Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Resolution 1

This:




Every night before bed. (Please).

Believe it or not, this is the first time I have gone to bed since before Christmas Eve with the dishes DONE. You remember how down I was about Christmas? Well, I dragged my energy together enough to clean for Christmas Eve dinner and make the tortiere (which is a bigger deal than it seems cause it means cleaning every single dish to roll out the pastry and finding a home for every scrap of paper so I can set the table).

And what happens is what happens every year, though I usually forget. My mother arrives 20 minutes before Church service. This year we had actually decided not to bother with Church--the decision had been made for all of 5 minutes when the husband got home, rushed inside and demanded why we all weren't ready. So, we went. Mom took the kids in her car (including the birthday boy, my one year old-that-day nephew) and the husband and I hoofed it the few blocks through the iceberg.

After service, Mom picks up my sister and returns for dinner. We eat. We have the ice cream cake she brought for her son's birthday. They leave. Mom offered to help with dishes--she even told me to let her pack them up and take them to her place so she could put them in her dishwasher.

She gets points for effort.

So, it's over. It's finally over.

And time to begin anew.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No Ho Ho Ho


I'm. Just. Not. Into. It.

I usually do a picture of the kids and a yearly newsletter for all the relatives. I haven't got it done yet this year. I can't even get my head to remember to take the picture.

As well, I also do the calendar for my mom, my mother-in-law and my Grandmother. Can't get my head into that either. (And that's a big project: it can take a week of solid work).

It is the day before Christmas Eve. I am in the process of cleaning up the kitchen and thought once I got the table cleared I could switch out the nasty cloth on there now with the Christmas one.
Can't find it.

I was going to get started on the Tortiere today.
Somehow, it all just seems too difficult.

This weight makes it hard to move, I've been meaning to get to the chiropractor for about two weeks, and I'm exhausted with the cold and short days.

Merry Humbug.

Friday, December 19, 2008

In the Forecast.

How many calories does shivering burn?

Tonight

-30°C

Sat
-20°C
-29°C

Sun
-27°C
-29°C

Mon
-27°C
-35°C

Tue
-27°C
-31°C

It's been a week already.

I'm thinking all the nasty pine beetles and wasps have been killed already. And it isn't like this isn't going to happen again in January or February (or both).

Smile, and the world smiles with you....

Emotion is contagious. In a way, this is perfectly intuitive. All of us have had our spirits picked up by being around somebody in a good mood. If you think about this closely, though, it's quite a radical notion. We normally think of the expressions on our face as a reflecion of an inner state. I feel happy, so I smile. I feel sad, so I frown. Emotion goes inside-out. Emotional contagion, though, suggests that the opposite is also true. If I can make you smile, I can make you happy. If I can make you frown, I can make you sad. Emotion, in this sense, goes outside-in.

Malcolm Gladwell, discussing the theory Emotional Contagion put forth in a book of the same name by Elaine Hatfield and John Cacioppo in The Tipping Point.

More from another study, this time based on Howard Friedman's charisma test.

He then put all of the high scorers in separate rooms, and paired each of them with two low-scorers. They were told to sit in the room together for two minutes. They could look at each other, but not talk. Then, once the session was over, they were again asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire on how they were feeling. Friedman found that in just two minutes, without a word being spoken, the low scorers ended up picking up the moods of the high scorers. If the charismatic person started out depressed, and the inexpressive person started out happy, by the end of the two minutes the inexpressive person was depressed as well. But it didn't work the other way. Only the charismatic person could infect the other people in the room with his or her emotions.

It's too bad I have to send this book back to the library.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Canadian Food Guide



I've read Marion Nestle's account of the development of the American Food Guide. And as a result, I'm sorry to say, I hadn't expected much from our own Government's.

I am pleasantly surprised, even though it is called the Rainbow guide. (Geesh, I could do without the leprechauns). Unfortunately, the version I printed out is obviously meant for 14" paper--the printing is so tiny I can barely make it out. But it really is a great guide. Not everyone agrees, however.

Firstly, the recommended servings per day are broken down for children, teens and adults--and then divided even further from there! Secondly, there are lots of examples to show you what constitutes "one" serving. Thirdly, there are further clarifications and explanations, to make the information even more complete. For example, in the "vegetable and fruit" category, it recommends one dark green and one orange vegetable a day. I hadn't known orange veggies had attained the same status as the dark greens. Fourthly, the guide actually says "include 30 - 45 (2-3Tbsp) of unsaturated fat per day." It isn't recommended or suggested--you're just flat out told--do this. I like it.

So, what I need to do is take this information and correlate it with calorie recommendations and then devise my own eating plan--and then create a chart of some kind to keep track of what I eat everyday. It may take a bit of time!

(I also want to compare and contrast it to Dr. Weil's new "Anti-Inflammatory" Food Guide Pyramid).

More Numbers.



Body Mass Index is calculated as your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. It is used to help figure out healthy (and not so healthy) weight ranges for individuals based on their height.

It beats the method my Mother taught me in my teens: 100 lbs for 5 feet plus 5 lbs for every inch. (Though, as that turns out it's not a bad way of reckoning.)

This way of calculating BMI is quite crude, of course. It doesn't differentiate between muscle and fat. And as we know, an inch of muscle weighs a lot more than an an inch of fat. I remember when I weighed 135lbs and exercised 6x a week: Folks were aghast to think I weighed "that much." My mother called me "tiny." Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of me from that super healthy time.

There is a great calculator for those of us metrically challenged over at the CDC website and a chart.

The chart is as follows:

BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5—24.9 Normal
25.0—29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

For someone 5' 6" the numbers translate as follows:
Below 114.5lbs Underweight
114.5--154lbs Normal
155--185lbs Overweight
186lbs+ Obese

So, the first goal, I guess, is to get down to 185 lbs. That would be good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Today's task:

Clear off the dining room table.

Before:


After:

(Those are just my library books).

This is where we will feast on our tourtiere, cream corn and salad after our Christmas Eve service. Our church has two, one at 6 and one at 8. The Protestants know you want to get the kids to sleep earlier so Santa can come--not like the Catholics who have a Mass and everything at the magical hour of midnight and could care less about Santa's schedule.

My husband grew up Catholic in Montreal--English, it must be admitted, but he still absorbed some of the ways and customs of his confreres. One of them is the meal after midnight mass. It is called Reveillon. One of the dishes (and the only dish, really, I'm familiar with at this meal) is Tourtiere--just a fancy French way of saying meat pie. Here's a recipe which is close to what I use, only mine is called "Deep Dish Tourtiere." I add 4 more cups of mushrooms, 3 more cloves of garlic, +1 1/4 cups Chicken Stock, +1 tsp thyme, + 1/2 tsp savoury.

It makes excellent leftovers!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In the settling Dust

Thank you all so much for your support and commiseration. I have not "kept up" with the day to day drama of my sister and my mother since the fall when my sister decided to go back to school and take "Asian Studies." I knew she wouldn't be able to complete the program. She didn't last the semester.

So, I wasn't too sure of all the details, either. I was being careful as I was typing them up.

The facts are these: she left abruptly, without discussion, to live with someone we barely know. She left no phone number and no address.

It seems she and Mom have talked some more. Mom is going to try and convince my sister to leave her son with her. If that happens, I have told my mom to leave my nephew with me during the day so my Mom can continue to work (though without my sister at home, Mom will not have to work as much). I had made the offer to my sister (We have a shortage of daycare spaces, here) when she was pregnant--so I'm comfortable extending it. We'll see what happens. Honestly, I'm not sure what's best right now.

Thanks Lorijo. I was able to repeat your words about keeping the door open earlier this evening to my Mom. I will extend an invite to them, somehow, for Christmas Eve. (I'm hosting the Traditional French Canadian Tortiere meal after Christmas Eve service).

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Drama of (Extended) Family Life

My sister moved out of my mother's house this weekend.

She is 25. She has a son who will be one on Christmas Eve. She had scheduled a Birthday party for him on Sunday. On Saturday, she cancelled it.

