatever type of little lizard they were) and were always on the look out for them. My daughter was very worried that they would be stepped on and tried to keep everyone abreast of the gecko crossings throughout our stay. We never did swim in the pools though, we were far too busy. So much for my entire wardrobe of bathing suits I packed. Next time.

 

 

 

We were only in our hotel room long enough to drop off our luggage and turn around so as not to miss our reservations at  Bongos Cuban restaurant in Downtown Disney. Side note: Downtown Disney is a world all of its own outside of the Disney theme parks. An incredible place to visit with so many great things to do. My only disappointment was not being able to enjoy live music at The House of Blues. I’m thinking Disney would be a great girls trip in the near future…great but dangerous I’m sure, knowing the wild and wonderful women that are my closest friends.  Sheesh, sidetracked again…Bongos Cuban restaurant as described by my teen-aged son that can eat like a locust, “That was the BEST meal I have ever eaten in my life! I wish I could eat here every day.” I have honestly never seen him consume so much food as he did that night. I’m surprised he even tasted it he inhaled everything around him! The only photo I took inside Bongos was my son sidled up to the bar while waiting to be seated. Bongos had a great atmosphere that was fun with great music that kept everyone upbeat. I highly recommend this eatery.

 

 

 

Bongos restaurant

Bongos restaurant

 

 

inner Tonga toast edit

 

no more Tonga edit

 

 

I am not a breakfast-loving girl but Tonga Toast broke me…I almost ate it all!

Honestly, I could do an entire post on the fantastic restaurants and food at Disney but I would like to move on to other things. I will say though that the level of professionalism from all restaurant staff was spectacular. The chefs are obviously highly dedicated to their craft and take great pride in their finished products. As a family with a few food allergies and special requests we were awed by the impeccable care given to our needs. A chef even came out to talk with us personally and do a rundown of each item on the menu and how it could be altered to suit our needs. Stress-free goodness  on a plate for a vegetarian that has anaphylactic allergies, let me tell you. My kids have stated on a few occasions since returning home how much they miss the awesome food at Disney. You’d think my cooking sucked…thanks guys.

 

 

The next morning, we were up early and raring to hit the pavement. We walked like we’ve never walked before over the next few days and my sister and I tuckered out the kids every single day. Interesting how we had far more stamina than teens. Every night it seemed as though the kids were nearly begging to go to bed. Ha! Music to my mommy ears.

 

 

I will not bore you with a boat load of photos but I will add a few that capture some of our favourite moments…and a couple embarrassing, yet highly entertaining photos as well. Life shouldn’t be so serious that we can’t laugh at ourselves occasionally.

 

 

 

Didgereedude

Didgereedude

 

This musician was in one of the squares in Downtown Disney and was phenomenal. He played both the electric guitar and the didgeridoo while singing. No kidding! Check out his website to hear his incredible talent and perhaps purchase some fun new tunes for yourself.

 

 

 

Epcot at Night

Epcot at Night

 

 

Epcot bridge- view of France

Epcot bridge – view of France

 

 

Fireworks at Epcot

Fireworks at Epcot – best fireworks display I’ve ever witnessed.

 

 

 

sitar and tabla duo

sitar and tabla duo

 

This duo was top-notch. My son and I sat and listened for an extended period of time (in the shade).

fun photo op

fun photo op – who could resist?

 

 

 

Disney Yeti Coaster

Expedition Everest Coaster – oh look, it’s me and my sis! Third person back from the front in the black shirt is moi. Screaming my head off…lovely.

 

 

 

Indiana Jones movie set

Indiana Jones movie set attraction. Demonstrates how the special effects were executed.

 

 

 

Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror – everything I thought it would be…and more! I wonder how many people have suffered heart attacks on this ride?

 

 

 

 Aereosmith Rock 'n' Roller coaster

Aereosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster – guess who? Whoa that was FAST!

 

 

 

Sulley and I

Sulley and I – I thought meeting a character would be a bit more subdued. Not so.

 

 

 

Disney has implemented many strategies to make their parks and resorts more environmentally friendly. If you are interested in their approach there is contact info on their website.

 

 

 

In the spirit of letting our Inner Children run free, I definitely think Disney is the perfect location to just dive right in. Fast-paced or leisurely, whatever your pace it caters to every age group equally. Loving Disney as a child and returning as an adult after many years I would  have to say that I enjoyed it more this time around. Honestly, if someone has a hard time enjoying Disney they need their head examined.

 

 

 

During our visit to Florida we took a side trip. Where did we head off to? You’ll have to read my next post but I promise I won’t make you wait too long.

 

 

 

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”  – Walt Disney

Summer of Revelations

I have learned a lot this summer. About myself and life in general. I’d say that I am sad that summer is coming to a close but that would be a lie. I am elated at the prospect of change. Change of the season to Autumn, change of daily routine, and change in temperature. I respond well to change, I think. It keeps me on my toes and makes everything  fresh!

