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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Visiting History in Niagara

Yesterday, my daughter and I took a few hours and zipped over to one of our local gems…Niagara-on-the-Lake. This quaint little town is a bustling zone of tourists this time of year which adds a bit more fun to the whole adventure. There were a few large groups of tourists there yesterday that seemed to want to huddle in the middle of the sidewalks, talking excitedly to each other or listening as their tour guide and interpreter gave them the historical low-down on the area. All the milling people gave me the opportunity to stop wherever I wanted, look like a tourist myself, and take a few pictures. The Niagara area is steeped in rich history. There is far too much to cover in one post but I will touch on the history of the region every so often so make sure you follow me so as to not miss a thing.

 

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake has had a few different names in its past, the first of them being Butlersburg after Colonel John Butler. Col. John Butler was a fascinating man who was both worshipped and despised. He and his son were known as “the devils of Niagara” by  Americans for generations. Butlersburg was later changed to Newark in 1781 when it became  a British military site and safe zone for Loyalists fleeing from the United Stated during the aftermath of the American Revolution. Once again changing its name, the town became known as Niagara. Niagara became the first capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and the site of the first provincial parliament in 1792. During the War of 1812 the parliament was moved to York which is now known as Toronto.  During the War of 1812, Niagara was a central location. The town of Niagara was captured by American forces and burned to the ground.  The citizens of Niagara braved the storm and rebuilt the town. The main buildings were rebuilt out of the firing range of the cannons across the Niagara River at Fort Niagara. Yet another name change occurred in the 1880’s to its present name of Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you are interested in British-Canadian-United States history, then Niagara-on-the-Lake should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

 

 

 

In honour of Colonel John Butler, this tablet can be found in St. Mark’s Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Fear God
Honour the King
In Memory of Colonel John Butler
A sincere Christian as well as a brave soldier he was one of the founders and the first patron of this parish.”

Ontario Historical Plaque
Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler 1725-1796
By the end of the American Revolution John Butler’s loyalist corps, supported by British regulars and native allies, had effectively contributed to the establishment of British control in the Great Lakes region. After the disbanding of Butler’s Rangers in 1784, many of the men, including Butler himself, settled in the Niagara peninsula.

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a fusion of historical references and the bounty of the wine region that surrounds it. The Shaw Festival plays a pivotal role in the fabric of the community as well. There are grand homes of by-gone times that are lovingly restored and maintained as well as original inns and pubs known to be frequented by ghostly visitors. One of my favorites is the Prince of Wales Hotel that sits on one of the main corners of the Old Town. It’s too bad that yesterday was a rainy, overcast day and I only had my Blackberry to capture a few sights.

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

 

 

 

 

The Prince of Wales Hotel and the horse-drawn carriages are a beautiful representation of the history of the Town. Just up the street the wine industry makes itself known with the Shaw Café & Wine Bar. I must say, it always seems to be busy. I love the way the “new” presents itself in such a way as to blend in to the “old” to keep the image of the town historically quaint.

 

 

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

 

 

The rich history of the Niagara Region leaves me breathless sometimes. The realization that the area I have the luxury of living in is one of political and personal passion  for freedom as well as a battleground of war is almost surreal. Today the Niagara Region is known for our incredible wine and food industries as well as the gorgeous natural settings that surrounds us.

 

 

One of my favourite aspects of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the summertime is the copious amounts of flowers that the town is adorned with. Hanging baskets, gardens along the sidewalks, window boxes on many of the storefronts and a median down the centre of the streets that are filled to over-flowing with colourful blossoms. It is like candy for the eyes!

 

 

 

Sidewalk flower garden

Sidewalk flower garden

 

 

 

One of the flowerbeds contained this showy number – Brugmansia suaveolens. My heart skipped a beat when I spotted this specimen. I know, I know…I’m a plant nerd. It stunned me how many people walked by without noticing it until I stopped to take a photo. After taking my time inspecting this plant I turned to notice how many others were behind me admiring the plant’s beauty. Sometimes we are all so oblivious to the world around us that until we take note of someone else’s actions we miss the beauty around us. This majestic plant was putting on a show while no one was watching, simply for itself.

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

After a wonderful walk in the drizzly rain, scoping out the stupendous specimens along the way and the plethora of little shops we headed home while munching on one of my purchases…a bag of British-import Guinness potato chips.

 

 

On this Canada Day long weekend, I think of the history of not just the area I live but of the Nation I call “home” and all that came before.

 

 

 

 

 

“The upward course of a nation’s history is due in the long run to the soundness of heart of its average men and women.” – Queen Elizabeth II 

 

 

 

Food for Thought

It happened again. I was sucked into the world of documentaries. I had heard about Farmaggedon (the documentary) a little while ago and my interest was piqued. However, my enthusiasm for educational and informative viewing material is not shared most days by those that compete for viewing time in my household. It is usually “fluff” viewing or MMA that is being watched in our home which I also love. I enjoy MMA immensely to the resounding gasps of my friends. I guess I don’t seem like the type. What is the “type” of woman who likes MMA anyway? Why must we be a certain type to have interest in MMA, documentaries, musicals, dramas, action flicks? I enjoy all of the above. Does this make me well-rounded? I decree that yes, it does make me a versatile viewer. However, the aforementioned documentary Farmaggedon was what got my attention today and has tumbled around my thoughts to the point that I have something to say on the subject.

