Monday, February 28, 2011

Mondays in March*

At the Home Depot yesterday. This is a "snow mountain" made from clearing the parking lot over the winter.

Eliot may have pronounced April the cruelest month, but I doubt he was familiar with March on the Northern Canadian Prairie. Technically, we tend to get more snow in this month than we get the entire winter--something which would be hard to do this month, though with the snow fall yesterday and today, we're off to a great start!

By months end, we'll be sloshing through puddles. It's the month of great transformation. I thought it would be interesting to do a post each week showing you my back yard and giving you the weather.

Unfortunately, today, there's really not that much to see. I snapped this yesterday from the back gate during a rare moment when the sun was shining.

The weather (from Environment Canada, temperatures in Celcius):

Periods of snow ending late this afternoon then cloudy with 40 percent chance of flurries. Amount 2 to 4 cm. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this afternoon. Temperature steady near minus 24. Wind chill minus 36.

Cloudy with 40 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 31.

(Please hurry up, Spring!)

*OK, so technically, it is still February. But it's close enough, don't you think?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Small change for Big Impact

This is so much fun. Last week I showed you the dramatic change putting up a cabinet made to the kitchen.

I love it.

But when I looked at it objectively, through my camera's eye, the whole area to the left looked too "full." (The right side looks messy, but that's for another day, perhaps.)

I needed to lighten it up.

Can you see what I did?

(I really should have tidied that right area a bit! Oh well. Real life.)

Two things.

Ah, yes, here's the first: the pretties.

And the other?

So simple, but so sublime. I switched out the white Ikea plant pot for an aluminum Ikea plant pot.

Oooh shiny! I love how it now ties into the whole spice rack thing--and the knobs on the new cabinet.

Silly things. But it puts a smile on my face.

(Please ignore life going on in the hallway back there. Thanks!)

and After:

Total cost: $12.93 (CDN)
jars x2: $5.97
plant pot: $0.99

Linking to Met Monday at Between Naps on the Porch. If you've come from there, thanks so much for stopping by!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Weight Loss Secret

disclaimer: I am not a doctor, trainer, nutritionist or any sort of scientist. I'm just an overweight woman who reads and thinks a lot. I may misunderstand what I've read. I may draw the wrong conclusions. I am no expert. I'm not even an expert amateur. As long as we have that out of the way, you may continue--

I have, as they say, fallen off the proverbial weight-loss wagon.

So much depends upon a small red wagon

Only I never called it that. I called it the "Wellness Wagon," but I thought, I really did, that eating properly and exercising would result in a little weight loss. Some. I wasn't expecting too much: just some sort of reward for my effort.

But there was none--oh, except for that dramatic change in my measurements: but somehow, that wasn't enough for me.

Then, my shoes seemed wonky.

I seemed to be wanting to do two mile workouts instead of just one. That took more time.

And eating more vegetables lasted about a week and a half.

So, after only a month, I quit.

I quit exercising.
I quit trying to eat more veggies.
I stopped eating my oatmeal for breakfast.
I stopped drinking my three to four pints of water a day.
I started eating more goodies: cinnamon crunchies, brownies, cheese cake, saltines, ice-cream, anything, anything, anything I could get my hands on and eat in great quantities.


I was doing some reading. Specifically, Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata. That book, as well as bits and pieces from the great tome by Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories (which prefaced his latest, Why We Get Fat) and the reading I did before Christmas from the book by Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth led me to feeling, well, honestly? Hopeless.

And then, like the nail in the proverbial coffin, Dr. Arya Sharma analysed a study where the good doctor concluded:

Thus, the laws of physics which would tell us that obese people gain weight because they simply eat more and move less don’t quite tell us why thin people can eat more and move less and still stay thin.

So if the obesity epidemic is not simply due to people becoming obese because they’re eating more and moving less (than thin people), then the solution is probably not in simply having them eat less and move more - which, incidentally, is probably why “eat-less-move-more” (ELMM) so seldom works.

But what else do we have?

And now I will tell you the well kept weight loss secret:

Nothing. We have nothing else. We know nothing else. And we don't know if we should even be advising weight loss.

Nonetheless, moving more and eating less--it is is what we have: and it does seem to work.
For a time.

See, even if you manage to lose more than 10% of your body weight, (or for some like me, where 10 per cent is a significant amount of weight all by itself) there doesn't seem to be any way to keep it off except struggling with your body and your appetite for a long, long time. How long? A year? Two years? Forever? When does the body say, ahhh, ok, I get it, this is the new weight now. We can stay here.

You see, it is NOT the case that after the effort to lose weight people simply return to their "old eating habits." (as the Wikipedia author of Yo-Yo dieting puts it. Something else may be going on--something not in your control at all.

