The Mindful Merchant

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Walkandtalkabout July 6, 2010

Filed under: Australia,blogs,holidays,Ottawa,travel — MindfulMerchant @ 11:04 pm


My friend Kathy is one cool woman. She is an inspiring spirit, full of kindness, fun and quiet strength. She is a wife, mother, a teacher devoted to children with exceptionalities, a breast cancer survivor and now a Canadian adventurer/explorer in the land Down Under. Kathy and her family have embraced the opportunity to experience life in Australia for a year…or so. She has started a blog chronicling her travels called Kathy’s Walkandtalkabout. I am looking forward to living vicariously through her posts. If you have a minute, have a peek and say “G’day” to Kathy.   🙂





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.”


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.





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. 



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.




*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.


Giant Wabbit April 1, 2010

Filed under: children,holidays,writers block — MindfulMerchant @ 11:41 am


pet_bunny I first saw this picture on one of my must-read favourite blogs Knitnut.  I contacted the author Zoom to ask if the photo is real.  Unbelievably, this giant Leporidae is legit.

His name is Herman and he is a German Giant Bunny.  He weighs about 22 lbs, measures a little over 3 ft and lives in Berlin.  He eats over 2kg of food every day and loves to dine on lettuce. (How do you get that big eating lettuce?!)

When I showed the kids his photo our youngest said “I had no idea the Easter Bunny was named Herman”.   Neither did I.




Eggciting Natural Dyes March 31, 2010

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



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.  


  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.




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!




Remembrance Day November 9, 2009

Filed under: holidays,special events — MindfulMerchant @ 6:34 pm

My children’s school celebrates Remembrance Day with a thoughtful ceremony. They listen to a Mom or Dad currently serving our country speak about their experiences, and sing songs of hope and peace. Every year they play a moving video before the two minutes of silence. I had never seen Terry Kelly – A Pittance of Time until I attended a school ceremony. Perhaps you have viewed it too…if not I include it because it is so powerful.


Geography, politics, religion, and language sometimes make it hard for Canadians to identify with one another. We are united in one way – through our freedom and rights. I owe my life, the way I live it, and the privileges that come with being Canadian to all the Veterans who paid for this freedom with their lives. It is our duty as Canadians to remember our fallen Heroes, their counterparts we call Peacekeepers and their families. Once a year, two minutes of silence is not enough to honour these brave men and women.  Please click  Veterans Affairs Canada to find an event or ceremony in your community.  We cannot forget their sacrifices or their achievements.