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I mentioned that I don’t use canned beans anymore. Most of you will groan at that and say you don’t have time for dried beans. But I ran out of my stash of frozen chickpeas yesterday and I just want to mention that it actually doesn’t take that much of your time. Here’s the deal:

1. I rinsed and put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and covered them (with an couple of inches to spare) with water last night just before I went to bed (2 minutes)

2. In the morning I drained them and put them in a large pot with some salt (2 minutes) and boiled (10 or so minutes, unattended) then simmered them for just over an hour (unattended, I put a timer on and went about my morning).

3. When they were cooked, I divided them into pint-sized wide mouth mason jars (or whatever you have that you can put in the freezer), covering them with their cooking liquid (5-10 minutes) and left them uncovered to cool (about an hour, unattended) then popped then in the freezer (1 minute).

So, although it took many hours, it only took about 15 minutes of active time. The caveat is that you have to be in the vicinity for the cooking bit so you can stop them when they’re done.

And the reward is that you know what’s gone in there and how much sodium, which is a major issue with canned goods, along with the potential BPA in the lining. And they’re almost as convenient as the canned ones since I can defrost them quickly in hot water (or a microwave if you have one) if I don’t have the foresight to know I’ll need them in a few hours (often the case).

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Two years ago our CSA (plan b organic farm) gave us the option to buy a bushel of their organic roma tomatoes for canning. We’d never canned anything before, but since my husband had that week off work, we decided to go for it and figure out how to do it. It took us all week to get the tomatoes canned (mostly stewed dice, some whole, and my husband tried to make paste but never got it boiled down to a paste-like consistency) and they lasted us until near the end of February which was 5 months. By the end of the week, however, I thought I’d vomit if I smelled another stewing tomato…

Last year was a bad year for tomatoes in these parts, so we didn’t get the chance again and this year there was a glitch in the CSA’s email list so I’m not sure if they did it but by the time I got back on the email list their tomatoes were done.

We don’t eat many canned goods. I buy dried beans and soak and cook them with 4 to 6 cups to spare and freeze them in wide mouth canning jars for quick use. We get our veggies fresh. I don’t buy canned soups since they’re just too salty and fresh are much tastier. (Actually, one time I was feeling lazy and my eldest son asked for cream of tomato soup and instead of making it from scratch I opened a can and it was rejected by both of my sons.) Again, when I make soup I often double it and freeze half for a quick appetizer on a busy evening. However, we do go through a lot of canned tomatoes. I don’t know what it is. We eat lots of Italian and Indian foods, I guess, and they come in handy for both of those. But there’s the questionable issue of BPA in the lining of cans, and I read somewhere that canned tomatoes are the worst of canned foods since they’re so acidic and that makes the BPA leach into the food. This isn’t decisively harmful, but could be.

So a few weeks ago I went to our local farmers market and asked one of the vendors if he sells bushels of romas and he got me a bushel for the next week. I left them a day and then was asked what was going on with them the next day so I decided to get going… it’s a lot of work since you need to peel them first (put them in boiling water for a minute or until the skins start to split, then put them in cold water to stop them from cooking, then peel the skins off), then cut and stew them, sterilize the jars and lids, fill them with some lemon juice and salt, then boil the jars in a big pot for 30 or 40 minutes. However, in 3 days I had canned the lot of them (with a few put aside for a harvest tomato tart, pizza margherita, and pizza sauce) and we have what will hopefully be 5 months or so worth of canned tomatoes. They’re delicious… much better than the store bought ones. If you’re interested in doing your own canning, a website called canning-food-recipes.comis where I got all of the information and instructions on the process. Once I got into a bit of a rhythm, it was actually pretty quick. (Peel tomatoes first, sterilize jars and lids while stewing tomatoes, fill jars, boil jars, repeat.) I kept the water that was used to sterilize the jars and boil them later and added to it on each day to conserve water. I don’t own a pressure canner or any special tools with the exception of a large (fits 4 or 5 1-pint mason jars) and extra large (fits 7 1-pint mason jars) stock pot and a pair of canning tongs (rounded like a jar) that help with getting the jars out of the pot of boiling water.

canned tomatoes

This year's batch of canned tomatoes. © 2010 Lynn Wyminga

Just updating the full review since the last time I did it was in 2009.

Why review? To let you know how it’s going, what’s easy, what’s not as easy, etc.

I figure a table with a 1(hard)/2(medium)/3(easy) star (*) system (x means failure and there is one n/a not applicable) with a comment might be easiest to peruse, but sorry about the scrolling…

