Incensed about odours (Day 205)…

September 21, 2007


I’ve never been one for the Glade Plug-Ins, those neon-coloured gel packs you cram into an ugly plastic thing which sticks into a wall socket. They always smelled fake to me, and really overpowering, like there was some odour lurking underneath that you really didn’t want to encounter.

When the Febreze line came out, I initially had the same reaction — why would anyone need to spray stairs and couch pillows with anything? But eventually, Proctor&Gamble’s marketing sucked me in.

“Hmm,” I thought one day at the store, “maybe my couch pillows are smelly but my sense of smell is poor and I can’t notice… I’d better buy a bottle of this and douse them just in case.”

Totally ridiculous. But at the same time, there is something to be said for a house that smells nice, that smells of more than just, well, house. So I’ve decided to forgo any plastic or aerosol cans, not to mention all the harsh chemicals that come with most brand-name perfumes, and use incense or my beeswax candles, instead.

The trick with incense, I think, is to not use the whole stick at once — unless, of course, you actually want your house to smell like hippie.

Photo of incense coils in Hong Kong courtesy of bethlet on Flickr

Frank sense in Vita-Myr (Day 193)…

September 9, 2007


Like most people, I do as my dentist tells me and brush at least twice a day. But now that it’s the busiest part of the film festival and I’m running around, shoving random bits of food into my mouth instead of meals, then going for hours without eating anything, I’ll often find that my breath isn’t so minty fresh.

After swearing off gum and really not wanting to pack a tube of toothpaste or sprig of parsley into my purse, I began looking for other solutions.

Eventually, I concluded that a small container of mouthwash would do the trick. But whenever I use stuff like Listerine, it always feels like I’m about to get an aneurysm — it’s so intense and leaves my tongue feeling all tingly (in a really unexciting way).

Then I found a natural brand, which happens to come in travel-size containers, called Vita-Myr. It’s much less painful, due to the fact that it uses distilled water instead of alcohol as its base, and is combined with friendly bacteria-fighting agents like folic acid, zinc, myrrh and cloves.

Now all it’ll take to get fresh breath is a discreet gargle and spit, and I’ll be ready for all the celebrities who try to kiss me (yeah, right).

Getting my fruit flies drunk (Day 192)…

September 8, 2007

fruit flies

The compost bin on my balcony has, so far, been a success. My worms are still alive, so that’s a good start, and I’ve been pretty careful about balancing the pH of the soil, making sure there’s a good variety of greens, starches, coffee grounds, egg shells, wet newspaper and so on. I stir it around every now and then, too, just to make sure it’s getting enough air.

But the downside is that if any fruit goes in there whatsoever, I’m guaranteed a whole swarm of those itty-bitty flies will invade and eventually sneak into my apartment, too.

However, I can’t exactly whip out the bug spray, especially not if I want to keep my precious wormies alive and pooping. So instead, I’ve decided to kill off the fruit flies in a more natural way: alcohol poisoning.

I poured a little (seriously, just a little — no way am I about to waste more than a drop of wine, even if it is cheap Ontario plonk) into a cup, then stuck a bit of cling wrap on top, poked some holes in it and perched it above my compost bin. It’s only been a few hours so I can’t report yet on the effectiveness of this strategy, but either way, I hereby pledge to continue using the greenest way possible to kill the crap out of stupid bugs.

Photo courtesy of Suertudo on Flickr

Bye-bye, K-Y (Day 188)…

September 4, 2007

Please excuse the shortest Thistle post ever. I’m sorry, but for the sake of my reputation, not to mention the fact that my parents, colleagues and ex-boyfriends are probably reading this, I simply cannot say more than:

This, instead of this.

Preserving my local diet (Day 182)…

August 29, 2007


It’s easy sticking to a local diet now that it’s summer and farmers markets are in full swing, but I know that all these juicy peaches, plums and berries won’t be around come January — they’ll be around in South America, yes, but because I’m restricted to Canada and the U.S. in everything I eat, I thought I’d take a couple hours to make some preserves.

Despite my penchant for all foods Indian, I’m not a big chutney fan, nor do I like the taste of pickled anything, so I’m limiting myself to jams. But wow — and please, excuse the lack of humility here — it just so happens, my jams rock! Of course I can’t take full credit: Miss Crunchy gave me the inspiration with her recipe for Cognac Vanilla Peach Jam, which is basically what I made, just without the booze (I couldn’t find organic cognac and wasn’t sure how my few teetotalling friends would feel about it).

