Archives for November 2013

On Tending to a Sick Child

My eight-year-old, Hannah, stayed home from school today. This put a bit of a wrench in my plans, and I may have gotten a little whiny about it, if only inside my head. This morning, as I pressed the back of my hand against my daughter’s forehead to see if she was feverish, I mentally ticked off a list of all of the things I wouldn’t be able to do with a sick kid at home.

I forgot to think about how fortunate I am to work from home, so that I wasn’t left scrambling.

I forgot to be relieved that she wasn’t even all that sick.

I forgot how rarely I get to spend time with just one of my kids anymore, now that they’re both at the same school.

Sometimes we all suffer from first-world problems – or at least those of us in the first world do. What makes them first world problems is that we’re more focused on the minor inconveniences than on the bigger picture. I can accept that I am no different.

sick day art project

Hannah works on her sick day art project

Fortunately, as the day wore on I got a grip on myself. Hannah and I watched a movie together that her brother is too young for. We ate lunch that her brother doesn’t like. She worked on an art project, and watched too much TV. I got my work done. It was all okay.

In the middle of the afternoon, just before we left the house to pick up her brother from school and just after I gave her another dose of Children’s Advil, I looked down at my daughter She was paler than usual, which isn’t surprising. Her eyes looked especially large in her tired face. Her brow was slightly furrowed with mild anxiety, of the kind I feel myself when I’m sick. In that moment, she didn’t look her age. She looked like my baby.

In my life, I will have plenty more work days. I will spend more and more time on my own, without either of my children with me. I will be less and less responsible for my children’s care with each passing day. Today, however, my baby needed me. She really needed me, just to be there, just to provide her the reassurance that only her mother can give her. She needed my hand on her forehead, checking her. She needed me to tell her I would take care of her, and she would be okay.

Of course, she will be. Of course, I will be, too.

Today, my to-do list had to take a backseat to my sick baby. I had sacred duties to fulfill. There’s nowhere else I would rather have been.

And tonight … ah, tonight. Tonight there will be an early bedtime for my kids, and a couple of glasses of wine for me. I think I’ve earned them.

Organic Grocery Delivery Follow-Up

organic grocery delivery one green thing enviro-mama

With less than a week left in the month, I’ve clearly missed the boat on planning my One Green Thing for November. Ah, well, some months are like that. However, it occurs to me that this means I also haven’t updated you on my One Green Thing for October, which was trying out organic grocery delivery. I wanted to fill you in on how that’s been going.

As you may recall, I reactivated my account with, a local business that delivers organic and locally-grown and produced food once each week. (Just a note – I am not being compensated in any way for this blog post, I’m just sharing my experience because I think you might be interested.) I had used the service a number of years ago, but stopped it because I found that I was spending too much on groceries. With a weekly commitment on Sundays making it difficult for me to visit my local farmers’ market, I decided to try them out again.

I am a month and a half in now, and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. The pluses:

  • A weekly standing order means that I never forget the basics like milk, bread, eggs, lettuce and so on.
  • I really don’t have to visit the grocery store nearly as often – I’m averaging about once every three weeks now. Coupled with the fact I’m not frequenting the farmers’ market this means I’m spending very little time grocery shopping.
  • My delivery driver remembered me, even all these years later, and was glad to see me.
  • I know exactly where my food is coming from, because they tell me.
  • They have an iPhone app, so when I finish something in my kitchen (like, say, mayo) I can order it right then and there.
  • Like pretty much any grocery store, they carry some items I can’t find anywhere else, which I’m enjoying.

The minuses:

  • While they carry almost everything I need, there are some things I just can’t get from them, like my husband’s gluten-free bread or certain spices.
  • They definitely are more expensive than shopping at the grocery store, although I’m getting a higher percentage of organic food.
  • Sometimes they mess up my order, or don’t have something in stock. While they work hard to make it right, it still means that I don’t have something I expected to have.
  • They deliver to my house on Thursdays. It would be more convenient for me if I got groceries at the beginning of the week, so that I had more fresh food on hand for my kids’ school lunches.

One the whole, for me, the pluses are currently outweighing the minuses, so I’m keeping it. I’ll let you know if I change my mind again.

Have you tried home grocery delivery? What did you think?

