Friday, 15 May 2015

What Does It Mean To Be Present: A Book Review

As I have mentioned before, picture books are a great way to engage people with ideas about the environment. I am a huge book lover and enjoy sharing favourites and new finds.

What Does It Mean To Be Present, by Rania DiOrio is one such book.

Being present, being in the moment, fully embracing what we are experiencing, is important for our happiness, our self-regulation, and our physical and mental health. We can practice mindfulness at any moment in our day, in any setting. I, however, prefer to be mindful in nature, or at least outdoors. That is one reason I am participating in the David Suzuki Foundation 30 x 30 Challenge again this year.

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Thursday, 14 May 2015

30x30 Challenge: Weeks One and Two

I am participating, for the second year, in the David Suzuki Foundation 30 x 30 Challenge to spend 30 minutes a day in nature for 30 days in May.

As with last year, I find that my overall minutes in the outdoors is quite high, but sometimes the challenge on work days is to make sure I get in some time outside.

When I come home from work I am tired and want to sit down, or I am rushing out the door to take someone somewhere, so I either need to make time during my work day to get outside (with my class) or head outside as soon as I get home. On these days the best I can muster is time in my garden, sitting peacefully, wandering around and observing the new plant growth and little critters that reside in my backyard, watering and weeding.

On my days off, and particularly on weekends I find I spend a large portion of the day outside. I go on bike rides and do yard clean up and maintenance. For the past several weekends we have enjoyed a backyard campfire roasting marshmallows with my girls on our BBQ pit.

This past week, however, my time outside was limited for a few days because of a strange virus that worked it's way through my family. Each year for Mother's Day I like to pick an outdoor adventure to do with my family, and this year I wanted to go on a bike ride to our local farmer's market. Alas, this was not to be.

Last year I kept track of minutes outdoors, but this time I am only keeping track of my daily activities and sharing photos on Instagram.

Week One and Two Outdoor Activities:

  • bike rides to Garry Point in Steveston
  • bike ride to meet a friend for coffee
  • quiet time amongst trees at Minoru
  • backyard BBQ campfires
  • tending my backyard garden
  • playing at the beach 
  • dinner on the shore of the Fraser River in Steveston 
  • playing at the park with my class
  • knitting outdoors
  • walks along the river's edge in New Westminster

For the next two weeks my goal is to find time in more natural settings, like a local nature park or rural area. 












Follow my 30 x 30 adventures on Instagram. I'm crustyroll35



Friday, 1 May 2015

Join the 30 X 30 Nature Challenge

Like many people who care about the environment, I love spending time outdoors in nature. When I am feeling stressed or overstimulated it just takes some quiet time by water or trees and I'm much more relaxed and happy. Studies support that time in a natural setting can reduce depression, anxiety, anger, and pain. It also feels like common sense to me that time in nature can help people have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the environment; the more you know, the more you love and have a vested interest in protecting. 

For the fourth year the David Suzuki Foundation is holding their 30 X 30 Challenge for the month of May to spend thirty minutes each day in nature. For a great info graphic about time in nature, go here.

As an avid gardener this is no problem for me, but I love a good hashtag, so I will be participating again by sharing my daily photos to the hashtags #30x30challenge and #natureiscalling on Instagram and twitter. I will also be blogging about how I'm doing here

Friday, 17 April 2015

Life Lessons From Gardening: There Are No Mistakes

I love gardening for so many reasons, not least of which because of everything gardening has taught me. Anyone who has tried to grow something can tell you something that they have learned through the process. Some speak of the appreciation they have for nature, for being witness to the life around them. Others speak about the time spent outdoors and the meditative effect of daily tasks and chores. Then there is the satisfaction of growing one's own food and being intimately connected to the earth.

My favourite gardening lesson is also my favourite life lesson.

There are no mistakes in gardening, only learning experiences.

It is all a matter of perspective, really, as is most of life. Glass half empty or glass half full?