For the last year the three of them have been trying to live under the same roof--while living separate lives. It hasn't worked.

My sister had the downstairs living room and dining room (she has mobility issues and managing the stairs with a baby was not wise) and she and Mom shared the kitchen. My mom lived upstairs with her bedroom and a sitting room. It was quite cozy.

In anticipation of the birthday party, my Mother and she decided that they would switch floors. Mom set up a two burner hot plate, a small fridge and a microwave for my sister upstairs. She had a bedroom, a play room and a kitchen/sitting room. But the upstairs/downstairs rearrangement happened not just because of the party, but for another reason, too. There's no other way to say it: my sister is a slob. My mom wanted her "public" rooms back. (In fact, my mom's house was so uncomfortable I visited maybe three times over the last 12 months.)

The only difficulty with this new arrangement was that my Mom had to move her bedroom to the basement. (Unlike my sister, she didn't want nor did she need to set up her bedroom in the dining room). But the basement is crowded with 60 years of past lives, and the furnace is noisy. We were actually talking about turning the dining room into her bedroom just this past Thursday as Mom just wasn't getting any decent sleep.

She wasn't walking this past week: she was staggering from cleaning job to cleaning job. When she would get here to listen to the kids practice the piano, she would eat a bit of yogurt--and hopefully sleep a bit. More often she had to rush home to bring my sister something (formulae or pablum or diapers) or take her somewhere (out to buy something) or babysit.

My sister has been going out the past few weeks with friends--friends from Junior High (grades 7, 8, 9) she had only reconnected with in the past two weeks. As she was spending more and more time with them, Mom became less and less willing to babysit. Finally, she came home from Church on Sunday to find my sister, the baby and the high chair missing. Mom called her at the friends' place to find out what was going on and my sister told her she was moving out. She'd be back next week to pick up her stuff.

I spent Sunday afternoon helping my Mom gather all my sister's stuff and put it in one room. We're changing the locks this afternoon. (Mom's afraid my sister might come in while she's out working and "help" herself to whatever she wants. Mom wants to be there to control what leaves the house. Yes, things are that bad.)

The only really truly sad part of this whole story is my nephew. Mom is grieving badly for her grandson.

Free Radicals and Rust.


I have always found chemistry fascinating. We never did much cellular chemistry, though. But the mighty mitochondria (above) is an amazing and incredible powerhouse. It is proof of the existence of God.

As one kids' site I visited said, "Mitochondria proves there's a little bit of sunshine in everyone." And so it is. The reaction is something like this:

In plants:
sunshine + CO2 is made into sugar + O2

In animals:
sugar + O2 is made into energy + CO2

However, that reaction can also send a few extra molecules of unstable oxygen with an extra electron (O!) to prowl your blood. Those are your free radicals--and if they glom onto the wrong things, they can set off chain reactions in your cells and do some serious damage. (That process is called oxidation, or rust).

What sort of damage? Well, here's a rather technical but easy to understand explanation from this site:

Cell membranes are made of unsaturated lipids. The unsaturated lipid molecules of cell membranes are particularly susceptible to this damaging free radicals process and readily contribute to the uncontrolled chain reaction. Oxidative damage, another name for the chemical reaction that free radicals cause, can lead to a breakdown or even hardening of lipids, which makeup all cell walls. If the cell wall is hardened (lipid peroxidation) then it becomes impossible for the cell to properly get its nutrients, get signals from other cells to perform an action (such as firing of a neuron) and many other cellular activities can be affected. In addition to the cell walls, other biological molecules are also susceptible to damage, including RNA, DNA and protein enzymes.

Very scary stuff. And apparently, in the presence of heavy metals, this process explodes exponentially.

But there is hope.

If you eat a diet of foods which your body can easily convert into anti-oxidants, they rush in and partner up with the rebelling radicals and peace and love and harmony conquer all. (And I mean all: just look at the list of "problems" an extra dose of anti-oxidants can "cure".)

I need lots of anti-oxidants. I'm rusting. Really rusting. Not only did smoking introduced an enormous number of free radicals into my body (and toxins, too, of course), but I never ate very many fruits and vegetables. (For some reason, smokers don't.)
So, according to everyone, I should be eating foods rich in flavonoids, a veritable psychedelic cornucopia of foods. Food that is purple, food that is yellow, green food, red food, blue food. From a cursory look at the literature available on Google, it seems that supplements do not have the same impact on free radicals, True love comes from true food.

Specifically:*

1. Small red beans, dried. (huh?)
2. Wild blueberries
3. Red kidney beans
4. Pinto beans (I don't think I've had a pinto bean in my life. At least, not on purpose.)
5. Blueberries, cultivated.
6. Cranberries
7. Artichokes, cooked. (You wouldn't think of eating it raw, would you?)
8. Blackberries
9. Prunes. (I'm a fan of dried prunes, actually. I love them).
10. Raspberries
11. Strawberries
12. Red Delicious apples. (Who knew individual kinds of apples were better than others? Good grief.)
13. Granny Smith apples
14. Pecans
15. Sweet cherries
16. Black plums.
17. Russet potatoes, cooked
18. Black beans
19. Plums
20. Gala apples

* From Ultrametabolism by Dr. Mark Hyman. No idea how much nor how often. The book is a bit sketchy when it comes to that kind of detail.
I forgot to list chocolate. 2-3 oz per day, as long as it is 70% cocoa. The husband just brought some home. Lindt makes some.

PS: For breakfast, I therefore had 2 tablespoons of teeny tiny chopped up pecans and 1/4 cup dried cranberries in my Red River Cereal.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Christmas II.

According to astronomer enthusiast Dave Reneke, Jesus could have been born in June.

June 17, 2 BC, to be precise.

Really?
Under whose calendar? Was there even a June yet, then?
Maybe it was really May?

Oh well. I like Christmas lights in the snow. If we moved Christmas to June, I'd be mistaken for a pagan.



Yep. Uneven, haphazard, and drooping. Nothing even vaguely formal or Martha Stewartish about our seasonal cheer!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Merry Christmas

"

Resources and Choices


Martha Beck has a list of books for the people diagnosed with high need for information.

The goal is to gather enough information to design my own weight loss plan.


  • Ultrametabolism, Mark Hyman

  • 8 Weeks to Optimum Health and Eating Well for Optimum Health, Andrew Weil, MD.

  • The Way to Eat, David Katz, MD

  • Eat More, Weigh Less, Dean Ornish, MD

  • The South Beach Diet, Arthur Agatson, MD

  • The Sonoma Diet, Connie Guttersen

  • French Woman Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano

  • The Zone Diet, Barry Sears

  • Pritikin Program books by Robert Pritikin

  • Mediterranean diet.

  • Glycemic Index diet. (see Christine Northrup's online newsletter.)
  • Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Next Obsession

    229

    Just a number. At least, I think that's the number. It's actually hard to see, the numbers on the IKEA scale are so small and close together. They also seem quite far away. And it may not even be accurate.

    Nonetheless.

    I have gained an uncomfortable amount of weight. Not surprisingly. One's metabolism slows down when one quits smoking. The craving for sweet stuff intensifies as a result, too. (All those hormonal adjustments, I guess). And the habit of constant hand to mouth motions is extremely difficult to break.

    Funnily enough, I'm not that upset. In a way, I chose to gain this weight and that makes it easier to bear: I'm not ashamed of it. Well, no more ashamed than the numbers were before I quit smoking--which, I think, were about 30 lbs less. In fact, you could say I've gained about 30 lbs of pride--which are far more empowering than 199lbs of shame.

    I re-read Martha Beck's "Four Day Win," this time from the back, as she recommends. I discovered something true about myself, which is always fun.

    I have noticed that when I approach a project or an interest, I tend to want to know everything I can to figure it out. And apparently, this isn't unique to me! I am the sort of person classified by Beck as one with a "High need for information." So, she says, there is a "diet" program for me--one based on a ton of information. From this position, I pick and choose what I will do. Sounds right. Beck includes a list of books to read in order to get started and I'll be blogging about those as I deal with them.

