"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sustainable Fashion: Meet the Makers

Power of my People
A Canadian Sustainable Fashion Brand
Read about them here.
 As you may know, I tend to think about fashion quite a bit.  I love it.  I love pretty clothes that are well-made, of gorgeous fabrics and with great tailoring details.  I love wearing clothes that make me feel good, even great.

I've also been thinking about shopping, and as you also may know I tried a shopping ban beginning in January that has really made me evaluate what I buy (or want to buy) and why.

It's been a great exercise and I've come to one conclusion: buying sustainable fashion is the only way forward for those us who want to feel good, even great, in our clothes.

I think I already knew this?  I've been shopping Brora for years and they never let me down.  They source their fabrics responsibly and they manufacture their clothes the same way.  I've even been to the Brora mill in Hawick, Scotland to witness that first hand.  You can see that post here.
BRORA: love this dress.
 Brora is running a great campaign this week and it's called Meet the Makers.
I think I met some of those ladies at the mill!

I've been wanting to write a post featuring what is basically a DaniBP List of sustainable fashion brands, clothes that we can feel good about, that aren't too young for us (or too matronly for that matter), clothes that are both current yet classic at the same time.

So here it is:

Justine Tabak

Power of my People


Dale of Norway

Saint James

Emerson Fry

Horses Atelier


Dale of Norway

Saint James of France

Emerson Fry

Horses Atelier

I've recently tried Everlane again thanks to our dear friend SunnyDay, who recommended their fitted tee shirts.  They are indeed so good!  I also finally found a white jean that fits and feels great to wear... and the best thing is they are Everlane Clean Denim.  I'll review them in time for (Canadian) summer.
Everlane micro-rib tank, thanks for the tip SunnyDay!
I must apologize to you for hiding under a rock.  Tooties, there's been lots on the go and not all of it good.  My own dear Dad (aka The Bobster) has not been well.  The good news is he's expected to make a full recovery... and the other good news is that I'll be travelling to Atlanta soon to spend time with him.
My postings might be erratic for a time but I'll do my best.
Love to you,

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Walnut Sauce

 I've made this recipe a couple of times now and it's the kind of dish that is fairly easy but seems involved.  It also features some superfoods: cauliflower and walnuts.

It's from The First Mess cookbook which I actually own but I found the recipe on another blog here.

This is definitely something I'd like to try to cook for a dinner party sometime, allergies depending of course.  It plates up quite beautifully, the sauce can be made ahead, and the cauliflower prepared for the oven well ahead of time too.

 Served with some green salad, some bread, maybe a soup course to begin... perfect!
I've been lazy about posting this week and the reason is I've been preoccupied with things I can't really write about.  Nothing terrible, just accounting work and things, but my MrBP has been away working too which is never a happy time.

We've been dealing all week with the aftermath of the three day ice storm, and I wish I had a picture to share with you of the giant block of ice that took up residence on the hood of my car.  I felt like I was driving around with an iceberg in front of me, it was a ridiculous hazard and I couldn't budge it.  Our driveway too was a giant mound of ice that made me grateful for my truck-like vehicle.  Heroes of the week turned out to be The Rowing Team, who showed up to clear the drive, had to leave due to the impossible nature of removing the ice, and then returned with axes and garden hoes to take care of it!
Those kids are getting a bonus.
I hope you're having a good week and that maybe it's even springtime where you are.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mop Philosophy Monday

 We've been having a winter storm here for the last couple of days, and it has gone like this: rain, freezing rain, snow, more freezing rain, rain, more freezing rain... on and on.  Freezing rain feels quite terrible when it hits one's face while outside... best to stay in.
I've been lighting lots of candles, like this Diptyque dragon candle in the family room.

Sweet Violets sent over a yellow bouquet for my monthly flowers on Saturday, isn't it like looking at sunshine?
Just the thing.
 I made French onion soup on Saturday, mostly because I had about twelve onions lying around.  Working near a candle is meant to reverse the crying that occurs while cutting onions.  It didn't really work for me, tears were streaming!
 Brandy and herbes de Provence really create a nice finish to a French onion soup.

This is my latest kitchen tip, and it wasn't my idea, it comes from my friend Les.  Store your Costco sized bags of underripe avocados in the refrigerator and remove them one at a time, as needed, 6 to 12 hours before you want to consume them.
Such a rare thing: a perfectly ripe avocado.
 I can't believe it, it works wonders.

Today it is still looking grim outside and I have a million little tasks swirling around my brain, I'd better get down to it and make a list.
Later today I'll be making good use of these apples.  I'm going to cook up The Pioneer Woman's applesauce recipe.

I hope your week starts off beautifully.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pain in the Neck

Graston Technique Tools.
They don't quite look like they would take away pain do they?
 All this week I've been thinking about how to write a post about the treatment I've had for my very own pain in the neck.

