Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Resolution 1


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?







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.



(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.


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.

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


    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.


    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!

    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.


    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."

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