Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolving 2009

I'm not a huge fan of making resolutions, because I find them very hard to remember, let alone keep. A few years ago I resolved not to make any more New Year's resolutions. At first I thought that was pretty funny. But by promising not to make any changes in my lifestyle I was cutting off my nose to spite my face. I did make a couple last year but don't remember what they were (quit smoking? Not. Save money? Not. Declutter house? Not so much).

With little fanfare, here are some sensible resolutions I may or may not keep:
  1. If I don't quit smoking I won't save over $3000 per year (plus my life). I'll at least make further attempts to read Alan Carr's Easyway to quit smoking book.

  2. I'll test my blood sugar more often. Some days I don't test at all, let alone before breakfast and 2 hours after meals.

  3. I'll take my medications when I'm supposed to. And eat when I'm supposed to. And eat WHAT I'm supposed to. Maybe that's too many at once...

  4. I will start walking 30 minutes or more a day. And do some yoga, and use the rowing machine. And continue to stay off high heels.
  5. On a related note, I'll either use my fitness club membership or cancel it.

  6. I'll do more work-related reading. I'm part of a very interesting project and I have a whole book about it. I'm on page 8 of 542.

  7. I resolve to buy only winning lottery tickets.

  8. I think I've resolved in the past to keep in touch with friends more often. I haven't done very well with that -- I'm surprised that anyone talks to me any more. But I'll try again.

  9. With the wet weather this past summer I didn't do anything with my gardens or yard (but that's an excuse, not a reason). I did get bumper crops of grapes and raspberries, so made plenty of jam and jelly for gifts and personal consumption. This year I promise to plant some vegetable and herb seeds early enough to get them hardened off and in the ground by Victoria Day. And if I do buy more perennials, I promise to plant them instead of just leaving them in their plastic pots to their fate.
  10. Well, part of the reason for planting only perennials is to have a low-maintenance garden. But I should at least do SOME maintenance, like spreading the topsoil, mulch, and compost that I bought last spring.
  11. I can't do much more than I already do with conservation, except sell the house and move to a shelter (that's not funny, though). But I can protest over-packaging by either not buying over-packaged goods or leaving the packaging with the store (unlikely!). I've registered 54 acts of green already. You can, too. I'll continue to bring my reusable shopping bags to the stores until I run out of plastic bags to put Green Bin and garbage in.
  12. I can't really resolve to watch less TV or fewer DVDs. But I should watch the shows I do like, which probably amounts to The Rick Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes on CBC.
  13. I'll try to be kinder to my mother and my younger brother and his wife.

That's probably enough for now. I'm off to eat breakfast.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The visit was nice, but the travelling was HELL!

I got my car dug out by 11 am on Tuesday, December 23. I should have left by 9 am in order to make it through to Mom's (625 km or 375 miles, a seven to eight hour drive the way I go; I made it once in 6.5 hours in summer). But the coolant (antifreeze) was low, and it took about two hours to find that 1) finding the right coolant for your make and model is a mystery unto itself, and 2) everyone within walking distance was out of it. I've learned that the coolant reservoir must be cold to open it up safely. (I had a hard time opening the hood at first, then I needed to use a rubber mallet to loosen the cap.) Finally I packed the car and drove to Canadian Tire and bought a jug of universal coolant (can be used in any car or light truck), and had to wait about 45 minutes with the hood open before I topped it up. It was about 2:15 pm and snowing by this time, which meant that even with ideal driving conditions I wouldn't get to Mom's until about 10 pm.

I have a cold and laryngitis and a persistent cough, and even with multiple stops for coffee by the time I reached Long Sault (just off highway 401 before Cornwall) around 8 pm I knew I wouldn't last, so I took the first exit that showed a motel sign and checked in for the night. Overnight about 4" of snow fell -- I planned on calling Mom on my cell at my first stop for coffee, but, incredibly, there were no service centres open except for those with rather long detours off the road. And the snowfall further east had been even heavier. Once into Quebec province I had to take a construction detour over very snowy roads, which added an hour to the trip, and I didn't get home until about 10:45 am on December 24, coughing the whole way. Mom and I had planned on cooking The Turkey in the morning, but she couldn't wait for me, and she had a hard time getting the thing prepared and in the oven.

Weather on Christmas day was just about perfect, but I coughed for the whole hour's drive. We stopped to get some lozenges for me (my first Christmas shopping trip). They worked pretty well (the lozenges). On Boxing Day we didn't leave our small town (3500 souls) and I bought that disgusting Buckley's Cough Mixture and tissues on sale (my last Christmas shopping trip). Mom bought me lunch.

So the visit with Mom, though brief, was pleasant, and Christmas day at my brother's went well. Then on Saturday morning I took off about 8:15 am and met:
1. Freezing rain on the way into Montreal -- a number of vehicles off the road
2. Torrential downpours between Cornwall to past Kingston -- more vehicles off the road including a pickup, two semis, a minivan, and a passenger bus
3. Fog
4. Fog plus torrential downpours. Traffic slowed to under 50 kph in many stretches.

It wasn't until I reached the city of Toronto itself that the visibility cleared, and I was home by 5:45 pm -- 9.5 hours. On the plus side, I gassed up at 66.5 cents per liter on my way home.

I was glad to get home as you can imagine. And I moved my car to a parking spot right across the street from my house this morning! And my catsitter Ol did a good job -- the cats were rather pleased to see me.

Christmas vs. Diabetes

It's hard to be diabetic at Christmas. Especially if you have a sweet tooth, escalating carb cravings, and uncontrolled high blood sugar. My mom has given us an orange and a box of Smarties in our stockings for years. (She used to collect or buy little items and put them in -- and now that I'm in charge, I stuff my family's stockings; this year it was pencils, sharpeners, pens, notepads, sugar-free gum, cosmetic samples, pairs of socks and knee-high stockings, keychains, and other little items, and Mom got a little bottle of cream liqueur.) So this year I got the usual box of Smarties, an orange, a pair of knee-highs, and a bamboo spoon. Not that I'm complaining or anything. Stocking stuffers are a lot of fun! (Did I mention that both my brothers are now Type 2s?)

But please, even a box of Smarties can set off a chain reaction that has me gobbling anything with sugar or starch. It's amazing to me that my mind is screaming at me, "Slow down; no, STOP EATING THAT SHIT!!" Even if I've eaten a healthy dinner and have no appetite for veggies, I'll fill my face with pastries and other treats. It doesn't seem to be a matter of will-power. I can't have just one...

And the kicker -- I was given a box of Lowney's Chocolate Covered Cherries by a family member (I've been T2 since January 1995 and everyone knows it). I don't even like them. Did I toss them? Take the unopened box to work and share them? No, I ate them. All. By myself. Cursing myself bitterly as I shoved them in my mouth and wiped my sticky fingers on my jeans. I can't believe I've been blogging on and off on this for a year now and have made no progress; have even deteriorated. Systems analysis tells us we need data, which gives us information, which leads to knowledge and understanding, which leads to wisdom. I have the first three; it's the last two I need to work on.

But there's some good news on the horizon -- results of the low-glycemic diet for reducing HbA1c show positive results (but knowing low GI foods plus recognizing the glycemic load of foods is also important).

I've mentioned the very wise David Mendosa's website before ( He was onto low glycemic index foods for years before the supposed experts (

Monday, December 22, 2008

Down to the last minutes, again!

I'm pampering myself because I have a cold, so that meant I did NOTHING all weekend to prepare for my Christmas trip home to Mom's, including accumulated laundry and dishes and garbage. It's now Monday morning. I intend to leave in about 28 hours. And I still have that cold, which started on Friday afternoon. I haven't moved my car in over a week, and ploughs have gone by twice (twice!) now after two snowfalls, dumping about 30-40 cm (about 14 inches). So the car is snowed in, and that just adds to my list of chores. And at about 7:30 am ET it's -12 C (about 9 F). Brr.

This is one of two pictures I'm framing for my mother's present. It's a cover from Canadian Homes and Gardens magazine (now defunct), dated 1930. She asked for vintage ad posters with a country theme, of which there do not seem to be any except within the pages of old magazines! Anyways, the two covers are lovely and the see-through frames will work pretty well, and you can see the ads on the inside covers. I just have to put them together still...
Christmas Day Update: Mom liked the pictures!
So what do I get from postponing all my chores? I guess calling them chores is a clue. I do this every year. The last few years, for example, I have started thinking about considering getting a cat sitter for my brood of four in the weeks before Christmas so I can get someone before they're all booked. I didn't ask anyone until Saturday afternoon (December 20). But the second person I asked is available and lives only three doors away. That's actually better than last year.
Christmas makes me tired. I don't feel much like socializing and my health seems to bounce around a lot before the days start getting longer again. I feel as though there are a lot of demands on my physical and emotional energy that I'm not prepared to provide. And I'm cynical about the fact that I start getting Christmas catalogues in August.
But my to-do list is years old and miles long. Along with craft projects, small repairs, and books to read, I haven't done any ironing all year; my dining room table is covered with stuff that should go into the computer/guest room, which needs to be organized. But before I tackle that room it should really have a new ceiling put up (that's the room where the roof leaked).
My list of things to do and bring home with me (besides the usual gifts and clothes) includes things I've offered and that people have asked for. The car will be bulging at the seams. Now I've just added minutes to my cell phone so I can call Mom on the trip to tell her how it's going, and I can't find the charger. It's in here somewhere; I know it is here somewhere...
1o:oo am update: I found the cell phone charger. It was just sitting there under a pile of books.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

First Toronto Snowfall

This shot was taken about 4:30 ET from my living room. By the time I went out to shovel the sidewalks and a path to the street it was still blowing and cold, but the snowfall was essentially over. It took about a half hour to clear the accumulation (and drifting) of about 15 cm. Today is sunny and "brisk" (-12C), but tomorrow we expect to get hit again.