 

 

I never thought of myself as a Being of Summer. Boy, how things have changed. The heat and humidity are not high on the fun-factor scale for me but I can deal with it which I never used to be able to. This summer I have developed the look I always sought when younger but could never accomplish; hair bleached by the sun, tanned limbs and absorbing vitamin D in the form of sunshine like nobody’s business! This really hit home when my Grannie said to me a week or so ago, “You are definitely an outdoor girl.”  I used to be the girl who hid from the sun to keep my  pale skin from freckling and turning the shade of a cooked lobster. Now I work in the sunshine daily and am trying to be smart about precautions while maintaining reality. I certainly don’t spend my days off laying in the sun!

 

 

“I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things…

I play with leaves.

I skip down the street

and run against the wind.”

– Leo Buscaglia

Yesterday, I realized something quite extraordinary – I am only twelve pounds away from the weight I was throughout high school! Mind you, after having two children, the joy of passing time, and working a very physically-demanding job my body shape has changed significantly (for the better, I think). So, I plan on saying goodbye to those clinging twelve pounds before the end of this work season and accomplishing a task I had never thought was all that important until now since I am so very close to accomplishing it. Weight in terms of the scale is not all that important to me but how my body responds to exertion through work and play is paramount. I have become strong and more defined muscle-wise over the past two work seasons and am liking how I feel! I intend to keep getting better in terms of health and strength. My lazy and uninspired days are behind me.

The other day something occurred to me when I was listening to an acquaintance talking. This individual had mentioned how difficult and time-consuming it was to be environmentally friendly. WHAT? This came as a shock to me as it was in that moment I suddenly realized that I basically run on autopilot when it comes to issues of environmental responsibility. Sure, I’m not perfect and I sometimes make poor decisions but overall I feel responsible for my actions and have integrated this thinking into the every day so it is the norm in my world. It seems so archaic and offensive not to care about the planet we all share and its inhabitants. I seriously don’t understand the unconcerned mindset.

 

 

One of the biggest revelations this summer has been that sometimes, there is no going back home. Recently I went back to my hometown to visit family and friends. I quickly realized that this may be their home but it is no longer mine; I am merely a visitor. At first this thought made me uncomfortable so I dug a bit deeper to understand the reason for my discomfort. I think part of the parcel is that my parents are aging (as we all are) and I have moved in a different direction as offspring are supposed to do. When I first moved away from home at the age of 19 to St. Catharines, I knew no one here. It was not only an adventure but it was sometimes lonely and scary until I made friends and connected with others. Luckily, this was only a matter of days that I wound up in the company of good people. This city has become my home over the years and has replaced my hometown as the place I identify with. I no longer consider myself a Peterborough girl  and this puts a bit of a lump in my throat. Honestly though, the Niagara Region has opened its arms wide with welcome and I am now enfolded in its embrace. I love living here!

 

 

This summer has also shown me more of the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us here in the Niagara Region. We have such a diverse landscape that is teaming with incredible natural wonders. The Niagara Region is tucked between two of the Great Lakes – Lake Ontario (I live on the south shore) and Lake Erie. There are over 200 walking, hiking and cycling trails to be enjoyed and shared with incredible flora and fauna at every step. The Region has created many naturalized sites to encourage wildlife to do its thing and give a safe haven for many species. One of my favorite hikes/walks is up the escarpment by Niagara College. It has a feeling of such intense history to be with these particular trees and rocks and gives an all-encompassing feeling of being a part of Nature not just an outsider looking in. These photos were taken in the late Fall a couple years ago but the escarpment is beautiful in every season.

 

 

 

One of my favorite walking trails on the Niagara Escarpment

One of my favorite walking trails on the Niagara Escarpment

Ericsson 2012 343

 

 

 

Within a short walking distance from my home is the Welland Canal. Even though I’ve lived in St. Catharines half of my life I still find the Canal interesting. It is fascinating that these huge freighters and  sea-going ships make their way through a system of locks up the Niagara Escarpment. For a brief description of the Welland Canal see this link. When my kids were itty-bitty, they used to love to go sit at the locks with me and watch as the ships went through. They were thrilled to bits when the workers on the massive ships would wave to them. Recently I have visited the Canal again a few times and realized that it doesn’t matter how old or young you are or where you come from the Welland Canal is an incredible feat of engineering.

 

 

I’m sure I need not dwell on the prominence of wineries in this region but seriously, they are worth a visit and the trip along the wine route. Wineries play a huge supporting role in the area’s mindset and activities. Good food and great wine are the specialties of an area filled with orchards, farms and vineyards. It’s easy to eat well here.

 

 

Another huge revelation for me and I think the most important of all – I need to live the life I envision for myself. We all have dreams, desires and are called deep from within our Soul to certain places, people and actions. Respecting someone else’s dream is essential to living our own.

