Organic mattresses

I spend a good deal less time than I would like reclining in comfort on my bed. But I still rack up at least 45 hours a week. These, to me, are critical, replenishing hours. I like them to be unadulterated by both stress and toxic chemicals.

Sadly, the former cannot always be banished. The latter, on the other hand, I can control.

My kids all sleep on natural latex, organic mattresses, made right here in Ottawa. I have not yet bitten the bullet and sprung for such a mattress for myself, partly because my present mattress is not that old (its purchase directly preceded my more intense eco-conversion) and partly because it is very comfortable.

A word on replacing mattresses: please look to recycle rather than sending your old mattress to the dump. Mattress recycling is not mandatory in Ontario, though it is in parts of Canada (e.g. in the Vancouver area) and elsewhere. But it is certainly the right thing to do. Ninety five percent of a mattress can be recovered and reused.
See here for a list of recyclers in the US and Canada. Similar services operate in the UK and other countries: I suggest you use the powers of Google to find them.

If you end up replacing your mattress with a conventional one (i.e. if you ignore my advice!), and the company you buy from offers to take your old mattress away, do enquire where that mattress will end up. As far as I know, Sleep Country is the only big retailer in Canada that has made a public commitment to recycle or refurbish every mattress they collect.

obasan logo
But I digress. My kids' mattresses come from a company called Obasan. It is Ottawa-based but has branches in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The showroom here in Ottawa (on Colonnade Road) is lovely: blonde wood and fresh white bedding with no nasty off-gassing. It makes you want to buy everything.

The company website is very informative about where they source their materials (natural rubber from Malaysia, organic wool from Argentina, organic cotton from Peru and wood from Canada) and tells you about the customization option that is available for all their mattresses (so you can have an altogether different bed experience than your partner).

Obasan mattresses (and, indeed, other latex mattresses) should last 20-30 years. And when they do reach the end of their lives, they can, I am told, be composted (though I'd be interested to find out how long that would take and whether you could jam one into your home organic waste bin…..).

All Obasan products (they sell sheets, pillows and crib mattresses too) are guaranteed free from nasty chemicals. Felted wool is used in the mattresses, instead of chemicals, to ensure that they meet north American flame retardant standards. Conventional mattress makers typically use a class of chemicals called PBDEs to do this. However, these are soon to be phased out (as of 2013), here in Canada, due to recognition of their harmful effects.

This new ban serves to confirm what most us us probably suspected: sleeping on chemical-soaked mattresses night after night is not a great idea. Yet manufacturers continue to use them, not just as fire retardants, but also in the adhesives that they use. So, consider the Obasan option.

organic cotton
The company is great: small and personal. When I ordered the wrong length of mattress, they could not have been nicer about replacing it.

The downside, as usual, is price. Mattresses range between $1,599 (for the thinest twin) and $4,299 (for the thickest king size). This is one of those cases where, if you think of this as a 30-year investment, the price looks pretty good: just over $1 a week for the twin, assuming it lasts 30 years. Otherwise it can be daunting, though it is in line with other organic mattresses.

If you baulk, try Ikea instead. Ikea made a commitment way back in 1998 to phase out the use of PDBEs. Its Sultan mattress line, discussed here, is a lot easier on the pocket. The Ikea natural latex mattress is $499 for a twin and $999 for a king. It is, though, a compromise: made in Asia with a mixture of natural (85%) and synthetic latex (15%) it has polylactide fibre wadding instead of natural wool. (However, despite their scary-sounding name, these fibres are plant derived and don't seem to be too evil.)

Last thing: Obasan has regular and quite generous sales, so, if you are on the fence, make sure you get on their mailing list to find out when the next event takes place. And, if you are wondering, within their delivery (as opposed to mail order) area, they do take old mattresses away for recycling.
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Laundry soaps for the adventurous

First, thanks to everyone who responded to my soul-searching about the site. You may see some changes in the next while. But, rest assured, the feed (that's the emails to subscribers) will stay and all past content will be retained.

(N.B. if you are reading this but have not yet subscribed to the feed, please do so by clicking here. Never again will you miss one of my must-read posts.)

This contribution to your eco-journey is based on input by Cindy Scott, my chief laundry adviser (she wrote the guest post on dryer sheets).
Cindy has been experimenting with homemade laundry soap…..and she assures me that it really works, even beating out commercial soaps when it comes to stinky running gear, which is certainly impressive. It is also very cheap to make.

