Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My plastic #fail at Dairy Queen

Yep, it's true.

I went to Dairy Queen.

I know I shouldn't. I mean first of all: the food. This is not the gorgeous, local, fresh, organic food that I love. Can you say: GMOs and artificial flavouring and modified milk ingredients?? Second of all, like all fast food chains, they make a hideous amount of plastic garbage.

I know all this. And yet inevitably, a few times a summer I end up at my local DQ for a small skor blizzard (with.no.chocolate.sauce).

But this time I had a plan. I had a spoon in my pocket. I was going to REFUSE their single-use plastic spoon. And with a cup that can be composted in Ottawa's green bin program (it can right?), I thought that at least all I was hurting was my stomach.

So I order my blizzard and say clearly "No spoon please". The order gets passed on to the person making the blizzard with the 'no spoon' specification.

I have a bad feeling about this.

Sure enough, after whirling my blizzard in the machine, the DQ dude grabs a plastic spoon, uses it to wipe the rim of my cup, then puts the spoon on the counter (soon to be in the garbage bin) and brings me my blizzard (without a spoon).

I'm sure other people would react to this calmly. I on the other hand, had a mini meltdown.... as I saw him reaching for the spoon, I cried out "nooooooooooo" and dramatically raised my hands in the air (as if this is going to help). At this point other patrons turn to look at me. Hubby gives me a look that equates to a {facepalm}. I put my hands in my hair like maybe I was just fixing my hair. Nothing to see here everyone.....

The worst part is, when he brought the blizzard to me, DQ dude must have assumed I wanted the blizzard to go (why else could I possibly not want a spoon). So he put a plastic lid on my blizzard. That's right folks, for those keeping track...me asking for no spoon actually put MORE plastic into the world. Sigh.

The thing about disposable plastic at restaurants is that it happens in seconds. The second that spoon went in my blizzard they would never be able to use it again. And the second he put the lid on my blizzard, it was already going in the garbage.

I know I should have given the lid back to him (politely) on principle. But sometimes it's too hard being the weirdo that everyone stares at.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Today may have been grey and rainy but it happened to also be one of my favourite days so far this summer.

First I headed to the farmer's market where I bought among other things: some organic corn, elderberries, blackberries, and a yellow watermelon on special because it had been dropped and was split (only $2!).

At the market I met a dear friend and we proceeded on to the arboretum for a walk amongst the trees.

Once home I:
1. made elderberry syrup using elderberries, honey and some vodka. For sore throats, coughs and general deliciousness
2. blanched the corn and put it in the dehydrator
3. put some of the watermelon in the dehydrator (an experiment)
4. made some 'hot fudge sauce' using honey, the blackberries and some fair trade cocoa. (will go on crepes for tomorrow's breakfast)
5. husked and cleaned approx. 50 black walnuts (adding to the stash of 70 already drying in my sunroom)
6. tried and failed to fix my knitting. Gah. Have a hole. Mum! Help!
7. sat back and watched a few episodes of Kirstie's homemade home (lovely programme about refinishing a home using predominantly second hand and hand-crafted items).

Wonderful day. :) Now it's time for bed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clean Bin Project - the movie

Ok, just a quick one because I'm supposed to be working on my part of the urban livestock policy as part of the Food for All initiative (more on that later).

But I thought it was important to procrastinate on that briefly to say "go and see the screening of The Clean Bin Project!". I went to see the Ottawa screening last night and it was really great. The Clean Bin Project movie is a documentary about BC couple Jen and Grant who decided to compete for a year to see who could make the least amount of garbage.

What I loved about this movie is the feeling of community I had at the end of it. I know there are lots of us out there struggling with the same things (like how to buy cheese without any plastic packaging). But to see it on the screen and to hear everyone cheering at the end, made me so happy. Makes me think we really can make a difference because there are so darn many of us!

Oh and there's also a great extended cameo by Chris Jordan (love!).

Here's the trailer...the next screening is in Wakefield at the Black Sheep Inn tomorrow night (Thurs Aug. 19). Then Jen and Grant will be continuing their cross-Canada bicycle tour with screenings on the east coast.

The Clean Bin Project - Trailer from Grant Baldwin Videography on Vimeo.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cucumber kimchi

This year we planted four english cucumber plants in the garden. This is probably too many for just two people but I'd never been successful with growing cucumbers before so wanted a backup in case any of them didn't take. Well I needn't have worried. They are growing like crazy! They even loved growing vertically which is perfect for our small urban space. Next year I'm going to put them up against one of the fences so they have lots of room to grow up.

Anyway, all that to say we have a bit of a surplus of cucumbers here at the efficiency urban homestead. Coincidentally, I've been going to a Korean restaurant a lot lately and recently got to try cucumber kimchi for the first time. Wow. It's delicious. So I decided to try making it myself.

I found this recipe which has a really easy to follow set of steps and helpful pictures. But it had some ingredients which I though were a bit strange for a fermented recipe (vinegar especially but also honey), so I checked with my wild fermentation book (which I don't use nearly enough). The kimchi recipe in there didn't use any honey or vinegar so I used the on-line recipe but just left those two ingredients out. Oh and I also left out the green onions because I didn't have any.

