The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

Cucumber Query July 9, 2010

Filed under: cleaning,eco-friendly,friendship,green,non-toxic,stupidity — MindfulMerchant @ 3:04 pm

 

I am one of those bad friends that never reply to FW: emails. You know, the ones that tell the recipient they are special and important. The kind that usually end with threats like seven years of bad luck if you fail to send it out to 20 of your bestest friends in 5 minutes.  No response = doomed for a life of eternal bad luck since not only do I never forward them…I rarely read them.  Delete. Delete. Delete.

 

There are exceptions to my reading though. When my friend Jen sent me a FW entitled “The AMAZING Cucumber”…how could I not have a peek? This forward was about 13 special ways this vegetable can enhance my life.

 

(Now do I have your attention?)

cucumbers No, it is not that kind of email. This one explains the health benefits of eating cucumbers that are full of vitamins and minerals. I did not know that cucumbers were that good for us. I thought they were mostly water and not much else.  Not so! <according to the life changing attachment> It also claims you can prevent a hangover, use it to boost energy and other AMAZING things. Jen sent it to me knowing I am interested in non-toxic cleaning options.  

 

The record-breaking hot temperatures this week meant I spent a lot of time with the kids indoors. Stuck for fun things to do one afternoon I found the old email in a folder and read it to them. We decided to play scientists and test some of the claims.  (Snopes.com says the claims are undetermined)

 

First, we tried to clean pen off the basement wall. No one owned up to writing on the wall with pen, but one of our girls names is Sarah. hmmmm   Here is the before, and the after. It did not completely take away the mark, but it is less prominent. We all agreed it was not an effective way to clean the wall.

 

July_2010_003 July_2010_006

Next, we cleaned the mirror using the cucumber before the girls took their showers. It is supposed to eliminate the glass from fogging up. Unfortunately, the mirror was just as foggy after and I really had to work hard cleaning the smears off the glass.

 

July_2010_013

Finally, we took a pair of Daddy’s dress shoes and “shined” them with the cucumber. Let’s just say, my husband had to get the shoe polish out after we were done with them. He was not impressed with the results, nor our justification that his shoes made a significant scientific contribution.

 

I have not tested the rest of the claims because we gave up after those three failing results. I must say that I appreciate when people send me green suggestions, please keep those coming. In this case I recommend cucumbers are best enjoyed in a lovely salad, or covering puffy eyes at a spa.

 

If you receive a FW: titled “The AMAZING Cucumber”, do not get excited. You can delete. Delete. Delete!

 

You’re welcome.

 

p1016199copy_thumb7

 

Cheep Cheep CHEAP April 17, 2010

 

5741202 Attention frugal folk. A quick reminder to be on the lookout for the new 2010-11 Healthy Shopper Coupon Book at your local health food stores in the next few weeks. Scoop one up as soon as you find them because they disappear quickly.

 

coupon_book Coupon clipping might sound ridiculous…but if you are looking for ways to lower your shopping expenses, even small savings add up. This little magazine-like book is purse/backpack sized so it is easy to reference during a shop.

 

On rare occasion when all the planets are in alignment (or something), I am organized enough to search the Healthy Shopper website for E-coupons. It is FREE  and I usually find coupons for many items on my shopping list like yoghurt, almond milk, detergent, dishwasher tabs etc.

 

My friend is on the fence about buying organic products but last year’s coupon book inspired her to try some.  I like the Healthy Shopper Coupon Book because I am too cheap to “experiment” with different brands and pay regular  prices.  I cannot deny it, frugality is in my genes.  🙂

 

p1016199copy_thumb7

 

The Spring Purge April 16, 2010

Filed under: charities,eco-friendly,Ontario,recycling,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 9:48 am

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

 

Hellooo spring! Goodbye snow shovels, winter coats & boots…and tuque head. Warmer temperatures and sunshine have energized me.  I am starting to think about spring cleaning. Ugh.

 

cleaningtools8[1] We are not hoarders and yet somehow this year our little storage room has become a dumping ground.  There are boxes we moved from Toronto five years ago and never unpacked. Hockey, ski and other sports equipment our kids have outgrown that we keep for friends and family to use. When company comes and I’m running around doing the frantic clean I usually find myself holding a paper mache volcano or a 4 ft replica of the Eiffel Tower. What to do…what to do….ahh toss it in the storage room! Today I opened the door, and the vacuum and a ski fell out on my foot.  Enough.  Time to  de-clutter and simplify in an earth friendly way…

 

There is an exciting program called the Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) to help Ontarians dispose of unwanted electronic devices and divert electronic waste from landfills. Plug in your postal code and the type of material or item and find the closest OES approved, no-for-profit collection depots. They also recover valuable resources like precious and base metals. An example of this was that the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic medals contained recycled metal from recycled electronic waste.