While I was watching, a snowplough went down the street. I figured he'd got lost off his usual route and he thought, while he was there, he might as well clear. (We don't usually get our street cleared at all, and we're right off a major intersection.)

Should I bring my bicycle in at some point??

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our latest fund-raising results

This is a bit of good news at a time when all about us are losing theirs, including all our company holiday party subsidies and events (and no new cellphones or BlackBerrys, etc.).

Payroll pledges to the United Way, our company's beneficiary, are down by about fifty percent this year, possibly in retaliation...

Last Christmas we thought we did pretty well when we raised $504 for the Toronto City Mission to provide a Christmas for two families by selling raffle tickets for donated prizes, but we kept it mostly in the department.This year we pulled out all the stops. A kids' breakfast program at a community centre here in Toronto is the beneficiary.

We've planned four raffles -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter. Our first raffle raised $1000. For the holiday raffle, we had prizes like 4g and 8g iPods, a Playstation 3, a pair of Leafs tickets in the Red section at the ACC, and several $100 gift certificates for places like Best Buy and the Rosewater Supper Club.

We had a lot of people buying chances. We tweaked the theme a bit by giving one ticket per pound of food donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank, and by accepting three non-winning Thxgv raffle tickets for one holiday raffle ticket.We decorated an empty office (with a nice blank brick wall) with a tree and a large-screen monitor (about three feet across) that showed a lovely fire burning in a brick fireplace.

We got help to set up a webcam and server and distributed a link by e-mail so people across the company could watch the draw live (well, with a ten-second delay). Apparently the quality was pretty good, but the fireplace just showed flare.Our holiday raffle, for which prizes were distributed today, raised $2010, and about 120 lbs of food (73 pounds of which was contributed by ONE person, who ended up winning four prizes and who immediately gave back two of them to the draw).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Another re-post from the past (July 2003)

I not so recently decided to remove some hardwood flooring just inside the front door, and I bought two 17-1/4" porcelain tiles to cover the width. Taking up the 80-year-old oak hardwood was not a problem; the problem was taking up only the area I wanted, and dealing with the sub-standard subfloor. I ended up taking up 14.5 feet of 3/8" thick hardwood and 1.5" wide, 1" thick spruce tongue-and-groove subfloor (plus a few random pieces that were used as filler).

Luckily I knew some phone numbers, and within a month I had hired someone to install the plywood subfloor who could start in the next 3 weeks. (If God had meant for me to do it myself, I would still be leaping from joist to joist, and the cats would all have broken legs.)

In the meantime, I had a houseguest who took great pleasure in the house-wide thumping sound she made when landing on the spare boards I'd laid below the bottom stair. I also bought another 3 cases of the porcelain tiles...I know how to install tile -- in theory. I have watched countless in-2-days-change-the-whole-house type decorating shows. I had all the requirements -- tiles (enough boxes of), adhesive (huge bucket of), tools (lots of). What I didn't know was how to cut the tile to fit the cold-air intake grate (intake grate, new one of; plywood installer: cut hole big enough for). I gave it a lot of thought over the next 6 weeks, now that I had a safe and relatively quiet plywood subfloor to walk on.

I know my limitations, and my tools are not among them -- that's why I got a guy to install the subfloor. I can't measure worth a damn. I found a moderated web site ( -- requires registration) that said I could cut the big porcelain tiles with equipment I already had -- a Skil (circular) saw and a dry-cut diamond saw blade (yes, I have one). I cut the tiles, spread the pre-mixed tile adhesive (you know, it's just like soft ice cream, except with the consistency of lard), and set the tiles. I didn't walk on them for 72 hours (even the professional plywood-subfloor installer had his limits, and levelling the floor in an 80-year-old house was among them).

I went to Home Depot and bought a box of grout in a matching colour (who knew there are formulae for calculating whether you need sanded (< or =" 1/4"> 3mm gap {what da f---}), and how many pounds of grout you need using tile size, gap between tiles, and square footage. I now calculate if I don't have enough grout in the house by the end of the job I will use gum.

I'm a tool girl -- I like to take as much time in the hardware store as I do in the clearance section of the clothing department or the drugstore "feminine products" aisle. I have at least 7 saws (cross-cut, coping, Japanese dovetail, miter, hack, jigsaw, circular saw with a variety of blades...), 3 kinds of hammers, a crowbar and a prybar, power drill (and a variety of screw driver bits), a router (used once briefly, but still), at least 10 screwdrivers (Phillips, Robertson, slot, and a bunch of Allen keys); a small socket wrench, a plumbing pipe cutter, gas torch for plumbing, adjustible wrench, pipe wrench; manual tile snapper and a zax (see Scrabble dictionary); box tool; 10" soil tamper; Yankee hand drill (it looked like fun), and, surprisingly, a taco press.

Now that I have enough of the grout (ready-to-mix) in a matching colour (Oyster Gray) and a grout float, and a sponge to smooth the grout with, and and a 5-gallon bucket to rinse the sponge in, and rags with which to wash off the grout haze, I will have the whole floor done by Thanksgiving (including sanding, priming, painting and re-installing the baseboard and some quarter-round trim). I will never walk on this floor, of course -- it's only for show. I'm used to it by now.

Karen in Toronto, who, if she had a husband, would get a lot more done in a lot less time (I'm kidding -- he'd pay for the workers)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nothing new, but this is pretty funny

I wrote this in October 2003 to an off-topic list of a listserv I used to frequent (note: my family was coming for Canadian Thanksgiving and the gas oven stopped working the week before).

Tuesday: Had to stay late at work. New housemate's 47th birthday. Shopped for 2 servings of cake for dinner, made grilled steak, rosemary new potatoes, fresh green beans (he's like a kid -- you have to bargain with him over eating his vegetables). Told him it's his turn to wash the dishes. He watches TV, talks on phone to family members, and surfs 'net for rest of evening. (He did dishes next night.)

Wednesday: Had to stay late at work. Called the stove guy about the broken oven. No, he no can get parrrt yet; need schematic. You got Interrrnet? You can look up schematic forrr me. You got fax machine? Starting to lose hope.

Thursday: Had to stay late at work. Family arriving Friday afternoon sometime, screech! Had stress-inducing performance review plus 4 other meetings today. Housemate has not made dinner. Called the small struggling local furniture guy about spare bed order. No answer. Housemate finally moves the rest of his boxes downstairs to basement. Forgets his laundry is in the dryer (again). Still don't know what time family is arriving, call Mom to find out. Find neighbour's straying cat on my front porch, knock on their door to hand him back, ask to borrow their oven on Saturday. Answer is Sure! One hurdle over. Housemate informs me his Friday night billet has fallen through; he can't figure out why he can't sleep in 2nd guest room on new spare bed. Interesting to watch him figure out sleeping assignments with counting fingers; has forgotten that owner of house also needs place to sleep.

Friday: Vacuum, wash dishes, strip and remake available beds in morning, start load of laundry. Got off work 1 hour early. Shop for lots of booze and hot cooked dinner (oven still busted) and dessert for 6; buy prime rib roast for Thanksgiving ($60.00 CA!! but just the right amount of leftovers). Race home: message from Mom's cell that they'll be there in 1.3 hrs. Walk over to bed store: there it is! On sidewalk!! Owner informs me that several people have made offers on it. I insist he tape SOLD sign on it if he's going to leave it there until I can come back with car to pick it up (no parking on that side of street until after 6 pm).

5:45 pm Friday: Family arrives, and stand out on street like cows in pasture at milking time. I stand on porch and call Coop coop coop! They stagger over under volumes of luggage (they're staying 2 nights). Open wine and beer immediately. I drink most of it. Thankfully, housemate is excellent raconteur (philosophy degree, law practice, sports fan, photography -- covers everything and everyone). Older feeble brother claims new bed in 2nd guest room; I get the foldout couch, housemate gets sleeping bag on dining room floor. He doesn't snore but my cat does.

Saturday am: first (and only) bathroom conflict: housemate is brushing teeth... I need to go... Mom makes pancakes and I make coffee and boysenberry sauce. Younger brother offers to clear table and wash dishes for first time in 45 years (he's had a talking-to). Housemate has invitation to attend NHL season opener -- Leafs and Habs (result Habs 4-0, he'll be ecstatic) and bed for night. Hilarious recounting to family of his confusion over sleeping arrangements; lots of advice from mother on housekeeping and men.

