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





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.   🙂





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.








Give Wiarton Willie a Do Over February 4, 2010

Filed under: Canada,Ontario,Ottawa — MindfulMerchant @ 12:42 am
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450px-Writers245 When you live in a city that experiences winter for half the year you figure out ways to make the most of it. The people of Ottawa are good at that. They bundle up, dress properly and rarely complain. I am working on the complaining quality.

We moved here 4 years ago from Toronto mid December.  It was a bit of a climate and culture shock. We had to get used to the extreme cold/snow and the pleasure Ottawans receive reminding Torontonians about the time Mayor Mel called in the ARMY to help shovel snow in 1999.  Good times.

The truth is that living in Ottawa and the Valley gives you a few bragging rights. Ottawa is in the top 7 of coldest capital cities in the world. Frigid temperatures, snow that sticks around forever and crazy winter conditions do not deter most people from being active outdoors.  It is the most amazing thing.  Children play outside (unless it goes below –20 degrees Celsius then schools have indoor recess) cross country skiers glide along sidewalks, kids toboggan, runners run, walkers walk and some freaks continue to pedal around on bikes. (?)

Yesterday Wiarton Willie, Canada’s famous Groundhog and prognosticator saw his shadow. This odd tradition steeped in fun and superstition “officially” means we have six more weeks of winter. Of course there is nothing scientific about Willie’s prediction…but it made me slump in my seat. This is a mild winter by Ottawa standards and yet a recent cold snap made me grumpy. In order to cope with the possibility of a long season I am trying to come up with positive thoughts about winter.


Winter is about playing the great Canadian winter sports. (Does that include curling?)

Arctic temperatures make my rings to fit better.

Snow is pretty and looks like icing on the trees.

Garbage and compost does not stink.

Snow tires feel wanted and appreciated.

Skating on the Rideau Canal.  Awesome.

Winterlude = ice sculptures, beavertails, hot chocolate, fireworks and dog sledding -  oh my!

Bad hair days can be blamed on wearing of a tuque.


I am grasping at straws. Here’s hoping the Club Med song or commercial does not cross my path any time soon (reaching for my vitamin D supplements).  I vote we give Wiarton Willie a do over.  Who’s with me?





A BeaverTail is a Pastry January 25, 2010

Filed under: Canada,Ottawa,shop local,shopping,Uncategorized — MindfulMerchant @ 1:42 am


Killaoe_Sunrise[1] My family looks forward to February because in Ottawa it means Winterlude, lots of visitors, skating on the Rideau Canal and Beavertails (Queues de Castor). Have you ever had a Beavertail? For those of you who have not, it is a pastry not a sexist remark or an actual animals tail.  Outside of Ottawa they are sometimes called Elephant Ears, Flying Saucers or Whale Tails.


BeaverTails are flattened whole-wheat dough deep-fried in canola or soya oil and served piping hot with butter and different toppings. There is no point in knowing the Weight Watchers points involved (30?), but once in a while it is worth a splurge. Our favourite topping is cinnamon and sugar although the chocolate with banana slices or maple butter are also winning combinations.


Did you know a Hooker popularized the BeaverTail? Yes, Grant Hooker opened a small booth in the Byward Market in 1978 and 32 years later the BeaverTails family business is thriving and an Ottawa institution just like the Parliament Buildings. The Hookers still have a booth in the Market and also license tails to over 130 outlets in Canada and other countries too. According to their website they are now sold it Saudi Arabia too.




The ObamaTail is the newest addition created in honour of President Barack Obama’s first visit to Ottawa in February 2009. The ObamaTail is a maple syrup and chocolate drizzled “O” on top of cinnamon sprinkled pastry. The President made an unscheduled stop in the Byward Market just pick up souvenirs and BeaverTails. So far, I am unable to reach The White House for comment…but I am confident the President LOVED it.


BeaverTails go best with freezing temperatures and a skate on the Rideau Canal. Who am I kidding?  I eat them in the summer no problem and they are just as yummy. Like it or not, the BeaverTail has become a part of our cultural fabric. When you visit Ottawa I highly recommend you add “Eat a BeaverTail” to the list of things to do…it is a Canadian tradition. 



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It ain’t easy being green January 7, 2010

Filed under: composting,environment,gardening,organic,Ottawa — MindfulMerchant @ 2:00 pm


Change is sometimes difficult. I have been following public response to the new City of Ottawa Green Bin composting program that officially began this week, trying to understand why many are against the program. I think an organic composting program is a good thing and feel it is long overdue. Unfortunately, it has flaws that have sparked debate. Here are comments about the Green Bin collected from local newspapers and Twitter. Ottawan’s are feisty and sometimes funny (witty) people. The following responses I think sum up the main issues and public sentiment in an eloquent way.

If you do not live in Ottawa, I hope you will continue to read since the comments provide an interesting view of environmental awareness.