Now, I must admit, I prematurely scrunched my face in panic upon reading through Crunchy’s ingredients list, especially when I came across the word pectin. Pectin? What the heck was that? Sure didn’t sound very natural or green to me … but actually, it is. So once I got over that mental hurdle, I picked up all the other necessities and went about blanching (another term that freaked the bejeebus out of me) my fruit. About halfway through the recipe, I basically started guessing everything, boiling and stirring the globby mixture until it looked like it wouldn’t kill me or make me barf if I ate some of it with a piece of toast.

As I poured it into the sterilized jars (again, my sterilization technique would surely flunk me right out of any medical school), I thought, “All right, it’s OK, it’ll taste like crap, but that’s fine, that’s what experimental cooking is all about.” But then I let it set overnight and tried a tentative spoonful of it the next morning on a rice cake with some almond butter and it actually tasted great! The vanilla beans made a huge difference and the tartness really came through, unlike so many of the over-sweetened commercial brands on the market.

In the end, my Peach, Yellow Plum and Vanilla Bean jam was almost entirely organic, local and stored in reusable mason jars. So as of today, I’ll be preserving whatever I can if it means less time in an 18-wheeler to get here come winter.

Making room for natural perfume (Day 175)…

August 22, 2007


At the beginning of this challenge, I promised my cosmopolitan self that no matter how green I became, no matter how many hippies I befriended, there were three things I’d never, ever do: 1) Let my hair clump into dreadlocks; 2) Wear Birkenstocks; and 3) Smell like patchouli. Not that there’s anything wrong with such things — in fact, Birkenstock has been coming out with some funkier styles and colours these days and if they aren’t worn with socks at least … but I digress:

My forays into perfume began sometime in high school, when I wore these sickly sweet scents from the Body Shop like Mango, Peach and Dewberry. Then I went to summer camp and got turned onto Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers. By the time I got to university, I was big into Diesel’s Zero Plus, but the fact that it came in a bottle shaped like a grenade made it problematic every time I tried to fly anywhere. Most recently, my perfumes of choice have been Burberry Brit and Kimono Rose.

But more and more, perfumes began making my nose itch and my sinuses ache, and I wanted something that was a little more natural and didn’t feel like it was eating away at my brain. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options — most hippie stores just offer various essential oils, which on their own are too strong a fragrance. Thistle reader and entrepreneur Anji Murphy sent me some of the natural perfume sticks she’s been working on and they’re fab, but she has yet to officially put them on the market.

So when I stumbled upon these solid perfumes made in British Columbia by a company called Ganesha’s Garden for under $10, I quickly snapped one up. Listed in the ingredients are nothing more than coconut oil, perfume oil, beeswax, almond oil and vitamin E. They come in hand-carved soapstone boxes, which you can reuse afterwards for earrings, knick-knacks, or even your own homemade perfume.

I chose the Oasis scent, which I found out later is what they describe as “a very sweet, sexy blend of cool, juicy mango and coconut notes softened with vanilla and jasmine, all held together with deep woodsy notes. Totally tropical.” I also recommend Plumeria and White Lotus … not so much the Sandalwood, Patchouli or Green Tea. Unless you’re a capital-H hippie, of course. 🙂

Green treats mean clean teeth (Day 160)…

August 7, 2007


My cat is excrutiatingly particular about her treats, but after the recent pet food scares I’ve been even more particular about which brands I’ll let her have. She’s always liked her Temptations, preferring the crunchy outside and chewy inside to the more uniform consistency of Pounce treats, and one of her all-time favourites was Pup-Peroni, which is meant for dogs but she goes bonkers for anything bacon-flavoured.

But Soph is getting older now — she’s about middle age in cat years — and I wanted to start giving her something healthier.

I stumbled upon these treats called Feline Greenies, and thought their Nantucket Bay Scallop flavour sounded especially posh — not to mention the fact that the ingredients are all natural and they keep teeth nice and clean — so I grabbed the packet and brought it back for her.

At first, she wasn’t so sure what to make of them. Everyone says cats are colour blind but I swear she could tell they were green, which led to a lot more sniffing and head bobbing then usual. Finally, though, she took the plunge and ate one.

Success! She’s officially hooked, and I can breathe a sigh of relief that she won’t end up keeled over at the vets with traces of rat poison in her intestinal tract anytime soon.

There is one problem with this product, however: the packaging. If anyone knows of any stores that sell cat treats in bulk, or at least ones that come in recyclable material, please point me in the right direction!
Image courtesy of this website