Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Best Things in Life Are Chocolate

What better way to celebrate the first day of Winter than a cup of hot coco? Last year I discovered the most delicious hot chocolate. Vitasoy's Peppermint Chocolate soymilk will make you never even look at another hot chocolate. Even those who don't normally drink soymilk love it's chocolaty flavour with a hint of candy cane. I think it's best when heated up on the stove and then poured into mugs. I've only seen it available for the holidays and it's usually located where the other shelf stable soymilk products are.

Monday, 15 December 2008

10 Tips To Green Your Holiday

  1. Reuse wrapping paper, tissue paper, tins, boxes, bags, ribbon and bows. This year think twice before you throw that wrapping paper into the recycling. Just because you recycle it, doesn't mean trees weren't used to make the paper in the first place. Why not collect all your holiday gift wrapping and store them with the rest of your decorations? That way, next year when you get it out, you'll remember to re-use your wrapping paper, and thus save a tree. In our house, we each have a gift box with our name on it. Every year our gifts are put in the same box and kept to use again the following year.

  2. Send an e-card instead of a paper one (no more stamps either!) Check out Care2, a free site that will make a donation to a ecological organization for preservation of the rain forest for each card that is sent out.

  3. If your gift requires batteries, buy rechargeable ones.

  4. Replace your ancient lights with new LED (light emitting diode) string lights. LED lights use up to 85% less energy than conventional lights. Most brands make indoor and exterior versions. Some are even solar powered!

  5. When you hit those holiday sales, take your own bag. Don't we all have enough of those branded store bags?! And if you forget them in the car, just go out and get them before hitting another sale.

  6. If you're hosting a holiday gathering, skip the disposable plates, cups and cutlery. Instead ask a neighbour or friend if you can borrow some of theirs for your party. Use cloth napkins instead of disposable paper ones.

  7. Arrange a carpool with family and friends to mutual holiday gatherings and save money and CO2 fumes.

  8. Resist buying holiday themed trinkets and do-dads. How many singing Rudolphs does your aunt really need? Your gift is less likely to end up in the landfill if it's something that the recipient can actually use/eat.

  9. Electronics are popular gifts this time of year, but what to do with the older, now less attractive version of your MP3, digital camera or laptop? With programs like Sony's upgrade & save, you can trade in your old electronics for discounts on new products.
  10. Set a New Year's resolution: to live healthfully in harmony with nature.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

What to do with Leftover Pineapple Rinds?

In my previous post I included a recipe for easy vegan pineapple rice that was served in a hollowed out pineapple. But after the rice was all gone, I began to wonder: what can I do with the rind that's leftover? It seemed such a shame to just throw it out. To google I went! After a few seconds I found that many people in the Caribbean use the pineapple rinds and core to make a pineapple infused drink. I picked out a recipe and tried it out that night. The result was a delicious fruity drink with just a hint of pineapple. Here is my process:

  1. Wash the pineapple rinds and cut into long strips.
  2. Place the rinds (and core if you still have it) into a large pot and fill it with enough water to cover the rinds.
  3. The recipe I used called for 1/2 - 3/4 of a pound of dark brown sugar, but I found that was way too much (the pineapple itself is quite sweet). When I make this drink again I am going to use only 1/2 cup of sugar. This will give people the option to add more sugar to their individual drink if they desire.
  4. Add your favourite spices. I used a few cinnamon sticks, a piece of fresh ginger, a dash of cloves, cardamom seeds, nutmeg and all spice (if I had some star anise I would have used that too).
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and then simmer for 1 hour.
  7. Strain and reserve the liquid.
  8. I drank it hot, but you could chill it and serve it cold as well.
  9. The next day I put the rest of the drink into ice cube trays and froze them. You can use the cubes in drinks to add an extra spice to sodas, juices and waters.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Easy Vegan Pineapple Rice

I was first introduced to pineapple rice in Shanghai when one of my co-workers had a dinner party and served it in a hollowed out pineapple. A lot of the restaurants also serve it this way. Last night I attended a vegan potluck dinner so I decided to try to make it. Well the results were great! Everyone raved about it and it was gone so fast. It's so incredibly easy to make, I thought I would share my recipe:
  • 1 cup rice (use your favourite kind)
  • 1 whole pineapple
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp saffron 
  • 1 tsp diced ginger
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 4 sage leaves
Begin cooking the rice according to the directions. Add all the ingredients except the pineapple to the rice water. Meanwhile, slice off one side of the pineapple and scoop out all the pineapple from the inside. Discard the core. Dice the remaining pineapple and set aside.

