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

 

 

 

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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

Day of Smells

Yesterday. The Day of Smells. Every day is filled with smells you may say, but yesterday seems to be especially poignant in my mind. Let me explain.

 

 

 

Daffodils - Narcissus

Daffodils – Narcissus

 

 

 

Although the day was filled to overflowing with scents, there were a few that really stood out.

 

 

 

Starting my day as usual…freshly ground coffee. Mmmm, my favorite smell to start the day. Without coffee’s mouth-watering aroma my day is not the same. I even ran in to Starbucks yesterday for an extra fix on my way to work which is highly unusual. Alright, alright, I really needed a washroom before jumping in the work truck due to an overabundance of coffee already but I just can’t resist the deliciousness of wafting coffee aromas. “I’ll have a Venti Tribute Blend black, please.” Ah, just what I needed. Smell #1.

 

 

 

Smell #2 – crunchy, decaying leaves on the forest floor. I just love that earthy, rich fragrance. Breathe deep.

 

 

 

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood

The fragrance of Spring is in full force. So many wonderful smells at this time of the year. More so than at any other time, I would say.  Hyacinth’s distinct smell perfumed the air yesterday. Such a heady fragrance.  The only issue was that while the hyacinth perfume was filling my nostrils another odour wafted in and altered the experience – skunk. Cough, cough…ew. There was obviously a skunks home in the vicinity. Wowzers, it was extra odoriferous.

 

 

 

The best smell of the day was a first for the season and another of my favorite smells – fresh-cut grass. Oh my. My head was swooning from the green ambrosia. Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me? Ahem, sorry.  There is something so mesmerizing about the first whiff of cut grass for the season. Oh who am I kidding, I am always affected by it. Always have been. So much so that years ago two friends of mine from high school (yes, I’ve love the fragrance that long) gave me a fresh-cut lawn scented candle as a gift. It was pretty darn close to the real thing too.

 

 

 

The worst odor of the day was also the last. There was a strange, funky smell in the hallway outside my office door. It was a strong iron-like stench with undertones of wet pennies. Gag. I was on a mission to find what was causing the rancidity and I eventually found it. Uh-oh. My daughter’s hamster had died and left behind wafting lines of stank. It is shocking how quickly dead animals start to decompose. I had heard him sifting around through his bedding the day before. Perhaps poor little Marshmallow was preparing himself for the inevitable. Sniff. We have had a few hamsters as pets over the years and each of them had unique personalities. Marshmallow was by far my favorite. He was a gentle little creature and will be missed. Many tears were shed last night over not being able to say goodbye. Sometimes a final farewell is within the heart, not with words. This morning I had the task of burying Marshmallow in the garden. I chose his final resting place in a small garden filled with Black-Eyed Susan that my daughter and her best friend planted two summers ago. What did I notice while fluffing the soil afterward? The spicy aroma of cedars and warm earthiness of the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 “Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” – Gustav Mahler

Jumping the Gun

Spring has arrived, at least the calendar tells us so. Here in southern Ontario (Canada), it feels a bit more Spring-like than winterish. Is winterish a word? No, you say? It doesn’t matter, I like it so I shall use it. Signs of Spring are starting to become more obvious. The air smells different – earthy and wonderful, yet there is still a chill in the air when the breeze blows. Yesterday I pointed out to my daughter that the narcissus’ in the front garden have started to laboriously push their way up through the mulch to reach for the sun. We were perhaps a little too excited by this as we clucked like hens loudly about the coming of Spring flowers and warmer temperatures while hovering over the tiny green shoots. I felt as though we may just break out in song and dance! Perhaps we should cut back on watching Glee for a bit. The appearance of these tender green shoots encouraged me to look around a bit more at things we take for granted when the seasons change and life-force starts to become evident in the plant world. Yes, this is the plant nerd coming out in me again. I could inspect plants in minor detail for hours on end and never lose interest. I am utterly fascinated by the tenacity and instinctual intelligence of the botanical world around us.