 

 

The documentary really got me to thinking, yet again, about the source of our food. Where it comes from, how it’s processed, and the regulations and laws surrounding our food industry. Of course, each country has their own laws regarding the food industry. My main points will be focused on North American food industry practices since the documentary that I have most recently watched is American. There is definitely a difference between the U.S. and Canadian food industry regulations and practices but there are many overlapping practices as well. I do not declare that I am an expert on the food industry, processing, or laws of such. I am seeing this from the standpoint of a human being. We all need to eat. From a stance of an individual that wants to know what is in my food and that the food I choose is safe, healthy and what it is labelled as being.

 

“Why should conservationists have a positive interest in …farming? There are lots of reasons, but the plainest is: Conservationists eat.” – Wendell Berry

If you have not had the opportunity to inform yourself on our food industry, I would highly recommend doing so. Perhaps you may learn a thing or two that you were either unaware of or didn’t really want to acknowledge. The need for awareness is not going to turn you into a die-hard activist (unless you choose to do so). It will merely give you an idea of what you are consuming – good or bad, healthy or not, whatever, that’s your choice. Not knowing what’s going on in the food industry than bashing those trying to make a difference is sheer ignorance and close-mindedness. I for one want to have the option to choose my food, not be dictated to and only given choices that will essentially make me a lab rat.

 

 

I have always had a strong sense of  personal choice from an early age. My sisters will attest to me (the youngest of three girls) brazenly spouting the phrase, “I have the right to…!” That seemed to be my most well-known tagline. I am still that same feisty girl with the desire to declare my free choice in all scenarios. However, I do not feel the need to shout it any more but firmly state my view when necessary. I know where I stand. I won’t be bullied into believing something just because I am told that I have to or believe every advertisement that appears before my eyes. I am smarter than that, thank you very much.

 


“There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley

 

While watching Farmaggedon it really hit home about the state of North American agriculture. I applaud farmers worldwide for what they do. Farmers are definitely some of the hardest working people on the planet. They toil each and every day in all   weather conditions to put food on the table – our tables. We have allowed our farmers to be manipulated and bullied by the likes of the FDA and large corporations that are driven by profit, not supplying healthy food to folks like you and me. The small-scale farmers that want to supply people with wholesome food choices are fighting a huge battle and taking a massive hit while we stand idly by with our hands in our pockets not knowing what to do. It is essential that people start speaking up to create change in governmental practices and laws that are strangulating the only people who really can provide good food to our tables, other than ourselves – the farmer. Factory farming is a practice focused on profit and creates many issues I won’t get into. Factory farming, in my eyes, is not farming. It is mass production of an item. How easily people forget that the chicken living its life in a restricted area sitting in its own waste becomes that piece of fried chicken on your plate. All for the sake of saving a couple of dollars at the grocery store. Shudder.  Simply put, for me factory farming has taken the personal touch out of agriculture. If you happen to be a factory-farmer I apologize if my words offend you but I, like you, am entitled to my opinion. I am not vilifying you per say, but the practices involved in mass production of living beings. Feel free to voice your thoughts. Just please do so respectfully. I am saddened by the thought of so many living beings treated like they are merely a dollar sign. I feel sickish inside. Moving on.

“I don’t understand the notion that modern farming is anything to do with nature. It’s a pretty gross interference with nature.”  – Peter Singer

 

In review of the documentary, I felt it weighed in heavily on the subject of raw milk farming and legislation. Perhaps I was hoping for a broader subject matter since I don’t consume milk personally but it was very eye-opening none-the-less. It comes right down to the fact that as consumers we should have the ability to purchase foods of our choosing. Of course there must be stipulations such as nothing that is endangered, for instance. If one really looks at the source of food from a family run farm as opposed to a large-scale factory operation, I think most of us would choose the former. I prefer produce from my garden over produce from a greenhouse sprayed with several rounds of insecticides and fungicides. It’s common sense, really. It is frightening that it has gotten to the point that small farms are being raided and their livelihood seized by the FDA. Why does the government feel so threatened by these small farms? Is it really in the name of consumer safety? I, for one, highly doubt it. My guess would be that the government is so tied to Big Ag giants that the government is no longer “for the people” but instead for the profit. We are at a point in history where we have all screwed up royally by trusting large corporations to dictate to the masses, myself included.

 

 

Standing up to the Bully (Big Ag/government) where our food is concerned is now at our doorsteps. Being aware makes a difference.  Simple steps like voting with our food budget is a great place to start. Local markets, farmers and small businesses can make a big impact. We are already seeing many large food companies trying to cater to certain markets by diversifying. It’s a small step in the right direction but it is still supporting large-scale operations. Picture yourself as a farmer trying to support your family. You want to supply people with an exceptional product that you give every waking minute to producing. The FDA steps in and claims some bogus law made in the 1930’s and seizes your animals/crops. How would you feel? Who would you turn to? The red tape is so restrictive for many small businesses that even making a profit can be a very difficult task. To sit at a desk in a cubicle somewhere and  sneer at those that want to have access to real food that is grown and produced with passion and care or at the farmer themself  is hypocritical. The next time you eat a burger or a salad or drink a milkshake remember that someone somewhere had to get those items to market so you could stuff your face with them. Changing our thinking process to bring us closer to the food we consume and the reality of food production may just open our eyes and our heart a little bit more.

 

 

 

 

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.  – Harry Truman