Cindy used the laundry soap recipe from the Suzuki site. As long as you put in pure soap granules, you can pretty much guarantee that this is an eco-friendly concoction (see here for a discussion of the green credentials of soap).

By contrast, even some of the greener commercially available laundry soaps (including my favourite, Biovert) contain surfactants which are likely derived from petrochemicals and are certainly not naturally occurring (i.e. even if plant-derived, they require a grand amount of processing). So, for purists, making your own is a good bet. Once you have established your sources for borax and soda you are in business…you can even supply your friends.

Being a keen laundress, Cindy experimented with different ways to keep her whites sparkling. She found the best solution was to add 1 tablespoon of Nellie's all-natural oxygen brightener to the water first and let it soak for 30 minutes.

Nellie's All Natural is a Vancouver-based soap company. I use the washing soda (which is really washing detergent) from time to time, though it is hard to find in the east (I actually got mine at HomeSense). I am not 100% convinced by the company's eco-credentials (their dryer balls are made out of the über-evil PVC which they proudly announce is `widely used in the healthcare sector, children's toys and food packaging'….), but their products generally seem pretty good and the packaging is attractive if you go for the retro laundry-room look.

The oxygen brightener is made from sodium carbonate, sodium percarbonate, primary linear alcohol ethoxylate (those surfactants again) and sodium sulphate. Pretty benign, in the scheme of things, and with no fragrances or dyes.

I did a bit of research to see how the Nellie's product stacks up compared to OxiClean, a more readily-available oxygen stain remover. It turns out that the active ingredients are the same (sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate), but that OxiClean contains undisclosed fragrances and other ingredients (see here for a discussion of the pros and cons of OxiClean).

The purest product in this class seems to be Oxo Brite, made by the Earth Friendly Products company in the US. This contains nothing but the two active ingredients. I wonder whether it would work as well on Cindy's whites: do the surfactants make a difference?

Anyway, back to the point. The soaking step is fine if you have a top-loading washing machine (and a good memory) but not so good for folks like me with precision-engineered German front-loaders. I guess I could use a bucket to pre-soak, add some dilute solution to the drum before hand, or use the pre-wash function. I suspect, though, that I will just let my whites gently yellow so I look all natural and non-bleached….

Not to be outdone, I have been doing my own laundry experimentation, using soap nuts (literally seeds from the Chinese Soap Berry Tree) in my wash.
soap nuts
The Green Virgin products website (from where I was kindly sent my nuts) tells you all about what these are and how to use them.

So far they have done a pretty good job for me. I use them mostly on bed-linen and other fairly benign stuff. I recently conducted one of my scientific stain tests, pitting them against `my regular detergent' on red wine, tomato, olive oil and banana. They didn't do too badly, but they were definitely worse than Biovert. They are, however, self-evidently natural (usually you only find seed pods in your laundry when you have inquisitive kids who don't empty their pockets) and a very cheap option too (around 12 cents per wash).

So that's that on laundry adventures for now.

Finally, let me apologize both for this too-long post and the errant emails subscribers have received from time to time with old postings. I am doing my best to get to the bottom of that problem.
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Safe (and pretty) food covers

I admit it. I have a thing about food storage.

I am endlessly writing about containers (glass, stainless, silicone, thermos) for left-overs or lunchtime delicacies. I fear food that is inappropriately dried up/soggy/plastic-tasting and am scarred by childhood experiences of malodorous tupperware tumbling out of badly organized cupboards.

My friends seem to have cottoned onto this and so, for my birthday last year, I was given a Lily Pad.

Not a real lily pad, but a delightful silicone lid in the shape of a lily pad that can be used in the fridge, freezer, microwave (though I am not a microwaver so can't vouch for that) and even the oven (up to 500 degrees). It can be washed in the dishwasher (without even a `top-rack-caution').
(NB. See this previous review for more details on silicone).

Being of French origin, the Lily Pad is well-designed and nice enough to hang on your wall from the built-in loop.
It creates a great seal on ceramic, glass or metal bowls, making it a good replacement for plastic wrap (for those of you who are still using this).

