5 Tips For Better Food Practices

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One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how I can be a better citizen of the world and to put my beliefs into actions. One of the main ways I feel I can do that is to be a better consumer. If I am honest I haven’t always thought about where my food comes from and the impact my consumption has on people at home and around the world. As a financially stable person I’ve never had to think about where my next meal was coming from or the way in which my decisions could harm others. I’m not an expert yet but I’ve started thinking about these issues more and doing research. For me the starting point has been not wasting food and consuming less and these are the things that I’ve been doing to meet that goal.

1.) Do Research

I often hear that people don’t have time to research but I honestly feel that we can’t afford not to. It can be something as small as taking 10 minutes a week/month to read an article. But for those of us who are affluent and live in Europe or North America, for example, many of our food practices directly affect those living in less affluent countries and even those who produce our food in our own countries. If we want to be better citizens we have to develop practices that do not harm others and benefit everyone. Reading science based articles about food production and distribution arms us with the knowledge to buy wisely and not be led astray by gimics and health and diet fads which come and go.

2.) Use Pinterest

Besides having recipes and strange DIYs, Pinterest is full of good ideas about how to use leftovers, whether it’s some crusty bread or half of a chicken. There are also handy graphics of what produce is in season, measurement conversions and how to halve recipes.

3.) Check Your Fridge Every Morning

I’ve heard that you should check your bank account every morning but I have also started checking my fridge every morning that way I can see what leftovers have to be used up immediately. I can also see what needs to be added to my shopping list, see what we are and aren’t eating and make a plan to use up leftovers for lunches, dinners or snacks.

4.)Freeze It Right Away

I’ve often put something in the fridge hoping that I’d use it up that week and then not done so. Since there are only 2 of us and we aren’t big eaters I have started putting stuff in the freezer immediately. As soon as I am home from the store I divide up loaves of bread, for example and put half in the freezer.  Homemade pasta sauce, chili, and many other dishes can go in the freezer and if we want to eat it in 2 days it can easily be defrosted but if we don’t eat it for a month we haven’t thrown anything out.

5.) Make a shopping list

I’ve started planning my meals ahead of time and writing down the ingredients I’ll need. We’ve saved money and thrown out less food because we aren’t buying food we don’t need or won’t use that week.

This is just the starting point but I hope that doing these things makes the world a better place, even if only in a small way.

 

Gilmore Girls Revival-Review

***Warning, spoilers ahead***

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What do we do with media that is outdated? Should we consume media that is outdated in the sense that it is racist/homophobic/sexist? Should we just edit out the bits that are wrong? Should we leave them in but critcise them? Personally I lean strongly toward the edit/discard side, I mean do we need racist caricatures in old Disney movies? Not really. On the other hand there is culturally significant and enduring works that should probably be kept but with the caveat that we recognise and critique their prejudice. I’m taking the long way round in saying that watching the old Gilmore Girls from 2016 is…strange. How do we relate to Rory who has problems like “which rich relative will pay for my college tuition at Yale?” when many of us are overwhelmed by student loan debt and a job market that is less than promising? What about when she jets off to Europe for the summer on someone else’s dime while we are encouraged to get into debt in the sake of “gathering experiences, not things”? Is a town full of straight, white people really representative of the America of today? The writers, one assumes, heard these critiques and answered  them in the most soulless way possible. Michele (Yanic Truesdale) comes out as gay, hardly surprising as he was always gay the show just didn’t want to tell us directly. There are a few POC in the background but they don’t play any major role in the show, or even get named for the most part. Mrs. Kim, Lane’s mother, trots out a choir of scared looking Koreans who have just come over and are using all of her toilet paper, seemingly because the writers don’t know that Korea is a modern, peaceful and largely westernized country, or because they don’t expect their audience to know that. It all feels like the Palladinos wanted to shut up any voices that said their show was less than representative without doing any real work to correct the flaws of the original show.

