Thursday, 3 December 2015

Handmade Holiday Gift: Personalized Cards

I find gift giving to be a source of stress this time of year. It is hard to give gifts that are appreciated while at the same time, ethical and ecologically friendly.

In my experience most people to receive something homemade, and everyone loves to receive something personalized.

I am a teacher, and as much as I appreciate every gift students give me, like mugs and chocolate, I know that I prefer something that a student has taken the time to make for me.

Cards are not exactly ecologically friendly because they are typically used once and then tossed. They are, however, thoughtful, and when used, contain messages from the heart, which makes them harder to throw away (or hopefully recycled).

I am a big fan of quick and easy. and making personalized cards fits the bill.

This project is great because it uses small pieces of left over card stock.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Upcycled Crafts With Jeans

I am an avid crafter, but as someone who cares about environmentalism, I am ashamed to admit how much I spend on buying new craft supplies.

I have kicked the dollar store habit because of the unknown toxins in the products, but with my list of crafting hobbies growing (knitting, bead making, DIY jewelry, card making, scrapbooking, sewing, embroidery, crochet, homemade personal care products) I often have to spend money to buy supplies to feed my habit.

There are so many reasons to be mindful when buying new supplies for crafting. First and foremost is that by purchasing at big box stores it feeds the never ending cycle of consumerism which is drowning the world in plastic waste, harmful production practices, human exploitation and carbon output. I am working on buying supplies from local artisans and craft stores, but this can be more expensive and does not eliminate all the issues.

When I am able, I try to upcycle supplies that I may have around the house or from other people, and Pinterest is perfect for generating ideas. Full disclosure: I am horribly addicted to Pinterest.

One recurring idea that I see on upcycling and crafting Pinterest boards  is how to upcycle blue jeans. In the past when I have cleaned out my drawers and closets I have donated my clothes, but recently I have begun saving them to upcycle into something else.

For most projects using old jeans it is important to cut off the hems and other seams so that the material is not too thick, especially if you are machine sewing them. Depending on the size of the projects, if I plan ahead how I will cut the jeans, I can get two to even three projects out of each pair of jeans. I also save all unused parts of the jeans for future projects. For example, the thick bottom hem of each leg makes a perfect drawstring or rope, the zippers can be cut off and reused again, and the pockets (both front and back) are perfect for instant pockets on bags.

Here are some ways I have given old jeans (or other clothing and bedsheets) a second life as material and fabric in crafting projects:

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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A Sweaty Problem

Over the past few years I have been striving to eliminate as much unnecessary plastic and toxic ingredients from my personal care products. The end result is that my washroom is starting to resemble my kitchen because of the ingredients that are essential to my daily routine. My counter is lined with homemade products with coconut oil, body butters, cider vinegar, baking soda, honey, essential oils and salts. Because I make many of my own products now, I often have to store them in my refrigerator, so on top of my kitchen in my bathroom, my bathroom is now in my kitchen.

But there is one personal care product that I have decided to purchase from a store; natural deodorant.
Creative Commons Image

I am a very sweaty person, but I have long since given up wearing antiperspirant, for a variety of reasons.  I'm no longer fond of putting aluminum on my skin (some may say the jury is out on the dangers of aluminum but I'm not taking any chances), and I have found that unless I use the extremely strong, and therefore questionable, aluminum mixtures (which also burn my skin horribly), it does not stop the embarrassing pit stains for me. To top it all off, antiperspirant may actually make us stinkier! I've just given up the idea that I can go about life as if I live in an advertisement; so what if I have visible sweat marks once in a while (I have adapted to wearing darker clothing on top to mask the wet marks)?

Creative Commons Image

So then the only issue is the smelly one. I had to find a deodorant that I liked, that was natural, and didn't sting, because I have very sensitive underarm skin.

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Friday, 5 June 2015

Natural Aphid Control

Due to an abnormally warm and dry spring, my garden is way ahead of where it would be in a typical year. I have more garden greens, my tomatoes are exploding, and the squash are loving the heat. But the garden pests and problems are ahead of schedule too. Climate change anyone?

I have been battling powdery mildew on my plants (and sadly had to pull up all of the kale), which isn't usually a problem for me until late July or August. Also, the dreaded aphids have been causing me problems since early May. 

There is little that I can do about the powdery mildew (and I've tried the milk spray and the baking soda spray with no luck. It's just something I have to live with; it makes the plants look ugly and slows their growth, but that's about it as far as I can tell.

But there are things I can do for the aphid problem. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

What Does It Mean To Be Present: A Book Review

As I have mentioned before, picture books are a great way to engage people with ideas about the environment. I am a huge book lover and enjoy sharing favourites and new finds.