A quick word about plastic wrap: there is nothing good about it. Originally plastic wrap was made from PVC, `the most toxic plastic'. PVC off-gases terribly, plasticizers in it are probably carcinogenic (just ask those lab rats), poisonous dioxins are produced in its manufacture and it is not recyclable. In belated recognition of these hazards, wrap is now increasingly made from low density polyethylene (LDPE). This makes it less clingy and arguably a less effective food wrap, but it is somewhat safer. It still can't be recycled.

Anyway, let's assume that you want to avoid plastic wrap and that you don't always have to hand a lid of the perfect size to fit the salad bowl/mug/casserole that you wish to place in the fridge or oven.

Just reach for the Lily Pad. The Pads come in 3 diameters: 4" (10cm), nearly 10" (25cm) and just over 11" (about 29cm). They are designed by a French company, Charles Viancin, though made, of course, in China.

The drawback? I have not found a source in Canada. All sizes (plus other neat Charles Viancin cookware) are available on Amazon (prices are between $5 and $14). However, they are sold by third party vendors who do not ship to Canada.

So, for the moment we are Lily Pad-less, as a nation. Is there anyone out there who can solve this problem for me? My food cries out to be covered.
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Greening your cat

Happy New Year! I hope you are not too overwhelmed by the excesses of the holiday season….lots of room now for (eco)-resolutions. We are going veggie at home for January, to kick things off. I'll let you know how that goes.

But on to more serious matters.

If you have read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, you will be aware of the carnage wreaked by domestic cats on the American songbird population. One solution is to keep your cat indoors. I am afraid mine roams free most of the time, but when it is cold, cold, cold (as it is now) we keep him in at night. This raises the thorny problem of cat litter.

There is no perfect solution here.

Clay-based litters still dominate the north american market. Indeed, about 85% of all the clay mined in the US is used for cat litter. A majority of clay-based litter is now of the clumping type: this means that it is made from, or contains, a substance named sodium bentonite.

The advantage of this type of litter is that it sticks together and reduces the amount of material that needs to be discarded. The disadvantage is that sodium bentonite is mined in a scraping operation, close to the surface, resulting in significant landscape destruction. There are also concerns about cats ingesting litter or litter dust and clumping taking place in their digestive tracts.

A better solution is a plant-based litter. I use The World's Best Cat Litter (with a name like that, need I say more?).
cat litter

This is made from whole-kernel maize. It clumps (just like the clay litter), is dust-free and easy to manage and is available in most pet stores. (It costs between $8-13 for a 7lb bag and $24-$30 for a 17lb bag….the higher prices are to be found in Canada, of course).

I have used the regular `flavour' for a while and been very satisfied with it. I was sent a sample bag of the scented, odour-control formula, which contains natural lavender oil. The scent is pleasant enough, not over-whelming….but odours are not a big problem for me with one largely outdoor-living cat, so I cannot judge whether this extra twist is worth it (or would annoy me if my litter tray were not in the furnace room).

The bag claims that the litter is flushable and I do, indeed, flush small amounts of mine with no problems. But I am not sure I would flush on a regular basis as I appreciate the cost of a blocked toilet.

If you live in California, you will know that flushing is prohibited, because of problems with sea-otter deaths (strange, but true). A parasite in cat feces, toxoplasma gondii, appears to be responsible for killing sea otters (it is not eliminated in the wastewater treatment process). The parasite can also end up in storm drains after al fresco cat poop is washed away.

If you don't flush, what do you do with your waste? In most place, including sunny Ottawa, pet feces is banned from the city's green bin/compost collection. So that leaves the regular garbage. That is fine, except it challenges the claim of biodegradability. The dirty secret of many items that are sold as biodegradable is that they only decompose adequately in the presence of oxygen….and there is not much of that in land-fill. In an anaerobic environment, things break down only very slowly and not enough to meet the scientific requirements of biodegradability.
Scented_Bag_Transparent copy

So, there you have it. Plant-based litters win, from an eco perspective. But they are not perfect. Maize monoculture does nothing for our landscapes and carting heavy cat litter around the continent for our cats to poop on is not exactly green. But ….pets are good for us in many other ways and we all love them, so, for now, let's all learn to love corn too.
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Soothing those party eyes

Most evenings I go to bed too late. I swear by a 10.30pm bedtime, but somehow I seldom make it.

It would be nice to think that the holidays were a time for more sleep, but between the good stuff (parties and gatherings) and the less good stuff (late night baking and present wrapping), that often does not happen. So, I look for other ways of feeling - and looking - better in the morning.