Saturday afternoon: successful shopping at large mall, then run back and forth to neighbours' oven with roast and apple pie. Successful dinner; younger brother washes dishes again!

Saturday evening, still quiet, mild and pleasant: Brothers and sister-in-law and me smoking and conversing on front porch. Raccoon walks across street towards sidewalk leading to my backyard. Recall neighbour's spank-attack on grape-stealing raccoon. Wine-heated, I chase raccoon to wooden utility pole, up which he climbs rapidly, just low enough for me to leap up and smack him hard on the butt with my hand. Brothers and sister-in-law howling from front porch. I return in triumph. Angry, frightened raccoon on utility pole hisses at us for some time.

Sunday am: brothers still talking about raccoon attack. Breakfast, ablutions, make road lunch of prime rib sandwiches, dishes, packing. I get family to tour house to pick up forgotten articles and strip beds. Kisses and thanks goodbye all round. Start first of 6 loads of laundry and catch up on e-mail. Day off tomorrow!

Tell me why I do this again?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Diabetes with Heart

Not the greatest or worst news this week. I am not eligible for the hot-flash study because my blood sugars are too high, which is BAD. But I still have a chance to join St. Michael's Hospital's diabetes support team, so that's GOOD.

Once of the study coordinators called to let me know this, and faxed my results to me and also sent them to my family doctor---also GOOD. Besides the bad blood sugar it seems I have an abnormal heart rhythm as detected by the EKG, so that's BAD.

I have an appointment next week to talk to my GP about those StM results (GOOD); by then I also hope to have an appointment with a new endocrinologist at St. Mike's (this hospital, by the way, is the downtown emergency centre where our gunshot victims are often taken first).

I went to an executive lunch (it's just an opportunity for brown-nosers to eat lunch and listen to a senior vice president, so I enjoyed it). I had to leave a couple of minutes early because I chair a meeting every week with the managers. So our Chief Technology Officer (CTO) shows up for the first time, and even though he had accepted the meeting invitation (GOOD) I neglected to inform him that the location had changed (BAD). It went OK. I keep these meetings as short as possible, by the way, and the CTO liked that and thinks he'll attend more of these meetings (GOOD).

Wednesday my boss called us into his office and told us he is leaving for another job (BAD). Our director will be managing us until a new person is hired (GOOD). But the boss, who hired me on contract three years ago (GOOD) and promoted my full-time hiring a year later (GOOD) is probably the kindest and gentlest boss I've ever had in nearly 20 years (except maybe for one other) so he'll be hard to replace (BAD).

Anyways, here's a picture of Handsome Stranger on top of the fridge.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Diabetes team!

I was screened this week to see if I was eligible to participate in a study on reducing menopausal hot flashes using a modified antidepressant (Effexor). The study coordinator told me I was probably not eligible because I don't have blood sugar control. At all. My last A1C early this year was 12.2%, more than double the optimal percentage to indicate good control, entirely because I don't control what I eat, get little exercise, don't eat regularly or eat too much at a time, skip/forget meds, and fall asleep before taking my nightly insulin.

Exams over about 2 hours: interview on hot flash experiences, meds & supplements (dosages/amounts), diet, exercise, my own medical history and family history (diabetes, heart disease); full physical including reflexes, internal pelvic (gyn), height/weight, Pap smear, breast exam, blood pressure; electrocardiogram including 4 more blood pressure and pulse readings; blood extraction, and probably some other stuff I can't recall. The only thing missing was an xray, but I can't think what it would have been for unless they wanted to see if my brain was even there.

So, even if I am not eligible for the study, I have the opportunity to become a member of the team for getting diabetes management at the hospital, with a first appointment either later this year or early next year with "the best" diabetes doctors (endocrinology) in the city and maybe the province. Liz, the study coordinator, is a diabetes nutritionist among other things, and due to her concern is getting me referrals and appointments with the staff. She forgot to save my EKG results (I have an atypical low voltage thing) so I had to go back early Wednesday morning to have another one (it took 15 minutes from in to out again), and forgot my wallet at home. She was kind enough to lend me enough money for the day. I love her already!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No-knead whole-grain bread results

Here's the result of one of the no-knead bread recipes. I let it rise the first time for about 6 hours instead of four, and I left it overnight in the pan in the oven with the light on (covered in plastic wrap) instead for just one hour. But it's tasty, if you like a chewy dense bread with a thin crispy crust and a slightly sour taste (probably a result of leaving it overnight). I also used soy flour instead of rye flour.

I used whole wheat flour that was grown and milled in Ontario (I got it in the marketplace at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto). This is a rare thing! Wheat grown in Canada is generally sent to the US or elsewhere for processing, then sent back to Canada. This lets producers say it's a Canadian product.

Next time (probably this morning!) I will give it another try and bake it in slightly smaller loaf pan (a vintage glass Pyrex). The loaf looks nice from this angle, but it's less than 2 inches high. I haven't put any of my home-made jam or jelly on it yet. I have a feeling I'll be making my own butter soon...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No-knead whole-grain bread recipes

I found a couple of recipes I'm going to try for making whole-grain bread. (And if you don't have one of Mark Bittman's cookbooks on your shelf you ought to get one.) These recipes were published in the Toronto Star on Saturday, October 18/08. Very few bread recipes can handle only whole-grain flours; usually they call for at least two-thirds all-purpose flour. Bitmann provides two variations; he says "If the proportions of liquid, solid and yeast stay the same, the timing and results will be consistent."

Here's a picture of a couple of quiches I made from Bitmann's Basic Quiche recipe, using home-grown asparagus and store-bought tomatoes and pie shells. These quiches really freeze well, by the way. One of these days I'll learn to make a flaky pastry...

And I think I used one of Bittman's recipes for this lovely cornbread (or maybe not).
I've only made bread using my hands, kneading a large recipe (four loaves) for up to ten minutes before proofing (letting rise) the first time. The last time I tried to start the batter using an old Sunbeam mixer, it (the mixer, not the batter) started to smoke a little... It wasn't one of those giant KitchenAid things that I covet, but I know I'd seldom use it to make such a purchase worthwhile.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kids' breakfast fundraiser - $900 x 2!!

I mentioned that my department was raising money for a kids' breakfast program here in Toronto. I won't go into detail about how kids who eat breakfast have tremendous learning advantages over those who don't---or can't. Anyway, our raffle raised $900 CA, which the company will match (but only up to $1000...I guess that's pretty generous). And that was just our first draw, which we pulled off in just over a week. Our purchasing manager figures he will be able to get some excellent loot from his vendors and other contacts for the Christmas draw.

Eat Breakfast = Weight loss: Before I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes I had put on a few pounds---from 130 at age 30 to 145 at age 40. That was a result of skipping breakfast and eating way too much for lunch and dinner since I was a teenager. I started the diabetic regimen (NOT "regime" as so many websites like to put it) with a plan from a diabetes nurse/educator. Without actually eating fewer calories I started to lose weight -- about 2 lbs a week, because I ate a balanced breakfast (cereal, fruit, dairy, protein), so was less hungry for lunch and dinner. I had to call my nurse after about a month because I felt I was losing too much weight and needed more food. I ended up getting almost all my clothes taken in. When I was diagnosed I had been doing a 90-minute martial arts class 2-3 times a week for over a year and playing badminton once a week for 3 hours; also a 3-hour yoga class on Sundays; also walking quite a bit.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The best tree on the street

Pretty nice.

Carbon footprint FAIL

I like a leaky house. That is to say I don't mind some drafts from improperly sealed windows and doors. I did spend an evening caulking around the living room and dining room floors because there was actual COLD AIR that I could feel on my ankles, and I installed backer rod outside on my south-facing but unsunny part of the house as a draft sealer as well. It works pretty well.

My complaint is about my carbon footprint, according to various websites I've plugged my numbers into.

Yes, I drive an older car---about once a week for less than 30 km (that's about 19 miles in US gallons) each trip. I've filled the gas tank twice THIS YEAR. My car also passed its biennial (every two years in US gallons) emissions test, with almost no emissions registered on the test equipment. Every four months I drive to the dentist for a cleaning, which since I'm diabetic is essential---and yes, I floss! It's a 35 km round trip that takes about 40 minutes by car and over three hours by public transit, usually in a diesel-smoke-belching bus. I drive to the beer and liquor stores to turn in my empties and get full ones, about 3.5 km round trip (which I often do by public transit). And once or twice a year I drive to my mom's, a 1250 km round trip.

I also have an older house (ca. 1925) with an older furnace. However, I got my electricals updated (from 60 to 100W) when I moved in, and shortly after replaced the water pipes with copper. In 2007 I got "water remediation" done, which meant replacing the big pipe from the street to the property line by the city for free, and from the property line into the house for somewhat more, and included a water meter. This means that my water bills are no longer calculated by the number of faucets in the house and I'm billed on actual usage. My first bill was minus $150. My next bill was minus $94. I expect my next water bill to be about $14.00.

