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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Crunchy Granola June 19, 2010

Filed under: children,healthy,recipes,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 12:26 pm

 

My kids like to help in the kitchen. Tomorrow they are going to “cook” their traditional Father’s Day breakfast. (Co-incidentally, it happens to be the exact same menu as  Mother’s Day breakfast.) We awake to lots of clanging and banging around in the kitchen mixed with loud “Shhhhh’s”. When we come downstairs, coffee is made (they push the button to ON), the table is set with pretty yogurt parfaits and the kitchen looks like a bomb went off. Our favourite parfaits are simply layers of vanilla yogurt, fresh berries and granola. Tasty and fancy shmancy looking.

 

We love granola. I stumbled upon an old  recipe. I forgot how good it was, and how I can customize it to accommodate my fussy eaters. It is much cheaper to make it too. The brand we buy is expensive and rarely goes on sale.

 

As like most of my recipes, I use small handfuls that work out to ¼ of a cup or a ½-cup depending on my mood. The original recipe came from my friend Alice. We worked together in Toronto. She passed away suddenly a few years ago and I think of her whenever I make it. (I also think of her whenever I hear Neil Diamond. She was a fan.) This recipe makes a BIG batch and it lasts in an airtight container for about a month.

 

 

 

 

 

Alice’s “Good for you” Granola

 

2 ½ or 3 cups rolled oats

Handful of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, unsweetened grated coconut

Couple of spoonfuls of ground flaxseed

½ cup of maple syrup

2 tbsp of honey

2 tbsp of safflower oil or vegetable oil

(Optional – dried fruit like cranberries, blueberries, raisins or cherries)

 

In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, honey and safflower oil. Toss in all the other ingredients except the dried fruit and spread out evenly on a cookie sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown. Give it a stir a few times during the baking and add the dried fruit after you take it out the oven. Let it cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

If you like to eat granola this is an easy, tasty recipe.  Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

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Pin It For The Planet June 2, 2010

Filed under: Canada,climate change,environment,fitness,health,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 8:49 pm

 

May 31st – June 6th  The World Wildlife Fund of Canada launched Pin it for the Planet Campaign. They are inviting Canadians to do the unthinkable and use creative car-free transportation options the week. The idea is to pin your car key in a visible spot to make a personal act public, show your commitment to the environment and inspire conversation.

 

I find it hard to give up my car. My first instinct is to grab the keys and drive without a thought about the distance…especially when I am in a rush. The crazy thing is that I live in an area where most stores are within easy walking/biking distance too.  I am trying to change that habit, plan ahead and make small changes.

 

Driving the car less may sound like a big inconvenience, but there are benefits to consider. Decreasing your use of the car will save money on gas, insurance premiums, parking, etc., increased health benefits from exercise, and helping the planet.

 

 

Here are some interesting facts from the WWF website.

 

– If every Canadian left their car home just one day a week, we would save about 4.86 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of taking about 800,000 cars of the road per year.

– Approximately 70-80% of Canadians drive to work regularly.

– According to the Canadian Automobile Association driving a mid-sized vehicle, 18,000km/year averages more than$8400. in fuel, maintenance and other costs. (A mini-van is approximately $11,200.)

 

It is mid-week into the Pin It campaign, but not too late to get involved. You can track your contribution on their website and enter to win cool prizes too.  They are not asking Canadians to stop driving completely…just a little less.

 

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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.  🙂

 

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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!

 

 

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Great Question – Not So Great Answer March 28, 2010

Filed under: organic farming,organic food,save money,shop local,shopping — MindfulMerchant @ 10:36 pm

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Recently, Meanie contacted me. She is busy with work/kids/life and does not have the time to run all over the city in search of the best organic foods and the best prices. She wondered where I did my shopping. I smiled reading her email since I have been struggling with the exact same issues this year. Here was part of my response…

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I am in the exact same boat as you. I struggle with supporting local businesses/farmers and convenience/expense.  Unfortunately this winter, convenience and cost have won. I cannot afford to shop the way I want to…and lack the energy to get creative. Would you believe I do the bulk of my shopping at the local Independent? (Loblaws) It has a large organic/health food section.  I find the prices often cheaper than health food stores and when they have a sale on produce or our favourite products, I stock up. (My husband calls it “the end times" when I walk in lugging 4 boxes of granola or a giant bags of apples.)

I recently started ordering from different organic food delivery companies in the city but I am in the experimental stages…too early for a personal recommendation. The convenience, eating seasonally and shopping local is appealing. I calculate it would be significance savings too, if we consumed all the produce and avoid trips to the stores in between deliveries. The problem is that my family are fussy eaters. It is challenging to eat everything in the box. It also means organization, planning and more cooking on my part…and some nights I do not have the time to figure out how to turn a rutabaga into something appealing in 30 minutes. I am determined to try it though, so I will let you know if my trials are successful.

The other thing I like to do is shop at our local farmers market every few weeks from May to October.  It sounds lofty but I find it is an economical way to shop. I buy in bulk and freeze a lot of stuff. Sometimes the prices are higher, but most are comparable or even cheaper than the stores. If you know your prices, you can really get some good deals and the food tastes so good.

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Meanie and I chatted back and forth.  She suggested I post my response and invite you to share your shopping tips.  Great idea – thanks!  So…what is your strategy for healthy, economical shopping?

 

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a New Takeout Twist January 21, 2010

Filed under: environment,environmentally friendly,health,health warning,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 8:54 am

 

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There is an exciting new campaign beginning. It is called TakeOut WithOut – an initiative to reduce restaurant waste. It is simple and smart. All you have to do is say no to unnecessary packaging when you take out. 

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K.B, Lee, founder of Ever Bamboo created this non-profit campaign because of the dangers of polystyrene (Styrofoam) and excess packaging especially when it comes to take-out. He collaborated with Lisa Borden of Borden Communications and TakeOut WithOut launched to inspire and help people fill their stomachs…not the landfill.

In addition to manufacturing and environmental concerns, there are serious hidden health risks associated with common takeout containers.  Most foam cups and takeout containers are made with polystyrene. The main chemical component, styrene has the potential to leach into your food, then you, then the landfill. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that styrene is a possibile carcinogen to humans.  Plastic containers can be recycled, but they contain resins, which also pose serious health risks. They are also made from petroleum, a resource in short supply.   These are good reasons to try and avoid these hazards.

160 x 160 So what is involved?  It is easy to do.  TakeOut WithOut (TOWO) is asking consumers and restaurants to…

Refuse unnecessary stuff. When taking out say no to unnecessary packaging like napkins, plastic cutlery and the plastic bag. Take only what you need.

Retake your own reusables. Bring your own coffee mugs, containers, bags, cutlery and bottles. (Carry extras in your purse, briefcase, backpack or car so you will always have on hand.)

Reconsider your habits.  It might take a while to break an old habit, but even small changes have a big impact.

This initiative is healthy, saves money, and the environment. You can click here to check out the Takeout Without website and join the campaign.  If you feel inspired, please forward the website to friends, co-workers and your favourite restaurants.  Let’s keep the campaign growing! 

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