Slow living

Stop saving the best

I’ve enjoyed following Gillie Dunn’s posts about using your fancy things every single day. I grew up in a household that was filled with special occasion items: the fancy china, the dressy clothes, the beautiful fine jewellery, the cut-glass crystal ware, and so forth. These items would be displayed in cabinets, jewellery boxes, etc., but were rarely used. When I visit my parents, I still encounter the special occasion items that are carefully stored and are used very, very rarely. It’s hard to get that type of coding out of our DNA, but I’ve been working carefully over the past few years to ensure that I actually enjoy and use all the items in my home. I don’t need any special occasions: I am special enough. Some people may argue that items will cease to be special if they are used daily; perhaps, but I’m more interested in actually using and enjoying my possessions and to honour them by doing so.

Dunn discusses her epiphany. She used to store special items, including a special candle that she had received as a gift. The candle was so beautiful and expensive that she kept it in storage; sadly, when she came across the candle after several months, she found that the candle had warped and lost much of its scent. All that beauty had been wasted because she kept saving it for a special occasion that never arose. Dunn has since been on a mission to use her special items every day, and she’s been posting a weekly challenge on her Instagram for people to do the same, focusing on jewellery one week, skincare another week, and so on.

I’ve been working on not saving items for special occasions for a few years now. I started with my clothes. Why have a closet of nice clothes but choose to wear only sweatpants, t-shirts, or “comfortable” (often meaning a little the worse for wear) at home? I’m not judging people who do this; I simply know that this is not for me. I always want to look my best and well put together on a daily basis, even if the only people seeing me are my cats (never wear anything that panics the cat). This means that regardless of whether I’m going out or working from home, I always wear my best clothes and jewellery, simply because I enjoy doing so and am worth it. I wear makeup even if (or especially when) I don’t feel well – again, I do this for me, and not to conform to any societal expectations or standards. I’m not wearing ball gowns or cocktail dresses on a daily basis, as they don’t exactly fit the occasion, but there would certainly be nothing wrong with doing so if I wanted to. What is the use of saving something if you never or rarely ever use it and enjoy it? To me, at least, this is money wasted.

I’ve done some brutal decluttering over the past few years. I no longer have any “special occasion” houshehold items. If I don’t use something, I don’t keep it. So, for example, this means no special dinner services; if I don’t use the items on a regular basis, I don’t keesp them. It’s not a question of cost; the cost is already sunk if you don’t use the items. On the few occasions I buy something new, I use it as soon as I get my hands on it. Items have value to me if I use them, so when I buy anything, I always do so with the intention of using it. So, for example, I have quite a few items of jewellery. Some people are content to wear the same pieces of jewellery every day, but I like a little more variety. I have a short gold necklace and a gold bracelet that I never remove, but otherwise wear different pieces of jewellery every day (I like layering rings, bracelets, and necklaces, although not to excess). I never buy any jewellery that is meant to be “saved for a special occasion.” I always keep the “cost per wear or use” mantra running through my head when I make purchases.

Some might argue that using your nice things daily means that they will run down more quickly, could break, wear out, etc. So what, I say? At least I had the time to enjoy the items I own. I can look at the beautiful diamond ring on my hand while I sit in front of my laptop with only the cats for company and admire its shape and shine. Why not revel in the nice things we have, rather than save them only for other people’s enjoyment? If they break or wear out, take the time to thank them for all the joy they brought you. We are all worthy enough to use an enjoy our fancy things.