October 31 update: My latest water bill was minus $42.32. I'm sure some day I'll be billed for water, but the next bill will have a $10 rebate because I chose the smallest garbage bin.

I ordered the smallest recycling and garbage bins. I got a downspout disconnected and use the waterbarrel. The only non-CFLs in the house are in the kitchen. Using a laptop and multiple power bars I use about $6 of electricity a month (<300kW in two months). I have low-flow faucets, shower, and a high-efficiency toilet (HET; 4.6 liters for the full flush and half that for the half-flush).

I guess I do need 4.3 planets to support my lifestyle. What less can I do?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Equipment for making jam and jelly

It's easy to make fruit jam and jelly using minimal equipment, especially if you choose to make small batches of "freezer" jam, which I've never done. But if you want to make a dozen or so of 250ml jars that can sit safely unopened on the shelf for a year or more, you should invest in some proper canning equipment.

1. Water-bath canning pot. This is a really big enamelled pot with lid and wire rack. You use it both to sterilize the jars in boiling water and to heat-process the filled jars (applies to pickles and jams/jellies and other preserves). It takes a long time to heat with the volume of water used. You can't just place filled jars in the bottom of a big pot without a wire rack.

But---you need to keep the jars very hot until they are filled. So once the water boils you plop the empty jars in the water, then time the sterilization process from when the water returns to a boil (10 minutes boiling to sterilize; don't do it in the dishwasher or the oven). Reduce heat to simmer. Remove the hot jars just as the fruit is ready, return the hot water to boil, then fill and seal the jars. Then you carefully use your handy-dandy patent jar-lifter and return them to the boiling water in the canner. Wait until the water returns to boiling and then time off five minutes (this is at sea level; for other elevations and other recipes the timing is different). Last few batches I didn't try to process more than 5 jars at a time.

2. Funnel. These are wide-mouthed plastic or metal funnels that you put in the jar before you ladle in the boiling-hot preserves. If you're careful you have little need of wiping the jar rim before you put the snap-lid on. But just in case, use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims before you place the snap-lids on.

3. Hotdog tongs. This is the best tool for slipping the jars into the water-bath canner to sterilize them, and for removing them before filling ("keep jars hot in canner until ready to fill"). Ow.

4. Magnetic lifter for snap-lids (ALWAYS use new snap-lids; you can re-use sealing rings). I have one of these but couldn't find it for this season's canning. I just use my fingers for snatching the hot lids to place on the filled jars. Ow. Ow. Ow.

Note: Do not boil the snap lids for too long! Temperature for sterilizing the snap-lids is just below boiling.

5. Some Bernardin(R) recipes ask you to slip a plastic wand around the contents of the filled jar to remove air bubbles, but I have never had to do this with jam or jelly. I have one, but I've never used it. It's probably hiding with the magnetic lifter.

6. Tray, table, or platter to put the jars on that is close to the cooking area. I have a crash cart (an actual stainless steel hospital crash cart) that I wheel over to the stove when I start to ladle the fruit into the jars. The jars sit on a Teflon cooking surface that I pad with a dish towel.

You can find lots of recipes and information by googling canning web sites.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Turning on the furnace

This is my gravity furnace. It came with the house. Actually, it was installed when the house was built in the early 1920s. It was made by the Guelph Stove Company. It still works pretty well nearly 90 years after it was put together. It was converted from oil to gas in the 1950s.

Gravity furnaces work because hot air rises. The ducts are huge and the air vents and cold air returns are pretty big too. There's no blower or fan; the flames heat these big ceramic plates, which heat the air in the big chamber. The best thing is it's quiet --- you can only tell the furnace has been on when the valve ratchets off.

I turned it on for the first time last night, since it was about 5C (that's about 40F). Here are the steps: 1) turn the thermostat up to 25C, 2) turn valve A (for the pilot), 3) prop open the burner door, 4) undo the access plate to the pilot, 5) light the pilot by getting down on my back on the dirty basement floor and holding a candle flame up to the gas jet area, 6) turn valve B (that supplies the on-off valve/thermostat thing, I think), 7) turn the electric switch on, and 8) turn the thermostat to where I want it (17C).

It was over 20C in the house this morning, which is just too hot for me these days, so I turned it down to 15C. The real house temp according to my Lee Valley thermometer is about 18-19. But this spring I installed it outside in the front window so I know how to dress in the morning. Now I need a new thermometer for inside the house.

Tips for making fruit preserves: Every time you take a step in making the jam or jelly, re-read the instructions in their entirety. Then read them again. That's how I fuxed up the grape jelly that didn't jell. I did everything right except I heated the grape juice before I stirred in the pectin crystals. Reprocessing worked very well, though, except I started with 9 jars of juice, added 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 1/2 cups of water, and ended up with 8 jars of perfect jelly. Go figure.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Canning final tally; and How about some Chia, pet?

Raspberry jam: 25 jars. Grape jelly: 14 jars. There would have been a lot more grape jelly but this year I again dumped perfectly good grapes since I was bored of pulling them off the clusters.

Here are a couple of the baskets I'm donating to our department's raffle draws for charity. There are four (three include one grape and one raspberry, and one, for the Christmas draw, has 3 different ones including a strawberry jam that I traded for with another editor who lives in the country). I got the tea towels at a dollar store (4/$1), the little spreaders in Chinatown (4/$1), and the baskets at Value Village. I'm claiming that these are "a $20 value!" because 250-ml jars at farmers' markets cost about 5-6 bucks each. Totally organic, too, because I don't weed, water, or fertilize (too freakin' lazy).

Chia seed: I have been reading about chia seed on several websites and newsletters and it sounded quite appealing as a source of nutrients. Salba(R) is the most expensive, of course, but there are a number of other sites where it costs much less. Its properties include high fiber (filling, helps with BG control), calcium, and antioxidants (which increase shelf life); more digestable than flax; low fat and sodium. It appears to be a good substitute for gluten in baking as well. For a long time now for my weekday breakfast I've been eating General Mills Fiber1 (fibre?) cereal (14g fiber for a half-cup serving), with whatever berries or other fresh or frozen fruit I have on hand, about 2/3 cup plain yogurt (Astro BioBest), a handful of walnuts (healthy fats, good fiber, nice texture). Now I'm adding 2 tablespoons of ground chia seed. One thing they don't really mention is the---not to be too delicate or anything---additional bowel movements after a few days of eating it. Good ones, though...(ahem). And apparently it is sold in the basement of St. Lawrence Market. I haven't baked in a long time, so I'll give it a whack.

Teff flour: I am looking for recipes that use alternatives to wheat flour, such as soy and teff. I have been able to find teff grains only once here in Toronto, and ended up ordering from Bob's Red Mill (I think in Oregon). Pricey, but it's another powerhouse. And my local independent bulk store sells teff flour, which is also a nutritional powerhouse.

Which leads to the CT colonography results: negative. Meaning positive results --- no polyps or anything. It only took three tries. I think my favourite (!) was the colonoscopy for which I was fully anaesthetized. I don't have to do it again for five years.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rowing machine finally in one piece

Last night I put the rowing machine together (Zeller's, 149.99 CAD) that I bought LAST weekend. I missed a whole week of interesting exercise. My neighbours have a machine on their porch that I've been looking at as I go by. Was it a Pilates machine or a rower?? I was browsing for rowers and saw their ad---it IS a rower, and they want nearly $800 for it ($2000 new). And it's still on sale after a month. Mine has a little problem---if I increase the tension and pull strength, the end of it comes up off the floor a little. Wiggling a little bit on the seat and moving my feet on the rests helps somewhat, but I will need to find a way to weigh it down when I get more vigorous.

Results: BG before putting the machine together (which was exercise in itself) and using it for 10 minutes at second tension (out of 5)---16.4 mmol/dl (multiply by 18 for US gallons). After exercise and before dinner---15.7. Light dinner (natural PB [2 g net carbs] on high-fiber multigrain bread, a bit of cheese, a peach, and 1 c unsweetened soy milk [2 g net carbs]). Before bed I reduced my NPH insulin shot to 16 (from 18). Fasting BG this morning: 10.2. That's progress. Of a sort. I did work up a sweat and got my pulse rate up. I also need to put the machine someplace where I won't bang my elbows on the doorframe, and have something to look at---rowing across the guest bedroom is pretty boring.

Diet: I've been eating a lot of fruit this summer. Peaches and apples, blueberries, etc. But I eat way too much in the evenings, especially starches, and nowhere near enough vegetables, which is a continuing (mostly psychological) problem I haven't been able to figure out. Baby carrots tend to spike my blood sugar, as do bananas. I need to buy something low-carb to munch on, like cabbage or cellophane or something.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sky-high blood sugar

I stopped by my friendly neighbourhood bistro for one beer late Wednesday afternoon, and was sorely tempted by their daily salad special (baby spinach drizzled with pomegranate vinaigrette, with pink grapefruit pieces, feta cheese, and walnuts). Then I chose to indulge in their home-made focaccia (equivalent to 3-4 servings of bread), with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. THEN I treated myself to their excellent coffee and, fatally, a slice of flourless polenta chocolate cake (with a caramel topping). They do provide a few gluten-free menu items. Well, the cake was chocolatey; a different "mouthfeel" due to the cornmeal; definitely rich; tasty, but took a bit of getting used to (I ate it all, of course).