 

 

Learning to love the Life we have and moving forward instead of stagnating or going backward is on my mind. I see movement in my future…I strive for joy each and every day through learning new Truths…to treat myself and others with kindness…to appreciate all that is on offer.

 

 

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open

where there were only walls.”

– Joseph Campbell

 

 

 

Melancholy Weather, Meditation and Mraz

Upon waking this morning I was greeted by melancholy grey skies that eventually broke open, spilling heavy  drops down on my already muddy side yard and gardens. The work day was called off due to a 90% chance of rain all day. Rain days are always a mixed blessing. I can always use “alone time” and relish the freedom to do whatever I so choose without interruption. Sadly, that usually ends up being laundry, dishes or some other equally mundane task. On the other hand, I seriously enjoy my job and my co-workers so a day that is normally a work day without being on the job feels strange.

 

 

Today I decided not to feel any guilt and use it as a Me Day. To get back to certain past-times I love but have set aside for a while in pursuit of other things. I started my day with a glorious hot mug of Starbucks coffee and some reading material. I do love a good read yet I tend to only read at bedtime, having convinced myself that reading during the day is simply too indulgent. Not today it isn’t. I have devoured numerous different forms of written word today – fiction, blogs, words of wisdom collections, and health reference books in my library. I refer to my large bookshelf in my living room as my rotating library. Books are always coming and going either on loan, new additions, or rotated from boxes in the basement to refresh the material occasionally. I love books. The feel of old paper scented from years of  habitation in musty basements or my fresh-air and cooking smells infused home. There is nothing quite like the feel of holding a real book in my hands. E-readers are great tools but don’t give me quite the same satisfaction as an old, well-loved novel or heavy reference journal. I guess I’m a book-worm. I do feel somewhat guilty at the use of excess paper so I tend not to purchase a lot of new books but either borrow books from friends and family or purchase used books in the name of reusing an existing product. I ponder over which is worse; the use of paper for books, either recycled or new as opposed to the plastics and other resources used to manufacture e-readers/tablets and the electricity to run them as well as the disposal of the battery and the item itself upon its’ completed life span. Books are mostly 100% recyclable and last for incredible lengths of time if treated properly.

 

 

The gloomy day has also brought me the joy of reconnecting with my love of meditation and kundalini yoga. I enjoyed my hour-long session of awakening my kundalini energy. Blissful. I now feel as though I am glowing and warm with energy. I forgot how incredible the feeling of the warm energy rising up the spine feels and how alive I feel after practicing. Perhaps my early mornings will start with a yoga and meditation session instead of racing to the kitchen for coffee as soon as my feet hit the floor. That would be a much better start to preparing myself for the day. My body will thank me profusely for cutting my caffeine consumption, I’m sure.

 

 

kundalini awakening

It was time to infuse my environment with music. Jason Mraz’s music has aroused my senses this afternoon with his gloriously uplifting music. His cd “LOVE”, is definitely one of my favorites and always makes me swimmingly happy. Check it out.

 

I seriously love this song –   93 Million Miles but my fave pick would be Living In The Moment. When I’m feeling stressed out, “Living in the Moment” always brings me back to reality. Interesting how music can speak so strongly to our emotions, isn’t it? While my musical tastes are very eclectic there are certain artists and cd’s I reserve for certain types of days, moods, and activities. Sometimes I insist on loud and proud ZZ Top or Stevie Ray Vaughn when I’m feeling feisty, or perhaps a hit of Ella Fitzgerald when I feel strong yet sentimental. I think the only type of music I don’t listen to regularly is country.  After growing up in a home where country music was the only type of music my parents listened to, I have had my fill. My sisters and I would escape to our rooms to fill our ears with artists like Wham, A-Ha, Madonna and Michael Jackson (that was me) to Duran Duran, Billy Idol, and Ozzy Osbourne. We tried our hardest to steer clear of country music and still do! I am not a country music-hater per say, just not a fan. You certainly would never find me screaming over some country stud muffin yammering on about dogs, trucks and his long lost girlfriend, that’s for darn-tootin’! There is a time and a place for every genre of music and I wholeheartedly appreciate the creativity and artistry of musicians. The world is richer because of music.

 

 

Today continues to be a day of things that bring me happiness and uplift the spirit. We all need to take a Me Day now and then. I think I’ll go give my kids a hug and tell them how loved they are. After that I will go to my other happy place, the kitchen. I’ll pour myself a glass of red wine and start on some onion bhaji, aloo ghobi, daal, a salad and homemade naan for dinner.  The perfect rainy day meal.

 

 

 

 

 

“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” – Plato

Sunscreen Dilemma

Lately, I have been thinking a LOT about sunscreen. To wear, or not to wear…that is the question.