Slow living

January in review

These are the things that made me smile this month

Films and TV shows

  1. The guns of Navarone. I have watched this 1961 film many times over the years. The storyline is a little predictable, perhaps, but the strong cast, featuring Gregory Peck, Anthony Quayle, Anthony Quinn, David Niven, and Irene Papas, compensate for this (Watched on Amazon Prime)
  2. The professionals. It’s a truly rare event for me to watch a Burt Lancaster film for the first time, as I’ve been a fan of his since I was a child. There are some undercurrents of “The Magnificent Seven” in this film, although it’s rather more cynical in tone. The excellent cast includes Robert Ryan, another favourite of mine, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode, and Jack Palance. Palance’s casting as the Mexican revolutionary turned bandit is, sadly, an example of Hollywood’s history of ethnic miscasting (Watched on Netflix).
  3. The taking of Pelham one two three. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this 1974 original version of the film and, once again, I was struck by how good the film is. The plot is tight and the film wastes no time on extraneous details. “Reservoir dogs” clearly based the colour-coded names of its villains on this film. Robert Shaw as, always, is excellent, and Walter Matthau, whom I can normally take in only small doses, plays the world-weary cynic very well (Watched on Tubi).
  4. Serpico. This is my second favourite Al Pacino film after Dog day afternoon. Pacino is a very talented actor, although he can sometimes be a little over the top. His performance in this film is nuanced and more controlled, which I very much appreciate. I own a digital copy of this film.
  5. The bridge on the river Kwai. I’ve always loved this classic WWII film starring Alec Guinness and William Holden. The film has won so many awards, and rightly so, as it’s one of the best films every made. The performances are top notch. I particularly like the fact that the film focuses on characters, rather than making judgments about the “right” and “wrong” sides of the war. And, of course, who could ever forget the whistling of the Colonel Bogey March? I own a digital copy of this film.
  6. Hannibal. I’m referring here to the excellent television series starring Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, not the awful film starring Anthony Hopkins. I’ve watched this series at least 4 times now, and I never tire of it. It’s dark (and darkly funny) and intense, and is also incredibly beautiful visually. It’s also a celebration of elegance and style, and Mikkelsen’s wardrobe is stunning. The series was shot in Toronto, and I recall the day I literally bumped into Laurence Fishburne at the doors of Holt Renfrew on Bloor street. I own the DVD set
  7. Vikings. Sort of. I’m catching up with season 5. I find this to be the weakest of the seasons so far, mostly because I don’t find many of the characters particularly interesting. Some of the male leads rely too much on grimaces, snarls, and shouting angrily in the air as acting devices, none of which are particularly effective. It’s also getting tedious to see the Saxons always portrayed as militarily inept and gullible, while the Vikings are always brilliant strategically (Watched on Netflix).

Books

I didn’t read as many books this month, as I was laid low with Covid and found it a little hard to concentrate on reading at times.

  1. Hidden depths, by Ann Cleeves. This is the third in the Vera Stanhope series. It’s always fun to compare Cleeve’s Stanhope with Brenda Bleythn’s excellent interpretation of the character (Borrowed from Halifax Public Library)
  2. The pale horse, by Agatha Christie. It’s been many years since I last read this. One of the things I like about Christie is that her writing is always to the point. The trend of so many mystery novels lately has been to drag the plot over dozens of chapters, as well as to throw in a few too many red herrings. (Borrowed from Halifax Public Library)
  3. The rising tide, by Ann Cleeves. Yet Vera Stanhope book, courtesy of the Halifax Public Library

Clothing

  1. I needed to invest in a warmer winter coat. It’s hard to find a vegan coat that is warm enough, so I was very pleased to have found this coat from Halifax-based company Cyanos Jay. I had been considering a Wuxly coat, but my new coat is one-third the price and has a higher cold rating. It’s the warmest coat I’ve ever owned.

YouTube

  1. Nicolas Fairford. I’ve just started following this account, which concerns one man’s journey to make his life elegant and beautiful. The videos are a welcome refuge from the busyness of the world and focus on finding beauty in the smallest things around us,
  2. The Daily Connoisseur. I’ve been watching Jennifer L. Scott’s YouTube channel for many years. Like Nicolas, Jennifer focuses on elegance and poise, and in always prsenting yourself well. It’s not about vanity, but about self respect and grace.
  3. Hippy Highland Living. I discovered this channel last October and have been enjoying following Molly’s journey in slow living in her tiny home in the Scottish Highlands. I always have such deep admiration for people who have the courage to reject conventional lifestyles and to embrace slower living.

