Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gifts and crafts

I love antique and vintage linens and have a slowly growing collection of napkins and handkerchiefs that I use on a daily basis instead of paper towels and tissues. I also think linens make a lovely gift, so I thought these pretty napkins along with this decorative mirror would make a nice gift for a friend's birthday. Both the napkins and the mirror are not new, but I do hope they enjoy their new home.

I also have a growing supply of boxes, tissue and wrapping paper that I save and reuse. Since I don't have very much storage space I was happy to have a reason to dip into my supplies. I like to make my own cards, but I also have a good store of second hand cards. Thrift shops are great places to look for cards that have never been used.

I finished another recycled materials craft project this week. Even though I didn't follow the pattern, just making things up as I went along for this plastic bag crochet clothespin bag, I did take this woman's great work as the inspiration and guideline. I'm really happy with the way it turned out and I can't wait to use it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Show and Tell Tuesday

Remember Show and Tell Day in grade school? Today I have a grown up version for you!

I'm ready to enter the wonderful world of home preserves and putting up food, so I'm quite thrilled to have found this canning pot with a rack and 12 mason jars on The previous owner wanted them out of her place so badly, she dropped everything off at my house!

Also from UsedOttawa, I'm looking forward to filling these glass jugs with homemade sumac lemonade this summer.

This was a super simple, quick and easy craft project I completed this weekend. It took no more than an hour to take a mesh onion bag and crochet edging and handles on to it, to turn it into a reusable produce bag.
(If anyone is interested in step by step instructions, let me know and I'd be happy to post a tutorial!)

After reading Greeen Sheeep's glowing review of the safety razor, I decided that I too wanted to ditch the disposable plastic kind. The ADGMD read my mind (or at least the email I sent him with the link to Greeen Sheeep's post, followed by, "I want this!"), 'cause he got me one for my birthday.

After a few extremely slow, careful and tentative passes on my leg, in which I half expected to open a vein and bleed out on the bathroom floor, I realised, "Hey, it's just like the normal, everyday shaving I've been doing all my life. Awesome." No nicks, no cuts, just a lovely smooth shave.

And finally, my last show and tell you can't see, but without it, I wouldn't have been able to take and post these pictures. My old digital camera died on me a few weeks ago. It was a hand me down from my godmother, and it had a good life, but I needed another digital camera.

The ADGMD and I began sourcing a few on UsedOttawa. While mentioning to his sister that he was on the lookout for a second hand cam, the ADGMD discovered that his sis had just bought a new one. She was planning on giving her old, still working camera to her neighbour, but then the neighbour went out and bought a new one, so now the camera has come to me and I couldn't be happier! As for my old camera, I will make sure to dispose of it responsibly.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Going loco for local? Augmenting a northern, local diet with 'second harvest' food.

Though I typically don't sign up for challenges myself, I do love seeing all the different, creative and fun challenges in the green blogosphere and the enthusiasm with which people cheerfully take on changing habits, learning new skills, experimenting and trying things for the first time.

Right now, Crunchy Chicken is hosting a food waste reduction challenge, and tons of people have signed up for it!

Food waste is a HUGE problem. Read this article and spend a little time over at Wasted Food and you'll get a sense of just how serious this issue is.

Food waste comes from a number of sources such as distribution warehouses, you and me and our fridges, restaurants, hotel chains and grocery stores. It's mind boggling just how much perfectly edible food gets wasted, much of it ending up in landfills and not even being properly composted.

There are many things we can do to reduce food waste, especially in the home. But as I was at the grocery store yesterday, keenly aware of how difficult it is to find local fare in February, living up here in the Great White North as I do, I realised there is another way to reduce food waste, save money and augment a local diet limited by climate.

Here's the secret: Most grocery stores have some kind of sale rack or odds and ends bin for the less than pretty produce, droopy lettuce, slightly bruised apples, wrinkled peppers, day old bread or other food that has just reached its 'sell by' date. This food is still perfectly edible! Sure it might not look so great, you may have to pare off the odd brown spot, or peel away a leaf or two, but it's good, healthy food, and unless unless it is purchased, it's food that will just get thrown out. (Some organisations, like Second Harvest collect this food for shelters and food banks, but so much of it goes directly into the trash.)

This is where you, the savvy, frugal, locavore, who's had a few too many roasted beets and rutabagas, come in. Visit your nearest food sale rack or odds and ends bin and help yourself to your own 'second harvest'! Sure that lettuce may be from California and those avocados are from Mexico, but unless someone buys them, they'll probably end up in the landfill and release methane, one of the worst kinds of greenhouse gases.

Yesterday, I got three large eggplants, a dozen tomatoes and eight bell peppers for about $6 dollars, off of the sale rack. One of the eggplants was just starting to go soft and a couple of the peppers looked a bit shrivelled, yet everything was still perfectly good. It needed to be cooked sooner rather than later, not having much of a shelf life left, so I tied on my apron and got to work making a big pot ratatouille. It made enough for multiple meals that I can freeze for later, save for lunches, share with the ADMGD....

One challenge to buying food this way is that you have to make hay while the sun shines, meaning the food won't stay fresh for much longer, so you don't have the luxury of time to let the food stay in your fridge for a few days before you get to it. The food will need to be cooked right away, so only buy it if you know that you have a couple of hours free that day or the next to prepare what you've bought. There's no sense in saving food from the grocery store's garbage bin if it's only going to end up in your compost.

Shopping this way also requires some creativity and flexibility with meal planning. You'll have a difficult time if you walk into a grocery store with a recipe in hand and expect to be able to find all the ingredients from your list, because what you need or want may not always be available. Most people who already eat seasonally and locally will be used to preparing meals based on what's available to them. But if you do get stumped, this nifty online tool lets you enter the ingredients you have, and it will generate recipes for you!

So the next time you're out shopping and thinking you can't buy another bag of local parsnips, check your sale rack and treat yourself to a second harvest.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Ecology of Ottawa

Check out this nifty site from Ecology Ottawa!

It explains how we are all connected through water, heat, electricity, fuel, stuff and food. It explains where all these things come from, where they go after we've used them, and how we can be better stewards of the things that connect us.

For example, did you know that 18% of Ontario's electricity comes from coal, and that 39% of electricity is consumed from appliances?
The simple solution? Turn it down, turn it off!

This site is a great resource. It's easy to navigate. It provides useful information and helpful, simple tips. Even if you don't live in the Ottawa area, I think this site is well worth the visit! And don't forget to check out my favourite section on, you guessed it, stuff!