Right now, my weight is stable. Remarkably so. I exercised nearly everyday for a whole month: and my weight didn't budge.

I didn't exercise and started eating like a maniac--and after four weeks I still weighed the same. (It only moved two weeks later: a gain of 3 pounds).

I was my own experiment in weight stability.

And I may be a fool to tinker with this stability. Destabilization could be worse than being fat.

It seems that it is not being fat which causes health problems, (for more on this, see The Obesity Myth as well as the movement called Health at Every Size) but being inactive and having bad eating habits. That's why I called what I was doing "wellness" (while, yes, filing it under weight loss.)

Destabilizing my weight, losing a bunch of pounds and then regaining them, known as yo-yo dieting, or weight loss cycling, could possibly the worst case scenario.* I could create health problems for myself.

This article lays out the problems succinctly, but let me summarize for you:
  1. with weight cycling, a person has a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, heart disease and high cholesterol.
  2. weight cycling has a profound effect on one's immunity. Gaining and losing and gaining (etc.) can permanently weaken one's immune system. Not good.
  3. weight cycling is attributed to a higher rate of weight gain, psychological stress, improper body fat distribution, low metabolic rate and the highest BMI.
Whereas, if I stay fat?
Likely bad knees, a bad back and bad fashion.

So, all in all, it seems it is better to remain fat--while eating better and moving more.
And I feel like weeping.

*There is a distinction to be made between yo-yo dieting and weight cycling but the risks listed above are not differentiated.

Yo yo dieting is defined as an extreme condition which has two phases. The first, the diet phase, consists of a period of time in which calories are restricted at a level well below that needed to sustain one's weight and energy level. Often, people become irritable, obsessed with thoughts of food, depressed and fatigued. The second phase occurs once "normal" level of calories are re-introduced--"normal" being the amount of calories calculated to sustain a given person at a given weight at a given activity level. There are charts for such things--and they may be wildly inaccurate for any given individual. (It's just not as scientific as we could wish it to be. Studies have shown that this range of calories can be quite wide--up to a few hundred calories for women and several hundred for men.)

However, once the calorie restriction phase ends and the "re-feeding" stage begins individuals gain weight. They do not remain at the new weight. Their bodies pack on the pounds, as it were, sometimes at lightening speed. Many of these studies seem to suggest that it is the level to which calories were restricted, that is the rate of pounds lost which determines how successful one may be at maintaining the new weight: in other words, the slower the better. But how slow? And is that assumption even correct?

Another interesting thing to note is that exercise seems to be irrelevant to this process. That is, the metabolic damage occurs contingent upon the level of the calorie restriction involved and not the level of physical activity. Thus figure competitors training for a show or competition can experience the same metabolic damage evidenced by the rebound experience and subsequent health risks as the over-weight. That's because the weight gain and health difficulties are the consequence of starvation, and not weight loss per se.

Weight cycling is a more encompassing term. It includes the above and also any weight loss over any period of time and the gaining back of that weight (or more) at a later date over some other period of time (usually shorter than the amount of time taken to lose it, though not always.) See all the unknowns here? Yeesh.

One of many things I'd like to know: does the rate at which one loses weight have any bearing on one's ability to maintain it? If so, what will work? How can we figure out what will work for any given individual (because you can bet the farm it will be highly individual.) I remember reading once upon a time that losing a pound a week was a "safe" rate of weight loss. I never questioned the implication behind it--that losing more than one pound a week was unsafe. Unsafe in what way? Yet another unknown.

But I know this for sure: never, ever let those pounds creep up. And next time, lose weight before you quit smoking.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Flowers on Friday--and a Find!

Are you ready?

Really ready?

Here they are, then.

Hooray! Daffy down dillies.

On my desk, between the computer screen and the printer.
Let's take a closer look, shall we?

I love the frill:

Just the thing to help pretend Spring is around the corner.

Of course it isn't. It'll be a long six weeks of slush before we see green. But I found these to keep me happy--year round. I got eight of these pretty bread plates at Value Village for $10.00.

The kids think they're "too fancy." They said they are afraid to break them.
I say, good.

Linking to new parties today. If you've come from these great sites, welcome!

Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home

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Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Junkin' Finds Friday at A La Carte.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Inspiration: Entryways, Foyers, Landing strips. Style and Storage?

Whatever you want to call it, it has to do a lot. Store things. Look good. Help you get in and out of the house without fuss. Welcome people to your home and introduce them to your style. Set the tone of your home.

Before we get to the nitty gritty, let's have some eye candy, shall we?

source unknown

I love, love, love this. The grey. The yellow. Black and silver. The closed storage. I've always loved salon style grouping of pictures, too.

