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Archive for Environmental Issues

The perfect Christmas Gift

There’s no denying it now people … its a slippery slope ’til Christmas, only one month to go!

Last Christmas I received I gift that blew me away! I’m no Martha Stewart, but I’m a fairly “crafty” person myself and have made, sewed, knitted and baked my fair share of Christmas gifts over the years. But this one takes the cake!

My brother John and his wife Tina are the owners of Morr-McNaughton Stables in Caistorville and they breed Canadian Horses. In addition to their herd, they keep other animals on their farm including some sheep. The sheep are fun to have around but serve a purpose too. These Shetlands are from Flock One – the first Shetland sheep brought to North America. Each year they have their wool shorn and it is taken away to be spun into knitting yarn – pure, organic, hand spun – you get it!  The colour of  each skein is dependent on which sheep it came from. John and Tina have four different sheep, so there are four different colours.

Tina (who also teaches skating and has a day job)  likes to knit and crochet in her spare (!) time. For Christmas last year she whipped up some delightful headbands for some of the girls in our family. Mine is a cream colour (Lindsay provided my wool) and looks great with my Quartz Nature red parka. To complete her creation and hold the headband together all Tina needed was a button.

When you live in the country and you don’t have a button you improvise!

John was charged with finding a button. On their property were many fallen trees and branches from the ice storm we experienced just before Christmas in 2013. John got a brilliant idea,  took a saw to one of the branches, cut some slices, drilled two holes and voila! Buttons!

 

Clockwise from top left Jackie, Mary,Bo and Lindsay

 

 

Thanks Lindsay , bottom left for my wool!

 

 

Needless to say, it was a beautiful gift and the wooden button was the finishing touch, n’est ce pas? I’d love some mittens this year … hint, hint!

For more information on John and Tina’s farm or to buy a horse visit www.morrmcnaughtonstables.com.

 

 

 

 

“Winter is coming.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Remember last winter? We experienced record breaking snowfalls and far too many days of below freezing temperatures. Last year I invested heavily in some winter clothing pieces I’ve never owned before. (These are the types of items I’d take “up north” if I was on a winter getaway ). This year when I do my fall changeover to winter I’ll be bringing out the following:

Parka. My nice red Quartz Nature 80% down/20% feather made in Canada parka. It has beautiful raccoon trim on the hood and fleece inside the collar and pockets. Its washable but waterproof, warm, with a two way zipper – in short – perfection! I found it at SAIL in Burlington.

Snow pants! Yes, I feel a little bit like a child wearing these but on the coldest days I’m so glad to have them. They look great with my parka and are the best thing to wear when shoveling snow. I even wear them hiking and in the car when its feeling minus 35 with the windchill.

Long johns. Yes, I feel a little bit like a grandpa wearing these but they are essential under pants and jeans if you have to be outside. I found some that sit around the hip at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. I pair those with some waffle weave long sleeved v-neck T’s as my first layer and then get dressed!

Bamboo tights. My usual look in winter is a dress with tights and over-the-knee boots. Last winter changed all that. I was forced to buy some heavier tights made from bamboo which actually breathe. When nylon tights won’t keep you warm, reach for the bamboo.

Wool socks. My favourite brands are SmartWool and DarnTough (made in Vermont). These are high wool content, sized and geared to specific activities. The socks are much warmer than basic cotton/polyester ones and come in various thicknesses and colourful patterns. Under winter boots I prefer the slightly thicker ones.

Leg Warmers. No, I’m not going for the Flashdance revival look, but my gorgeous colour blocked leg warmers from preloved have kept me warm inside and out and on my way to and from the gym.

Cashmere accessories. Everyone loves a cashmere sweater, but gloves, scarves and lounge pants are equally luxurious. I found some beautiful red cashmere gloves on closeout last February at Winners. I loved my Hudson’s Bay Olympic mitts, but they were made from acrylic and not warm enough for frigid weather. Hello cashmere.