I tested my BG before bed, and it was too high for the meter to read (>33.3 mmol/dl or 600 in US gallons). I'm sure it's been that high before, but the thing was I had no familiar symptoms of high blood sugar (sticky eyes, reeling sensation). I took one extra unit of NPH insulin and 4 mg of Gluconorm, and downed 3 cups of Chinese blood-sugar-reducing tea, all of which drove down the BG to 19+ about 2 hours later. I shoulda stuck to the salad. But it was a beautiful meal!

I don't blame the chocolate so much as I blame the bread---too much, too white, and too delish! I'm going back tomorrow for brunch and will try to make better choices.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Is it jelly yet?

Well, this morning I mashed and boiled the grapes and set the juice in the jelly bag. Got home and found I had a little less juice than expected. Prepared 9 jars, boiled the juice, added Certo low-sugar pectin (needed 4.5 cups of sugar), boiled it up. I only got 6 jars of grape jelly. They look pretty, though, and it tastes quite good.
I am getting enough raspberries (> 1 lb every 2 days) to make another batch of jam. And I still haven't picked all the grapes (the raccoons are helping with that) so I might be able to get a few more jars of jelly.
I like Bernardin's instructions better than Certo's (Bernardin: never sterilize jars in oven. Certo: sterilize jars in oven; Bernardin: use water-bath canning method. Certo: seal sterlized jars).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It must be jelly coz jam don't shake like that

Jelly and Jam: I painstakingly picked and froze my giant raspberries for about a month to get enough berries for jam. I was able to make a batch and half (12 jars). It looks and tastes lovely. Cost: berries $0, jars and pectin $0 (last year's), sugar $1.79. So the post title is out of sequence: I made jam first. I am in the process of preparing the Concord grapes from the garden; it's a lot more fiddly work than jam. Last night I broke one jar and let the fruit boil over, which is a warning to those who might wish to look upon the wine while it is red; helps pass the time, though.

I have a couple of packages of no-sugar pectin (but I need to add 1 cup unsweetened fruit juice and a sugar substitute; I think Splenda will do). I'll make regular grape jelly with sugar and regular pectin with half the grapes and try out the no-sugar stuff on the remainder. Does this look like enough?

September 14 update: I only used about half of these grapes, since I got so bored with pulling the good ones off. Not as bad as last year, when I composted about 8 gallons.

I use the water-bath canning method, which is much safer, botulism-wise, than simply boiling the fruit and packing it in hot jars. I got the giant pot at Value Village for about 1o bucks a few years ago (a new one costs a few dollars more and usually isn't much rusted). Work-wise, it saves the cost and mess of using paraffin wax, which needs to be melted and poured carefully over the just-poured fruit. I have the grabber-out-of-boiling-water too, but I can't find the magnetic wand that pulls the sealing lids out of the hot water.

Colon Diaries: no word of results yet. It's been two weeks.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The cats are in boxhab

This is my new rowing machine. It was half-price at Zellers. It's not quite a real ergometer like you find in fitness clubs (except the one I belong to, which seems to focus on butt-reducing machines), but it's the closest I've seen for a reasonable (meaning cheap) price. It was, in fact, half-price (149.99 CAD). I got help loading it into the car but I needed to drag it into the house myself. (Zeller's personnel motto: "If it's not in the flyer it's not on sale.")

I am over 50 and need a low/no impact workout, for 1) getting regular exercise and regaining lost fitness and muscle mass, which 2) really helps with blood sugar control, 3) helping to increase energy, 4) maybe put on a bit of weight so I actually have to undo my pants before pulling them off (not really, but WTF), and 5) low-impact exercise will keep me away from the physiotherapist, though he's a cute guy and helped a lot earlier this year when I got a stress injury in my right knee from walking 30 minutes a day (!).

So it came in a really big box: gross wt. 37 kg or 82 lbs, about 4' x 2' x 1'. I unpacked it (haven't assembled it yet) and 3 of the 4 cats are already addicted. The cardboard is too thick for Handsome Stranger to really get his tiny teeth into but he's giving it his best shot. Only Bwai (who needs a step stool to get up on a chair) hasn't climbed in. I should fill it with the last of the catnip and let them go wild. I do believe this is Fiasco T. Peabrain after a 'nip session.

I have about 5 lbs of raspberries ready for the jam jars; well, not exactly ready. I need to make the jam first. I use a water-bath canning method, which tends to keep down the botulism.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What a good baby! (my car, that is)

Despite almost exactly 2 years of neglect (street parking, under trees, subject to bird poops; tuneups few and far between; almost no mileage/kilometerage) my 1999 Volkswagen Golf passed its biennial emissions test with flying colours. Like, no emissions, well below passing threshold. The jackass at the service centre first told me it had failed ("just kidding!"). Wednesday around noon seems to be the time to do these things. It's a real money-maker for the Ontario government, and as of September 1, 2008 Toronto will start charging $60 for license renewals. Glad I was induced way back in 1956. I think my original due date was September 7.

In 2009 (I think in June) Canadians need to have a passport to get into the US. By non-air transit you can get into the US with photo ID (but my latest driver's license photo will probably look like the woman in "American Gothic").

They made me take off my glasses after the first shot. Couldn't they fix the camera angle so that the spectacles don't cause a spectacle? In over 20 years they've never asked me to take the glasses off, and corrective lenses are a requirement. In fact, I can't find my glasses unless I'm wearing them; I don't even hear as well without them.

My last driver's license photo actually LOOKED like I do most days. Except my face isn't really that big, and my hair is longer. My brother's a Canada Border Services agent and lives on the Canada-US border, so a trip across to get gas, a Thanksgiving turkey, or to his mailbox, or to have dinner, is common. I've had the whole passport package (guarantor and witness signatures, photos, forms completed) ready for almost a year but I don't like to travel (outside my comfort zone) so why bother? Also I'm waiting for the price to go down.

The Colon Diaries -- farewell (sob, sniff)

Dear Diary: Arrived at TEGH (Toronto East General Hospital, to whom I think I might donate a few bucks) at 9:05 am for a 9:25 appointment. I was checked in, gowned up, interviewed, and bedded down with a tube up my nether place by 9:30 am. I was walking out to breakfast by 10 am. Hallelujah! I was cleansed. It took a 37.5 hour fast and a whole lot of laxatives and fluids. Ingrid, my CT tech, stayed with me the whole time and took me step by step through the whole thing. When she came in to turn me over for the second part of the scan, she told me it was going so well other people were coming in to look...

This is just like the machine I was in, except I went in feet first and my CT tech was blonde. And the techs leave the room. Not as comfortable as the colonoscopy (I was under general anaesthetic) or as horribly invasive and uncomfortable and MESSY as the barium enema (don't let ANYONE try to talk you into having that instead of a colonoscopy)---somewhere in between. I might get results in a couple of weeks.

Next: my car passed the drive-clean test! Hallelujah again. Now it's off to get my plate sticker and new driver's license photo. Unfortunately I can't drive there because I might get a ticket for having an expired sticker.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Garden Update

I have two kinds of raspberries and two blue grape varieties. They bloom and fruit despite my neglect. I think one grapevine grows about a foot a day. If I were diligent I'd be cutting them back.

The grapes go from one end of the dividing fence to the other. These berries are about seven feet off the ground and are the size of the top of my thumb.

Dear Diary: 2:15 pm. Ominous rumblings. I am running out of lemon soda already, and don't know if I can make it to the store...

The Colon Diaries -- the next few hours

Here's a picture of the city bins we're all getting (and must get) used to. From left, the new miniature garbage bin (placed incorrectly on the sidewalk; I checked the instructions just now and moved them to the edge). Two garbage bags and two irredeemable litter boxes. The Green Bin for kitchen waste, including disposable diapers, paper towels and tissues, coffee grounds, bones and fats, and---yay!!---used kitty litter. A yard waste bag. I also have a Green Box that holds yard waste.
I chose the smallest garbage bin (holds one bag) 1) to remind myself to keep my consumption down, 2) to get a $10 rebate on my utility bill instead of paying up to $190 a year for the extra-large bin, and 3) to be sure I had some place to put it. What's in it today? About 8 non-recyclable plastic containers for Purina kitty litter.
Speaking of which, I just hauled home about 20 kg of kitty litter from the store. A month or so ago I had cleaned out the equivalent of five litter boxes and put it out for collection. The city worker was heaving everything into the truck, and said, "Christ! How many cats does she have??" One, how did he know I was a "she"? Two, maybe it was ONE cat and FOUR months' worth of litter. (In fact it's four cats and one month's worth.)
Dear Diary: Took the first (noon) dose of Pico-Salax. It didn't taste too bad. I wonder how fast it works... I found some Peach & White Tea popsicles and some sugar-free lemon soda to supplement the bouillon, green tea, and Nestle sports drink (sugar-free). I did take my morning meds with a quarter-cup of soy milk even though that's against the rules, but I had to get those BGs down. Still 16.9 mmol/dl but better than before. I'll take my lunch meds with a popsicle and a lovely cup of green tea.

