mommyonthegreen

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


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February

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.

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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.

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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.

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Well, here goes . . .

Cheers!

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 #45 – CONtaining my Passion

I wake up in the wee hours and count – 1, 2,3. Good, they’re still there. The multi-coloured paper bracelets that have adorned my right wrist like gold for the past three days. Hours later, as the sun’s first rays of day poked out from the low hanging clouds, typical of November in Halifax, I waited for the bus, my shuttle if you will, to whisk me off to the third day of Hal-Con 2014.

I love this convention. I’ve been faithfully attending each year since its inception- that first intimate gathering at The Lord Nelson hotel in 2010. Since then, it has expanded, experienced its share of growing pains, and come back to life.

Why do I love it here? Because I am surrounded by characters and ideas that have charged my interest since I was a pre-teen. My creativity is inspired by my surroundings (I am writing this while waiting in line). Science fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars, fantasy, revisionist history, steam punk, comics, cartoons – you name it, it’s here. For a weekend, I can be myself. We are all equal and share a common interest. There are no expectations or deadlines to meet. No one cares who I am or what I think or what I do for my day job or what I look like; where I can blend in by being different. (It’s unfortunate not everyone has had this experience, and the convention has struggled with bullying and harassment. But that’s a post for another day #cosplayisnotconsent).

My first encounter with Star Trek was the original series (TOS). I tried, and failed, to see the entertainment value at first, despite my friends insisting that I would like it and being stumped when I didn’t. I don’t know if it was the cheesy 60’s graphics, the over-zealous music track, the adult themes, or the time slot (competing with the NKOTB and other Saturday morning cartoons), but I just couldn’t get into it.

A year or so later (I think I was in Grade 5 or 6), I’m watching reruns of my favourite childhood show, Reading Rainbow, waiting for Bill Nye or something like it to come on PBS. [Reading Rainbow and David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things had first sparked my interest in science. One particular episode showed LeVar Burton on a boat looking at mud samples with a marine biologist – which is when I decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I eventually did.] This particular episode featured LeVar Burton doing a tour of the set of his other “day job” – Star Trek :The Next Generation (TNG). I have an “ah-ha” moment – “OH MY GOD you mean there’s another one?!?!?” I ran into the living room to grab the TV Guide (no internet back then to check what was on) to see when TNG was due to air next. Successfully located, I spend the hours after supper learning about Picard, Data and the rest. Since then, I was irrevocably hooked.

Back to the present, and Hal-Con. This weekend I had the opportunity to meet Garrett Wang, who played Ensign Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager, a spin-off from TNG and DS9. There were a couple of things that he said during his Q&A Session that really resonated with me.

The first was that STV, with its female captain, was empowering for young women watching the show to see a woman both in a leadership role and with a strongly scientific and technical background. If Reading Rainbow got me interested in science, Janeway kept me interested. I had always kind of looked up to this character. It was so validating for me to hear Wang speak those words, to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. So it seems Garrett Wang and I agree – if you want more women in science, let them watch Star Trek! (Ok, I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea).

The other thing that Wang discussed during his Q&A was his love for travel, and how travelling to non-first world countries puts things in perspective and makes him more aware and grateful for his lot in life (again, I am paraphrasing). This reminded me of the experience I had when I visited India several years ago. My husband was on an assignment there for work, and I went to visit for a week. The people were wonderful, as was the food. However there was more than one occasion I questioned my presence there. I questioned how I could be in a decent, comfortable hotel room, while just across the street I saw children in metal and cardboard shacks, solemnly staring at me.

I had to drink bottled water the entire time I was there to avoid getting sick, and it broke my heart. Not just because of the waste it produced (the government did a pretty good job promoting recycling, and there were huge fines for littering), but also because so many people there don’t have the choice.

This is why, within a year of returning from our trip we sponsored a child through World Vision. The money we give helps provide clean water (through proper wells and plumbing, not bottled), solar lights (no polluting electricity needed), and education to our child’s community, which indirectly benefits the environment as well.

This brings me to why attending events like Hal-Con always make me cringe to some extent. The WTCC does a great job of sorting trash into the correct waste streams by providing colour-coded receptacles throughout the building. But what about the CO2 emissions from all the flights and driving for the guests and participants? And the electricity for the AV requirements. The paper that goes into programs and tickets and whatnot. And the bottled water.

On several occasions I noticed a number of the volunteers (who were excellent by the way) carrying small pallets of bottled water, and all of the guests and conference organizers appeared to be drinking bottled as well. This year when I attended the convention I made a point of bringing my own refillable metal bottle, and packed a lunch as well to cut down on packaging from take-out containers.

