Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yes, I Like Sparkles Too

I have a thing for pretty, pink, self-help books. It’s one of those inexplicable genres that calls to me in a way that I can’t totally explain. It’s resulted in an all-pink corner of my bookshelf, full of books with pretty pink covers and titles like The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life, The Bombshell Manuel of Style and Three Black Skirts. They’re full of helpful tips and pointers to guide a girl’s life towards that stylish, fun, domestic and work bliss that, of course, all modern girls aspire to reaching.

Except that I don’t really want to be that girl. At least not consciously. I’ve always been a bit more on the quirky, less-than-perfectly-put-together side and I’m OK with that. Yet, whenever I see a pink book cover with a pretty, perfect girl in high heels sipping a martini I feel compelled to own it. Especially if it’s full of useful (or useless) tips on how to be that sassy, modern girl (always displayed in illustrated form because I’m fairly certain she doesn’t actually exist).

Since I’m currently trying to read through my backlog of books (so that I won’t feel so guilty about buying any more), I decided to actually read one of the pink mainstays on the shelf and see whether I was as drawn to the book’s content as I was to its cover. I had actually read Three Black Skirts and The Bombshell Manual of Style ages ago (and remember nothing from either), so I grabbed How to Walk in High Heels. The cover is a light shade of rose with a slender, illustrated girl on the cover – she’s wearing just her undies and high heels as she teeters on a stool changing a light bulb, clearly illustrating the books premise that you can be a domestic goddess AND a style goddess too. Of course you can!

The book itself is pretty cheeky and fun. It’s British, so there are all those wonderful Brit-isms and, while Morton is herself a bit of a style goddess, she takes the piss out of the genre a little bit throughout the book. There’s actually quite a bit of useful info throughout, as well as essays by Stella McCartney and other fashion mavens. It’s a few years old, so the tech section is woefully out of date and, being British, there are elements that don’t really relate to my life at all (I now know how to order a Pay-Per-View movie in Sky TV, for example), but it was a decent read. One of my friends on Twitter pointed out that the info on how to change a tire was actually really useful. Being a non-driver, I skimmed that section, but I can see her point.

While I’m pretty sure that reading the book didn’t change my thoughts on fashion (interesting, but not really my thing) or make me over into a glamourous, light bulb changing domestic diva, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. I think that these pink books speak to a part of my subconscious that is fascinated by women who manage to be bombshells in the same way shows like Sex and the City make you sort of wish you could swap places with Carrie Bradshaw, but only for an hour or two.

I’m happily moving on to a book that’s neither pink nor helpful now, but I will remember my time with How to Walk in High Heels fondly. And, who knows, maybe someday I’ll find myself pulling it out again, because there are times when being a domestic diva comes in pretty handy – especially if you’re trying to manage it in stilettos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

One of the ongoing challenges that I face in trying to live a healthy lifestyle and lessen my ecological imprint on the Earth is avoiding wasted food. It’s harder than you might think, but it’s something that I’ve become increasingly determined to do. Every time I read about the amount of food wasted in North America while people in third world countries (not to mention our own country) starve, I feel guilty.

Living with Shawn has also helped to adjust my attitude. In the past I would buy fruits and veggies that I knew I should eat and then I wouldn’t have the time or energy to use them all up – so I tossed them. This drives Shawn crazy. If I buy a mango and don’t eat it before it goes bad, I can see the look of disappointment on my husband’s face. And I know he’s right. His waste not, want not attitude comes from growing up in a single parent household where they simply couldn’t afford to be wasteful. That it’s also an ecologically sound way if living his life is a happy coincidence, but it’s not lost on him.

Now that I’m not working it seems even more important that we avoid food waste, especially as we want to try and continue to eat local and organic as much as possible. If we’re going to spend the extra money to avoid chemicals, we should make sure to eat what we bring home.

That’s meant learning to shop with a list, which is easier said then done. I love lists, but when you get to the store it can be hard not to be swayed by something on sale or looking delicious. We balance things by trying to stick to a budget and by only buying what we know we can eat. And if the bananas go off before we finish them? They go into the freezer to be added to smoothies. I’m proud to say that over the last year the amount of wasted food in our house has gone way down and it continues to decline. Yes, there are times when something we buy spoils sooner than expected or is rotten on the inside when we get it home (don’t you just hate that???), but we’re doing the best that we can.

If more people tried to waste less, just think of the difference we could make! Do you have any food saving tips that might help? I’m always looking for ways to make things go further in our house!

This video, The Waster, was just too funny not to share - Thanks to Stacie for pointing it out!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Giving Thanks

With Thanksgiving so close (for us Canucks anyway), I wanted to take a moment and give thanks. I’ll fully acknowledge that I got this idea from Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s blog (which I read every day and which you should too), but I’m sure she won’t mind me using yet another one of her brilliant ideas.