What Does It Mean To Be Present, by Rania DiOrio is one such book.

Being present, being in the moment, fully embracing what we are experiencing, is important for our happiness, our self-regulation, and our physical and mental health. We can practice mindfulness at any moment in our day, in any setting. I, however, prefer to be mindful in nature, or at least outdoors. That is one reason I am participating in the David Suzuki Foundation 30 x 30 Challenge again this year.

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Thursday, 14 May 2015

30x30 Challenge: Weeks One and Two

I am participating, for the second year, in the David Suzuki Foundation 30 x 30 Challenge to spend 30 minutes a day in nature for 30 days in May.

As with last year, I find that my overall minutes in the outdoors is quite high, but sometimes the challenge on work days is to make sure I get in some time outside.

When I come home from work I am tired and want to sit down, or I am rushing out the door to take someone somewhere, so I either need to make time during my work day to get outside (with my class) or head outside as soon as I get home. On these days the best I can muster is time in my garden, sitting peacefully, wandering around and observing the new plant growth and little critters that reside in my backyard, watering and weeding.

On my days off, and particularly on weekends I find I spend a large portion of the day outside. I go on bike rides and do yard clean up and maintenance. For the past several weekends we have enjoyed a backyard campfire roasting marshmallows with my girls on our BBQ pit.

This past week, however, my time outside was limited for a few days because of a strange virus that worked it's way through my family. Each year for Mother's Day I like to pick an outdoor adventure to do with my family, and this year I wanted to go on a bike ride to our local farmer's market. Alas, this was not to be.

Last year I kept track of minutes outdoors, but this time I am only keeping track of my daily activities and sharing photos on Instagram.

Week One and Two Outdoor Activities:

  • bike rides to Garry Point in Steveston
  • bike ride to meet a friend for coffee
  • quiet time amongst trees at Minoru
  • backyard BBQ campfires
  • tending my backyard garden
  • playing at the beach 
  • dinner on the shore of the Fraser River in Steveston 
  • playing at the park with my class
  • knitting outdoors
  • walks along the river's edge in New Westminster

For the next two weeks my goal is to find time in more natural settings, like a local nature park or rural area. 

Follow my 30 x 30 adventures on Instagram. I'm crustyroll35

Friday, 1 May 2015

Join the 30 X 30 Nature Challenge

Like many people who care about the environment, I love spending time outdoors in nature. When I am feeling stressed or overstimulated it just takes some quiet time by water or trees and I'm much more relaxed and happy. Studies support that time in a natural setting can reduce depression, anxiety, anger, and pain. It also feels like common sense to me that time in nature can help people have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the environment; the more you know, the more you love and have a vested interest in protecting. 

For the fourth year the David Suzuki Foundation is holding their 30 X 30 Challenge for the month of May to spend thirty minutes each day in nature. For a great info graphic about time in nature, go here.

As an avid gardener this is no problem for me, but I love a good hashtag, so I will be participating again by sharing my daily photos to the hashtags #30x30challenge and #natureiscalling on Instagram and twitter. I will also be blogging about how I'm doing here

Friday, 17 April 2015

Life Lessons From Gardening: There Are No Mistakes

I love gardening for so many reasons, not least of which because of everything gardening has taught me. Anyone who has tried to grow something can tell you something that they have learned through the process. Some speak of the appreciation they have for nature, for being witness to the life around them. Others speak about the time spent outdoors and the meditative effect of daily tasks and chores. Then there is the satisfaction of growing one's own food and being intimately connected to the earth.

My favourite gardening lesson is also my favourite life lesson.

There are no mistakes in gardening, only learning experiences.

It is all a matter of perspective, really, as is most of life. Glass half empty or glass half full?

Sure there are posts and books about common newbie gardener mistakes, like not giving plants enough space, under or over fertilizing, or planting in the wrong location. I have read many of them, and when I started container gardening many years ago, and then gardening in my raised beds 5 years ago I did what I do when I start anything new: I read up on how to do it.

But gardening, like life, cannot always be anticipated perfectly, and sometimes things do not go as planned. Of course it feels like a mistake when the garden does not turn out the way you intended it. 

But there are no mistakes, only learning experiences and happy surprises.

An example is my backyard garden so far this season. I was very excited to plant asparagus for the first time this year because I love perennial plants that are plant once and go. I wouldn't be able to harvest any spears this year to allow the plants to establish themselves firmly in the soil, but oh the wait would be worth it for delicious, fresh homegrown spring asparagus. I read the information packet that came with the roots I ordered from a local seed company, did a quick search on the internet to read a little more and then I planted them quickly before heading off on a family vacation.

