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

 

 

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Respect July 7, 2010

Filed under: children,education,family,hate,parenting,racisim,respect,special events — MindfulMerchant @ 11:40 pm

 

This year was a challenging year for our kids at school. More independence, less coddling by teachers, homework and school yard dynamics. Oy!  Some of it we anticipated as part of attending a full day in the primary grades. There were issues with inclusion, speaking up,  hurt feelings and even and a bullying incidence. (which has resolved – fingers crossed)

 

Some of it, my husband and I were unprepared for.  Like the time our youngest had her pals over for a play date. Sitting around the kitchen table having a snack they sang a new rhyme they learned at recess. It was a derogatory song making fun of a specific ethnic group. Whoa! I cut them off mid song and we talked about the words and their meaning. They were unaware that the rhyme was so awful and felt badly afterward.

 

One of the biggest shocks my husband and I were not prepared for were questions about unfamiliar words they heard in the playground. “What does “gay” mean, Mommy?”  – “What does “retarded” mean?” Seriously?! Grade 1 and 2 children are running around calling one another these unacceptable words?   Yes.  Unfortunately, some adults are still use them too. 

 

Perhaps people are unaware that the words are full of hate and hurt.  Many of us grew up hearing the terms and think nothing of using them.  Recently, I asked someone not to use the word “retarded” with me and they argued there was nothing wrong with it – because it was a ‘legitimate clinical word’ and they didn’t say it in a mean way. Ooooh, that was an interesting conversation… 

 

One of the blogs I follow is Dave Hinsburger’s blog – Rolling Around in My Head. He has worked for over 30 years in the field of disability, is an author and travels the world as a lecturer. His writing makes me think and reflect, sometimes cry, and delivers a powerful message.   

 

Dave recently wrote about marching in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade with his organization Vita Community Living Services. He wrote, “We had determined we wouldn’t just ‘be’ in the parade, we wanted to ‘work’ the parade. As the parade is, in part, a celebration of diversity”. He had cards printed and with the help of co-workers and other groups marching that day, handed them out to the crowds. I thought they were so powerful I asked Dave if I could share them…he said yes.

 

 

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After the parade and the crowds dispersed, Dave noticed coming back up Yonge Street no cards were thrown on the ground. An encouraging sign!  I hope Dave’s cards will inspire sharing this message with family, friends and community.   At the very least,  invite discussion, which is always the beginning of change.

 

 

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Hockey, A Dog & A Complex June 30, 2010

Filed under: family,special events,stupidity,writers block — MindfulMerchant @ 5:18 pm

 

It took almost two years of debate, planning, pleading, flow charts and a few tears to wear my husband down. He was the last member of our democratic household to vote YES – a dog could join our family. Alice the cat had already cast her vote by responding with two blinks. F.Y.I. for those unfamiliar with cat speak, two slow blinks in a row means “yes” or on very rare occasion “little Jimmy fell down the well”.

June_2010_015 My husband agreed with the following conditions (1) It had to be a male dog since he is already outnumbered 4-1 and (2) He has to pick the name. For those that do not know our family or my husband, this meant only one thing. The dog was destined to have a hockey name.  Poor thing.

This sparked discussion arguments about names while we searched for the right dog for our family. Just to give you insight into my life, here were the top three names back in January:   Lucic ,  Chico Resch ,  Gordie.   Unfortunately, in this house hockey fans outnumber me 3-1.  Poor me.

Our girls suggested the name “Sidney Crosby” after one of their favourite players. Hubby shot that down citing many reasons. Then Olympic fever took hold of our house. For a family that rarely watches television, we had it on day and night. Caught up with patriotism and competitive spirit my husband once again caved and said he would consider #87 IF Canada’s men won the gold medal in hockey.

I suspect most of you know how that turned out. 7 minutes and 40 seconds into overtime…Crosby shoots…he scores…GOOOOOLD! I am not even a hockey fan and I admit that that was a spectacular moment in Canadian sport. We jumped around the family room high fiving and hugging our Olympic party friends. My husband put up his hands to quiet the room. Channelling the spirit of Charlton Heston he loudly announced, “We shall name him Crosby!” More whoops and cheers. Therefore, it was.