Low-waste products

  1. Natural vegan deodorant. I’ve been using No Pong for a while, but I am concerned about the number of metal tins that I need to recycle. People often make such a fuss about plastic containers and think that metal is necessarily better, but recycling metal still uses a lot of resources. This new deodorant comes in a cardboard tube, which can go in the compost. It’s vegan and has no baking soda, which my skin cannot tolerate. I use the unscented formula.
  2. Solid Lotion. This also comes in a cardboard tube. It is slightly scented, but the smell dissipates quickly. Vegan, of course.
  3. Solid dish soap. I used to use Savon de Marseille to do my dishes, until I received a sample of this soap, given to me by the Etsy vendor who makes the two products above. I found it to do a much better job of cleaning grease from dishes. It is also very well priced and lasts months. There is a more popular solid dish soap on the market that is carried by many natural food shops, but I wasn’t impressed with its quality (the bar broke off into pieces) and found it very overpriced. I much prefer this Etsy version.
Slow living

December in review

I am happy to report that this month has been less hectic and stressful than November. Below are some of the things that I enjoyed this past month

Decluttering

  1. Herbal teas: I tend to experiment with different herbal teas, but I really have to simply admit that I am always going to be a coffee lover. I can’t abide black teas, and although I give herbal teas a valiant try, I simply don’t enjoy them. I tried matcha tea as well this Autumn, which I should have known would not work, as I have never liked green tea., I disposed of the various herbal teas I had tried – I had bought them in bulk, so at least no packaging was wasted.
  2. Cat toys: My two cats are very, very spoiled, which is exactly the way it should be. Their collection of toys had become very unwieldy, as I tend to pick up one or two items when I do a monthly run to the pet store; this doesn’t include all the toys under the sofa, furniture, etc. I used to store the toys in a lovely ceramic bin, which broke this week, scattering the toys everywhere, so I saw this as a sign to declutter the toys and focus on the ones the cats actually enjoy using.
  3. Clothes: I tried an experiment with two dresses this year that strayed a little from the styles I usually wear. The dresses are handmade in linen by an Etsy crafts person. There is nothing wrong with the dresses, but they simply did not work for me, as they look too shapeless on me. I’ve moved them to the loungewear category. This was another example of straying away from what I know I really like for the sake of novelty and failing. There is a reason I always score as “classic” in most style quizzes; more bohemian looks simply don’t work for me.

Books

  1. The body in the garden, by Katharine Schellman
  2. Miss Aldridge regrets, by Louise Hare
  3. Things that matter, by Joshua Becker
  4. Girl in disguise, by Greer Macallister
  5. The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray

Food

  1. Vego white chocolate bar
  2. Vego hazelnut chocolate bar
  3. TMRW hickory maple sausages
  4. Spaghetti alla Nerano. I’ve always enjoyed this simple spaghetti dish that uses simple ingredients for the sauce: zucchini, butter, grated cheese, and pasta water. I veganize it, of course. This dish received a lot of attention when Stanley Tucci raved about it, and it has popped up in my YouTube feed lately, so I thought I would include it here.
  5. Zatar Manoush’eh from local business Pizzatown. A delicious variation of the traditional pizza.

Clothing

  1. Vivaia Ryan 2.0 boots in chocolate brown
  2. Tumi beige nylon shoulder bag, second hand, from Poshmark Canada

Household goods

  1. VÄLVÅRDAD stainless steel brush from Ikea. The handle is made of stainless steel and comes with a replaceable beech head with agave leaf fibre bristles. I used to use a similar product, which is very popular in the zero-waste community, where the handle is also made of wood. I found that the wooden handle became rotten after a while. I much prefer this stainless steel handle, which is more durable.
  2. HÅLLBAR bin from Ikea. I used to use a large blue bin for my recyclable containers, but it took up rather too much space under the sink and was also deep, and thus hard to clean. I donated this bin and replaced it with the smaller bin with Ikea, which is easier to clean and has a lid.
  3. GRUNDVATTNET washing up bowl from Ikea. I’ve been using a washing up bowl to handwash my dishes for years; these bowls not only protect the sink, but save a lot of water. My previous washing up bowl had become very stained and was very old, so I was pleased to replace it with this newer model, which is sleeker and takes up less room in the sink.
Minimalism, Slow living, zero waste

November in review

I thought I would start a new series that reflects on my monthly efforts on slow living and personal care.

