Thursday, 29 September 2011

Finding Organic Foods (and Chocolate...)

Depending where you live it can be a little difficult to scrounge up the organic foods you need to eat the way you prefer. Here in Medicine Hat it involves a lot of stopping by a variety of stores to see what is available. For us, there is no such thing as one store that sells all the organic food you need for great prices.

So we shop around.

Organic bananasLondon Drugs has organic food mixed in at random with their other products. Cereals, chocolates, Wolfgang Puck Canned Soups (which by the way, are the best canned soups you will ever find.)

Superstore has a wider selection, in fact they even have a whole isle dedicated to organic and natural foods. They also have their own brand of organic products, just look for the green and white labels! They also carry produce, however it has been irradiated. (We'll talk about that more in another post.)

Nutters, our local heath food store, has recently started carrying produce and offers a decent selection of cereals, baking ingredients and dairy.

3rd St Market, a small shop in downtown Medicine Hat, also carries organic produce, dairy and other foods.

Bulk Barn has a small but not insignificant selection and their prices are more reasonable than other stores.

Safeway also has their own brand of organic foods.

Shoppers Drug Mart has their own organic brand as well, it stands out from the rest with it's bright orange packaging - their chocolate isn't particularly great, however they have blue corn chips that are absolutely fabulous!

Speaking of chocolate -- just like when you shop around at regular stores, often online stores have snuck in a small section of organic foods. You might not even notice unless you look for it! I was recently checking out and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they have a whole selection of organic chocolates.

As an added bonus you can get 5% off any of their products by using the code BONBONS when you check out. That right there is proof that shopping around is a great idea!

I would love to know if you have found organic food/products in places you never expected. Especially if they are in online stores that anyone can have access to!
Banana photo via anolobb

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

With the Kids: The Bean Experiment

I think it is important to get the younger generation involved in their lifestyle as soon as possible. If, as a family, you eat organic and live green, it is very important to always reaffirm why you do it. Not only will it help keep you focused on your goals, but it will give the kids reasons for what you do as well.

It just might be that one of the best things we can do for our planet is to teach our children to love it. If we do what we can to save our world but the next generation doesn't continue in our footsteps -- then we haven't really succeeded at all!

Beans day five - Kaos

One way to involve your children is the extraordinary bean experiment, though of course it doesn't have to be done with just beans! Help to foster their understanding and love of nature by growing a plant from seed. Every day you note the changes; what has happened to the plant, and during this time you can teach them about what plants need to grow.

Oh sure, you do this project in school - but that doesn't mean you can't do it before school as well!

The carrot is another great choice; instead of planting it, place it in a glass jar against the side so you can see the development of the root!

FINAL DAY, Day 18 - side

Fun Fact: These plants here were an experiment;
Plant A: Filtered water
Plant B: Tap water
Plant C: Microwaved water
Plant D: Flame boiled filtered water

I will happily let you draw your own conclusions from that one!

What plant related projects would you/have you done with the kids? I'd love to know!

Photos via L. Marie and SuperFantastic
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Monday, 26 September 2011

Product of the Week: Thermal Porcelain Cup

"Thermal porcelain cup with tight-fitting silicone top. Looks identical to the paper cup, but it's not!  Eco-friendly and reusable, and it's double-walled so it doesn't get hot to the touch like the original paper cup. Dishwasher safe. Fits in any cupholder that a paper one would."

This great product is pretty self explanatory - the logic runs along the same lines as using a tote bag rather than plastic bags when shopping. The more we can reduce our dependency on disposable items, the better off this planet will be.

If you fill up on your way to work, then simply have the restaurant fill up your cup instead of theirs, (they won't mind). Bring it to work with you and use it instead of the paper or syrofoam cups that they have on hand!

Not only will you be helping to cut down on the amount of junk that finds its way into a landfill; you won't burn your fingers on an overly hot surface.  

This cup would also make a fabulous gift for any eco-concious friend!


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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Chemicals with all sorts of issues!

mutiny pigment blueWe've talked about great personal care products that don't have nasty chemicals in them, but I don't think I've ever mentioned precisely what those chemicals are. It is important to know what to look for so that you can avoid them as best as possible.