 

olympic-medals-2010 According to the OES nearly 78% of Ontarian households have at least 1 electronic device they aren’t using or isn’t working. Some of the 44 acceptable items include audio and video players, cameras, cell phones, computers, copiers, monitors, pagers, printers, radios, speakers, telephones, answering machine and televisions. We have a boom box from the 80’s buried in that storage and it needs to go to OES heaven.

 

 

Perhaps your stuff is too valuable to toss and you would like to recoup some money. Online classifieds are one option like Kijiji or Craigslist. This year my neighbours are thinking spring clean too and plan a street garage sale in May. (If you are interested in raising funds for your favourite charity, you might consider donating the profits.) Other options include donating unwanted items to the Salvation Army (Sally Ann), Goodwill or Canadian Diabetes Clothesline.  The Canadian Diabetes will come to pick up your donations too.

If you are planning a renovation, think about contacting  Habitat for Humanity, Restores. They accept kitchen, bathrooms cabinets, tubs, sinks and different building materials in excellent condition.  For a small fee they will come and remove them too.

 

Another neat idea I have been reading about is bartering. Websites like Freecycle, Swapstyle and Swaptree are a few examples.  You can get rid of things you no longer need/use or want in exchange for something you really want in return.   I  do not plan to barter our storage room stuff…but it sounds interesting.

 

Well…that is pretty much all of my spring clean get-rid-of-junk ideas.  Do you have suggestions or a favourite organization for recycling/donating unwanted items?  This weekend  I am we are going to tackle the storage room and put some of the ideas to use. 

 

Happy Spring!

 

 

p1016199copy_thumb7

 

An Eco-Adventure with my Peeps April 4, 2010

Filed under: eco-friendly,education,holidays,Ontario — MindfulMerchant @ 7:41 pm

sc-green-main-photo This past year marked a BIG birthday for me and my pals.  Friends for 30+ years, adds up to a heck of a lot of birthday celebrations.  We wanted to do something special and different.   Suggestions started flying around.   Spa?  Fancy restaurant?   Nah.  I sent them a link for an Eco-Adventure Tour, zip lining and cave exploration…as a joke. One by one, my friends emailed back – everyone was keen to try.  Crap. That attempt at humour totally backfired.  After a self pep talk, I decided to participate.  How scary could it be?  So we booked the tour and all the rooms at The Willow Trace Bed & Breakfast* found on the Canadian B & B website.

 

The Eco-Adventure Tour is a 3 hour guided adventure starting with a walk 60ft in a 200-year-old tree canopy on top of Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ontario.  The website says, “Become one with the birds”, a zip line experience and cave exploration enjoying moss and rare ferns.  The tour is ‘eco’ for a many reasons.   Every aspect of the adventure strives for minimal negative impact on the environment.  The tourism takes place in an undisturbed natural setting and incorporates both natural and cultural heritage.

 

We left Toronto early Saturday morning, had a quick lunch in downtown Collingwood and hopped in the car ready for our adventure.  We turned in the driveway and parked under a giant cable that runs down the mountain.   “Wait a minute…isn’t it supposed to be a 300ft zip line?” I stuttered.  “Oh, you must have missed the BIG zip line video straight down the mountain,” they informed me. I kicked myself for skimming the website.

We signed our life away with waivers and legal forms, were weighed (that was fun) and outfitted with hard hats, harnesses and cables.  We gathered in a circle, met our energetic guides and introduced ourselves to the group. What an interesting bunch…there were 6 women celebrating 50th birthdays, a few men and a grandmother spending a special day with her 16-year-old granddaughter.

 

Once we met Grandma, I relaxed a bit.  If a 68-year-old woman could do it, surely I could too.P1010075[2]_(2) We began with a short hike over a 410ft suspension bridge. The view of Georgian Bay was stunning.  Next, we boarded a tractor and drove up and into the forest chatting with the other participants.  After picking a ‘buddy’, we had a lesson and test on how to hook/unhook ourselves safely from one cable to another. As we stared up the 40 ft ladder that lead to a tiny platform in the trees, Del and Niki said they did not remember the tree top part being so high off the ground.  Seems I was not the only one that skimmed through the website.  