The Colon Diaries -- the first few hours

First hours of fasting. Last night for dinner I ate a third of a nice grilled t-bone steak (rare) and salad (chunks of red pepper, English cucumber, avocado, and field tomato, with a dressing of plain yogurt, light mayo, fresh-ground salt and pepper, a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, some fresh chopped Italian oregano, and a dash of balsamic vinegar). Oh, yeah---and a 100 g bar of dark chocolate (85% cocoa) and three cups of organic green tea.

I stopped eating at 8:30 pm yesterday, and then remembered I had to run out to the pharmacy and get 2 packages of Pico-Salax (a purgative). I have to drink it twice today (one package), and if I still don't have clear stool tomorrow morning (TMI, sorry!), I have to call the clinic and reschedule for Thursday, and DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. I might end up fasting (except for clear fluids) for two full days.

Because my post-dinner BG was very high, I took an extra Gluconorm before bed and shot my usual insulin. Fasting blood glucose this morning: 20.5 mmol/dl. That's 369 in US gallons. I can't attribute it to the chocolate bar---I believe it's stress. Even though I can't eat anything solid or drink anything cloudy I will need to take a bit of NPH insulin and try to get those BGs down. Before the colonoscopy (last month) I was tested at the hospital at over 25 and they gave me a shot of a fast-acting insulin before I left. No appreciable effect.

So far today I have started laundry, taken out almost all the garbage, and dumped the kitty litter. I am going to have a talk with the cats about this new litter brand they seem to like.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My birthday (sigh)

Woke up early, reheated coffee, fed the cats, got the paper. Talked to Mom--we sing each other Happy Birthday every year, kind of fun! She promised I'd probably get my card tomorrow (Monday). Got an e-mail last night from my older brother. He promised he'd send my card tomorrow. On Friday I received an eight-word note from my sister-in-law (younger brother's wife). Younger brother is usually pretty good about sending cards in good time. Maybe he'll call. I sent sis-in-law a cheque for her birthday (last Wed.) but my greedy brother got the money.

One of my co-workers said happy birthday to me on Friday. Maybe tomorrow my boss will remember--usually we get a corporate card from the managers with a gift card for a restaurant. None of my friends remember my birthday. After so many (at least 49!) I could give a darn.

Drank too much and ate potato chips for dinner yesterday--very bad!

Mind you, I'm not complaining...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The saga continues...

BIRTHDAY: My next 49th birthday is tomorrow---I think this is the fourth. I was 39 for a number of years.

MEDICAL: Stopped off at Toronto East General Hospital yesterday to pick up instructions and materials for the next shot at a colon exam (the third) on Wednesday morning. This time there's no anaesthetic (too bad; it was kind of fun). I have to start fasting on Tuesday morning (Last Meal on Monday evening) and drink a number of laxatives. I was told to expect diarrhea for a good part of Tuesday and the whole night. Fun, wow. This is a BASELINE TEST, folks. The barium enema was invasive, uncomfortable (not to say painful), failed miserably, and the guff is that it's nowhere near the most efficient test. So why??

I do want to take issue with the doctor about an item on my chart: Why did he check "severe chronic constipation"? I take Metformin (a diabetes drug; "most common adverse effect of metformin is gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea..."), and a few times a year I have to work at home because I can't go too far from the toilet. And 9 days out of 10 I have at least one good BM, because I eat lots of whole grains, vegs, and fruit. The only time I get corked up is when I visit my mother... Actually, now that she has had a second bathroom installed I don't even have to deal with that. Also, I have to stop the metformin for a couple of days before and after the test. This is actually a pretty good source of information on it:

BIRTHDAY again: In Ontario, older cars (mine's a 1999 Volkswagen Golf) require an emissions test from a certified garage ($35) every two years before the annual license renewal, which falls on one's birthday. I received the paperwork in June, and naturally I put off going to the MTO (ministry of transportation, ontario) until the day before I would get a ticket for not applying the new sticker by my birthday. I was nabbed once before. The ticket is $90 "plus $20 victim surcharge." I was a victim of procrastination---yeah, that's the ticket! Also I need to get a new DL photo. The last one was five years ago. I have new glasses, I guess that's why. I can't decide whether to get a haircut or not...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Good DM links and newsletters

In my efforts to get better control of my blood glucose and eating habits I have subscribed to a number of newsletters on diabetes management, exercise, and general health and healthy eating:

David Mendosa's site is amazing, though his newsletter is infrequent:

Diabetes Life at has a lively newsletter

Medscape at has news on controlled DM studies has good recipes doesn't serve Canadians but has good information lets you calculate your "real" vs. chronological age and helps you reduce your real age by providing analysis and steps you can take to reduce it. By the YOU doctors Oz and Mehmet

I can't really recommend the Canadian Diabetes Association newsletter---it's very, um, shall we say boring, uninspired, and undynamic? But check their website here:

DM update, freebies, and other interesting items

If anyone's interested, the maker of LifeScan OneTouch blood glucose monitors has a special promotion: call their Canadian customer line at 800.663.5521 and request a free USB interface cable. Mine arrived in about 3 days by Canada Post, but I wasn't home to sign for it so I had to go to my local post office to pick it up. Download the OneTouch software (free) and drivers, and you get a system that allows you to download and print your test results and track your BGs, medical records, etc. I have two UltraSmart meters and a OneTouch mini (but there's no way to download the results from the Mini, you have to enter them manually). I requested something online that I wasn't eligible for and to compensate they sent me samples of Splenda sugar (and coupons) and a pocket sized Aveeno moisturizer. I do love me that free stuff. in Canada.
I got all of these monitors for free, by the way: the Mini and UltraSmart with coupons, and the other Ultra after an interview with a rep from J&J who was also a diabetes educator (very interesting career choice). The test strips, which cost nearly $1 each, are mostly covered by my benefits.

I MAY have found a food that helps control my blood sugar---basil pesto. I disregarded a good AM fasting result I got in the early spring (whole wheat pasta, pesto, broccoli and a bit of extra Parmesan for dinner): around 5.5 mmol/dL or 100. Last Tuesday I was munching on a very sloppy meal of two high fiber wraps with two scrambled eggs, tomato slices, and pesto while I was cleaning up before the cleaning lady came in (yes, I'm one of those---but I want her to CLEAN, not waste her time doing dishes and gathering up recycling and dead clothes). My fasting BG was 2.8 mmol/dL or 54---a real hypo. I thought I was having a caf attack from too much coffee. My usual fasting results are way over 10. After a meal with pesto they've been between 5 and 7. I didn't get that result this morning but I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before bed (14.1 this AM). I'm not asking for a referral to the endo until I think my A1C will be lower...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flying Kitten, Garden Update

I love this shot. Kitten looks so brave and committed to his mission, but he probably just heard the can opener. Or saw a fly.
I hired a person from a local services organization to mow my back lawn. I think I might have mown it once last year (I'm strongly opposed to grass). I gave Neil $40 for about three hours work, I was so pleased! I should have taken at least a before picture to show the neglect.
"Nature abhors a lawn." We can see this in any green space. Yarrow, dandelions, clover are all valuable non-grass items.
"Any unwanted plant is a weed." I don't cultivate non-grass plants (but I do dig up dandelions to appease the neighbours). I will attempt by the end of the summer to reduce the actual grass footage of the lawn.
My neighbour has a lovely lawn but he waters it with drinking water! It comes right out of the hose. He even waters in the morning and after a rain. He's from Calgary so he doesn't know any better.
Mainly I have a lush mess. Two maturing grapevines show hundreds of bunches. I picked them all last year but ended up composting the whole crop (about 8 gallons). I picked them to thwart the raccoons.
I neglected to mulch the asparagus last year so I only got one serving this year. I did get a lot of rhubarb and gooseberries two years ago, but the raspberries and grapes have shaded them out so the crops weren't as good.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Value Village Idiot strikes again!

I got a very good deal on a Sunbeam Coffeemaster C30C yesterday (might sell it or not) -- plus another cushion for my front-porch chairs.

And I did a Shaker box-making class at Lee Valley's Toronto downtown store -- I can't think of much in recent years that was more satisfying. I just love both my accomplishment and the idea of these products.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2008 Green Living show haul

At the Green Living show last year I stopped in to see and hear Roberta Bondar---astronaut, neurologist, photographer---but I didn't try to see a speaker this year. There were more exhibits and many more give-aways, and I just indulged myself totally---spent about $100, including my GO train fare.

I bought: 1 sandwich, 1 loaf of bread, 2 cups of coffee, 750 ml steel water bottle (with wrist strap and carabiner clip), a bottle of "green works" natural dilutable cleaner (by Clorox), and 2 headrests filled with recycled plastic shavings (and Canadian-made) for Muskoka chairs for my front porch, two flowering tea ball (; you drop the ball in a glass teapot and watch it bloom!), and a 10,000 Villages funky shopping bag that turns into a round basket when you flip the handles down.