In any case we find ourselves back in 2016 in Stars Hollow. Lorelai is still in a good (but UNMARRIED) relationship with Luke. Their unmarried status is something that is presented as a flaw which seems odd considering even way back in 2000 common law and civil union couples were treated as serious relationships, on television at least. Her relationship aside Lorelai’s life is in a bit of turmoil with Sookie having left the inn and Michele considering a job in a different hotel. Rory, meanwhile,  is aimless, working on a book that she doesn’t enjoy and trying to get a meeting with publication giant Conde Nast. She’s sleeping with an engaged Logan, while dating a guy who she keeps forgetting about. Some have argued that this is out of character for Rory but I disagree. Throughout the original series Rory often seemed ambivalent to the feelings of others around her, doing what she wanted regardless of who it hurt. That she would date someone she didn’t really care about? Sure. That she would have an affair? She already did that once. That she, someone who always had everything handed to her by people who consistently told her how wonderful she was and how she could do no wrong, would find the “real” world of work challenging?  I believe it. I suppose the question is not is it believable but is it necessary. I’m ambivalent about most of the reboots (with a few exceptions). I don’t think we need a new Spiderman every few years. I’m not a Full House fan and don’t know what that show which is seemingly so mediocre needed to be revived. Although it did lead me to read this very funny blog Full House Reviewed which I basically spent every waking minute reading until I finished it. In any case here we are. My unpopular opinion remains that I think a mean-ish and self absorbed Rory was the right direction to take her character. I don’t think we should like or applaud her behaviour but I think it was the right choice or at least as right as making her a kind and successful one. As for Lorelai, Lauren Graham is a strong an actor as ever and Lorelai’s sorrow at her fathers death, her confusion about Luke and her relationship and the uncertainty about the direction of the Inn without Sookie were well acted and well written. As for the final four words…eh. I like them, I think. I like the unconscious message that suggests that an unplanned pregnancy can happen to anyone, even a well-adjusted, educated and adult woman who has seemingly been birth control savvy for the last 15 or so years. I like the full-circleness of it all. Of course, however, this ending if it had come when it was intended to at the end of the original run, would have relayed a mostly different message.  Although I guess the idea that even a “good” girl can get pregnant would have been the same.  Quite progressive for early 2000’s television. Anyway we can argue about whether characters exist outside of their roles another time. I guess the final question is whether  there will-and should- be more Gilmore Girls. I’m certainly curious and would likely watch more episodes but I’m going to say no, there shouldn’t be more Gilmore Girls unless the writers tackle the problems of diversity and class in a real and helpful way.

The Chemist Doesn’t Belong in 2016

cover of The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer in a review of the bookThere’s something for everyone under the sun when it comes to literature and that’s a good thing. As we know, Shakespeare’s works, in his time weren’t particularly high brow literature but mass market culture with something for both the upper and lower classes. In fact it is believed that his plays were popular stories of the time and Shakespeare’s versions weren’t the only ones, simply the best ones. All this is to say that it’s long time we get rid of the idea that the only books really worth reading or-or praising-are classics or exclusive, experimental literature or some man writing tirades against society or his mother. One of the best novels I’ve ever read about domestic violence and alcohol abuse is This Charming Man by Marian Keyes a book marketed as chic lit with festive purple cover art. Writing within a genre is a skill and the fact that something is consumed en masse doesn’t make it bad. Therefore, The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer could be forgiven for it’s stilted writing, a plot that is vague and not always fully fleshed out and a sentence referring to bedding as a unicorn mane. But what it can’t be forgiven for is the fact that Stephenie Meyer hates women.

There’s a fantasy that women are taught to have that if we are different enough and special enough, if we eschew make up and fashion, if we laugh at sexist jokes and “aren’t too sensitive” and if we prefer stereo-typically masculine activities over feminine ones then men will love us and treat us better, that we will be able to change an abuser and become the heroine of our own story. It’s been 10 years since Twilight , a series I will admit I enjoyed despite it’s flaws, was released and in that time Stephenie Meyer has learned nothing. A lot of the criticism directed at Twilight was about the fact that the only good woman in the book is Bella a beautiful but tomboyish book worm who has no use for any other women.Furthermore it is only she who can interest-and change- Edward for whom she is the only equal. But here we are 10 years later and she’s still writing the same story. In The Chemist we meet Alex, a torturer who belonged to a super secret unnamed intelligence agency but is now on the run for her life for reasons that are unimportant. She decides to take one last job where she picks up a suspect who isn’t what he seems. The fact that Meyer would make her heroine a torture specialist is odd considering what we all know about torture and considering current events. In fact, it’s more than odd, it’s wrong. For the past 50 plus years we’ve been inundated with films, books and television that tells us there is a clear right and wrong and that if the “good” people are doing it than anything goes. It’s this kind of blase thinking that encourages a world view that has increasingly little relevance to the actual world. But I digress. Alex is the hero because,as we are reminded continually, she is “ugly”. She has a flat chest! She’s short! Her face is scared because she’s been doing battle with various killers for the past four years!She is however, smart and the best that ever worked in her mysterious department. And she’s not good at relationships either. Foundation and lipstick are  the greatest mysteries of the cosmos to our intrepid heroine. All other women in this book are mentioned only in passing but with utmost derision. A women in a bar is a tramp. A clerk in a corner shop is too flirtatious. A middle aged woman is stupid and annoying. An ex-wife is a gold digger.  The only other woman who actually plays a part is a “hooker” who swans around trying to seduce Alex’s love interest for a few minutes before begrudgingly helping them out. To be fair the male characters don’t fare significantly better with one who’s only character trait is how nice he is and one who’s character is best described as boorish manly-man. Characterization has not particularly been the strong suit of spy novels but we already have James Bond and that’s outdated enough.

