PERCs of dry cleaning

12 May

dry cleaningDry cleaning. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it’s a popular way to save time and get cleaned and pressed clothes. If you dry clean, have you ever thought about dry cleaners and their cleaning process? How about the chemicals they use to clean clothes, or the plastic around each of your individual garments? Dry cleaning may be convenient, but it’s an environmental disaster.

This past February, Ali Eldin, the owner of dry cleaning businesses in Edmonton pleaded guilty ”to offences relating to the improper handling and storage of tetrachloroethylene, commonly known as perchloroethylene, or shortened to PERC – a widely used dry cleaning solvent which poses environmental risks and is toxic to humans. Through periodic inspections over 18 months, it was evident that Eldin’s shops did not use proper safeguards for using PERC, which created hazardous waste and put the dry cleaning staff at risk. (Source.)

PERC

Dry Cleaning Report

From the 2015 Environmental Defense Dry Cleaning Report

According to Canada’s Environmental Defence Dry Cleaning Report, Removing the Stain: Getting Cancer-Causing Chemicals Out of Your Clothes, PERC ”is an organic, colourless, non-flammable liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics. PERC acts as an effective solvent and stain remover for organic materials, making it one of the most popular chemicals used in dry cleaning in North America since the 1950s.”

The Report cites short-term PERC exposure symptoms as dizziness, headaches, nausea, skin, eye, and lung irritation. Long-term exposure has been linked to reproductive health issues, lung and breast cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia. If PERC spills on the ground, it finds its way into our drinking water.

PERC is a terrible choice for getting clothes clean! Yet somehow, the chemical is allowed in Canada – this federal government page on Dry Cleaning Regulations lists PERC ”on the List of Toxic Substances, Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Exposure commonly happens through contaminated air or water, including groundwater.” Environment Canada developed the following regulations around PERC to reduce its release from dry cleaning facilities:

  1. requiring more efficient dry cleaning machines that recover more PERC from the dry cleaning process;
  2. preventing PERC spills; and
  3. managing the way residues and waste water containing PERC are collected and disposed of.

Unfortunately, Toronto is the only city in Canada that measures and tracks PERC usage and emissions. We require much more protection on the municipal, provincial, and federal levels to protect our health and the environment.

If you’ve been awakened to the perils of dry cleaning, here are some alternatives to dry cleaning and tips to avoid dry cleaning altogether.

Alternatives to PERC

Dry Cleaning Report

From the Environmental Defense Dry Cleaning Report

Wet Cleaning: Instead of having your clothes dry cleaned, ask for wet cleaning, or seek out a specific wet cleaner. There are lots of them popping up – wet cleaning is also known as organic, enviro- or green-cleaning. It is by far the most efficient, non-toxic, non-polluting and least expensive of all PERC alternatives. Wet cleaning uses water and biodegradable detergent in computer-controlled washers and dryers, and specialized finishing equipment for delicates. It also costs less and uses the least amount of energy. Excellent choice!

Carbon Dioxide Cleaning: Another eco-friendly method, low in toxicity but far more expensive than wet cleaning is carbon dioxide cleaning. This method uses non-flammable, non-toxic liquid CO2 as the cleaning agent. According to an assessment by the Toxics Use Reduction Institute of the University of Massachusetts,  “[t]he CO2 used in the process is derived from industrial processes as a by-product; therefore the use of the gas itself in the cleaning process does not actively contribute to global warming.”

Others: Hydrocarbon and silicone cleaning use toxic, polluting, expensive solvents that aren’t really alternatives at all. Environmental Defense says that hydrocarbon cleaning contributes to air pollution, and silicon-based cleaning uses a flammable chemical called siloxane which potentially threatens aquatic ecosystems.

As you can see, the best alternative to toxic, polluting clothes-cleaning is also the least expensive. More wet cleaners, please!

Dry Cleaning Solvents and Textiles

Be aware of what you wear and what you dry clean. According to an article on the Environmental Working Group website, a study by scientists at Georgetown University found that PERC hangs onto different types of textiles. Silk did not appear to retain any of the chemical, but high levels of residual PERC was found on dry-cleaned wool, cotton, and polyester (very common ingredients in your clothes). The study found that further dry cleaning cycles intensified the PERC concentrations in the said textiles.

The study also offered evidence of PERC emitting from wool after it’s dry cleaned. Even if inside of a plastic bag, the PERC concentrations on wool depleted by half in a week. Conclusion? PERC vaporizes from clothing and into your home/car/office – and you breathe it in.

The lesson to take away here is to simply buy clothing that you don’t have to dry clean and can safely wash yourself (suits and sports jackets excepted). Read your washing labels, follow the instructions, Bob’s your uncle.

Plastic Dry Cleaning Bags

Mary Marlowe Leverette is a Laundry Expert. She sees the thin, filmy, plastic bags that protect your newly-cleaned clothes as a long-term hazard for your clothes (not to mention a suffocation hazard if you have children). Ms. Leverette advises to ditch the plastic around your dry cleaned garments.

“Leaving freshly cleaned laundry in the flimsy plastic bag can cause yellowing, staining and weakening of fibers,” she says. “The yellowing and other changes in color is caused by BHT (butylated hydroxyl tolune), an anti-oxidant used in the manufacturing of the plastic bag. When BHT comes in contact with any moisture and impurities in the air it forms a yellow pigment that transfers to the fabric.”

Though technically dry, freshly dry-cleaned clothes are pressed with steam and then bagged – enter the moisture and the pigmentation and kiss goodbye your favourite white shirt.

A piece of advice: if you get your clothes cleaned professionally, take them out of the bag and hang outside to air out when you get them home. Even better: store your clothes in cloth garment bags (unbleached cotton would be best) instead of plastic ones that leach chemicals – the cloth bags breathe and this reduces moisture and the possibility of mold.

If you’re still dry cleaning, try wet cleaning. If you’re not wet cleaning, maybe you should be hand-washing. I’ll fill you in on that next post as the laundry series continues.

He-Wash and other laundry tales

28 Apr

washing machineThere are four things in life that you can always count on: taxes, death, dirty dishes, and laundry.

The latter two items move in an unending cycle. For men, laundry may be somewhat mystifying if they’re not used to doing it – there are more single men and single dads now than ever in history. We all like to wear clean clothes, so it’s in a guy’s best interest to learn how to do a proper job.

Enter the men’s laundry product market. Laundry product companies are now dabbling in gendered laundry products to appeal to men who spend more time around the washing machine than ever before. I think it’s great that men are taking control of their lives and taking care of their dirty clothes, but gendered laundry products? Really?

Gendered Laundry Products

Gender is becoming less and less relevant, unless you’re following the money. Toxic masculinity (i.e. under NO circumstances are you to behave in any way like a female) dictates men to use large, hard-edged, dark-coloured “shower tools”,  shampoo specifically for men (wot?), and now “masculine” laundry products (while at the same time, marketers continue to push insulting, pink-coloured items to women – have a look at this site if you don’t believe me).

A recent Market Watch story, Bizarre new fronts in the battle of the sexes, reported on gendered products and the marketing behind it. In the article, Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for a market research group says, “It’s all about personalization. These products are speaking directly to you, rather than speaking to the general public. Guys are shopping for their own clothes, they’re cooking more, we’ve entered into a more androgynous society, the most it’s ever been in recorded time.”

