Converting back to a green life, one week (and nap time) at a time

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February 2016

I come to you today from my dining room table. And no I’m not writing about food, I just needed to relocate my writing space while we have some renovations going on in our home office. Renovations which will hopefully create a warmer, cozier space for me to be creative, and save some energy as well. I’ve been hungry for this space for a while.


And that’s not the only thing I’ve been hungry for. According to one of my favourite authors, Barbara Kingsolver (or her sources at least), the word for February in Cherokee (and other Native American languages) is “hungry”.*

Not that I’m starving by any means, but my weight loss struggle continues. One week I’m down three or four pounds, only to gain one or two back the next week, then stay the same for two or three weeks before dropping another five. I’m sure there’s a physiological explanation for this, but I’m not inclined to look it up.

I’ve been trying to be really diligent and careful about what I eat, and even my husband is noticing. I’m also frustrated at the lack of healthy options this time of year. Local produce, other than root vegetables, is hard to come by this time of year. In the words of Ms. Kingsolver, the time to think about eating local is in August, not January or February. After the spring and summer we had this year, I of course had very little put away in the freezer. And the grocery store isn’t much help either. All produce is ridiculously expensive, organic or not, and the winter has been full of recalls – spinach one week, cantaloupe the next.

I’ve also decided to stop buying almonds. We had been eating almonds regularly, but was recently reminded of how fattening they can be (though good fats I know). More importantly, they require a lot of water to grow and are often imported from California. Not the most eco-friendly nut choice.

Nevertheless, I am trying not to let this all get me down and I keep plugging away. In the back of my mind I know my weight loss goals may have been unrealistic (the timeframe in which I wanted to lose the weight, not the overall weight loss) and I should be proud of how far I’ve come. In fact, at the 6.5 month mark I am back in the 180s (only a few pounds above my weight when we moved into this house nearly ten years ago), and only have twenty pounds to go. This is cause for celebration, allowing myself the occasional beer- local of course (and no, the irony of consuming beer over almonds while trying to lose the baby belly is not lost on me. And yes I’m still breastfeeding I’m being careful. Just give me a break;-) ).

Garrison Brewery makes a lovely Nut Brown which both my husband and I have been enjoying in place of a Stella or other import. I don’t usually like dark ales, but this particular brew has a milder flavor, is not as thick or bitter as some others I’ve tried and leaves almost no aftertaste. I’ve also had a chance to test their geekier flavours at Hal-Con – The Klingon War Nog and The Vulcan Ale – both of which are potent but excellent.


I’ve been in a happier place lately too (and no not due to the beer). We’ve made it through the darkness of January and are almost through February. Longer days, milder, damper weather and the sweet songs of birds mean spring is just around the corner. While we’ve had our fair share of snow, so far it pales in comparison to the Snowmageddon of last winter I still feel traumatized by.

Whenever possible, I’ve been feeding my soul with good books. I hope to post my mat leave reading list here on the blog when nap schedules allow. Recently I read Margaret Trudeau’s book Changing my Mind; probably one of the best I’ve read this year so far. Her story is encouraging to anyone suffering from mental illness, and a good education for the rest of us. I’ve learned a lot from her, and Wil Wheaton, who I’ve recently started following on my Facebook page and twitter. From both of them I’ve been reminded that it’s ok, and “normal” to feel sad and down sometimes. That it happens to all of us, and you just can’t let it consume your whole being.

With spring on the horizon I’ve also been doing lots of spring cleaning. I’m still using “green” cleaning products as much as possible, a challenge I started back in Week 34. Lately I’ve been doing less actual cleaning and more just “purging” of stuff. We have too much stuff, stuff that other people could probably use. Closets and storage spaces are getting a thorough inspection by me. And there’s a lot to go through. I had no idea how much stuff we held on to.

It all started after LM arrived. With an extra person, even if a mini-person, our house is feeling smaller day by day. Also, everything we had held on to from MD that we now knew we weren’t going to use (mostly clothing) was given away to friends of mine with little girls. And as LM keeps growing we’re continually giving things away. A good friend of mine just had a little boy too so lots of stuff went to her, and my sister in law is due any day and she doesn’t know the gender.

Other items, baby and non baby alike, are going on Kijiji and HRMGiveaway or to the Fairview Family Resource Centre.

Anything that we don’t think can be used by anyone but may have a purpose are going to Value Village. I was encouraged to learn that they have a textiles recycling program. Horray for the three Rs!