Reading

Reading has been an essential part of my life since I was very young. Unlike most bibliophiles that I know, I don’t collect books anymore and haven’t done so in a while. I rely heavily upon borrowing books from the public library, which is something I’ve been doing since I was five years old. I also have a Kobo Plus monthly subscription, which allows me to read an unlimited number of books per month. I prefer e-books, as my e-reader is much easier to carry around, and I’m never afraid of running out of something to read when I’m outside of my home. When I do buy books, I prefer them to be e-books, as I don’t want the physical clutter of books in my home. I’ve been slowly whittling my collection of physical books; this past month, I let go of all my cookbooks, save one. I used to collect cookbooks and had over 40 of them at one point. I never got much use of my cookbooks, as I am an intuitive cook and don’t often use recipes. I keep a small collection of recipes on Pinterest but, frankly, I rarely reference them. The one cookbook I’ve kept is Veganomicon, as there are one or two recipes there that I use regularly. This allowed me to repurpose the bookshelf I used for the cookbooks, which now resides in a bedroom closet to better organize my linens. This is much safer than the older way I stored the linens on the top shelf of the closet. I’ve lost count of the number of times the storage bins fell on my head when it was time to change the towels or sheets.

Books I read in November:

  1. A billion years: My escape from a life in the highest ranks of Scientology, by Mike Rinder – Kobo purchase
  2. Inside Scientology: The story of America’s most secretive religion, by Janet Reitman – public library
  3. Hollywood ending: Harvey Weinstein and the culture of silence, by Ken Auletta – public library
  4. Cleopatra: A life, by Stacy Schiff – little free library

Films

I’ve been a cinephile for most of my life, so films are an important component of my slow living. I do own a lot of films, since I rewatch them regularly. I transferred all my DVDs to sleeves and decluttered the jewel cases, so my hundreds of DVDs now fit into three cases. When I buy films now, they are in digital form. Films I have watched this month:

  1. The Batman – Rental
  2. Top Gun: Maverick – Rental
  3. Lady Chatterly’s Lover (2022) – Netflix
  4. Batman (1989) – Owned
  5. Spider-man: No way home – Rental (will likely purchase)
  6. Ghislaine Maxwell: Filthy rich – Netflix
  7. Jane Eyre (2011) – Netflix

Minimalism and Zero Waste activities

In addition to decluttering my cookbooks, I gave away most of my collection of stemware, including wine glasses, brandy snifters, and water glasses. These glasses were rarely used and, since I stored them in a chrome and glass trolley, collected a great deal of dust. I’ve narrowed my glassware to a very small collection of stemless glasses, that can be used for wine, water, soft drinks, etc., and two cut-crystal tumblers. I don’t entertain much, as I’m a hermit, so I simply didn’t need all those glasses. What’s left occupies one shelf of my trolley, which makes cleaning so much easier. I so love seeing empty spaces. I’m not fond of single-purpose items, so I’m very happy to be left with only the stemless glasses.

Since my cats have free reign over all items of furniture, I have a lot of throws in the house, as I want to keep the cats comfortable and also protect my furniture. I had a few knitted and crocheted throws that I had made that were rather bulky to store, so I donated them.

I needed to buy a new stainless steel water bottle, as my old one was becoming very hard to clean and was very dented. After a lot of exploring, I purchased the LARQ Bottle PureVis, which has been on my wishlist for a long time. It’s an expensive purchase, but I have no regrets. It is self-cleaning water bottle and water purification system. It uses PureVis technology to eliminate up to 99% of bio-contaminants such as E. coli from the water and bottle. This is particularly useful when I don’t have access to filtered water. I find the water tastes much fresher, likely because of the regular self-cleaning cycle. I have learned from experience that I take much better care of items if they are expensive, so I’m hoping this bottle will better survive my clumsy ways.

