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.  ( 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.



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.




Controversial Car Commercial February 11, 2010

Have you seen the controversial Audi commercial aired during Super Bowl XLIV this past weekend?   I had not until I read the blog Retro Housewife Goes Green by Lisa Sharp. She provides a sample of different complaints and opinion.  Click here for a good read.

And now for your viewing pleasure….


My first reaction was to laugh.  It is a funny car commercial.  Despite my passion for environmental issues and conservation, I think it is important to keep a sense of humour and laugh at yourself once and a while.

Some of the comments that follow the video  and response to other articles floating around the internet are  disturbing and surprising.  I did not realize there was such hatred or fear for environmental action that (seems to) tie into right wing politics like this goodie from You Tube.  “Europe is becoming more and more anti leftist by the day and America is sliding into fascism. The world is turned upside down!”  

The bottom line is that Audi is trying to sell cars.  They are certainly receiving a lot of attention from this video. A marketing success?  It will not win over any green skeptics though…

What do you think?


Step Aside Nancy Drew January 15, 2010



nancy drew My next few posts will be focusing on some interesting tidbits of green information I discovered. The more I read about environmentally friendly, all-natural, organic products, the more I realize the importance of research. I consider myself a ‘green’ greenie and part-time sleuth these days.


Greenwashing.  “The practice of companies disingenuously spinning products and policies as environmentally friendly. It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing. The term green sheen similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment” ~ Wikipedia



I was shocked to discover the following terms are almost meaningless.  Hypoallergenic, Allergy-Tested, Dermatologist-Tested and Fragrance-Free. These scientific words imply safety and natural purity but the reality is they mean almost nothing since they are unregulated by the government.   According the FDA there is no such thing as a non-allergenic cosmetic since everything can cause a reaction to someone.


Here is another marketing ploy. Against Animal Testing. Cruelty Free, or Not Tested on Animals. Often these labels do not mean what they imply. In some cases companies mean they do not test animals in their buildings…they outsource it to other labs. Sometimes it means that a product has not tested on animals in the last five years but the research is current.


Isn’t that interesting? I say interesting with the intonation a TV detective uses after discovering a clue <while raising one eyebrow>.   Surprising?  Not really…I guess.


flashplacement2 So what can consumers do about this?   Even though labelling is unregulated, there is still a chance what the manufacturer says is true.  The best way to tell is to look for this Leaping Bunny logo from The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC).  This is a great website for listing Canadian, U.S. and International companies that support cruelty free practices. They provide a free pocket sized shopping guide too.  Be careful to check for the real Leaping Bunny logo and not an imitation.  Yup, there are fake cute bunnies slapped onto labels out there.  Another trustworthy source is PETA  (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).  Click HERE to search for cruelty free companies and products.


You can also investigate your favourite beauty and personal care products to find out just how “natural” or “organic” they really are at the Environmental Working Group Safety Cosmetic’s Database (EWG).   Warning, do not attempt this if you are having a grumpy day…it will only make things worse.


There is Right to Know movement happening. The hope is that manufacturers will have to list all ingredients and disclose if a product is hormone disrupting etc. so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions. For more information about this, have a look at Toxic Free Canada website.


I feel duped and mad at myself for being so trusting.  That is in the past now and naiveté is sooo 2008.  I hope these little nuggets of green information help you with your future purchases.



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The Jig is up December 6, 2009

Filed under: eco-friendly,environmentally friendly,green — MindfulMerchant @ 11:54 pm
Tags: ,


pcw_paper_towels_thumb[1] Forgive me Al Gore, David Suzuki and Alicia Silverstone for I have sinned. The Mindful Merchant is on a green path of eco-friendly living…but it is a bumpy journey with slippery spots.

It took a weekend with good friends to shine light on some landfill lunacy going on in my life. This was Jen and Jerome’s first visit with their children since we moved to Ottawa. We were all counting down the sleeps until they arrived.