So many of us live with some sort of recurring pain issue: a bad back, a bum knee, a hip that grates in the socket or is off-balance.  As our bodies age it seems these injuries can just focus themselves and become chronic, ingrained.  We sort of adapt our movements to them, which doesn't help things.
Helpful diagram of the nasty cumulative injury cycle.
I've been suffering from migraines for years, decades even.  They would typically begin in my neck, often in a spasm of pain that would burn and then trigger the pain up one side of my head or the other (though often my right side).  The nausea would begin as soon as the neck pain set in, and then with the pain came the other migraine symptoms: extreme sensitivity to light and in my case, smell.

Last year these migraines became chronic: instead of having one every couple of weeks I started having them weekly, then twice a week, and then even three times a week... so that I felt like I was in a constant migraine (they typically would last 12 to 24 hours, followed by a "wobbly" recovery day).

People often talk about migraines beginning with neck pain, and that was always the case for me.  But when the migraines became chronic the pain in my neck took on a new quality: a burning , searing, constant pain.  I felt like there were little fires all up and down my neck, through to my shoulders.

I decided to go for physiotherapy and massage: enough was enough!

It was just dumb good fortune that I found a massage therapist who specializes in Graston Technique: I didn't even know what it was.  After explaining my pain, and the migraines, I told her about my "neck history".  I had Congenital Muscular Torticollis as an infant, and while my poor parents corrected it with physiotherapy exercises, I've always had issues with the right side of my neck.  It always felt tight and knotted, and while I have worked endlessly on my posture over the years with exercise, it typically felt tight and shortened, a bit higher, off-balance.

My therapist basically told me my neck muscles were knotted, and adhered together, with scar tissue (particularly on my right "Torticollis side"), and that I could benefit from some Graston Treatment.

The tools shown above are typical Graston tools, they are shaped bits of metal, and when applied into the neck tissue they smooth and scrape down the scar tissue.  As you can imagine this can leave quite a lot of bruising!
But it actually doesn't hurt, though it feels a bit tender afterwards.  I did wear lots of scarves to cover my bruises during treatment however... I didn't want to alarm anyone.

So I've had treatment for about three months now and my neck pain is gone.  I stopped having the neck-triggered migraines about two months ago.  I'm now in the maintenance stage, and when I went for my massage this week I didn't even have to have any Graston treatment at all.  I'm now working on strengthening the muscles in my back with careful exercises, this is to create a supportive structure for my neck (so that it doesn't revert to old patterns).

If you think you have any sort of scar tissue glomming up your muscles and causing you pain, I would highly recommend trying the Graston Technique.
It's a bit weird, but clearly it can work wonders!

Are you dealing with chronic pain of any sort?  Is an old injury the cause?

Hope you have a pain-free day!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Mop Philosophy Monday

 A wooden salad bowl is a classic that never goes out of style, it just always looks good.  Do you have one?  They seem like a standard in most kitchens since about the 1970's.

I have a kitchen tip for you: if you make your own almond milk a little funnel is essential.  Before this red funnel entered my life I would try to ladle almond milk into jars and bottles only to waste the precious stuff and make a big mess.  It was frustrating enough to almost create Crying In The Kitchen.
Little red funnel: problem solved.
Little red funnel.
 As you know we're on a plant-based diet for the most part, sometimes a bit of butter or other dairy might creep in, especially if we're eating at a restaurant.  One thing we haven't stopped eating is fish and some seafood (salmon, haddock, oysters).
Last week I cooked a haddock dish that turned out really nice: I baked it with some smoked salmon layered all over the top, alongside some tomatoes, parsley, olive oil and salt and pepper.
Haddock with smoked salmon: roast at 350.
 It was a very simple dinner, with just a salad and some fresh bread.
 I have a new bread addiction and it has nothing to do with homemade bread: it's all of the bread from Polestar Hearth.
My homemade mini baguettes.
They're just not as good as Jesse's bread at Polestar Hearth.
 One of my favourite things to buy at the bakery these days?  The pizza dough.  It's great for pizza of course, but it's also so delicious just rolled out as a flatbread, with dried herbs and maybe some olives pressed into it.
 I served it on Friday when we had our friends around, along with a carrot and red lentil hummus.
How's your Monday shaping up?  I have about three hours of admin today and a meeting at the accountant's office.  Then it's off for my Graston treatment, the very thing that has seemingly cured my migraines, it's such a miracle.  I'll tell you a bit more about that process and progress this week.

I hope your own week starts off full of energy and productivity.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Pantry

 I spent some time re-organizing the pantry this week, a task which has meditative qualities not to be underestimated.

When we renovated our kitchen in 2015 we were slightly limited as to the pantry design.  We weren't adding space to the kitchen, and wanted the La Cornue range to be the centre of the entire room.  This meant that our pantry cupboards would be chunky ones, placed in the corners of the room.  They have plenty of space but they are deep cupboards, which isn't ideal for seeing everything at a glance.