Here is an entry way which is simplicity itself:

This is utterly elegant:

As is this:

source: unknown

Looking at these anew, it strikes me that the top image could exist in the bedroom or the living room as well as the front hallway. The second could be most at home in the living room, somewhere. (I love half moon tables.)

What I need is something practical as well as gorgeous. This, however, leans entirely too far to the "practical" side.

To show you the space I have to work with, I drew a quick sketch of my front hallway.

The front door is at the bottom of the sketch. The hallway is 3 feet 6 inches wide. (96 centimeters). Any "hall table" or console cannot be more than 12" wide (30 cm) to allow passage.

The current cabinet is being used for:
  • storing shopping and library totes.
  • storing books to be returned to the library
  • storing odds and ends behind the cabinet doors. We never use any of this stuff on a day to day basis, so I could probably purge whatever is in there and store what we may still need elsewhere.

  • The above mentioned storage: places for library books and totes.
  • A place to put my daughter's back pack when she gets home from school.
  • A place for guest boots. Preferably on a removable tray--we have to put them up and out of the way of the dog. (He shows his affection for you by bringing you an object of yours and inviting you to play tug of war with him. And what better than your freshly discarded boots and shoes?) Something like this:

This is a thought (without the bulletin board, please):

source: as above, Martha Stewart

Here it is interpreted smaller and higher by A Vintage Vine.

She used the Ekby Valter shelf brackets from Ikea which was smart as well as practical. (I just happen to have a few on hand.)

Definitely a thought.

Here's how the area in question looks at the moment.

Taken at the foot of the stairs looking back towards the front door.

Yes. A soothing gray, Edgecomb Gray, from Benjamin Moore (HC 173). I actually think I should have gone just a bit darker, but it's done. I've just the trim and the door yet to do. Oh, and the light fixture. And, of course, the cabinet/storage/hook thingy to figure out.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Inspiration: Painting a Mirrow Frame

I just recently purchased a wide black framed mirror. I thought I would put it in my foyer.

But it just didn't seem to work all that well. (I also decided I needed to paint the foyer and it is now a soothing grey. More on that later this week (I hope.))

I spray painted it silver. That was ghastly, so then I painted it grey. Then, I painted it yellow and grey, mixed together. I didn't like that, so I started sanding it off. Then, I realised I hadn't a clue what I was doing.

So, after spending quite a bit of time looking at Pam's fabulous projects at Be colorful and following her links, I was reminded of my love for MacKenzie-Childs.

I went searching for some inspiration. I found it.

Here is a gorgeous mirror, called Bosa Nova.

I am, unfortunately, a literalist. I couldn't see how to translate this design to my own mirorr's profile which is this:

narrow, narrow, wide, narrow, beaded.

So, I went looking around their site some more and found the tile.

Oh my. Are you ready for some serious eye candy?

Right. Meet Madison.

stripe with dot, solid, square lattice, solid.

I love how sweet this is. The colours remind me of a candy shop. It would be easy to do, too. (Everything from the inside pinky-orange line inwards would be omitted.)

This is Aalsmeer.

Stripe, solid, trellis with dot, solid

I love the trellis. I love the colours.

But I do like checks. I have no intention of getting rid of my checkerboard tiled kitchen floor, either.

This is Torquay.

I'm not actually fond of the colours in this--nor could I even come close to replicating the detail. But I do like the patterns: a yellow dot on a white ground, a stripe, then the narrowest of a solid, checkerboard (maybe with a pink dot in the middle of the white, maybe not) then a solid yellow. That could work.

Or, I could eschew colour altogether, like the first image above. Meet the Courtly Check (which, by the way, is FULL of colour. My version, alas, would not be.):

solid, solid, checkerboard, solid. (How easy is this?)

I'd change the gold to silver, though. And, I like the idea of making one of the narrow outer bands a stripe:

solid, stripe, narrow solid, checkerboard, solid, and those dots! I love the dots!

This may just be the best yet:
Outer narrow band: solid black
Inner narrow band: stripe
I could sneak in the narrowest of silver border
Wide bit: checkerboard.
And the the narrow bit could be silver yet again before we get to the silver and black on the innermost rim of the mirror which I have.

And yet.
And yet....
I'm not entirely sure I want to do this.

Should I?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bucking a Trend.

**Note to all my friends in blogland: I cannot seem to comment! Since I have cleaned up the computer through a second round of infections, I cannot stay signed into blogger--and it ignores everything I type into your comment boxes. I'm trying to resolve the issue--but please be aware I have been visiting! Mella, Scb, Lorijo, Anne, and Leena--you are in my thoughts.

The shelves above the stove are gone.

It was an impulsive decision, really. I watched that marvelous video on how to build an efficient farm kitchen and gasped when I saw the woman reach up into her cupboard above the stove and take down her serving dishes. I could not believe how effortless it was.

