Friday, 27 March 2009

Why is Earth Hour So Important?


The topic of Earth Hour came up during a conversation with a friend, and to my dismay, she said she wasn't planning on participating. She couldn't see how her participation in this one event would impact our growing climate crisis. Unfortunately I hear this a lot - people getting discouraged that using travel mugs, re-usable grocery bags, or buying organic products can make a significant difference for our global environmental woes. "Don't you know that you are a dazzling jewel interwoven in Indra's Net?" is my usual reply ...

Indra's Net is a Vedic metaphor used to show how everything and everyone in the universe is tied together. In order to understand how this metaphor works, imagine a large fishnet; large enough to cover our earth and the entire universe. The net is infinite, crisscrossing into every plane of space. At each node (where the lines intersect) imagine a dazzling sparkling jewel. This jewel represents every being, tree, river and every organism in the universe. The source of light for each jewel is the reflection of light from every other jewel.

You are a magnificent jewel in this glorious net! You are connected to all things in this universe and all things are connected to you. When you chose to use a piece of scrap paper, you allow a tree to live and it's jewel continues to shine. Its light makes your jewel and all others shine a little brighter. When you chose to use a disposable single use paper plate, a tree must be cut down and destroyed. Consequently it's jewel becomes tarnished and all other jewels become dimmer.

As John Muir said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe". Don't let the media, environmental naysayers or pessimistic friends convince you that the small things don't make a difference, because it absolutely does! There aren't any small efforts, just small people who try to make you feel small by diminishing your efforts.

So on Saturday March 28, 2009 at 8:30 PM turn out those lights! Your jewel is so bright that you won't need them anyway.

Monday, 23 March 2009

World Water Week 2009


If you've ever travelled to developing or under developed countries, then you know how scarce clean, safe drinking water can be. UNICEF reports that more than 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation, and almost 890 million people do not have access to safe water sources. Without this basic necessity, thousand of people worldwide are suffering from malnourishment, chronic diseases and even death.


In celebration of World Water Week (March 22-29, 2009), UNICEF's annual Tap Project asks restaurant goers to donate $1 each time they order tap water that they would normally receive for free. With more than $300, 000 raised in Canada alone, participating restaurants are hoping to increase their donations in 2009.


When I travelled to Asia last year, it took me quite a while to get used to the dirty water that was used for bathing, cooking and drinking everyday. Often the only alternative was purchasing expensive bottled water that was financially out of reach for many. The equipment needed to boil unhygienic water is also not accessible to everyone.


According to UNICEF your donation of $1 CDN will buy clean, safe water for 40 children! So enjoy a tall, cool glass of clean tap water today and help a child enjoy one too!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie


With a few easy substitutions, a traditional shepherd's pie can be transformed vegan style. My favourite way to mix it up is to use sweet potato for the topping. Sweet potatoes (sometimes referred to as yams) are high in fibre, beta carotene and contain vitamins C and B6. For this recipe you will need:

  • Oil (to sautee)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 4 cups mushrooms (chopped)
  • 2 medium zucchinis (diced)
  • 2 cups corn
  • handful of parsley (finely chopped)
  • 1 chive (finely chopped)
  • 1 butternut squash (peeled & chopped into large chunks)
  • 2 sweet potatoes (peeled & chopped into large chunks)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • salt & pepper to taste

Place the chopped squash and sweet potato in a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover the vegetables. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Drain.


Heat some oil in a pan on medium. Add the onion and garlic and sautee until the onions turn translucent. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, corn and chilies. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes (or until the vegetables soften). Mix in the chopped parsley.


Preheat the oven to 400 F. Add the soymilk to the squash and potatoes. With a potato masher (or use a fork if you don't have one) mash the squash and potatoes. Add the chives and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.


Spread the sauteed mushroom mixture evenly in a casserole dish. Top with the squash and potato. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the top is brown.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Earrings Upcycle



Here's a great little project to re-purpose some of those unique jewelry pieces you may have received as gifts.  This pair of earrings (only one earring is pictured on the left) wasn't really my style, so I grabbed my pliers and went at it.