P1018102 In early May we welcomed little Crosby into our home. He is a sweet, gentle, puffy ball of fur with a big personality. We all love him…even Alice. Yesterday on my way home from a walk with The Cros, a man stopped me. He looked to be in his seventies, had a cane and a friendly smile. “Excuse me young lady – ” I stopped to chat somewhat pleased…Crosby attracts a lot of attention when we are out with his cuteness.  “Are you walking a pet skunk?” he asked me. Certain I heard him incorrectly I responded with “Pardon me?” “Did you know you cannot keep a skunk as a pet in Ottawa?” the man informed me. Horrified, I looked down at Crosby. He was busy sniffing a tree and luckily did not hear the man’s insulting words. “He’s not a skunk…he’s a dog…a PUPPY!” I explained. “Oh, really?” the man looked doubtful. I was flabbergasted. I scooped the dog up and whispered as we walked away “Don’t you listen to him…you’re so handsome!”  Poor Crosby.

I take away three things from that experience. First, it is important to have eye tests done on a regular basis. Second, there is a possibility our dog might not be the bestest looking dog in the whole world. Nah!  Third, I might look like the kind of woman that would own a pet skunk and walk it on a leash. (yikes)

Anyway, Crosby and I hurried home. I also felt the need to have a shower and give Crosby a good bath. What a strange day that was…

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Oh Canada June 25, 2010

Filed under: Canada,children,family,holidays,stupidity,writers block — MindfulMerchant @ 12:00 pm

 

images Think back to the this past winter Olympics…a time when Canada experienced a swell of patriotism. Wasn’t it great?  I love Canada. It is not perfect…but the more I travel and read, I appreciate this beautiful country.

My brother and sister-in-law live in the United States. Our nieces and nephew have dual citizenship…but I thought of them as more Canadian until the Olympics came along. You can imagine our surprise when brother-in-law informed us their children wanted the the U.S. to defeat Canada  and win gold in men’s hockey. 

“Must be a bad connection J…it sounded like you just said the kids are cheering for the U.S.  (hahaha)  What’s that?  Oh…you’re not kidding…I see.”

<crickets> 

So I sent them a ridiculous email…just ‘cause I love them and I was bored.   I came across the draft recently and thought I would post a modified version since it is Canada Day in a few days…and ‘cause I’m low on writing topics.

Dear J & T,

 

 

Out of concern for the welfare of our beloved nieces and nephew I would like to propose that during your next annual visit to Ottawa, we enrol the kiddies in an intensive crash Canadian Ed. program.

 

Some course options could include…

 

 

 Ode to the Maple – Tree tapping, boiling, trudging through Sugar Maple forests and 24 hours intravenous hydration of pure 100% Maple syrup.

 

 

 Gastro Delights – How to spot the best roadside blueberry pie or fresh corn stand 3 kms ahead.  If time allows, preparing the stomach for poutine, beavertails and maple taffy.

 

 

 The Dialect – Learn the correct intonation and application of “eh” and please…it is Zed not Zee.

 

 

 National Sports – Discover the pride that comes from being called a luger. Understand that men sweep and in Canada, we usually cheer a women charged with “2 minutes for hooking”.

 

 

Composting/Recycling 101   Grow beautiful gardens and lawns despite a municipal pesticide ban. If time permits…how to chase green bins and blue bins down windy/icy roads and resolve the 6:45am weekly curb side debate “Paper or plastic?”

 

 

Tim Hortons Toughen up skin sensitivity and hold a cup of coffee without a “sleeve”. Master the optimistic experience of rolling up the rim and learn what it means to want a “regular” every day.  Earn extra marks for greening it up – bring your own eco-friendly coffee cups.

 

 

beaver Canadian Currency  We value our loonies. Learn how to look rich by adding Canadian Tire money to your wallet.

 

 

Canadian Music Appreciation – Convincingly mouth the words to Oh Canada in English & French.  Study the chorus to The Good ‘ol Hockey Game and fill the gaps with hand claps and whoops. Learn the real lyrics to I’se the B’y and Canadian Railroad Trilogy.  Crash course on how to air guitar to Tom Sawyer.