The basement reno also has encouraged the purging process. We had a lot of rearranging to do to make room for the contractor. And I just have the time. Between feedings (including trying new solid foods) the inevitable diaper changes and household chores, on days we can’t get outside because of the weather and now that LM is finally sitting on his own and content to play with toys in a semicircle around him, I have a little extra time to sort and get rid of things.

And one of these days I’ll open what I’ve started calling our Pandora’s box. An unlabelled cardboard box that’s been sitting on the same shelf in our basement since the day we moved into this house nearly ten years ago. I have no idea what’s in it. For a long time I was afraid. Very afraid. But not curiosity is getting the better of me, and plus I just want the shelf space.


Well, here goes . . .


If you don’t have a Value Village in your area, use this nifty textile recycling search tool.

*Animal Vegetable Miracle

List of CFIA recalls 

Harder to loose weight breastfeeding

Losing weight after baby #2 





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Week# 35-ish: Leaving on a Jet Plane

The Time Machine. A not too shabby sci-fi movie based on the book by H.G. Wells. My husband is always commenting that he would like a time machine, so he could go back in time and meet me sooner. How sweet 🙂 (After ten years together we can still be nauseating). There are times, like this week, where I wish I had a time machine to make more time. I’ve got about 27 unfinished projects around the house (and volunteer projects I want to take up), and being the type-A personality that I am it is driving me crazy. And it doesn’t help that I’m sick (day 12 of a cold/flu). (It’s been so bad I broke down and bought disposable pull-ups just so I could get a good night’s sleep, rather than being woken by a wet toddler at 3am. My guess is she’s having a growth spurt so night training has gone out the window, but that’s a post for another day).

Work is getting busy too. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my new job. The work is interesting and stimulating, and the people are awesome. I feel so at home there, like it was all meant to be. For all of the challenges and unhappiness my other job caused in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am now without the experiences I gained there. But the work keeps rolling in, and I’m taking a French class to maintain the level I need for my job, which further cuts into my time.

I also just spent a week in Ottawa on a work trip. I was really excited about it and looking forward to some down-time to explore the city, be by myself and recharge. The weather, however did not cooperate, and the work meetings were intense. Got home at midnight with the beginnings of a cold, and charged right through the Thanksgiving weekend – running here and there to pick-up local produce (including some pumpkins from Stirlings), husband had a half-marathon, dinner with my parents, and staining the casings for our new energy-efficient windows. It all caught up with me Tuesday and I just don’t  feel like myself.

I also always feel a little guilty for flying. If there was another piece of sci-fi technology I wish actually existed it would be a transporter. It’s not just being away from my family. Air travel can contribute almost 10% of the total human impact on climate change. My Halifax-Ottawa return trip created 533 lbs of CO2 (using the TerraPass calculator). At least I flew direct, economy, during the day, and brought only carry-on, all of which can help reduce the impact according to David Suzuki. I could also plant trees to offset some of the emissions. If I use the same figure as in an earlier post of 27lbs per tree, that’s about 20 trees.

Speaking of trees, as you may have noted if you follow me on Twitter, Evergreen (one of the organizations I volunteer with) recently held a tree plant in Dartmouth.I had planned to attend, but wasn’t able to as my daughter was sick (so that’s where I got it from!), but prior to the event I helped the organizers do some research on sustainable cups. They wanted to provide water for the volunteers for health and safety reasons, but guessed that not all participants would bring their own bottle. Instead of buying bottled water, they wanted to purchase a portable water cooler/thermos and some cups. But what cups would be the most sustainable?

I looked at four options: 1) paper “Dixie” style cups; 2) disposable plastic cups; 3) reuseable/recyclable plastic cups; 4) and a fouth type that I’ll get to in a minute. I didn’t look into Styrofoam at all – I simply can’t stand the stuff, and knowing it wasn’t recyclable or biodegradable at all I didn’t even consider it a viable option. Another option might have included purchasing ceramic or glass cups from Value Village, but these would be heavier to transport and harder to dispose of if broken.

I started my research by just poking around the internet and some local stores to see what was available. Target sells a product called Dixie Hot cups. A package of 26 (each cup holds 12 oz) were $6.99. The cups were labelled SFI certified , but the material they were made from seemed to be a Styrofoam-like material. While they were sustainably sourced, if you look at the whole life cycle the disposal options weren’t very sustainable.

Target also carried the store-brand Spritz reuseable/recyclable plastic cups – $4.80 per pk qty 10 ; 4 pkg (40 cups) = $19.20. These were a hard plastic and could be reused for future events by washing in dishwasher to sterilize or soak for 2 minutes in a solution of 2 teaspoons of bleach per 1 gallon of water.