 

 

The scale inside my brain is balancing slightly to the side of “not to wear”. Here is my logic as to why there is some confusion. My entire life I have not had a great track record of gorgeous tanned skin. A few folk refer to me as Ghost Girl because I have an extremely pale skin tone. I scare even myself in fluorescent lit change rooms with the blinding whiteness that is not my arms, neck and face. Fluorescent lighting is extremely unforgiving. As you have probably gathered, I am a rather health conscious individual that questions every product I allow into my home or on my body. Of course, I make a few exceptions here and there but only after knowing what I am dealing with. I am not paranoid but I choose to be informed. I question why sunscreen usage increases while skin cancer rates continue to climb. Should the outcome not be that skin cancer rates drop as sunscreen use increases? Therefore, sunscreen and all its pros and cons weighs heavily on my radar.

 

 

 

I am not interested in dealing with skin cancer. Let this be known. I knew someone when I was a teen that had part of both ears removed due to skin cancer and this really scared the ever-loving out of me. It made me aware of the risk factors that I am dealing with as a pasty, white girl who historically turns lobster red after 30 minutes in the sun. I slathered on sunscreen like nobody’s business through my 20’s, making myself even whiter than I’m naturally predisposed. Not a good look.

 

 

 

Unluckily for me, I am in a medium to high risk group for skin cancer.

 

Fair Skin  Having less melanin in my skin gives me less protection from UV radiation. Not only do I have fair skin, I also have light blue eyes, freckle easily, and burn easily. Strike one.

 

 

History of Sunburns  Childhood sunburns that resulted in severe burning and blistering. Yup, had a few of those. Strike two.

 

 

Excessive Sun Exposure  I spend a considerable amount of my time outdoors in the sun at work. I do try to find shady spots whenever possible but that isn’t always an option. Strike three.

 

 

Sunny and/or High Altitude Climate  I can scratch this off my risk list. Phew! Yes, it is sunny here in southern Ontario but not like it is closer to the equator that’s for sure.

 

 

Moles  I have my fair share of freckles but no moles. Another all-clear.

 

 

Family History  Another risk factor bites the dust.

 

 

Weakened Immune System  I work hard at keeping my immune system strong through healthy eating, stress relieving meditation, fresh air and supplementation.

 

 

Exposure to Certain Substances  Substances such as arsenic and certain pesticides. These aren’t always as easy to avoid as we would like. Even being vigilant within my own home, there are still those in our communities that don’t take these risks seriously and put everyone else at risk.  This risk factor is a tricky one.

 

 

How do you rate on the risk factor list? Do you take the risk of skin cancer seriously?

 

 

Now that risk for skin cancer has been determined I find myself reaching for a 50+ UVA/UVB sunscreen only to stop mid-reach to question the efficacy of such products.

 

I question the ingredients in each sunscreen. Yes, there are harmful ingredients in many sunscreens on the market. Just because it is on the store shelf does NOT make it unquestionably safe. It is when we start to question the safety of ingredients that the world of hidden substances starts to become apparent. Think back a few years to when it became a talked about subject that oxybenzone in sunscreen may mimic estrogen. While both sides of this argument have a valid point, I always cringe when I hear the FDA or medical community say “there is no solid proof to suggest it is not safe.” Um, I am curious where the solid proof to suggest its complete safety is then. Another questionable ingredient is retinyl palmitate. This is used as a stabilizer and has anti-aging qualities but can make skin more sensitive to the sun and may actually promote skin cancer. Like other consumers, I find this confusing and frankly, quite maddening. Isn’t the whole point of sunscreen to protect?

 

 

What about the fact that some researchers say sunscreens with octinoxate, oxybenzone, parabens, or camphor derivatives are killing hard corals which could negatively impact biodiversity and reef ecosystems? I don’t want to inadvertently cause damage to marine life while trying to protect my skin! There has to be a better way.

 

 

 

26 seconds

 

 

 

UVA/UVB Issue  UVA rays are present all year round. While UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, UVA radiation damages the underlying skin cells to cause premature aging, sun spots, and that leathery looking skin that honestly, who would want? So although sunburns are no treat (and I know from numerous experiences), premature aging due to cell damage is very unpalatable as well.

 

 

Chemicals + Heat = baked in exposure! Not only does everything you put on your body’s largest organ (that’s right, your skin) get absorbed within seconds but combine that with the heat treatment from the sun and we are literally basting ourselves with chemicals or unknown substances.

 

 

Skin Function  Our skin is an amazing organ. I am curious as to how well it performs its job of heating/cooling effectively, ridding our body of toxins and being receptive to detecting threats such as pain or insects and other assaults due to numbing our sensors (hair and follicle reception of unwanted things) while slathered in goop and the hair stuck to the skin.

 

 

Discomfort  I can withstand some discomfort in the name of safety and wellness but seriously, try to slather on a second (or third) application of sunscreen to skin covered in grass clipping, dirt, and mulch bits and sweat.

