3 reasons to quit ridiculous car journeys

Do you make ridiculous car journeys?

I used to, before I was environmentally aware. I got in the car and thought nothing of it but I do remember my grandfather saying: “Joanna, put your seat belt on first before you turn on the car, well unless you are sponsored by the oil companies!”

Could you use your car less? www.ActualOrganics.com


The most ridiculous car journey

The most ridiculous journey I witnessed was when I was in Texas; it was the morning, coffee was suggested and I saw the coffee maker on the kitchen side board and so I assumed we’d make it at home with the family. The idea of going out for coffee when at home hadn’t crossed my mind. The scene went like this:

The husband said “what would you like?”

I said ” Oh, just a cup of coffee with a little cream please.”

He replied: “I’m off to Starbucks so you can have anything, latte, cappuccino, mocha, vanilla latte.”

I said “Has your coffee maker broken?”

“Oh that, we don’t use that, we get just Starbucks every morning” the wife said.

“I’m happy with a ‘made here’ coffee don’t waste petrol, filter coffee is fine.” I said.

“I’m going anyway.” the husband said.

Later that day out for a walk I stumbled upon the Starbucks, I thought I wonder how far it was to get coffee this morning. I realised it was under 900 metres from the house! There were cars parked all around the coffee shop. Perhaps I am missing something but to this day I still can not see how on earth it was quicker to drive?  I enjoy an early morning walk, I find it sets me up for the day more calm and ready to be productive.  Yes, it was hot and muggy but fresh air is still important, surely?


Isn’t using a car faster?


Bike traffic lights. www.ActualOrganics.com http://pixabay.com/en/traffic-lights-lights-hanging-lamp-145798/ Pixabay

The myth is that the car is faster, I used to think that for a long time but that wasn’t quite the whole story.

You know the ’round and round and round’ time of finding a parking space; waiting for someone to leave, being patient, being patient still, hoping you’ll get the space only to be gazumped by someone else. Biking is faster, less battle for a parking space!

When I factor in the benefits of exercise, time in nature and fresh air then the bike or walking, or even walking to the bus wins every time.

Today it’s raining and the temptation is to take the car but I have waterproof trousers, a great waterproof jacket and a bike. It might also brighten up by the time I need to go to town.

I also do not pay for the gym so biking it is. Don’t worry I have mud guards, so I can keep my jeans or skirt clean and tidy!

It makes a huge difference when the local area is ‘bike-friendly‘ and these bike traffic lights are often seen in Denmark and Sweden – be sure to watch the video below on how Malmö in Sweden have encouraged more people to bike.  Could you do that in your area?

I know that more people would bike if they felt really safe, that is where bike lanes and clear signs are paramount. Yet it is only when we bike more and are seen on the road that cars get used to bikes. It’s also a good idea to write to your local MP, (MLA in Canada) and show the need for investment in bike infrastructure, with many countries recommitting to reducing their that it is seen as a priority.


 3 reasons to quit ridiculous car journeys:


It is free exercise.

It keeps us young! Many of the women I saw in Copenhagen biking were in their 40s, 50s and 60s, peddling along at a phenomenal speed.  Younger women were biking too but don’t assume it was all young men and women, it wasn’t.

Biking is a habit like any other and the more you do it the fitter you get – I know as I bike so much more now and love it, I also can zip up a hill that I once struggled with – that’s the benefit of biking everyday!  Fitness!


Quick to do and duel purpose.

Biking can be faster and is certainly healthier. www.ActualOrganics.com

It is often quicker to bike, once you’ve factored in the finding a car parking space (see paragraph above) and all that, biking is quicker as you combine fitness with chores.  Once, I had done my shopping and saw the same car still looking for a car parking space!


Time out in the fresh air

Time without distractions in a busy world; no music, just nature, fresh air (of varying levels!) and the sunshine (or rain) is important.

Bike a little way every day and smile more!


Do you bike?  Would you like to do more biking? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.


Further reading:

Bike and eat the Danish way

Step into Spring – why walking is the answer


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5 reasons we need to embrace bacteria

5 reasons we need to embrace bacteria

Junk food is not good, you know that, but did you know that it can diminish your gut bacteria too?

We need the unique blend of microbiota that are in our gut, a hundred trillion of them, apparently.

Here are 5 reasons we need to embrace bacteria


Junk food and why we need more variety in our diets. www.ActualOrganics.com

Our gut bacteria is unique, rather like a fingerprint and even identical twins have differing microbes, says Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and author of The Diet Myth — out in July — I’ve ordered my copy from our local book shop.

Professor Spector says: “Microbes (bacteria) are not only essential to how we digest food; they control the calories we absorb and provide vital enzymes and vitamins.”