So if we’re in an androgynous society, Mr. Cohen, why are you speaking to gendered products that drive the wedge between the sexes and double the waste and chemicals for a two-gender laundry system?

Easy, Androgynous, Eco-Friendly Laundry Soap

After writing a dryer sheet article recently, I was horrified to learn the amount of unregulated chemicals that go into the laundry products commonly found on grocery store shelves. I’d like to help out and offer some smart, biodegradable laundry detergents that work well, won’t harm the earth, and carry my personal seal of approval:

Dizolve laundry stripsDizolve: According to a press release, the Moncton, N.B. company “makes laundry-washing easier, healthier, more economical, and much kinder to our planet. Dizolve combines biodegradable, hypoallergenic cleaning power with the convenience of a tiny, pre-measured solid strip that dissolves in the wash.”

Dizolve reduces laundry product waste by a whopping 94% because the entire strip dissolves into fragrance-free laundry detergent and takes up as much space as a slim book. The small size reduces transport costs which also impact the planet. These strips can be used in regular washers and front-loaders, and for hand-washing, and they do a great job.

Besides being a wonderful eco-conscious laundry alternative, Dizolve is a community-sensitive company which, in 2014, donated a million strips to clean a million loads of laundry to the Food Banks of Canada. On top of this, 20% of Dizolve sales supports projects like Canadian Food Banks and the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, which strives to empower people to “protect, restore, and enjoy a healthy life and a safe planet”.

Dizolve laundry strips are:

  • Paraben-free
  • Phosphate-free
  • Free of added dyes
  • Free of chlorine bleach
  • Free of 1,4-dioxane, as certified by independent laboratory tests
  • Readily biodegradable in accordance with OECD 301D
  • Safe for septics
  • Hypoallergenic, certified by independent dermatologists
  • Vegan: no animal-based ingredients or testing on animals by us or our ingredient suppliers

Eco-Max Laundry Wash: Eco-Max is manufactured in Ontario and made wholly of biodegradable, renewable, sustainable, plant-based ingredients. This company uses essential oils to scent their wonderful laundry products and have fragrance-free options as well – both beneficial to those with sensitivities (I also use their dish washing liquid which is much easier on my skin than harsh, chemically-fragranced commercial dish soap).

Their website lists the following points about their cleaning products:

  • Ingredients: 100% plant-based for a renewable and truly sustainable product;
  • Certified Green: Eco-Max strives to create the Greenest products possible. Certified by EcoLogoTM;
  • Oral Toxicity: Designed with a toxicity level close to that of water. It’s uniquely safe;
  • Aquatic Toxicity: Safe for aquatic species;
  • Biodegradability: A biodegradable product that comes in recyclable packaging;
  • Air Quality: Safe to use and safe to be around when in use. Negligible indoor air pollution.

Natural and bio-degradable soap is the way to go for the never-ending cycle of laundry (and dishes) for lots of reasons. Not only will products like those shown here not cause further harm to the planet, they may also feel better to you, especially if you’re one of many who has developed chemical sensitivities.

That said, some men prefer to avoid laundry altogether and bring their bags of soiled clothes to neighbourhood dry cleaners for what is sometimes called “bachelor service”. With this service, you can drop off your stuff on the way to work and collect your clean and folded laundry on the way home. Easy. And toxic, as we will discover in our next post.

The devil in your dryer sheets

14 Apr

ghost dryer sheetPeople reach for dryer sheets to make their clothes soft, scented, and static-free. When I was in fashion school, we talked about dryer sheets in textiles class and our instructor explained that the coating on dryer sheets was nothing but scented wax that melted and very lightly coated our clothes.

Twenty years later, we know more and we know better.

The David Suzuki Foundation says that the synthetic perfumes used in dryer sheets are derived from petroleum-based ingredients, and they say, “once the scented air leaves your dryer vent and floats into your neighbourhood, it’s increasingly causing allergic reactions in people with chemical sensitivities.” (Chemical sensitivities are on the rise – I notice it, do you?).

Dr. Anne Steinemann, an internationally recognized scientist, Professor of Civil Engineering, and Chair of Sustainable Cities at the University of Melbourne, helps people create healthier living and working environments. In 2011, she published a study about the chemicals in laundry products and discovered an enormous and rather alarming range of chemicals:

  • Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
  • A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
  • Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
  • Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
  • Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
  • Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
  • 1,4-dioxane: A recognized carcinogen
  • Chloromethane: A developmental toxin
  • 2-Butanone: A suspected toxicant
  • O, m, or p-cymene: A suspected toxicant
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS/SLES), and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE): Hormone disruptor
  • Phosphates: Major environmental health hazard
  • Optical brighteners

How is it legal to sell toxic concoctions like this, you ask? “Simple,” says Canadians for A Safe Learning Environment (CASLE), “It’s still very much an unregulated market. Manufacturers are not required to disclose any ingredients in cleaning supplies, air fresheners or laundry products. The fragrance industry is actually allowed to regulate itself (italics mine) through a trade association known as the International Fragrance Association.”

For modern readers with an eco-conscience, this should raise alarms. The CASLE article explains that though substances are tested on adults, it is only for skin reactions, not neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, or anything else. The group says that only 1300 out of more than 5000 ingredients used by the fragrance industry are tested and evaluated for safety.

“If they’re coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they’re regulated, but if they’re coming out of a dryer vent, they’re not,” says Dr. Steinemann.

Eco-friendly dryer and dryer sheet alternativesdo not tumble dry

I’m always on about air-drying clothing for environmental reasons and to protect clothing. Dry heat in the dryer causes shrinkage and damages your clothes; it eats away at garment colour and at fabric fibers. The stuff in the lint trap is actually small bits of your clothing that over time will cause your clothes to lose body, develop holes, and become thread-bare.

If you want your clothes to last, try some of these alternatives to electric clothes dryers and dryer sheets:

–> The old-fashioned way is always preferable: line-dry your clothes. Back yards and balconies are great for hanging clothes out on the line. For people who live in smaller spaces, try drying your clothes on a drying rack.

–> For an eco-friendly laundry softener, National Geographic’s Green Guide recommends adding a quarter cup of baking soda to the wash cycle. Add a quarter cup of white vinegar to boost the laundry-softening properties, and reduce static cling.

–> Maddocks Holdings Limited, a Canadian industrial parts supplier makes PurEcosheets, reusable static eliminator sheets. One sheet will last through 500 tumble dries and reduce the amount of laundry waste in landfills. There are no chemicals in these sheets, so this reduces buildup in dryers and keeps them running efficiently.

–> Dryer balls are great to reduce drying time, soften clothes, reduce static, increase fluffiness, and make laundry a little more fun! Dryer balls are simply medium-sized balls of wool that bounce around clothes in the dryer and improve air flow. Order them online or make your own dryer balls for a cool project! Should you want scent to your laundry, simply add drops of essential oil to your dryer balls.

–> Lots of good, green laundry products on the Reuseit website.

So now you have a choice: toxic, wasteful, chemical-laden dryer sheets or reusable, inexpensive, and eco-friendly dryer products? Both options do the same thing, but the latter is non-toxic, leaves virtually no carbon footprint, and has no side effects. How could you not?