As women we should be gracious with each other. As feminists we need to fight internalized sexism and bring each other into the fold. We can cut the Twilight series some slack because I believe that Stephenie Meyer didn’t intend to write a misogynistic series. However 10 years have passed. The sexism in Twilight has been pointed out. Fifty Shades of Grey (which began as Twilight fan fiction)has been analyzed by reviewers and survivors as intimate partner violence alike. There’s no excuse for Stephenie Meyer to be writing and releasing a novel like this anymore.

A Pre-Holiday Reading List

black-and-white-christmas-starThe holidays are very important for my family and I and I always look forward to them. Getting dressed up, setting the table, eating dinner together and opening my stocking Christmas morning are some of my favourite things. But whatever holiday you celebrate-or don’t- most of us have a few days off and so I’ve compiled a reading list to get us through the holidays and into the new year.

One of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that sometimes it’s important to take a break from political discussions and especially that I as a white person need to understand that other people don’t always need to talk about the big issues. Even more importantly I’ve learned that the ultimate goal of any activism is to bring people (of course I mean people that can be changed not hate groups) into the fold not to alienate them.

In Let Us Love The Hell Out Of This World Chris Crass writes something I found very helpful. He writes:

And this practice isn’t just about being more kind and loving towards each other.  It’s a practice of moving us from a place of primarily seeing shortcomings and feeling defeated, towards seeing possibilities to become the organizations, communities, activists, leaders, and campaigns we need, in order to win.  It’s a practice of being able to see and name steps that people and groups are taking to move us towards our goals, and affirming the work making that happen.  It’s a practice of bringing people along rather then shutting them down and it helps prepare us to not just be protesters of the injustices of existing society, but to be co-creators of the society we are working towards.

On a lighter note look to  The Fresh Exchange-Setting The Table for some beautiful and simple table decor ideas. Or if you’re a Francophile this article will help you bring out your inner Parisian.  11 Secrets The French Know About Holiday Entertaining That You Don’t (from My Domaine) And if you want some astrological advice to help you navigate this week the Astro Twins have you covered. Astro Twins Weekly Horoscope

If you’re a knitter like me, might I suggest the seed stitch? It’s so easy you can do it while binging the Gilmore Girls. A seed stitch scarf looks good one everyone and is perfect for wearing untied (apparently the must wear style for this winter) or bundled up if you live in  colder climate. How To Knit Seed Stitch-Craftsy

I’m a longtime Star Wars fan and can’t wait to see Rogue One. However, I agree with this Vulture piece when it says that Star Wars is not appropriate  as a political metaphor.

Therein lies the special danger of seeing politics through Star Wars. The series is a manifesto for anti-incumbent fury, screaming that the good people never have enough power and the bad people always have too much. When you see yourself as definitionally outgunned, purity of conviction starts to seem like your most valuable weapon — hardly the healthiest way to be a citizen.

Vulture-Be Wary of Star Wars’ Politics of Violence

In case you missed it, this Teen Vogue piece is some of the most insightful and helpful commentary yet.  Teen Vogue-Donald Trump is Gaslighting America

I’m at home in Canada for Christmas and it is a winter wonderland here. Beautiful though it may be these minus 40 degree temperatures have me dreaming of the Mediterranean. This blog post is full of beautiful pictures of Positano, Italy to inspire your next trip or take your mind to far off places. 22 Things To Do In Positano-We Are Travel Girls

I’m no fan of the “if you skip your morning coffee you’ll be a millionare” line of thinking towards money, which does appear from time to time on Young Adult Money. That said, paying off debt, giving more to charity and buying ethically are on my to do list for 2017 and this list has some helpful tips.Young Adult Money-100 Goals To Focus On For A Successful Year

Last but not least, the end of the year is a time for reflection so as 2016 draws to a close let’s remember the good things, the way we’ve changed and think about how we can do better personally and globally for 2017. Gala Darling-10 Questions To Ask Yourself To End 2016 Feeling Positive And Powerful

Let’s go into the holidays and the new year with love and compassion for ourselves and for others.