There are obviously many more than just 12 chemicals that you should avoid, but this particular twelve is the worst. Coined the 'dirty dozen', they are the ones you want to do without at all costs. These ingredients have it all; carcinogens, heavy metals, neurotoxins, heck some of them even affect the male reproductive system. So boys, if the rest of it doesn't scare you -- think about that one for a moment.

1. BHA and BHT: A preservative found most commonly in moisturizers and makeup. Suspected to be an endocrine disruptor and may cause cancer

2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as "CI" followed by a five digit number Can cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals.

3. DEA related ingredients: If your product is creamy or foams - you might just find this in it. May cause cancer and doesn't do very nice things to wildlife. (Also keep your eyes peeled for MEA and TEA)

Nail Savvy4. Dibutyl phthalate: This one will pop up in nail care products; it's toxic to your reproductive system and is suspected to disrupt endocrines. Again, not so good for wildlife.

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: Yup, there are some preservatives that slowly release formaldehyde, which every grade school kid knows is a carcinogen. (But if you disguise it with fancy sounding names it obviously does something different... right?) Ingredients to look for; DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15 -- these won't just be found in one or two things, it crops up in a whole plethora of cosmetics.

Shampoo and conditioner6. Parabens: More and more people are becoming aware of this one. Their joy in life? Interfering with the male reproductive system. (Isn't amazing that any of us have kids at all?) It is also a suspected endocrine disruptor. It is found in many cosmetics, take a particular look at your shampoos!

7. Parfum: (a.k.a. fragrance) If it smells, and even sometimes if it doesn't -- you may find fragrance ingredients that can not only trigger allergies and asthma, but may also be linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Once again, your favorite wild animals aren't going to approve of many of these chemicals

8. PEG compounds: These lovely chemicals, found in creams, can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen.

9. Petrolatum: It makes your hair shiny and your skin moist so not only will it be found in hair products but also lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. It can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

10. Siloxanes: If an ingredient ends in "-siloxane" or "-methicone", look out! You'll find them in cosmetics meant to soften, smooth and moisten. They are suspected endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxicants.

11. Sodium laureth sulfate: Used in cosmetics that foam, it can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen.

hot pink glitter reflects very pink m.a.c.12. Triclosan: If your product is labelled antibacterial, it might contain this chemical. It is a suspected endocrine disruptor and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

This list is from David Suzuki's website -- if you want to check out the original or perhaps find more information then that is the place to go.  Click Here to View.

For anyone who is curious; the endocrine system is what regulates the hormones that in turn regulate your body's functions. (A slightly important part...)

Also, a carcinogen is something that can cause cancer.


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Friday, 23 September 2011

Blog Update!

Good morning,

It looks like I finally have things under control; I won't be switching back to my former template, this is the one that I'll be using for the time being. Seeing as how we are now on our way into fall, I decided that an autumn theme would be acceptable.

I believe that everything has been added back into the blog, however if you notice something is incorrect or missing, please don't hesitate to let me know.

You can expect a return to regular posting tomorrow.

Thanks for tuning in!

Edit: Decided against the fall look ~ this one is much easier on the eyes!

Thursday, 22 September 2011


As you may have noticed, something seems to have gone a little wonky with the blog. I'm working as fast as I can to fix this problem!

My apologies for the mess.

Edit: Yup, there's some Spanish, some random pictures and good-ness knows what else. These problems won't be fixed until tonight - at least 5PM MST.

Edit 2: I've reverted to a basic layout - this has removed the craziness. Will add any missing content later. 

Watch and Learn: DVD's about FOOD

If you are interested in learning more about food and the state of the world, it is pretty easy to do; you don't even need to pick up a book.

This is a brief list of three movies that are easy to find and will impart valuable information!

"Food, Inc. lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing how our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the
livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. Food, Inc. reveals surprising and often shocking truths about what we eat, how it's produced and who we have become as a nation"

"THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade. From the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada to the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, this film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed about the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply. Shot on location in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, The Future of Food examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world's food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today. The Future of Food reveals that there is a revolution going on in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America, a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat."