The human gut contains around 3,500 different microbial species. Microbes are not the enemy, regardless of what alarmist television adverts imply with their surface cleaning product advertisements.


It's time to use soap and water. www.Actualorganics.com

Photo credit: http://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/dancurko

In eating a variety of real food, as opposed to heavily advertised junky foods, we are nurturing our gut with range of microbes providing an arsenal of defence. It also ensures we have interesting food and enjoying your food is important; it’s a pleasure in life to prepare and share food.

I eat a wide variety of foods, mainly what’s on sale or special offer, that way I get variety and save money. I do my best to eat seasonally, local and organic if feasible. I love the Farmers’ Market which starts up again soon — cue my happy dance.

According to the Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre newborns exposed to household germs and pets in their first year of life have a lower risk of getting allergies and asthma. The “hygiene hypothesis” is based on the notion that if your house and environment are too clean you are at higher risk of creating a hypersensitive immune system and sadly more prone to allergies and sensitivities.


Are our portion sizes too large? Yes! www.ActualOrganics.com


Spector [1] found that a 10-day diet of only fast food greatly reduced the microbes in the gut, by nearly 40 per cent of the total. If that happens in 10 days one can only imagine the deleterious effects a long-term poor diet creates.

Today many of us consume a very limited variety of foods. “Fewer than 20 separate food types and many, if not most, are artificially refined,” according to Spector.

We can redress this loss of diversity though by choosing a wider variety of foods.

If you see me out in the sunshine enjoying a glass of Belgian beer and a slice of local cheese remember I am nurturing my microbiota!


Good gut questions for you:


  • Do you buy the same vegetables each week? Could you start to eat seasonally?  Increase the variety in your weekly diet.


  • How much of your food is artificially refined, with added sugar, sweeteners, stabilizer and additives? Could you lessen the amount?


  • Have you ever stopped to read the labels on your food? Give it a go, it’s eye-opening — you have been warned!


  • Skip antibiotics unless absolutely vital. The Public Health Agency of Canada says: “Sometimes the right prescription is no prescription.”


  • Enjoy some fermented food: sauerkraut or kimchi, perhaps kefir.


  • Professor Spector says foods that promote gut flora are leeks, celery, garlic, coffee and Belgian beer. Obviously, eating other foods is wise too though!


  • Cook real food. Enjoy ingredient variety throughout your week.


  • Most of all enjoy taking your time preparing and eating delicious food.

– See more at: http://www.whistlerquestion.com/opinion/columnists/non-toxic-living-five-ways-to-embrace-bacteria-and-why-we-need-to-1.1938859#sthash.XzhHQjiY.dpuf


Further reading:

Diet is a dirty word

Bike and eat the Danish way, read more

Granny is wise, eating intuitively, read more

Photo credit: http://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/VikaValter

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Bike and eat the Danish way

The weight-loss industry invents billions of dollars worth of “quick fixes” to lose weight, but are we looking for the answer in the wrong place?


What size of plate are you eating off, are they small or large? Our plates are quite large, and perhaps it comes as little surprise that my jeans are a tad tight sometimes!


Are our portion sizes too large? Yes! www.ActualOrganics.com


Obsessing over one’s weight is toxic. We come in all shapes and sizes; surely feeling happy and healthy is the key?

I had a revelation while in Copenhagen recently: North American portion sizes are really too big. Even a coffee has gone from a small to a medium, I ask for a small and I get funny looks!


Bike and eat the Danish way


It seems we have lost the art of enjoying three simple meals a day. Hardly surprising when snacks are constantly marketed to us — snacking is a growing billion-dollar industry. [1]

Are we unwise looking for new diet tricks rather than slowly eating less of a simple, wholesome diet?  Certainly everyone has an opinion on diets but I find that confusing, conflicting and actually rather boring. Over the years of “new diet”, “healthiest diet yet” headlines I realise that simply put I am a fan of three square meals a day! Oh and maybe a cup of tea or two, it’s so boring I know.


Tips from Denmark www.ActualOrganics.com
Copenhagen was (just in case you were curious) a fabulous city and I had a relaxing time. I inadvertently managed to find myself in the city on the day of Queen Margrethe’s 75th birthday and was fortunate to see her (very close) as she rode past me in her horse-drawn carriage.  It was just a case of wonderful timing and yet so much fun to be part of a patriotic celebration of the Danes’ beloved Queen, but I digress.

A slice of rye bread is not very large, but it provides enough nutrition with wonderfully fresh ingredients for a delicious lunch.

Waist size is connected to portion size — or for me at least it is.