Bourbon’s bad rap

31 Mar

My friends treat me well on my birthday and some of them give me gifts of liquid gold. They know I like bourbon and sometimes I’m presented with a bottle of bourbon. Not just any bourbon, good bourbon like Maker’s Mark, one of the best Kentucky bourbons around. It’s strong, no question, but it is lovely with warming caramel notes and a little spice. Makes my chapped winter lips tingle. I’m not a big drinker but I appreciate the complexity of amber liquors and I drink them straight. That’s right, straight.

It’s the sweet sting of an Irish whiskey or a bourbon that does it for me, you see, and when I tell people I like bourbon, even men call me “hard core”. I just like the taste of it. I think people might be scared of bourbon due to a popular misconception that confuses it with another hard and notorious whiskey, Jack Daniel’s, the drink of the rebellious.

Bourbon is an American whiskey that must be made in Kentucky to be considered a true bourbon. It is made of corn and aged in charred, oak barrels. I’m certainly not an expert of bourbon but I know that I like the “straight” bourbons – bourbons of themselves without additional colour or flavours. Higher end bourbons are a pleasure to sip, like a fine scotch which is meant to be savoured. (For those hard-core bourbon fans who are able to travel, there is a bourbon tour called the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with tours of the best straight bourbon distilleries in the state: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Heaven Hill.)

Jack Daniel’s is not featured on this fine bourbon distillery tour because it isn’t bourbon and it’s not made in Kentucky. It’s Tennessee sour mash whiskey. I believe that people confuse JD with bourbon (easy enough to do) and because of this, bourbon has taken on the associations of Jack Daniel’s drinkers as hard-drinking, ass-kicking rock & rollers and bikers, but it isn’t necessarily true.

Jack Daniel’s (JD)

American whiskeys are made of basically same stuff but are processed differently and not all are considered true bourbons. Jack Daniels is an example of this. This famous Tennessee whiskey is sugar maple, charcoal-mellowed, relatively cheap, and easily accessible in many parts of the world. Jack Daniel’s is also the signature drink of old school rock & roll, and this 80 proof bad boy booze has been the liquid drug of choice for the world’s heaviest bands.

There is certainly an attitude about Jack. I remember getting two bottles of Jack for my brother and I for a rental viewing of The Doors movie – a stinging drink well-suited to watching a film about Jim Morrison. By the end of the movie, we were messed up on Morrison and the bottles were empty. We went out looking for more. I can’t explain it but I can appreciate that rock & roll and Jack Daniel’s strike a perfect balance.

So what is it about Jack?  It seems like a good drink for a guy, strong and honest. It is the hard-drinking liquor that separates the boys from the men; it’s the type of drink that could grow hair on your chest. Jack Daniel’s is the stuff of legend, like the musicians who favoured it.

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones

I think that Keith  Richards that started it all. Keith made drinking Jack Daniel’s cool among rock & rollers; he guzzled it on stage, in limos, studios, and on planes. As a member of the original bad boy group, Keith Richards had the freedom to do/drink/smoke/snort/inject whatever he wanted. And he did. And he’s still alive to talk about it.

Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

“I kept my medicine cabinet on stage, in a 14-inch drum head, the bottom of which contained… one Dixie cup with a straw and blow [cocaine] in it and the other with Coca-Cola and Jack Daniel’s in it.”

Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin

Rock god Jimmy Page was another heavy JD drinker as seen here in 1975. Again, being in a super group like Led Zeppelin gave Page license to do as he pleased, including getting a good buzz on with his favourite Tennessee whiskey before the show.

Lemmy, Motorhead

“I’m not completely fixated on Jack Daniel’s – it’s just that it’s the one with the best distribution system worldwide.”

When we lost Lemmy at the end of 2015, Jack Daniel’s came out with a selected single barrel whiskey in tribute. “We have selected one that is dark, oaky, but still some corn and sweetness with that signature Jack smooth charcoal smoky finish.”

Bon Scott, AC/DC 

AC/DC’s Vince Lovegrove, in an interview with Adelaide Now, talks about the night when their singer, Bon Scott, got into a horrible road accident where he was “smashed to smithereens”. Guess who else was there?

“About 11pm on May 3, 1974, at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, during a rehearsal with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a very drunk, distressed and belligerent Bon Scott had a raging argument with a member of the band. Bon stormed out of the venue, threw a bottle of Jack Daniels on to the ground, then screamed off on his Suzuki 550 motorbike.”

This happened before AC/DC became famous. It is likely that JD was present the night of Scott’s death in 1980, caused by pulmonary aspiration of vomit due to acute alcohol poisoning.

Van Halen

Van Halen bassist, Michael Anthony, shamelessly adored JD to the point of having a Jack Daniel’s bass guitar made. Get your replica here.

I found a really weird eight-minute video of Van Halen singer, David Lee Roth, spewing out drunken drivel on stage until the arrival of a little person in a suit who delivers a tray of JD for the singer to pound before the band breaks into Janie’s Crying:

Venom

Here’s a JD endorsement from the heavy-speed-black-thrash metal band from northern England, Venom. If this doesn’t make you want to drink Jack Daniel’s, nothing will.

 

Slash, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver

Slash is the modern rock god guitarist who favours Jack. Especially in G N’ R’s early days, the band smoked and drank heavily. If you have a copy of Appetite for Destruction, the back cover shows the boys in all of their rock & roll glory, sitting around with guitars, beers, sneers, and the mandatory bottle of Jack.

Charity Jack

Given that Jack Daniel’s compliments the devil-may-care rock & roll lifestyle, would you believe that Jack Daniel’s can do more than get you @$%*!& up? It supports charities too!

Yes indeed, during the 2011 Sunset Strip Music Festival, Motley Crue received an award for contributions to the Sunset Strip music scene, and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey donated a specially-chosen barrel of hooch, bottled it, and made it available for a recommended donation to support the to the Skylar Neil Memorial Foundation, an organization to support the people doing breakthrough work to find cures for cancer, AIDS, and other diseases.

Skylar Neil is the late daughter of Vince Neil, singer from Motley Crue, another band notorious for swilling JD and sucking hard at the rock & roll teat. Shown here is the cover of their 2001 tell-all book, The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band. That bottle looks mighty familiar, doesn’t it?

So ultimately, Jack Daniel’s is a split personality casting a dual image: the kick-ass and the charitable, but mostly the kick-ass. Curiously, or perhaps not, I found no female musicians who were into Jack, which suggests that women either don’t like it or don’t like it’s image (though I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions that we just don’t hear about). JD is a drink that only the strong will survive, and unfortunately, some of them don’t.

As one of the rare women who likes straight bourbon and has had her share of Jack Daniel’s, I take full responsibility for the image this conjures and I’m more than cool with it. Like the clothes I wear or the way I speak, my choice in spirits reflects who I am as a person, but contradicts the image that is associated with these hard liquors. It’s all about ownership, I suppose. Straight up.

Undressing Saint Patrick

17 Mar
Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick wearing the robes of a Catholic cleric, complete with mitre – a headdress that wasn’t invented until almost 200 years after his death.

Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain in 387 and died on March 17, 461 in County Down, Ireland. He is the man who brought Christianity to Ireland and drove out the “snakes” (likely pagan Druids). March 17 is St. Patrick’s day, celebrated world-wide by Irish and non-Irish alike. (Find more about St. Patrick here.)

We recognize St. Patrick as man with a white beard in clerical robes and a mitre, carrying a crook, sometimes with a shamrock in his other hand. What’s interesting about this common image is that no one really knows what he looked like – there are no visual records of St. Patrick before the 13th century – 800 years after he died.

“The manner in which he has come to be depicted represents the culmination of over a thousand years of art, influenced by various texts and evolving belief systems, both localized and international,” says the Irish Royal Academy. In other words, his image has been appropriated by artists who depicted the saint in familiar and contemporary terms that people could relate to.

Until the 19th century, few Irish could read, unless they were monks and clergy, so people were educated through image and symbolism through the church. People of St. Patrick’s time would have understood the Catholic symbolism associated with St. Patrick’s garb, which was rife with allegory.

Clerical costume of the fifth century

Maewyn Succat – Saint Patrick’s real name, wears liturgical garb that has long, traditional associations with the Catholic Church. 20,000 Years of Fashion by Francois Boucher, says that clothing during the early Christian era was simple, and clothing was not gender-specific. “Originally the only difference between the elements of religious costume and those of lay clothing was the use of more sumptuous materials for the former.”

Clerics adopted fine linens and silks for their liturgical costume, and there was “an ever-increasing fondness for rich-coloured materials, especially among the Angles and Saxons,” according to A History of Costume, “and beautiful trimmings, gay braid, and fringes came into fashion”.

Catholic clerical wear has not evolved much since the early Christian era, so mostly, St. Patrick’s image is correct to period, but there are inauthentic – i.e. appropriated – features in our common understanding of what St. Patrick looks like. Let’s start at the top.

mitre

An Annunciation scene worked on a mitre from about 1400; pearls and silver-gilt motifs on silk.

Mitre

The first and most obvious appropriation of St. Patrick is his headdress. The mitre, the pointed hat split in half that bishops and popes wear, is what we have come to associate with the saint, but mitres didn’t appear until the seventh century (St. Patrick died in the mid-fifth century).

In fact, Boucher says that bishops first wore a gold circlet lined with a crown, and in the 12th century, “the crown split into two lobes, one on either side… by the end of the 12th century, the points had moved around 90 degrees and were now back to front.” It hasn’t changed much since that time, though mitre heights have varied.

Were St. Patrick true to his period of the fifth century, he may have worn a hood or a soft skull cap instead of the mitre, but that St. Patrick is bestowed with this head piece that symbolized power in the church, indicates that the saint was highly regarded.

Pall (or Pallium)

The Y-shaped band of wool worn over the chasuble (below) is the pall, drenched in allegory that features six embroidered crosses to symbolize the nails used in Christ’s crucifixion.

Chasuble

The chasuble is a circular garment with an opening for the head, and adopted by the clergy in the fifth century.  The saint’s chasuble is green, as expected (more on this later), and lined with golden fabric – a visual indication of St. Patrick’s position in the Catholic church.

According to Costume in England by F.W. Fairholt, “The chasuble signifies the robe of Christ, which is the Church. It is ample and closed on all sides, to show forth the unity and fullness of the true faith. The fore-part represents the state of the Church before the Passion of Christ; the back, the Church under the Gospel.”

At the same time, Fairholt suggests that the chasuble is symbolic of the purple garment that was put on Jesus Christ before he was crucified. Either way, the chasuble was heavy with meaning to Catholics of the early Christian era.

Dalmatic (or Dalmatica if you’re Roman)

Under the saint’s chasuble is his gold embroidered dalmatic. According to Fairholt, the dalmatic was associated with an immaculate life, or “of bountifulness towards the poor, because of its large and broad sleeves.” St. Patrick’s dalmatic is blue, the colour of the sky, which, to people of fifth century Britain, indicated divine contemplation.

Stolestole

According to 20.000 Years of Fashion, the pall began life as a large, draped Roman cape and narrowed over time to become the stole. Members of the Catholic clergy still wear long, embroidered stoles, draped around the neck.

Allegorically, the stole symbolizes the cords with which Christ was bound upon his crucifixion.

Alb

Saint Patrick’s base layer looks much like the dalmatic, but the alb is a long robe that reaches the feet. According to Costume in England, the alb was “not invariably made of linen cloth…[and] not necessarily white. It was originally intended to indicate the white garment which Pilate placed upon the Saviour after he had despised and mocked him.”

The alb symbolized purity and innocence. St. Patrick’s alb in the illustration appears to be white linen, but looking closer, it appears to have golden threads woven into the fabric. To Christians of St. Patrick’s era, gold signified purity, dignity, wisdom, and glory.

Buskins

Our saint is probably wearing buskins, soft embroidered leather slippers of the fifth century.

Crook

The bishop’s crook is another ”recent” addition. Bishops carried the crook, a decorated shepherd’s hook, alluding to Christ the shepherd, in the 12th century.

Colour

St. Patrick

St. Patrick in crimson and a short mitre with lappets  – the white flaps on the head piece – worn during the 12th century) from a stained glass window in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

We expect St. Patrick to wear green because he is the patron saint of Ireland and green is synonymous with Ireland. In the top illustration, St. Patrick’s chasuble is green, the colour that symbolized cheerfulness and the goodness of God and of the Resurrection at the time he lived. But this, like the mitre, is something that has more of a modern association.

When clerics decided to dress in fine fabrics, they also dyed their clothing in colours symbolic to the early Christian faith. After an image search for St. Patrick, he can be seen dressed in green, also in blue, crimson, white, and yellow.

The Smithsonian magazine features what they believe to be the earliest depiction of St. Patrick from the thirteenth century: a man who wears not a mitre and cleric’s robes, but a simple, hooded, blue monk’s robe.

According to the Irish Journal, “Ireland’s history with the colour blue is largely related to its colonial history, but there are older associations too – Flaitheas Éireann, the embodiment of Irish sovereignty in mythological times (a sort of Irish answer to Uncle Sam), wore blue.”

When Henry VIII declared himself king of Ireland in 1541, he gave Ireland its own coat of arms:  a golden harp on a blue background, and in 1783, “George III created a new order of chivalry for the Kingdom of Ireland, the Order of St. Patrick, its official color was a sky blue, known as St. Patrick’s Blue,” according to the Smithsonian. (Read more about the blue\green of Ireland.)

The colour green seems to be a differentiating colour linked to more recent Irish politics and independence, which eventually became associated with the Catholic population of southern Ireland. Green appears to be linked to Irish nationalism of the nineteenth century, “when the colour was adopted as a more striking way of separating Ireland from the various reds or blues that were now associated with England, Scotland and Wales,” the Irish Journal says.

So the St. Patrick that we imagine is actually a mixed collection of liturgical garments from different periods, and not based in the reality of his life. However, St. Patrick’s day is about celebration, and the splendor of his green robes, his flowing beard, the tall, fancy hat, and the golden crook gives us a more appealing image to raise our glasses to, rather than toasting a barefoot, blue-robed, tonsured monk with a chin beard.

Happy St. Patrick’s day!