This week’s challenge is to continue bringing a refillable bottle wherever I go. I’m usually pretty good at it. The problem I encounter is when I travel, if I’m going somewhere where I don’t trust the tap water, or if I’m travelling by air and only bringing carry on (which is usually the case). Due to the 100ml rule when flying I can’t pack a water bottle, even if it’s empty.

I think I will also suggest to the Hal-Con organizers that next year they provide refillable water bottles with the Hal-Con logo to guests and VIPs, and available for purchase for everyone else, instead of using bottled. I don’t know how feasible this would be for them, but I could help them research the costs. In addition, here are a few other ways the convention could reduce its environmental impact:

  • Offer programs and schedules as a dowloadable pdf, only posting a few paper copies through the building;
  • Use only electronic tickets;
  • I noticed a lot of brochures in the “swag bags” – I understand vendors wanting to advertise their goods and services, but maybe they could do so in the form of something more useful, like a coupon (a few vendors did so this year). Any printing that is done should be done on non-glossy recycled paper using biodegradable ink.
  • The convention organizers might also try offsetting the CO2 impacts through a volunteer tree plant (reminiscent of the DS9 episode The Children of Time, where Worf and Dax’s Klingon descendants help the colonists plant their field before sunset. Can you imagine a group of Klingon cosplayers tree planting with Evergreen! Community service and free advertising!).
  • Travel & accommodations: Delta hotels, the hotel chain right next to the WTCC, are already part of the Green Key program which is great. Perhaps the conference organizers could also suggest to guests to fly direct, economy and bring only carry on. But that might be pushing it. Participants might be willing to go the distance though.

Maybe I should volunteer to be the event’s sustainability coordinator! Combining my two life-long passions – science fiction and the environment- it would be a dream opportunity!

All of this led to my thinking about celebrities and charities. You’ll often hear different celebs speaking about mental health, animal welfare, or children’s diseases. For example, one of my favourite actors, Sam Heugan, supports Leukemia and Lymphoma research.

But you rarely see actors speaking out against environmental degradation. I expect this is because it is often seen as more political, and as I heard in one of the Hal-Con panels, saying something unpopular or offensive can really damage your career. The one exception I can think of is Leonardo Dicaprio, who routinely speaks out against oil and gas developments and diamond mining. Having said that, he probably has enough money banked that he can do and say whatever he wants.

I did recently see a video of Batman star Ben Affleck talking about bats, which are threatened by a fungal disease known as white nose syndrome. So I will leave you with that thought and video today.


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Week # 44- Homemade Halloween Part 2

So there goes my theory of prepackaged treats being safer. A child in Halifax found a pin in a wrapped chocolate bar. Is nothing sacred?

And for anyone (such as my husband) who thought my post was taking all the fun out of the holiday – you’re not alone – check out http://www.scarymommy.com/taking-back-halloween/

At least the homemade kangaroo costume was a success. Last year I purchased a costume from Superstore – my daughter saw a pink bunny suit (not unlike that in A Christmas Story) and it was love at first sight. In fairness she has gotten a lot of use out of it – besides Halloween last year she also wore it for Easter and a Halloween party this year, and it is in regular rotation in the “tickle trunk” in our playroom. While i could have found something similar on Kijiji, I’m always a little wary of bed bugs (and there’s also the gas to pick up used items to consider).

This year I was determined to make something from scratch. Well, almost scratch. And I can’t take all the credit – Pinterest gave me the inspiration. Brown sweatpants and hoodie form Value Village for the body; light brown felt from Michaels for the pouch, tail and ears (the felt was made from recycled plastic too!), and paper towel tubes for the tail. Photos to follow soon , I promise!

What else have I been doing for green challenges:

  • Stopped buying spinach in plastic “clamshell” packaging;
  • Only giving my daughter a bath every other night (sponge bath on “off nights” because really, unless she’s muddy or covered in sunscreen/bug spray from playing outside or decided to put her supper on her head, is she really that dirty that she needs a whole tubful of water? And she seems to like the sponge baths anyway. 🙂 )

Now, on to prepare my next costume, for HAL-CON!!!!!!!!!

Every year around this time I turn back into a nerd. Aw, who am I kidding – I’m a nerd all the time! Photos of that to follow soon too.


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Week # 16 – Cars and Coffee

April 22, 2014

 

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a huge Star Trek nut. Any science fiction, fantasy, horror, revisionist history, (a.k.a. “genre”) books, magazines, TV or movies, I’m there.