    That need for information, though, is matched with a need for structure--whether high or low. And according to Beck's quiz, I am a low structure kind of gal. So, yeah, I will read up on paints and pigments, tint my own stains and apply them. I will read enough on education to complete an undergrad degree and then teach them according to what I've determined as best for them.

    I still need some structure, though, for some things--and that's a valuable insight. In the past, I would either have too much structure (Flylady) and eventually rebel, or too little (our church) and fall away.

    The model, for me, is the AT Cure. It provided just the right amount of structure for me to get things done! (And, admittedly, get a LOT done. It's amazing when the right support structure is in place, isn't it?!)

    So, I'm prowling the web for something like the Cure to help with weight loss. Is there a message board out there? Is there a support group (on-line)that you know of which would help? Ideally, I'd love to find some on-line buddies to share information and motivation. As for keeping me "accountable" I'm not quite sure I'm ready for that--feels too much like reporting to the headmaster for punishment rather than as something helpful, at the moment!

    Caveats:
    Not sure when exactly I will start. Soon. Maybe after Christmas. Maybe before. Technically, of course, I'm starting right now. It's all a continuum of action. When will I start "depriving myself of food?" Hopefully never, though fewer chocolate almonds are probably in order.

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    On the Streets of Manhatten (well--the corners, anyway).


    This photo project,--of all 11,000 street corners is sure to help satiate my appetite for the Big Apple.

    It's kind of cool I just found this--I watched I Am Legend for the first time today, too.

    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Turning the other cheek--

    Perhaps it is because I don't watch a lot of TV talk shows and political stuff. Perhaps it is because I am naive.

    But, I have been perusing You-tube for appearances by Michelle Obama-and I am greatly impressed. I think she was one of the reasons Obama was elected--and I think she had a very serious and essential role in his campaign.

    This response to Larry King about Palin, though, is brilliant. Not only does it take the high ground--but it is a deft example of how to take someone else's "barb" and deflect it so completely, you can turn the conversation into something else. That's what I understand when Jesus says to "turn the other cheek." He doesn't mean, give him your other cheek for your opponent to slap (though he may), he simply means, turn away from the conversation your opponent is having. Don't give it the benefit of your attention or a defensive response. This is how you disarm him. This is how you remove the sting. This is how you render a criticism toothless. I've seen enough of Michelle Obama to observe she does this effortlessly.

    "

    I saw another interview after the election where Palin whined about why it was her kids were not "off limits" like Obama said his were.

    Um--Mrs. Palin, watch Mrs. Obama.

    Closely.

    That's why.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    For some of the people, some of the time...

    Apparently, nicotine isn't addictive to everyone, all the time.

    Of all the teenagers who experiment with cigarettes, only about a third go on to smoke regularly.

    From The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

    This is why the tobacco companies can get away with saying it isn't addictive.

    Even among those who do go on to smoke--some do so regularly and consistently and others don't. I used to know them as "social smokers"--you know, the ones who only smoke when enjoying a beer or wine or whatever. However--smoking IS highly addictive for some people, like me. In fact--there's some thought that the underlying susceptibility to being addicted to smoking is the same as that which predisposes one to become depressed. (oops, sorry to go all grad paper speak on you!) Gladwell puts it much better:

    Drugs like Zoloft and Prozac work because they prompt the brain to produce more serotonin: they compensate, in other words, for the deficit of serotonin that some depressed people suffer from. Nicotine appears to do exactly the same thing with the two other key neurotransmitters -- dopamine and norepinephrine. Those smokers who are depressed, in short, are essentially using tobacco as a cheap way of treating their own depression, of boosting the levels of brain chemicals they need to function normally.

    So, yeah, I've been a bit depressed.

    I do have some Wellbutrin (a trade name for Buprion). I had used it before, about two years ago. I'd managed to quit smoking for about a month. I had thought all it did was take away the cravings. But, it does more. Gladwell quotes Andrew Johnston, head of psychiatry division at the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome:

    "Buprion does two things. It increases your dopamine, so smokers don't have the desire to smoke, then it replaces some of the norepinephrine, so they don't have to agitation, the withdrawal symptoms"


    It's been hell. It could have been less hellish, I suppose, if I'd used my medication more consistently. But when I did use it, before, --it was like I flat-lined emotionally. That was a different kind of hell--and it frightened me, somehow, more than the explosive anger I've been experiencing this time around. Anger flares up and goes away. You can go outside when you are angry. You can ask everyone to leave the house for the day if you sense it's going to be a bad one.

    But flat lining emotionally is a sort of death--there is no escape--and returning to cigarettes, at that time, felt like a return to life and feeling and all things normal. So, this time, I only took the Wellbutrin for the first few days to help de-amplify the cravings.

    And so, here we are. These are my stats, as of today:

    Your Quit Date is: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 12:00:00 AM
    Test Time Smoke-Free: 42 days, 5 hours, 3 minutes and 59 seconds
    Cigarettes NOT smoked: 1055
    Lifetime Saved: 8 days, 1 hour
    Money Saved: $471.24


    I do not feel like I have yet "quit"--not once and for all and never again done quit-- I still feel like I have to have my guard up, like I have to be careful. I still have the odd passing thought that a cigarette sure would be nice. So far, I've been able to just let that thought go.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    Why Nothin' but the Real Thing Will Do

    Malcolm Gladwell explains why the cheap stuff tastes, well, cheap.



    After breaking the ketchup down into its component parts, the testers assessed the critical dimension of "amplitude," the word sensory experts use to describe flavors that are well blended and balanced, that "bloom" in the mouth. "The difference between high and low amplitude is the difference between my son and a great pianist playing 'Ode to Joy' on the piano," Chambers says. "They are playing the same notes, but they blend better with the great pianist." Pepperidge Farm shortbread cookies are considered to have high amplitude. So are Hellman's mayonnaise and Sara Lee poundcake. When something is high in amplitude, all its constituent elements converge into a single gestalt. You can't isolate the elements of an iconic, high-amplitude flavor like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. But you can with one of those private-label colas that you get in the supermarket. "The thing about Coke and Pepsi is that they are absolutely gorgeous," Judy Heylmun, a vice-president of Sensory Spectrum, Inc., in Chatham, New Jersey, says. "They have beautiful notes—all flavors are in balance. It's very hard to do that well. Usually, when you taste a store cola it's"— and here she made a series of pik! pik! pik! sounds—"all the notes are kind of spiky, and usually the citrus is the first thing to spike out. And then the cinnamon. Citrus and brown spice notes are top notes and very volatile, as opposed to vanilla, which is very dark and deep. A really cheap store brand will have a big, fat cinnamon note sitting on top of everything."

    Saturday, November 29, 2008

    My State of Mind



    "If you want to know how I'm doing, all you have to do is look around. If I'm depressed, it'll be obvious."

    "I suppose there's a study on that, too."

    "Well, I don't know about a study, but depression and clutter are highly correlated."

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Agent Cleese and Potus Intelligence

    I have been getting the most amazing education since the US Election on Nov 4th.

    One of the things I'm learning about is this whole anti-intellectual, what, bias? agenda? It is something I've seen before--in books on educational policy, no less.

    Following the honoured footsteps of the King's fool, John Cleese gave me the clearest expression and example of the plausibility (if not the desireability) of an anti-intellectual POTUS in this guest spot on Olbermann.

    "

    Well, all was clear except for that bit about the Berkeley Hunt.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Remembering


    First snow, last night.
    It brought a poignant hush to our two minutes of silence outside the City Hall cenotaph at the 11th hour. And as the snow plopped off the trees onto our heads and shoulders, it felt like a giant's tears.

    Sunday, November 9, 2008

    The Intellectual Elite vs Populism, perhaps?

    I don't like to get caught up in events as they are happening. I'm much too apt to put my foot in my mouth. As I have been perusing the results of the US Presidential campaign and "doing my homework" I have become appalled at the Republican's choice of Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President. But not as appalled at that as at the thought it may have been a considered, deliberate choice.