 

Colour name origins, part two

3 Mar

Surnames did not exist before the 11th Century in Britain. At that time, people went about with single names or nicknames until taxes were invented and people required further identifiers. The BBC says that after 1066, Norman barons created surnames in England, and most came from a man’s trade (i.e. Weaver), place of origin (i.e. Woods), from a nickname (i.e. Redhead), or a father’s name (i.e. Richardson or MacDonald in Scotland). The bulk of English families had adopted hereditary surnames by 1400, and several of the most common in the UK are associated with colour.

In part one of our series, we covered the histories of the six colour surnames used in Tarantino’s film, Reservoir Dogs, but there are a handful of other colour surnames, each with their own ancient history, that deserve recognition: Black, Gray/Grey, Green, and Purple.

Black

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire, UK, where the surname, Black, is said to originate

It is believed that the Anglo-Saxon name, Black,  originates in Lincolnshire on the mid-east coast of England before 1066, but by 1176, the Blacks moved north to Scotland and some emigrated to Ireland. Scottish Blacks dug in their heels and have a long history, complete with clan tartan: Black Watch.

However, there is much confusion around the meaning of the name. According to the BBC, Black is a form of ”Blake”, which has two derivations: Black as ”a descriptive name for someone of dark appearance, and secondly originating as the Old English word, blac, meaning wan or fair – two completely opposite meanings.” The Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames associates Black with colouring; “from the complexion”,  and Behind the Name suggests that the name Black came from the Old English blœc (meaning the colour black), or blac, meaning pale, or perhaps someone who worked with black dye. Ancestry.ca believes that Black is a variant of the Norman, Blanc, and suggests that English speakers had difficulty with the French pronunciation and often ignored it (blanc in French means white, which could explain the confusion in meaning). Either way, Black (along with Brown, White, and Gray) is one of the most common names in Scotland.

Gray/Grey

Clan Gray

Clan Gray tartan and coat of arms

The first recorded spelling of this family name is shown as Anschitill Grai in 1086 in Oxfordshire during the reign of King William 1, according to the Surname Database. However, the House of Names says that Grey was first recorded in Northumberland and the story of the Greys begins with a family in the Boernician tribe from around the ancient Scottish-English border area. Grays/Greys have  a long and proud history in Scotland and boast their own tartan, coat of arms, and motto: Anchor Fast Anchor.

The meaning of Gray or Grey is believed to have been an Anglo-Saxon nickname for someone with grey hair or a grey beard, derived from the Old English pre-7th Century word “graeg”, or grey. Scottish and Irish Greys were originally the Gaelic “riabhach”, meaning “brindled or grey”, translated to “Grey” or “Gray”. Another possibility is that the name Greye came from Calvados (Normandy) which derived from the Gallo-Roman Gratus, meaning welcome.

Green

green man

The pagan Green Man, associated with the natural world

The first record of the Anglo-Saxon surname Green, is found in Kent in the south-east corner of England. Geoffrey Green was recorded in taxation records in 1188, during King Henry II’s reign.

Ancestry.ca says that Green is one of the most common and widespread English surnames that could have been a nickname for someone fond of dressing in the colour green (from the Old English grene), or who lived near a village green. Green could be associated with the Green Man in May Day celebrations; the man who played the part of the pre-Christian spirit of nature, often was often depicted surrounded by foliage and symbolic of growth and rebirth.

Have a listen to XTC’s  Green Man and watch the Green Man images that accompany the song – he’s more prevalent in mythology, design arts, and architecture than you might think.

Purple

King George VI

King George VI in his royal purple robes

The first time the name Purple appears in surviving registers, it is written as Purpoyle, with William Purpoyle as a witness at St. Giles Cripplegate on October 22, 1597. It originates in Norfolk but the meaning is unclear.

Research suggests that the name Purple could have been given to someone with an aristocratic air, or could be theatrical. Surname Database says that Purple could have been a name given to an actor who played parts associated with the small group of people who might have worn purple: a high noble or clergy. Another suggestion is that Purple was an ironic Medieval nickname for someone who was the opposite of a noble.

Purple dye dates back to about 1900 B.C. and was wildly expensive. Tyrian Purple, the colour mentioned in ancient texts, was painstakingly derived from the mucous of the hypobranchial gland of ocean mollusks (often, snails).  ”It took some 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye – barely enough for dying a single garment the size of the Roman toga. It’s no wonder then, that this color was used primarily for garments of the emperors or privileged individuals”, says Color Matters.

Onomatology is the study of last name formations and naming practices, and the research into it has been fascinating for this colour surname series. From Greek mythology (Blue) to Dutch royalty (Orange), and from robed monks (Brown) to pagan lore (Green), colour surnames have played an important role in European history.

Reservoir Dogs and colour surnames, part one

18 Feb

Reservioir Dogs

As someone who is very aware of colour and thinks about it a lot, I was struck with a couple of men I recently met whose surnames caught my attention. Mr. Brown and Mr. Gray made me stop to think and I began to wonder about their last names and the concept of colour surnames. This led me to memories of Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 blockbuster film, Reservoir Dogs. Before discussing the movie, let’s find out about European last names and how they came about.

According to the BBC, surnames come from many sources, and prior to the 11th Century in Britain, people were known by single personal names or nicknames. Over time as the population increased, people needed further identifiers, so names like William the short, Henry from Sutton, Edward the butcher,  John son of Richard, or Roger of the wood were adopted, which made trades, nicknames, locations and places of origin, and father’s names the beginnings of surnames.  Last names also became necessary when taxation was introduced to England in the form of Poll Tax.

Colour surnames have a rich and interesting history, but for Tarantino, his Reservoir Dogs characters took the colour surname idea from a 1974 heist movie called, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. In this film, Mr. Blue, Mr. Grey, Mr. Green, and Mr. Brown, take a subway train full of riders hostage in exchange for what was then a large amount of money. Reservoir Dogs featured six characters with colour name aliases: Mr. Blond (played by Michael Masden), Mr. Blue (played by Edward Bunker), Mr. Brown (played by Tarantino), Mr. Orange (played by Tim Roth), Mr. Pink (played by Steve Buscemi), and Mr. White (played by Harvey Keitel). Little did Tarantino know how deep the roots of his character’s colour surnames went.

Mr. Blond/Gold

Ancient gold Anglo-Saxon coin

Ancient gold Anglo-Saxon coin

Our first Reservoir Dog, Mr. Blond, poses something of a problem, since blond isn’t a recognized as a proper colour. Blond is hair colour, but surprisingly, Blond is also a surname. The Blonds, now more well-known as the Blouts or the Blunts, can trace their heritage to the Normans. Sir Robert de Blount and his brother, Sir William de Blount assisted the Duke of Normandy to conquer the Saxons at Hastings in 1066.

According to Ancestry.ca, the name derives from a Jewish nickname for a fair-haired person, which influenced by the German and Yiddish, and there is a French influence: blund from the Old French.  The name was probably given to someone with blond hair.

The equivalent of Blond as a surname on the colour spectrum would be Gold, an Anglo-Saxon family from Suffolk, eastern England, where the family held a seat since early times. Like Blond, the name Gold has English, German, and Yiddish roots. In this case, the name may have been associated with someone’s trade like a goldsmith, or perhaps given to someone with golden hair. Another source suggests that Gold comes from the Old English pre-7th Century Golda (masculine) or Golde (feminine), given to people with bright golden hair.