One of my favourite “classic Trek” movies is Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. A few years ago at Hal-Con (a local genre convention) I had the opportunity to hear Walter Koenig talk about what it was like to be running down the street in 1970s San Francisco with a black woman and his character’s Russian accent, asking the general public if they knew how to get to the local nuclear reactor.  If it hadn’t been for the fact they were filming a movie they likely would have been arrested! In fact, some of the individuals they encountered didn’t know they were filming a movie!

In any case, the plot of the movie is that the future Earth is under “attack” by something that seems to be communicating in humpback whale song, and the future Earth humpbacks have been extinct for a few hundred years.  I won’t tell you what happens in case you see the film someday, but let’s just say it’s an interesting and entertaining idea.

The sad thing is, life may imitate art. Humpback whales, along with their relatives the right, killer and blue whales, are currently listed under the Canadian Species at Risk Act. They were once hunted for oil and meat (and still are illegally hunted in parts of the world), and the whales may still be hit by ships travelling through their migration, breeding and feeding grounds. Their habitat is also impacted by human activities such as fishing, and oil & gas developments.

The Canadian government is looking at downgrading the humpback whale’s status from “threatened” to “species of special concern”. Some groups believe this reclassification is being made to facilitate further oil and gas activities in waters inhabited by humpbacks. SARA legislation specifically requires that “no person shall destroy any part of the critical habitat of any … listed threatened species.” So if a species is no longer listed as threatened, this piece of the legislation would not technically apply, allowing the oil & gas development to continue without concern to habitat or shipping lanes.

It burns me (no pun intended) that the very oil being collected is that which I am so dependent on to heat my home and operate our car. I’ve ranted on about our current difficulties going car-free in a previous post, so I won’t go there now. But the idea came up again this weekend as we planned a trip to visit my family for Easter.

The ABS/Traction system in our car seems to be on the fritz. I only discovered this on my way to pick up my daughter from daycare on Thursday. I was picking her up early because the daycare had called to say she was sick, and I was about to turn onto the bridge when the “service traction” alert appeared on the dash. The car had been handling funny – like when I stopped at a stop sign I heard a “clunk” when I put my foot on the brake, then when I went to pull away I put my foot on the gas and nothing happened, then the “low traction” alert appeared. This happened a few times, then the “service traction” appeared. So, I pulled over, stopped the car, turned it off, waited a minute, and turned it back on, just like it said to do in the manual conveniently stored in the glove compartment.  Unfortunately, when I turned the car back on, the traction/ABS was still not working properly. I tried to call the daycare to let them know I would be late, but the OnStar wouldn’t work either. I picked up my Blackberry with its almost dead battery to phone my husband on our cell phone, and he didn’t answer.

It was at this point I did absolutely nothing for the feminist movement. I had car trouble and there I am pulled over to the side of the road, 18-wheelers whizzing past, and I am sobbing hysterically. I finally got a hold of my husband on his work line, and he headed out to pick up our daughter while I carefully proceeded to the service station at the dealership where we purchased our car.

The earliest appointment they had for us was this morning. So the car is in the shop right now, which is why I am home blogging instead of sitting at work. I had brought a book with me and figured I would sit and read at a local coffee shop while I waited for the maintenance to be completed. But they said it would be at least an hour and the courtesy shuttle gave me a ride home so here I am.

I still might go for a coffee later to relax. I had booked the day off anyway to relax and regroup after a relatively busy streak at work. I don’t actually drink coffee, but I love to slowly sip a spicy Chai latte and nibble on a yummy cinnamon bun – they are my weaknesses.

I’ve decided that my next challenge will be to only frequent local coffee shops rather than chains.  There are some great coffee shops in Halifax, such as Local Joe, Humani-T Cafe, and Coburg Coffee House just to name a few.

Coffee production, like chocolate, can have devastating effects on natural habitats, through both the farming techniques used and the waste & pollution generated through production and consumption. I was surprised to learn that coffee is in the top five traded commodities, outranked only by oil. Many coffee producers and vendors are trying to make their coffee more sustainable through fair trade, organic, and rainforest alliance certifications. Supporting local shops which offer fair trade coffee can also help support the local economy.

The last time I went for coffee was to discuss outreach activities for an event I’m working with – 100in1 day Halifax. (I will save the exciting details of this event for another post!). But on this sunny day, Earth Day, I may forgo the excess consumption of extra calories and what amounts to material goods for my body, and instead go for a long walk, saving the gas I would use driving to yoga later – which is also a post for another day.

P.S. Rented a car to visit my parents. And the home-made Easter  chocolates were a huge hit :-)