 

 

 

Spring shoots

 

 

 

Although Spring is definitely my favourite time of the year (and not just because my birthday is in the Spring), there is a phenomena that always irks me each and every Spring. I am about to share with you one of my greatest pet peeves so get ready. It may not seem like much to most of you but to me this is HUGE. After a few nice days in a row, people start to flood outside into their gardens raking like fiends and start working in their gardens. Hey, I am as antsy as the next person about getting out in the soil and getting dirty but slow down!  This, my friends and readers, is my pet peeve. Over-zealous gardeners that are starting too early and possibly doing more harm than good. This won’t ring true world-wide obviously, but here where we enjoy four distinct seasons we need to stop rushing the next one before Mother Nature is ready. We are pouncing on Mother Nature as she is stretching, waking from her long slumber through the winter and demanding that she perform her magic instantly. I would think she would like to enjoy a cup of coffee before she gets down to business, just like you and I would. We need to focus not so much on getting things in order but instead enjoy the order of things that take place. Think about that a moment.

 

 

 

Non-gardeners and gardeners may view nature differently but we often have something in common. The desire to keep nature in its place or to tame it. To use it for our own purposes whether it be for cultivation of food or aesthetics. This has both pros and cons and I think has inspired another post at another time. Instead of rushing things to the next stage, why not watch the splendour that nature offers at this most magical time of the year. Have you ever noticed the formation of a flower bud? How the small, hard green bud slowly alters into a tightly wound group of petals that unfurl until its beauty is on full display. If that weren’t incredible enough, pollinators like bees start to notice this gorgeous display and come in for a landing. This whole process is mystical and hypnotising…I’m surprised I accomplish anything in the Spring!

 

 

 

When we slow down our need to control the elements of nature in our yards we allow nature to do what is intended without our interference and interruption at a critical time in its life cycle. For instance, if I rush outside today and start raking leaves that have blown into my garden over the winter, I will be removing the protective barrier that keeps tiny shoots from being hit with frost or even being damaged by me raking over them. Fresh shoots are immensely strong to push through soil to reach the sky but are also extremely fragile. Being mindful of the growth cycles in your zone and garden is a much more logical way to plan your tasks than rushing out and being a weekend warrior and doing everything at once. Treat nature with respect, supply the correct care and you will be rewarded.

 

 

 

Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.
– H. H. Williams

To begin your gardening year off on the right note inform yourself as to what zone you live in. This is imperative to proper plant selection and care.

Click here for North American plant zone map.

Click here for Canadian plant zone map.

Click here for European plant zone map.

Click here for Australian plant zone map.

Click here for African plant zone map.

 

 

 

Take the time this Spring to inform yourself about correct timing for garden tasks in your zone before jumping the gun. Your garden will thank you. It also gives you time to enjoy the show!

“If you really want to draw close to your garden, you must remember first of
all that you are dealing with a being that lives and dies; like the human body,
with its poor flesh, its illnesses at times repugnant. One must not always see
it dressed up for a ball, manicured and immaculate.”
– Fernand Lequenne,
Botanist

Kindness Inspires Kindness

Photo - rishikajain.com

Photo – rishikajain.com

 

 

Something happened a couple of days ago that got me thinking about how people treat each other. I had taken a detour to the grocery store after a scheduled meeting on Monday morning. I had planned on picking up a couple blocks of butter to make some more ghee. I hadn’t thought of purchasing anything other than butter…until I had made my way to the back corner of the store where the butter is located. Then I made the fatal error of looking around. Sales were abundant and they enticed me. Now, remember, I had only run in for butter so I did not grab a buggy or a hand basket at the store entrance. As I made my way to the checkout I kept spotting sale items that I could use. I ended up juggling a tower of items in my arms plus my giant purse slung over my shoulder while wearing a bulky winter jacket. Not good planning on my part. As I approached the chosen checkout line the man in front of me saw my near-to-toppling tower and came to my rescue. He pushed his purchases forward on the counter and unloaded my arms for me while we both had a laugh about my conundrum. He guessed correctly that I hadn’t figured on picking up much when I originally entered the store. He informed me that he had done the same thing far too often and therefore always stops and gets a buggy since he knows he purchases impulsively. Another laugh was had over this awareness of his purchasing style. I, on the other hand, made it a habit when my kids were very little and my budget was incredibly tight to only purchase what I could carry to avoid overspending. I guess old habits die hard.