"Let thy Food be thy Medicine and thy Medicine be thy Food Hippocrates. That is the message from the founding father of modern medicine echoed in the controversial new documentary film Food Matters from Producer-Directors James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch. With nutritionally-depleted foods, chemical additives and our tendency to rely upon pharmaceutical drugs to treat what s wrong with our malnourished bodies, it s no wonder that modern society is getting sicker. Food Matters sets about uncovering the trillion dollar worldwide sickness industry and gives people some scientifically verifiable solutions for curing disease naturally. In what promises to be the most contentious idea put forward, the filmmakers have interviewed several world leaders in nutrition and natural healing who claim that not only are we harming our bodies with improper nutrition, but that the right kind of foods, supplements and detoxification can be used to treat chronic illnesses as fatal as terminally diagnosed cancer. The focus of the film is in helping us rethink the belief systems fed to us by our modern medical and health care establishments. The interviewees point out that not every problem requires costly, major medical attention and reveal many alternative therapies that can be more effective, more economical, less harmful and less invasive than conventional medical treatments."

As I mentioned before, you can watch FoodMatters free - so you don't even need to buy it!


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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Pesticides and Produce: The Worst Cases

Two apples
It can be hard to dedicate yourself to eating wholly organic; trust me, I know. The price of organic butter is nearly enough to make my head explode. It is equally as hard to stick to an organic diet if you don't have access to organic stores. Lucky for me, Medicine Hat has become a little bit more Organically Inclined in the last few years.

If you want to make a go of eating organic and you find yourself struggling, then it stands to reason to choose what you eat organic wisely. There are some fruits and veggies that have much higher pesticide exposure than others. My logic is this: switch those veggies to organic first. Once you have taken the worst ones out of your diet then begin incorporating in others. It may not be as good as eating all organic, but at the very least you won't be eating the produce that is the worst for you.

StrawberriesI snitched the following list from, you can check them out if you want to see where my info came from.

The WORST Fruits and Veg (Non Organic)
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens
There you have it. If you're eating anything on that list that is non-organic, you just might want to consider switching!

Pictures via rduta and @joefoodie


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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Sweet Solar: Lighting Up (Outdoor Application, Small Scale)

There are a ton of different reasons to incorporate lighting into your yard; those reasons are compounded when you begin to look into solar lighting.

First of all, lighting lends a definite aesthetic influence. You can illuminate areas of your garden that you are exceptionally proud of; the fountain, the statue, the perfect and carefully pruned rose bush. Light can be used to showcase your achievements, they will draw the eye and illuminate the details that you find the most important.

Different types of lights will work to illuminate in different ways, this transparent circular light for example is meant to float in a pond; a great way to not only showcase the water feature but also prevent someone from accidentally stepping into it at night!

The fairy on the other hand is something of a showcase herself, she would provide the attraction as well as light up the surrounding area.

You can of course find simple, no nonsense lights that look great and light up the area without being too 'in your face'.

Some lights are meant to blend in with their environment and will be hardly noticeable until the sun goes down. What kind of lights you use depends solely on what you intend them for and your own personal style.

For example, if you wanted lights to illuminate your walkway, you are more likely to choose multiple lights that are the same, not too obtrusive and less expensive (as you would need several and not just one).

Other uses for solar lights include lanterns for camping, table top lights for your patio, and general lighting.

All the lights in the post are of the variety that can be set down and forgotten, more complex solar lighting will come later. Lights such as the ones in this post tend to feature LED lights which are bright and have a phenomenally long lifespan. (on average such lights will last for about 8 hours when fully charged.)

The reasons for going solar are pretty straightforward; you have no batteries or electricity to worry about, no replacing the power source when it runs out, you won't add to your electrical bill by using more lights and of course; they are completely environmentally friendly -- no nasty bi-products.

As for reasons to light up above and beyond aesthetics and pathways; it is an inexpensive security measure, would-be burglars are less likely to make an attempt on a house that has a well-lit yard.

Additionally, if you have pets outside, you'll be able to see what they are up to at night and any nighttime treks will not result in twisted ankles and bruised shins.

As always, a little shopping around is a great idea when looking for solar lighting; the prices vary quite widely!


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solar lighting

Friday, 16 September 2011

Food Matters: An Opportunity

fast food is the best!
Is it worth it? ...

