My love of Kamut

I have been baking bread for our family for almost a year now.  It is something that I love to do – especially when I can purchase organic flours or locally milled flours to add in.  It is so fun to experiement with the recipe by adding other flours in to see how it makes the bread taste…and this is what led me to discover some organic kamut flour at Bulk Barn.

Oooh, I love the taste of the bread when it has kamut in it.  It is rich, and buttery tasting and it has a beautiful golden colour.  This summer I couldn’t wait to make bread at the cottage because my brother from Calgary would be there.  He also makes his own bread and I wanted to share the experience of kamut with him – it’s like I knew that he would get how amazing it is.  Well, he lived up to my expectations.  We sampled the bread for our bedtime snack – and he had all the kids smelling the bread and taking a bite before they put anything on it.  He also said that it tasted like our Grandma’s bread – so that may be another reason why I love it so much.

Kamut is an ancient relative of the modern durum wheat – they call it the “sweet wheat” because it is not bitter.  It has a Egyptian heritage; “kamut” is an ancient Egyptian word for wheat.   When compared to common wheat it is higher in 8 out 0f 9 minerals, contains up to 65% more amino acids, boasts more lipids and fatty acids, and has up to 40% higher protein level.  It is also considered a “high energy grain” because of it’s higher percentage of lipids which produce more energy than carbs.

There are a few websites out there where you can learn more about kamut, but I think it’s popularity is going to really increase and we will all know the name soon.  It is easy to substitute into any recipe, the only change you may have to make it add a bit more liquid.  I think kamut crepes or muffins are next on my list of experimenting…maybe I will even throw some into the next batch of cookies!

Aaah, kamut, my love.

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Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 2:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Birthdays…

It seems that with spring comes birthday season, and I don’t think I was a huge success in the gift selection process.  However, I feel like I did make some good ethical and environmental choices for the birthday party I had for Sarah.

Sarah loves horses, so this year it was a horse theme.  The horseshoe pinata was made from pizza boxes.  I went with real plates and glasses and our cloth napkins.  I debated about what I was going to do with the treat bags for awhile.  What I ended up doing is sewing bags out of an old sheet, and then cutting out a horseshoe from felt to glue on the front.  I used up material I have had for almost 15 years (Yes, I am a pack rat.), and the girls all have a bag they can keep using. 

The other issue is what do you put in the bag?  I have given up shopping at dollar stores because for such low prices how can there really be any hope that slave wages or child labour are not  involved in the production of those products.  This year I stopped at 10 Thousand Villages and found a beautiful glass ring and some fair trade chocolate, which I added to the bag along with a few other things.

We did not buy anything new for the invitations or thank you cards, and the invites had a silver painted horseshoes cut out of cereal boxes glued to it.   The thank you cards utilized some of the horse stickers that Sarah got for her birthday. 

I have been trying to rethink gift giving, to avoid meaningless purchases.  So this year Sarah got riding lessons from her grandmother for her birthday, and we took her to pick out  boots for her riding lessons.  She is now the proud owner of pink cowgirl boots.

I also have to add, that Sarah received a lot of money for her birthday this year and it has been beautiful to see her being generous with her riches.  The kids program at our church is collecting money to buy 10 bicycles for an orphanage in Guatemala.  Sarah has given $30.00 of her birthday money, and is thinking of giving more.  Seeing her generosity is further inspiration to continue my journey.  What a girl!

Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 2:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Spring Cleaning

I have been doing some spring cleaning lately, and I thought I would share some of my new green alternatives to spruce up the house.

 Washing windows can be a real pain in the arm and I now have a new favourite item to help in washing windows.  My mom sent me the Norwex window cloth and it is amazing!!  All I did is wash my windows with water and then dry with the window cloth this year, and I have no streaks.  The window cloth does an amazing job on the windows and mirrors. 

With a one year old boy in the house, you can perhaps imagine what the walls of my house might look like.  Riley went through a stage of writing on the walls with any sort of writing implement he could find.  I had been procrastinating in cleaning them, because I didn’t want to use the magic eraser type product because of the chemicals in them.  Norwex has a Micro pad that is supposed to do the trick.  The consultant that I got the pad from suggested just cutting off a small section and using that up – to make the pad last longer.  I just cut off an inch squared and then wet it and the pen and marker and pencil all came off the wall!!  Unfortunately, Riley was a bit too forceful at times, and now I need to repair the little pen holes in the wall.