In our last house we built an addition to house a new kitchen that was open to the dining area, complete with a fireplace.  It was a really terrific room and one of the best things about it was the pantry we designed.  It was basically a little room just off of the cooking area that we could walk into.  It had narrow shelves from floor the ceiling: the narrowness of the shelves meant that pantry items could be stored one layer deep, no looking behind jars and cans for whatever was needed.  It was brilliant!

I really have to stay on top of these deep pantry cupboards or they get to be "a right mess" as they say in Newfoundland.

A Right Mess
 This particular corner pantry is just to the right of the range and it holds spices and dried herbs as well as various beans and grains.
The clutter of labels was making me crazy, and you can see that in order to find items at the back of the cupboard everything has to be moved around: so annoying!

The only way to do this job is to remove everything, give the interior of the cupboard a big scrub, and then make decisions on what gets to go back in.  I moved some items to different locations in the kitchen and stored some of the labelled items in clear glass jars.
The result is much more reasonable:
That's Better
 At the front of this pantry I place the coffee tin and the basket which holds the filters and accessories for the coffee machine, all within easy reach.
 This type of task is so satisfying, immediate results that just keep giving: cooking is easier and it's so calming to see a perfect row of organized jars and containers.

What's on your agenda on this Saturday?  Domestic tasks?  A day out?
I hope you enjoy it, whatever you get up to.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Skirt and a T-Shirt

 I've been struggling to find some reasonable outfits to wear in my daily life, especially in the spring and summer.

I don't like to wear jeans, or pants of any kind really, so finding basics that can be thrown on and washed easily is a challenge.

I have edited out most of my cotton dresses and skirts in the last eight months due to size, as in they no longer fit me.  It's funny, I've definitely gone up a size in the last couple of years but I also have zero tolerance for very fitted clothing: all age-related things I'm sure.

I've been trying to do a year of no-shopping but to be honest it would have left me with cocktail dresses and little else to wear this summer.  Not very practical!

So I've been on the search for some good-quality basics at a reasonable price (while I have happily stepped out of the no-shopping mindset I will not be giving up the savings rate I've assigned for our household this year), and I wanted to share the good things I found.

I discovered some cotton basics at M&S due to the Wardrobe Ladies, who posted on the Belted Skirt with a rave review: they did not lie.

I initially ordered the skirt in black, along with a white t-shirt.  I was fairly amazed at the quality of both pieces for the price point, and the fit.  I decided to take the plunge and adopt this outfit as a spring/summer uniform, and I ordered the skirt in a second neutral colour (camel) as well as a few more t-shirts.  

The t-shirts I ordered are so well-priced, I highly recommend them.  They are all cotton of course, fitted ( I took the UK size 8), have a good length for tucking in, and have washed up beautifully.  I washed them on cold and hung them to dry.
You can view the t-shirts and their range of colours here.  (This is the boat-neck, half-sleeve shape, they do these shirts in a range of fits if you're interested in a short or a long sleeve.)
Spring and Summer Uniform
Ready to go once we have warm weather.
 The skirt is really practical, it has large side pockets (perfect for doing housework, I find I need some sort of pocket to gather the small items that are out of place when I tidy up) a good length and a fullness that won't impede walking.
The skirts can be machine-washed which is essential for someone who spends half their day in the kitchen.
 I ordered the size 10UK and while there is a bit of room at the waist the sash belt allows some leeway, it can be further cinched or let looser.

I wanted to show you the interior of the skirt, you can see the zipper has a fabric insert cover at the back waistband, a nice finishing detail:
 Here is the care, composition and origin label:
 Let's hope that M&S is a big enough company that they pay proper attention to their factory in Bangladesh. ( This article isn't exactly making me feel good about the Made in Bangladesh label, but it looks like some decisions are still yet to be made on a safety accord, if I read anything else I'll let you know.)
The skirt in black.

Frankly I struggled a bit with these purchases.  I would much rather buy some skirts and tops from a smaller company that manufactured in the US or Canada.  I have found some really amazing labels (like Elizabeth Suzann for example, such beautiful things) but in the end I just had to go with pieces that fit in my budget.  With a low Canadian dollar and the outrageous taxes and duties we pay on importing goods- there was nothing else for it.

My intention is to wear these items so many times that the manufacturing process is honoured, in other words, not to treat the items as fast fashion, or "disposable clothing".

And in truth these are really comfortable, well-made pieces of clothing.  I'm so looking forward to wearing this uniform with bare legs and flat shoes, on a daily basis (hurry up Spring).

Wow, it's Friday already: Miller Time!
We're having some friends around for drinks tonight, can't wait to see them (they spent the winter in Thailand, I hope they have pictures to show us).  What are you up to on this Friday?  Any thoughts on spring/summer uniforms, or slow versus fast fashion?