 

The treetop walk is a series of 10 suspension bridges of 10-inch wide planks.  We tied on to overhead cables and held steel wire on each side to stabilize.  The weight and movement of others made the planks swing and bounce.  It was hard to balance.  After about the fifth bridge I started to unclench and enjoy the incredible view. 

 

If you are wondering about safety, Niki grilled our guide about every possible safety concern she could think of.  No one has ever died or been injured on the tour.  The guides train for all potential problems and yes, they constantly inspect the planks and wires for strength. The staff were fun, patient and knowledgeable about the history, geology and ecology of the area. 

 

What a great feeling after crossing the last suspension bridge.  High fives all around.  How do we get down?  Well, we clip onto another line, walk down a small ladder hanging 80 ft off the ground and jump.  300 ft in seconds.  Oddly enough, Del and Niki who found the treetop walk challenging, had no problem with the zip lines.   I was a nervous Nellie for pretty much all of it. Karen and Carm, the two fearless wonders breezed through every activity. 

 

P1010093[2]_(2) Next, we hiked down into the caves.  They were mossy, cold, slippery and beautiful.  Their history is spiritual but also dark.  The native people who migrated to the area, the Petun, called the caves the Village of the Souls and The Sacred Rock.   When the Iroquois attacked Huron and Petun tribe in 1648-49 villagers lured their enemies into the caves, easily barricaded the narrow entrance/exit and then killed with arrows from above.  It was easy to imagine how it took place once down in the narrow cavern.

 

mail[8][1] A short walk to the zip line meant the tour was almost over.  Almost.  1000ft down the mountain in 20 seconds.  We gathered on the platform and the staff locked the chain link door behind – for safety. (gulp) The view of the valley was spectacular.   A crowd of tourists gathered on the other side of the fence to watch us take the plunge.  We received two final pieces of advice. (1) The more frightened you are the sooner you should go and (2) For an extra thrill, you can tilt back and flip upside down to the bottom.   “O.k…Who would like to go first?”  I felt the fence press into my back.

Grandma was one of the first to volunteer. She re-enacted the “Nestea” commercial.  Walked down the ladder hanging over the gorge, turned around to face us, put her arms up fell backward into the air.  It was brilliant. Her granddaughter chose to flip upside down.  Clearly, she inherited her Grandma’s daredevil gene.  With every keener’s turn, my fear kicked into a higher gear.  I asked to go next.  I walked down the ladder shaking like crazy, said a few choice words and jumped.  My friends cheered.  Once unhooked at the bottom I found a comfortable deck chair and watched my brave friends fly down the mountain – so amazing.   It was an unbelievable day.

 
The rest of the weekend was spent recovering, laughing, eating, drinking and recounting different parts of our adventure.   We were all thrilled with our Eco-adventure Tour and ourselves.  It was a perfect weekend celebrating our friendship and life. All five of us would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenge, a beautiful nature experience and a story you can brag about for years to come. 

 

Now we are discussing our next big birthday.  Someone suggested bungee jumping but they were totally kidding…I think.

 

p1016199copy_thumb7

 

*The Willow Trace B & B was an excellent place to stay.  Clean, quiet, good location and luxurious.  The owners were gracious and excellent cooks!   We would visit again.

 

Eggciting Natural Dyes March 31, 2010

Filed under: eco-friendly,healthy,holidays,non-toxic,recipes — MindfulMerchant @ 1:16 pm

 

easter-eggs-ay-1875102-l

One of our family Easter traditions is decorating eggs. Store bought egg colouring kits are effective and seem harmless but they are full of synthetic chemicals and artificial colours. I am trying to reduce our synthetic chemical exposure…so it seems strange to dye eggs (and our skin) just for a holiday craft.   This weekend I want to give natural food based colourings a try.  

Method

  1. Place eggs in a single layer in a pan and cover with water.
  2. Add 1 tsp of vinegar.
  3. Add your natural dye ingredients…the more you use, the darker the colour.
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

The process sounds easy but I might have to play around with different ingredients for varying colour and intensity. For a glossy finished product you can rub the eggs with a little vegetable/olive oil when cooled.

 

Here are some natural egg dye options. Luckily, these are common foods you might have in your kitchen that will provide good colour. Frozen or fresh produce work equally well. Canned produce will give lighter, more subtle colours.

 

Red – pomegranate juice, raspberries, cherries

Pink – pickled beets, cranberries, red grape juice

Orange – paprika, yellow onionskins

Purple – blackberries

Green – spinach

Greenish/Yellow – yellow delicious apple peels

Yellow – turmeric, chamomile tea, green tea

Blue – blueberries

Brown – black tea, strong coffee

 

So, I am gearing up to conduct the natural egg dye “scientific” experiment. I figure the worst-case scenario my house stinks and we enjoy many egg salad sandwiches this weekend.  Wish me luck.