When the rice is cooked, add the diced pineapple and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into the hollowed out pineapple.  I love how the pineapple looks like a boat for the rice and after the potluck, no dishes!  Just toss the pineapple in the compost.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Eco Gifts Guide 2008

The best gifts to give this holiday season are GREEN. Check out some of my favs:

  1. Organic cotton tote from Roots - made from 100% organic cotton, this tote bag is made with material grown in harmony with nature. An added bonus: it comes with a detachable change purse. Available in two colours (black coffee and dove) $38

  2. Solar LED exterior string lights from Noma - These solar powered lights will save on energy while still allowing you to show your holiday spirit. Available in multi-coloured and white. $24.99

  3. Music/movies/audio books from iTunes - Eliminate the resources needed for the production and shipping of a CD, DVD or book by buying electronic versions. Gift certificates available in many stores in various denominations.

  4. Eco jeans from Levi's - Although there aren't many styles to choose from, Levis has launched a new eco Levi's collection. Choose from either 100% organic denim or recycled cotton jeans.
  5. Digital picture frames - Never print another photo ever again! With digital picture frames you can display all your photos, and some models play accompanying music. Various retailers sell at varying prices.

  6. Candy Canes from Pure Fun - Certified organic, kosher, vegan, fair trade, non-GMO candy! Perfect for your green holidays. They're almost too perfect to eat ... almost. $3.99

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Stella McCartney Fashion Show

Stella McCartney is one of my favourite designers with a no fur/leather philosophy. Check out her latest stunning designs and new organic skincare line.

Friday, 28 November 2008

DIY # 1: Dead Man's Chest

I re-finished this chest of drawers last summer, and I decided to post a short tutorial in case any of you out there are looking for pointers. The whole project is actually less complicated than you may think. If this is your first attempt at refurbishing, I wouldn't recommend using a piece that is valuable or irreplaceable. My brother purchased this chest of drawers a few years ago, and then abandoned it. It was perfect for my first project because it cost me nothing, and if I destroyed it, no one would miss it.

Materials Needed:
  1. Dust mask
  2. Safety glasses
  3. Gloves (I used rubber kitchen gloves)
  4. Screwdriver
  5. Sandpaper (100 - course & 220 - fine)
  6. Paint brushes (various sizes depending on your project)
  7. Wood stain
  8. Sander
  9. Old rags (for cleaning dust & paint drips)
  10. Newspapers
Materials You May Need:
  1. Hammer
  2. Wood filler
  3. Chemical wood stripper
  4. Varnish
  5. Steel wool
  6. Drill
  7. Hardware (handles & knobs)
Start off by removing anything that will interfere with the sander - handles, knobs and other embellishments. My chest had a wooden flower motif near the top that had to be removed. If there are any nails sticking out, either nail them back in or remove them with the reverse side of a hammer. Big holes should be filled in with a wood filler. Tighten up any loose screws.

Your work space should be well ventilated. If your piece can be separated, then sand each of them individually (i.e. I took out the drawers). To begin load the sander with the most coarse grade of sandpaper. Put on all your safety gear - mask, glasses and gloves. Now it's time to get down and dirty. Strip off all that old flaking paint with the sander. I used a belt sander that I borrowed from a friend, but a small sheet sander would also work. When all the paint is stripped off, switch to a fine sandpaper, and go over the entire piece again. Remove any built up dust on the piece with a rag. The end result should be a smooth, clean finish. If your piece has curves or an intricate design, you will need to either sand these parts by hand or use a chemical wood stripper to remove the old paint.