Jen is a green pal and big supporter of my writing, this blog and making healthier, environmentally friendly changes. She always cheers my green efforts…until Friday. We were in the kitchen chatting and preparing dinner when I spilled something on the counter. I automatically whipped out my giant roll of paper towel to mop the mess. “What are you doing?” she looked at me with big shocked eyes. “You are supposed to be The Mindful Merchant Laura!” she said with disgust. I stopped mid-wipe and looked at my hand.

What was I doing? I was a fraud. Did it matter I was using non-toxic, all natural cleaner to clean organic chicken juices when I had clear-cut trees and bleached/chemically processed landfill balled up in my hand? The jig was up.  Jen even whipped out her cell phone to try to capture this crime on film.

I provided silly excuses and explained that I am trying to be green. I even mumbled something about never claiming I was perfect.  We laughed, they teased me about it, and the weekend was utterly fun and relaxing.

Now they are gone and I realize how ridiculous this is. Here I am implementing many earth friendly changes in our home, and yet cannot give up my use of paper towels and napkins. Oh, did I forget to mention I also purchased “fancy” printed paper napkins for our dinner?  Yup…did that too.

< I can feel your disgust.>

I hope my guilt eases now that I confessed my cleaning crimes. Starting today, I will no longer use paper towels and paper napkins.   It is o-v-e-r.  Thank you to Jen for pointing out the error of my ways, and for not posting my photo on Facebook.  I am going out tomorrow to buy reusable cloths for spills and cleaning.  I am committed.

The Mindful Merchant is back on a greener path.



It’s all in the Bag November 26, 2009

Opeaongo farm 004 I have finally trained my brain to bring my own reusable bags when shopping. It only took about two years. Now that most grocery stores charge for bags, it is rare to see someone walk out the store with a cart full of plastic. Green thinkers and frugal shoppers are now on the same page. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Today I stood at the end of a long line at Loblaws. A woman at the front had full cart of groceries and forgot her bags. The cashier in a booming voice said, “Do you need to buy plastic?” The woman sheepishly whispered yes. I have been in her shoes feeling judgement ooze down the line.  Moments like that reinforce the need to bring my own bags… and why I own about 30+ of the suckers. Avoiding the dreaded plastic = no panic sweats and red flushes. (Oh…and it helps the planet.) It is not a good environmental story, but there is a bit of truth to that.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. throws away 100 billion plastic bags each year and less than 2% gets recycled.  Planet Green writes “The petroleum to make 14 plastic bags could drive a car 1 mile” and “Over 100,000 marine animals die every year because of plastic bags”.   Disturbing statistics.

It has always bothered me that I use plastic bags to buy loose produce like beans, mushrooms, and fruit. I discovered a store here in Ottawa called Nayla Natural Care that sells reusable produce bags and ordered a few to try. Turns out, they were an excellent purchase.

Steward Bags makes 100% organic cotton reusable produce bags in various sizes. Located in Cornwall Ontario, it is a growing Canadian company. Their strong mesh bags have an easy drawstring closure and are washable too. Steward Bags’ mission is to support fair trade labour, and help fund regional environmental projects.

You can find a retailer near you buy clicking here or order directly from the company. Ottawa residents can buy them this weekend at the Nayla Natural Care Open house Saturday Nov.28th from 10 am-2 pm. I will be going to pick up more to ‘wrap’ holiday gifts. (act surprised Mom) 

If you are concerned about reducing the amount of plastic in the landfills, I recommend trying this product.  Happy shopping!




I know more about computers than my 8 year old…maybe. November 14, 2009


6e62514e9aa0e1c6[1] I remember being so impressed there were computers in my daughter’s junior kindergarten class. It did not take long before she was comfortable navigating her way around a computer. Now I learn useful tips and shortcuts from my eight year old. That is humbling.