Elate is now using a glass bottle for its mascara, which I purchased this month. I’ve been using their bamboo-packaged mascara for a while, but glass can recycle much better. I bought some new cloth toilet paper from a Canadian vendor on Etsy, to replace cloths that were starting to fall apart. I bought the mismatched set, as it’s a lower price and is more whimsical in nature. These cloths last for years (the ones I decluttered were over 5 years old), so they are well worth the investment. I also found some excellent vegan lotion in a cardboard tube on Esty.

Personal care

November was a particularly stressful month at work, and it took a heavy toll on my physical and mental health. Towards the end of the month, I went back to taking regular doses of CBD, which help me manage my stress levels as well as chronic pain caused by old injuries and widespread arthritis. I’ve been working with a dietitian, as well, to help me manage a health condition with which I’ve recently been diagnosed. I am taking rather more specialized oral supplements than I’m used to, but they are helping. The challenge for me is to take these items regularly, as I’m notorious for forgetting to do so. I’ve always been very stubborn about not acknowledging health limitations and simply powering on (e.g., continuing rigorous martial arts training when I was injured. Hello, arthritis), but the older I get, the less I can get away with this for too long. I’ve scheduled an appointment with an osteopath for next January; this will be a new experience for me, but I’m willing to see if it will help.

Food

I cook most of my meals, but I do like to treat myself to treats and prepared foods occasionally. Food items I’ve enjoyed this month:

  1. Magnum Vegan Ice Cream Bars
  2. Violife Vegan Feta
  3. Violife Vegan Parmesan Block
  4. Earth’s Oat Nog (delicious in latte)
  5. Have Fun espresso beans
  6. All the vegan goodies at Halifax VegFest
  7. Syd Delicious vegan cinnamon buns

Clothing

I needed to fill some gaps in my winter capsule wardrobe, so I added a pair of dark cream corduroy trousers and a black corduroy skirt, both sustainably made, from locally-owned Sattva Boutique. I’ve rarely found corduroy clothing that I’ve liked, but these two items are a rare exception and I have enjoyed wearing them. I also added a chocolate brown velvet blazer, which I simply could not resist, from The Social Boutique, a local consignment store, which supports the Dress for Success Halifax, a non-profit organization that offers programs free-of-charge supporting women looking to enter the workforce and gain financial independence.

Slow living, Uncategorized

Slow living:Live by your values

As discussed in my previous post about exploring slow living, today I want to explore the first principle, namely that of living by my values. It’s surprisingly difficult to hone in on the essential values that I hold dearest. It’s easy to produce a laundry list of values, but much harder to boil them down to what I consider absolutely fundamental, which are those that motivate my actions and guide me through life. People’s personal values vary; none are more important than others, as these are all subjective choices. Personal values can change over time, so I want to focus on a handful that have been with me for most of my life. Part of slow living is learning to focus on what you consider to be truly important; having a comprehensive list of personal values can actually defeat the purpose, as the point is to be focused and intentional. This process is not easy and, for someone who is as prone to analysis as I am, it can become somewhat akin to falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, so I relied more on my intuition and focused on the first values that popped into my head, in a similar process to word association. I won’t go into the process in any detail, but the values below are what emerged as my top contenders, which I list in alphabetical order:

  • Beauty
  • Kindness
  • Knowledge
  • Religion (or Faith)
  • Responsibility

Beauty: I’ve always been drawn to beauty for as long as I can remember. While beauty can manifest itself in several ways, I have always been drawn to visual and aural forms of beauty, such as art, sculptures, architecture, and music. I’m a reserved person and not prone to wearing my heart on my sleeve, but beautiful objects, music, and so forth, can move me to tears, even if they are not necessarily visible to others. I take such pleasure in finding beautiful objects: they don’t need to be famous works of art, sometimes a simple and elegant candlestick can make me smile. I’m usually at my happiest when I’m in a gallery surrounded by beautiful objects, or in a magnificent church (this is related to my Religion value). I will strive to take time every day to revel in beauty and to immerse myself in it, even if it’s just for a moment, as a bulwark against a sometimes ugly world.

