Archive for April 2011

Who Needs Aerosol Shaving Cream?   Leave a comment

Aerosol shaving cream cans have two uses:

  • Shaving
  • Plinking

The latter is definitely more important.

For our first Christmas when my husband and I were dating I gave Mike a shave soap, a bowl, and a shaving brush. I was really nervous about giving such a gift, afraid that it might be too granola for him. But he liked it and uses it regularly. In fact he’s used up a couple bars of soap and we’ve even had to replace the brush. He still uses aerosol cream when he’s in a hurry or when shaving his head or tattoos, but a lot of the time he uses the “old fashioned” soap and brush.

I can’t even remember the last time I bought an aerosol shaving cream can for myself; for that matter, I can’t remember when I bought my previous tube of shave cream. That’s one of the benefits of shave cream: it is super concentrated so a little goes a long way. Originally, one of the major reasons that I switched from aerosol to cream was because I was tired of knowing how much product was being wasted once the can ran out of propellant. I remember popping the top off of an exhausted can once and just being amazed at how much product/foam was left.  One tube of shave cream lasts significantly longer than a can of shaving cream, and when the tube is empty it’s empty. There’s no wasted product. The other reason that I switched originally was to avoid propellants. While CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) can no longer be used as propellants, the hydrocarbons that are used instead aren’t really inert. While I’ve never heard of anyone huffing shave cream, I try to avoid products that require a propellant. Usually there’s no mention of what propellant is being used, and so no way to know what health risks there might be. And in the case of shave cream, the propellant is completely unnecessary since there are propellant-free products that work as well or better.

The shave cream that I’m using now is made from organic and fair trade ingredients, smells great, and works like a dream. You lather it up with your fingers, so that unlike the foam-from-a-can, it actually gets all around the hairs and makes shaving easier. My only wish is that I could still find a shave cream in a recyclable metal tube, and not just plastic tubes.

Posted April 29, 2011 by mayakey in personal care

Tagged with

Meditation While Weeding?   Leave a comment

I’ve heard people say that they find doing housework to be somewhat meditative. I’ve never really believed them. Sure, sometimes my mind wanders in la-la land while doing chores and thus gets a nice relaxing moment while my body is laboring, but I wouldn’t consider that meditation. If I try to really focus on the task at hand my stress level goes up, which I would not consider an indication of a meditative state. Besides, most of the time I’m trying for quality and speed together, so it’s the analytical mind that takes over. And that is definitely not a form of meditation.

So it was a pleasant surprise this past weekend when I settled down to work on the really annoying weed patches in the lawn, and found myself so engrossed in the task that my mind went blank for long stretches of time. (Then I would become aware that I needed to move to a new plot of grass.) My eyes and fingers didn’t really need an active brain to dictate what to pull since I’m pulling piles and piles of one specific plant (filaree, which is really easy to spot). And being out in nature, feeling dirt between my fingers and the sun on my back, and smelling the sent of damp turf also encouraged meditation. I can almost understand why my dad kept his “digging grass” project going for as long as I can remember. I personally do not want this to turn into a long term project, but at least now I can maybe understand what previously baffled me.

Or I started to understand until I realized that my mouth and throat were dry (especially bad on the morning of a 4-hour singing event), and tried to stand up. I had been weeding for an hour and a half, and my body HURT! So my recommendation to my self and anyone who plans to do some gardening/yardwork meditation: bring a timer or make sure that your spouse hears you ask them to call you in at a specific time.

Posted April 25, 2011 by mayakey in gardening, spiritual practices

Tagged with , ,

Awash in Greenwashing   Leave a comment

Environmentalists are a picky lot. It’s definitely true that there’s really no such thing as “good enough” when it comes to being environmentally and socially friendly. As a result every green claim can be considered greenwashing to a certain degree. There are some outstanding companies that are committed to fair trade, organics, zero waste, 100% renewable energy use, and beyond the buzz words, but those are a definite minority. There are also a few companies that don’t use their sustainable practices as part of their marketing. However, then you have companies that blow one little change way out of proportion. For some reason lately it seems like I’ve seen a higher of the latter lately; and even worse seen things advertised as “green” that most definitely aren’t.

The one that sticks out to me the most is Quiznos. We had Quiznos for an all-staff meeting at work last week and the napkins and boxes were all emblazoned with this “Eat Toasty, Be Green, Do Your Part” logo. I spent most of the meeting, the remaining work day, and the following day puzzling over how eating Quiznos could possibly be a “green” choice. That catch phrase is designed to make you think that by eating one of their sandwiches, you are doing something good for the environment, or at least that’s how it reads to me. I was stumped by how eating a non-organic, meat and cheese sandwich wrapped in paper, made in a chain restaurant with a very wide distribution network, and served with an overabundance of napkins, could possibly be a decision that could be considered “doing your part”. Especially since if you compare Quiznos with many other sub shops, wouldn’t Quiznos have a higher energy usage since they toast all of their sandwiches? After mulling this over for a while I read the fine print on one of the napkins that I had kept while I figure this out. It says: “Our first step is making environmentally responsible choices with our packaging.” All this marketing, the super catch phrase, the green ink printing, the fancy logos, big recycled symbol, is all because the use 100% recycled paper for their napkins, towels, and tissue. That’s it?!?!?! And further investigation reveals that it says 100% recycled, not 100% post-consumer recycled, which makes the claim even less impressive. As I said, environmentalists are good at saying “but you could do more!”, but this case is a great example of greenwashing where one minor change is blown up into something way more than it is. For as little effort as converting to recycled napkins requires, the marketing is huge.