 

p1016199copy_thumb7

 

Kenny – Fix it or Nix it? March 8, 2010

Filed under: eco-friendly,reduce energy consumption,shopping — MindfulMerchant @ 12:21 am

 

Are you trying to keep a major appliance alive in your home? Our five-year-old dishwasher is giving us a hard time. These days when I load it Kenny Rogers starts singing in my head.  It is too young to be on its last legs but every time I press the start button it is a gamble.  Fingers crossed it chooses to clean something.  “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”.  Perhaps it is the economy, green consciousness, frugality, or poor manufacturing but a surprising number of my friends and family now have the appliance repair company’s phone number posted on the fridge. How do you know when to stop repairing and say goodbye?

According to Consumer Reports and Bill the repairperson, if an appliance is eight years old or more usually it is best to replace.  Boy, eight years seems like a short lifespan doesn’t it?   If you have a high end model that you love you might want to fix it but consider replacing a newer repair prone dud. Consumer Reports suggests it is best not to fix if repairs cost more than half the price of a new appliance.  (not always possible though)

I found a neat website Consumer Reports Green Buying Guide to help chose reliable, energy efficient, eco-friendly appliances. There is a “get the most value” section, green living guides and other helpful tips to save you money and energy. It might help with decision-making.

If you are planning a big appliance purchase, you might want to consider…

  • Many major retailers will remove the old appliance for recycling or repurposing so check before buying.
  • If they are in good condition, think about donating to a non-profit organization.
  • 1-800-RECYCLING.com is a comprehensive recycling location database with U.S. State by State guidelines.
  • Most Canadian municipalities have appliance-recycling programs. The Natural Resources Canada website suggests contacting your local municipality or the yellow pages for collection information.

In the meantime, I continue to coddle our dishwasher…hoping we won’t have to fold ‘em for a long time.

 

 

p1016199copy_thumb7

 

Two Green book Suggestions December 17, 2009

 

 

Looking for a little green inspiration for 2010?  I received two great gifts last year that you might want to check out.  These books are suited for someone thinking about making greener changes in their life, or already trying. These are NOT suggestions for a anyone that has eliminated toilet paper, lives off the grid, and grows their own food.  Just sayin’

ec

 

 

My first suggestion is “Sleeping Naked is Green” by Vanessa Farquharson, a reporter for the National Post. It is a funny and self-deprecating account of her attempt at making one green change every day for a year. This diary style paperback is suited for women…my husband would call this a ‘girly’ book because Vanessa happens to fall in love during the process. I laughed my way through this book.  Some of the changes are silly, but I suspect that comes from having to think of 365 days of green ideas. Many of Vanessa’s ideas are inspiring, realistic and attainable for the average person. (Except eliminating toilet paper…that one I cannot wrap my head around yet.) Unlike many green books, this one is cheerful and makes you want to make changes, even if it is in small ways. If you like a little entertainment with your education then this is a book for you.

 

 

 

 

 

bookCoverCan My second suggestion is another Canadian book with what I suspect has the longest book title in the world. It is “Your Guide to the most environmentally friendly information, products and services in Canada – ECOHOLIC [When you’re addicted to the planet]” by Adria Vasil. She is a writer for NOW magazine. The layout is similar to many green guides, food, beauty, clothes, gardening, cleaning, baby products, and pet sections. More examples of topics include eco-tourism, rebates for your home, ethical investing, renovating and even greening your sex life. Oh yeah!

What makes this book stand out is it provides research, background information with vocabulary explanations, and a detailed  provincial green resource guide.  I like that her research includes Canadian facts and statistics. I also love the helpful tips provided for every topic. This is a good book for anyone trying to make smart environmentally friendly changes.

Boy I wish I had it when my children were born. I find it hard to read some sections without guilt. Adria’s writing is cheeky, but the startling information, health concerns and environmental realities keep me awake some nights. What can I say?  I am a worrywart.  Be assured this is not a ‘You suck and we are all going to die negative-angry-finger-pointing book’.  It is more of a ‘This is the reality/concern; and here is better eco-friendly, healthy suggestions you can try’ kind of read. Ecoholic is an excellent resource book that every home should have.

 

 

 

If you are looking for a green book to inspire you for 2010, a green gift idea, or a good read over the holidays these are my picks.    Happy reading!

 

 P1016199