Sure there are posts and books about common newbie gardener mistakes, like not giving plants enough space, under or over fertilizing, or planting in the wrong location. I have read many of them, and when I started container gardening many years ago, and then gardening in my raised beds 5 years ago I did what I do when I start anything new: I read up on how to do it.

But gardening, like life, cannot always be anticipated perfectly, and sometimes things do not go as planned. Of course it feels like a mistake when the garden does not turn out the way you intended it. 

But there are no mistakes, only learning experiences and happy surprises.

An example is my backyard garden so far this season. I was very excited to plant asparagus for the first time this year because I love perennial plants that are plant once and go. I wouldn't be able to harvest any spears this year to allow the plants to establish themselves firmly in the soil, but oh the wait would be worth it for delicious, fresh homegrown spring asparagus. I read the information packet that came with the roots I ordered from a local seed company, did a quick search on the internet to read a little more and then I planted them quickly before heading off on a family vacation.

Asparagus crowns: the roots are the long dangly parts. You
maybe can see why I thought the part of the crowns in the
bottom of the photo were the beginning of the roots,
rather than the future spears. Basically this is upside down.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Are Plastic Bag Bans Worth It?


Recently my family and I were on holiday in Maui, Hawaii, and as soon as we went shopping I noticed that everyone was offering us paper bags for our items. Of course I just pulled out the small cloth shopping bags that I keep in every bag I own and used that. On the few occasions the items didn't fit in my smallish shopping bags, I returned the paper bags and just carried out my purchases in my hand rather than use a large paper bag.

After a few days of this I did a quick google search to discover that there is a ban on plastic shopping bags on the island. My initial reaction was yes! But then I remembered that I saw everyone walking out of stores with paper bags, not reusable bags. When I remarked on this, my oldest daughter commented that paper bags are probably better than plastic.

It may have been due to being spring break and the area was full of tourists who (unlike me) do not travel with their reusable shopping bags, so their only choice was to use paper bags. However, this is not the fully story because we also went shopping in less touristy areas and there was still a predominance of paper bags.

This did not sit right with me. After all, as a reasonably environmentally aware person, I knew that the best choice should always be to use reusable shopping bags, rather than having to chose between paper or plastic bags.
I love the reuseable bags I purchased years ago, and they
fold up small enough to fit in any bag or purse so I always
have one or two on hand, even on vacation.

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Teaching Happiness: A Picture Book Review

As a teacher one of the first ways I teach something is through reading a picture book. There's something about compelling illustrations to draw us into the author's message. I believe that picture books can be used with all ages, be they young children or fully grown adults.

Teaching about the importance of the Earth and environmentalism is a tough topic for children, as the Climate Crusader has found, and I have found one of the best ways to engage children with difficult topics like the environment and social responsibility, is through reading books.

One area of my life that I am trying to work on is being satisfied with what I have and not desiring more stuff, like my own Making Do Movement, so I was drawn to a book in my school library,  The Short And Incredibly Happy Life Of Riley by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat.

Friday, 6 March 2015

In Defence of Making Do

I will begin by saying that I have very little fashion and design sense, and I cannot walk into a room and see how I can transform it into a vision of my own style. I cannot just slap a coat of paint on something and magically transform a room for under $700. Anyone who comes into my home or sees how I dress can see that right away.

The downside is that I am sometimes embarrassed by the mismatched nature of my home furnishings. The upside is that I am not spending thousands and thousands of dollars updating my home to the latest and greatest style.
My mismatched floors after an old dishwasher broke, leaked,
and damaged the flooring. Thank goodness for kind neighbours
who help source replacement boards and install for me.

One of my pet peeves is watching home decorations and real estate shows that have people saying how the house is not move in ready because the perfectly serviceable countertops are not granite and the appliances are not stainless steel, and how they want to rip everything out of the kitchen to make it more their style. When we moved into our home we were thrilled, despite the fact that the original 80s kitchen cabinets have not been updated (just painted) and the countertops have a faux treatment to look like granite (and they aren't fooling anyone, I assure you!). It was move-in ready because everything worked.

Recently I moved some furnishings from my grandmother's home to mine.


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