Saturday, February 28, 2009

Step 3: removing cholesterol from the diet

No cholesterol means none. None more cholesterol! Zero eggs, meat, poultry, fish, or dairy. That leaves me with only about a million other kinds of food to eat. The trouble will be coming home from a long day at work (one hour transit each way) and taking fresh food from the fridge and preparing it, and NOT buying a bag of Fritos on the way home and eating them for dinner with salsa as a vegetable. Or spending money on pizza or Chinese or sushi or whatever. Or making a couple or three peanut butter sandwiches.

Considering the fabulous collection of cast iron, stainless steel, and copper cookware I have, and all the cool tools and knives and cutting boards anyone could ever want (none at full price, mostly bought at clearance sales and from thrift stores; I'm not rich!), I should be able to cook for myself, right? And I have a blender, and TWO food processors (one large Braun with multiple blades and bowls that I got at Value Village for less than $20 CA [see picture], and a smaller Salton that works well to chop onions, etc., quickly), and a Braun immersion blender that I've had for about 20 years. And two Presto pressure cookers (one vintage aluminum, needs a new sealer ring again; one new stainless steel). Oh, and I have a vintage juicer that works pretty well (5 bucks at our street sale).

I went through my freezer and cupboards and pulled out all the foods that are meat, fish, or dairy. I listed the frozen meat on FreeCycle and have had about 9 responses since yesterday.

I specified that the food should go to an organization that provides meals for people in need. This implies that, for example, the meats could be thawed and used in recipes. So a strip loin steak or pork loin could be cut up and made into a nourishing soup, stew, or casserole, so instead of feeding me twice (or once, if I'm greedy), that tender meat cooked with vegetables and potatoes should feed about 6-8 people. One can of sockeye salmon (hey, it was on sale!) could make sandwiches for four. Is that a lot to ask?

I think I've made my choice, though. I called Second Harvest today and left a message. They don't usually do small pickups, but I checked their website and among the donations they want is an industrial wringer bucket on wheels, of which I have one (1). I am not so ambitious about washing the basement floor any more...

Now I need to cull more cookbooks to make room in the pantry for beans and other things.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Leaking roof and SPAM -- coincidence??

It's confirmed -- my roof is leaking. Again. Just over three years ago I was between jobs, reading e-mails, and speaking on the cell phone with a recruiter about an interview. I looked up and watched drops of water falling onto the floor. Long story short, my attached neighbours and I got a couple of estimates to do only part of the job and that would have really hurt our wallets. My neighbour's father recommended a guy who could do both roofs (including removing old roof and taking it away). Very good price, pretty good looking job. The guy also did another neighbour's house. But she hasn't been able to get in touch with him, and he hasn't answered my call this morning. So I'll probably have to get another local company to do it and figure out how to get the 20-year warranty honoured.

I stepped out for smokes and more coffee, and when I got back there was a message in my Junk mailbox from a British military guy with THE SAME EXACT NAME as my roofer guy. Except this guy wants to share Iraqi loot with me (I did wonder for a second how the roofer got my e-mail address). All I have to do is get in touch:

"We have managed to move funds belonging to some demised persons who were attacked and killed [Ed. damn, killed twice!] through these attacks. The total amount is US$15 Million dollars in cash. We want to move this money to you, so that you can help keep our share for us until when we shall come over to meet you. My partner and I will take 70%, . while you take 30%. No strings attached! Just help us move it out of Iraq."

It certainly would help pay for the roof repairs.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starting out slowly...

We all know we should drink more water---two liters/eight cups a day. I read somewhere that a headache can be a symptom of dehydration, and when you take an aspirin with a glass of water it's probably the water that eases the pain, not the pill. When I told my mother this (we're not big water drinkers in my family) she told a friend who was plagued by afternoon headaches. Mrs. M. started drinking more water and Mom told me her headaches went away. So, drink more water. (I have several steel water bottles that I fill from the tap.) That's one.