 

 

 

I continue on my quest for the perfect solution to the sunscreen debate. I now wear coconut oil on my face mixed with a tinted moisturizer made with organic ingredients. This keeps my face from drying out and/or becoming seriously sunburned. As for the rest of my exposed flesh I struggle with the idea of slapping on a product that I am uncomfortable with. I go between a few sunscreens that I am alright with but I still question long-term safety. I will always be on the lookout for an optimal skin protection regime and question, question, question everything I come across. It’s in my nature, I can’t help it.

“I was raised with the notion that it is OK to ask questions, and it was OK to say, I’m not sure.” – Peter Jennings

Garden Goddess Strikes Again

It’s that time of year again! The annual planting of my veggie garden. My green thumbs are twitching and I’m ready to get dirty…again.

 

 

 

Last weekend, I made the trek to the “local” heirloom plant sale and stocked up. There were a few things that I couldn’t get my hands on like kale, so I am still on the hunt for a few items. Fingers crossed that I’ll find good quality heirloom plants. The garden centres seem to be either picked over, sold out, or they lost mass amounts of plants due to the frost we had last week. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.

 

 

 

In order to prep the garden, I needed a rototiller. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to ask the neighbour that helped me last year. This year I wanted to do it myself. It looked like to fun of an opportunity to pass up. Who doesn’t like crazy, loud engines attached to tines that clutch hungrily at the soil? I just couldn’t resist the temptation. The last time I used a rototiller was in Horticulture college. It was not a positive experience, although I did laugh like crazy when a friend of mine wanted to be the first to take a crack at it. Having no clue what she was doing she quickly lost control and was dragged along behind it. I seem to remember that being the last time I ever saw my beautiful, off-white fisherman sweater…she had borrowed it. This year’s garden prep was the perfect opportunity for me to have at it. Luckily, I have a fan-flippin’-tastic boss that just happened to have a rototiller I could borrow. I was in luck! This machine kicks butt! I seriously need one!

 

 

 

The Machine That Won My Heart

The Machine That Won My Heart

*if you look to the right of the rototiller you can see my new spade mentioned in a previous post (that I did not dance late into the night with).

 

 

 

The only problem with me having a rototiller of my own would be that I would feel the need to dig up every bit of unused space on my property. Plus, I’d like to be less petrol-dependent so this would be seriously counter-productive.

 

 

 

Let me just say that the time I spent rototilling the garden has been the most fun I’ve had all week. And I’ve had a good week so far. Is that sad?

 

 

 

I worked up a serious sweat working in this crazy heat we’ve been having. It’s been above 32 degrees Celsius the last couple days. I thought it would be great to go with  breezy, wavy beach hair this morning which was not well thought out. My hair is super thick as it is so this made it even thicker feeling. Looked great before I started gardening though. I tried an easy  beach wave spray recipe that uses sea salt, coconut oil, water and hair gel. Oh…my…gosh. Why this is a good idea while hot out I won’t ever understand. It made me even hotter. I will not be hanging out on a beach after spraying my hair with this concoction, let me tell you. Mind you, I don’t normally hang out on beaches anyway since sand in my bathing suit makes me cranky.  This hair technique must be reserved for days when I will be trying to sport a carefree look while in air conditioning.

 

 

 

Soft soil after rototilling

Soft soil after rototilling

 

 

 

 

It took me all of about 15 seconds to figure out proper tilling technique and get serious. The soil in the garden is now so fluffy that it is simply dreamy. I was able to smooth it flat(ish) with a leaf rake afterward. That’s how soft it is. This is temporary since soon enough it will be tamped down by rain, walking around in it, and settling. I must get my vegetable plants in the ground when the soil is perfect. Not only does it make my life easier but the plants get a great start at getting their roots going with as little resistance as possible. I guess you know what I’ll be doing later this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”  ~Mirabel Osler

Arbor Day

Arbor Day has never been a day that I personally associated with…until now. I’ve always loved the notion of Earth Day, even though I try to live each and every day in a manner of caring for our planet. Arbor Day seemed too one-dimensional, too all-about-trees. I wouldn’t feel all aglow at the thought of Soil Day even though healthy soil is essential. Why the sudden desire to adore a day for trees? My heart just feels in tune with trees recently. I have become more observant of the trees around me and have gained appreciation of each one’s individual uniqueness. As a Horticulture Technician, gardener and environmental tree-hugger I have always understood the value and beauty of trees but something in me has shifted to feel the presence of trees like never before.

In Ontario (Canada) we observe Arbor Week from the last Friday in April until the first Sunday in May.   J. Sterling Morton founded the idea of having a special day in honour of planting trees over 135 years ago. Isn’t it reassuring that we still note this day to plant trees? I feel optimistic when a tree is planted with the intent of it enjoying its growth for many years. On the wings of optimism I planted a tree this morning in my back yard. My little tree has a special place in my heart. When my son was just a wee little guy, he brought me home a sapling from school one day. It was so tiny that it was almost unrecognizable as a Spruce. It was potted in a Dixie cup and sat on our windowsill for a month or so before it graduated to a pot on the patio. Since this tree exited the school in my son’s tiny hand it has been contained in a pot until today.  I couldn’t decide where the perfect spot in our garden would be to plant this tree until today. I went out into the back yard to enjoy the bright clear sky when I noticed a sunbeam in the back corner of our garden. It was like a stage light directed at the perfect location!