 

 

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

 

This experience with another individual that gladly helped me made me appreciate the small windows of kindness that frequently pop up when I least expect them. There was no incentive for this man other than the feeling of helping someone. No reward other than a thank you and a smile was necessary. I frequently hear older people bang on about the rudeness of younger generations. Makes me wonder why those same individuals don’t hold doors for others or say thank you when you help them. It is almost as though they feel it is somehow owed to them. Is this not the real issue? That somehow society feels others owe them in some way, whether they are young or old. The feeling of entitlement has no age limit. Then there are many others that are simply kind and lend a hand when needed or offer a kind word without expecting anything but kindness in return. This brief moment at the checkout counter made me think about how often I would do something similar. I felt good knowing that I automatically step up and offer assistance without a second thought or speak to others or smile frequently. I have noticed that the more I put myself out there, the more I notice others that do the same. Perhaps it is some sort of chain reaction. When someone is kind to us, it feels good. We offer kindness to someone else because of it and what do you know, we feel good yet again! Plus, we made someone else feel warm fuzzies too. Let’s all spread a little kindness wherever we roam to make the world a whole lot nicer for everyone!

 

 

 

 

” Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”  – Princess Diana

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


 

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!

 

 

 

Breakfast Bliss

breakfast with Buddha

breakfast with Buddha

 

Breakfast this morning was a blissful start to the day.

What could be more sinfully satisfying than a bowl of warm chocolatey, coconutty sumptuousness?

A few days ago I happened upon a recipe for chocolate banana breakfast quinoa that made my taste buds dance at the thought. While reading through the ingredients I mentally omitted certain things and added others.

The original recipe can be found here. The first ingredient to hit the chopping block was banana. Over the past couple of years I get this weird mouth-feel from bananas that makes me highly uncomfortable. Okay, that sounds kind of weird. I guess I should be more specific. I may possibly have a slight allergy to bananas or at least an intolerance since my mouth and throat get a tingly, fuzzy feel and my stomach feels as though I swallowed a bowling ball. Does that explain why the banana was axed?

Instead, I aimed for pure gastronomic pleasure and substituted with coconut.  Gosh I love coconut. I would lay in a tub filled to the brim with coconut milk and drink pina coladas if the situation ever presented itself.  Yes, I am mad for coconut.

I think I need to stop and compose myself with a sip of coffee. Or three.

Let’s get down to business now, shall we? Collect your ingredients and let’s get the quinoa simmering so you can make yourself a cup of coffee while its doing it’s thing.

Fixin's for chocolate-macaroon breakfast quinoa

 

Quinoa

Coconut milk – read your ingredients before buying since most coconut milk contains preservatives. Find one without if possible.

Honey – unpasteurized is my preference. I want the “good stuff” that’s meant to be there.

Cocoa – I am trying to use up a large canister I bought for Christmas baking. Choose an organic, fair trade cocoa if you can.

Water

Coconut – shredded, unsweetened and preservative-free.

Sliced almonds

Now that all the ingredients are collected, let’s put the quinoa on to cook.

Make sure to rinse the quinoa well before using to avoid the bitter taste from the protective layer of saponin that covers the grain to repel birds and insects. Put 1/2 cup of washed quinoa into a small pot and add 1/2 cup of water, a handful of shredded coconut, and 1 cup of coconut milk. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. I covered the pot but you don’t need to. Watch it doesn’t boil over and make a mess of your stove top like I did.  The smell of burning coconut milk is not pleasant. This is where you can make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and relax for a few minutes. When the liquid is almost fully absorbed, remove from heat.

 Add 2 tsp of cocoa and 2 tsp of honey. Stir well. Top with a little coconut milk, shredded coconut and slivered almonds.

Find somewhere comfortable to sit while savouring your morning meal. Lingering over each bite and being mindful of enjoying the goodness of sustenance makes it all worthwhile. When we rush to consume “whatever” in the morning we are doing ourselves a disservice. I know I feel so much better and more clear-headed when I sit down, put on some music or just enjoy the silence while eating instead of trying to multi-task while walking around.

” To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha