Archive for September 23, 2011

How to pack a peach

….so that it does not squash in your child’s lunch bag? That is the question I ask myself every year as school kicks off at the peak of the domestic peach season.

I love peaches, my kids love peaches (sadly for them, they only get them at this time of year as I fret about peaches’ constant appearance on the dirty dozen list of the most pesticide-drenched fruits). But nobody loves a brown mush at the bottom of the lunch bag.

Help is at hand! I was sent some Kinderville bigger bites storage jars, by my friends at Rockpretty Baby. I had never heard of or seen these `jars’ before, but it turns out they are ideal for peaches (and a number of other things too).

big bites large

They are made from silicone. This seems to be the material of choice for flexible food grade products these days. It is more or less natural (being a product of the abundant silicon in sand and rock) although I’m not so sure the same can be said of the lovely primary colour dyes. It is also chemically inert, tolerant of a wide range of temperatures (so can be boiled to sterilise) and is apparently resistant to bacteria. Health Canada reassures me of its safety and other sites seem to concur.

The silicone is soft enough to cushion your peach and the neat thing about it is that because it is flexible, when you push the lid down, it creates a vacuum seal and your jar becomes almost watertight. Yet little hands can remove the lid with ease (and have fun at the same time, sealing and popping the top off).

Now, when I say `almost water-tight’ I sound a note of caution. I sent a slightly oily salad to school in my jar the other day and found everything scattered around the lunch bag on return. I think things had been fine until the kids tried to replace the lid. Maybe the oil interfered with the seal. Or maybe it was recess that did.

Anyway, for really messy stuff in lunchbags, I would still opt for the clamp sealed stainless containers that I wrote about before. But I do love these bigger bites containers for awkward shaped items; they are appreciably taller than most stainless jars. And, for those of you who might be toting your own (or a baby’s) snack, food can be microwaved directly in the container and the jar itself won’t get hot. I just wouldn’t carry, store or heat anything too smelly in them as all plastic-type materials tends to hold smells after a while.

Kinderville is a US company that specializes in squishy silicone products, mostly targeted at the baby end of the spectrum (e.g. silicone plates, freezer cubes for baby food).

little bites

The items themselves are made in China and Korea (apparently responsibly, exceeding all safety standards).

Bigger bites jars are not cheap @ $17.99 for two, or $22 – or more – in Canada (sigh). This is about the same price as stainless. The company also makes smaller jars – little bites - which are half the price (4 instead of 2 for the same price) and they are currently 30% off on the US site (though shipping to Canada is ruinous). I would be interested to know if these minis would pack a peach too (can anyone tell me?).

Kinderville products are available at a variety of bricks-and-mortar and online retailers in the US and Canada. The best online price in Canada is through rockprettybaby.ca.

This one is a no-brainer

This week’s eco product that works is recycled tissue. I suspect I am preaching to the converted, but I just wanted to take a moment to extol the virtues of recycled toilet tissue (to sit beside your dual flush toilet…) and facial tissues.

At the risk offending readers, I also feel a need to express my incredulity at those who feel that their backsides are so sensitive that only virgin wood pulp is good enough.
Let me reassure you: recycled toilet tissue has come a very long way. In no way does it resemble the hard – almost impermeable? – sheets that we used to be faced with in institutional settings when I was a kid (was that just in the UK?).

There are several recycled choices out there and they are all absolutely fine, as far as I can see. They are also well-priced and readily available.

cascades_env_bt_12r_f

I tend to buy Cascades toilet tissue, because I can get it in bulk at Costco and because it is made not so far away in Quebec (in Candiac and Kingsey Falls). With a family of 6 we get through quite a bit, though I do try to persuade the kids to be modest in their use (when I was a kid, we actually used to have `who can use the least toilet paper’ contests in our household: we each had a roll and would see how long it lasted…really).

Cascades has an interesting website and eco fact/activity site with a calculator of how many trees/how much water/energy, etc. is saved each year by using recycled toilet tissue. So, say my family uses two rolls per week, over a period of 10 years we will save 2 whole trees and nearly 7,000 litres of water. And if every Canadian were to use just one roll of 100% recycled toilet paper (instead of virgin pulp paper) we would save over 60,000 trees (that’s a decent carbon sink).

As always, there are questions as to what percentage recycled content products contain. Cascades has two `grades’ of recycled toilet tissue. i am soft is made of 100% recycled content (mostly post-consumer fibre, with some post-industrial mixed in) while ultra soft is not ultra enviro as it claims only `majority recycled’ content. I guess this is `transition’ toilet paper for those who have lived a lifetime with super-fluffy products. I have not tried the premium product so cannot say how much softer it really is.

Cascades products are bright white but are bleached with sodium hydrosulphite, a non-chlorine composite that is much less damaging to the environment. The company enjoys a `processed chlorine free’ certification.

Loblaws toilet

However, if you do not frequent Costco, you may not find Cascades products (though several supermarket chains do carry them). But store-brands (e.g. President’s Choice) and other types (such as Cashmere EnviroCare) are just as good. Just check the recycled content. If you prefer to do that before you head to the store, Greenpeace has helpfully produced a comprehensive information sheet on forest-friendly tissue products in Canada (as of March 2010).

I have also been using – and sending to school – recycled facial tissue for a while now. Actually, I myself hate tissues and usually carry an old-fashioned handkerchief, but the kids seem to be hooked on disposables (which can at least be composted), despite my best efforts.

Finding recycled tissues has been a bit of a challenge. The Cascades brand (which is well-priced) is not widely available and the Seventh Generation product is both more expensive and made in the US (and also not on every shelf).

eco tissue

So imagine my joy, earlier this year, when I spotted someone walking out of my local Metro store clutching a box of eco tissues. The tissues, from Metro’s in-house Selection range, have 100% recycled content (no breakdown of fibre source is given), are chlorine-free and I think they are Canadian made. They are priced at a modest $1.29 for a box of 125 tissues (or 6 boxes for $5.79) and the design is even quite attractive.

The only downside is that they are possibly – according to my unscientific test – somewhat less soft than the other recycled brands I have in front of me. But they will do the job just fine, unless you have a really runny and sore nose, in which case I recommend a cotton hanky anyway!

Luscious lips

I am not a big makeup person, but I do like my lipstick, which is why I pay some attention to all those alarming `facts’ about lipstick circulating in web world.

So what is a girl to do? A bit of research,

Anada GlossBanner

and a willingness not to buy your makeup at the drug or department store, go a long way.

I have tried a number of natural lipsticks and found all to be quite effective (at least in the more muted shades that I favour). But my current favourite is made right here in Canada by a company called Pure Anada.

Based in Manitoba, Pure Anada makes a whole range of make-up products and skincare items which it sells on-line and through salons and health/eco stores across the country (though sadly there is no stockist in Ottawa).

Although I have used them, I am not really qualified to comment on Pure Anada’s mascara or eye makeup; as a complete novice in these departments, all I can say is that they seemed to do a perfectly good job.

I do, though, especially like the Pure Anada lipgloss. It comes in a whole slew of colours, contains no nasty ingredients and goes on – with a sponge applicator – smoothly. It is somewhat less viscous than many lipgloss products and has a light feel. Maybe, as a result, it does not last quite as long, but it does claim a high mineral pigment content which should help. It certainly does a good enough job for me (though I should add that my longevity expectations for lipgloss are not that high).

WebGlossSwatch-copy-467x1024

The Pure Anada lipstick is also very nice and moisturizing and comes in a smart stainless case. I have the sugar plum colour. I cannot quite put my finger on why it is that I like the gloss better. Maybe the colour is more intense.

Both products score a 1 on the Skipdeep database, which is very good by lipstick standards (by comparison MAC lipsticks score a 3, Cover Girl a 6….). Both come in over 20 colours (the colours are quite true to the screen shot, on my computer at least) and both cost a very reasonable $12 (so you can maybe afford to sample a few colours). Shipping is free in North America for orders over $50.

Pure Anada is a small, homegrown company and is very helpful with questions and queries. All ingredients are listed on their website and none sound scary. They also sell great bamboo/vegan cosmetics brushes in a variety of styles (I especially like the small flat-topped foundation brush: good for travelling).

Last thing to mention is that they sell a range of pressed foundation powders akin to the Jane Iredale one I recommended a while back. I have yet to try these out but they look very promising. Although for regulatory reasons they are not advertised as having SPF protection, the makers tell me they do (and it makes sense that they should, given their ingredients). They are also quite a bit cheaper than the Iredale product (around $25 for a full compact as opposed to more than $50) and are made closer to home (at least to my home). Perhaps someone else has tried them?

NB. I was sent sample products by Pure Anada after receiving a recommendation to try their products and finding that the company had no local stockist. My review remains unbiased.

A better bike basket

I love to cycle. Not so much for exercise as to get from A to B faster and with less uncertainty.

One of the joys of cycling is that you can easily stop and run errands, without having to worry about parking. This means that I often end up cycling along with unintended groceries or books or kids’ shoes and backpacks.

I have never been a fan of panniers (those pockets that hang over your back wheel), as I like to keep an eye on what I am carrying. And besides, they require careful packing.

But old-style bike baskets also have their drawbacks: not only do they tend to be made of mesh, designed to make me lose small items, but they are also fixed so you have to empty them each time you leave your bicycle. In the old days we could unthinkingly use plastic bags inside our baskets…but life is much more complicated now we actually think about the environment.

bike basket full

Fortunately, I have found the (almost) perfect bike basket. It is a KLICKfix Shopper made by a German company called Rixen Kaul. The company makes all manner of bicycle accessories. Its really smart move has been to design a series of baskets, bags and map-holders that all make use of the same handlebar adapter.

Klick Fix 300x

You mount the adapter (which comes in various sizes to accommodate varying handlebar widths and configurations) and then clip on your chosen basket. I have the most basic basket, the Shopper, but somewhat covet a more jazzy one (such as this) or a purse-style carrier for my work days. You can also get baskets with raincovers and special pockets for your phone, which could come in handy.

When leaving your bike unattended, you simply unclick the basket and walk away with it. It takes 2 seconds, really. And unlike other click-off baskets that apparently (according to my local bike shop) wear out very quickly, it lasts. I have had my basket and adapter for more than 5 years, I would say, and they are still going strong.

So what is the downside? For me it is that I have had some difficulty in keeping the adapter tight on my handlebars. This is probably a function of my overloading the basket (which then rubs on the front mudguard) and poor installation. I suspect that were a bike shop guy to have installed it for me, I would not have had problems.

The second problem is specific to Canada. For some unfathomable reason, Rixen-Kaul products do not seem to be available here. The company has no listed agent in Canada and I have never seen KILCKfix products in a bike shop (even in Ottawa, a keen cycling town). You can order the full range through the US agent/distributor, and they will ship to Canada, but shipping costs are high and you risk those heavy duties.

In Europe and in the US Rixen Kaul products are easy to find and, in my opinion, pretty well-priced. The shopper is priced at €25.95 in Germany, about £28 in the UK and in and $39 in the US (though you have to buy the adapter separately which will cost you another approximately $20 or £12 in the UK).

So, Canadians, my advice would be to add these items to your list when you are out of country! Then you can cycle and shop to your heart’s content. Or even volunteer to carry your kids’ backpack as you cycle to school on the first day.

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