I removed all five of the dangling pieces from both earrings and the circular embellishment from the earring finding. Then I added two of the dangling pieces to the earrings and used the rest of the beads for the bracelet. I finished off the bracelet with a clasp and hook, and the jewelry set was done.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Vegan Cinnamon Cookies


These light crispy cookies are surprisingly easy to make, and even easier to eat! I picked up a package of egg-free wonton wraps at an Asian food market, so most of the work was already done for me. Here's what you'll need:


  • 1 package of wonton wraps (read the label to make sure it doesn't include eggs)
  • vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon

In a deep skillet, heat an inch of oil on medium. Meanwhile combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Carefully add a wonton wrap into the oil and fry for 30 seconds - 1 minute or until golden brown. I used a spoon to fold half of the cookie unto itself to form a half moon shape. Using tongs or a slotted spoon remove the cookie from the oil and coat with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Since this was my first time frying, I burned the first few :( But after a while I got the hang of it and could fry 3 at the same time. I know what you're thinking: a deep fried cookie must be very greasy, oily and filling. But these cookies are actually the opposite. In fact, after I finished making them, I poured the oil I used for frying back into a jar to reuse, and hardly any had been absorbed into the cookies. So happy cookie frying!!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Is Local the New Organic?


Aside from asking why everything has to be the "new" something, my first reaction to this question is NO. Local is not the new organic, in fact these two don't have to replace each other at all. I'm not sure why the media has positioned these two eco methods against each other, because they don't have to be constantly in opposition. On many farms the two co-exist quite peacefully and in harmony. Yes, it's true folks, your food can be local AND organic!


Undoubtedly the question of whether to buy either local or organic was first posed because, unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world where every store carries every product in both local and organic varieties. So the solution becomes much more complex than a simple rule of always buy local or always buy organic.
For instance, if you have an affinity for tropical fruits, such as pineapple, your decision is an easy one; you must buy organic because local will never be an option (until you move to the tropics). However, if on your next trip to buy apples (a fruit that is grown here in Canada), you find the only two options are conventionally grown local apples and organic apples shipped from China, leave that store immediately! These are NOT your only options. Instead, visit your local farmer's market or community supported agriculture farm (CSA) and pick up some delicious passport free local organic apples.


Rarely is anything in life as easy as "always do this", and our food choices are no different. Don't listen to the supposed environmental expert on tv or in the newspaper that is telling you to forgo one for the other. Instead decide for yourself how to make the best choices for a healthy diet and environment.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

DIY #4: Charming Charm Bracelet


Over the years I've amassed quite a few lockets and charms - too many frankly. I've been seeing a lot of charm bracelets in stores these days, so naturally I thought why not make my own charm bracelet with the lockets I have that aren't currently being used. You will need:
Start off by cleaning up your old lockets and charms. I'd heard over the years that toothpaste can remove tarnish from old jewelry, but I'd never tried it myself before this project. Well it's true!! Rub a thick layer of toothpaste over the tarnished area and rinse with warm water. Your jewelry will sparkle without the use of harsh chemicals.

I used jump rings for my bracelet because I find them easier to use than split rings (these rings look like mini key chain rings), but you can use whichever you prefer. Open one jump ring using the pliers and insert one end into the hole on your locket or charm. Slip the open jump ring into one of the loops on your bracelet and close the ring with your pliers. Continue adding charms and embellishments as you like.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Happy International Women's Day

Take some time today to celebrate all the joys and gifts of being a woman. And if you think there aren't any joys or gifts, let one of my favourite poems enlighten you:


Phenomenal Woman


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

DIY #3: Upcycled Denim


My mom recently ripped her favourite embroidered jeans, making them unwearable, so they were passed on to me for upcycling. For some time now I've wanted to create a special pouch to hold the numerous loyalty cards I have collected over the years, but I was waiting to find the perfect fabric. It needed to be durable enough to survive the wear and tear of daily use. When I saw the cute embroidered back pockets, I knew this is what I'd been waiting for. Here's what you'll need for this craft:

  • An old pair of jeans
  • Zipper (or alternative closure)

Rip off both back pockets from the jeans. With right sides facing, sew one side of the zipper to one pocket, then sew the second. At this point you can decide the shape of your pouch. I like the idea of sewing up the edges as is and leaving the pouch with that "jeans back pocket" look. However, considering the function I needed the pouch for, I decided a rectangular shape would be best. Open the zipper half way, and stitch the other 3 sides together. Trim any excess fabric and zipper and turn right side out. Good for the environment and good for staying organized!

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