Due to oncoming cardio problems (negative on one cardio test from last month, positive on the other) due to diabetes and genetics, I've been noticing that ankles are swollen at the end of the day. A night of sleep (lying down promotes even circulation, probably) would usually solve the problem. But I don't want to go to bed with swollen ankles at all, thanks. My days go like this: get up, get coffee, feed the cats (including Mr. Jones) and grab the paper. Then I usually get online and sit for an hour or so. Then I get to work and sit for another eight hours. Then I get home and get online and sit for another few hours. Yeah, good physical activity there, KBinTo!

Yesterday, sunny and calm but cold, I got off the bus on King St. W. at Shaw and walked to work from there (of course I bought a soy latte at *$s to keep me warm). Took about 15 minutes (1.2 km/.7 miles). The problem with walking is it stresses incipient right-knee osteoarthritis, for which I had physiotherapy at this time last year for a month or so, until the benefits ran out. At that time I had started by doing 3 km in about 30 minutes. I'll try to walk at a healthier pace this time. That's two.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Take Charge of Your Health" by Diehl & Ludington

I've been reading (and re-reading, and RE-reading) this little guide book (159 pages) full of anecdotes and advice on various health improvements. I already have a considerable library of books and references and get a number of e-newsletters on "living well with diabetes." I'm a believer (though not strictly a follower, yet) of low-carbohydrate (or at least low starch), low-glycemic diets, though you know I LOVE my bread (and cake, and cookies, and pastries, and and and...). And I'm trying to eat less meat. (Tonight I had an orange sweet pepper, a big pile of steamed yellow string beans, and a good chunk of roasted salmon, which I am trying to digest with a bottle of water. And some extra dark chocolate, but so far I haven't eaten the whole bar.)

And I think this might be the book. I read it once and felt encouraged. I read it again over the last couple of days. Oh, I haven't spent much money in total on this library; mostly I got them off clearance tables and at thrift stores. I think to myself, one more might help with my motivation; there might be something in here I can use; gee, I really like the cover of this one. Mostly they're not for me. But I'm keeping "Take Charge..." in my handbag so I can read it on public transit to work and back.

You might be able to scroll through the whole thing here:,M1

Now, to finish Allen Carr's "Easy Way to Stop Smoking."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cat Entertainment -- Bwai's new toy!

Dis Bwai new toy! It's a 5-foot length of foam insulation for hot water pipes, soft and light-weight---perfect for attacking. I got extra pieces from a city power conservation campaign a couple of years ago (pipe insulation, faucet aerators, etc.). She recently found one of the pieces in the basement and hauled it upstairs with much struggle and arguing. Then she found the other piece and brought that up too.

She's a playful cat by nature, if I initiate an interesting game like laser tag. But she never went after it further than a couple of feet, then needed to rest and contemplate. And now I can't find the laser pointer.

These "toys" gets dragged from room to room and floor to floor (though they haven't made it back to the basement, and they're covered in teethmarks.

This morning I found that she had managed to drag one of the pieces up to the bedroom. (The other night I got up to pee and kicked about 5 toys down the hall in the dark. Once or twice a week I collect the toys and put them back in the basket in the living room.)

Here she and Handsome Stranger are vying over each end of the longer piece.

Bwai, you might have noticed, is somewhat obese. And has an odd coat. She needs a body shave once a year (at least) to deal with her matted fur (and she's too fat to clean her own bum). The vet puts her under general anaesthetic to do this, and charges me an arm and a leg. But she's much happier and more active (and cuddlier) once it's done. This time I've greatly restricted her diet (and she's prevented from scavenging the other three cats' food). I think she's lost a pound or two. I'll let you know.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Water conservation in the urban jungle

Just got my first combined water/solid waste management bill from the city. I suspected this latest bill wouldn't be high: I have the smallest garbage bin, for which I get a $10 rebate per year (this billing cycle, the first of three annually, amounted to minus $2.95). The water portion was $27.87, and since I still had a credit from my payment of July 2007 (yes, 2007), my total utility bill is MINUS $18.70.

