Probably I should settle down and come up with an editorial specialty, but then I wouldn’t get to do fun one-offs like this. In the Grid, a roundup of makeup made by Toronto-based companies.
Over at the redesigned Canadian Business, I interview CEO Bill Baker of Consonant about his career move, from advertising exec to non-toxic skincare guru.
It’s a business story, ok? In Canadian Business, I tell you all about the We-Vibe, a couples vibrator developed in Ottawa that now outsells other erotic buzzers three to one.
From the Globe, a visit to two organic farms in Grey County, which produces five per cent of Ontario’s food.
In the Star, a piece on local aficionados of the classic English cooker, the AGA. I could use one in my chilly office today.
The book is a DIY-guide to civic activism, lending inspiration to those colouring both inside and outside the lines. There’s a handy, accessible guide to navigating the red tape of City Hall; a piece on how citizens could participate in allocating the city budget; and many, many heart-warming stories of regular people who helped clean up neighbourhood parks, start farmers’ markets, install public art, build skate ramps, and generally make Toronto the kind of place I want to live.
My piece is about looking beyond the sometimes saddening homogeneity of elected bodies, to see the real diversity that’s on the ground, everyday. And, just to toot my own blog here, someone just told me that none other than Matt Galloway said, live and on air, that my essay was his favourite. I’m going to put that one in my back pocket and pull it out when I need a pick-me-up. But really, I found the whole book really optimistic and an excellent kickstart: the day after I got my hands on a hard copy, I signed up to volunteer in the after-school snack program at my local community centre. It’s hard for a hungry kid to grow up to be mayor, after all.
I’m doing pretty well at avoiding the evil, evil Balsam of Peru, and so my split, stinging finger is much better. If you’re looking to go fragrance-free, here’s what I think about a bunch of stuff. If you’ve got any to recommend, please do, I’m always looking.
Avalon Organics Olive & Grape Seed Conditioner: Didn’t do much for my hair, left the ends pretty dry. Wouldn’t use it again.
Clinique Comfort on Call Face Cream: Clinique toiletries do have some questionable chemicals in them, unfortch, but they’re affordable-ish and always scent-free. Both this and the Redness Solutions line work really, really well for me, better than most things I’ve tried. I’m loathe to give them up, so instead I sent the company an email to ask if product colouring is really necessary, since that’s largely what gives them a moderate toxicity rating. Stay tuned.
Jonathan Green Rootine Dry Brush on Hair Powder: The people at Jonathan should really read their Sephora reviews, because the package this stuff comes in sucks. It does not work, so save yourself the trouble of bashing your skull repeatedly with the useless brush. Instead, unscrew the bottom and gently tap about 3/4 of a tablespoon into your hand. Replace the cap immediately, or you’ll dump the whole thing down the sink, guaranteed, and the bottle lasts eight uses, max. Price and crappy design aside, I love this stuff. The actual powder works really well, and I could not get through a week of 7 a.m. shifts without it, although you will have to do two “real” shampoo latherings to get it out. Please let me know if you are going to the U.S. and can buy me a few of these at $13 USD, rather than $20 CAD. Thanks.
Nature Clean Unscented Dishwashing Liquid: Suds up nicely, does a great job. A winner.
Nature Clean Unscented Herbal Shampoo: It’s ok. Not quite tough enough when I’ve been dousing my head with dry shampoo, and sometimes I could use a little more volume. I’ll probably try another kind next time, but I bet this would be a great kids’ shampoo. Aside from fragrance, it’s also free of SLS, propylene glycol and other gross weird stuff we probably shouldn’t absorb through our skin every day.
Nature’s Gate Fragrance-Free Moisturizing Lotion for Sensitive Skin: This is a decent mid-weight body cream. My skin can get pretty dry in the winter, so I personally need something richer at this time of year, but I’d buy it again in the summer.