Wool sweaters. Its harder than ever to find 100% wool. Wool is more often being mixed with polyester, nylon, acrylic or some other man made fibre. As much as possible I’m wearing all wool or wool rich knits. They breathe better, keep heat in and pill less than synthetics.

Burts Bees for lips. Slightly tinted, slightly scented and easy to apply without a mirror. Keeps me from licking my lips and getting more chapped. I keep a few tubes stashed around.

Here’s hoping I do not need all of these deep winter items again this year … I’m not much of a snow bunny. I prefer sun and beaches. But they are all coming out of my winter bin, within ready reach should Old Man Winter unleash his blast.

  “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”
― Carl Reiner

 

 

Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline – Book Review

 

This book will change the way
you think about clothes!

I was looking for Alexa Chung’s new book, It. The public library didn’t have it. The next best bet was Indigo. They had It, but as I thumbed through the book I quickly realized I would not be buying it.  Browsing the stalls in the fashion section one book title did jump out at me – OVERDRESSED the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. I picked it up and a quick flip-through revealed not a picture in sight. A fashion book with no pictures? Hhhmm, this must be something more serious. The front cover boasts a quote by Katha Pollitt “OVERDRESSED does for T-shirts and leggings what FAST FOOD NATIONS did for burgers and fries.”  That’s quite a statement! Intrigued, I dropped a few hints and received the book as a Christmas gift.

When I finally sat down with it, I devoured the book! It was fascinating reading right from the first page, and were it not for a night’s sleep, I would have finished it in one sitting. Elizabeth Cline has done her research and knows her facts. From shamelessly opening her own closet to visiting clothing factories in China, she brings into question our values as a nation with her insights into our shopping habits.  Today’s society has been brought up to clothing shop for entertainment, purchase clothes they don’t need or wear and to amass wardrobes with hundreds if not thousands of pieces. Cline discusses the  impact that today’s disposable clothing has on the environment, how it virtually eliminated the garment industry in North America and how it is affecting the global economy.

Normally a book about economics would not interest me but I found this book easy to read and accurate in the conclusion it draws. Clothing (unlike some consumable items) has gone down drastically in price over the last hundred years. So has its perceived value. Consumers are now accustomed to buying clothes at the grocery store (thanks Joe Mimran) and seeing stores change their entire line-up of clothing every 4-6 weeks (thanks Gap). Clothing is manufactured cheaply in countries such as China, India and Bangladesh. Consumers refuse to pay higher prices for items of higher quality, content instead to purchase shoddily made clothing of inferior fibres that languish in closets unworn. Interestingly, with the ready availability of cheaply priced clothing, the price of hand made/couture/designer  or non mass-produced clothing has gone up. This has also driven up the price of vintage clothing.

People today have 3 – 10 times as many clothes as their grandparents did (just look in the closets of an 80 year old home). I find it hard to believe that my grandparents both hung their clothing on one one rail in one tiny closet. (That was before the days of California Closets!)

I am so glad that I read this book. It has made me realize that I should no longer settle for cheap clothing. Clothing is something that should be loved, worn and valued. When our wardrobes consist of cheap polyester items from H & M or Forever 21, we are not making wise and mindful choices. Armed with Ms. Cline’s knowledge I am more determined than ever to have fewer pieces of higher quality clothing. For more information buy or read the book or check out the website at www.overdressedthebook.com.

 

 

Big Bamboo!

Why Big? This miracle grass is sustainable, regrows without replanting and is the fastest growing woody plant on earth. It can be grown without pesticides and herbicides, so its organic. It is strong, durable, soft and smooth. It both dyes and drapes well. It can be eaten (bamboo shoots), drank (beer, tea, wine) and used to make furniture and flooring. You can use bamboo to make toilet tissue, coffee filters and even biofuel. It has insulating properties, so will keep you cool in summer, warm in winter. The two Pandas at the Toronto Zoo eat bamboo as the mainstay of their diet, going through approximately 10-15 kilos daily of the 50 that is offered to them. The bamboo incidentally, is air shipped by Fed Ex in a refrigerated container from Memphis, Tennessee!