    Here's the Wall Street Journal article which argues this.

    And here's something which concerns me, personally.

    Traditional conservatives were always suspicious of populism, and they were right to be. They saw elites as a fact of political life, even of democratic life. What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience, and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward.


    See, I'm deliberately raising my average children to become one of the "intellectually elite." And if that's too much of a stretch, then I am certainly doing my best to raise them above the fray of what passes for education in the public school system which, at best, is anti-intellecual.

    Lilla says, "They must be educated to serve the public good."

    Interesting question: What would that be? And who gets to define it? I think I may be looking up some of the authors he mentions in the artcle.

    5 cents and Milk

    I loved your responses to my accidental post last week. Indeed, it is all about the conversation!

    In my beginner's tentative steps to be frugal, I was computing the cost of liquid milk (the stuff that comes in the cartons) to the cost of powdered milk (the stuff that, here, comes in bags.) I was greatly confused. I measure the powdered stuff by volume, you see, and it is sold by weight.

    So, these calculations only work if 1/3c (or 75 ml) equals 25 g.

    Here we go:*

    A 2.5 Kg. bag of powdered milk costs $24.49.
    If 100 g makes up 1 litre
    then, 1 litre = $1.02

    A two litre carton of 1% milk costs $2.82
    so, 1 litre costs $1.41

    That's a significant savings! So, last week, I mixed a 4L jug with 2L of powdered milk and 2L of milk from the carton. My son never noticed and my daughter (who saw me do it) refused to drink milk all week.

    Last night, however, I was in the grocery store--and lo and behold if I didn't notice that buying 4L of 1% milk costs $4.51. (Whole milk, marketed here as 3.25% is ten cents more) Holy cow, Batman, that's only $1.13 per litre! (Making last week's 4L mixed milk at $1.22/L way more expensive.)

    However, I have learned my lesson. Indeed I have. In my fridge, I now have a 4L jug of mixed milk. Cost: $1.08/L (and I have 1/2 of a 4L jug of unmixed milk, too.)

    Do nickles really add up?

    *PS: A quart is slightly less than a litre.

    Saturday, November 1, 2008

    Frugal? Cheapskate? Poor?

    Image from this site which has a divine sounding recipe for H.C.


    What will it be?

    I grew up "poor." We could never afford anything.

    I hated it with a passion. I had sandwiches made with Baloney--or Spam. (And we never fried the Spam--slicing it would be a "waste"--actually--we didn't even have "Spam"--we had some cheaper Spam knock-off called "Kam") It was mashed, mixed with relish and mayo, spread on brown bread (no butter) and wrapped in waxed paper. Add an apple (oranges were too expensive) and that was lunch. Oh--and I used the same paper bag over and over until I inevitably forgot to bring it home.

    Supper, because my Mom had no time to cook (and doesn't cook anyway) was canned soup and sandwiches. I don't remember breakfast. Usually Mom wasn't home (working the early shift) or sleeping (from working the late shift).

    I was reminded of all this one day when I recently read a recipe for hot chocolate in The Tightwad Gazette.

    The recipe:
    1 teaspoon cocoa,
    1 teaspoon sugar,
    1/3c skim milk powder
    6 oz boiling water.

    And I suddenly remembered--for years and years I had had skim milk and whatever was the bulk foods cheap equivalent of Nestle's Quick as my hot chocolate mix. I never knew how much of anything I was supposed to use--so for years I skimmed globs of undissolved skim milk from the top of my mug.

    I was telling my Mom recently about finding this recipe and as I was thinking out loud about trying it on my kids (who have only ever had Carnation their whole spoiled lives) she quickly interjected, "Make sure you pick up the cocoa from the bulk food bin."

    And all the old anger came back.

    The Grocery Challenge!


    In an effort to be more fiscally responsible and get serious about paying off our debt, we've decided to set a budget.

    The most challenging area will be food. I don't tend to spend much on clothes, and when I'm not curing, I don't spend much on the house, either. I've given up scrapping--because the thrill was really in the shopping and participating on-line--the actual page building was fine but became somewhat unrewarding without those adjacent activities.

    But food?
    I love a well stocked pantry! And the freezer bursting with food is so satisfying. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel safe. And who can criticise spending money on food? (Not even my most parsimonious husband, that's who!)

    However, it is time to get responsible about this area. Even according to our "pared-down" rock-bottom budget, food accounts for 24.5% of the husband's take home pay (before overtime). That's the figure I will try to meet (and beat?) this month. This is the first month I'll be trying to stick to a set amount. Then, in a few months, (or sooner) once I know better what I'm doing, I'll try and reduce it.

    My goals for this month are:

    1) meet the target

    2) beat the target

    3) shop weekly sales specifically

    4) prepare meals in advance (and freeze) for those nights I can't stand the kitchen

    5) not run out of everything the last few days of the month!

    The budget will run from Nov 1 to Nov 31. There's one dog, two adults and two kids, an 11 year old ("Mommy I'm hungreeeeee!" boy) and an 8 year old ("what's in this?" girl)

    A few things I want to do to meet these goals are:

    1) make up a cost comparison book. This should help me figure out whether the simplest of money saving tricks--serving the kids 1/2 powdered milk mixed with 1/2 "regular" milk will really save money! Powdered milk can be expensive--especially at times when a lot of it is being shipped overseas for famine or disaster relief.

    2) Make up substitutions as they are cost effective.

    3) Bake more cookies and sweets. (No more buying them!)

    4) Prepare one soup and one vegetarian meal a week.

    5) Find ways to use a small amount of meat in dishes, instead of serving a chunk to each person.

    6) Rejig lunch.

    Note:
    1) couponing here is not a great deal. Most coupons are available on a promotional basis only for expensive name-brand products I'd never buy anyway.

    2) As the husband works for a grocery chain prominent here, he wants me to continue to purchase our groceries from that grocery store only and not the others.

    3) I already make up my dinner plans for the month and generate a shopping list for what I'll need--I tend to buy all freezer and pantry items on the first Tuesday of the month (10% off) and then just pick up fresh stuff once or twice a week throughout the rest of the month.

    This month, then, I'll keep track of my challenge here-and post substitute recipes (and cost worthiness) here, too.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Two Steps Forward and One Step Back Equals One Great Leap Forward*


    (patience, we'll get to it.)

    1st STEP FORWARD:

    I noticed I hadn't paid a utility bill I thought I had--and I owed this month, last month, and the month before. Turned out I had paid the wrong company! So, I sat down and figured out how much money I would have between now and the next pay cheque if I paid it and all the other bills which come due between now and then.

    I'm ashamed to say, this is the first time in my life I have ever really done this! I will be doing this from now on--on a schedule in accord with my husband's pay cheques. I feel a spreadsheet a'comin' on.


    2nd STEP FORWARD:

    I went to a second hand store I have always loathed and hated (Value Village) and found my daughter a winter jacket (with hood) in her favourite colours (pink and purple, shudder) and coordinating snow pants. Cost: $15.00. I was absolutely thrilled!

    Then, we went to Wally World to buy underwear. I probably spent 15 minutes talking her out of underwear that had "pictures" on it (priced at 9 for $10)so I could buy her 12 pairs for $6.00. I found some with butterflies, so she accepted them.


    THE STEP BACK:

    The washing machine quit. Well, not entirely. Actually, it simply stopped agitating. Of course it did! I almost laughed at the inevitable timeliness of it.

    We did a ton of research on the Internet last night--pulled the agitator out of the machine (with ropes and a 1x2 and all sorts of groans, grunts and drama)--and we diagnosed our problem--as it turns out, correctly! The agitator coupling--or the plastic bit which connects the agitator to the gizmo/gear which actually does the agitating was completelyl worn on the inside where it attaches to the gear/gizmo.