One of these is to slap on a good coating of eye cream before I sleep at night.
This feels particularly therapeutic in the dry, cold winter here in Ottawa. Winter, for me, is a time of cracking skin, limp and static-filled hair and a bleeding nose. I like the skiing and the skating, but I can't say I welcome these other features of our longest season.

My eye remedy is Keys Soap Eye Butter. The thing I like about this cream is that it feels entirely inert, buttery-even (as the name suggests). It barely smells and it does not make my eyes water or sting (a common problem with eye cream). A reviewer on another site mentioned that she liked to let her eyes `marinate' in it for the night and I think that sums it up pretty well.
keys eye

Does it reduce puffiness and all those wrinkles around my eyes? I am not too sure, but it feels good and kind to my over-taxed eyes, and it makes me think that my chronic lack of sleep will affect me less.

The ingredients are self-evidently natural (Avocado Oil, Shea Butter, Black Cumin Oil, Carrot Seed Oil, Distilled Cucumber, Aloe Vera, Purified Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Vegetable Wax, Rosemary Extract) so it is not surprising that it scores a zero on the Skin Deep cosmetics database.

The cream comes in a glass container in two sizes, The smaller one (0.5oz or 15ml) does not sound like much, but I can assure you that it pretty much lasts forever (since it is a very dense cream you don't scoop much up on any given occasion). It costs around $20 and is available from the manufacturer or from Amazon (and elsewhere).

In Canada my favourite supplier is Hornet Mountain Natural Products in BC. The eye butter is available as a stand-alone item for $22.25 but Astrid, the proprietor, also does a great Keys Soap Cleanse and Moisturize package for $60. This contains full size versions of the Eye Butter, Island Rx Foaming Cleanser (which I have previously recommended) and Keys Luminos Day/Night Moisturizer. I like, and use, this moisturizer but it is on the heavy side and I generally prefer a little fragrance in my facial moisturizer (though not around my eyes).

Keys Soap products are generally very benign and contain no fragrances or preservatives whatsoever. This blog posting tells you more about how the products are made, and how they manage to eschew preservatives. The company was an early signatory to the compact for safe cosmetics and now has champion status. Prices are generally reasonable (in my view) and they ship far and wide. What's not to like about that?
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Chimney cushions

Winter is slow to arrive this year. But I live in Ottawa, one of the world's coldest capital cities, so I know that it will eventually come, with a vengeance.

When we moved here we did a home energy audit and we have since made significant investments in upgrading the insulation, windows, heating system, etc. One of the quickest (read: easy and cheap) fixes was to install a fireplace draftstopper (available in Canada and the US) or chimney balloon (available in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the US).

The name pretty much says it all. These are low-tech but effective beasts: literally heavy-duty plastic cushions which you partially inflate then lodge in front of your chimney flue (even if closed, this may well be a big source of drafts).
The cushion stays in place courtesy of the (included) telescoping rod. You then fully inflate the cushion through a mouth tube (is this what a breathalyzer feels like? or inflating one of those dubious lifejackets that they claim to have under every aeroplane seat?). Once snug the cushion prevents drafts, makes your room more comfortable and saves you money.

At least that is the claim. I can't say exactly how much money I have saved or whether I have recovered the approximately $50 I shelled out for the cushion, but I do notice significantly fewer drafts from my fireplace, which has to be a good thing. One of vendor websites claims that without a cushion many fireplaces have an `effective leakage area' of 30 square inches (that would be about 200 square centimetres) even when the damper is closed. 30 square inches of -25C air falling down my chimney is not a happy thought.

In my homeland (the UK) the weather is seldom this cold, but the UK chill is still stuff of legend. Since most UK homes do not have fireplace dampers that can be opened and closed, there really are gaping holes to be plugged.

You can choose various shapes of cushion to accommodate different fireplaces (both websites discuss this and the Chimney Balloon website presents a detailed sizing guide). By choosing which vendor you use, you can also choose between black (Fireplace DraftStopper) and transparent (Chimney Balloon). I have a black one and I really don't notice it when it is tucked up my chimney (as long as the tube is not hanging down). The Chimney Balloons appear to have detachable inflation tubes so you would not even have that problem (though you would have to decide where to store - and not lose - the tube).