I hauled (meaning for free, for talking to a booth person, or wandering by a booth person): about 7-8 (more!) reusable shopping bags, 10 wood clothespins from Toronto Hydro (to go with their free retractable clothesline from Saturday, now holding unmentionables [bra, sockettes, panties]), sample of low-suds cold-water laundry soap from Toronto water (2 loads), full sizes of President's Choice dishwasher detergent, All-Purpose Cleaner, and Multipurpose Cleaning Putty, a 114 ml (about 1/2 cup) sample of Nature Clean All Natural dishwashing liquid ("Made by Really Nice Canadians (R)") and two samples of their Fruit & Veggie Wash (except I like my fruit & veggies dirty and still have their samples from last year), a sample of Liberte yogurt (in a reusable container and with a compostable spoon), tiny samples of "live clean" shampoo and conditioner plus a wild-flower plantable bookmark, Winning Colours stain remover (gentle on human skin; made in Canada or US, and took the in-out show stamp off the back of my hand pretty well), "method" hand sanitizer, a willow tree (really a stick, but plant and grow), a tiny bamboo spork, two pounds of green coffee beans (I used my draw-down from Merchants of Green Coffee), aaaaand that's about it. Oh, and a few discount coupons.

And a sample of worm castings from

My choices: porch lumber made of recycled plastics; Boomerang paint. I would have really liked a lovely bamboo bowl (different sizes and primary colours, very cool), but the prices were NUTS! $18 before tax for a 1-cup bowl.

My complaint: car dealers. Dealing big hybrids.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How to get to Green Living show while TTC is on strike

1. Wow. Got up at 6:03 am and saw by the Toronto Star headline that the streetcars, trains, and buses stopped running as of midnight. Last evening I thought of going to the Green Living show (VERY close to work, with my complimentary ticket from membership in my company's Green Committee) but decided that the cats had to be fed on time. Toronto MPPs are meeting this weekend to end the strike, but my Wine Rack person wondered why I wouldn't take GO transit, which stops not too far from home, and stops again right at Exhibition Stadium. D'oh. Tomorrow it is. (I have a car, but to drive it to the Green Living show is kind of counter-purpose. Also, I would need to top up my gas tank and the price this morning was 1.22 CAD per liter. I wonder what it was yesterday before midnight??)

2. I didn't win the Super 7. Again. This time, however, I bought a ticket for the draw.

3. My physiotherapist has been bugging me to get a knee x-ray, and my doctor's office finally (3 or more weeks after the first request) provided a requisition for it. It was much less bad than the last x-ray I underwent (with the barium enema)---no preparation, and I could pull my sports pants up to my hips so I didn't need to undress. I really really want to get copies of my knees from the inside, but medical records technology is still so primitive for most doctors that I probably won't even be able to see the actual films.

4. By 10 am/10h00 I was standing in line at Zeller's (behind about a gazillion other people) waiting for my free indoor/outdoor clothesline. It's actually pretty cool. I was in line for one hour but I had a very nice person to talk to the whole time. While we were waiting I saw a stack of 100 percent Egyptian cotton, made-in-USA (so you're pretty sure they're union made) Martex towels---$4.97 CA for a bath towel, $2.97 for a hand towel---so I picked up 2 hands and 1 bath. (I generally dry off after a shower with a terry bathrobe and hand towel only---less laundry---but I use a bath towel to wrap my wet hair once a week.) So I got to the cash, and the cashier said they're buy one, get one free, so I ran back to the display (delaying the person in line behind me) and got another bath towel. I also bought 20 high-tech clothes pins, and they cost more than anything else. For 4 towels, clothespins, and free clothesline the bill was less than 16 dollars. I think I'll install the clothesline and airdry the towels. Cool. Except it's going to rain this afternoon.

5. I watched my porch cat (Scuffy, AKA Mister McScuffersons, Boss Cat, Mister Jones) tackle another intruder this morning (a zany cross-eyed thing). Scuffy, who normally limps up to the food I put out for him every morning, leaped, did a major broadjump off the porch over the oatgrass, and did a wild UFC flip right onto the intruder while taking out several just-about-to-bloom tulips. Sigh.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nabes, Hoods, Neighbourhoods

Wednesday evening on my street turned out to be the catch-up time. All the interested people came out in the fine weather to clean their front yards, play ball-hockey, show off their new babies, and just generally catch up since the last fine day last year. Lots of talk about the new recycling bins. No talk about the possible TTC strike.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Now I need a colonoscopy. Not fun.
Here's my entry for the BabySealLOL contest:

Baby seal walks into a bar. Bartender says, "What'll you have?" Baby seal says, "Anything but Canadian Club."
Ha ha.
Today's fasting BG: 5.1/91. Wednesday's after dinner: 27.5/495. No wonder my A1C was 12.2 percent (but my BP, triglycerides, total cholesterol are perfect). I am seeing a registered dietician at the end of the month. I hope she can wave her magic wand and keep me from eating a box of cookies for dinner---or a snack.
Found a Homer Laughlin Fiesta devilled egg plate for my mom's birthday present at -- this site has excellent service! But they ship UPS, which can be problematic, since I WORK when they try to DELIVER!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Earth whatever (hour, day, week, month...)

I have done a couple of carbon footprint tests, and since I live in a 6-room house by myself I seem to use up more than my fair share. But the "test" sites don't ask how many of my faucets or showerheads or toilets are low-flow or high-efficiency, or how many of my lightbulbs are compact fluorscents. Also, 90 percent of my green-bin shit is, well, shit---cat shit, you know? It's an organic source, too (PC aGreen) I can't put that stuff in my current compost system (only green stuff). So what can I do? I don't fly (don't even have a passport yet).

Hey, here's a hint: don't flush your floss. It sticks in the filters and needs a lot of remediation. Put it in the garbage.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Barium, barium (TMI). Close eyes if squeamish!

Fasted (mostly clear fluids, except for a 1/2 c "smoothie" (fruit drink) in the morning and in the afternoon and evening 1 c beef broth with 1/2 VGo (veg juice). Drank 1.5 l water from 1o am to 4 pm. (Can't skip diabetes meds.) At 4 pm took liquid laxative as prescribed. Drank another 1.5 l water. At 7 pm took the 2 laxative pills as prescribed. Stopped all intake at 10 pm. Had gas and poops all night.

At 8 am took prescribed laxative suppository (burny burny). Arrived at clinic at 9:45 am for test. Was admitted one hour later. One tech stayed with me and helped a lot. Dr. said the laxatives (3 different ones!) hadn't worked too well. Submitted to very invasive and uncomfortable test. Left and had nice lunch in quiet restaurant.

Got to 'hood about 2 pm. Checked in to 'hood thrift shop and looked around for a bit, then felt a bit urgent need to go. Got home 2 minutes later (ran all the way; better to run home than make mess in retail store). Undressed in tub. Threw out jeans, socks, underwear, washcloth, due to urgency. Not the best day evar, as they say.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"old therapy" not

"TORONTO, ON -- August 23, 1999 -- GlucoNorm® (repaglinide), the first in a new class of oral anti-diabetic agents for Type 2 diabetes, has received regulatory clearance from the Therapeutic Products Programme of Health Canada."

Hmm. My then-GP told me it had been available for about 60 years. I have never googled it until today. OK, now I'm pissed. I'm starting my apple cider vinegar regimen tonight, it makes just as much sense.

Finally---medical evidence that diabetes intervention doesn't work!

Just kidding. "The major environmental factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, presumably in the setting of genetic risk, are overnutrition and a sedentary lifestyle, with consequent overweight and obesity." This is part of a Medscape article that describes the difficulty in medical control of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). It's pretty arcane in that it is written for medical professionals, but educated laypersons can get the gist. What your GP and endo usually recommend or prescribe doesn't work, long term. What does work is continuing education, which boosts motivation to follow the regimen. Dat's all, folks.

You need to register for this site but you get regular e-mail updates when new articles are published: Lots of articles are pretty interesting, and most if not all of it is free. It's not as bland or uninformative as the Canadian Diabetes Association web site (ugh!). I'm not even gonna reference it. "See your doctor, see your doctor." Yeah, sure.

For people living with diabetes, Joslin ( is better. Lots more articles and research.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

my current favourite authors

One of my qualifications for mystery/legal/police procedure fiction authors is their re-readability. I traded a whole bunch of Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos novels because, while I enjoyed them the first time and admired the writing immensely, I found them too hard-boiled, hard-timed, hard-assed to keep on my shelves.

