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





Great Question – Not So Great Answer March 28, 2010

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


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?




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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To Market we go September 4, 2009

I like to shop at our local Farmers Market. On Saturdays, I attempt to feed our 100-mile diet. The rest of the week, I am not as successful. It is a fun outing for the whole family. There is so much more to buy  than fruit and vegetables. You can find arts, crafts, meat, dairy, homemade jellies and sauces, fresh baking and sometimes a live band.


Our children are fussy eaters. Visiting the market has grown their vegetable repertoire. Seeing varieties of produce in beautiful shades and colours has inspired them to try new things. My daughter was offered a raw brussels sprout, tried and liked it.  I could not believe my eyes.   Who knew you could eat them raw?!  I thought they only appeared at Christmas boiled until they are pale green and mushy. (gag)


Meeting the farmers that grow the produce and chatting with them has given me a completely new outlook on vegetables.  Feel free to ask questions, their answers might surprise you. Some of the easiest and delicious recipes I use have come from producers. 


I realize that some prices are slightly more expensive compared to a large grocery store chain but you will find that many prices are cheaper.  I think the quality and freshness of the produce is undeniable. It feels good to support family farms and local business. There is value in knowing how your food is grown and produced. I like feeling connected with neighbours and the community.

If you are looking for something to do with your family consider a visit to your local farmers market. Happy shopping!


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A tribute to the Cob August 16, 2009

Filed under: healthy,organic farming,Ottawa,recipes,shop local,vegetarian — MindfulMerchant @ 3:22 pm
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a79aa99855f1e824[1] Ontario summer corn is such a treat. My favourite childhood meals involve buying it from the side of the highway on the way to the cottage. Freshly picked…sweet and juicy…a bit of butter, perhaps some salt and pepper. Perfection.

I was patiently waiting to buy a dozen at our local farmers market when the gentleman that grew the corn started raising his voice. “25 minutes – are you crazy?!”  Then someone piped in “Aren’t you supposed to cook it for 15 minutes?!” The farmer feigned a collapse clutching his chest.  What can I say? The man loves his corn. “Listen up people” he began and we all moved in closer to hear his wise words.  Now I will share them with you.

    How to boil corn

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the freshly peeled cobs of corn, NOTHING else. No salt. (makes corn tough) No sugar. (makes it mushy) Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes depending on the size. 5 minutes MAX.

I know, I know, it is not how your Mom cooked corn. I have polled my friends and it is not how we have been cooking corn too. It took all my concentration to follow his instructions. Usually I forget about it on the stove, answer the phone, set the table, cook something else and remember it when the kitchen window sweats. After trying Farmer Andy’s method I will always set the timer to 5 minutes. It is perfect every time. You will be a superstar when you serve up the BEST tasting corn your family has ever eaten. Enjoy!