Canadian Tire stocks Goodtimes plastic drink cups – pkg 50 $ 4.49. These look like the thin plastic so likely not reusable – unless we wanted to plant something in them!

After looking at what was out there, I also did some research as to whether “paper or plastic” would be best. It seems the jury is still out, depending on your perspective – check out these articles for more info:

Finally, I called the city to see what the composting and recycling options would be, I was very disappointed to learn that the paper Dixie cups cannot go into the compost. Even the plastic cups that have a number on the bottom can’t go in the recycling – they would all have to go in the garbage! 😦

The tree planting team decided to go with the reusable plastic cups in the end. Maybe not the most sustainable of all time, but of the practical and affordable options available not too bad a choice. That’s what I’ve learned from writing this Blog: being green is no different than all things in life- we all have to make choices, and we’re all doing our best.

Meanwhile, back on the home front – still no baby news. I really thought this would be the month. I don’t know how we can go 14 months without a goalie in net and not even have it hit the goalpost. Maybe we missed the plane. . . But in this season of bounty and thanksgiving, I remind myself to be thankful for what I do have – a beautiful, healthy daughter, and a loving husband – who lets me sleep in Sunday mornings and takes our daughter to soccer so I can work on this blog 🙂

This week is Waste Reduction Week – stay tuned for more waste reduction tips in my Twitter feed and in future posts, including – Pizza on the Green?, and Homemade Halloween!

Interested in volunteering with Evergreen? Sign-up for their e-newsletter here.

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Week # 34 – Clean Sweep, or Greenwashed?

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a “fall cleaning” kind of girl rather than “spring cleaning’. So the last month or so I have been cleaning out closets, cupboards and reorganizing the basement. (This is part of a larger project – if my husband and I can ever agree on the layout!).

I’ve also decided to get rid of a lot of my cleaning products and switch to just vinegar and water and/or baking soda for most jobs.

I’ve always used furniture polish for dusting wood (and we have a lot of it in our 50+ year old house). This weekend I picked up some microfiber cloths to do my dusting – apparently water is all you need, and they are machine washable. So no more furniture polish for me.

A friend of mine sells Norwex products and she absolutely raves about them, so I might give those a try as well.

I thought I’d be hanging on to a few “green” products for messier jobs, like the oven and bathtub. I’ve been testing PC Green All Purpose Cleaner, which claims to be made from 97% renewable resources and readily biodegradable. I can’t test these claims, but I can confirm that, true to its label, it does not have “harsh chemical fumes”, and it definitely doesn’t have any dye or fragrance.

Every few weeks I find I need to use something stronger to remove buildup on the bathtub, oven and dishwasher, but I wish I had read the label more carefully prior to purchasing. For you see, there actually is no ingredient list, except for one item – C-12-14 polyethylene glycolic ether – with a warning to call poison control if swallowed, which can’t be a good thing.

When I Googled this chemical, I learned that it is commonly used in cleaning products, as well as shampoos and other personal care products. But it can also be toxic if ingested, and can have traces of a carcinogen, as well as reproductive effects. It is also toxic to some aquatic life.

Despite these issues, the EPA considers it one of the safer cleaning chemicals. A cousin to this chemical, polyethylene glycol, is used in laxatives and personal lubricants. Lovely.

Even so, I hate to be putting more stuff down the drain and into our water supply and to do who knows what, in addition to the pharmaceuticals that are already finding their way there.

But what can I use instead? A number of books and articles I read recommend castille soap. Add that to this week’s grocery list.

On the note of cleaning and aquatic life, this past weekend my daughter and I did a trash pick up around a local pond as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. (I’m cheating a little bit adding this to my list, because I do it every year).

It’s not too late to register – just visit Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup!

Further Reading

Green Cleaning Products

Drugs in our Drinking water


Week # 1 – Environmentally Friendly Shower Gel

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Week # 31 – Water Woes, Broken Toes and other Adventures in Greening

August 30, 2014

Wow this summer went by fast. I was afraid it would. But you know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And while I haven’t been blogging as faithfully, I did manage to keep up on a few of my green challenges.

The second wedding this summer, at the end of last month, went off without a hitch. I was able to wear the silver dress I had hoped to (with the help of some strategically placed undergarments), and we had our hair done at an Aveda certified spa. The wedding was beautiful 🙂

I definitely indulged a bit more than I should have though, driving too much, buying to much bulk chocolate, bought a new book rather than waiting for it to come out from the library. But I just couldn’t resist picking up Diana Gabaldon’s new release, and it saw me through the whole summer.