When we first moved to North America I remember being horrified by how big portions were, but over the years I have forgotten about it and I’ve gone up a size in jeans! That extra nibble adds up.


Travelling to Copenhagen I was reminded that I do not need to eat as much as I had been eating. Smørrebrød are hugely popular in Copenhagen, they are simply an open sandwich; usually on rye bread, with pickled fish, smoked salmon or meat with fresh vegetables or condiments on top.

I had some completely delicious smørrebrød, my favourite being fish roe and some fermented carrot, and yet they were not big portions.  That said many of us do not eat enough, it is finding that balance and it’s different for everyone, obviously.

Life in Copenhagen seemed significantly slower than Vancouver. Mothers and fathers bicycled with their children, in the trailer, on the Christiania bicycles. Bikes were often left outside a shop without a bike lock!

I rarely saw people eating on the move, they sat at a cafe or on a park bench.


Copenhagen city life- altogether more peaceful. www.ActualOrganics.com


Bike lanes meant that I felt safe biking about the city, like I did in Montreal. Men and women biked about looking unbelievably glamorous — no stretchy fabrics in sight!

Certainly a flat city means that biking is easier, but couple that with a smaller portion size and you have the perfect “free” way to keep in shape without a gym.


Walking to wellness

Walking is another way to keep fit without paying a gym fee.  I was fortunate to meet up with friends of my father’s and they said “the soap shop is just a short walk”, we walked for 20 minutes! It is all relative, I enjoyed the walk but was entertained that 20 minutes was considered a short walk. What is your baseline? Is it time to extend it a bit? If you walk 10 minutes a day make it 20 and if you don’t walk outside each day, begin!



Next time you ponder being slimmer or losing weight perhaps the size of your plate is worth considering?


Further reading:

Three square meals a day diet, read more

Step into spring and keep fit, learn more


– See more at: http://www.whistlerquestion.com/opinion/columnists/non-toxic-living-how-to-bike-and-eat-the-danish-way-1.1829412#sthash.X0ARtisO.dpuf

[1] [Sweet and savoury snacks] Sweet and savoury snacks in Canada.

Perfect gifts: experiences trump stuff

After my birthday recently you could assume I was given lots of presents and gifts. I wasn’t. I was given lots of lovely cards, but not “stuff.”

I am de-cluttering, removing the unnecessary from my life. For me, when looking for the perfect gifts: experiences trump stuff.


are you giving money or time to friends and family? www.ActualOrganics.com


I realize that giving and receiving is a part of life and I love giving presents; I just think we have too much stuff.

My parents made me a beautiful photograph book with lots of family pictures and snippets of family history; it is a treasure and I will look at it regularly and likely feel homesick.

I had two parties with friends in Canada and another in the UK, it was so much fun, seeing friends, talking with them, hearing their news, enjoying delicious food. I made the food for the first one and had a fabulous day of cooking, I loved it.  It’s simple but creates happiness.

My sister gave me a day out and a pub lunch. We sat outside in the sunshine. It was a “memory day” as my mother would say.

I have wonderful memories of the first lunch my sister had away from her new baby. We chatted like old times and listened to each other while basking in the April sunshine. I was given a precious present of her presence.  It was heaven.

I was given some pretty earrings by friends in Denmark, reminding me of my wonderful time there recently. All things Danish blog post coming soon.  Other friends gave me beautiful flowers and I got joy whilst they lasted and now I am left with memories, which I love.




The ‘must-have’ feeling wanes

Many feel that money buys happiness, but it seems it’s only up to a point. We actually adapt and the initial happiness wanes. Think back to when you desperately wanted a “must-have” item; is it as thrilling as when you first bought it? Likely not. Conversely, experiences such as a day out, when recalled, increase the perception of happiness. [1]


Could this influence the presents you give family and friends in future?



To a certain extent constantly seeking new things is toxic. It’s consumerism. We want more, we crave it, we buy it — only to (in many cases) suffer remorse at the state of the bank balance or credit card statement.


Could you have a day where you 'buy nothing'? www.ActualOrganics.com

 Cease over-extending yourself


What if we ceased over-extending ourselves and simplified our gift giving? It could be hugely refreshing! I invite people to supper to see them; I don’t need a hostess gift!

This cycle will never end unless you change your thinking and attachment to “stuff.” Marketing and advertising is such that there will always be new season clothes, hairstyles, skis or mountain bikes. You know it’s true.

The opposite of stuff is an experience, one where we can be present, tune in, listen, allow silence and soak in the experience of the day out, meal or catch up without distraction.

