Wool Slippers: DIY or Buy

Padraig wool slippers

 

Three weeks. That’s plenty of time to crochet a pair of wool slippers for a family member. Pick up the hook and start now!

Every year, no matter what else changes, we give slippers as a holiday gift. I try to make them different each year. I have piles and piles of leftover wool, so I have my eyes on making simple wool slippers this year.

Do-it-yourself, but Start Now!

Your local yarn store can help you find the wool yarn and the wool slippers pattern. A lot of local yarn shops will not only sell you the yarn and the hook to crochet or needles to knit but teach you how to use them. Many have open times when you can just drop by and sit around knitting and crocheting, asking others for pointers along the way. It’s a busy season, and you will have a great time sharing your last-minute making with others.

Just to get you started, I poked around for a quick pattern and found a super simple pattern on MommyKnows.com for felted, crocheted slippers (Norwegian house slippers). I like this pattern because she explains why she made the choices she did, then she gives you a lot of links and videos to figure out what will work for you. No one-size-fits-all pattern here. If you can make squares then sew the squares together into wool origami, you can make these slippers in a few evenings plus a couple of wash loads to felt them.

Two weeks—no problem.

If you are a knitter, dig into the pattern at MommyKnows.com to find the knit version of the pattern that she used.

OK. Get moving. Pick up your yarn now.

Quick, I Just Want to Order Wool Slippers

Kids wool slippers by Padraig

Not interested, no time, don’t know how to knit or crochet? We’ve got you covered. At bynature.ca we sell the Original Padraig crocheted wool slippers, handmade in Canada since 1977. Every pair is slightly different.

 

We carry a big variety of colors in all sizes from newborn and baby slippers to youth and adult sizes. Drop by to pick out just the right pairs for your family members, or order wool slippers online at bynature.ca.

Padraig wool slippers

Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Squash soup

This easy-to-make pumpkin soup warms and fills us with a similar flavor profile as pumpkin pie but without all of the heavy sweetness of a pie.

Our Canadian readers will be celebrating Thanksgiving next week, so I wanted to share one of my favorite autumn recipes for pumpkin soup, though we just as often make it butternut squash soup. Whatever squash you grew this year or you find abundant at your farmers market, use that.

You can use this as a soup course, serving just a small portion, or you can change the flavors to make it more naturally sweet and serve as a hot dessert substitute for pie. Sometimes we make this our main dish for dinner, but it works well as a side dish for Thanksgiving.

Warm to the Bone Harvest Soup

Serves: 4-6
Time: 90 minutes, mostly unattended

  • 2 cups pumpkin, cubed (other squash, such as butternut, works well)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Spices. Balance 2-3 of the following to taste.

  • Ginger
  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put all ingredients into a roasting dish.
  3. Cover.
  4. Roast for 1 hour or until squash is soft. A little caramelization around the edges improves the flavor.
  5. Blend until smooth. Depending on your blender, you may have to cool first. With a VitaMix, just buzz it hot.
  6. Return to heat in a saucepan.
  7. Add salt to taste—this depends a lot on the stock used.
  8. Adjust spices.

We at bynature.ca wish you and your family the best during this harvest season.

Image © Msheldrake | Dreamstime.com

 

Why It’s Important to Drink Enough Water

Lifefactory Glass Bottles

 

Drinking enough water keeps you healthy. How much is enough, though? How much is too much? And, how do you keep kids drinking when you are on the run so often? We have answers.

Humans are about 60% water (45-75% depending on age, body fat, gender, etc.). We lose fluids through sweating, breathing, urinating, and moving our bowels, then we replace that water by eating foods high in water (fruits, vegetables, and soup, for example), by drinking non-water beverages, and by just drinking water. We keep our body fluids in balance when fluids in and fluids out are equal.

How much water should I drink a day?

You’ve heard that you should drink a gallon (64 ounces) of water a day. There isn’t actually any scientific support for this number, but it’s easy to remember 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day, so that can be used as a general guideline. An adult male might need about 100 ounces a day while a female might need 72 ounces. A pregnant woman would need to add another 8 ounces a day, and a breastfeeding woman would need to add another 24 ounces, or 3 small glasses of water per day.

You body uses more water when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as you exercise (and you sweat), when it’s hot (and you sweat), when you are sick (especially if you’ve vomited or had diarrhea), or if you are losing weight (to eliminate toxins). To keep fluids in balance, drink more water in any of these situations.

Don’t drink all of that water at once

You can drink too much water all at once. Your intake shouldn’t exceed what your kidneys can excrete, which is about 1 liter or 1 quart of water in an hour. When you exceed what your kidneys can excrete, the excess goes to your cells and swells them. This is why one symptom of excess water intake is a headache, since your brain is 70-75% water.

What happens if I don’t drink enough?

Mild dehydration, when your body is losing more fluids than you are taking in, can result in feeling tired, headachy, dizzy, and, of course, thirsty. If you are exercising without drinking, you might notice muscle fatigue. More severe dehydration can leave your or your children with sunken eyes, sunken fontanel, no tears, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, and dry mouth. You are likely to notice and remedy the lack of water before the severe symptoms.

Dehydration can also lower your metabolism. If you are trying to lose weight, keep a close eye on your water intake because “[b]eing even 1% dehydrated can cause a significant drop in metabolism.” If you urine is amber or dark, you need more water.

Drink Steadily

It’s a Goldilocks situation. Not too much, not too little, just right helps to keep our body fluids in balance. Your thirst generally tells you when you need to be drinking, unless you are drinking dehydrating drinks or unless you are sick (or diabetic).

Drink water steadily throughout the day without taking in too much at once.

Your tap water is probably safe, though it’s worth watching the local water quality assessments. If you do need a water filtration system, get one that meets your needs. Most people won’t need anything fancy.

How can I get my kids to drink water?

In my family, we started when the children were small, and we limited non-water drinks. It’s easier to start a habit when your children are young, and the behavior is just what your family does.

One thing that helped a lot in my family was getting a set of four glasses each with a different design. We have the Beatles. When I see John, I know it’s my glass, and I don’t hesitate to pick it up. It’s a funny thing to make a difference, but designated water glasses has kept us drinking more.

Lifefactory Glass Bottles for the whole family

Lifefactory reusable glass water bottles

If you are avoiding plastic and aluminum bottles, so you are leaning toward glass but want to avoid breakage as well, we recommend Lifefactory glass bottles. They are covered in silicone sleeves that make them break resistant and easy to grip, even for little hands.

We like the Lifefactory Glass bottles because of the variety. For adults and older children, you can choose 12 oz, 16 oz, or 22 oz sizes. They have straw tops, loop tops, and flip tops. For little kids and babies, they have sippy tops and bottle tops. Choose a different color for each person in the family, and you will always know whose water is whose.

Lifefactory’s bottles are made in France, and the rest of the components are made in the USA. They are BPA free and dishwasher safe. Wide tops make it easy to add ice. We like the great performance of these reusable water bottles.

When you are teaching your family to have healthy habits, like drinking more water, it helps to have the right tools on hand.

Drink up.

What’s the Big Deal About GMOs?

Child eating corn on the cob

GMO foods, those from genetically modified organisms, show up in the news every week. The information we get about them can be confusing because the issues are complex and the interested players putting their spin on the issues are many.

Don’t give up and move on, though. GMOs matter. Take the time to learn how GMOs have not in the past 20 years lived up to the promises made to consumers, but they have shifted control of global agriculture to a few corporate hands. Beyond instability introduced to global food systems, research connects GMOs to health and environmental issues.

The issues most often in the news are whether GMOs should be allowed into the food supply (in Canada & the U.S. they are; in Europe they are not), and, when they are allowed into the food supply, whether they should be labeled (in Canada and the U.S. they are not, though there is some voluntary GMO-free labeling).

What does GMO mean?

You might see references to GMO, GM, or GE in discussions of genetic modification of organisms.

  • GE – Genetically Engineered – Genetic material has been added or removed. This is a specific term.
  • GM / GMO – Genetically Modified (Organism) – Genes modified through any means. GM is an umbrella term that includes all GE.

In common (rather than scientific) discussion of these issues, you may see references to both as GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms.

Why genetically modify foods?

Crops have been modified to make them resistant to weeds and insects, to make them ready for specific (patented) herbicides, to make them resistant to weather damage, to make them ripen slower and travel better so it is easier to get them to market looking fresh.