    How much does this vital bit of plastic cost? $7.55. The husband bought it this morning and had to buy a new bolt to go with it. Total cost: $10.00


    THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD:

    Two weeks ago, my husband's Skilsaw stopped working. Just up and quit. He says to me, "You can get me a Skilsaw for Christmas and you know, I'd really like one of those with the base."

    Last week, we looked through a few fliers. They are way more than we really want to pay right now.

    Late, late last night my one and only says to me: "Hey, look up Skilsaws."

    It could just be another $10.00 repair!

    ***************************************
    *No references to Communism intended.

    PS. The first load of clothes I washed came out cleaner than I've seen our clothes in a long, long time.

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    I never knew...

    My emotions are all out of whack these days. Angry words fly out of my mouth before I even know I'm angry. If I feel sad, I'm sobbing uncontrollably within minutes. The only thing I'm not experiencing to extreme is joy--and I don't want to think about that, or I'll start crying again. Sheesh.

    It's dangerous, though. My usual "coping Strategy" for emotion is to smoke. (Surprise!) I was feeling the urge very strongly this morning...and realised that what was upsetting me would not go away if I had a cigarette. To boost that thought, I did a little reading. I'm shocked.

    I learned a few things about smoking I never "knew" before.


    • Cigarettes are one of the few consumer products that aren't regulated. I knew this--it just hasn't ever struck me before as a rather dangerous thing.

    • Nicotine acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it decreases the diameter of your blood vessels and makes it more difficult for blood to flow throughout the body; nicotine also contributes to increased arterial plaque buildup. This forces the heart to work harder and can lead to higher blood pressure and heart attack. More obvious effects of nicotine are cold or clammy hands and feet. Although the heart works harder to pump blood through narrow blood vessels, it isn’t strong enough to get enough blood to the hands and feet to keep them warm.
      Hooray! I'm looking forward to having warmer hands and feet!

    • Carbon Monoxide mechanism of action:
      Every single cell in the body requires oxygen to stay alive. Normally, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body by attaching it to a molecule called hemoglobin. Think of this as a lock and key process… When oxygen (the key) attaches into hemoglobin (the lock), everything is good. Your muscles work efficiently and your body is happy. However, when you smoke, carbon monoxide attaches itself to hemoglobin in place of oxygen and is carried throughout the body. As a result, you start to feel tired, sluggish, and short of breath since your brain, muscles, and lungs are not getting enough oxygen. Eventually the carbon monoxide falls off or the red blood cells are replaced; however, more carbon monoxide enters the body through continued smoking.
      I really do feel more energetic. And it has come as a complete surprise. Last night I was looking up exercises on the net. I feel more "alive" too--even though my concentration has been utterly shot these past few days!

    It's funny. I feel like I've lost ten pounds. I actually got on the scales to check--and I was perplexed to note that I've actually gained (about 3, nothing to worry about). But now that I know this about the CO, it makes sense to me.

    This morning, I walked briskly--two times! Once on the way to Church and once on the way back. I have no idea how many years it has been since I've walked briskly. It was really cold out there--especially with the wind. I didn't even realise how fast I was walking until my daughter started lagging behind after walking with me for only five minutes!

    I have always blamed my colds hands and feet on my weight. I have always blamed my shortness of breath on my weight, too. (After all, it only came upon me after exertion. If I didn't move, I was fine!) I have always blamed my sluggishness on my lack of sleep.

    It's funny--knowing all this is great--but it doesn't relieve me from having to fight the battle of my urge to smoke. Strange. It's like the cravings have a life of their own completely separate from my brain or will. I just have to hold out one minute longer than the craving.

    JUST.

    ONE MINUTE.

    MORE.

    Keep praying, if you do. Thanks.

    Added Later--
    My Mom came over today. I went to give her a hug--and had to back away. Ugh. The smell! (She's a smoker).
    My husband has not complained about the smell ever...not once in eleven years. I'm beginning to think he's "smelling-impaired." Man, I wish I still was.

    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    3 Days Quit

    The QuitNet gadget stats this morning:

    • 3 Days, 12 hours, 50 minutes 16 seconds smoke free

    • 88 cigarettes not smoked

    • $33.66 and 16 hours of my life saved.

    Strangely, I don't actually feel all that different--could be the combination of the meds and the patch. The urges are passing, but I'm still fighting the first and last smoke of the day, and the one after every meal.

    This is progress!

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    The Longest Day


    This is from Quitnet--I used the dog's name for a username!
    Isn't that neat?
    I love it.
    Though this day really can't be over too soon.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Tomorrow.

    Today is my son's 11th Birthday. He'll get all sorts of great presents he wants--and when the stress of the day is over, I'll give him another present tomorrow. He won't think it exciting. In fact, he probably won't even notice it. And it won't be his gift exclusively, either.





    Yep, I'm going on the patch!

    Cigarettes now cost about $96 for a carton of 8 packs. I smoke(d) a pack a day. That's $360.00/month.

    Wish me luck.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Another Duh Moment...

    We're working on creating a budget--and I've set an amount for spending on food.

    I'm trying to keep to that--even though I blew 2/3rds of the food budget before I'd read up on Dave Ramsey, reacquainted myself with Ms. Hunt, etc...

    Last night I had to go out for dog food and a couple of other things.

    For the first time in YEARS, I looked at the receipt when I got home.

    There it was: $30.85 for the bag of dog food and $17.85 for a six pack of paper towels. In both cases, I had simply grabbed the wrong package.

    So, I took them back to the store again. With tax, I was refunded $50.52

    You know what I bought, then?
    Tiny baking M&M's to decorate my son's upcoming Birthday cake.
    A small bulk food bag of chocolate almonds.
    A big brick of cheese.
    Two 750g containers of yogurt.
    6 Paper towels
    dog food
    a package of 12 buns
    Grand Total: $41.19

    Wow.
    It's always a good idea to check the receipt. (Duh.) I don't even want to think about what I may have missed over the years.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Not chortling, anymore....

    The furnace has been something of a wake-up call for me.

    Let's just say, I now fully understand what the husband means when he says, "We can't afford it, we have debt."

    In the past, I read Mary Hunt. Last weekend, I read Dave Ramsey. They say essentially the same thing. It's so reassuring. I like Ramsey's plan over Mary's only because Ramsey wisely advises doing things one step at a time. Perhaps I mis-read Ms. Hunt, but when I tried her program in the past, I tried to implement everything at once--it was slow going and very fragile. Something came up, I forget what (probably a repair on an old truck we no longer own) and de-railed everything until we are at the point we are at today.

    We are very lucky--the husband has always insisted we not use the credit card for anything except "emergencies." We can pay that off in full by the next statement date. The bugaboo, is, of course, our line of credit (wherein 100% of our debt--of all kinds) resides. It's a Home Equity loan --so it's actually piddly in comparison to the "value" of our home--but it isn't "piddly" with respect to my husband's annual income. If nothing else, this economic crises has wakened me to the precariousness of taking on debt someone else thinks you can afford.

    Nu uh. Not anymore.
    We get to decide--and so we're taking control.

    Wish us luck.
    (We've already had our first tiff.)

    Thursday, October 9, 2008

    Happy to Report

    I took the boy and the dog for a brisk twenty minute walk today, before supper. I converted a crock pot recipe so I could stick it in the oven (and warm up the kitchen) and we headed out.

    He talked the whole way about his bionicles. I just let it go over my head.

    I've made up a weekly checklist--for me--based on Bob Green's Best Life plan. I re-read phase one last night and it struck me again how sensible it is.

    I want to tread very carefully with the boy. There are a lot of bad eating habits to change.

    and hey,

    ***************************************************************
    THE FURNACE COMES TOMORROW!!!!!
    ***************************************************************

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Obesity

    What an ugly, ugly word.

    An adult is obese if his BMI is 30 or greater.
    BMI = Body Mass Index.
    There's a handy dandy calculator here.
    My BMI is 33.9

    Food is much to difficult to think about, right now. Instead, even though it is cold, even though winter is coming, even though going outside is tough, I want to focus on physical activity.