Mr. Blue

Glaukos Pontios

Blue has origins in ancient Greek mythology. This is Glaukos Pontios, Blue One of the Sea.

The story of the Blue Man reaches back into Greek mythology: Glaukos, a fisherman, was transformed into a sea-god after eating a magical herb. His skin was glossy blue, his face long and grey with curly green hair and a beard; small eyes, flat nose, and large mouth, long arms and fish tails.  The Blue Man, known to the Scots as Gille Gorm (Blue Lad – gorm means blue in Scottish Gaelic) may derive from Mac Gille Ghuirm, “son of the blue lad”.

In the 14th Century in Kintail, a mountainous area of the northwest highlands of Scotland, Kerling, the daughter of Hugh Fraser, the Laird (estate owner) of Lovat, desired a lover. She sang a song to the Blue Man, who walked out of the waves to her. The lovers conceived a child, and it was from this union that the surname Blue originates.  In fact, Glaukos is said to have spawned a race of Glaukidai or Hoi Glaukoi (the Blue Men) who live in underwater caves. Their numbers are largest in the waters around Scotland, where Glaukos went after leaving the Mediterranean. Today, some clan members believe the blood of the Blue Man flows through their veins.

The ancient Scottish kingdom of Dalriada is thought to be the home of the Blue family and the name is first found on the isle of Arran, where a family seat was held since ancient times.

Mr. Brown

The name Brown may have derived from someone who wore brown a lot, like a monk.

The name Brown may have derived from someone who wore brown a lot, like a monk.

The Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames… cites Brun, likely the root of Brown, as a personal name in the 1085 Doomsday book (the Doomsday book is England’s first public record, ordered by King William I). Brun is found in German, Middle English, and Old English; Bruni is from the Old Norse. The name was probably ”a nationalistic or tribal nickname for a person with a brown complexion or hair, although it may have also referred to someone who habitually wore brown clothing, such as a monk or a cleric” (source).

Irish Browns originate from 12th Century Normandy, and western Irish Browns are said to descend from a knight named Hugo le Brun. These Browns formed one of the old merchant Tribes of Galway, but in this instance, the spelling is Browne; Brown is first seen in Northumberland in the north of England in 1169.

Mr. Orange

house of Orange

Dutch House of Orange flag.

If you’ve ever noticed an unusual amount of people wearing orange the same day, chances are, the Dutch football team has a match on. Orange has always been and will always be associated with Holland, and that’s because it is the colour of Dutch royal family, who owned land in Orange, southern France.  The royal family became politically associated with the House of Orange.

The surname Orange was first introduced into England by one of the followers of William, Duke of Normandy, in 1066. This William became the Protestant King, William de Orange (not to be confused with William of Orange, King of England in the 17th Century). In the UK, Orange family roots are in Buckinghamshire, England.

Mr. Pink

pink hammer 9th century

Pink may have originated from the sound of a hammer hitting a nail in the 7th century.

Surname Pink, and its derivatives, Pinch, Pinck, Pincke, Pinks, Penk, and Penke, are English names from the Medieval period, derived from the pre-7th Century Old English word, pinca. This is a nickname surname that is said to have been given to a ”bright, chirpy person, thought to be as active and cheerful as a chaffinch” (source). Another theory is that Pink was a nickname for a small person, or a diminutive of the Sorbian (Slavic) word, pien, meaning log or tree stump, suggesting a short or stout person. Pink may also be a variant spelling for a blacksmith, ”an onomatopoeic word imitating the sound of hammering which was perceived as pink(e) pank.”

The surname Pink was first recorded in Yorkshire, where the Pink family was listed in pipe rolls (financial records of the 12th Century by the English treasury) in 1176.

Mr. White

WAS

The name White may have been used to describe an Anglo-Saxon with white hair.

White is a common name in the UK, derived from the Middle English Whit.  The origin of the name is thought of as way to describe an early family member who had white hair or a very pale complexion, common among the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic peoples of early Britain. Another possible origin of White is the White-smith, or an early form of tinsmith.

The earliest record of the name White in Scotland is Uuiaett Hwite in the late 11th Century, predating the Norman invasion.

And that is the story of Tarantino’s colour surnamed characters. Four more colour surnames with equally rich histories will be discussed in the next post: Black, Grey, Green, and Purple.

 

 

And men fake it too!

21 Jan

A mist of goodwill, well-being and lazy relaxation temporarily obscures reality. Both sexes may experience a burst of creative thought as orgasm produces a near lightning storm in the right, creative-thinking side of the brain. Biological duty fulfilled, there normally follows a lengthy period of exhaustion, rest, and – frequently – sleep.

Edited extract from O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm by Jonathan Margolis (I urge you to take a look a the link – fascinating piece).

Men. Faking. Orgasm. Three concepts we don’t usually put together, but looking around online to inspire this week’s post, I came across an interesting study about men doing just that in the Journal of Sex Research, read it, and searched for more information.

The more I read, the more I remembered, and I do believe that I have experienced this before. I’m having memories of a couple of old boyfriends and orgasms past that just didn’t have the depth they should have, as if they felt obligatory and forced. Perhaps there is something to this male faking phenomena.

Charlene L. Muehlenhard and Sheena K. Shippee of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas, published the findings of their surveys of college students to discover if, how, and why men pretend orgasm and what faking men and women reveal about their social sexual scripts and the orgasms within these scripts in “Men’s and Women’s Reports of Pretending Orgasm”.

Who’s faking and why?

The participants of the orgasm study were mixed gender mostly Caucasian heterosexual students, average age 19. A thin slice of society but a slice carved at a time when a young man hovers around his sexual peak. Given their age, one would think that the guys in the study would be grappling for orgasms, but it turns out that some of them are only pretending to have them. Of the study’s sexually experienced participants, 67% of the women and a surprising 28% of men pretended to orgasm during intercourse, oral sex, manual stimulation, or phone sex.

Most frequently, the reasons behind the orgasmic charades for both sexes were that they were tired and/or wanted sex to end, orgasms seemed unlikely, they wanted to avoid negative consequences (e.g., hurting their partner’s feelings), or to obtain positive consequences (e.g., pleasing their partner).

Because there are always exceptions to the rule, the study’s findings gained new insights: some men used a make-believe orgasm to cover their premature ejaculation; 37% of all participants reported frequently or always feeling pressure to orgasm. One young man in the study faked because his inexperienced  girlfriend didn’t have the right technique to bring him to a full-on orgasm. Others pretended to come because they were “not in the mood” or that they weren’t attracted to their partner and “Just wanted to get it over with.”

The study showed more men than women having been intoxicated when they pretended to orgasm. One male participant reported, “One night after a couple hours of heavy drinking I was talking to this girl on my floor and apparently I was hitting on her. One thing led to another and I started sobering up during sex so I faked to make her go away…. She is unattractive/annoying [and I] wanted to get her off me… when my senses came about and I took my drunk goggles off.” (Beware the booze, boys.)

The methods men used most often to fake their orgasms were moaning or making other sounds, saying that they were orgasming, moving or thrusting faster or harder, freezing or clenching their muscles, and acting spent or exhausted. (Women used more vocalization and heavier and faster breathing.)