Spruce- Picea Abies

One day this small tree will become tall and stately, just like the little boy who presented it to me with great pride and a toothy grin.

Although I love my Picea abies (Norway Spruce), my favorite tree in my garden is the majestic Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra). To me it is reminiscent of the Group of Seven paintings I  adore and is a signal to me that I am home as I come around the corner.

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra – Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra – Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”  ~Minnie Aumonier

Indoor Air Quality

When I was young,  air pollution was a hot topic for environmentalists. I still remember the first time I heard the term acid rain. I was in the school library in grade seven and I was overtaken with fear. Why did I not know about this before now , I asked myself. I had visions of people being burned by hot acid falling from the sky. I had a very vivid imagination, I know. I remember thinking that I needed to know more. To educate myself on this atrocity that had instantly shifted my thoughts to outside of myself. It was like a light bulb being switched on.

 

 

 

There was a major downfall though. The environmental sciences were not for people like me…or so I was led to believe at that very impressionable time in my life. Topics like acid rain were for the “smart people”. I was an artsy girl who was more interested in the creative side of life. I had been pigeon-holed by myself as much as those around me. If I could step back in time and meet myself I would seriously kick my own butt! I had allowed others to dictate what my role was going to be  throughout my high school life from that one moment in time. I led a secret life inside my head for years longing for more information regarding the impact we have on our planet. How we need to co-exist and make positive changes to our environment. And most importantly, filling my brain with info on what acid rain really is. The first time I drove by large steel factories and seeing the plumes of smoke billowing from the chimneys and the dead trees surrounding the area I immediately thought of acid rain. Over time and with the maturing of my thought processes I realized that there is so much about ourselves and our environment that is closely linked in ways most people don’t consider. There is a precarious balance that we must maintain and help to keep stable. The minute details in our every day actions shift the balance either in favour or against our relationship with the natural environment. It is bigger than those few steel factories…it is the billions of homes around this planet of ours and what we do within them, outside of them, and our connection to the natural world around us that makes an enormous impact.

 

 

 

Now that I’ve been stuck indoors for a couple of months, not outside in the garden I am starting to feel the lack of sanctuary that the outdoors seems to provide. The air outside seems to be so much more full of life to breath in. You can feel the subtle differences with the changes of the season as well as change of location. Indoor air pollution is a huge issue that isn’t getting the attention it deserves on a personal level in each of our homes. I seem to get the impression that most people just assume that their home is exempt from the air pollution issue because they keep their house is “clean”. Here in lies the problem. Those chemicals labelled as cleaning products and air fresheners are what is most likely the major pollutant in your home. What you don’t know can hurt you. Let’s look at a few statistics on indoor air pollution and cleaning products, shall we?

 

 

  • the EPA reports that only a fraction of the 81,000+ registered chemicals in cleaning products have been tested for health concerns

 

  • approximately 9 out of 10 poisonings occurs within the home. Household chlorine bleach is the number one offender in household poisonings.

 

  • pollutants inside the home are often 2 to 5 times higher than outside the home

 

  • we spend on average 80-90% of our time indoors where there is not proper air ventilation from outdoors

 

  • asthma, allergy and chemical sensitivity rates are soaring. Childhood asthma rates in children ages 5-14 years has skyrocketed and the rate of death from asthma almost doubled between 1980 and 1993.

 

  • off-gasing of products such as traditional paints, carpets, flooring, glues, and flame-retardants causes high levels of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) such as benzene, formaldehyde, and flame retardants – PBDE’s. If you can smell it, it’s going into your body. That new car smell isn’t as glorious as we all once thought!

 

  • chemicals in traditional cleaning products can be found in the bloodstreams of newborn babies and have been connected to varying health concerns (over 287 different chemies, to be exact, including pesticides, garbage waste and flame retardants)

 

  • air “fresheners” do not get rid of a smell, they mask smells with potentially toxic chemicals such as di-chlorobenzene, phthalates, formaldehyde and other nasties. If something smells locate the culprit and clean it don’t try to mask the smell!

 

  • many all-purpose cleaning products contain petroleum-based surfactants that can mimic estrogen. Hormone disruption can be a very serious issue as these chemicals accumulate.

 

  • body burden is a term used to explain the amount of toxins our body has accumulated. Scary that this term even exists.