( Pandas love bamboo and eat large amounts daily

So what’s new, Bamboo? Its BREATHABLE! This may be more of interest to my female readers who experience sweaty nights, but bamboo sleepwear is becoming more popular and easier to find. Nationwide one of the first retailers I knew of to carry bamboo sleepwear was Soma (in the Chico’s family of stores).  I recently bought some beautiful soft mint green bamboo pyjamas at Ecomystic  (136 James Street South) in Hamilton made by Yala.  The store has a nice selection of bamboo and organic cotton items. I slept very restfully and the pj’s breathed nicely!  I’ve also purchased bamboo footless tights, a bra top and V-neck T shirts (that are great for working out) made by C’est Moi at Dakota Mae in Westdale.  There are lots of other items in the C’est Moi collection. The bra top came in very handy when I need to get an MRI (your own clothing can be worn as long as there is no metal in it). Of course, now that there are bamboo pyjamas and clothing, sheets can’t be far behind! Yes, I’ve seen a few sets on my travels and I’m eager to try them.

In Asian countries bamboo grows easily and it has been used to make houses, bridges, hats and musical instruments for centuries. Bamboo’s long life makes it a Chinese symbol of longevity; in India it is a symbol of friendship while in Vietnam “bamboo is my brother” – according to a proverb. Around the globe certain varieties of bamboo are being planted in North America.  Maybe someday you’ll be bathing in a bamboo bathtub, pedalling a bamboo bicycle or buying your grandchildren a bamboo skateboard. Meanwhile, enjoy all the things this new/old plant has been providing to earthlings for thousands of years.

Lifetime Warranties

Price Pfister Kitchen Faucet

I googled Lifetime Warranties as I began this blog.  There are a number of companies who provide lifetime warranties for their products, some of the more famous being Tupperware and Tilley. As it turns out, lifetime generally means the lifetime of the product, not the human being’s lifetime who bought the product. Shucks! I’m not sure how long a bathroom tap is supposed to live, or a bath tub tap & shower assembly or a kitchen spray faucet but clearly 7 and 14 years old is not too long! Here’s my story …

My recent  move has left me challenged for hot water in both kitchen and bathroom. Three visits from various plumbers and heating technicians have produced hot water to the sources – but the taps and shower head were failing to deliver it properly. Result: scalding or freezing in the shower, and low flow of cold water only in the kitchen.

Frustrated and not wanting to spend more money on the problem –  I turned to the huge folder I keep of product information and warranties. I found the warranties & parts lists for the taps and shower assembly and the manufacturer’s customer service phone number easily. Or you can take a picture of your fixture with your cell phone and match it to ones online. Google Images also has countless photos of practically everything and I found my bathroom taps and their name easily. (My son showed me these things – cool!)

A couple of quick toll free calls to the Price Pfister Customer Service representatives have resulted in shipments of brand new replacement parts for 3 various taps in the house. The parts that were sent are of higher quality than the original parts and consequently I now have plenty of hot water in the kitchen and a sprayer that is free from mineral deposits. Yay! The bathroom shower assembly is also producing plenty of nice, hot water (but NOT scalding).

Last  night UPS delivered (for free) the last pieces I need to fix a leaking bathroom faucet. We’ve even managed to replace these parts ourselves, without the need for a plumber. Pfice Pfister, I’m impressed! Thank you for standing by your Lifetime Warranty. In an age when so many things are disposable, thank you for allowing me to repair my fixtures, rather than replace them.

Everything is working as good as new! I’ve now moved on to the dishwasher although after fourteen years of service to a family of four I’m not expecting too much! And the stove is a Viking original from Eaton’s … Stay tuned!