A December To-Do List For A Better World

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December is here and I can’t believe 2016 is almost over. It’s been a kind of disappointing year personally and a pretty horrible one worldwide. I love the holiday season but I feel, and I think many others would agree that this year more than ever we need to be conscientious about our celebrations and our impact on the world. Here are a few things that I want to do this month with the goal of making myself and the world around me  a better place.

Buy Less
A few years ago my family started deliberately buying fewer gifts for each other and it’s been wonderful for all of us. It hasn’t diminished our enjoyment of the holidays at all and in fact has made us less stressed and more appreciative. Buying less takes us away from the consumerism of a holiday like Christmas, helps us focus on each other, reduces waste and encourages us to not spend money we don’t have.

Buy Ethically and Support Small Business
Buying ethically is something that has become increasingly important to me and I believe should be important to everyone.In the past I’ve often used the excuse “well how do I know which companies are ethical” but I feel strongly that, especially with the internet that we can do the research to find good companies. We know that when we buy fast fashion, for instance or need the latest technology that someone somewhere is being paid less than they should or even being kept in modern slavery. As consumers we have power and we need to use it. Spending more on individual products and buying less overall are important steps to take as well as shopping at second hand stores,  taking care of our clothes and other belongings and recycling as much as possible. Which leads me to my next goal…

Reduce Waste
Reducing waste is important all year round but with holiday baking and gift wrapping coming up it’s important to not get slack. I found the following article had some great tips. 5 Simple Tips To Help You Start Living Waste Free Right Now

Give Time or Money to Charity
The holidays are an important time to give back but we have to be careful that we don’t throw our money at charities that do more harm than good or misappropriate funds. I started giving to  Amnesty International Canada several years ago because I read several reviews that said they used their money well and were trustworthy and I believe in the work they do. Volunteering can also be beneficial but again we need to research reputable volunteer organizations in our areas and make responsible choices. For instance, the Vancouver Sun had THIS piece a few days ago about the importance of giving money to food banks instead of canned goods.

Take Time For Yourself
Taking care of yourself is vital to affecting change. I know this is something that can rub some people the wrong way, after all how is caring for yourself anything but selfish? Ultimately, though, the idea is that we can not be effective when we have not taken care of ourselves and perhaps more importantly that, especially for marginalized people, valuing yourself in a world that so often doesn’t is a radical act.  Often when we talk about self care we think of it in terms of consumerism (buy this relaxing candle! go to the spa!) which are activities that are great if affordable but not the central goal of self care. Rather it is about setting boundaries, saying no to things we can’t handle or accept and cutting out or reducing time with toxic people. On the lighter side, taking time for yourself with a cup of tea or coffee, talking to a friend, disconnecting from social media, going for a walk, or making a homemade face mask or body scrub are some ways to take care of yourself this holiday season.

Speak Out About Issues
Even though self care is important it is also important for us, especially us white folks to speak up. I’ve often gotten angry or just left conversations when I felt that I couldn’t make progress with a racist person but now more than ever and especially at times when we will all be surrounded by people we need to call out racism (and, of course, all discrimination) when confronted with it. We need to stand up for what’s right regardless of how it makes us feel because in the end our discomfort is minuscule and irrelevant to what others are going through. Here are three articles that I found useful and there are many more out there.

Talking Racism with a Racist Relative in 4 Easy (Um NO) Important Steps

How to talk to other white people about race (and why it’s necessary)

I, Racist

Write Letters or Cards or Make Something
This year I’ve made matching scarves for my boyfriend and I, bought some beautiful handmade cards to give out this Christmas. Taking time to let the people in our lives know they are loved and supported is so important, whether they are partners, friends, co-workers or family. Making something can also be a valuable part of self care and writing something by hand is a nice break from typing.

Happy December everyone! black heart

Beautiful Broken Things Review

*Warning: Mild Spoilers*

picture of Beautiful Broken Things cover in a review of the book

I picked  Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard  up in the airport with the intention of reading it at the beach however it basically didn’t make it off of the plane (our flight was delayed too so that didn’t help either). Undeniably the writing was excellent and the depictions of teenage angst and coming of age on the seaside in Britain were beautiful, although I must confess that stuff is my poison anyway. Caddy is a wealthy private school girl whose main problem is her frizzy hair. She’s jealous of her sister’s mental health problems and her best friend’s dead baby sister because according to her, these things make you interesting and she desperately wants to be interesting. In fact she makes it her goal for the next year to lose her virginity, find a boyfriend and have a significant life event. When her best friend Rosie makes friends with new girl at school it seems that at least one of those things, the significant life event, is about to happen. Suzanne is beautiful but troubled and Caddy quickly finds herself wrapped up in her world.