GMOs benefit the corporations that profit from higher production and monocultures. They can benefit the farmers who plant these crops in some situations, though many traditional farmers have suffered at the legal hands of the major GE corporations.

Where are GMO foods found?

You are likely eating GMO foods every day without realizing it.

Over the past 20 years, GM foods have been approved in Canada. In Canada and the U.S. (unlike Europe), there is no government requirement to label these foods, either in the whole fruits and vegetables section of your grocery store or as ingredients in processed, packaged, and other foods.

Health Canada is charged with making sure any GMOs on the market are safe for consumption. Health Canada refers to these and other foods as Novel Foods. They provide GMO / novel foods factsheets, including details of their safety assessment process. There are no further plans to research safety of GMOs in Canada.

Some smaller areas in Canada and the U.S. have banned GMOs or required labelling of GMOs in their jurisdictions.

What are the problems with GMOs?

Outside the U.S. and Canada, 60 countries have bans or restrictions on GMOs—including Australia, Japan, and the European Union. A lot of scientists and global health professionals urge caution before accepting unproven modifications in our food supply. We can’t just take back GMOs. Once they are growing, they change wild plant and animal populations as well as agriculture. They change our ecosystems.

Your Health. Government agencies and those who sell GMO seeds and foods tell us that they are safe, yet research accumulates on the long-term harmful effects of GM foods. Abnormal structural changes are shown in animal feeding experiments. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine explains how the idea of “substantial equivalence” underlies the claims of food safety but why that doesn’t give us the full story.

For example, I know a lot of bynature.ca customers are concerned about food allergies and sensitivities. There is research into whether GM crops cause allergies. It’s tough, though, to get around all of the corporate-sponsored FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to find science that isn’t conducted under interested parties. Read one doctor’s view, tracing the gradual acknowledgment of the association between one disease and GM foods. Over time, we can expect to see more stories like this as more long-term health effects become clear.

Environmental Impacts. GMOs contaminate similar organisms as genetically modified genes spread. The spreading is natural, though the genes spread are not naturally occurring. Crops that have been modified to include their own herbicides or pesticides have resulted in weeds and insects that have grown more tolerant and resistant, which means pesticide and herbicide use increases to combat those.

Biodiversity. What may be weeds to a monoculture farmer are habitat for butterflies, bees, and other small creatures. Huge weed-free zones mean destruction of habitat. GMO forests could be devastating to biodiversity.

Sovreignty. Farmers save seeds to plant next year, right? Not with GMOs. Genetically modified genes together with gene patents mean corporate legal control over a growing number of the most commonly planted seeds. Terminator Technology results in plants that produce sterile seeds. Even in plants that do not produce sterile seeds, farmers are not allowed legally to save seeds patented by the massive GE corporations. This creates long-term dependency rather than self-reliance. Together with the massive corporate buying of seed companies then raising of prices for seed, you have every farmer at the mercy of the corporation that modified and patented the genes of the seeds that farmer’s family has been growing for generations immemorial.

What can that mean in the real lives of real people? Over the past 15 years in India, more than 270,000 farmers have committed suicide. Seeds and GMOs play a big role in this tragedy. Watch a short film about the connection.

What if I want to avoid GMOs?

Foods containing GMOs are not required to be labelled. If you want to avoid eating genetically modified foods, you will have to do the research for yourself to determine which foods are genetically modified or may contain GMOs.

  • Avoid the worst GMO foods: Canola, corn, soy, sugar (from sugar beets), papayas, dairy from cows treated with rBGH, zucchini and yellow squash. Look for high-risk crops and be aware of ingredients in processed foods. The introduce of new crops means you can’t rely on a list long-term. Check the food list at the Non-GMO Project.
  • Buy organic. Certified organic foods are not allowed to be genetically modified.
  • Plant your own. Though GM seeds are available for home gardens, you can find non-GMO seeds by asking your seed provider.
  • Look for GMO-free labels. Some smaller food retailers are also concerned. Shop where you can find the label “GMO-free.” The Non-GMO Project will help you find labelled foods.

Resources

“Human Health Risks of GMOs,” Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Genetic Routlette: The Gamble of Our Lives (2012). Documentary film.

GMO Trilogy. Watch “Unnatural Selection” online for free. Documentary films.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating (2005). Also available bundled with the documentary films of the GMO Trilogy.