It is hard not to succumb to greenwashing, since it requires always thinking (that’s part of the “conscious” living thing) about the claim. Does the claim make sense? Does it even apply to the product (like a big “fat-free” sticker on a bag of hard candy that is 100% melted sugar, flavor, and color)? How trustworthy is it? Third party certification is best because that means an unaffiliated party agrees that it meets a specific set of criteria (think USDA organic certified by Oregon Tilth, sustainable forest products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, or fair trade goods certified by TransFair). Self-certification claims often hold no water or are not backed up with any publicly available evidence. Of course some things have to be self-certified because there are no certification programs. And there are, unfortunately, non-reputable third party certifications. Finally, I always ask myself if the particular product is the best option available, because if it easy to “go greener” (or not too difficult anyway) than why not do it?

A Banana Dilemma   Leave a comment

So I’ve been experimenting with alternative bananas lately in an attempt to figure out what is the most conscientious banana to eat: fair-trade or non-GMO (genetically modified organism).

When I first heard about GMO bananas my first thought was that it was a silly joke. But unfortunately not. I guess banana plantations are being hit by all kinds of problems, as plague any extensive monoculture crops (especially given that cultivated bananas are sterile – no seeds – and propagated by cuttings, which doesn’t really help maintain genetic diversity). I hadn’t thought about it before, but now it seems like an inevitable problem since bananas are an immensely popular fruit and there is only one cultivar that is generally recognized as being a “banana”. I am not a supporter of genetic modifications. As a result, even though I don’t eat very many bananas typically, I want don’t want to contribute to an inevitable problem. Since it is winter and so harder to come by local fresh fruit for smoothies, I decided it is a good time to experiment with other types of available bananas. My husband has dutifully purchased me reds and babies (which I think I knew as finger bananas), and I can say that they work just fine. The babies take a really long time to ripen, so I suspect that the textural difference between the classic yellow banana and the reds and babies may be mostly due to differences in the amount of time harvested before maturity.

While eating other banana cultivars is all well and good to not contribute to the need for genetic modification, there is the other concern about labor. Fair trade bananas are available in some stores, and they ensure that the people growing and harvesting the bananas are paid a fair wage, have decent working conditions, and that child labor is not used. These are very important and when it comes to tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, and vanilla I will only buy certified fair trade. Where is the balance, though, between the labor and non-GMO problems? My inclination is to buy the non-fair-trade non-classic-yellow-banana varieties. I figure that if lack of genetic diversity and problems with fungus and disease are so bad, that it is better to use my tiny market power to encourage more variety because these problems may ultimately hurt the workers even worse.

At least spring is here, soon to be followed by summer peaches so I can stop eating bananas altogether for several months.

Posted April 20, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, fair trade, food

Tagged with ,

Compost Trials: Inaugurating The Green Waste Bin   Leave a comment

In the last couple of weeks I have used our green waste bin for the first time. It’s been sitting next to the recycling and garbage bins in all its virginal glory since I wanted to compost all of our green waste at home. However, as I tackled the spring weeds I realized that I really didn’t want to try to compost those plants myself since I have no confidence that the seeds would be degraded. This summer as I cleaned out the weeds in the planters after we moved, I threw the weeds in the regular trash because there was some windblown debris in the dried weeds, and I mistakenly thought at the time that weeds should not be put in the green waste bin. Since then I realized that “weeds” are specifically listed as acceptable items for the green waste program, which I assume includes weed seeds. I guess that however the industrial composting is done, they are confident that high enough temperatures are reached to degrade the weed seeds and not just incubate them for whoever buys the finished compost. I hope that is true, because I hate to thing that I am just shipping my weeds off to someone else to deal with, especially since there’s a chance that someone else might use herbicides and contribute to the ensuing pollution problems.

It is really nice having that bin, which is large and almost full, because otherwise we might have had to put the trash bin out to the curb for pickup twice this month!

Posted April 17, 2011 by mayakey in gardening

Tagged with

From Detox Diet to Gallstone Diet   4 comments

This spring is proving to be an interesting dietary experience. I was not planning to do a spring detox, since I was hoping to be pregnant, but since I’m not I was able to slip in a quick detox. That means for a couple of weeks I was avoiding meat and dairy, among other things. It’s really not that different from normal life, since it is not uncommon for us to only have meat once or twice a week, but during that time I do try to plan menus so that my husband does not feel like his diet is being restricted as well. He’ll add a sausage or some cheese to the meal, and since my restricted diet is only short term, it’s not too much torture for me to watch.