 

 

Our National Treasures & Symbols  Special focus on The Beaver…and The Bieber. The industrious semi-aquatic rodent once prized for its pelt – the young teen pop sensation admired for his bangs.

 

We need to act quickly.  Canadian patriotism is difficult to retrieve once a person finds “aboot” and igloo/dog sled jokes amusing.  Please let us know if you are still coming so we can make arrangements.

 

Love,

Laura

 

Would you believe they didn’t visit us this spring?  Something to do with a sudden illness…very strange.

Happy 143th Canada!   Hope everyone has a safe, fun and relaxing Canada Day. 

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Itchy Scratchy June 3, 2010

Filed under: children,family,health,toxic — MindfulMerchant @ 1:25 pm

Warning:  The following post will likely make you itchy. 

“Mommy, my head itches.” Not the words you want to hear just before bath time on a Monday night. I turned to look at my daughter and she had both hands on her head scratching furiously.

 

                                                               Oh…please…please…not THAT.

 

Luckily, my neighbour is a nurse. After knocking on her door, she hurried over and confirmed that Sarah had lice – a virtual lice city on her head. How did I miss them?! Well they blended in beautifully with her thick dark brown wavy hair. After checking the whole family, we discovered that Gillian had a few…but not as bad a case.  Operation ‘Disinfect’ kicked into high gear. 

 

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I never had lice as a kid and neither had my husband. Not knowing what the heck I was doing combined with an itchy panic was not pretty. At 9pm the only store open was the local drug store. I raced out and consulted the pharmacist. He recommended a treatment and a separate comb. I questioned the ingredients and he offered a different brand that he claims is the “least toxic”. I bought it and treated all of us. I also washed in hot water everything I could stuff in the washing machine.

 

It was a late night for us grease balls. I combed out the kids hair meticulously. I will spare the gory details but let me say, it took almost 2 hours to pick through Sarah’s thick hair. <eeew>

 

The next day after all the embarrassing “Hey, you might want to check your kids” phone calls were done I sat down and took the time to investigate treatments and techniques…one day too late.

 

If you have young children I recommend you look into options NOW so you’ll be prepared with a treatment that jives with your family. Since this is a medical topic I am not comfortable recommending a brand or a treatment especially because we are in the midst of dealing with our outbreak. However, I will caution you that many over the counter topical treatments in Canada contain chemical pesticides. Some of the chemicals, like Lindane (a neurotoxin from the same family of chemical pesticides as DDT) are banned for agricultural use but are still acceptable to pour over our heads to treat lice. Read the labels carefully. There are many reports that indicate some lice are resistant to these chemicals anyway.

 

There are some funky natural treatments on the internet. Interesting ingredients involving mayonnaise, shower caps, petroleum jelly, conditioner, tea tree oil and plastic wrap (not all combined!) The health food stores sell many non-toxic natural kits with essential oils too. I purchased one for our second treatment next week.

 

The most important and effective treatment seems to be the combing process. Friends and medical people told me that a good metal lice comb is essential to remove the nits (lice eggs) near the scalp. Invest in the good comb because the ones in the kits are plastic and useless.  Muster all the patience you can, section and comb hair lubricated with a slick treatment to make sticky egg removal easier. Comb from root to tip and wipe on a tissue with each pass. Soak the comb in hot HOT water for at least 5 minutes before using it on someone else. To prevent spread or recontamination, make sure to wash clothing, linens and towels in hot water. Pillows and bedding can go in a hot dryer, vacuum carpets and mattresses. Typically, a louse cannot live off the human body for more than 1-2 days.

 

I used to check my kids by examining the top of their heads but clearly, that is not the best spot. Look behind the ears and the back of the neck first and then move around the head. I have seen magnified pictures before of the different stages of the head lice life cycle, but that did not help me Monday night. If you see what looks like dandruff and it is stuck to the hair (you cannot blow it away) it could be lice.

 

I hope you will not have to deal it…but if you do, know that it is a very common problem among children ages 3-10 and their families. I will continue combing and checking for weeks after the last treatment.  I will also add drops of tea tree oil to our shampoo for preventative measures in the future.  One good thing to come of this…my house has never been cleaner.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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