Though easy to insert and replace, I do admit that the cushion might provide a slight disincentive to lighting a fire, but I think it is the cleaning up after the fire that is the real culprit. Certainly if you were having a fire every night, you might not want to use a cushion. But as an occasional fire builder, I am happy (and I do have to note that it is not exactly eco to burn wood every night).

If you are concerned about accidentally leaving the cushion in place when lighting a fire, apparently you don't have to be. The cushion will melt, fall and smother the flames or at least let the fumes escape (assuming you have opened your flue). A $50 loss for the cushion, but nothing worse...oh, apart from those rather nasty fumes from burning plastic (probably best to remove the cushion, after all).

Last word on these nifty things: there seems to be a bit of a battle over who invented them. Both websites claim to be the original inventors of the product, one in the UK and the other in Canada. Maybe the two are different enough that this is true. Or maybe we are about to witness the eruption of a global chimney cushion patent war.
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Organic fruit on line

When I started this website I did not anticipate covering food items. But as I go on I find there are things that I want to share. So bear with me.

I love dried mango. I used to live in Zanzibar, which is a big mango producer. We tried drying our own in the sun but never quite managed to get it dry enough.

Much of the dried mango in the stores is adulterated with sugar (whose idea was it to add sugar to sweet mango?) and sulphur dioxide (think volcanoes and acid rain.....). The sulphur dioxide preserves and prevents discolouration but it is not something that is on my `must eat' list. Its use as an additive is regulated: while it is theoretically fine to eat in small quantities, there are known health risks associated with it (see here for a summary). So I prefer my mango straight up.

The problem is that straight-up dried mango is both hard to find and expensive (at least where I live). Not the sort of thing I would be packing in my kids' lunch boxes everyday.

So when, late one night, I discovered the fantastic NutsOnline site, I was thrilled to see that they sell organic - and pure - dried mango for just $10.99/lb. Except I was sure they would not ship to Canada. But up there at the top of the shipping page I spotted a little red maple leaf and found that they do indeed ship here, at very reasonable cost.

mango bag
To where I live in Ontario (which I guess is not far from New Jersey where the company is based) shipping costs are $11.82 for 5lbs and $14.43 for 10lbs.

I ordered 10lbs of assorted nuts and fruits so effectively paid less than $1.50/lb in shipping. This still makes the mango cheap relative to what I would pay around here, and the choice of nuts is unrivalled.

Shipments to Canada are bulked up and sent by Purolator twice a week, to keep costs low. Mercifully they also deal with any taxes and duties so no nasty surprises. The most amazing thing is how quickly I received my order. I placed it on a Monday, it was shipped on a Tuesday and arrived on Thursday. Few Canadian companies could rival that.

The organic mango is very good and is one of 250 organic products available on the site, including some pretty off-beat stuff (kelp powder, maca powder, yacon syrup anyone???).

This is a family-owned company that has been around for nearly 80 years. They are very responsive to email questions and helpful with everything.

And though the company does not sell itself on its eco credentials, they do note that they are trying to do their best. They use 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard boxes and starch biodegradable packing peanuts. They have installed energy efficient lighting and motion sensors and selling in bulk has its merits too.

So I am now a late-night fruit and nut shopper.....and my kids do get dried mango in their lunch boxes from time to time. We are all happy!
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In praise of the pocket handkerchief

As a child, I remember that there were two things that my father always kept in his pocket: a penknife and a hanky.
Maybe I am too urban, but I don't carry a knife. I do, however, almost always carry a hanky. And it is amazing how often this comes in handy.

One thing you should know about me is that, almost every day of my life, I do at least two sets of rapid-fire sneezes so a hanky is of particular value to me ( you will think I am very weird and never read this site again). But, even if you are not weird like me, I promise you will find one useful (especially with kids and food around).

Although recycled tissues are now quite widely available, I am a firm believer in cloth handkerchiefs. They are less resource- and energy-intensive, kinder on the nose, more versatile and generally a most satisfying addition to life.
And for those of you who are squeamish: you don't have to wash them separately, nor at very high heat. They do just fine on a 40C quick wash in my household (and nobody seems to get sick as a result...).

I am pretty traditional and prefer a crisp cotton handkerchief (the type that you might see poking out of a breast pocket). But I am also willing to iron my hankies which - I recognize - puts me in a minority. Unironed (after line drying) they might be a bit stiff and unruly.

hankybook lots
If you are a non-ironer, there is help at hand as many of the organic handkerchiefs now available on-line are made from cotton jersey (non-fraying, stretchy and soft) rather than traditional cotton.
An interesting option, that is in my pocket even as I write, is the hanky book.