 

  • most chemicals sold as conventional cleaning products have not been tested either long or short-term for toxicity in humans

 

 

 

 

Due to the Clean Air Act  first implemented in 1963, a decade before I was even born, the air outside hasn’t become more polluted in many areas while our indoor air quality has declined substantially. We are the ones making our homes sick, which in turn makes ourselves carry a larger toxic burden. I’m not talking about processed food, lack of exercise, or germs here although those are essential topics to great health. I am referring to the chemicals we bring into our homes, thinking we are creating a clean environment for ourselves and our families. A clean home does NOT need to smell like fake pine trees, bleach or a weird synthetic lemon smell. No smell  indicates clean!

A few things I ask myself and others:

– would you need to call poison control if you ingested any cleaners in your house?

– would you eat off your kitchen floor after cleaning it?

– could you water your plants with any products you use for cleaning?

– is breathing while you are cleaning important to you?

– do you need to wear rubber gloves to use your cleaning products?

 

 

Having a healthy and clean home is incredibly simple. The hardest part is to dispose of the myths our minds have been impregnated with in regard to what clean should smell like, that if it’s harsh it will clean better, everything needs to be sterilized beyond belief, and most importantly we need to kick the notion to the curb that if it is sold on a store shelf it must be safe. It’s time society grew a brain and realized that household chemicals are meant to kill things. That is their purpose. We are not immune to their abilities to eradicate – super heroes we are not. The human body is a miraculous thing but when we inundate ourselves repeatedly with toxins, our system can only do so much to detoxify itself. If we start to detoxify our homes by using safe, natural cleaning techniques it is a huge step to not just our own well-being but that of the planet. Simple things make a huge impact if enough of us make those simple changes. Choosing appropriate products/items for a cleaning job will take equal to or less time and/or money than conventional toxic products.

 

 

 

A truly “green” or environmentally safe cleaning product is one that is made from natural ingredients, does no harm to you, your children, your pets, the environment inside or outside your home and is fully biodegradable.  If a product is safe enough to use outside without damaging but actually invigorating the eco-system it’s a great fit for inside my home.  I whole-heartedly recommend the products at the Live Love Be Green website link at the right side of this page. If you are interested in what made me choose this product line over all others, read the post that started it all.

 

 

I am very passionate about the beautiful planet we all call Home. As my mission statement for this blog states, I am making my world greener one day at a time. This starts each and every morning when my feet touch the floor…in my home.

 

 

Join me on my Live Love Be Green Facebook page and click “like” while you are visiting!

 

 

 

Snack Attack!

I love snacks but they have to be worth having or forget about it. I have learned the hard way about choosing wisely when it comes to snacking. This time of year is especially difficult for me to snack wisely since all I really want to do is what Nature intends for us to do and pack in calories to get us through the winter here in this chilly climate.  I have started making my own healthy snack options for a couple of reasons.

1: I don’t want to munch on crappy junk food.

2: Eating something just because it’s “healthy” is pointless unless you actually like it.

3: Cutting out extra sugar and sodium is easy when you are the one to decide how much to use.

4: There is nothing wrong with being frugal.

5: I really, really like to cook and bake.

One of the latest snack crazes that has risen to popularity in our house is  Roasted Chickpea Bites. These little guys pack a serious nutritional one-two punch while satisfying the need for salty or sweet (or both). One cup of chickpeas contains 10 grams of protein, approximately 15% of your RDA of iron, 6% of your RDA of calcium, 7 grams of fibre and 0 mg of cholesterol. I’m in love. Sure the calories may be on the high side at 220 calories/cup but I’m okay with that. Everything in moderation, right?

Chickpeas

Chickpeas

 

 

 

I thought you might enjoy these tasty morsels as well so I am going to share with you so you can snack-on without guilt.

Roasted Chickpea Bites

large 796 mL (28 oz ) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

olive oil

seasonings of your choice

Preheat oven to 350*F.

After rinsing the chickpeas well, pour them into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with approximately 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil,  add your seasonings (today I used 1 tbsp of my favorite madras curry powder and 2 tbsp maple syrup), and stir.

Gathering the ingredients.

Gathering the ingredients.

 

 

Mix well to ensure each lovely little orb is coated with deliciousness.

Pour the chickpeas and any liquid onto a rimmed baking sheet. Don’t use a flat cookie sheet without a rimmed edge or you will have chickpeas all over the place, no matter how steady your hand is. I know this from experience!

Chickpeas on baking tray.

Chickpeas on baking tray.

 

 

 

Put the chickpeas into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes. Wiggle the tray around every 10 minutes or so just to ensure even cooking and so the chickpeas  don’t stick to the tray. I like my chickpea bites to still be soft in the centre but crispy on the outside so after 25-30 minutes I put the oven onto broil for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully because you can quickly gazorch (okay, burn) things very quickly under the broiler. This I also know from testing the reaction time of the smoke alarms.

Remove from the oven when they feel crispy and are dark golden brown. They will start to “pop” when they are perfectly cooked to my taste. Allow the chickpeas to cool on the tray. Don’t try to eat them when they are first out of the oven. You will burn your mouth. Yup, done that too. Once your mouth is burned you won’t be able to enjoy the yum-factor as much so please try to be patient.

