Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Intentions for 2016: Mindfulness

Like many people these days, I'm not a fan of making new years resolutions that will be long forgotten before the end of February. I do, however, like to reflect upon how things are going and check in with how I'm feeling overall in the lull after the craziness of the holiday season. In previous years I have chosen one little word for the year to guide me and help me reflect back upon what is important to me. In previous years I have chosen make, move, breathe and grateful.

This year it is important for me to choose mindfulness. 

I have been feeling like I have lost a little bit of control and have not been present is with my commitment to living what I preach environmentally. Since returning to work full time and being sick on and off all autumn I have done what I needed to survive, even if it has meant ordering take out food, grabbing food on the go and doing what is convenient.

I have not had time to spend outdoors on a regular basis, and this has been very hard for me. I feel more relaxed, happier, and have more energy after even a short walk along our local river. People care more about making environmental choices when they care about the world around them. When people spend time in nature and connecting with the natural world it is an important step toward living environmentally.

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Handmade Holiday Gift: Personalized Cards

I find gift giving to be a source of stress this time of year. It is hard to give gifts that are appreciated while at the same time, ethical and ecologically friendly.

In my experience most people to receive something homemade, and everyone loves to receive something personalized.

I am a teacher, and as much as I appreciate every gift students give me, like mugs and chocolate, I know that I prefer something that a student has taken the time to make for me.

Cards are not exactly ecologically friendly because they are typically used once and then tossed. They are, however, thoughtful, and when used, contain messages from the heart, which makes them harder to throw away (or hopefully recycled).

I am a big fan of quick and easy. and making personalized cards fits the bill.

This project is great because it uses small pieces of left over card stock.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Upcycled Crafts With Jeans

I am an avid crafter, but as someone who cares about environmentalism, I am ashamed to admit how much I spend on buying new craft supplies.

I have kicked the dollar store habit because of the unknown toxins in the products, but with my list of crafting hobbies growing (knitting, bead making, DIY jewelry, card making, scrapbooking, sewing, embroidery, crochet, homemade personal care products) I often have to spend money to buy supplies to feed my habit.

There are so many reasons to be mindful when buying new supplies for crafting. First and foremost is that by purchasing at big box stores it feeds the never ending cycle of consumerism which is drowning the world in plastic waste, harmful production practices, human exploitation and carbon output. I am working on buying supplies from local artisans and craft stores, but this can be more expensive and does not eliminate all the issues.

When I am able, I try to upcycle supplies that I may have around the house or from other people, and Pinterest is perfect for generating ideas. Full disclosure: I am horribly addicted to Pinterest.

One recurring idea that I see on upcycling and crafting Pinterest boards  is how to upcycle blue jeans. In the past when I have cleaned out my drawers and closets I have donated my clothes, but recently I have begun saving them to upcycle into something else.

For most projects using old jeans it is important to cut off the hems and other seams so that the material is not too thick, especially if you are machine sewing them. Depending on the size of the projects, if I plan ahead how I will cut the jeans, I can get two to even three projects out of each pair of jeans. I also save all unused parts of the jeans for future projects. For example, the thick bottom hem of each leg makes a perfect drawstring or rope, the zippers can be cut off and reused again, and the pockets (both front and back) are perfect for instant pockets on bags.

Here are some ways I have given old jeans (or other clothing and bedsheets) a second life as material and fabric in crafting projects:

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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A Sweaty Problem

Over the past few years I have been striving to eliminate as much unnecessary plastic and toxic ingredients from my personal care products. The end result is that my washroom is starting to resemble my kitchen because of the ingredients that are essential to my daily routine. My counter is lined with homemade products with coconut oil, body butters, cider vinegar, baking soda, honey, essential oils and salts. Because I make many of my own products now, I often have to store them in my refrigerator, so on top of my kitchen in my bathroom, my bathroom is now in my kitchen.

But there is one personal care product that I have decided to purchase from a store; natural deodorant.
Creative Commons Image

I am a very sweaty person, but I have long since given up wearing antiperspirant, for a variety of reasons.  I'm no longer fond of putting aluminum on my skin (some may say the jury is out on the dangers of aluminum but I'm not taking any chances), and I have found that unless I use the extremely strong, and therefore questionable, aluminum mixtures (which also burn my skin horribly), it does not stop the embarrassing pit stains for me. To top it all off, antiperspirant may actually make us stinkier! I've just given up the idea that I can go about life as if I live in an advertisement; so what if I have visible sweat marks once in a while (I have adapted to wearing darker clothing on top to mask the wet marks)?

Creative Commons Image

So then the only issue is the smelly one. I had to find a deodorant that I liked, that was natural, and didn't sting, because I have very sensitive underarm skin.

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Friday, 5 June 2015

Natural Aphid Control

Due to an abnormally warm and dry spring, my garden is way ahead of where it would be in a typical year. I have more garden greens, my tomatoes are exploding, and the squash are loving the heat. But the garden pests and problems are ahead of schedule too. Climate change anyone?

I have been battling powdery mildew on my plants (and sadly had to pull up all of the kale), which isn't usually a problem for me until late July or August. Also, the dreaded aphids have been causing me problems since early May. 

There is little that I can do about the powdery mildew (and I've tried the milk spray and the baking soda spray with no luck. It's just something I have to live with; it makes the plants look ugly and slows their growth, but that's about it as far as I can tell.

But there are things I can do for the aphid problem. 

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