The other day I casually made one of those stupid “When I was little” comments when a few of our children’s friends came over to play. Never say anything that begins with “When I was little” unless you really want to feel prehistoric. The kids were chatting about their favourite computer games while sitting down for a snack. I piped in with “When I was little, there were no computers at school or at home…we used typewriters”. The room fell silent. Everyone turned to look at me in amazement. No computers? What is a typewriter? Followed by the inevitable “Wow, you are OLD!” comments. That night before bed, I dug out a neglected jar of wrinkle cream and tried to target certain areas.

The girl’s school does a great job educating children about environmental issues. They come home with new earth friendly ideas, (see my post on candlelit dinners) pressure us to make more green changes…and be consistent.

Now that the children are a little older, they are starting to learn about pollution, endangered animals and the effects of climate change. My husband and I do not always know how to answer their questions. While searching for information I discovered a few educational web sites that I like to explore with the kids. They talk about environmental conservation, concerns, wildlife protection and making a difference in the community. The best part is they deliver the information in an interactive, and  fun way. These websites are not just for children or teachers – I learn something every time we play a game or take a quiz.

First, I must give my cyber safety shpeel. Just a reminder to make sure your children’s computer time is a safe experience. Sit down with them, read instructions together and pay attention to their activities on line. Sometimes being in the same room while they are working on the computer is not enough supervision. Be careful and cautious.

Here are three educational websites that I think are worth checking out.


National Geographic Kids.

Our kids like the People & Places section (See and read about the 7 wonders of the world or tour Greece)

Space and Science section (Find out if Pluto is no longer a planet)

Just Joking (Me, I am not so crazy about the jokes after a few weeks – but our kids love it and it gives them a good reason to call the Grandparents)

Recipes from around the world (like Kwanzaa Creole Bread Pudding)


Eco Kids Canada

What a good site for quizzes! We love quizzes.

This is a great resource for information under Homework Help – Climate change, renewable energy, First Nations & Inuit, Earth Day, Waste and Wildlife.

Very good print outs for colouring. A fun craft for young children.


EEK ! – Environmental Education for Kids

This is my favourite site.

We like Critter Corner to read about all the critters of the world. It shines a light on endangered species.

Our Earth discusses our environment and environmental issues in an easy and direct way.

Natures Notes taught us about Phenology. (Nope. I am not telling you what that means) It encourages observation, something all children do so well.

They even discuss environmental jobs…like a Hydrogeologist. How cool is that?


Children learn from modeling. They follow our lead in life and when it comes to environmental issues, we should try to discuss, be enthusiastic, and act. If you are curious or interested in eco-friendly websites for children these are my suggestions to start. Have fun!




Romance a la David Suzuki October 12, 2009


The neighbourhood school has joined the David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge.  Our daughters come home from school with interesting energy saving, green ideas. They inspire (and pressure) us to implement changes at home. The results from my August poll “What inspires you to shop/live green?” indicate that the majority of The Mindful Merchant readers (thank you!) are inspired by children and family to be more eco-conscious too.

Last year our kids wanted to try eating dinner by candle light. My first thought was “Fire!” and my husband said something like “I happen to like to see my food when I eat”. They were persuasive and sold us on the idea of turning off all the lights, music and unimportant appliances for the duration of the meal. We agreed to try and made some very interesting discoveries.

We found that our children sit longer at the table and are not in such a rush to do something else. We discovered that turning off the lights and other appliances really quiets the house, in a positive way. Candles give off a surprising amount of light, enough to see your food and each other very well. Candles are magical and make boring grilled cheese sandwich dinners feel special. Blowing out candles is a big deal no matter how young or old you are!    It is also a great way to use the heirloom candlesticks from Great Aunt Lizzy and the “treasured” wedding chatchkas stored in the basement. Best of all you will save money and reduce your energy consumption during peak power times.  Worth considering, no?

Thanks to David Suzuki, shorter daylight hours in the fall/winter and the end of Daylight Savings Time on November 1st (when at we turn the clocks back one hour to Standard local time) dinner time in our house is going to get a lot more sparkly and quiet.   It is a fun idea you might want to try in your home, after all, who does not like a little romance in their life?