    According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adults need 150 minutes a week of moderately intense excercise (such as a brisk walk). That's three 10 minute walks, 5 days a week. They also encourage muscle work twice a week. Personally, I think it's crucial. I just may devise a simple stretching and muscle toning regime. I wonder what resistence bands cost?


    And children need one hour a day! This includes all kinds, though. Muscle resistence, bone strengthenng and aerobic activity. Yikes.

    My poor kids. I don't give them that much time. My daughter will grab her bike and ride up and down the alley--but my son? When I send him outside, he grabs a book to read. He's even tried that on family walks! According to the numbrs at the CDC site, he's in the 97th percentile for boys his age and height with respect to his weight. Yes. He's heavier than 97% of his fellows. I really need to stop being in denial about the child I used to refer to as my "Biafra boy."

    What am I going to do?

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    The most appalling book

    has me utterly fascinated. I'm drawn into this morass of emotion, of unbelievable highs and suicidal lows: the diary of a food addict.

    She keeps mentioning a checklist: a list of things to do to "become thin." I'm wondering if such an approach might work for me. It certainly does for school--I make up a chart with all of our subjects each week and type in our lessons for each day of the week. It makes school as "pick up and go" as possible and it really works.

    What would go on a diet checklist?

    Exercise.
    Water.
    Food groups.
    In fact, now that I think of it, Weight Watchers was sort of a checklist for me. So many breads a day, so many fruits, a number of vegetables. Once you know your portion sizes--you can eat whatever you "want"--and as long as you keep to the checklist--and write down what you eat, you won't go overboard.

    I am not a believer in calorie restricted diets. In fact, I've often idly wondered what it would be like to eat the calories required at my "ideal" weight--that way I'd never have to adjust. And it could only be called a "diet" in the way the word is really intended--an eating plan or regimen.

    Of course, the unknown and extremely influential factor here is exercise. It's ironic. The more one weighs, the harder it is to move. The more weight one loses, the faster one can lose it. Based on a weight loss of a total of one pound a week (which would mean about 75 weeks for me--what's that--a year and a half?) I'd expect to see next to no movement on the scales for the first few months, then a lot of weight loss, then a plateauing as I reach the goal.

    What a strange way to envision weight loss!
    And wholly uninspiring.

    The Forecast

    We'll be fine.

    The furnace will be installed Firday. We can make it until then, even though we drop into the negative numbers for the first time this week. We had a wonderfully warm spell all of last week, but it has turned.

    Yesterday, (Mon)
    High: 13 C, 55 F
    Low: 5 C, 41 F
    It was gorgeous: golden and sunny. We even had Bible study outside. It was only cold when the wind blew up. My daughter wrapped herself in a blanket. "Just like camping."

    Today (Tues)
    High: 15 C, 59 F
    Low: 3 C, 39.2 F
    Sunny

    Wednesday
    High: 8 C, 46.4 F
    Low, 5 C, 41 F
    Cloudy.

    Thursday,
    High: 9 C, 48.2 F
    Low: -4 C, 24.8 F
    Sunny

    Friday
    High: 7 C, 44.6 F
    Low: -5 C, 23 F
    Sunny

    Saturday
    High: 10 C, 50 F
    Low: -5C, 23F

    But who cares! We should be warm and toasty by then!

    We've decided on a Lennox, 92.0 % efficiency with the variable speed DC motor. 7,000 btu.

    It was either that or a Kenmore. The Lennox was a bit more expensive, but 1) I actually figured out how to look up stock recommendations on Google finance (Wende, aren't you proud?) and just liked the look of Lennox better. 2) The husband was a bit concerned that with the Kenmore, it wasn't entirely clear who would be manufacturing the furnace. And 3), service from the folk selling us the Lennox seemed to be top notch. They're local (no 1-800 number to a "call centre") and they have a live person taking their calls. Apparently, we get bumped up in the proirity sequence for service, too, for having purchased out furnace from them.

    Cost: $6,000. The furnace itself is only about 1/2, though. The installers have to cut two separate holes into my basement walls for air exchange, intake and exhaust, install a pump and small tube to "exhaust" the water the furnace will produce (and cut into out sewer stack for it to drain). They have to re-line our chimney (less exhaust means we need a smaller channel inside it) and cap it. And then, of course, because new efficient models are smaller, they need to fit sheet metal around our current ducting.

    And yes, apparently they can do all this in one day. Friday. None too soon.

    Friday, October 3, 2008

    For All You Writers Out There....


    This is, of course, targeted at kids.
    But I thought that it might be of interest to you to know there are free novel writing workbooks.

    If you want them.

    If you think you can even write a novel that way.

    If you think it might just be fun to give it a whirl.

    I recommend the elementary one, actually. It's just more fun to call the antagonist a "villian."

    By the by, if you feel yo have 50,000 words (good or bad) fighting to get out in the month of November, there's some sort of contest or challenge thingy.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    The New Porch Light is Up!


    Ta da!



    Did you know I can call up City Hall and ask for a CFC lightbulb for my porch fixture? Free!

    I found out today looking up energy rebates. They were very careful to mention that a volunteer would bring me one. Of all the nutty things.

    Monday, September 29, 2008

    So, Guess Who Is Buying A New Furnace?

    It could be the motor.
    It could be the drive shafts and ball bearings.

    But it doesn't matter because the welds on the 30 year old monster are starting to "go."

    I've been doing some research--and lo and behold, the Federal government has an EcoEnergy program designed to encourage homeowners to make upgrades to their homes in the name of energy efficiency. Depending on the kind of furnace we purchase we could be eligible for $300 to $500.

    However.

    In order to qualify, you have to enroll in the program. In order to enroll in the program you have to have an "energy assessment" completed. (We had one done in 2002 --it's too "old" to qualify. We paid $100.00 for it.)

    I have called three companies and was only able to get a quote from one of them: $275.00 for the initial assessment and $99.00 for the follow up. (AND they are unable to even come do the assessment until Oct 23. (brrrr.))

    eh?

    The city we live in has chosen to match one of the federal grants. If we

    Replace [our] furnace with an ENERGY STAR qualified furnace (that has a 92.0% annual fuel utilization efficiency or better, with a DC variable-speed motor

    then the city will match the $500 federal grant. So, we may come out ahead by $600.00 ($1000 minus the inspection/program fees.)

    So, the next thing to do is find out how much more a furnace like the above costs vs. the other furnaces listed as eligible for the federal rebate (but not the municipal rebate, though come to think of it, given the fees, it isn't worth it) vs. the medium grade clunker required by building code.

    The husband is of the opinion that rebates tend to artificially inflate the cost of the item in question, and he's likely right.

    I never once imagined that I would ever turn away from a "free" $1,000.00.

    Nonetheless, the rebate program also covers things like replacing hot water heaters and installing insulation in the attic and basement (and other stuff). Total possible eligibilty is $5,000. But, you can only apply once--which means if we want to maximize the rebates available to us, we have to all the work within an 18 month period.

    So, guess who shouldn't have taken an expensive family vacation this year?

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    The Bubble Bursts

    I usually live with my head under a rock.

    I like it that way, most of the time. I was a journalist for a few years in my life before marriage (and kids) and I got my fill. More than my fill. So, except for brief blips, and reading my Atlantic Monthly, I don't pay much attention to anything going on in the world.

    However.

    There is a blip on my radar screen at the moment. It's pretty big and hard to miss! And so I'm scrambling to do my best to catch up and understand the whole Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fiasco. (One thing puzzles me, though, didn't I read about this, oh, say a year ago? The housing bubble was about to burst and folks knew there would be a financial crises when it did. I knew that--me--who doesn't pay attention! I guess I thought it had already happened. Seems I was wrong. But, goodness, why all the scrabbling and "last minute frantic bail out meetings"? Anyway, let's not go there. I've been under my rock too long to start wondering out loud at the lack off proactive foresight in government, or indeed, anywhere.)

    Anyway, that unnecessarily long pre-amble is simply an introduction to two things which has helped me sort this out, if you too are wondering what happened.