Here are some writers whose volumes I will keep:

  • Lee Child -- the Jack Reacher series. Hot, violent, well-written, sexy; otherwise indescribable. Here's a durable quote, between Reacher and a femme fatale who has set him up for a beating: "I don't mind the sight of blood," she said. "I'm sure you don't," Reacher said. "One week in four, it makes you feel mighty relieved."
  • Peter Abrahams -- all his stuff so far, even one I bought by mistake for "young adult" readers (heroine is 13--the Echo Falls stuff, praised by the prolific Stephen King himself).
  • Michael Gruber -- he wrote most of the Butch Karp legal suspense novels, and you can tell by the change in authorship in the later versions when he left off (he and Tanenbaum are first cousins). I don't know who does Robert K. Tanenbaum's ghost writing these days but it's not in the same class at all. Gruber's 3 Jimmy Paz novels and his subsequent The Book of Air were compelling. And I have nearly preordered his latest. Will soon commit.
  • Ed McBain -- I have avoided his oeuvre for many years, don't know why. He's erudite and intelligent. But I have read only one of his non-Matthew Hope novels and skipped about 3 pages of the denouement of one; the other was a non-Matthew Hope, non-87th Precinct called Doors, and I have yet to read any of the police/detective novels. Hey, I've just started, OK??
  • Dorothy L. Sayers -- long dead. But she's the best and original, after the dry Wilkie Collins and insufferable Edgar Allan Poe. And I like that she taught herself medieval Italian to support a thesis.
  • Nelson Demille -- John Corey should be a movie hero by now. You'll love this guy. And all his other guys.
  • Thomas Perry -- another potential movie guy. Why can't Jane Whitefield, The Butcher's Boy, or Chinese Gordon be heroes?

I'm going by the stacks on my dresser, before I move them to their semi-permanent places in the "library."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

mothers and computers

When Mom told me she wanted to get a computer, I laughed. Then I thought, that's really BRAVE of her -- she knows almost nothing about Interwebs and stuff. But she'd been to an Internet class at the local library, and people had been sending her their e-mail address, which she couldn't use -- and she ABSOLUTELY HATES not "being in the know" about stuff. For example, being without a computer or a local bookstore or even the local library, she needed (not just WANTED) to learn about human dreaming and possible interpretations, for her self-esteem. You see, she'd registered for a "dream weekend" sponsored by the local church (United) and several pastors and lay persons. She enjoyed it a lot, and I was surprised to learn that both sexes and ages from 20 to 70s attended. But what she learned from dream interpretation was nil. She also asked me if I knew what a "boog" was. Turns out to be "blog" for which I won't give her THIS location! Once, before a long drive, she wanted to hear Paul Simon's "Rhythm of the Saints" CD. So we listened to it on the road. When I asked if she liked it, she said, "Oh, if people ask me if I've heard it, now I can say I have."

She's pretty deaf (not DEF), for which I've scolded and pleaded with her to get her hearing aids updated (progressive hearing loss runs in the family, AUGH!) And, at age 75 (76 this May) she doesn't think of herself as elderly...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Making lists

I like to make lists; some are things I want to do within a certain time frame ("this weekend"). Others are ones I want to accomplish ("upholster dining room chairs; put together wood-and-iron bench"). My best thing is to list what I've already done along with items I want to do ("handwash, other items to drycleaner; coin wraps to bank; cats to vet"). It feels comforting.

I also use a multitude of blank books to make these lists (gardening, cleaning, projects, editors' association, diabetes issues/challenges, sundry expenses, decorating ideas and plans). I'm glad I have a house to hold them all...

Catch-up with items and more...

My two youngest fools (Fiasco T. Peabrain and Handsome Stranger) were packed into the carrier this morning and driven to the vet for their annual checkup. Since all my four cats are indoor items, my vet agreed to restrict their shots to rabies (3 years' duration) only. We had a nasty story about puppies at a "flea market," sold to unsuspecting owners, that died from rabies this year. Anyone who touched them had to get rabies shots. The mother of the pups died from rabies last year after a fight with a rabid skunk. Gee, and they couldn't guess?

I refused to sort out Peabo and/or Handsome poopies from the five litterboxes to bring in samples, but they (the poopies) don't deviate from the norm. But the kittens (so termed to distinguish them from the older girls, who USED to be the "kittens") both have gingivitis, which I could see from the reddish lines on their gums. It's only about 950 CAD to to treat them both in the next month... AUGH! Both the boys are just under 10 lbs, quadruple their weight from their initial visits. All the cats eat only Medi-Cal preventive formula.

Earth Hour (March 29, 2008, 8-9 pm) is gaining ground in this city (Toronto) and around the world. I can't do much more than I usually do (power bars off, compact fluorescent bulbs everywhere possible, cold-water washes and limited electric clothes drying).

The Toronto Star suggests not using the car for a week. Two years ago I didn't use my car for two months, so the parking brake froze. I had to call a cab to get me, a box of used books, and my laundry to where I wanted to go. The taxi driver told me how to fix it for free (take off the wheel covers and bang a two-by-four with a hammer against the rims). I already take public transit nearly every day (and get a good tax deduction for buying a TTC monthly pass).

Google's adsense is making some money for me, but maybe not this year ($1.17 so far).

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's snowing in Toronto. Again.

It's not heavy snow---yet. And my wonderful neighbour Rh and her son Ri helped me dig my car out of its snowy tomb on the cross street this afternoon. It took about half an hour, and I skoffed a parking space on my own street that someone else dug out, only about 100 m from my house. The city of Toronto has promised to actually remove the snow from blocked side streets off the main intersections. On Saturday there were two police cruisers and two ambulances parked right in front of my house. The EMTs and officers were wandering around saying, "This is CRAZY." They didn't seem to be attending anyone. But there's one lane only, due to the snow, and one cruiser and the EMT's SUV had to back down the street to turn around.

There's a church at the end of the street too, that has very limited parking and a large congregation, and a Value Village at the top that people visit regularly and who refuse to pay for parking, so sometimes all the spots on the street are taken up by non-residents.

TMI: I had a bad dream about my colon exam (barium enema). I think I'm mostly scared of the laxatives. I booked two vacation days to deal with preparing for all that stuff, and another to attend a level 2 DM education clinic. Augh! I also need an opthalmologist exam (takes up half the work day) and a talk with the endocrinologist. And I need more folic acid and unsaturated fats in my diet according to; also to reduce my resting heart rate... OOOOHHHHMMMMM.

Vinyasa flow yoga: Attended only my second class on Thursday. It was difficult. Last week I intended to go after my physio-rehab appointment but forgot my equipment and clothes. Needed? Not necessarily. But I was wearing jeans. Not stretchy enough.

Diabetes Education: Not to criticize the older folks (of which I am rapidly progressing to be one) but the last level 1 diabetes education clinic I attended that was booked by my doctor (for about 15 minutes) was peopled by elderly (average age 70) patients who didn't really understand what DM is about. "Well, if I can take a medicine to fix the high blood PRESSURE can't I take one to fix the high blood SUGAR?" Well, yes, you can---if you also get some exercise and stop eating all the sugary crap. Eyes, feet, kidneys---all failing. (I'm on that path if I don't get it together.) But I walked out after those 15 minutes -- I need MORE! I was the youngest person there by at least 20 years and I had been Dx'd at least 9 years. So I need someone to do my thinking for me.

Cats: My two youngest fools (Fiasco T. Peabrain and Handsome Stranger) are booked for their "wellness" exams next Saturday. They're the feral or near-feral kits I picked up off the street in late 2006. Since they don't go outside or interact with street cats, I don't want them to have vaccinations, but it's hard to argue with the vet. I'm cheap, that's why. If I adopt the hoary old guy that lives on/under my front porch they'all ALL need vaccinations.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

BG Mecca! for some unknown reason...

Fasting blood glucose was 5.5/100 this morning, for some reason. Not much exercise yesterday. I took a good hit of NPH insulin before bed, after a good breakfast in the a.m., then noshing on Chinese treats a co-worker brought in, a light lunch, then a binge on fresh fruit (melons, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi) left over from a corporate meeting, plus two cookies and three mini-cinnamon buns. Then I had some pecans and other nuts instead of dinner.

One of my frailties is eating too much in the evening and before bed on a regular basis. So I need to eat earlier and get busier in the evenings.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

That goddamn steam iron

I got the non-wanted Tobi (oops. Should fix that) handy steam iron on Wednesday, and put it together on Friday afternoon. I did try to cancel the order, from less than one minute after I accidentally submitted until several days later by e-mail (for which they promised responses within 72 hours) and by telephone. Here's the last e-mail I got:

Dear Karen Black, Your order xxx from Tobi has been shipped! Shipping date 2008-01-28 Box Number 1: Tracking Number xxx You are receiving this email as a receipt of purchase from Tobi. This is a one-time notification in regards to this purchase only: you will not be receiving any further emails from us >

Well, it was a bitch to put together. I should probably have turned the lights up. Or read the instructions in sequence. Or drunk less wine. However. I do not have any actual blisters from hot steam on my hands, and I did get nearly all of my blouses and linens ironed on the night I used it. And, yes, I did have to get out the iron and board to touch up collars and hems and button bands. It does work well enough in smoothing out your basic laundry wrinkles, but I will need practice in fine-tuning those details. Maybe I can give lessons in time. I will charge a lot.

I used a half-container of steam to soften kitty poop stains on a couple of pieces of furniture, and I have to say that the subsequent upholstery shampoo treatments did work better than usual. And I believe they do smell less bad.