You're half way there! Protect your work space from drips with old newspapers. Next apply a coat of wood stain to your piece. Stains are available in a wide variety of shades and types. Pick the one that best suits your project. I wanted to save time so I chose a 2 in 1 stain and polyurethane that worked as both a stain and a top coat of varnish. For best results lightly rub the piece with steel wool in between coats. Each stain will have different directions, so make sure you read your label. I applied 2 thin coats, and allowed 10 hours in between for each coat to dry.

Now it's time for the best part - picking out the hardware! Most home improvements stores have a large selection of handles and knobs in lots of colours, shapes and sizes. My chest required two knobs for the smaller drawer on top, and four handles for the two larger drawers on the bottom. If you'd like to change the direction of your handles or replace them with ones that are a different size, you will need to drill new holes. Another option is to clean up your old hardware with a coat of metallic spray paint.

For more tips and ideas for your DIY projects, visit Be Jane, a great site for women DIYers.

Happy sanding!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Organic Tip # 1: The Frugal Hippy

Okay, so you want to be healthy, do your part for the planet and not end up in the poor house. I know a lot of you are interested in organic products, but have been deterred by it's high prices, especially in this era of economic uncertainty. If you'd like to start eating more organics in an affordable way, a good start is to cut out the conventionally grown foods that are most prone to pesticides, and buy their organic counterparts instead. According to the Environmental Working Group, the top three pesticides prone foods are:
  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet bell peppers

You may have noticed that all three of these foods are thin skinned and usually eaten unpeeled. In fact, this is true of all but one of EWG's dirty dozen.

Read the entire report from EWG here. If your local grocery store doesn't carry these organic foods, ask to speak to the manager and let them know there is a demand for these products.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Save Paper - Use a USB

You may never be awarded a sparkle pager like Meredith on Grey's Anatomy, but you can have a sparkle USB key. Swarovski now makes a 1 GB USB memory key in the shape of a heart pendant. The key is made of polished stainless steel, which is suspended from a silver silk cord. One half of the heart is encrusted with genuine crystals, while the other half can be inserted into any USB port. You can use it at home on your personal computer, your office computers, photo kiosks, anywhere that has a USB port. The key can hold up to 250 songs or 1000 photos. That means you never have to print or burn files onto a CD or DVD. This particular model will cost you $210 (ouch!), but you can find more reasonably priced USBs at your local electronics store.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

A Rouge Halloween

I decided to go political this year for Halloween, and I dressed up as Sarah Palin. It was probably my easiest costume ever. I just dug up an old red blazer, piled my hair on top of my head and put on some glasses. It was easier than putting lipstick on a pig!

This is my favourite photo of the night. An homage to Palin's interview with Katie Couric. I'm reading ALL the newspapers (ha ha ha ...)

Hope everyone had a good Halloween!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Thanksgiving with a bullet!

Okay, so it wasn't with a bullet - it was with a pumpkin. My family & I visited a local eco-tourism farm for Thanksgiving this year. They had all the usual activities; corn maze, petting zoo, pick your own pumpkin and a PUMPKIN CANON! That pumpkin flew pretty far (look for the splash in the pond). Check out the footage I took ...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Vegan Pumpkin Pie!

Just in time for Thanksgiving. Here is a quick and super easy pumpkin pie recipe, that's sans dairy, eggs and nuts. Pour the mixture into a gluten free pie crust and it's also gluten free! I made this pie last weekend for an early Thanksgiving celebration, and everyone loved it. I don't even think my family realized there was tofu in it ;)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the following ingredients in a blender until smooth:

  • ¾ lbs. tofu
  • 1 16 oz. can of pumpkin
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup oil (I use extra virgin olive oil, but any kind is fine)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp. molasses

You can add more/less of the tofu to get the desired consistency. Pour the mixture into an unbaked pie crust (make sure you read the ingredients to make sure it's vegan). Bake for 1 hour. Let the pie cool completely, and then chill in the refrigerator. Cheers to for the recipe.

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