In washing my walls I have been using a simple solution of water with a few drops of essential oil in it.  I love adding essential oils to my cleaning water, because of their disinfecting and sanitizing properties.  A lot of the Norwex products are meant to be used just with water, but I do miss the smell.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 1:15 am  Leave a Comment  

I’m a Diva Girl!

Guys – just a warning off the top – this is really, really a girl thing!  You may experience discomfort if you continue to read.

In researching about cotton, the awful discovery of tampons being made out of the left-over pesticide rich gin trash has changed my ideas about what I want to place in the most private area of my body.  Here is a list of what can be found in a simple tampon: synthetic rayon, pesticide-laden cotton, dioxins, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and artificial fragrances. Loux, in her book Easy Green Living offers an experiment for women.  Take a conventional tampon, place it in a glass of water and wait for the tampon to expand.  Then take it out of the water and check out what is left in the water.  That is what you deposit inside your body with every tampon.

There are of course alternatives organic cotton, chlorine-free bleached pads and tampons, reusable cloth pads or reusable menstrual cups.  In considering the alternatives, I was most drawn to the reusable cups and had read about a couple varieties – The Diva Cup and The Keeper .  These eliminate tampons but do not require me to wash organic cotton pads.  That is just a little too icky for me. 

Then I had a couple friends mention The Diva Cup, one had been using it for a number of years and the other was just switching over.  So when my time was up, I, too, made the switch to The Diva Cup.  I have not actually seen The Keeper in any of the natural/health food stores that I have been in.  The investment was around $40.00.  It took a few tries to get the placement right, but after that I loved it and it works great.  Every time I pour out the contents, I think this is amazing!!   I have eliminated the waste caused by using tampons and pads, as well as eliminated chemicals being absorbed in my body.  I think it is a great solution!! 

In chatting about The Diva Cup more, I did find out that one of my cousins had tried a few varieties. They didn’t work for her because her flow is so heavy, so it kept leaking.  So it may work better for women who have a regular, as opposed to, a heavy flow.

Also, when I bought one for myself I also bought one for my niece who is seventeen and is embarking on a traveling adventure around the world.  What an absolutely great thing to have on your travels, you never have to buy any feminine hygene  in other countries.  If you have a water bottle with you – you can wash the cup anywhere.

I am a happy Diva Girl!

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 9:05 pm  Comments (2)  

Green Living Show

This past weekend my family and I attended The Third Annual Green Living Show in Toronto.  It turned out to be a really fun family friendly event.  I probably would’ve got a bit more out of it personally without kids, but it was fun to have them there to enjoy the day. 

One of our first stops was the Natural Playspace that was created in the show.  There was a fenced off area complete with trees, sand pit, small amphitheatre, and craft tables (made out of trees) for the kids to enjoy. You can see a sketch of the space on the Green Living Show website.  Riley went down the slide probably 50 times. 

riley-on-the-slide1

The other family hot spot was the organic/fair trade food section that was giving out samples of all this amazing food.  The girls, and Chris were in heaven.  We did make some food purchases because they were already dropping some of the prices on Saturday evening.  

One of my favourite companies was there – The Green Beaver.  I love this company because it is a Canadian company and because they leave all of the nasty chemicals out.  Some green products still have  chemicals in them that it would be best to avoid.  We bought some Green Apple Toothpaste and Star Anise Toothpaste (this is like brushing your teeth with black licorice – so yummy!)

We are not in the market for new shoes, but we met the company that we would like to purchase our next pair of shoes from – Simple Shoes.  The shoes are made out of recycled and natural materials.  They are made in Asia, but the company has a third party involved ensuring that fair wages are being paid.  Plus the shoes are also very cool, and fun!!  I love fun!

My children are animal lovers, so we did stop at all the animal booths – WWF, Greenpeace, Earth Rangers.  There were a lot of booths dedicated to greening your home, as well.   We didn’t have time to really explore all of these booths.