# Description *** Comment
1 Mow lawn every week * I am always a slacker by the end of summer, but I just let it grow –  I don’t bother with the neighbour’s electric anymore.
2 Fill kettle a cup at a time *** I have a counting strategy at the tap (3 is 1 cup, 6 is 2 cups, etc) but I’m still (year later) working on hubby
3 Bring home recycling & green bin *** We mostly just carry reusable stuff so it’s a non-issue.
4 Read news online (cancelled paper subscription) *** Works fine. Very rarely I crave a paper in hand. Plus I get news from more diverse sources now.
5 Buy produce at Farmer’s Market in season *** I actually only get my honey at the farmer’s market now that we use a CSA. (It comes in glass and is local and very tasty!)
6 Packaging free take-out *** Tiffin boxes have worked out very well. Restaurants love them and folks ask where to get them.
7 Fair trade chocolate *** It’s worth it (for my conscience) & you can buy it in more & more places (& I found it bulk!)
8 Unplug chargers/plugs not in use *** Habit took a few weeks to get into but I’m still doing well.
9 Walk to the bulk store instead of drive * Not since the bike accident…
10 No more bottled water *** Good.
11 Buy second hand *** This is easy, cheap, and all-around great!
12 No junk mail ** I don’t know if greendimes made any difference whatsoever but a sign on your mailbox certainly does.
13 Fair trade coffee *** We went a step further & roast our own green beans & I’ve never enjoyed my 1 cup/day more
14 Toilet train the oldest *** Working on the youngest now…
15 Saving our plastic bags for when they are added to the recyclables x The city reneged on this idea so I have slowly been adding them to our (extra small) garbage once a month or so.
16 Using green cleaning products *** Haven’t used caustic/toxic chemicals/bleach cleaners in many months! More info here.
17 Ride my used bike (vs driving) *** Riding, walking, and using TTC.
18 Buy less! *** Going down to one income helped with this but I’m very conscious of it now, unlike before.
19 No more nail polish ** After the thumb surgery last year, I went out and got a mani/pedi… I needed the pampering. That’s the only time… honest!
20 Next car will be green/hybrid/efficient/electric *** We’re not planning on buying a next car at this point.
21 Replace plastic food packaging & infant toys *** I’ve managed to get many glass freezer friendly containers but it would be nice if they stacked better when empty. Also, the lids mostly suck, except Frigoverre.
22 No more delivery food *** Done.
23 Don’t buy from Esso/Exxon *** Easy. Even that time I got caught with the “extremely low gas” light on…
24 Use Gel-Free Tushies when need to use disposables x Not absorbent enough for overnight so we switched to Seventh Generation chlorine-free
25 Don’t shop at Wal-Mart *** Easy. I don’t even consider it an option.
26 a) Use the car less than 2-3x/wk *** We use the car 1-2 times a week. We live near transit, parks, groceries, libraries, etc.
26 b) Don’t turn the tap on full *** This is a silly and difficult habit to break, but it’s working finally.
26 c) If it’s yellow, let it mellow… x We bought a dual flush instead. It smells better.
26 d) Turn out lights as I leave room * Easy, but I can’t change seem to the habits of the people I live with. The boys are getting good at it, though.
26 e) Navy showers ** This is a summer-only change. I’ll be back to navy showers when it’s warm again.
26 f) No paper subscriptions *** Always tempting, but I’m not going to.
26 g) Eat even less meat * We went pretty vegetarian for a while & my 3 year old (at the time) had a hard time with it. Meat 4 times/wk is average I think.
26 h) Amalgamate car trips *** Done. Easy.
26 i) Don’t buy food in non-recyclable plastics (e.g. cherry tomatoes) ** I do this, but it’s not always easy.
26 j) Cancel catalogues * When New Scientist expired we went for the new online only option. I have to talk to the ROM about this…
27 No T-Gel (coal tar) or Head & Shoulders (zinc pyrithione) *** Found an alternative at The Big Carrot.
28 Use only recycled toilet paper *** Ridiculously easy.
29 Use the kill-a-watt meter to see what’s sucking energy * We did it for a few things but dropped the ball on that one.
30 Use toothbrush with replaceable head *** All 4 of us use these now.
31 Switch to LED night lights *** They work great!
32 Fair trade organic loose leaf (low packaging) tea *** We buy it by the kilo every few months.
33 No trash week x I bailed. Too much on my plate to worry about being all extremist.
34 Plant flowers that support the bee population *** Next spring!
35 Don’t use microwave popcorn n/a No microwave, I make it in a pot the old fashioned way!
36 Vegetarian recipe exchange *** Got some good recipes (email if interested) & everyone was happy to be involved
37 Use organic vegetable & fruit delivery service *** Great service, but now that it’s nearly harvest time, we’re moving onto a CSA (see #51)
38 Write politicians about stopping the global warming nightmare that is the tar sands ** Done. I should really do this sort of thing more often, though…
39 Go green for xmas *** We pretty much bailed on the consumer-palooza that is Christmas for the past 2 years. They rocked.
40 Wash new clothes before wearing to rid them of formaldehyde finish *** I very rarely buy new clothes, but when I do, I do this.
41 Refer to the “dirty dozen” list & buy organic for the top offenders *** I have the full list in my phone and refer to it all the time.
42 Bought a hemp shower curtain *** This shower curtain rocks. No complaints.
43 Don’t buy anything in styrofoam *** Styro is recycled now in Toronto, but I’ve cut it out of my usage anyway.
44 Buy organic milk, mostly for the benefit of my little guys. * Whenever I can get it, I do.
45 Work towards creating less than 1 bag of trash/4 weeks * We’re at or just less than 1 full bag/4 weeks and holding steady.
46 Participate in Earth Hour *** Easy. We should do it more often.
47 Make my own sour cream (since I’m already making my own yogurt) * This worked a couple of times (even with lower fat cream) then it stopped working. Still trying to get it right. My sister-in-law is doing it successfully and loves it.
48 Don’t even consider using biofuels (with the exception of used chip oil) *** This is a ridiculous, yet government mandated, affair.
49 Buy naturally raised beef directly from local farmers *** Love that beef from beefconnections.ca.
50 Properly dispose of expired meds at household hazardous waste *** I missed my local Environment Days but have stashed the offenders to disposal at a later date.
51 Buy shares in local organic CSA for summer *** Loving it.
52 Got an “green” yoga mat for my 3 year old *** Love the new yoga mat I bought for my little guy but borrow when he’s in bed!
53 Turn off power bars for computer 2 *** Easy. Do it every night. Should have started a long time ago.
54 Use grey water for toilet flushing * This fell by the wayside around the accident when I couldn’t lift anything. Will try to get it going again.
55 Use a dry diaper pail ** Not currently using cloth diapers but we use cloth wipes.
56 Community park clean-up * in 2008 but not 2009
57 DIY toothpaste * I used it for about a year and then bailed. May go back.
58 Summer savings * I stopped using the clothesline and my bike after the accident but we don’t use A/C and I still did navy showers…
59 Events without bottled water ** I always push for this during our fundraising events. Last time I didn’t even have to push!
60 Dual flush toilet *** Excellent.
61 Holiday solar LED lights *** Excellent.
62 Gift free birthday party ** Last year it went great. This year we don’t have a plan as of yet.
63 Late night laundry *** Easy.
64 Knitting local and sewing. ** I make hats for folks with yarn from Kingston, ON now. Have to get better at patching clothes (boys and the knees in jeans, I tell ya…)
65 Hankies *** Haven’t bought a box of tissue in 6 months, although we do have one on hand for guests.
66 Recycled printing paper *** Excellent.
67 Cloth napkins redux *** We use them every day.
68 Re-purposed wood scraps *** Good fun.