    The first is an article by the Boston Globe.

    The second is a You-tube video which is well worth watching, even if it is a tad, oh, shall we say, listing to one side of the spectrum in American political candidate endorsement.

    I'm just sorry that real people have to suffer through all of this. Truly sorry.

    (And Wende, you are hereby granted full permission not to comment though I'd love to be a fly on your brain right now.)

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    You Know Winter's Coming When....

    In spite of fuzzy sweatpants and sweaters and sunshine, I have been chilled all day.

    It is currently 8 degrees Celcius outside. (46F). The low tonight is supposed to be 4C (39F).

    The forecast?

    Tomorrow's high 6C (42) and rain.
    low: 2C (35F).


    After supper, I had the husband clean the furnace filter.

    Just before bed, I turned on the furnace for the first time since May...


    ...and it seems the fan is broken.


    (Thank goodness I didn't wait until it was really cold!)

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    A Disfunctional Time

    Dear Friends,

    It has been preying on me that I seem to have abandoned all life outside school. We are five weeks into our studies and I'm struggling with staying on schedule, motivating the kids to stay on task and, at this point in time, a bit of boredom.

    But I am afraid to engage in the world I've created with this blog. It's very silly--but I feel both like hibernating in our school cocoon and breaking out of it and resuming "my life"--whatever that is!

    But I'm not really ready to leave it, even though it is beginning to chafe, for I am afraid that if I do, school will fall through the cracks and it will be shoved to the back burner yet again. And I have promised myself that won't ever happen again. There is no more time to lose!

    School truly is taking a lot of energy and time. Preparing each week takes about a full day--I don't quite understand why. I'm hoping that as I keep working at it, it will get more streamlined, but I doubt it, somehow. This week is pretty straight forward, for example, but I do have to teach "ing" endings...and figuring that out will take at least an hour.

    What energy I do have over and above the daily grind and weekend planning is being spent on long term plans for our next history period which begins at Christmas. I'm trying to correlate Canadian History, artists, composers and scientists with our next major period of study--the 1600s to about 1849. It's rather daunting at the moment.

    And I really should be cleaning the house!

    This state of affairs can't continue forever, of course. Eventually I'll have my research done and I'll figure out how to get the house clean and keep it that way on a daily basis. That's my next goal.

    But I wanted you all to know, I think of you often, even though I can't quite give myself to click over and comment on your blogs. Maybe that will change soon, too.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Not a BIT of Progress

    Actually, that's an assumption. As Mr. Bob strongly recommends not getting back on the scales until the end of Phase One, and phase One is all about establishing new habits, I have no numerical measure of my progress. Ergo, it appears there is none.

    Remember those habits?

    1) Increase my activity level.

    2) Stop eating 2 hours before bed-time. (aack!)

    3) Eat three meals, including a nutritious breakfast, plus at least one snack, daily.

    4) Stay hydrated. (48 oz of water a day.)

    5) Eliminate alcohol. (um, ok. Done. It's not that I don't drink, I just, um, don't drink.)

    6) Take daily supplements.

    I haven't kept a chart or any way to track any of this. In my defense, I have been up to my ying yang in making charts and lists for school, but that's over now. So, I think I need to play with Word and get something run off to stick on the fridge. It would be a way to track progress, of a sort, wouldn't it? Because I think I'm going to be in phase One a long, long time.

    As discussed before, #2 is the bugaboo, for in order to stop eating 2 hours before bed time, one must actually have a bed time! Remember how I mentioned I "eat to stay awake?" Well, a few times in the past week I caught myself eating late at night...for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The house was quiet, the kids were asleep. I didn't need to stay awake...and yet, here I was, eating, while planning to go to bed. Hmmm.

    We have managed to get up at 6:30am this morning. (No, they aren't reading, but watching Arthur. I'm typing this.) But it is too soon to celebrate a new "habit." In a month, it will still be too soon, I think. When my son attended school, we had to be up every morning at 8:30 at the absolute latest. In order for him to get enough sleep, he had to be in bed by 9. In three years, it never happened. Ok, maybe once or twice, but never for any length of time. (I did seek doctors help. They were unhelpful.)

    So, my perspective on this is that we will have to keep at it for at least a year. I think I may have to include weekends, though, frankly, I will resist that for as long as I can!

    (ack, I said "no more Arthur, time to get dressed," and I think they have crawled under the covers again! Oh man. I've had less than five hours of sleep, myself. sigh. I'm tempted to let them sleep for an hour but our school day is likely to be very short today as my Mom is coming at 11am and then my sister is dropping off my eight month old nephew to be looked after for the afternoon. I do NOT want to give up the school day!)

    I guess this is precisely why I need a really long term perspective. If I based my "progress" on the results of a mere week (or month), I'd be likely to throw up my hands and say, "this will never work." Surely, if I give it a solid effort 'til Christmas, at least, we can establish this new, wonderful habit?

    I'm going to rouse them and herd them to the table, now.

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Weekend Project 1

    We finally rented a chainsaw! We were able to get a 16" electric. The big decision for the husband was whether to buy one (for $60) or rent. We probably spent 1/2 the day discussing it.

    Nonetheless.

    Before:



    After:



    The stump is still in the ground, though. I'd thought we could just grind it down below the surface with the chainsaw, but I didn't know that a chain saw musn't come in contact with the ground. (Gums up the gears or something.) Oh well.

    Project #2 will be planting my poor wilting dogwoods sometime today.

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Holy Books, Batman!



    We're up at 6:30am again. We managed it yesterday and now, today. It's been my goal to "get up with Dad" and see him out the door, and here we are two days in a row. (Tomorrow, though, he wakes up at 5:30, so he'll have to see himself out.)

    But that's not all. They are reading. Reading! Not watching TV/DVD's as is usual. They wanted to.

    It's calm. Peaceful. What a wonderful way to start the day.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Not Exactly a Guilty Pleasure

    I am compelled to provide a bit of background.

    Last week I finally got to see The Queen. I always enjoy the commentaries, and I found the one by the historian quite interesting (if a bit pedantic and a bit too much of stating the obvious). He mentioned that "an interview" with the late Diana, The Princess of Wales which was playing in the background and which in the film the Queen was watching had "blindsided The Palace." He said it was this interview which decided them that the separation between the Prince and Princess of Wales should be made permanent with a divorce.

    It was the famous interview (which I actually saw at the time) where she mentions being "the queen of people's hearts."

    I wanted to watch the interview again, so I turned to You-Tube and found it.

    I also found an awful lot of sick puppy videos centered around Prince William and Prince Harry. I watched a few--still photographs culled from various sources set to awful music.

    However, I did enjoy this one. I thought it was done rather well.

    Too Sexy Prince Harry

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Planning School


    Well, it has to be done.

    I still have my wonderful spreadsheet from last year, but it is hopelessly out of date and I'm beginning to be a bit alarmed. I hauled the kids outside today to read a chapter of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, just so I could feel like we did something.

    As a consequence, though, I've started posting again over at the SSC blog.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Numbers Up!

    Stucco is really, really hard. Even with the proper drill bit, it took forever to drill the holes for the screws.

    But here they are!




    And for the finale---wait for it----














    Crackers--in addition to a new light fixture, now I need a new welcome mat! Look at that dinky thing.

    I understand now why the husband looked at me funny when I brought home the new mailbox and protested, "It was only $11!" Then again, the numbers project came in under that modest amount, but one thing does lead to another, doesn't it?

    I imagine you are asking yourself, why "03" and not just "3?" Call it quirky local convention. Our addresses in this part of town are all numbers--a "3" by itself would be a bit confusing, believe it or not. (Or so we figured.)

    Tomatoes

    Most of these were enjoyed in Aurelia's Birthday dinner salad.


    Tomatoes symbolise the purpose of having a food garden. It was The End of Food by Thomas F. Pawlick, I believe, which explained the mystery and annoyance of the ubiquitous cardboard supermarket tomato.