Voila! Here is the finished Roasted Chickpea Bites ready to snack upon. Dig in!

roasted chickpea bites

roasted chickpea bites

 

 

 

I recommend storing the Chickpea Bites in the fridge once they have cooled down. Since there are no preservatives they will go bad quickly. These are scrumptious cold by the handful or tossed on top of salads.

“When baking, follow directions.  When cooking, go by your own taste. ” 

 ~Laiko Bahrs

Winter Skin Blues

This frigid weather is brutal on my skin! My back is itching like crazy and my face feels as dry as a desert. I have tried product after product trying to aid my visage to no avail. The closest I have come with a manufactured product has been the gorgeous line of Shaklee Enfuselle products. I use these products on a year-round basis because they are naturally sourced and chock full of great stuff for my skin. However, this time of year always gets my skin crying out for extra TLC, no matter what. For the past few years I have slapped on coconut oil religiously and it works pretty well. However, my kids balk at the scent of it and make gasping noises when they come in for a hug. Thanks, guys. It can’t really be that bad. In the container it smells delicious like a pina colada. On my face, not so much, obviously. Weird since I can’t smell it and my nose just happens to be smack dab in the centre of my face.

 

I think I have finally come up with a solution! The past few weeks I have been experimenting. I am sort of in an obsessive domain at present since the itching and stinging of dry skin is all-encompassing. I have tried a slew of DIY concoctions with varying success and have put ingredients from different skin care recipes together in my own formulations. I have figured out that exfoliation two times per week is necessary during the winter. I’m sure there are skin gurus out there gasping somewhere. Oh well.

 

 

Almost good enough to eat!

Almost good enough to eat!

 

 

 

Perfectoid Exfoliating Scrub:

*All ingredients are approximate amounts since I just put everything into a small dish and use immediately. This makes the correct amount for one use this way everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.

 

  • 1 tsp melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp used coffee grounds (or is it grinds? I am never certain)

Mix these few ingredients together and you are ready for superior exfoliating and moisturizing action!

Splash warm water on your face a few times – just water, no cleanser necessary. You will feel as though you are in a face wash commercial at this point. Turn off the tap to conserve water while applying the concoction. Scoop a bit of the mixture onto your fingertips and apply to face starting with the forehead and working your way down. Apply all of the mixture before starting to scrub. Lightly scrub in small circles starting at the forehead while leaning over the sink since bits will fling while you are scrubbing. Go easy. You don’t want to irritate your sensitive facial skin.  Allow the scrub to stay on your face for a minute or two for the most benefit. It is now time to wash off the mixture with warm water. Cool water is great for your skin but makes the oils harden slightly so it is much easier to rinse with warm water then follow with a couple splashes of cold water. Do not use any cleanser or soap to wash of the oil residue. This is beneficial to your skin and no, it will not cause breakouts.  Pat your face dry gently. Very gently.

 

You are finished!

 

For added moisturizing, I finish with a very light coat of either avocado oil or coconut oil (at night). If it feels too oily simply dab a tissue over your face to remove excess. If you wear makeup, now is the perfect time to apply. I usually add extra moisturizer to my tinted moisturizer for a more natural look anyway so this is a great way to cut out a step.

 

 

Why did I choose to use these particular ingredients? Other than they were some of the few ingredients that my very sensitive skin didn’t react wickedly to.

Coconut Oil –

  • prevents and protects skin against free radical damage.
  • aids in reestablishing the skin’s natural antimicrobial and acid barrier
  • easily absorbs into the skin and doesn’t feel greasy
  • helps to reduce inflammation

 

Avocado oil –

  •  avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, D and E, all of which  help maintain healthy skin
  • heals and soothes skin
  • keeps skin young and supple
  • helps reduce itching, dryness, and inflammation

 

 

Sugar –

  • stripping away tired old skin by using an exfoliant is rejuvenating. Exfoliants smooth your skin and help increase the production of new collagen to improve the appearance of fine lines
  • sugar is rough enough in texture to help rid the top layer of dry skin
  • can be too abrasive and cause sensitivity if scrubbed to firmly. Go easy. If white sugar is too scratchy feeling, perhaps brown sugar would be a better option for you.

 

 

Coffee Grounds –

  • contains caffeic acid which is suggested to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects
  • stimulates collagen production
  • helps skin feel silky smooth
  • great use for used coffee grounds since I am not using them in the garden this time of year
  • What can I say? I love coffee whether it be in me or on me!

 

 

 

One of the best ways to assist skin this time of the year is ensuring you maintain a high level of water consumption. I drink a lot of water because I simply like water not juices. I must admit that I suck down far too much coffee which doesn’t help but I do try to compensate by drinking extra water for every cup of coffee I consume.

 

If you try out this DIY exfoliator, please report back with your comments.

 

 

“Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.”  – Rosalind Russell