Sliding into Winter

winter frost

This morning I could feel it … winter. The ground was covered in frost, and not the gentle kind that disappears almost before you’ve seen it. The kind that sticks around in the shade almost all day, reaching its cold fingers out and wrapping them around any piece of skin you may have been foolish enough to leave exposed. It was the sort of cold that makes me wish I had a nose warmer, even if it would look a little bit ridiculous.

Of course, those who live in colder climes than my own may scoff, that I should feel so cold when it was only minus two degrees Celsius (or 28 degrees Fahrenheit). I know that many places are already much colder than Vancouver. I also know that it likely won’t get much colder than this here all winter, while cities across Canada will experience a much, much deeper freeze that will last for months. All that I can say in my defense is that temperature is a relative measurement, and not an absolute one. During the summer we feel chilly at temperatures that would feel downright balmy in the winter. In the same way, what qualifies as cold in one place may not qualify as cold in another.

In any case, my point is not that it really is cold. My point is that I feel winter on my skin, in the air I breathe, in the crunch under my feet, in the colour of the sky. The darkness is deepening, and the world is entering its slumber. I feel it calling to me, drawing me in, urging me to rest. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to check my email and drive the kids around and manage my to-do list. I just want to eat chocolate and cheese, and drink tea, and watch television until I feel fat and happy and sleepy. Then maybe I might do a little bit of knitting, or read a book. Maybe.

Normally I feel a certain sense of dread at this time of year. November in Vancouver is a very dark time. It’s usually cloudy and rainy, it gets dark well before dinner, and the only holiday that we celebrate is Remembrance Day, when we honour Canada’s fallen soldiers. It’s an important holiday, and I am very grateful for those who sacrificed so much on my behalf, but it’s not exactly what you would call upbeat. Often in November I feel as if I’m staring down the barrel of many more months of cold, rain, and long nights, with little to look forward to.

Not too long ago, though, I was chatting with a mom on the school playground who said that November is her favourite month. She looks at it as her chance to rest and refuel before the Christmas season kicks into high gear. I’ve been thinking a lot about what she had to say. She’s seizing the opportunity that the season provides, rather than lamenting what it doesn’t. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I wanted to do that, too. Winter is coming, as Game of Thrones loves to remind us, and it’s coming whether I want it to or not. Accepting the gifts it brings seems like the most gracious say to handle things.

Of course, no one is giving me this month off. I still have stuff to do, deadlines to meet, and children to take care of. However, I am working on allowing myself the space to rest whenever I can. The hard work will still be there next month, and the month after, and the month after that. November is more than half over now, and so I am going to seize the opportunity to rest while I can, as I slowly slide into winter.

Podcast: Crafting Calm with Maggie Oman Shannon podcast crafting calm maggie oman shannonPeople create handcrafts for all sorts of reasons. Some crafts are practical, like knitting a hat to keep your head warm. Some are artistic expressions, like creating an amazing and colourful quilt. And some are rooted in our spiritual impulse, like creating a vision board or knitting a prayer shawl. That last type of crafting – that is, crafting as a spiritual practice – is something that Maggie Oman Shannon, minister, mother and author knows a lot about. In fact, she wrote a whole book about it, which is called Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation.

Given the subject of her book, you might think that Maggie is a prolific and skilled crafter. After speaking with her, however, I learned that like many of us she finds time where she can, and that not every project turns out just how she envisioned it. She is a human being, which I found reassuring.

maggie oman shannon crafting calm podcastDuring our conversation Maggie and I talked about how she came to view crafting as a part of her spiritual practice. We also talked about different crafting forms, created objects and intentions. For example, is knitting a hat to keep your head warm a spiritual practice? Is painting superior to sewing, or vice versa? And do you have to feel perfectly spiritual and zen the whole time you’re crafting? (I seriously hope not, because I use a lot of bad words while I’m sewing.)

If you’d like to get in touch with your creative side, if you’d like to tap into something greater than yourself while you’re creating, or if you need a little bit of encouragement to pull out your crafting bin, you’ll want to listen to my podcast with Maggie. Wherever you fall on the crafting spectrum, you’ll find that there’s something for you. We are all innately creative, and we can all benefit from expressing that in a way that feeds the soul. We hold that in common, even if the crafts we create look nothing alike.