Delve more into the truth behind 'You Are What You Eat' with the informative and revealing documentary 'Food Matters'. An online screening event has been made available to anyone who wishes to watch it - all you have to do is sign up!

I heartily encourage anyone who cares about what they put into their bodies, to watch this film.

All you have to do is go to:

Sign Up Now!

Photo via ebruli


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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sweet Solar

Sun Plasma FlickersI've been looking into ways to incorporate solar energy into your everyday life - if you're looking for a way to reduce your footprint on the world, then solar energy is an ideal way to start.

I imagined complex installations and all kinds of expenses, but there are websites out there that offer the materials you need, and complete instructions to DIY; for a fraction of the normal price.

I would dearly love to hear from someone who used their services; to find out what their experience was like.

The company that I am currently looking at is 'Solar Sphere'; they offer all their products in Canada. 

do it yourself solar power kits

Over the next little while I'll share with you what I discover while I research this brilliant energy source, and I'd love to know what some of your experiences have been!

You can expect to see lots of solar powered gadgets, lights and hopefully learn something you didn't know about solar energy!

Photo via Undertow851


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Monday, 12 September 2011

The Plastic Bag Pandemic: Step 3 - Recycling

There is only so much that one person can do to ensure that as many plastic bags are recycled as possible. By using re-usable bags you are taking the first huge step. The next is to ensure that all plastic bags you do end up with are recycled properly.

It is easy enough to toss them into their appropriate recycling bin, however this post is all about the more novel approaches that some individuals have taken, I hope you enjoy!

Add a crochet hook into the mix and all kinds of creative uses appear - everything from a 100% waterproof bathroom mat, to purses and totes!

By tearing or cutting the plastic bags into strips, you can effectively transform them into something that can be worked with. (The longer you can keep the strips without ending the nicer the result would be. If you could cut a plastic bag so that it was one single strip - so much the better!)

Though I doubt that anyone would wear clothes made out of plastic bags, (imagine how much they would make you sweat), these clothes were a created as a project for fashion students - they used a total of 3,000 bags.

I'd love to know what else people have created from plastic bags - though I doubt any could be cuter than this final discovery of mine!

weeble wobble owl


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Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Plastic Bag Pandemic: Step 2 - Finding a Solution

 "Totes that look so great you'll actually want to remember to bring them with you."

That's the slogan for one of the many tote bag companies that are out there; and there are a lot! If you don't bring your own bags with you because you find them clunky and unattractive, now is the time to start looking.

You can find tote bags in every color of the rainbow, in whatever pattern you desire. A lot of places are even willing to do custom personalizations.

If you don't care what the bag looks like, there are enough varieties to satisfy even the most picky person's needs. Canvas bags, mesh bags, bags made from recycled plastic bottles, bags that fold up small enough to fit in a pocket... the list goes on.

You'd be the coolest kid on the block!
Finding a tote bag is made especially easy by the fact that most stores, especially chains, have their own tote bags that they sell right next to the cash!

If you don't want to buy brand new bags, you can find bags made from a variety of recycled materials - including this Elmo bag, which just happens to be made from recycled t-shirts.

Heck, you could even take up crocheting and make yourself a tote bag out of those pesky plastic bags!

You can use your tote bags to share the message with others; imagine how many bags you would keep out of landfills if you convinced even two people to start using re-usable bags? The numbers are mind boggling!

Last time I checked, hands worked pretty well when it came to carrying small items; I don't know about you, but if I'm picking up toothpaste, I really don't need a bag to carry it in.

If you find yourself in a store, without a bag of your own, and you're buying just an item or two; say the magic words! "I don't need a bag today."

;) It all helps! 

It we all do our part, we can curtail the Plastic Bag Pandemic and prevent them from ending up as a blight on what should be a beautiful clean world.

B.Y.O.B. <- It's the best choice for everyone!


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Friday, 9 September 2011

The Plastic Bag Pandemic: Step 1 - Admitting There Is A Problem

Bag monster
It's nothing new, we all know that each one of us uses crazy amount of plastic bags in a year.

It is a simple thing to do your part and ensure that at least a few less bags make into the landfills or become the nasty litter that we all have seen.