Kindness: Kindness is the sincere and voluntary use of one’s time, talent, and resources to better the lives of others, one’s own life, and the world through genuine acts of love, compassion, generosity, and service. This is a value to which I strive but of which I often fall short. Learning to be kinder to others, as well as to myself, is something that I need to work hard on, particularly since my desire for competency, a deep-rooted aspect of my personality, can make me intolerant or impatient.

Knowledge: This is perhaps not a surprising value for someone who has pursued an academic career. There is an irony, however, to having a career where knowledge can be pursued more as a means to an end, rather than for its own sake. By this I mean that there is a complusion in my profession to translate that knowledge into a tangible outcome, such as a journal publication. I find that this pursuit can sometimes serve to commodify knowledge, if you will, and rather takes the fun out of it. I want to place a greater emphasis on knowledge for the sake of knowledge, without a specific end goal in mind, career advancement, or the like.

Religion: Religion has been a part of my life since I was a baby. I was educated in a religious school until university, and have been actively involved in various churches for most of my life. I consider myself to be a religious person, in that I adhere to the beliefs (most, but not all) of a particular religion. My faith has always presented me with an interesting conundrum, as it often battles against my very rational and logical brain. I do know that my religion provides me with a sense of purpose, guides my values, and provides a sense of perspective on what is truly important. It’s an area where I profit immensly when I give it the time and attention it deserves.

Responsibility: A former colleague once told me “you suffer from a surfeit of responsibility.” I’ve always placed a very high value on personal responsibility; it can drive me to be a better person, but it can also lead to harmful behaviours, such as taking on too much, driving myself too hard, and having unreasonable expectations of others. It’s likely a word that could be etched on my tombstone. My slow living approach to responsibility is to use it to help me focus on monitoring my own behaviours and well-being, while to be forgiving of both myself and others if we fall short of my (sometimes unreasonable) expectations.

Slow living, Sustainability

Re-examining sustainable living

For the most of my adult life, I have tried my best to live in a way that does the least damage to the earth and the environment. I have embraced several sustainable practices in my daily and work life; it’s never enough of course, but it’s a path to which I am committed, which includes always striving to do more.

It’s becoming increasingly evident to me, however, that I need to focus on another, and equally – if not more – important aspect of sustainability, namely that which affects my mental, emotional, and physical health. I’ve discussed previously my concern over society’s increasing obsession with busyness, and how it’s become equivalent to an Olympic sport, where people compete with each other over the extent of their busyness. I’ve been trying to pursue a slower way of living, but my efforts have been far from consistent, so I’m going to challenge myself here to treat myself as sustainably as I do the environment.

Slow living isn’t a new concept; it sprung from the Slow Food movement, which traces its origins to 1986, in response to the proposed opening of a McDonald’s in the Piazza di Spagna. Several Italians expressed anger at this proposal and, while McDonald’s did open the location, which is still there today, this reaction led to the establishment Slow Food International 1989. This movement espouses the following principles:

Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.Our approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.

  • GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
  • CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
  • FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers

I have adopted various slow food practices, such as shopping from local farmers, making my own food, eating at local restaurants that support local food producers, and avoiding fast food. My attitude towards food is one of joy, since I consider cooking to be a creative pursuit that nourishes my soul.

Related to the concept of slow food is that of slow living, which is defined as a mindset whereby you curate a more meaningful and conscious lifestyle that’s in line with what you value most in life. It means doing everything at the right speed. Instead of striving to do things faster, the slow movement focuses on doing things better. Often, that means slowing down, doing less, and prioritising spending the right amount of time on the things that matter most to you.