Memory days can be simple.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money, it might be a trip to the lake with a home-made picnic — certainly the way to win anyone’s heart — turn off the cell phone and give your attention. It trumps a last-minute credit card swipe, surely?

In a world where we are racing about and rushed, slowing down long enough to spend time with friends and family is the best gift we can give. Our time is valuable, much more so than our dollars.

Next time you are wondering “what shall I give X for her birthday/other event?” contemplate a memory day.


Further reading:

3 ways consumerism ruins us.

25 snippets of wisdom for a better life, read now.

[1] http://www.fastcoexist.com/3043858/world-changing-ideas/the-science-of-why-you-should-spend-your-money-on-experiences-not-thing


– See more at: http://www.whistlerquestion.com/opinion/columnists/non-toxic-living-gifts-why-experiences-trump-stuff-1.1874207#sthash.fvKtafgm.dpuf


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25 snippets of wisdom for a better life

I love birthdays. They are the day to celebrate each other; the unique individuals we are.

Soon my father is turning 70 years old and I’m turning 40. I’m celebrating at a party, in London, and my family will all be there with my baby niece (who’s only weeks old) and my grandmother in her ’90s.

It is easy to reminisce at the time of one’s birthday, here are a 25 snippets of wisdom for a better life that have helped me along the way.


snippets of wisdom for a happy life at www.ActualOrganics.com


25 snippets of wisdom for a better life


  1. “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” Thanks to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for that.
  2. Do a digital detox, you’ll find time you didn’t know you had.
  3. Getting outside for a daily walk is good for you; we need to walk more, bike more and drive less.
  4. If you don’t like your life, instigate change. Start with one small change, stick at it.
  5. Failure isn’t bad, it’s a chance to evaluate and learn. It sounds trite, but it’s true.
  6. Don’t be so busy you miss the amazing moments in life. Learn to be “un-busy.
  7. “I’m not that interesting.” Being humble is good.
  8. Sit down at a table for dinner with no distractions. We can’t expect family or friends to be happy if we don’t tune into their lives.
  9. We need less clothes and “stuff” than advertisers would have us think.
  10. Reading books keeps your brain working and broadens your world. Join the library today! Always keep learning about new things.
  11. Most of what is on sale in shops we do not need. Have a “Buy Nothing Month,” it helps get out of the habit of buying unnecessary things.
  12. No one has it all together despite what they tell you.
  13. If a new diet or food sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
  14. Much of what is on social media is hyperbole. The less time you spend on social media the happier and more productive you’ll be.
  15. We don’t always need to speak! Sometimes it’s better to keep quiet and be thought a fool.
  16. Always seek to make the world a better place; the world and its resources are not here for our convenience.
  17. Vote: you can’t expect a better future if you aren’t part of the solution.
  18. Ask yourself “what will be my legacy?” Take a stand about something.
  19. Don’t litter. If you see litter pick it up.
  20. We have to make sacrifices and we can’t have it all, accept it and move on.
  21. Save 10 per cent of your income for a rainy day.
  22. Give 10 per cent of your income to charity.
  23. Listen more, speak less. Master the art of enjoying silence.
  24. Ask yourself, “How can I simplify my life?” Start by simplifying one thing each week for the rest of the year, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
  25. Write a letter to someone each month; a parent, grandparent, cousin, or old friend. Letters can make someone’s day, even their year. Write!


When was the last time you wrote a letter? www.ActualOrganics.com


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– See more at: http://www.whistlerquestion.com/opinion/columnists/non-toxic-living-twenty-five-snippets-of-wisdom-for-a-better-life-1.1815486#sthash.aBMwahld.dpuf

DIY non-toxic household cleaner

Non-toxic cleaning is simple, we don’t need the vast array of products on supermarket shelves.

I like multi-use products like baking soda which acts as an abrasive and a deodoriser or castille soap which can be dish soap or hand wash!


For a clean home, using baking soda and castille soap is inexpensive and highly effective.  I make a soft scrub which I have in the kitchen for burnt on food, but also it works well to clean the bath.


Here’s my recipe for the only DIY non-toxic household cleaner you need.


Non-toxic cleaning with baking soda and castille soap. www.ActualOrganics.com

DIY non-toxic household cleaner

You will need these four ingredients:


150g Baking soda

50mls Castile soap (I use Dr Bronners but other companies make it too)

A dash of glycerin- available at most chemists or likely Amazon

An old plastic sauce bottle or a plastic tub to store the cleaner.


Put all the items in the squeezy bottle, put the lid on and shake well.  If you leave the lid off this will solidify – remember to use the lid!


Further reading:

DIY non-toxic cleaning recipes, including e-book!

DIY nail oil


It really is that simple!



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