My Thanks List 2010

  • That I married a wonderful man who loves me to the moon and back. Plus, he cooks us yummy healthy meals three times a day, there’s not enough gratitude in the world to say how thankful I am for that.
  • That I learned all about real, unconditional love when I adopted my sweet, sweet Gomez from Toronto Cat Rescue. He was living in a wood pile in someone’s backyard when he was rescued by friends of ours who volunteer with TCR. The moment I saw his sweet little eyes I knew he was meant to be with me. He’s my first kitten and my heart still bursts with love whenever he comes near.
  • That I have an amazing support system of friends who are always there to help me through whatever life throws my way.
  • The gift of time that unemployment brings. I’d much rather be working, but sometimes life throws you a curve and I’m grateful to have the opportunity and the means to push the pause button for a little while.
  • The knowledge about what’s really in the food I eat and the products I use. I am learning every day and putting that knowledge to work trying to live a cleaner life and spread the word to others so that they can too.
  • The gift of exercise, because when you really give in to it, it’s such a gift. My body feels strong, my soul feels nourished and it really has helped to keep me calm and balanced.
I think it’s so important to always remember all that we have, even when we’re going through difficult times. Positive energy is so much more productive than negative!

What are you feeling thankful for this year?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parfum and Gloom

One of the many things that I learned when reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck was that parfum, as pretty as it sounds, is a nasty chemical mix with all sorts of potential health ramifications. Often listed on ingredient lists as fragrance (parfum), it’s one of those things that the authors made a good argument for avoiding.

So I dutifully went through my medicine cabinet pulling out my collection of lotions and potions to see if any contained parfum. They did. All of them. From my soap to my shower gel to my lotion, they all listed parfum on the ingredient list. Even the products that seemed the most ‘natural,’ be they from The Body Shop or Aveeno, held the same dirty little word.

What this means is that every morning since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve been dousing myself head to toe in chemicals that have the potential to make me sick, not to mention what they do to the environment when I wash it down the drain. Ick.   

As I’ve said before, I’m finishing off much of what I have already, because tossing it into a landfill isn’t going to help either, but I am committed to buying safe products now. It’s proven harder than I anticipated. One of the first things I did away with was the chapstick I use every night. It was almost finished anyway and the thought of covering my lips with chemicals was particularly unsettling, so I started looking for an alternative.

Have you read the ingredients in most cosmetic products? No? It’s a daunting task and unless you have a chemistry degree it’s also pretty impossible. I started off just trying to find one without parfum and settled on a peach Kiss My Face product. It smells nice and doesn’t include the offending ingredient, so I’m working with that for now.

But while looking through the natural beauty products at the grocery store, I was shocked to see that many of them still contained parfum. I picked up lotions, shampoos, soaps and found it there again and again. Surely, there must be scented options that don’t involve parfum, right? Suggestions would be happily welcomed, as this is proving to be a much more difficult task than I’d anticipated!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Home Remedies

I woke up this morning feeling like I had started my cold all over again. All the progress I had made seemed to have evaporated overnight and I was a stuffy, sneezing coughing mess. This totally went against all that I knew about battling a cold. I had stayed home and rested instead of visiting friends or hitting Nuit Blanche (which I hated to miss). I had been drinking fluids, avoiding dairy and refined sugar, getting lots of sleep and using HydraSense to clear out my sinuses. I should not still be sick, let alone sicker.

So I did what any modern girl does – I posted my dilemma on my Facebook page and asked my wonderful group of far-flung friends what to do. Chef Dez, who is an amazingly talented chef, suggested the Neti pot, which he swears by. I’d already seen that Dr. Oz, who I unrepentantly think is awesome, was a fan, so I was sold. Then the lovely Jennie Vicious, of the equally amazing Vicious Guns, chimed in with her remedy – a clove of minced garlic with a chaser of fresh lemon juice and water.

Shawn and I dutifully set out to find the needed implements and returned home laden with our home remedies. The Neti pot was definitely a unique experience. I do believe that Shawn will regret offering to read the instructions while I attempted to use it for the rest of his life.  His marriage vows definitely didn’t include a clause to stay with me even when I’m draining my sinuses in the bathroom sink, but I’m glad that he seems willing to nonetheless.

Then he very sweetly minced up some garlic for me and squeezed out a lemon. I think he expected the actual eating of these items to be needed comic relief following the whole Neti pot incident, but it all went down rather easily. Of course, now I’m all paranoid that I smell like garlic. You just know that I’ll get called for a job interview tomorrow – moments after I’ve swallowed another clove.

But I have my fingers crossed that between Jennie’s twice a day garlic and lemon trick and my new Neti pot, I’m on my way to wellness. I do love the whole ability to breathe through my nose part a whole lot, so there’s definite progress.