Why she faked

Women are quite different creatures as we know, and the women in the U of Kansas study faked for reasons unique to their gender and to their bodies, which to me, drip with social and emotional connotations:

  • More women than men faked because their partner was unskilled;
  • More women faked out of boredom;
  • More women than men faked to get a positive response – i.e. being perceived as “sexy” and to please their partner/boost his self-confidence;
  • Women used orgasm to avoid conflict or explanation and in an effort to keep their partner from leaving or straying;
  • Women frequently mentioned that they faked because they didn’t want to appear abnormal or inadequate;
  • Women often pretended to orgasm to meet their partner’s expectations.
We’ve got our own set of psycho-social pressures to deal with when it comes to sex, but we’re all under pressure and social expectation if we decide to cater to those pressures that may only exist in our mind (and remember, you always have a choice).

Pressure to perform

Our unquestioned and accepted sexual norm is that men always want sex and because of this, should always be able to perform. The study suggests that the myth of the perpetual sex drive, getting an erection, and having an orgasm can lead men to fake an orgasm if they really can’t or don’t want to orgasm, in an attempt to support the myth, perhaps believing that their partner supports (or perhaps expects) it, and might go through with the unfulfilled sex even though they might be tired or really aren’t into it. (This pressure is not reserved for straight men – gay men will be under the same kind of pressure, perhaps a product of living in a penile-centric society.)

This online article describes social influences that pressure men to feel as though they have to come no matter what.  It describes men feeling “a strong need to perform, and this pressure is based on the influence of porn culture, media, advertising, and magazine articles. Bombarded with pornographic images, commercials touting erection-enhancing drugs like Viagra, and magazine articles about how to keep thrusting until she screams for mercy, men are under a tremendous amount of pressure to come hard, come fast, and give their partners orgasms so intense that plaster falls off the walls.”

Muehlenhard and Shippee nodded their agreement with the observation that ‘‘many men appear to feel that it is a refection on their adequacy if the female partner does not come to orgasm.’’ I expect that this could be a heavy load for men who agree with this way of thinking. I’ve personally experienced men chastising themselves for not fulfilling what I think of as a socially-imposed sexual expectation – I certainly didn’t criticize them.

I see absolutely no reason for anyone to take something like that personally; there are so many outside forces affecting sexual performances – our partners could be tired, under stress, hungry, preoccupied, time-constrained, or any other reason under the sun that you don’t necessarily know about. In other words, guys, there are lots of different reasons that your partner didn’t reach orgasm – it’s not necessarily all about you.

Prescribed sexual script

Many study participants mentioned pretending because they did not know how else to end sex. The patriarchal sexual script that the researchers describe is, she orgasms, he orgasms, then sex is over. Indeed, Roberts, Kippax, Waldby, and Crawford (1995) described an ‘‘‘orgasm for  work’ economy of heterosexuality’’ in which the man’s job is to give the woman an orgasm, and her orgasm proves the quality of his work.” There’s that pesky ego again giving a guy extra pressure to perform work he may not have the proper training for – women are complex and so is their sexuality – we’re not all sure how we work!

Luckily for everyone, the sexual climate is changing and is changing rapidly. No longer are women relying on men for orgasm (real ones this time), women are becoming more and more sexually empowered and expanding their erotic horizons. As a matter of fact, in today’s research, I read about Patty Brisben, an amazing woman who has risen from the depths of misfortune to build a wonderful sex-positive women’s toy/party company called Pure Romance.

She explains in her article, Why You Shouldn’t Fake An Orgasm, that “by faking pleasure, you’re not only neglecting your needs, but you aren’t being honest with your [partner]. Let’s face it, if you’re faking in the bedroom, where else are you faking? Being in a committed relationship is about being open enough to communicate about all aspects, especially the tougher topics that may embarrass you like issues regarding your sexuality.”

I can honestly tell you that I do not believe I’ve ever faked an orgasm. What I like to do instead is be honest with my partner and tell him where I’m at and communicate what I need. I’m not sure why people go to all of the trouble of putting on a performance when they could just as easily come out and say “Sorry, it’s just not going to happen tonight” or “I’m too tired”, then be asleep and dreaming in the arms of Morhpeus faster than you can z-z-z-z-z…

 

Resetting the body for 2016

7 Jan

Hey, it`s 2016! Welcome to reseta New Year! How much did you indulge over the holidays and how do you feel now?

Many of us don’t feel so good come January – there were lots of parties, lots of heavy, sugar-laden food, and of course, lots of alcohol over the holidays. Though I like being on holidays, I don’t celebrate them and this takes me out of the holiday indulgences for the most part, though this year some friends invited me to Christmas dinner which was very tasty but left me ill. I ate so many carbohydrates and (vegan) protein on the 25th that I understood how a boa constrictor would feel after swallowing an entire antelope; I felt as though I drank a 40 of vodka and was stinking drunk, except I was drunk on food – it was one of those moments when I proclaimed, “I’ll never eat again!”

For me, it was just that one meal, but for others, this may have happened daily for a couple of weeks so you may not feel so good. The time has come to clean out your system and renew your energy.

Cleanselemon

I talked to Janet Perry, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist™ and reiki master in Calgary, about cleansing the system after the calorie-laden holidays. She offered some good advice beginning with a tip for our morning routine: drink a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon before you have anything else – this kick starts the metabolism and helps to detoxify the liver (I’ve done this for several mornings so far and I like the results).

She devised a gentle and simple cleanse that is available through her website, with the focus on clean eating (for those of you interested in buying a cleanse kit, I recommend First Cleanse by Renew Life which I have tried and really liked). Janet’s cleanse means eating sensibly and paying attention to what you put into your mouth: no gluten, no processed foods, no processed sugars, and no dairy.

As a vegan who hasn`t taken dairy products for about five years, I can tell you that I feel cleaner and I’m rarely sick. Janet explains that the human digestive system is not designed to take milk from other animals, and taking dairy products creates excess mucous in the body which lines the digestive tract – this layer of mucous blocks the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and this can lead to malnutrition (!).

When I switched to veganism, most people were alarmed at the idea of removing cheese from my diet. I liked cheese but found that I lost my taste for it as I moved further and further away from it. Happily, I discovered Daiya, a plant-based “cheese” from British Columbia that is delicious and nutritious!

Eating properly is not difficult but seems to be all about will power and organization. “Planning is essential,” Janet says, “so make sure you take the time to stock up on healthy snacks (a handful of almonds – recipe below) and plan your meals.” Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are key to a good diet, but many people are low on time, so Janet suggests to go to stores that have an open salad bar and buy your chopped vegetables there to cook in the evening. Good advice for busy people.

Herbed Almonds

  •  4 cups unsalted almonds
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. dried basil, rosemary, oregano, or parsley,or  another herb of your choice, or a combination
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

1. Combine almonds and oil in a saucepan or skillet, sauté over low heat, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Transfer almonds to a bowl, and toss with dried herbs, sea salt, and pepper, if using.

3. Allow to cool, then serve.

4. Store the spiced almonds in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Boozealcohol

Don’t forget that water is essential for living and cleansing. Water will flush the toxins out of the body and keep us hydrated.  Water also helps with liver function, and for those of us who tipped a few too many over the holidays, your liver could be in dire need of a flush (apart from drinking more water and eating well, Renew Life also does a liver flush).