If you enjoyed my conversation with the inspiring Maggie Oman Shannon, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute of my future broadcasts. Also, if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Trying Soap Nuts + A Giveaway!

soap nuts green eco-friendly laundryIn my efforts to make doing laundry greener, I’ve tried a lot of things. I gave up dryer sheets. I’ve used eco-friendly detergents than I can count. I’ve hung my laundry to dry. However, until recently, I haven’t tried soap nuts.

I’d heard about soap nuts from a lot of different sources. Some people swear by them, and others are more lukewarm. I’ve considered trying them myself, but since my husband does the laundry and he prefers detergents that more closely resemble conventional options I hadn’t taken the plunge. When Ken McGowan of Sinfully Wholesome got in touch with me about a review and giveaway, I decided it was time to make the leap. I let him know I’d love to try some out, and not long after they arrived in the mail.

Soap nuts are actually not nuts, they’re berries that grow in Nepal and India. They contain a natural surfactant, which means they can be used as a cleaner. Using them is simple – you put 5-6 soap nuts in a small cloth bag and throw it in the laundry. It works for 5-6 loads, which is about how much laundry my family does in a week. You don’t need to remove it for the rinse cycle, which is good, because trying to remember to take the soap nuts out would be challenging. When you’re done with the soap nuts, you can steep them in boiling water overnight to make a household cleaner. After that, they’re compostable.

soap nuts sinfully wholesomeThe soap nuts I received were organic, and they came packaged in a bag made from handmade Nepalese Lokta paper, which is harvested from the self-regenerating Lokta bush. Nothing else is added – no colours, fragrances or chemicals of any kind. The berries themselves are non-toxic – in fact, Ken says you could eat them, although they don’t taste that good. They’re also good for people with allergies, and can be used in any kind of washing machine. From an environmental standpoint, the upsides seem pretty clear. I gave my husband the run-down on how to use them, and we gave them a go.

soap nuts review giveawayThe soap nuts do seem to work, in that our laundry was definitely cleaner after washing than before. The clothes smelled good, as well. The soap nuts do leave a slight residue on the clothes. This is touted as a natural fabric softening effect, but my husband found it off-putting. Also, he found it a little difficult to locate the bag of soap nuts amongst the wet laundry when removing it from the washing machine. In the end, I was more impressed than he was, which was not even a little bit surprising to me. My husband is a skeptic, especially when it comes to cleaning clothes. I would use the soap nuts all the time, but he prefers something that comes with a dispenser.

In the end, the most accurate opinion of soap nuts is probably going to be formed by trying them. To help you out, Ken is giving away two 500 gram bags of Sinfully Wholesome Soap Nuts. There are enough soap nuts to wash 150-200 loads of laundry in each bag (which is another upside to cleaning clothes this way – it’s actually very affordable). The giveaway is open to Canadian and US addresses. Just fill out this form before 9:00pm Pacific on Friday, November 22, 2013 for a chance to win. For an extra entry, subscribe to Sinfully Wholesome’s mail list. Good luck!

The contest is now closed.

What about you – have you tried soap nuts? What did you think? I’d love to hear!

Experiencing the Wild West Coast

This past weekend was extra-long for my family. Friday was a non-instructional day at my kids’ school, and Monday was Remembrance Day, which is a holiday where we live. Jon and I decided to take advantage of it by scheduling a weekend getaway. And, thanks to fabulous grandparents, we were able to make it a kid-free weekend getaway. Such luxury!

We went back and forth a few times on the destination (San Francisco? Seattle? Portland? Victoria? Harrison Hot Springs?). In the end we settled on Tofino, a small village on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, famous for natural beauty, big waves and winter storms. In fact, in addition to two bathrobes in our hotel room, we found two raincoats and umbrellas for us to use during our stay. Tofino is a popular surfing destination locally, although with very cold water a wet suit is definitely required. Since the water is basically freezing all year long, this means that people are still out there in November.

I can walk to the ocean in about 20 minutes from my house. However, the ocean here is a very different thing than in Tofino. The closest stretch of the ocean to me is a salt marsh at the end of Port Moody Inlet. The sea here is very quiet. Vancouver is protected by Vancouver Island to the west, so the waves never get that big. At the very end of Port Moody Inlet it’s even more protected, and when the tide is in you could easily mistake it for a lake, the water is so calm. Local beaches are typically rocky, and while you can find baby crabs hiding under rocks and spot the occasional sea star or harbour seal, heavy use and lots of boat traffic make for a less-than-wild feeling.