Female friendship is a complicated, wonderful and mystifying and it’s all those things in this novel.

Caddy and Rosie are not particularly  wonderful people for a lot of reasons, Caddy deliberately brings up a painful subject to get information out of Suzanne and Rosie refers to her as a slut. It’s not hard to believe that teenage girls might do bad things to each other or even that they might see horrible things such as abuse, mental health issues and death as glamorous and exciting. In my first year film course at university a student said he’d rather “live hard and die young” as the saying goes and the professor basically told him that that was a young and naive thing to say. She was right. That’s the difference between adults and teenagers. Teenagers are allowed to think and say silly things.

What did sort of annoy me about this book was the depictions of abuse. Now, I know that abuse can take many shapes and forms and there is no right or even typical way to respond to it. That said the abuse in this story didn’t ring true to me at all. Abusers act in different ways but if there’s one thing they have in common it’s that they keep trying to reel you back in. They might scream and kick and tell you they hate you but they’ll always try to get you to pay attention to them. Their behaviour always goes back to loving after they’ve done something horrible and it’s this back and forth that causes you to doubt yourself, that makes it hard to leave.  The abuse in this book seems to miss this point.

Lastly, as I said, I have no problem with vapid or selfish female characters as these are traits that all of us embody from time to time and there’s no reason for female characters to be any better behaved than male characters. That said, even with unreliable narrators and flawed characters there tends to be a judgement, for lack of a better word, from the book. In Gone Girl,for instance we know that  Amy and Nick are basically despicable in their treatment of each other even if we at times agree with and  like them individually. That awareness was lacking for me in Beautiful Broken Things. All of that said, I really enjoyed reading this book and the writing is superb. If you’re headed to the beach or trapped inside because it’s raining all the time definitely give this a read.

As a personal aside: I hate the plot device of the threat of an “evil foster homes” as a reason for characters to run away or behave badly. My parents were foster parents,  my aunt and uncle are foster parents, another aunt and uncle adopted a daughter and they are all wonderful people. I know that a.)this is a book and b.)there ARE indeed bad foster homes but this is the laziest, least nuanced, most overused plot device ever, in my opinion of course.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

picture of nieghbors 2 sorority rising in a review about the film

Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is a summer comedy with a surprisingly feminist twist. Lately I’ve seen some feminist complaints about the fact that feminism is “mainstream” now, that it’s become a commodity, another product for society to sell to young girls who may or may not know what feminism really is. I really can’t get behind this view at all. First of all because it smacks of “young people these days” and secondly because the young women I know (including ones quite a bit younger than me) do know what feminism is. They’re not buying “feminist” T-shirts and hoping that cuts it. Their feminism is intersectional and outspoken and I’d say that they also have an understanding of their role as consumers. I may be in the minority here but I think that women using social media to post selfies and pictures of their fabulous lives understand perfectly what they’re doing and their performance of femininity is just that-a performance. Anyway this is all to say, that I like the feminist bent to Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising. The film revisits Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), young parents who have bought another house without selling their other one. When they find potential buyers their house goes into 30 day escrow at the same time as Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersy Clemons)and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) buy the dilapidated former Fraternity house next door. You see, they wanted to join a Sorority but after discovering that they couldn’t hold parties and that Frat parties were a place where you don’t drink the punch they decide to create their own  sorority.  One where they hold feminist icon parties, smoke weed and can dress however they want. When Teddy (Zac Efron) is asked to move out of his house after his roommate gets engaged he becomes a mentor to the girls, imparting invaluable advice like “you need 5 buckets of money”. Of course this means war between the neighbours and lots of laughs for the audience. The jokes are, for the most part, successful but it’s the heart that makes this film really work. Mac and Kelly may not be perfect parents but they love each other and their daughter. The girls are smart and likable and the progressiveness is sincere and funny. It’s weird to say but the world presented in this comedy is one that is better than ours. One where men, even former frat boys, openly celebrate gay marriage, where sororities are a place to kick off your high heels, smoke a joint, discuss gender roles and dance with friends. One where even dads smoke weed, no one knows the first thing about buying a house and friendship prevails.