The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

The Big Reveal July 14, 2010


Ta-Dum!  The Mindful Merchant got a makeover!  What do you think?


Last summer my pal Chris handed me a birthday card. Inside were two words – start writing! He surprised me by setting up all the things I needed to start a blog; domain name, set up a site, accounts etc. Awesomely nice, isn’t he? This pushed me to stop talking about what I would like to do and actually try something new.


After geeking out, studying WordPress guides and blogging 101 books, I felt by mid-August I could give it a whirl. I wrote my first post, and nervously sent it out to a small group of friends and family. Thankfully, my peeps cheered me on with kind words and helpful feedback. I am grateful for their encouragement.


My computer/social media knowledge was…minimal. (o.k. – I am was technically challenged) The learning curve has been HUGE. I finally joined Facebook (told ya) and the magical world of Twitter. A shift in thinking about green, healthy, more earth-friendly living has grown into a fun hobby that I absolutely love. Now I have readers from different parts of the world – and they are not my relatives. Wow.  Through blogging, I have made new friends, met interesting/creative people and feel more connected to the Ottawa community.


Here we are a year later and it is time for a change. I have grown tired of the drab brown and green WordPress template. Thanks to Maria and Dawn at Sweet Blog designs for their creativity, computer tech-wizardry and “getting” my intentions and humour. I hope you like the new design – I do!


Thanks Chris for the inspiration and all the computer help over the year. Thank YOU for subscribing, joining the MM Facebook Page, sharing posts, the kind shout-outs, and taking the time to comment. I especially love the comments – so please keep ‘em coming. 


Here’s to another year making small changes for a healthier home and planet.  Cheers!



If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. 

                                                                                                                                       African Proverb





Mindful Gnome June 4, 2010

Filed under: climate change,community,environment,gardening,stupidity — MindfulMerchant @ 8:34 am


blog_stuff_010 Lawn ornaments are not green or good for the environment but they sure make a select group of garden lovers happy. I happen to like lawn ornaments. Go ahead and laugh…that’s o.k.  I know that lawn ornaments are tacky and I rein in the urge to have our yard covered in whirligigs, and bright chatchkas.


Some garden art is green, like repurposed bicycle parts, machinery and other recycled objects that artists turn into beautiful pieces. Garage sale finds are another good way to reinterpret and reuse treasures outdoors. A plastic solar leprechaun with a pot of gold that glows (sadly) is not eco-friendly, no matter what the tag says.


My philosophy for garden decor comes from unfinished magazine Feng Shui 101 articles at the doctor’s office, brutally honest comments from friends and family, and my husband’s patience limit. This philosophy also takes into consideration maintaining a positive relationship with your neighbours. Community is so important, after all.


Here is my approach to lawn ornament placement. blog_stuff_022


1. Less is more. Overcrowding is a tacky. Even small clusters are risky – depending on arrangement.

2.  Size matters. If your ornament is the biggest item in your garden…you might want to scale back a wee bit.

3. Save the religious icons and statues for indoors, or at the very least…keep them in the backyard. While I completely respect that amount of devotion, you run the risk of looking like a cemetery or place of worship. (Unless that is a look you are trying to achieve – by all means)

images 4.  Be one with the ornament. Ask yourself “If I were a gnome…would I live under this hosta or stand out in the middle of the lawn in the blazing sun?” Guaranteed you will find the perfect location every time.

5. Please rethink cut-outs of robust women with bloomers showing, fountains of cherubs peeing, a homage to Tweety Bird and other potentially offensive displays.

6. Practice realism. Sleeping bunny on a table = fake. Sleeping bunny placed under a low pine bow = real-ish. Sort of.


The other good thing about garden ornaments is that as climate change and disappearing habitat endanger certain species…we can replace them with fake replicas and with proper placement…hardly notice their absence.  That is comforting.





Jack Pine Trail May 28, 2010

Filed under: Canada,community,environment,family,fitness,hiking,Ontario,Ottawa — MindfulMerchant @ 8:44 am


P1018198 Ottawa has a wonderful Greenbelt Trail system that connects to the Rideau Trail, the Trans Canada Trail and the Capital pathway.  We are slowly exploring different trails around the city and all are different and beautiful.