With excess booze, the liver has to work harder. The sugar in alcohol (or holiday baking or boxes of chocolates) is stored as glycogen and can be used as energy. However, too much of it will turn into fat. Alcohol does much more than that, according to Men’s Health.  Alcohol obviously messes with brain function and alters our behaviour, coordination, and mood, and it also affects the essential functions of our body:

  • Booze dilates the blood vessels in our face and leaves us red and puffy, sometimes giving “gin blossoms” on the nose;
  • Alcohol affects our muscles because the body cannot effectively repair damaged tissue;
  • Just two drinks a day can increase the risk for atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) by 17 percent;
  • Alcohol irritates the stomach, increases acidity, and can cause heartburn. According to Dr. David Sack, CEO of a U.S. addiction treatment centre, with alcohol use, “harmful toxins and bacteria leak from your digestive system into your bloodstream, prompting a dangerous immune system response that can eventually lead to liver disease and other health problems.”
  • As few as five drinks a week can lower your sperm count, and many men with alcohol dependence has sexual health issues like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.

Exercisewooden figure walking

I had been going to the gym three times a week before the holidays and felt good and strong, but after almost two weeks of laying about, I didn’t feel so great. Moving and challenging our muscles feels good, increases oxygen intake and blood flow, strengthens the heart and lungs, and showers us with feel-good endorphins. Exercise isn’t just good for the body, it also has positive effects on the mind, reduces anxiety, and is an excellent way to cope with stress.

Even if you can’t commit to a full-blown gym regimen, start slow and start walking for 20 minutes a day, or dance a few times a week to your favourite music. Exercise should be enjoyable, not a chore, so find the right activity for you and get to it!

Start the New Year with a cleanse to feel better and detoxify, and start moving to lose the fat you got for Christmas. You’ll notice a difference right away, and in a little time, you won’t even remember swallowing the antelope.

The life of the gentleman

10 Dec

The Perfect GentlemanThis is the third and final installment of the gentleman series, starring Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and
1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, a UK outfit that teaches men to be gentlemen,  one man at a time.

In the first article of the series, we discussed the things that drive men to want to become gentlemen: to dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, and make more money. The second piece focused on women and romance and found that women respond very well to true gentlemen. Knowing that manners, kindness, politeness, and grace are central to the gentleman, and understanding that largely, the world lacks this type of man, I asked Zach some questions about what it’s like to operate in the world as a gentleman – the topic of this final piece.

I know that well-dressed people – not just men – have a much different experience in life than those who do not pay attention to their clothing. For example, there was a time when people used to dress up to travel. If any of you readers have been in an airport lately, you may have noticed that very few people dress to travel anymore and airline line-ups are made up of extremely casual, almost pajama-clad travellers. But what would happen if a flier chose to dress up for his next trip? I remember my Irish grandfather insisted on dressing in a suit every time he flew back to Dublin, and a man I used to know told me that on a trip to Europe, he put on a suit, tie, and pocket square, and was chosen to upgrade to first class.

This should not come as a surprise. In this Daily Mail article about how to be the lucky flier who is chosen to upgrade, the way to success is through your dress: “Airlines want first and business class to look a league above, so make sure you do too… tracksuits and torn jeans certainly won’t further your cause.”

Gentlemen, as a rule, should do better in life. Zacchary cites other perks besides upgrades for true gents: free meals, compliments, and positive comments “all the time”, never mind the attention from women and the respect that comes with gentlemanly ways. Let’s see how else a gent fares in life as Zach answers my last round of interview questions:

LM: Are gentlemen timeless?

ZFB: Yes, absolutely. The core principles of the gentleman are respect, chivalry, and gentility. There is a 1000 year history of the English gentlemen, and a 4000 year history of Chinese gentlemen – the warrior poet, the philosopher warrior.

LM: Is a gentleman taken more seriously?

ZFB: Yes and no. In business and romance, yes, but not for guys who feel threatened by it. Some men have a fear of being less than, and they get defensive around gentlemen.

LM: How do gentlemen make the world a better place?

ZFB: If everyone treated the world, others, and themselves with respect, by golly, the world would be a better place! Part of being a gentleman is about being selfless. People should think about their actions and the repercussions that follow.

LM: Are politicians gentlemen?

ZFB: In the modern political world, it’s very difficult to be a gentleman. A politician has to do so many ungentlemanly things – there is no reason that politicians need to insult each other, there is a high level of selfishness, and they are not as authentic as they should be – there are so many factors that would not make them a gentleman. Modern politicians aren’t gentlemen because the politics of politics and the business of politics is not gentlemanly. If it was, they’d actually think about things. No politician has ever made our gentleman of the year.

Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

*Happy holidays to all – writing resumes in January!

Gentlemen, women, and romance

26 Nov

how ladies feel about gentlemenWelcome to part two of my interview with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and 1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, an operation that seeks to make the world a more respectful, stylish, and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.

Zach and I talked about many things during our Skype interviews, including romance in the world of the gentleman. Perhaps this comes as shock to some of you because romance seems to be something sadly missing from our modern world – Tinder, digital pornography, and internet dating/hook-ups have taken care of that. At least in North America, we don’t make time for romance anymore, but we can pencil in a quick booty call which may momentarily satisfy our needs, but I think will ultimately leave us feeling empty and emotionally frustrated.

The term “romance” may seem old-fashioned to the modern reader, but it is romance that will win our hearts. In fact, The Perfect Gentleman insists that men learn how to romance a woman, to woo her, court her, prove his worth through respect, affection, attention, and mutual enchantment.

Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.

-Oscar Wilde

I told/whined to Zach that there are not enough gentlemen in the world and wished there were more.   I asked him if women worldwide ask for gentlemen. “So far, yes!” he said, “I have yet to meet a lady anywhere in the world who does not desire a gentleman.”

The following short video provides a glimpse into women`s desires to have more gentlemen in the world:

Interview

Please enjoy the following interview about gentlemen, women, romance, and sex with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

LM: What do gentlemen look for in women?

ZFB: Everyone has different parameters, but most guys, if they’re honest with themselves, are attracted to who they’re naturally attracted to. Look within. Romance is about shared connection. A gentleman should build her self-respect. A gentleman should be able to help the woman he’s interested in.

LM: Does a gentleman understand women better?

ZFB: He should. Fundamentally, a gentleman should be a lover – gentle, kind, courteous, and a fighter in the sense of being a protector, but not an aggressor.

LM: Is there such a thing as a gentlewoman?

ZFB: We call them “ladies”, and ladies abide by the same key principles as gentlemen – respect for themselves, others, the world. Women tend to think more about how they present themselves to the world and there are more resources for them, also, their support structure is different: inclusive, conversational, and supportive. There are more ladies than there are gentlemen in the world because of this.

LM: Do you think gentlemen have more luck with women?

ZFB: Yes.

LM: What about sex?

ZFB: Ha! Between two consenting adults, the gentleman stops at the bedroom door.

The next article in our gentleman’s series will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards the world at large and how he fits into it.

Read part one of my interview with Zach and becoming the perfect gentleman. Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.