One of our drives did involve my grandfather’s 90th birthday, and we took a detour to Jost Vineyards, picking up a bottle for ourselves and my parents.

I did start taking the bus to the library and then walked back (instead of working-out inside). I’d been meaning to start that challenge for a while. Usually I would drive to the Canada Games Centre every Tuesday for yoga, but I’d make a point of parking in one place and walking to do other errands, like getting gas, picking up groceries, banking, and dropping off and picking up books at the library, so the trip (and CO2 emissions) wasn’t completely in vain. I also picked up a “Share the road” bumper magnet for our car. Which we lost, ironically enough, when my husband put the car through a car wash. Replacing that is on the top of the list for this fall.

As sad as I am to see the end of summer, I do enjoy the foods of this season. It seems like the green peppers I started back in the spring haven’t grown any in height, but the gourds, tomatoes and turnip have really taken off. And I continue to do battle with the Japanese Knotweed.

To keep the garden watered I’ve been using rainwater collected in two buckets at the end of our front. This is not a new challenge for me. I did research more stylish rainwater collectors, but they run a bit out of my budget compared with the buckets I have which work perfectly well. I also used water from my daughter’s kiddie pool to do my watering. And I’ve decided that if I am nominated for the now famous Ice Bucket Challenge I’ll stand in the garden to do so.

Dealing with misplaced water seems to be a regular issue for me. From the time we moved into this house we’ve had water problems, from a leak in the basement the previous owners failed to disclose, to a drip through the kitchen ceiling which required gutting the bathroom. More recently, this past winter we ended up replacing our hot water heater (which, luckily, is leased) when it suddenly began spouting excess water onto the basement floor. While replacing the tank allowed us to upgrade to a (supposedly) more efficient model and gave me the opportunity to turn down the thermostat on the water heater, it did not fix the problem of coming home to pools of luke-warm water on our basement floor. So, a few weeks later, a plumber installed an expansion tank. Which probably wouldn’t have been necessary if the city wasn’t constantly replacing the piping under all the streets in our neighbourhood and messing with the local water pressure. But that is a necessary evil compared with the alternative.

I’ve also started using my daughter’s leftover bathwater to shave my legs, and water from boiled vegetables (such as corn on the cob, plentiful this time of year) to water the house plants.

Lastly, I need to start taking shorter, colder showers. I’ve been putting this challenge off for a long time. I’m famous for long, hot showers – another by-product of giving birth – showers were the only alone time I got in the early days after my daughter was born. In addition to the alone time, the heat not only relaxed my ravaged body, it also helped my milk let-down. But four years later I think it’s time to break old habits.

Now you’ll excuse me while I go back to drying out our camping gear from our latest camping adventure, cut short by a ill-timed rainstorm, and mending my broken toe (the result of a 4am game of musical beds. And no I don’t want to write about it now.).


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Week # 21: Greenovations

So what’s the deal with the switch to WordPress? My blog is undergoing a renovation.

If you’ve been following my adventures in my weekly blog, you may have noticed that the last month or so, it hasn’t been so much weekly as non-existent. That’s because I couldn’t log in! For about a week I couldn’t access my former blog the site at all, and once I could log in I still couldn’t edit. So finally I gave up. A few blogs that I follow use WordPress, so I thought I’d give it a shot. And lots of copying and pasting later, here we are.

I’m still trying to get it back up to snuff, so please bear with me.

Speaking of renovations, my arms and neck are very sore, so I won’t be on here long. This week our environmental project was to install new windows in three rooms in the house. The three lucky windows were the worst in the house – I could hear cars on the nearby highway in our bedroom at night, as if there was a hole in the wall. Water would come right through during storms – even with the windows closed! It also scared me a little that the curtains would move during a wind storm – also with the windows closed. Just think of the heat loss!

I spent the weekend staining and applying varathane to the new window casings. After some looking around Home Depot and Kent I discovered a product called Saman – a water-based, low-VOC stain made in Canada. Now I’m in the process of researching whether we are eligible for a rebate from the province for our new energy-efficient windows.

Speaking of windows, my mother often told me growing up that my grandfather always used to say “God doesn’t close a door but he opens a window”. A window may have opened for me this week. Just as I find out I got screened out of one job competition, I might have an offer on another. More to follow in future posts (I hope) so stay tuned!