Me? I have been running into the dining room to the hutch for the platters and bowls I need to serve dinner. This is something new for us, actually. Until a few months ago, I just used to serve everyone from the stove. Then I read Ellyn Satter, a dietician who specializes in helping families with obesity. She recommends that each person serve themselves--and since lining up at the stove wasn't going to fly in our awkward kitchen, I needed to set the food out on the table. But it was getting to be quite the chore: especially as I was doing my best to serve at least two kinds of veggies instead of just one at every meal.

Then, one day last week, the post referral linky came up with the AT: Fall 2009 Kitchen cleaning plan. It included this picture.

Everyone commented how exhausting it was. And even though I removed the top shelf and we now have a smaller (mostly) white microwave, it was exhausting, still.

(trying out my new camera after Christmas.)

So, I decided to buck the trend of creating display shelves in kitchens (by removing cabinet doors) and see what I could do to put up a cabinet.

Edited to add this photo which I found after constructing this post. This is the best, I think, this spot ever looked!

I was in luck.

Home Despot had kitchen cabinets for sale: the one near us offered any one you wanted for $99.00. The one on the north side of town had dropped their price to $69.00 but they didn't have the size we wanted (two door 30" x 30" more or less). So, we spoke to the Guy In Charge at the store near us and got ourselves what we needed for $69.00.

Wow. Did we get what we paid for! They are square, I'll say that much for them, but the doors don't meet in the middle and there was even a bit of water damage on the side. The back--except for two narrow strips at the top and bottom--consists of nothing but flimsy particle board. We were not going to hang them simply by drilling through the back into the studs behind like This Old House recommended.

Oh--and about the studs --the wall has only two-- one at each end. So we used toggle bolts for the screws on the left hand side of the cabinet (the middle of the wall). We put a board on the wall to take the weight of the cabinet and then screwed each corner into that wall through what we had.

My son and husband worked together. It took a few days, but all is quiet on the east wall, now.

I feel like I can breathe.

Linking to Met Monday at Between Naps on the Porch. Check out the other great entries.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Style Inspiration: Farmhouse/Cottage

For years and years I have struggled to "define" my style. Of course, as I've struggled, my style has been changing. I am now of an age when it really doesn't matter what my style is called. But defining it would be convenient, if only to have a handy search term for google images to oogle.

In the past few years, "modern" has appealed to me: simple shapes, blocks of solid colour, few to no accessories. (Certainly I don't want accessories for "accessories" sake. Vignettes like this, though well put together, just leave me shaking my head):

source unknown.

For a while, I thought I would embrace vintage: afghans, old fabrics and dishes, oil paintings picked up in thrift shops, that sort of thing. And, while I still like to ferret out old things, I could not figure it out as a style.

Neither of these is enough, for example, to help me decide how to paint the front entry way. Neither is enough to help me figure out how to decorate the living room for the summer. Neither one, nor both taken together, are robust enough to provide any direction.

I was blog surfing the other night and came across this picture from The Lettered Cottage.

Layla Palmer, who created this image from a reader's submission, pronounced it a kitchen where the "classic cottage meets farmhouse." And I thought, perfect! That's it (at least as Palmer visually defines it!).

"Cottage" has long been my "default" style. It is easy to pull off on a budget, it is cozy and it doesn't suffer from too much pretentiousness.

"Farmhouse" as a style is new to me. I have, however, been in enough genuine farmhouses to recognize that, like the "cottage style" it is defined by the qualities of thrift, simplicity and sturdiness.

"Country," of course comes in lots of different permutations:



source unknown

(an offshoot is American County which can come extremely close to Federal which morphs pretty quickly into Traditional)

Swedish (or Scandinavian, or Nordic.)

and Cottage (which itself has many manifestations):


source unknown


source: the Austalian blog A beach Cottage


(this example is a sort of a Belgian/French Shabby chic--not the faded roses of the originator Rachel Ashwell's California style--and no wonder--this is the kitchen table of a blogger from Padova, Italy. Home Shabby Home

and Rustic:

source: A Canadian blog actually, Funky Junk Interiors

Not a "cottage" style, per se, Farmhouse is supposed to have a vernacular all its own.

When I started this post, I had thought that "farmhouse" would be it: that would be my "new" defining style. After hours of looking at images on-line, I find that I cannot embrace it unreservedly. In many ways it embodies the worst of the "country" decorating style: stuff piled on stuff for the sake of display. Ugh. But in the right hands, an artful combination of its elements mixed with a touch of sophistication can result in something wonderful. The trick is, of course, have I the hands to pull it that off with the resources I have?

More of that in part 2.
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