I think if you are interested in greening your life, this is a great show to attend.  Most of the companies were offering special prices just for customers at the show.  We all know how expensive organic food, or stainless steel drink bottles can be, and some of the prices at the show were amazing.  We paid for our entrance tickets with the savings on the things we purchased.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

World Water Day – March 22

I have been away for a bit and it seems like we are getting into the environmental season – spring.  Tomorrow is World Water Day, which I just found out existed today.  I will consciously try to conserve every drop of water tomorrow.  If you are looking for activities in your area or things you can do, the Council of Canadians has an extensive website. 

Another special day coming up is Earth Hour on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 pm.  I am ahead of the game on this one and World Wildlife Fund – Canada has set up a website for people to get involved.  I have signed up for the event, but I realized that I will be out that evening.  So I will need to heavily co-ordinate my family.  I wonder if the girls will go for no night light in order to help the planet?

The other thing I found out about is a new search engine called Forestle that helps save the rain forest while you search.  I have switched over from google, and now do rain forest searches.  So fun!

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 2:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Organic Foods

On a week by week basis, I have been trying to incorporate more organic food into our household.  Yes, it is more expensive, but I think it is an important way to vote with my dollars for helping create a larger organic market.

Organic farming builds healthier, more fertile soil without the use of toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, as well as through incorporating crop rotation.  It prevents the erosion of topsoil.  It lowers greenhouse gas emissions and conserves energy.  It keeps toxic substances out of nearby water sources.  (The excess nitrogen that makes its way to the ocean has created “dead zones“.  These are low oxygen areas of coastal waters where marine life is literally suffocated.  There are 150 of these zones in the world’s oceans.)  It ensures that no antibiotics, genetic engineering, cloning, sewage sludge or irridation (using x-rays to sterilize food) are used in the production of the food.  It avoids the use of intense feedlots or factory farms for raising animals.  It can protect us from the adverse health effects of pesticides, as well as farmers and farm workers.

Should we be concerned about the pesticides and fertilizers?  Here is a list of a few of the ingredients found in some of them: nitrates, arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and dioxin.  The dangers become the fact that most of these are persistent (don’t disappear), bioaccumulative (stored in the fatty tissues), and are toxic.  Not all produce absorbs the chemicals to the same degree.  To see what fruits and vegetables we should be wary of check out the dirty dozen list done by the Environmental Working Group.  I live in peach country, and that is NUMBER ONE on the list!!  What am I going to do this summer?

I think I need to find the local organic farmers and the Canadian Organic Growers has a website that can help locate farms, restaurants, and producers.   Another place to look for local farms is the Local Harvest website.  It looks like a site specific to the States, but you can find Canadian farms or producers on there as well.  Another place to find local food suppliers is on the Eat Well Guide website or you can locate local grass-fed food on the Eat Wild website.

Before I finish off with the organics, I just wanted to touch on seafood.  Remember my dilemma about what to eat at The Keg?  Well, I have found a website to help us navigate our seafood choices.  They even have a printable seafood guide that you can keep in your wallet.

Happy shopping and eating!  The beautiful thing about eating organic food is that they taste soooo good!

Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 3:31 am  Comments (3)  

Essential Oils

I have become a huge fan of essential oils; they are the essence that is extracted from various plants.  Here is a list of some of the essential oils and the properties they have:

  • Cinnamon – antiseptic, said to stimulate the body and mind
  • Clove – antiseptic, repels ants
  • Lavender – antiseptic, antifungal, traditionally used to heal skin and clean cuts
  • Lemon – antibacterial, antiseptic, deodorizing
  • Lemongrass – antiseptic, repels insects
  • Lime – antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic
  • Oregano – antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic
  • Rosemary – antiseptic
  • Sweet Orange – disinfectant
  • Tea Tree – antiseptic, disinfectant, antifungal
  • Thyme – antiseptic, disinfectant, antibacterial, antimicrobial

As you can see, the possibilities for how we can use essential oils to replace chemicals in our homes is quite vast.

 Through my readings I have realized that I want to eliminate my use of chlorine bleach (to see why refer to the end of the post), but I wondered what I would do at the cottage to sanitize after winter (aka mouse season).  This year I can use water with a few drops of the essential oil of sweet orange, tea tree or thyme (or a combination). 

I am a huge lavender fan.  I have a row of it growing beside my driveway, and in June the girls and I always pick a few sprigs to bring in the van with us.  So thus far, I have  only purchased lavender essential oil, and I have found a few ways to use it. 