Asparagus crowns: the roots are the long dangly parts. You
maybe can see why I thought the part of the crowns in the
bottom of the photo were the beginning of the roots,
rather than the future spears. Basically this is upside down.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Are Plastic Bag Bans Worth It?

Recently my family and I were on holiday in Maui, Hawaii, and as soon as we went shopping I noticed that everyone was offering us paper bags for our items. Of course I just pulled out the small cloth shopping bags that I keep in every bag I own and used that. On the few occasions the items didn't fit in my smallish shopping bags, I returned the paper bags and just carried out my purchases in my hand rather than use a large paper bag.

After a few days of this I did a quick google search to discover that there is a ban on plastic shopping bags on the island. My initial reaction was yes! But then I remembered that I saw everyone walking out of stores with paper bags, not reusable bags. When I remarked on this, my oldest daughter commented that paper bags are probably better than plastic.

It may have been due to being spring break and the area was full of tourists who (unlike me) do not travel with their reusable shopping bags, so their only choice was to use paper bags. However, this is not the fully story because we also went shopping in less touristy areas and there was still a predominance of paper bags.

This did not sit right with me. After all, as a reasonably environmentally aware person, I knew that the best choice should always be to use reusable shopping bags, rather than having to chose between paper or plastic bags.
I love the reuseable bags I purchased years ago, and they
fold up small enough to fit in any bag or purse so I always
have one or two on hand, even on vacation.

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Teaching Happiness: A Picture Book Review

As a teacher one of the first ways I teach something is through reading a picture book. There's something about compelling illustrations to draw us into the author's message. I believe that picture books can be used with all ages, be they young children or fully grown adults.

Teaching about the importance of the Earth and environmentalism is a tough topic for children, as the Climate Crusader has found, and I have found one of the best ways to engage children with difficult topics like the environment and social responsibility, is through reading books.

One area of my life that I am trying to work on is being satisfied with what I have and not desiring more stuff, like my own Making Do Movement, so I was drawn to a book in my school library,  The Short And Incredibly Happy Life Of Riley by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat.

Friday, 6 March 2015

In Defence of Making Do

I will begin by saying that I have very little fashion and design sense, and I cannot walk into a room and see how I can transform it into a vision of my own style. I cannot just slap a coat of paint on something and magically transform a room for under $700. Anyone who comes into my home or sees how I dress can see that right away.

The downside is that I am sometimes embarrassed by the mismatched nature of my home furnishings. The upside is that I am not spending thousands and thousands of dollars updating my home to the latest and greatest style.
My mismatched floors after an old dishwasher broke, leaked,
and damaged the flooring. Thank goodness for kind neighbours
who help source replacement boards and install for me.

One of my pet peeves is watching home decorations and real estate shows that have people saying how the house is not move in ready because the perfectly serviceable countertops are not granite and the appliances are not stainless steel, and how they want to rip everything out of the kitchen to make it more their style. When we moved into our home we were thrilled, despite the fact that the original 80s kitchen cabinets have not been updated (just painted) and the countertops have a faux treatment to look like granite (and they aren't fooling anyone, I assure you!). It was move-in ready because everything worked.

Recently I moved some furnishings from my grandmother's home to mine.

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Friday, 16 January 2015

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

Guilt Free Coffee

I have a love/hate relationship with my morning cup of coffee. I have kicked the habit, or at least taken a break from the habit, for years at a time, but I always seem to return to my beloved cup of joe.

I've never gone the espresso machine route (always out of my price range) but over the years I've tried several coffee makers. Some I've loved more than others, but each one of them has lost its lustre in my eyes. After my latest round of caffeine detox I took a long hard look at my coffee machine. The carafe was glass, but all the other parts, including the basket where the hot water would drain through, was plastic, and this did not wash with me.

Time to find a new coffee making system.

Needless to say I would not purchase a K Cup system. I won't bother going into the reasons; they do not need to be spoken, and EcoYogini has already done a great job.
Don't judge me. Yes, I am a nerd.
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Friday, 2 January 2015

Reverse Green Resolutions

It's the new year and my Facebook feed is full of inspirational quotes and resolutions for starting the year well. But like Neil deGrasse Tyson, I won't be making any resolutions.

We have all had to make resolutions in January when we were in school, which we know almost immediately that we wouldn't keep. Then we feel bad about ourselves for not keeping the resolutions. 

Unless there has been a genuine shift in thinking and attitude, and we are able to make a change in behaviour a habit, we do not follow through on our goals. 

Instead, I think we should be focussing on all the positive actions we have done for the environment over the previous year, like a reverse resolution. Most likely we are doing more than we realize, and this is important because we can get bogged down in all the things we should be doing. 

I've brainstormed as many actions that I can think of that we may have done in 2014, and if you have made even five items on the list a habit give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Keep up the good work for 2015!

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