While I’ve tried to embrace the concept of slow living, I haven’t done so as consistently as I would like, so I’m challenging myself in the next months to do this more deliberately. I’ve fallen off the slow living wagon over the past few weeks, and I’m seeing all too clearly the negative effects this is having on my mental, physical, and emotional health. I’m good at burying and ignoring mental and emotional health, but my physical health sends me the loudest alarm bells, since it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the significant increase in the manifestations of chronic health conditions, especially my widespread arthritis (the result of years of martial arts). I’m thus making a commitment to living a life that sustains me, as well as the planet, and to explore in more depth the three primary principes of slow living:

  • Live by your values – simplifying
  • Everyday deceleration – looking inwards
  • Live consciously – looking outwards

I will explore each of these principles in the next few posts as well as tangible steps I can take towards living them daily. Some useful resources that I will consult include:

Slow Living LDN

Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm in Your Day

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

The Slow Living Guide

zero waste

Embracing frozen vegetables

Vegetables form an essential component of my daily life. My typical meal consists of one part grain (usually rice or quinoa), three types of vegetables, and a vegan protein (e.g., tofu, legumes, etc.). Half my plate consists of vegetables. I used to insist on using only fresh vegetables, but I’ve recently been embracing frozen vegetables in an effort to combat food waste. I’ve recently been given a medical diagnosis that affects what vegetables I can eat, how frequently, and in how much quantity, which means that I can’t get through the same amount of fresh vegetables as I used to. I found that I was wasting a lot of fresh vegetables as a result; as an example, where before I would eat a much larger portion of fresh squash, I can eat only very small portions at a time now, which means that a fresh squash once cut open, can’t be consumed at the same speed as before and often goes bad.

I was rather a snob about frozen vegetables, as I assumed they would be tasteless, mushy, and not as nutritious. I’ve consulted a number of resources to help me have a better understanding of frozen vegetables, and have been very pleasantly surprised. Because vegetables Because vegetables are usually frozen immediately after harvesting, they generally retain many of their nutrients. Frozen vegetables can be cheaper than fresh vegetables and have a longer shelf life, which could save both money as well as food waste. Frozen vegetables allow me to eat off-season vegetables throughout the year; this is particularly important during the long Canadian winter months, when the variety of these vegetables can be low. Blanching and flash freezing can cause a reduction in water-soluble vitamins, such as C and the B group, but this will happen also with fresh vegetables if you boil or steam them. Raw vegetables are off my list at the moment, per medical advice, so this will be a factor for me whether the vegetables are fresh or frozen. Fresh vegetables lose nutrients while they are stored, so frozen vegetables may actually retain more of their nutrients.

I typically either steam frozen vegetables, or cook them in the air fryer; this latter technique helps reduce the further leaching of water-soluble nutrients. If the vegetables are headed for the soup pot, I simply toss them in frozen. I buy frozen vegetables that have no salt, sauces, spices, etc. My usual assortment includes broccoli florets (I can’t digest the stems well), brussels sprouts, green beans, and edamame beans (yes, I know, it’s not a vegetable). I buy a California mix that I use in soups. I do buy fresh carrots, as they can last a long time if I store them in water, as well as fresh zucchini, as the latter don’t freeze well with their higher water count. I will be experimenting with frozen squash soon.

The downside to frozen vegetables is the plastic packaging, of course. I counter this by using the empty bags to collect cat litter waste, so at least I’m re-using the bags and eliminating the use of another bag. I think this makes for a better balance, especially when I consider how little food I’m wasting using frozen vegetables. While I would always prefer fresh foods, my existing medical situation makes frozen vegetables a better and more sustainable option.

Uncategorized

SkinFix

I have recently modified my skincare routine. My skin is very dry and reactive, and it’s a challenge to find products that are both moisturizing enough and non irritating. Plus, of course, they need to be vegan and, if possible, in sustainable packaging. The ingredient list of so many of these products, however, often contains a laundry list of items that irritate my skin on contact, such as limonene, linalool, retinol, glycolic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, ascorbic acid, essential oils, and so forth. And don’t get me started on fragrances.