    I was never allowed to eat tomatoes in the winter: we couldn't afford them. If my mother did give in to my high pitched pleadings, I was invariably disappointed. They were tough, they tasted awful and the expensive booty was left to rot in the fridge.

    In the summer, by contrast, we would slice a tomato each, layer it on two pieces of soft brown bread slathered with mayo, dust them with salt and devour them standing over the kitchen sink letting the juices fall down over our chin and harmlessly into the drain.

    When was the last time you had a tomato like that?

    Blame it on the Unions. Blame it on migratory workers wanting a living wage, for heaven's sake. Blame it on the big tomato producers who found a way to get rid of unionized decent-wage demanding migrant workers. Blame it on mechanical pickers which can only pick a tomato of a certain size and weight. Blame it on chemicals and transportation. Blame it on the discerning consumer.*

    We are now in the odd situation where canned and processed tomatoes are actually healthier than the red, chemically ripened globes in the fresh produce aisle. The latter don't have to be "perfect", you see, so they are allowed to ripen a little longer, get a little bigger before they are picked by a mechanical arm.

    So what's a chin slobbering fresh tomato-loving gal to do?

    Grow my own.

    I did it wrong, though.

    What I did right:

    I picked a good variety--"Early Girl." As we have a teeny tiny growing season, I wanted something that would actually ripen before September. Since I didn't give it any thought until late May, I bought two already started.

    I planted them in "container soil" in a large tub.

    I watered them faithfully, even through all the rain we had. One night as we noticed hail about to bounce from the sky, the husband and I picked up the tub and carried it inside the playhouse.

    I mulched them with spent coffee grounds. I did this mostly to keep the dog away from them, but it turns out to have been a good thing.

    I put a cage on them to support them.

    What I did wrong:

    I planted them side by side. They need two to three feet between them, or one tub each.

    I put the cages on them: upside down.

    I didn't fertilize.

    I didn't prune.

    Outstanding early variety of tomato for short season gardens. Proven, dependable, tasty uniform 4 to 5 ounce tomatoes. Excellent for home gardens (24 seeds approximately). Early Girl is an indeterminate variety (tall growing) so provide some support as plants grow. Approximately 62 days to maturity from transplanting.
    From Ed Hume's Seeds

    "Indeterminate" varieties need to be staked and pruned. Basically, you find "one main leader," train it up a stake and snap off any "branches" which come out from the leader and head sideways. Trimming them out allows air and light into the plant and prevents all sorts of problems like mildew.

    A "determinate" variety, on the other hand, should be let to sprawl on the ground and the suckers allowed to develop.

    (And, of course, given my penchant for procrastination, I only found all this out this week.)

    My first tomato was nice and large: big enough for a sandwich with some left over. I meant to eat it that way, but somehow it got tossed into a scrumptious salad. I couldn't believe my daughter when she refused it at supper.

    "I don't want tomato," she said.
    "You've ever had a tomato like this one," I said, "give it a try." (It killed me to say it, actually. I would have been quite happy eating it all myself.)
    She protested some more, so finally, I said, "Just take a no-thank you bite. Here."

    She actually thanked me later for making her try it. And she requested the same salad for her birthday dinner.

    The tomatoes, since, though, have been quite small. Too small for a sandwich. I have hope, yet, though. Along with a bunch of little ones, there's one which looks quite promising still on the vine.


    And I'm not going to share it.


    *This line always trumpets through my head as I prowl through the produce: "Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees, pleeeeeeease." From Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    House Numbers

    Of course, we could go the "cute" route:

    (from Ann's House Numbers).

    or the kistchy:



    or the elaborate:



    But sometimes, simple is best.

    Check this out (top is the before and after):




    From this site. (It was also featured on AT, which is how Google found it.)

    I think that raising them gives the cheap thin numbers greater depth and weight--and it's too easy. I showed the husband and he said, "We can do that."

    We've decided we just want the house number. Around here, most folks include the street number as well, but as we are right on the corner, we can be cheap!

    I think it might work best where scb recommended it go--to the other side of the mail box and light fixture and not between them as I'd originally thought. Like this:


    (Font: Times New Roman, which I quite like, courtesy of MS Paint.)

    We briefly considered putting the numbers into the triangle of the porch "roof" facade, but thought better of it. It's too small to "dress up" but doesn't this make a statement?


    From this site.

    I am itching to re-paint the trim from that ugly yellow-brown to something with more pep. But at this rate, I'll be lucky--and glad--to get the fence done.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Boom Da Da Boom

    The husband has completed re-routing the eavestroughing at the front door. Here it is as of yesterday:



    Just for fun, let's compare that to the front door which greeted us when we returned from vacation in late May, shall we?

    (The eavestroughing on the right ran down the trunk of that tree, the left didn't function well at all.)

    I'd still like a new light fixture--and figure out a more satisfactory solution for the abysmal house numbers. Any thoughts?

    The Problem with Bed-Time

    It is 1 am and the house is finally quiet.

    The husband fell asleep hours ago, struggling to stay awake to put my daughter to bed. She's having her eighth birthday tomorrow and a tooth was loose and sore. At 11:30, during her second foray downstairs to complain about it, not at all sympathetic, I told her to work on it and pull it out. On her third venture downstairs, she was triumphant. I listened to the tale of how not the first, or the second, or the third, and not even the fourth but the fifth twist brought it out. We looked at it carefully, discussed how expensive it was (it had been capped, one of her "silver" teeth) and she disappeared.

    I noticed during our conversation that my son was still watching a John Wayne movie. I had told him to turn it off a half hour earlier. I reminded him, somewhat severely. He turned it off and wandered into the dining room. He sat down as I read blogs and quietly tattooed himself with pen. He came over to show me what he had done: "I Love You" spelled out on his fingers between the first and second knuckle joints. I gave him a kiss. He gave me one back. I handed him Hank the Cow Dog and said I would be in to tuck him in in a few minutes.

    I got to reading something about The Stockholm Syndrome, then Cognitive Dissonance, then to a book recommendation and then to our local library page to see if we had it. Down for maintenance.

    I went to tuck in my boy and happily discovered him in bed, with the lights out and groggy. I hugged him and left closing the door quietly behind me as he'd asked.

    And then, it occurred to me that in order to follow Bob's rule about "Do not eat 2 hours before bed-time" I would actually have to have a bed-time. And so would the kids.

    I have to shift this quiet time, too, from late night to early morning. I haven't been too successful in the past, though. The peace and quiet is so nice when I waken an hour or so before them that, sometimes, I don't get them up--and then I'm sleepy in the night, and they're wide awake--and I eat to stay awake. It's really that simple. I eat at night to stay awake.

    Because I like quiet time.

    Saturday, August 9, 2008

    Three Been Salad


    I found this recipe many years ago in an old recipe book written, I believe, in the day when canned veggies were considered superior to fresh.

    To substitute fresh (or frozen) for canned, wash the beans, cut them up into appropriate sized pieces, then boil them until just done. (If they are soft enough to bite into and not mushy, they're perfect.) Drain them in a colander and douse with cold water to stop them from cooking further and cool them down.

    (1 to 1 1/2 cup cut up beans would be about the right amount).

    Adjust ingredients for taste--especially the dressing--it's a bit heavy on oil and sugar! (Sugar substitute works well, too, but still, use less!) I usually make about half. I don't like my salads swimming.

    1 (1 pound) can cut green beans, drained
    1 (1 pound) can wax beans, drained
    1 (1 pound) can red kidney beans, drained.
    1 cup minced celery
    1 cup minced sweet green pepper
    1 cup minced yellow onion
    1/2 cup minced sweet or dill pickle (optional)

    Dressing:
    1/2 cup olive oil
    6 tablespoons cider vinegar
    3 tablespoons of sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon pepper

    Mix all ingredients, cover and chill several hours before serving.

    This salad keeps for about a week or so, making it super easy to haul it out and have a bowl whenever the blood sugar gets low. In fact, see that bowl up there? That was breakfast!
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