“Not using it, couldn’t find anybody in my family who will take the time to do green bin management.” ~ Nomad


“As for all you greenies that just say you need to do your social responsible thing, well you are a bunch of suckers that will do anything anyone TELLS you to do than SEEMS green. Please just go and cuddle with David Suzuki in a corner somewhere and suck your green thumbs! ~ Ecogreed


“Number of green bins at curb side this morning on my street…1.  Great use of taxpayers money. ~ P


“Nay-sayers-lighten up on the whining about re-cycling and composting as municipal objectives. Do your bit. Act like grown-ups.” ~ Johnnycomelately

“It’s gone! Someone stole my green bin! I hear some people are using them to store bird seed.”  ~ Sam


“Mine is frozen to the ground this morning and will not budge. Great planning Ottawa. Did the global warming people convince you there will be no cold temperatures? ~ Liz

“Come on folks, quit your whining. It’s about time Ottawa started composting city-wide . Other cities have been at it for years – that’s right, Canadian cities, cold-Canadian cities. I think we can do as well folks by applying some common sense. What’s the big deal about odour in the summer? Now you bag your garbage now – news flash – it smells bad in a regular garbage can too! Overall, this is a move that’s been long overdue. Congrats to the city – as for us we’ll work out the bugs and in a few years we’ll wonder how we ever did without it.” ~ Jimmy


“Spend a little more time and make something more reasonable than these bins. I think that they are disgusting. We have seniors that don’t even understand how to use these bins. How do you expect them to understand? Then picking up the garbage every two weeks is also disgusting. You also mention to put left overs meat and fish in the freezer till garbage day this is also disgusting. How you would like to have leftover garbage in your freezer and take it out for dinner by accident. I suggest that the city comes out with a better idea and put more people out to work to collect the smelly garbage that we have to waste.” ~ Tracy


“I support the green bin initiative but the way the city handled it was incredibly amateurish and downright stupid. First of all – a twenty year contract? That is most likely the most boneheaded thing I’ve heard. Twenty years??? Second of all, we should not have to pay for the service – it’s garbage pickup but in a different form – it should all be covered by our normal garbage pickup. As for Orga making a profit on the compost – give me a break – that money should come back to us taxpayers. I do plan to use my bin but I also plan to compost all over my yard. If that attracts vermin, so be it.” ~ East of Eden


“We are the capital of this country, and as such, we should be showing leadership on many issues. To date, on the organic waste file, we’ve shown nothing but how to dawdle and twiddle our thumbs. It’s taken more than a decade for this city to get from the initial idea of collecting organic waste to actually picking it up at the curb. That’s far too long, and frankly, embarrassing.   But now that we’ve reached this point, residents need to give up their grumbling, put their potato peels and egg shells in the green bin, and recognize that it’s for the betterment of this community that we stop sending organic waste to landfill.”  ~ Kerry Thompson (Ottawa Sun)


“There is considerably more that can go into the green bin that cannot go in your backyard composter. I’m a backyard composter too. Over the past two weeks, I emptied my kitchen catcher twice in my backyard composter. On Tuesday, I also put out a full green bin. What I did not do on Tuesday was put out garbage. There wasn’t enough.” ~ Steve


“My green bin will be taken out for my annual pool party and stocked.” ~ Anderson

“Come on people…no matter how badly administered the programs is, something needs to be done about solving the landfill problem and cleaning up the environment. And we’re the only ones who can do it – inconvenient or not.” ~ Bagelcat  


    Interesting isn’t it?

I am excited about the program and want it to be successful. Time will tell. I do believe it is essential to compost for a better planet but then again, I’m a “greenie”.  Guess I better go suck my green thumb.  Now where did I put my David Suzuki doll…



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We filled the Hill October 26, 2009

Filed under: climate change,Ottawa — MindfulMerchant @ 12:16 pm



This Saturday October 24th I joined the thousands of people gathered on Parliament Hill for C-Day: Fill the Hill Ottawa. People from 181 countries came together for a widespread day of environmental action demanding bold leadership and strong action on the climate crisis. It was a peaceful and positive demonstration to show the Canadian Government we want leadership and action on this issue in Copenhagen at the UN Climate talks in December 2009. According to Tim Flannery (scientist and author) and David Suzuki, “Canada must step up at UN climate talks to be part of the solution”.

There was a lot of talk about 350  Here is an explanation from the website.

A year ago, our greatest climatologist—NASA’s James Hansen—and his team produced a landmark series of studies. They showed that if we let the amount of carbon in the atmosphere top 350 parts per million, we can’t have a planet “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

The bad news is we’re already past that number—we’re at 390 parts per million, which is why the Arctic is melting, why drought is spreading across the planet, why people are already dying from diseases like dengue fever and malaria occurring in places where they’ve never been seen before.


The good news: that number gives us a target to aim for. When the world’s leaders meet in Copenhagen in December to reach agreement on a new climate treaty, we need them to go farther than they’ve planned to go: we need to make sure they’ll pay attention to the latest science and put forward a plan that gets us back to safety.

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As I looked around at the crowd, I noticed that the majority of participants were young student-looking people. There were not many 40-year-old Mamas in the crowd, a few families with young children and some very cool seniors. The event was joyful, optimistic and charged with energy. My favourite moments were listening to the passionate speakers and seeing a man with a t-shirt of a bear holding a sign saying “Save the Humans”.

I left wondering why my age group represented poorly. Many of us have young children and are concerned for their future. Is it because we are so busy running around to hockey arenas, ballet lessons and birthday parties we have no time to support these events? Possibly. I think that many are unaware of the gravity of the issue of climate change. I also think we are unconvinced there is anything that can change the outcome. Perhaps the media will help get the information out through local papers and magazines. I hope that events like this will spark more dialogue and discussion in our homes and schools. I have included some photos I took on C-Day.  It is easy and fun to get involved with minimal time and effort. Sometimes you just have to sign your name or show up to (hopefully) make a difference.