Only thing is, it's just so darn easy to say 'YUP!" when the cashier asks you if you need a bag. In fact it is a great trial to carry a cloth bag around the store with you, if the weight of it doesn't get you down, the embarrassment of knowing you are protecting the environment might just be your undoing.

Honestly though, it amounts to laziness - that's about it. Anyone can make a difference, but few will put in the minute extra it takes.

The thing is, if the average person uses 500 plastic bags in one year; by the time you have made it through 30 blissful shopping years, you will have used and trashed a whopping 15,000 plastic bags. And where do these bags end up? We all know it, but most people just pretend not to see.

This mongoose is in the jungle of Sasan Gir, which happens to be the only home of Asiatic Lions: 

Lake and litter
We've all seen scenes like this.

Plastic bag
And I don't know about you, but when I finally get up the nerve to go scuba diving, this isn't what I'm hoping to see:

If you're already using reusable bags, I tip my hat to you. If you're not, maybe you'd be willing to think about starting. No one is going to blame you if you slip up every once in a while, but if you can use half the bags you normally would - well that's still 250 bags a year. (Give or take).

And an advantage for you: You don't need to worry about a can of beans squashing your big toe cause you overloaded a flimsy plastic bag!

Tomorrow we're going to talk about the options available for anyone who wants to curb their plastic bag problem - be sure to tune in!


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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Preserving Herbs: Freeze 'Em!

Though we don't want to admit it, summer is coming to a close, and those of us with outdoor gardens need to decide what to do with the rest of the herbs that are growing out there.

Herb Garden

The traditional method is to dry them, and this does work quite well; however there are two downsides to drying:

1. The herbs tend to lose a lot of their flavour in the process.
2. Herbs with a high water content will often mold before they are fully dried.

Another option that doesn't take a lot of time, is freezing your herbs! 

Most sites will recommend that you freeze your leaves whole, either actually 'in' ice or by laying them on a cookie sheet, freezing them, and then placing them in containers once they are separately frozen.

Inspired by eldest daughter :-)

Personally I would go about it a little differently.

First you would want to pick your lovely amazing herbs! Don't limit yourself to things like basil and oregano - you can do this to lemon-balm, chives, mint... you name it!

  • Make sure that your leaves are nicely cleaned. I couldn't bear the thought of a bug sneaking through! 
  • Chop/Mince and generally reduce them to the size that you prefer when cooking. (If you have a lot, you could try blending them - though this will mean that once you use them they will be near invisible!) 
  • Once they are the size you want them, pack them tightly into mini ice-cube trays. I'm talking about the ones that create ice-cubes that are about 1cm squared. If you have blended them, just pour the pulp right in. You can of course make them in larger ice cube trays, however you will likely find that they are too much for one dish.
  • To guarantee that they stay in cube-form you can fill in the air pockets with water.
  • Freeze them
  • Once they are frozen, pop them out of the trays and toss them in freezer bags/containers that are properly labeled. 

Frozen Parsley Cubes

Now when you're cooking, all you need to do is pull out one, or a few, of these mini cubes and incorporate them into your meal. (They will thaw quite quickly.)

The herbs will no longer won't be pretty and crisp when you go to use them, but the important fact is that they will keep their amazing flavour! (And of course they will all be in handy little portions!)

This is something you can do throughout the year as your plants grow - this way you can preserve your herbs at the precise stage where they are the most flavorful!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have herbs to pick!


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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Chocolate Part 3: Guilt-free Pleasure

As the culmination of the chocolate related posts this week, I wanted to bring to you a chocolate company that 'does it right'.

Green and Black's Chocolate

Green & Black's Organic

Some of my favorite chocolate bars are Green and Black's and awesomely enough you can find them in many drug stores and supermarkets as well as your natural food stores in North America. The taste of the chocolate is second to none and they have the best white chocolate that I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

This video takes you behind the scenes to a cacao farm in Brazil, where they source some of their beans from.

More on their ingredients:

I have yet to find somewhere online where you can buy these chocolate bars, however rest assured that as soon as I do; you'll be the first to know!

Chocolate Part 1: The Cacao Tree and Chocolate Basics
Chocolate Part 2: The Dark Truth


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Find Organic Cacao Products @