Dr. Vandana Shiva has long been an activist for food sovreignty and anti-globalization. Read her response to a recent campaign of doubt against her published in The New Yorker, August 2014.

Take Action

Join CBAN, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Organic Consumers Association works on a lot of issues that concern us. Dig through their section on GMOs to find the ways you can take action internationally, nationally, and in your own community. Includes the Report, GMO Myths & Truths: An Evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops by Earth Open Source.

U.S. based? Sign the MoveOn petition to Hillary Clinton by the Organic Consumers Association about support for Monsanto and GMO agriculture.

“Speaking at this year’s BIO International Convention, you reiterated your support for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). You said the industry needs ‘a better vocabulary’ to change negative public perception about GMO agriculture. But mounting scientific evidence says the public is right to be concerned about the impact of Monsanto’s GMO crops and food on the environment, public health and global warming. We don’t need a better vocabulary. We need leaders who will stand up to Monsanto.”

Image © Alinute | Dreamstime.com - Pretty Child Girl Eats A Boiled Corn Photo

 

Book to Help Reduce Toxin Exposure During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman putting on lipstick

During your pregnancy, the developing fetus is far more vulnerable to toxins than you are as an adult. You are your baby’s protection, so protect your own environment to give your baby the best possible start.

Let’s start with the positive.  You need:

  • Clean Air (so, avoid outdoor activity when air quality is low and pollution is high, driving in congested traffic, wood fires, and, of course, smoking)
  • Clean Water (so, filter your drinking water, unless you know it is safe from the tap, and use a safe water bottle, such as stainless steel)
  • Clean Food (so, eat whole foods rather than processed food-like substances, and buy organics when you can afford them, especially dirty dozen; buy food in glass containers and use glass containers when you store leftovers)
  • Clean House (so, let someone else paint as you prepare for baby, switch to cleaner household cleaners and personal care products, and don’t wear perfumes; also, don’t rush into essential oils if you haven’t consulted an actual professional.)

With the pervasiveness of toxins in our modern lives, you need to do more than rush toward the positive. You need to understand and avoid the negative. You need to know what toxins surround you and where to look for them so you can remove them from your life.

Books about Avoiding Toxin Exposure

Are you ready to learn more? We stock a few carefully chosen books that we find most help us create healthy environments for our families.

There’s Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in Everyday Body Care and How to Avoid Them, Gillian Deacon
There's Lead in Your Lipstick

Your lipstick, shampoo, deodorant, nail polish, soap, and the rest of your personal care products could be exposing you to toxic chemicals unless you have switched to safe cosmetics. You can always make a quick check in the Skin Deep database to see what grade your products get. To be proactive about your choices, educate yourself with There’s Lead in Your Lipstick. You don’t need to go skin bare when you are pregnant (though, of course, you can!). If you still need cream for the stretching skin across your belly, you have natural skin care options. We sell these products because we use these products.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Beyond the (almost) obvious toxins in our grooming products, we are poisoned every day through basic household products. Read Slow Death by Rubber Duck to clean up your life during or before pregnancy, then you will have created a toxin-free environment for your new baby. A disturbing but empowering book. If you need a kick to clean up, this is it.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada, Adria Vasil
Ecoholic

Ecoholic reaches beyond just household products to become a Canada-wide guide to green energy, incentives and rebates available, waste disposal, and other services. You will need this information as you clean up your life. City-by-city guide includes Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. This is just one of Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic books. We also carry Ecoholic Body and Ecoholic Home.

The Natural Pregnancy, Aviva Jill Romm, MD
The Natural Pregnancy Book

The Natural Pregnancy Book focuses on herbs to promote health, but you will also learn what to avoid. If you are looking for a positive focus, keep this book next to your resting place during your safe, natural pregnancy.

Funny Aside. It must be early. My husband asked, “What are you writing about?”

“Avoiding toxins during pregnancy.”

“Why would you want to avoid dauchshunds during pregnancy?”

I wouldn’t. Dauchshunds should be completely safe during pregnancy. Who can resist a wagging doxie?

Remember, your happiness spreads to your developing baby.

Photo pregnant girl paints lips – Image © Robertprzybysz | Dreamstime.com