This is akin to a kids' cloth book (minus the stuffed cover). It is made of 4 sheets of organic cotton jersey sewn down the middle (so 8 pages) plus a coloured cottton `cover'. It is small (3" x 4" when folded closed). The idea is that you open it up, blow your nose on one of the `pages' and then close it. That way your bag/pocket/hand doesn't get contaminated by terrible things from your nose.

You have probably gathered that I am not squeamish about hankies, so this is not a big deal for me. However, the things works quite well and it's a neat idea, especially if it converts some tissue users to the cause. Hanky books cost $5 if bought in packs of 3 and $6 if bought separately. They ship to Canada at no great cost. If you are any good at all with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, you could also make your own for much less (assuming you can source the cotton jersey).

hanky owls
Another, more traditional option comes from a company called Hank & Cheef. These are sewn in Vancouver using organic cotton from Turkey. I love the designs but my gripe is that the nicest ones occur on the regular-sized hankies which are really too small (8.5" square: a real handkerchief should be at least 10" square: dainty ladies' versions have never cut it with me). They sell only one 12" hanky and this is significantly over-priced (in my view) at $9.75. After all, you need at least 5 in your drawer to keep you covered.

So there you have it. In Canada, at least, it is tough to find regular hankies in the stores. Maybe that is not the case in Europe. I would hope not as I would really hate to see these items die out altogether. For now I have raided the back-up supplies of both my mother and my mother-in-law so I am in good shape....but they won't last forever (sadly: because I lose them, otherwise they pretty much do).

Right now I need all the hanky (and help) I can get as I have a lousy cold.
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Ever tried smoked tofu?

I am not a vegetarian, though from an eco perspective I know that is the right thing to be. I guess there is always room for improvement, though, as a pig farmer's daughter, it may take me a while to give up bacon and ham....Anyway, I don't eat that much meat and am always looking for tasty non-meat options.

I admit, I find tofu a hard thing to cook and an even harder thing to sell to the kids. Smoked tofu, on the other hand, is the school snack of choice of my very fussy five-year old.

I first discovered smoked tofu through my organic delivery box when I lived in Toronto, a whole lifetime ago (or so it seems now). I am big fan of things smoked, so I figured it was worth a shot. And what a great shot that turned out to be.

I have been seeking out Soya Nova Smoked Tofu ever since. The problem is that it is hard to find.

This tofu is very dense and dry so can easily be sliced and eaten as a snack, in a sandwich or in cooked food (none of that disconcerting wobble of fresh tofu....). It tastes delicious; you can almost feel the goodness. I have a great recipe for smoked tofu rice (with egg, celery, mushrooms, peas) and, just last night, I ate it it in a sushi roll. Yum.

Soya Nova is a traditional-style tofu shop located on Salt Spring Island in BC (for non-Canadians, this is a small island that lies between the west coast of Canada and Vancouver Island. It's quite a hip destination, lot's of good food, plant nurseries and massage...).

It is a family business that has been going for 26 years. They make a variety of tofu products marinated, curried, spread, etc. using traditional Japanese methods and all Canadian-grown, organic, non-GMO soy beans.

The process involves soaking the beans in water (the water they use is from a 250 foot deep well and they tell me it has a perfect pH balance, which is important since half the weight of tofu is water), draining them, rinsing them again and grinding them up with water to produce a slurry. The slurry is added to a large open cauldron of boiling water, cooked for 20 minutes and ladled into a cloth sack which is then pressed to extract the milk, and the soybean pulp (okara).

A natural coagulant is added which turns the soy milk into curds and whey. The curds are placed in cloth-lined stainless steel boxes and pressed with weights for 40 minutes, then cut up and immersed in cold water before packaging or smoking.

Now I have whet your appetite, here is the hard part. Soya Nova sells quite widely on the west coast of Canada and is available even as far east as Winnipeg. But Soya Nova no longer has a distributor in Ontario. In addition, although they have a Facebook page, they don't have a website, so it is hard to find out about the product.

But there is a solution. Deb is very helpful if you email her direct at or call her on 250-537-965. She send out parcels containing 12 x 225g packages of smoked tofu. These will arrive in 2 days and last several months in the fridge.

The cost is $3.50/package before shipping (which costs about $30 to Ontario: a lot, but not too bad if you average it per pack). So, your all-in price is about $6 per pack, which is not much more than the price the tofu sells for in stores on Salt Spring Island ($5.60 per pack, I am told). And it is great to have it delivered to your door.

I think it is worth it to go through this effort. I have tried a more commercial brand of smoked tofu and it is nowhere near as good. I'd be interested to know if there is a good similar product in the US.

And for those who live close to me and are interested: come by for a tasting, I have a fridge full right now!
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Moisturizers revisited

One of my very early postings was about face creams. At the time I was a fan of Lavera products. But my journey with has introduced me to a whole range of great new products. So I thought I would share with you what I am using on my aging face right now.

First, though, I want to remind you of what I wrote in my posting on cleansers, which holds for moisturizers too: what I look for in facial products is low toxicity (of course), a smell/texture/feel that suits me and a price that is right. Add to that a (more or less) local manufacturer and all my needs are satisfied: I am not looking for miracles.

So, my current beauty secret? My daytime moisturizer is Pure Anada's Green Tea and Grapeseed Hydra Lotion. This is a light, delicately fragranced lotion that has felt great through the warmer months and this Indian summer. Maybe mid-winter I would prefer something richer - perhaps Pure Anada's Berry and Bouquet Hyrda Cream, which I have not yet tried - but, for now, I love the Green Tea product.

It comes in a largish pump bottle. Beware, my pump is a bit wild and has several times discharged rather aggressively onto my bathroom mirror. It is, though, very well priced at $19.50 for a full 60ml/2fl oz (if you need an idea of size, I have been using this since early summer and still have some left).

You may remember Pure Anada from my recent posting on lipstick. It's a small Manitoba company that is dedicated to low toxicity. None of the ingredients in the cream scores above 1 on the Skindeep ingredients database, though the magical-sounding ingredient in this Green Tea moisturizer, Olivem 1000, is not rated. You can read a bit about it here. It is derived from olive oil so does not worry me too much, and the fact that it claims to generate liquid crystals on my stratum corneum (that's the top layer of the skin: dead cells, sadly) actually sounds rather enticing (if a little perplexing).

I was sent this lotion as a sample and was happy to hear that when it was mailed it had just been mixed up the day before. A new idea: freshly prepared cosmetics! I have had it for several months now and there does not seem to have been any product deterioration.

At night I am using a product from Olivier Soaps (remember my post on washing in the wilderness...I went to buy the shampoo and ended up getting a travel size of this cream too). It is billed as an anti-aging day cream - Femme Creme de Jour - but I find it perfect for the night.

It has a fresh, slightly medicinal smell (if you were paying attention to my sunscreen posting, you will know that this is a quality I like), imparted by oils of: neroli, rosemary, tea tree, sage, benzoin, rosewood, palmarosa and carrot seed. It goes on smoothly and feels nourishing and matte, not at all greasy (which is not true for all eco creams).
olivier moist

The cream scores 2 on the Skindeep database. This is low, but not quite as low as I would like. Looking at the ingredients, everything seems very benign apart from sodium borate. This is, in fact, the chemical name for borax and it comes with a warning from Health Canada (it is a skin irritant (especially for infants). Rather alarmingly it is also a food additive. Anyway, I checked in with Olivier and they tell me that they use only a trace amount in their formula as a preservative, so my mind is at rest for now, though it would be good if they could find a formulation that was entirely borax-free.

The 8g trial/travel size is not on the website but is available in the shops: maybe they would send you one if you asked. The big tub is 50g and sells for $54.95 (so close, yet so far, from the on-line free shipping threshold of $60). I know this is not cheap, but it does last and I figure that from time to time my face needs a treat. Others must agree as this is the company's best selling product.

Olivier soap is a family-run New Brunswick company that sells both on line and through stores. There just happens to be a franchise store in Chelsea, Quebec, down the road from me. The company is a signatory to the compact for safe cosmetics, which is always a good sign. Customer service is not too hot, but they did answer my questions eventually. Pure Anada, on the other hand, are super-responsive.

So there you have it. I can't say that my wrinkles are in decline, but my face is happy (and I even got an unsolicited compliment on my skin the other's true! I must be doing something right).