This year overlapping the reintroduction phase of my detox was the discovery that Mike has gallstones and the subsequent dietary restrictions for him. It is a very odd feeling to be on the other side of this coin. I’ve never before been the torturer who eats a hot dog under the nose of someone who cannot partake. I felt kinda bad about it, but obviously not bad enough to skip the hot dog (sausages are my carcinogen of choice, after all). It is odd putting cheese on MY salad, but not his.

The advised diet for someone with gallstones is definitely restrictive since it is so low fat. To me it seems unhealthily low-fat, but I guess that’s meant to be a short term diet. Apparently all nuts and avocados are off limits, in addition to most meats and cheese. The biggest difference between the detox diet and the gallstone diet are that when detoxing all wheat products are restricted so nuts and avocados become the best source of gut-fill. Unfortunately, I think the kibosh has been put on one of my favorite meals of the year: Easter brunch; because I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a formal brunch that was sufficiently low in fat.

Posted April 11, 2011 by mayakey in food, health

Tagged with

Pray, Work   Leave a comment

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”


“Pray as if everything depends on you and act as if everything depends on God.”


“Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.”

attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola and/or St. Augustine

Posted April 8, 2011 by mayakey in quotes, spiritual practices

Tagged with

Sleep Takes Precendence   1 comment

Do you have a bad habit that is persistent despite repeated attempts to change? Mine is getting to bed late. For pretty much two decades now I have not been able to go to bed before midnight, no matter how tired I am. I’ve tried several times to do something as simple as go to bed when I become tired, and I always fall back into resisting going to bed. The extra baffling thing is that I love lounging in bed, so why I can’t make myself do something that my body and mind both enjoy is a mystery. When trying to live a conscious life, aware of the self and its needs, not being able to follow up on such a fundamental need and desire is a big failing. And in anticipation of being pregnant, when I will NEED more sleep, and being a parent, when I will have even more to do, I think I’ve reached my breaking point.

For the last month I have set a strict bedtime of 11pm, with a punitive punishment that I don’t get to do the puzzles in the paper the next day if I don’t make bedtime. So far it is working, probably helped by the fact that I am afraid of what will happen if I don’t get over this failing. I do not want to fall into the trap of trying to be superwoman; and staying up late to “get things done” is one big step on that road. The crazy thing is that I’m actually more stressed now that I’m getting to bed earlier because all of a sudden my evening got an hour shorter. This blog suffers the most because it is at the bottom of the priority list.

Where else to trim so that evenings/nights are both not stressful and providing sufficient sleep? That’s the next hurdle to figure out to make this a long term change. And I’m stumped. I have a 10-item weekday to do list that is a good reminder that there’s no room for anything else on my plate during the week:

  1. Work
  2. Zero-sum (basically: pick up after myself)
  3. Downtime (cuddling with my husband, mostly)
  4. Dinner (cooking, which is split with my husband, and eating)
  5. Exercise
  6. Shower
  7. Meditation
  8. Fun (newspaper, comics, TV, puzzles)
  9. Bills etc.
  10. Prayer group/choir practice/blogging (depending on the night)

I’m not willing to stop exercising, I don’t think skipping dinner would be healthy, my husband and co-workers might not appreciate me not showering, bills aren’t optional, and neither is a little me- and fun-time. The prayer group and choir are both things that I really longed for before they were an option, and I really enjoy them now. I cannot for the life of me figure out how anyone else in the world gets all this stuff done.

Posted April 5, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, goals, self-care

Spring Detox – Time To Check Up On Good Health Habits   Leave a comment

Spring detox isn’t just about diet and supplements, although they are a major part, but it’s also about making sure that the body’s natural detoxification systems are supported normally. The plan that I follow/have developed over the years includes several things that are good everyday health habits that get taken for granted or left in the background much of the time. By this I mean habits like getting enough sleep, breathing deeply, and drinking enough water. These are all habits that go right along with being conscious of my body and its needs, but it is also really easy to get caught up in distractions and drift from an established habit. For me being really busy at work makes it harder for me to drink enough water since I get sucked into my computer, being busy at home makes it hard to get enough sleep, and any form of stress or anxiety can restrict breathing. Taking a few days to make sure I am actually DOING what I think I’m doing (although to be honest I don’t think I get enough sleep regularly) is really valuable for me in the context of living a conscious life.

These are all habits that support the body’s natural ability to detoxify. Sleep is when many organs recharge themselves, especially the liver and the skin, which are two major parts of the body’s detoxification system. Exhaling rids the body of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and any other gaseous contaminants. Water is obviously a major part of the body’s detoxification system since it is the vehicle the kidneys use to get rid of waste (urine).

Posted April 1, 2011 by mayakey in breathing, conscious living, health, self-care

Tagged with , , ,