The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

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!




Save Energy – Save Money – the old-fashioned way November 6, 2009



I am very blessed to have both my parents with us in their senior years. They are inspiring, loving people.  Both have incredible life experiences and stories to tell.  My parents have taught me about being frugal, and I am proud of that. I also joke about it…often.

Recently I sat at their kitchen table, enjoying a delicious lunch of leftover soup made from the Thanksgiving turkey. We were using cloth napkins Mom made when I was a Girl Guide and Dad was wearing a fleece jacket done up to the neck. We discussed how to reduce my family’s energy consumption and lower monthly bills. You are probably aware of all the ideas listed below. I found it a good reminder to crack down on bad habits and make some significant changes. Here is how Art and Audrey save energy in their home.


Turn down the heat. Put on a sweater (or a jacket in my Dad’s case). Wear slippers and use an extra blanket at night. Install a programmable thermostat. In my parent’s home, Dad just cranks the dial down himself – no need for the technical gadgets. Mom simply turns the dial up when the dog starts to shiver. If you lower the thermostat just 3 C  (5 F) while asleep you will save up to 6% on heating in the colder months. 


Run the dishwasher only when it is full, late at night before you go to bed. When the wash cycle is complete simply open the door and let it air dry overnight. My parents time it with “The National” and open the dishwasher door when Peter Mansbridge is finished delivering the news.


Wash your laundry in cold water. Hot water laundry is only for sheets, towels and nasty stuff. Hang everything you can to dry.


Unplug everything you can. Appliances and electronics draw electricity even when they are powered off. The only way to stop this is to unplug them.


When baking, roasting or broiling resist the temptation to peek. Opening the oven door causes the temperature to drop 20%, wastes energy and prolongs the cooking time. Mom says that is why cakes fall and cookies flatten. (I do not have this problem because Loblaws apparently does not peek at their baking)


Turn lights off when you leave a room. Replace burnt out bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs. (cfl’s)  They use 60% less energy.  I used to laugh when my husband and I used to drive up to Art and Audrey’s house. “Oh, your parents must be asleep” my husband observed. “Are you kidding?” I would laugh, “They are inside huddled under one lamp watching TV”. Sure enough, we rang the bell and the lights would turn on as they made their way to the front door.  Install motion sensors on outdoor lights to reduce energy use.  It is a good security feature too.


Do not forget to clean the condenser coil at the back of your fridge. It will help the appliance run more efficiently. While you are there, you might as well clean under the fridge too. That is not an energy saving tip, but Mom always insists your house is only as clean as it is under your fridge and stove. (?)


Change direction on your ceiling fan blades. They should operate in a clockwise direction pushing warm airflow down in the winter. Hey Dad, there is no need to argue under the fan this winter – I looked it up – the correct direction is CLOCKWISE.


As much as I make fun of my parents, they are right (and smart!). Reducing our energy consumption this winter is better for the environment and saves us money. All these little things add up. I am going to call Art and Audrey tonight to tell them about this post…just as soon as I put on another sweater.





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?




We should take this outside August 18, 2009

Have you ever realized you have been taking something dear to you for granted? A recent visit to my friend’s home made me come to my senses. I’m talking about support throughout the years, helping me budget, never giving up, no matter how big the load. Here is a big shout out to my portable, handy dandy clothes dryer. Yeahfe38cea23f05a0f8[1]!

Some municipalities prohibit clotheslines in backyards. It is hard to believe that currently these by-laws exist. Thankfully, our community recently lifted the ban and now we can freely air our laundry without fear of fines.

We are an active, messy, sweaty family. I shake my head at the amount of laundry we generate. Drying clothes on a line not only reduces energy consumption, it saves money too. Before I sound all green and mighty, I must confess that another reason I avoid the dryer is because I can’t really afford shrinkage in my clothing. (Not a lot of room to work with if you know what I mean.)

One challenge with the drying rack is wrinkles. Friend or foe? Some people are easy going when it comes to creases; others have mothers who iron underwear. I think there are three schools of thought on this issue. The first solution is to wear the garment, as is, no problem. The second is to throw the items in the dryer for a few minutes to eliminate some, but not all, of the wrinkles. The third (and this draws incredulous laughter) is to haul out the iron and smooth for crisp perfection. You have probably guessed that I fall into that last category. I will qualify that I like my cotton shirts pressed but I am o.k. with wrinkly underwear. Sorry Mom.

I used to think that all folding clothes dryers are the same. Not so! I have bought flimsy ones that broke, bent out of shape, rusted, and even blew over the neighbour’s fence. A company called Home Maid Deluxe Home Dryer makes the best one I have owned. I have only found it at Canadian Tire.  It is lightweight, durable, sturdy, holds a huge amount of clothes and looks quite fancy. It also folds up for easy storage. As I looked at my friend’s laundry drying in the summer breeze, Alli reminded me how I take for granted this clothes dryer. It was a good purchase.