We have a bagless vacuum cleaner, and sometimes when we vacuum it smells like dirty feet.  This does not add to the clean feeling.  So when I cleaned out the filters, I added a few drops of lavender essential oil on the filter.  It worked great!  When I vacuumed, it created this beautiful relaxing lavender scent while I cleaned. 

When I am cleaning my toilet, I put a couple drops of the oil in the toilet bowl with the baking soda.  I have also added lavender essential oil into a bath, and into cleaning water.  There are many homemade cleaning recipes out there that utilize essential oils, and I am collecting and planning to try out a number of them.

I really think essential oils are amazing because they are just the essence from a plant and nothing else, they have great cleaning properties, and they smell fabulous!

 

Why I want to eliminate my use of chlorine bleach:

Some of the direct hazards are it is extremely corrosive, it burns your skin, it is absorbed through your skin, it is a poison, it bioaccumulates (accumulates in fatty tissue and doesn’t leave), it is a respiratory irritant that viciously attacks mucous membranes, it is an indoor air pollutant, and it is dangerously reactive with organic matter (it can cause low-grade toxic reactions with dirt).

Some of the indirect hazards are it is reactive (causes dangerous reactions in the environment), it ends up in our food because it accumulates and travels up the food chain, and it causes serious health effects (linked with reproductive disorders, birth defects, developmental impairment, cancer, etc).

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 2:13 am  Comments (1)  

My New Prgrammable Thermostat

A representative from Horizon Utilities came by this morning and installed my new, free programmable thermostat.  I signed up for the peek saver program, which gives you a $25 credit on your account and a free programmable thermostat.   Then at peek energy times they can send a wireless signal to temporarily alter the central air conditioner’s compressor cycle to 15 minutes on then 15 minutes off for 4  hours between May and September.  I think it is a win – win situation.  They have installed aournd 7000 so far in St. Catharines and Hamilton.  And if you have been thinking about it, they have just updated the thermostats that they are installing – so now is a good time.

http://www.horizonutilities.com/HHSC/html/conservation/con_OPApeaksaver.jsp

In our household energy use 49% goes towards heating and cooling, anything we can do in our homes to improve heating and cooling pays off big for the environment, and usually for our wallet.

Here are some helps in the heating and cooling area:

  • replace older heating systems with an energy efficient furnace
  • check and replace filters regularly, have annual tune-ups, make sure all the ducts are sealed properly to ensure maximum air flow
  • installing a programmable thermostat can save 5-10% on an energy bill
  • use a ceiling fan instead of AC (the fan uses one tenth the electricity per year)
  • living in the northern hemisphere plant coniferous trees on the north side to block cold winds and plant deciduous trees on the south side for shade (carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of the energy used for cooling)
  • close curtains and blinds at night during winter and during the day in the summer
  • turn the thermostat down by 1 or 2 degrees

A great way to determine your home energy deficits is to bring in an energy auditor or a home performance analyst.  There is also government funding for this (this one is specifically Ontario).

http://www.homeenergyontario.ca/blue/index.asp?lang=en&sec=blue

The government is interested in helping us to be more energy efficient.  Here are a couple of other websites that list some funding available through Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.  It is a bit of reading, but if you are thinking of making changes, check these websites out first.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/incitatifs-incentives/index_eng.asp?lang=en&jurisdiction=0&actionArea=0&keyword=&submit=Search

http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/programs.cfm?attr=4

I am excited about the new thermostat, and if I wanted I could change the temperature in my house right now.  It is accessible over the Internet, cool hey?!

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

SOA Watch

I have been reading today, and I had to blog right away about the SOA Watch, because it brings up a new thread in the web of abuse. 

The SOA Watch according to their website “is  an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. ”

What is this school?  It is an army training base located in Fort Benning, Georgia.  The school trains Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, and the graduates have killed many of their own people.  According to the SOA Watch website: “Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.”

The thread of the evil of military repression is an integral part in the web of economic oppression.  The militia are ready to brutalize and kill people who stand up against the injustices of economic greed within their community.  I recognized the presence and evils of the military, but did not think of their training.  The fact that these soldiers are being trained in the States to kill brave folks standing up against oppression is terrible.  I just want to applaud the efforts of this group that is trying to shut down this school, so please go check out their website.

http://www.soaw.org/index.php

Published in: on February 15, 2009 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment