Category Archives: Life

We’re going to South America!!

So I’ve been keeping a secret for the past little while but now that I’ve finally put in my notice at work I have some exciting news! We’re going to South America!!

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Mount Fitzroy, Patagonia. One of the hikes we have planned for while we are there. They say Patagonia is a real life Narnia. I can’t wait to see it in person! Photo credit: http://www.tcktcktck.org

Like the hippies at heart we are we both quit our jobs and are going backpacking again! This time with a proper backpack instead of a giant suitcase on my part.. As you can tell I am extremely excited! I’m also super excited about what we’re going to learn down there. We first heard of the wwoof organization (Willing Workers On Organic Farms or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) while in Australia 3 years ago. We actually just stumbled upon a membership book on the free bookshelf at our hostel and thought it was the coolest thing ever. We contacted a couple farms nearby and heard back from one with a kangaroo petting farm and eco-tourism style venue where they held parties and weddings and hummer tours through the rainforest. I know a hummer is not the most eco-friendly vehicle but it was pretty cool nonetheless. We had planned on wwoofing again while we were there but sudden flooding in the area forced our plans to change as the farms we contacted were now housing their neighbours.. It also cut off our route south so we stayed put at another farm planting watermelons and pruning mango trees.

Anyways before I get too side-tracked reminiscing.. This time around we knew we wanted to learn as much as possible about sustainable living and what better way than get some hands on experience in a place we can’t wait to visit.  Many of the organic farms are almost completely self-sufficient with water collection units, solar panels, woodstoves, and yes even composting toilets. Not only do they grow all their own food including animal husbandry for meat or wool they try to use their own water, heat, and energy sources. I’m hoping that after spending a few months living like that we will pick up on enough tips and tricks to put it in action back home.

If you haven’t heard of WWOOF I suggest checking them out. It’s an international organization with branches in many countries and probably has some farms enrolled close by to learn from if you don’t feel like traveling. Another awesome thing about the organization is that the only fee is your membership unlike some eco-tourism trips where you end up paying thousands of dollars just to go volunteer with them. In exchange for a few hours work a day (normally 4 or 5 with a day or two off a week depending on the farm) you get free accommodation and food. It’s really a perfect way to travel the world, learn about their culture, and for us hopefully learn some Spanish as well! We’re landing in Patagonia and will be working our way up Chile, then hopefully heading over to Argentina, Brazil and back through Bolivia and ending our trip in Peru or back in northern Chile. We’re hoping to do lots of hiking while we’re there as well. So far we’ve planned two hikes in Patagonia. The Torres del Paine “W” circuit in Chile and another 4-5 day one to Mount Fitzroy, Argentina. Maybe a little ambitious after only ever completing a 3-day hike lol.

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Stunning photo from the Torres del Paine hike in Patagonia! Photo credit: http://www.wikipedia.org

I’ll try to blog as often as possible while we’re there and share what I’m learning and probably a million pictures of cute animals since we’re both big animal lovers. Anyways that’s all for now! Hope any of you in the US are having a wonderful thanksgiving!

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From an article on wwoofing in Chile. Photo credit: http://www.oneearth.org

Eco-Friendly Friday (Sunday..) – Energy use in winter.

ECO-FRIENDLY FRIDAY: Reducing energy use in the winter.

With all the snow we’ve been having here lately and the temperature continuing to drop I thought a post about regulating the temperature in your house would be appropriate for Eco-Friendly Friday… Errr Sunday… Also I really wanted to share this TED talk! It brings up some really great points and I love the idea of using behavioural science to find more and better ways to motivate people to reduce their energy use.

The best way to lower your energy use in the winter is to have a strong insulative barrier for your house. This includes windows and doors. At our current rental property this is a huge issue. We lose so much heat to the windows and doors. I can actually feel the cold air when I get close to them. Last year we tried to put plastic sheeting over all our windows. The kind you tape on then use a hair dryer to shrink to trap in the heat. It didn’t work out too well. What plastic didn’t fall off on its own got shredded by our cat.. So now I have heavy fabric curtains in front of the windows and keep them drawn 90% of the time. It makes for a gloomy living room but at least it’s semi warm. We also keep an abundance of cozy blankets in there at all times.  Plus we kinda got used to wearing sweaters, long johns, and wool socks most of the time (not that it’s freezing in our house but I like being warm).

I also recently set our thermostat to lower during the day while we’re at work hopefully that will make a difference in our energy bill as well.  A programable thermostat is a must for energy savings! As the days get shorter we also tend to use more energy lighting our homes. One way we try to reduce this is by both being in the same room. This is easy since our house is so small that our living room is also our computer room/office. By both hanging out in the same area we only need one light on in the house instead of two or three. It also means we spend almost all our time together when we’re home even if we’re doing different things. Although this doesn’t work when I’m in the kitchen cooking or sewing/crafting in the basement.

It’s been snowing like crazy all weekend and it’s making me wish I were in the mountains right now. A weekend trip is in order stat! For now, I’ll just go play in the snow outside. Snow fort!!

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Our yard last winter. So pretty!

Happy Remembrance Day Everyone 🙂

Reducing stress and one year anniversary.

So I’ve been pretty stressed out about work lately. The can’t relax but exhausted, can’t shut your brain off kind of stress that is ridiculously unhealthy. In my home life stress is never really an issue. Shadoe and I are both very go with the flow people. We don’t fight about little things around the house or worry about money. In fact I love being home, it’s probably the most stress-free environment possible. Except for when I can’t seem to leave work problems at work. I used to be able to come home and completely switch off my brain from anything work related and just be at home. I really need to get back to that. I was having bad headaches for over a month and finally went to the doctor. I left with a prescription for massages and a diagnosis of stress headaches. The massage therapist I went to confirmed that I was way, way too tense and gave me some tips for relaxing. I knew it was really getting to be a problem when I had to call in sick twice in two weeks, spent my days off exhausted and feeling terrible, was becoming less and less productive at work, and started abandoning yoga videos after 10 minutes cause I just couldn’t get past this overwhelming feeling of stress. The more I got stressed out the less I wanted to do anything to alleviate that stress. Not to mention I noticed myself making bad food choices and not wanting to cook.

I finally decided that I just can’t do it anymore. So stating today project de-stress is commencing. I guess downsizing went along with that as well since I always get a sense of freedom from getting rid of stuff. I recently read “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll and then watched “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” last night on Netflix. They both had one thing in common. Diet changes leading to an increase of energy, which lead to an increase in exercise, which relieves stress and tension. So this morning I got up earlier than usual and instead of lazing about for the first hour or so I made a green smoothie and went for a run. Then I did a quick yoga class on yogaglo. Finally I felt that sense of calm returning, slowly, not quite 100% but it’s a start. Next I cooked some chickpeas and made hummus for a healthier lunch at work. Then I snuggled up in some comfy blankets and had a nap before getting ready for my nightshift. Before heading to work I made sure to eat a healthy “breakfast” of oatmeal. For the first time in a long time I actually felt okay heading to work instead of the usual “ugh I do not want to be here” feeling I’ve had lately. Maybe I can turn things around just by changing my thought process and making better food choices. I guess we’ll see!

Also today is the one year anniversary of my blog!  It looks a lot different than it did one year ago!

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My happy place. I want to go back!

Do you have any tips or ideas for dealing with stress?

Homemade vegan cheese and downsizing

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My vegan cheese making book “Artisan Vegan Cheese” By Miyoko Schinner came in the mail a couple weeks ago and I couldn’t wait to try out the recipes. Some are very complicated and require weeks from start to finished product while others are instant cheeses or cheese sauces for everyday use. There are quite a few strange ingredients that I had to pick up before my cheese experimentation could commence. I’ve located most of them so far. I found Agar powder, nutritional yeast, xanatham gum and tapioca flour in the local health food store but I have yet to find carrageenan, vital wheat gluten and a couple other ingredients I’ll need to be able to make any recipe in the book.

I decided to start with the most basic recipe which was cashew cheese. It’s the base for a lot of the other cheeses in the book as well. To make the cashew cheese you first have to make rejuvelac, a probiotic liquid made from fermenting sprouted grains, which will serve as a culturing agent for the cheese. Once that’s done (it takes a few days) you just soak some cashews, add salt, blend it all together and let it sit on the counter for a couple days to culture. I think I may have left my cheese out on the counter for a little too long.. I kind of forgot about it for about 3-4 days so it developed a very strong flavor. At first taste I thought wow this is really cheesy. Although the flavor wasn’t like any cheese I’ve ever had before it tasted tangy and creamy like an exotic cheese. I had it on a sandwich and it was pretty good, not fantastic, but still added a cream cheese like taste and texture. I wanted to add in a bunch of herbs and spices to make the boursin cheese. It uses the basic cashew cheese as a base but reading the recipe it afterwards it said not to let the cheese culture for too long so I want to wait to try another batch which hopefully wont taste as strong. Over time I hope I can hone my cheese making skills by using various grains to make the rejuvelac (I’m guessing each would produce a slightly different flavor) and find a vegan cheese that’s a knockout. I’m excited to try some of the instant cheese recipes as well!

On a different note we just spent the past week trying to downsize. I had always prided myself in only owning enough stuff to fit in my car but over the past few years that we’ve been living together Shadoe and I have started to accumulate quite a bit of stuff.. We decided to nip it in the butt and take action before the winter sets in. A majority of the furniture we have was picked up in a hurry from thrift stores and yard sales and selected more for purpose than anything else. That means a lot of it is not exactly what I want for our home. This weekend the town we live near was hosting a “reuse it or lose it” event where everyone from the county can bring in all their unwanted stuff and other people can come take what they need. At the end of the weekend the town will drop off all the unwanted items at local charities, thrift stores or take it to the dump depending on the items and their condition. We decided to take advantage of the event and get rid of all the furniture and stuff we don’t want and let someone else use it. That way we can either replace the items we weren’t completely happy with or realize that we didn’t really need all those things after all. This will also help us out when we have to move in the future. We loaded up the trailer and within 5 minutes of arriving at the drop off our trailer had been emptied by people in need of those items. It was amazing to see and a win win for everyone.

We’ve also been slowly going through all of our stuff and getting rid of things we don’t use often enough. Last month I finally separated with clothes that I had been hanging on to for over 6 years mostly due to sentimental reasons. I was sad to see some items go but now that they’re gone I honestly haven’t thought about it. There really is no use keeping old clothes you no longer wear just for the memories. Next we moved onto books, cds, and other stuff we’ve collected. It’s taking a long time to sort through everything but every time we do we end up with less and less in the keep piles and more to give away. Already our tiny house is looking less cluttered and it feels really good. Now to clean up and reorganize after a weekend of tearing the house apart.. Good thing I still have another day off from work!

Preserving adventures Pt 2 – Salsa

I’m not quite sure how many parts there are going to be to my preserving adventures saga.. I feel like I’m getting hooked! There are just so many things that you can preserve. Yet even though having a pantry full of homemade pickled goods, sauces and jams sounds amazing I’m trying to stick to things that we eat on a regular basis. Last year I pickled some string beans but since I’d only ever eat them in a Caesar (a Canadian drink similar to a bloody mary not the salad) they just sat there all year until I finally just got rid of them so I could reuse the jars. To be honest they didn’t turn out very well either, kind of mushy, so I’m trying to be a little more cautious when canning this time around. I also made a bunch of raspberry jam last summer and although I gave a lot away the jars I kept sat there for a long time. We did finally use it all up but now I know that in my household we just do not consume a lot of jam.

Tomato sauce, pickles and salsa on the other hand.. It’s hard to keep those things in stock! Which brings me to my next canning adventure.. Salsa! The process was similar to making the tomato sauce but a lot less work. I still had to blanch and peel the tomatoes but once that was done you just dice them and throw them into a large pot with all the other ingredients and let it boil for 15 mins. That’s it. For my salsa I looked at a few different recipes but eventually ended up creating my own. I like salsa to be chunky and taste super fresh with not too much seasoning. This is what I came up with:

Sara’s Fresh Chunky Salsa

  • 35-40 Roma Tomatoes
  • 5 Assorted Peppers (I used green, yellow and orange)
  • 3 med sized onions
  • 5-7 Jalapenos depending on size and how spicy you want it.
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  •  ½ C apple cider vinegar
  • ½ C lemon juice
  • 1 can tomato paste 156ml or 5.5oz
  • 1 TBs salt
  • 1 TBs fresh ground pepper
  1. Blanch and peel tomatoes then dice and add to large pot
  2. Chop and add the rest of the ingredients. I used a food processor for the jalapenos to get them super finely chopped.
  3. Bring to a boil over med heat and let cook for 15 mins.

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I had a little salsa leftover that didn’t fit into the jars and so far it got good reviews. Hmm what to can next…  My vegan cheese came out pretty good too. I’ll post an update on that later this week 🙂

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Nuri enjoying the fall weather!

Preserving Adventures Pt 1 – Pickles and Tomato Sauce

I’m finally getting around to sharing my canning adventures! My past two weekends have been spent in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and attempting to make some preservatives for the winter. I ordered 10lbs of pickling cucumbers, dill, garlic, and 40lbs of canning tomatoes from my local organic box. The first weekend I did up my pickles. It was really pretty easy! I followed some online instructions and it literally only took about 30 mins for all my pickles (five 1L jars). I found a ton of different ways to make dill pickles from fermenting them first to super easy fridge pickles but I settled on a canning recipe. Maybe I’ll try a different method next year, depending on how these turn out.. The recipe/instructions I followed is here. Making pickles is definitely something I want to do every year, hopefully with my own home-grown cucumbers next year! I can’t wait to taste them. Seeing them sitting on the counter everyday yet having to wait a whole month to eat them is probably the worst part of doing it at home.

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All my cukes. Washed and ready!

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The jars looked so pretty with just the dill and garlic in them.

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Finished pickles! Waiting to be eaten..

Next up was homemade tomato sauce. My friend is Italian and every year at the end of the summer her mom, and pretty much entire neighborhood, spend days upon days making enough tomato sauce to last for the entire year. We got the recipe from her mom and set to work. This was much more labour intensive than the pickles.. We set up stations in her kitchen for each step. The first station was for rinsing the tomatoes and prepping them for blanching then the blanching station (a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice water). Next was the peeling station where the skins were removed from all the tomatoes. After that came the blending station and finally the cooking station. It took us 5 hours the first night to finish cooking most of the tomato sauce and get about half of the sauce into jars and those jars processed. After about a half day total of work we finished with 12 500ml jars each. Not too bad for our first time! I tested out an unsealed jar that night on spaghetti and it was delicious. I can’t wait to try it out for pizza too!

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Finished tomato sauce. We also added fresh basil leaves to each jar. Yum.

Next on my list for home made food is salsa and vegan cheese. So far I’ve got some sprouted grains fermenting as a starter liquid for my cheese. Hopefully that will be ready to use either today or tomorrow. It’s such a satisfying feeling making everything from scratch. A lot of work but so worth it!

We survived! Details of our first 3 day hike!

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So happy we made it to the top!

We survived our first of hopefully many more long distance hiking trips! I had an unreal time. It was hard, especially the very steep parts, but so worth it. The first day was mostly uphill through forested trails but towards the end of the day the trail opened up into a huge meadow full of marmots. One which we didn’t notice until we were almost on top of it just sat there eating tubers less than 5 ft away not scared of us at all. Our first campsite was in a treed in area in the middle of the meadow. The campsites were really cool, winding trails led through tent pads from the picnic table/food area to the food storage area and also an outdoor toilet with one heck of a view.

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Day 1

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Mr. Marmot

The second day we started off through another meadow going up even further into the mountains. Then we hiked across the side of a sandy/rocky range and up to a glacial lake which was the most beautiful shades of green/blue and incredibly clear. I wanted to dive in so badly! After that was an intense climb up over the mountain top behind the lake. It was like being on a Stairmaster for an hour straight after already hiking uphill for 3 hours that day. We took a lot of breaks.. The view from the top was just amazing and it only got better as the day went on. We stopped to take a short video at the highest point of our hike. It was super windy at the top. At one point we could lean almost all the way into the wind and have it keep you standing upright.

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A cool boulder patch we went through.

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Amazing view..

Then the trail continued across the mountain range and finally, near the end of the day, headed down to the campsites back below the tree line. We set up our tents and went to have some dinner with a Belgian couple we had met the day before. The final day was mostly a downhill trek back down the mountain and to the parking lot where our car was waiting having taken the shuttle up to the start of the hike. We lucked out with weather and had beautiful sunny days the entire trip. I honestly could not have asked for a better first 3 day hiking trip. I can’t wait to do it again. I figured I would include a list of the food we brought with us. I was considering trying to do the hike solely on plant based foods but I caved and brought some cheese.

Food for both of us for 3 days:

  • 2 wholegrain bagels and 2 wholegrain and berry bagels
  • sliced sharp cheddar cheese
  • cherry tomatoes
  • trail mix
  • freeze-dried primavera pasta
  • wild grain rice with a can of vegetable soup (transferred to a Ziploc baggie) and croutons
  • Oatmeal mixed with brown sugar and dried cranberries
  • Blueberry granola with powdered milk (Shadoe’s breakfast)
  • 2 dark chocolate bars and an eatmore bar

We could have done with a little bit more food. The primavera pasta we thought would have been enough for us both but turns out it was a single serving. Otherwise, a very good menu for our first trip and most importantly 100% vegetarian! Next time with a little more planning I think I could make it entirely plant based by subbing in some homemade vegan cheese. I just ordered “Artisan Vegan Cheese” by Miyoko Schinner off amazon and I’m very excited for it to arrive! I also ordered 5lbs of pickling cucumbers and 40lbs of canning tomatoes plus dill and basil from our organic food box so adventures in preserving should be starting right away. I’ll keep you updated =D.