After doing a fair amount of searching on dermatology sites, I found that many recommended products by SkinFix. To my pleasant surprise, I found that the company is PETA certified, which means all its products are vegan, uses recycled plastic and paper, has a refillable option (more about this later), and its products do not contain a very long list of irritating ingredients. The company works with an impressive list of dematologists. The icing on the cake: The company is Canadian and based in Fall River, Nova Scotia.

I’ve been using the Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Cream for a week now and am very pleased with the results. I need a rich, thick moisturizer, and this fits the bill; plus, there is no stinging, burning, or redness when I apply it. It has a very unique pump action that doesn’t actually use a pump, which means that (a) you are not exposing the product to the air, and (b) you’re avoiding the plastic spout and nozzle that most pumps have. You can buy a refill pod that fits under the pump mechanism, so this saves some plastic. They do use recycled plastic, so that’s a bonus.

They have products for different skin conditions, such as eczema and rosacea; I use the barrier restore line and it’s best suited to my needs. They send me a sample of the cleanser and it was very soothing; most cleansers, even those targeted for dry skin, leave my skin very tight. So far, I’m impressed.

zero waste

TANIT oral care

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I take dental care very seriously. This is an area where I struggle to find low waste solutions. I still use a commercial fluoride toothpaste that comes in a plastic tube, as I’m not willing to sacrifice my tooth enamel in the name of avoiding plastic. Recently, however, I have added some low waste products to supplement my fluoride toothpaste.

Although I use my fluoride toothpaste twice a day, I have been using TANIT tooth tabs in the afternoon after lunch, and in the evening after dinner. These tooth tabs contain nHAp, which is known to help remineralize tooth enamel. I’m not comfortable relying on only nHap, so I’m keeping my fluoride tubes, but in this way, I’m not replacing the tubes as often. I’ve tried different brands of tooth tabs before and was not impressed: Most contained a high amount of baking soda, which is very hard on my gums and can damage enamel. I’ve also found some of the other brands of tabs to be difficult to crush into a soft powder, which served to further aggravate my gums. The TANIT tabs break down very quickly to a soft powder and I’ve experienced absolutely no tooth or gum sensitivity after using them twice daily for nearly four months.

I received the new TANIT mouthwash tabs yesterday, which also contain nHap. I like to use mouthwash to provide an extra level of protection to tooth enamel, as well as to make sure that all toothpaste and food residue is completely gone. Commercial toothpastes all come in plastic bottles and usually contain a lot of artificial colours and flavours. I’ve never been able to use the alcohol-based mouthwashes, as I found them very unpleasant. I like to use mouthwash after I drink coffee to help cut down on staining the teeth; yes, I could use simple water, but it never feels quite the same. I was delighted to try the TANIT mouthwash tabs; you simply crush them between your teeth (like the toothpaste tabs, they break down very easily), take a sip or two of water, and swish for 30 seconds. The tabs have a pleasant minty taste and contain grapefruit seed extract and spearmint; in addition, they contain xylitol, which is an effective anti-bacterial agent.

Both sets of tabs come in glass jars with bamboo lids. Refill tabs come in a compostable package. The icing on the cake: TANIT is a vegan Canadian company based in Quebec.

Veganism

Delicata squash and parsnip soup

I’m not a particular fan of parsnip, but I received some this week in my local farmers’ market delivery box, so I thought I would make some soup with it and include some Delicata squash that was getting a tad old.

1 large parsnip, chopped

I large Delicata squash, peeled and chopped

I large onion, diced

Chives, chopped

Garlic cloves, to taste

1/2 cup cooked soldier beans

Vegetable stock, to cover

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Salt, to taste

I didn’t roast the squash, as I was short on time, but this would certainly be a good option. As usual, I don’t measure the wet ingredients; I simply pour enough stock to cover the vegetables. You can always add more water if the soup becomes too thick. I didn’t blend the soup, as I wanted to keep the chunky texture.

All the vegetables and the soldier beans were grown in Nova Scotia.