Prime Minister King appointed a French urban planner named Jacques  Gréber work on a master plan for Canada’s Capital. In 1950 Gréber proposed that the Greenbelt would protect the Capital and the rural land surrounding it from unchecked spreading of urban sprawl. This met with complaints from developers who called him “Jacques Grabber”. Following his plan, the Federal Government began acquiring land in 1956 that today encircles the Capital from Shirley’s Bay (west) all the way to Green’s Creek (east). Now we have 20,350 hectares of beautiful land to enjoy and 200 square kilometres (124 sq mi) of greenbelt in the downtown core alone. Merci Monsieur Gréber.



This past weekend we visited Jack Pine Trail.  It is a popular trail  because friendly chickadees and other birds will eat right out of your hand.  Hanging out with good friends and the gorgeous weather inspired us to enjoy the outdoors with the kids. It is an easy, flat terrain and there are a few loops to choose from depending on ability.  We filled containers with birdseed and off we went.


Unfortunately, I did not stop to think that the great feeding stories all took place during the winter months. Maybe it was the time of day, the abundance of bugs and other food, or our large group but the birds were not interested in our birdseed…or us. We did a lot of standing around with our hands outstretched and it was disappointing.  We even tried singing “Ah-a-aah-ah” just like Cinderella calling the little creatures over to the window…to no avail.  Could it have been our singing?



P1018202 “This is the worst hike EVER!” my daughter informed us when the bird feeding activity tanked. (Made our friends feel special – I’m sure)  Thank goodness, things perked up once we saw other interesting things like ducks, a beaver, fish, minnows and at the bottom of the pond…a large camouflaged snapping turtle. Can you spot him/her in this photo? The turtle discovery brought the fun back to a memorable level.  Whew!


If you are looking for a free and fun outing, the Nation’s Capital Greenbelt is definitely worth exploring.  Bring your camera and maybe a picnic – it’s marvellous.








Charity begins at home…with a little nudge January 12, 2010

Filed under: children,community,parenting — MindfulMerchant @ 12:20 pm


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I did not birth a little Jane Goodall or David Suzuki.  This was evident years ago when I pointed out an ant carrying a giant crumb to my 3 year old.  As we bent down examining the little creature I remember thinking “I am a good Mummy – teaching her to love nature”. That stupid smug thought came to an abrupt halt when she crushed the ant into the sole of her Dora shoe. Splat!  Clearly, the lesson I was trying to impart went unnoticed.

I stole the idea of a charitable birthday from my daughter’s friend. A few years ago, so inspired by a talk at school about Unicef, Marin asked her friends to make a small donation instead of gifts. (In case you are wondering…she came up with this all on her own)  Impressive, no?  So we began talking about birthday parties long before the day. Our girls are showered with gifts from both sides of our large families; they do not need more toys from their school chums. Slowly the girls considered the idea of using their party to help other people.

Gillian decided instead of presents her friends could, if they wanted to, give a small donation to the Ottawa Humane Society. (She loves dogs, cats and little critters – gone are the days of ant stomping!)  The wonderful thing was that her friends donated money from their own piggy banks, lots of quarters, loonies and change. Gillian collected $81 and felt fantastic walking into the shelter with her birthday “gifts”.

Sarah needed more encouragement. She wanted MORE presents. After planning her super fun party (and a little nudge) she decided to collect cans for our local food bank. Walking into the food bank with bags full of food had a big impact.  She was beaming from ear to ear.  Both girls are already talking about the charity they will help at next year’s birthday.

Teaching kids the importance of giving back to the community is more than just talking.  My Parents, Uncles and Aunts volunteered in the community all the time. We learned it in school too.  Our children see my husband and I help neighbours, fundraise and volunteer. Now that the girls are older, we help as a family.   Reading books about different experiences can help children grasp difficult subjects like illness, poverty and overcoming hardships.  Despite this idyllic parenting babble, we still remind ourselves and the girls to think about others.  I wonder if Jane Goodall or David Suzuki’s parents had to do this too…

How do you teach your children about charity?



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