Ren Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm: Although I love exfoliating salts, I never would have bought this pricey stuff myself. Happily, a style writer friend who gets lots of swag passed it along. Yay, friends. It’s awesome, and softens things up nicely. It has essential oils, but no Balsam of Peru et al, so smells lovely yet left me rash free. And, the container is giant. Love it.
So another thorn in my eco-conscience is that I can’t compost. I live on the 17th floor (sort of—my building has no official fourth, 13th or 14th floor, which is very accommodating to various superstitions, but kind of confusing) with no balcony, in 670 square feet that I share with Le Jenk, his seven fish and large collection of knick knacks. Our building doesn’t do green bins and we do not have the room for a worn composter. Really, we don’t.
It’s super annoying because we don’t make much garbage, and the vast majority of it is compostable. Using cloth bags (or backpacks) for shopping was already a habit before the 5 cent bag tax, and so we’re out of free plastic bags and forced to buy bags for our kitchen garbage. Obviously I’m not going to buy Glad Kitchen Catchers, but every single biodegradable bag I tried ended up leaking pukey-smelling liquid by the time it was full enough to toss.
So, we tried these Seventh Generation bags, which aren’t biodegradable, but are made of recycled plastic. And ta-dah, they don’t leak, even after two weeks of being filled with 35 lbs. of apple cores and parsley stems. I’m glad, because my friend Tay works for them in Vermont, and I was afraid I’d have to talk eco-shit about her boss. Phew.
Apparently Toronto is recycling plastic bags now, so I feel kind of a little better. But really I want a green bin, and a garden, to call my own.
I adore Kensington Market, except on Saturday, when in a quest to prove their amazing explorative funkiness, hordes of tourists descend upon the shopkeepers and barrage them with 10,000 questions. But yes, I do 98 per cent of my grocery shopping in the market. Can’t beat the prices, can’t beat buying things from the independent stores (and sometimes straight from the farmers). I don’t even notice the slog of it—Le Jenk said when he first started buying groceries with me it was irritating to have to travel from store to store, but he now thinks it’s worth it (except on Saturday, or when excessively tired or hung, or during bad weather).
I start at 4 Life Organics on Augusta, which is such a lovely little store. Everyone that works there is so nice and smart, and in the summer I was buying heirloom tomatoes straight from the grower, which makes me feel amazingly funky myself. Then I walk south, stopping at Freshmart (yes, it sucks, but they have orange juice), Perola or Emporio Latino for queso blanco, dried chiles and tomatillos and House of Spice for things like harissa and tamarind paste. Fresh tortillas from La Tortilleria are a must. Peanut butter, rice, pasta and other bits and pieces comes from one of the bulk shops, multigrain bread from My Market Bakery, then cheese and olives from Cheese Magic (yes, they got a red card last summer. I’m over it).
The produce at Essence of Life is pretty sad, but it’s a good store for eggs, yogurt, granola and organic packaged food, and the toiletry selection is fantastic, especially since I need evvvverything to be fragrance free. Then I go to the Portuguese produce store across the street for any veg I didn’t get at 4 Life. They’re very friendly but insist on putting my herbs in plastic bags.
St. Lawrence Market is swoon-worthy, but pricey. Whenever I go there I drop a zillion dollars and come home with two days worth of food. Still, the fish is pristine, the bagels are awesome, the baby arugula from the organic store downstairs is the best ever, the cured meat and antipasto at Scheffler’s is wicked, the perogies are infinitely superior to anything at the grocery store and the sausages make me want to eat sausages every day.
Other stores that are out of my ‘hood that I love and always visit when in the area: Nasr Foods for Middle Eastern, T&T, natch (though they really need to lay off on the excessive use of Styrofoam and plastic), Pasta Pantry for the best ravioli anywhere. I’m forgetting a lot here, will add as I remember.
I really can’t shop at big grocery stores. I’m not trying to be snobby, but I just get confused when I go into Loblaws or Metro. Why is all the food in a box? Yes, one day I will probably not live within walking distance of Kensington. When that day comes, I’m telling you now I will probably cry.