Tofino is a different animal, which I suspected but didn’t fully understand until I arrived for this, my first visit. The trees there still reach high for the sky, in spite of their obviously wind-swept appearance. The empty shells on the beach are much bigger than at home. And the waves along the unprotected coast never stop. Even at their smallest they emit a constant roar, which is actually very soothing to listen to. There is lots of sand, worn smooth by all those relentless waves. If you visit the protected harbour in Tofino you’ll see water taxis, tour boats and float planes, which can take you to nearby islands that are not accessible by car.

In Tofino I got a picture of what the place I live in might have looked like (minus the big waves) 200 years ago. There was a time when the mussels were just as big and the trees were just as tall here in Vancouver, I’m sure. Now, I’ll have to visit places like Tofino to experience that wildness. I’m glad I made the trip. It wasn’t cheap, but it was worthwhile to remind myself of the power of the natural world. The sleeping in wasn’t too shabby, either.

Here are some of my snapshots:

Nourishing Myself

For the longest time, I think I was waiting to get serious about my own health. I was waiting until I felt like it. Until I was less busy. Until after I had the baby. Until after I had the other baby. Until the kids were older. Until after the holidays. Until after this chocolate cake was finished. Recently, however, I’ve realized that there will never be a perfect time. There will always be other things competing for my time and energy. There will always be something else I’d rather be doing.

sarah goodman nourishing goods

Sarah of Nourishing Goods

Right now, today, I am the youngest I will ever be for the rest of my life. By extension, I am in the best place I will ever be to make changes. And right now, today, I see more clearly than I ever have that I deserve to be taken care of. I’d like to set a good example for my kids. I’d like to provide a healthy diet for my family. Most of all, though, I want to nourish and nurture my own health purely for myself. I want to get more sleep, eat less sugar and embrace vegetables because it feels good to me.

This is why, when Sarah Goodman of Nourishing Goods got in touch with me a couple of months ago to offer me a offer me a free holistic nutritional consultation and personal training session, I didn’t think twice before I said yes. The truth is I would pretty much never seek outside advice like this on my own. At the same time, I recognized that she might have suggestions and insight for me that I couldn’t gain for myself. I set about filling out her intake form and logging my food intake over the course of a few days in preparation for our session.

nourishing goods granola

Super Food Granola

Sarah took the information about me and my goals, and reviewed my current diet, before she came to my house. She created a two page print-out with nutritional recommendations, a quick exercise routine I could do in 15 minutes at home, and recipe suggestions. For example, she has a cauliflower crust pizza recipe on her web site that she suggested my family might enjoy based on what we were currently eating. Then she went through her recommendations with me, answering my questions and explaining her reasoning. Finally, she led me in a brief personal training session.

I appreciated that Sarah wasn’t preachy, and that she took into account my family’s preferences in her recommendations and during our conversation. I live with three very picky eaters – we’re not going to adopt an all-kale diet. She also said that it’s okay to eat less-than-healthy comfort foods sometimes, graciously letting me off the hook for my salt and vinegar chip obsession. I also found that the 15 minute workout she led me through really left me sweating. I’ll tell you, my arms were feeling those push-ups.

nourshing goods personal training squatsI learned a few things from Sarah. In particular, she talked about how adding strength training to my routine is helpful if I want to lose weight. She also told me that eating fruit is fine, provided that I pair it with protein so that my blood sugar doesn’t spike.

A few weeks out, though, I have to be honest: I did the workout precisely once, while Sarah was over. I am still struggling to find the energy and motivation to add push-ups to my daily routine. I have found the dietary changes easier to adopt by making small changes. In particular, I’m eating more greens since she visited.

In the end, I think most of us know what we have to do to take better care of ourselves. Other people can help us, but we have to do the work. Whether that means eating more kale, getting out of your chair and doing some squats, or turning off the TV at a reasonable hour and going to sleep, you’ve got to make your well-being a priority if you want to improve it. It may take a while, and a whole lot of baby steps, but that’s what I’m aiming for. I deserve it … and you do, too.

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