In hindsight I wish I'd drained the brine off the cucumbers, added the other ingredients and then put them in jars, and THEN topped the jars off with brine (as opposed to just adding all the ingredients to the cucumbers and brine). That way the spice would have been evenly distributed (the way I did it most of the spice ended up in the last jar). I decided to ferment the cucs for 5 days (2 days less than wild fermentation but 3 days more than the on-line recipe recommended).

Long story short they are really tasty.

I also love that they are good for me (hello probiotics!) and that fermenting food is a low energy way to preserve food.

For any Ottawa folks out there, I got my red pepper powder (kimchi spice) from Arum Korean Grocery.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Plastic pollution in our oceans

Midway Atoll is one of the most remote places on earth. It is home to the majority of the world's Laysan Albatross and also a vast number of other birds and marine animals. Yet it has the misfortune of being near the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Tragically, as a result, many adult albatross have been mistaking the plastic floating in the ocean for food and have been feeding it to their chicks.

A number of artists including the wonderful Chris Jordan are chronicling how plastic is devastating the albatross population on Midway. They have been sharing what they have found on their blog Midway Journey (and on Twitter).

The videos and images are often difficult to look at. But so very important.

In this short clip (the trailer for the film that is being made of their journey), Chris says "I don't think we act until we feel something".

These images were front of mind for me when I made a trip to the seaside while in the UK last month. A walk along a seemingly clean beach, quickly revealed a large amount of plastic garbage. Mostly bottle caps and plastic netting but also straws and pieces of hard miscellaneous plastic. As soon as I saw the first piece, all I could think of was that if I don't pick this up, it could end up in one of those images choking the belly of a baby albatross. Immediately I picked up a plastic bag that I found on the ground and started filling it with plastic. My whole family pitched in. We kept picking up garbage until we couldn't fit any more in the bag.

Here's what we collected:

We tied the bag tightly and put it in the garbage can as we left. Obviously it isn't great that this is all going to a landfill but I am so pleased to have taken it away from the ocean. And the albatross chicks.

Thank you Midway Journey team for your courage and for bringing your images to us.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Grandad

I wrote the text below a year ago. At the time I decided not to post it because it seemed too personal. But I want to post it now. You see, my grandad died a few weeks ago. I read this post at his funeral.


My grandad lives in England. It's where I lived as well until I was 10. My grandad has advanced parkinsons and while he lives in his own flat, he has carers that come in regularly throughout the day to look after him. He's quite frail. Lately he's started sleeping for 2 sometimes 3 days at a time.

But it wasn't always like that. When he was young my grandad worked as a sales apprentice at a mens tailors called Montague Burton in Dover. They only made suits. 35 shillings a piece.

Because of the war, staff were asked to work night shifts protecting the shop from fire (due to fire bombs). My grandad was trained to use water pumps and sand to put out potential fires. During those long nights all the shop workers on fire watch would hang out and play table tennis set up at one of the shops to pass the time.

At the recommendation of one of the other fire watch men that he should get a trade, my grandad volunteered at the government training centre. His first job was in Holborn in a yard behind the nurses home for Great Ormond Hospital. He worked as a vehicle fitter turning lorries into tipping lorries (ordinary trucks into dump trucks). When he contracted oil poisoning he decided to change careers and started taking mechanical engineering courses on the weekend. And so the young shop worker became an engineer.

My grandad met my nanna on the #10 bus. Each day he would see 2 girls on the bus. They were always giggling. One of those giggling girls was my nanna. Eventually she and my grandad were introduced and before long my grandad would only get on the bus if my nanna was on it.

My grandad proposed to my nanna on that bus.

My nanna and grandad had two children. A boy, the eldest, my dad. And a girl, my aunt. They were serious outdoor enthusiasts and would walk and walk until you thought your legs would fall off.

They were blessed with two wonderful grandchildren. :) Me and my brother. Both on the other side of the ocean from them.

My nanna died 14 years ago and every year since then, my Grandad has traveled to Canada to be with us for Christmas.

Until December 2008 when he was deemed too frail to travel.

The telephone is a poor substitute for an in person visit. But it's all we have so I call him when I can.

I called him today.

"Hi Grandad!" I yell when he picks up the phone.

"Rachel!" he says with happiness and surprise after a slight pause.

I do most of the talking because he struggles to find words.

But he still asks me a lot of questions, like how is hubby, the job, the house?

He tells me that he has been doing ok and has been awake for the last 10 days. Meaning he has slept regularly for the last 10 days. No sleeping for multiple days. He's pleased. The long sleeping worries him.

We talk about the garden and he always gives me good advice. This time I told him that I need to dig up some of my raspberries because they are taking over my garden. He told me that I should put them in a tub - then they wouldn't be able to. I told him he was right.

I also told him that I am crocheting a rug out of old t-shirts. He told me that his mother used to do the same thing. He specifically remembered a rug that she had made out of fabric scraps that was in front of her fireplace.

Then he asks me about my plans for the summer and my heart breaks when I tell him that hubby and I are taking the train to PEI. I know he would rather we come to see him. But he doesn't say it. "Isn't that near where the ocean drops?" he says, amazing me with his knowledge of Canadian geography. "Yes" I say. "The Bay of Fundy".

"Of course" he says.

"I love you grandad" I say as I'm hanging up. He doesn't say it back. He never has. But I know that he does.

"Thanks for calling" he says. "Take care".

"You too grandad".