Manufactured Landscapes is a film about and including the jaw-dropping, beautiful international photographs of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, along with a bit of thoughtful and thought-provoking commentary. I found the trailer on youtube:

The official site from Mongrel Media is here.

Edward Burtynsky was also a TED (The Technology, Education, Design conference “brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes”) speaker and prize winner in 2005. His TED speech is embedded below.

If you do rent, buy, or borrow (I borrowed my copy from the TPL) and view this film, which you absolutely should, then be sure to view the Stills Gallery with Commentary (accessible from the main DVD menu) as it is almost as interesting as the film itself.

downward dog with little onesI’ve been doing yoga since my first pregnancy in 2004 (great recommendation from a friend) but in the past year have been going more regularly (weekly). For one reason or another for the past 3 weeks the classes were cancelled or I had to miss them, so I have been doing a little yoga at home (which I clearly should really have been doing all along). This has sparked the interest of my 3 year old son. (The photo on the right shows what happens every time I do a downward dog with my boys around, but it makes me laugh so I keep it up. I’m basically a human tent.) I told him I’d get him a mat and we could do it together.

So, I had a quick look online for yoga mats and, of course, there are issues with regular yoga mats. They’re mostly made from PVC, rubber, or latex and can contain phthalates, (and, apparently, heavy metals?). Rubber and latex are an issue because they produce toxic effluents in the processing. (effluent defined in wikipedia). PVC… well, we’ve talked about it before. There are a few different options, but as I was up by the Big Carrot the other day I went for their offering, the Eco Mat from Relaxus, made from TPE (thermo plastic elastomer) foam, which is apparently toxic free in its production, PVC and phthalate free and decomposes under landfill conditions.

Another quick note about The Big Carrot (conveniently located around the corner from Grassroots where I get bulk cleaning vinegar, baking soda and liquid hand soap): they now sell bulk fair trade organic (Cocoa Camino) chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate! Woo hoo! It’s cheaper than buying fair trade organic chips in 228 gram bags and chocolate in 100 gram bars and there’s so much less waste! Next time I’ll bring my own containers or bags and be waste-free. Sorry to be so exclamation-mark-happy, but I’ve been looking (Noah’s, Whole Foods, etc.) for a long time and it’s great to finally find exactly what I’m looking for.

In other news, we did our token part in Earth Hour this evening – extending it to two hours.

Since I’ve been either pregnant or nursing (for a few months it was both) for 4 years now, I have a lot of meds that have expired in my medicine cabinet. Allergy drugs that I take every fall, cold medicines, even simple pain relievers. Plus children’s medicines that we buy or the doctor gives us and actually end up only using one dosage (one is actually unopened and expired) because we’re not really into drugging our kids. Plus there’s those fish killers and carcinogens that are still hanging around my house unused and undisposed of because I didn’t know where to get rid of them. Since I don’t want these things entering the water system or leaching into the soil, I don’t just want to flush them or chuck them in the garbage. So today I finally asked my friend who works for the city in waste management.

The answer:

You can bring all medications (both expired and non-expired) to HHW Depots and Environment Days.
So that’s my next change: proper disposal of medications.