I was paying about $350 a year just for water and the privilege of 1920s water pressure---don't flush the toilet while trying to wash your hands, and forget trying to take a shower while the water sprinkler is on. I got my water pipe remediation (replacement pipe from main to property line for free from the city) in August 2007, right after I paid the July-to-January water bill. I paid $800 to the exclusive city contractor to install the water meter and the outdoor "reader" and the big copper pipe from the property line into the house, so that expense has pretty much already paid for itself in lower water bills due to actual use.

Add to that the American Standard high-efficiency toilet (HET) at 4.6 liters or less per flush ($75 rebate from city), low-flow Water Magic(TM) shower head, front-loading clothes washer (uses 1/4 the water of a top loader; $65 rebate from city), and faucet aerators. And I have good water pressure all the time---I can take a shower while the dishwasher or clothes washer is running.

BTW, the Water Magic site is here: . There's a lever on the showerhead you can use to shut off the water flow while you lather up, but if you still have low water pressure be prepared for a blast of very hot water when you turn it back on! The web pages are slow to load, so be patient. I see that the site hasn't been updated in a while. And ignore the typos (saing instead of saving, signle instead of single). I did...

I got my shower head (Item Number: 701C, still $35 CA on the website) at the Royal Winter Fair market place a few years ago for $35 CA, and they were selling it at a booth at the Green Living show this year for the same price. Their demo is convincing! And the booth rep said she'd heard that the shower shut-off wasn't recommended if the water pressure is low.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Easy bread recipe

I spent at least a year making whole-wheat bread by hand (mixing, kneading, shaping loaves, etc., taking about 4-6 hours) when I first moved to Toronto. First to save money, then because the process just became a habit. I'd make about 4 loaves of whole wheat bread every two weeks, freezing half the batch.

But many diabetics can't enjoy bread like they used to, though. At least I can't. Eating two slices of toast, whether it's whole wheat or multi-whole-grain, sets off a carb craving cascade. I've recently tried a bran bread (19 carbs per slice less 5 g insoluble fiber) and, while it is satisfying if I ALSO eat servings of fruit and yogurt, I still have to hold myself back from buying a chocolate bar, Sun Chips, banana bread, or salted peanuts for a morning snack. White bread (like my beloved foccacia) sends my blood sugar soaring over my meter's limit to measure it.

Can I live without bread? No. Can I buy a loaf and keep from gorging on it? No. Can I find a source of single servings? No, of course not. So I keep trying to find a bread I can eat, somewhat enjoy, and not finish in a half a day. And so I'm trying Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, the original that Mark Bittman is promoting with his quick-start-finish adaptations. Note: I didn't like Bitmann's recipe or method that much, but I might have deviated too much from the suggested recipe.

Another item I haven't tried yet is the mix-ahead artisan bread (you can get a basic recipe from their website at but you have to buy the book to get all the good info). This recipe lets you create a sour-dough mix that you keep in the fridge (another no-knead one) and pull just the amount of dough you want to bake for the morning or evening meal. It's quite a bit more time to make than the suggested five minutes, but it's worth a try when store-bought artisanal breads (like my beloved foccacia) cost $5 or more per loaf.

Anyway, here is the Jim Lahey version I found online and finally baked today.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water

Mix ingredients together in a large bowl until combined into a shaggy dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
Flour a work surface. Scoop the wet dough, which will be dotted with bubbles, onto the flour. Fold twice, deflating it, and let rest for 15 minutes. Don’t worry if it sticks a bit; just scrape it off.
Sprinkle with flour as needed to handle, and shape dough into a saggy ball. Let rest on floured surface for another 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450. Place heavy cast iron, enameled cast iron, Pyrex or similar lidded pot in oven. Heat pot for at least 30 minutes.
Carefully tip dough into hot pot. Sprinkle with salt or seeds as desired, place lid on pot, and return to oven.
After 30 minutes, uncover pot. Bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until browned as desired. Cool on rack.
Don’t be surprised if you start the second loaf before you’ve finished the first. A few more tips from Peg Carmen: Resist the urge to cut it until completely cool. Store on counter or wrap in paper until cut, and then in plastic. Do not refrigerate. This additive-free bread is best enjoyed within 24 hours.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Long Distance Calls

Last night I had a short but pleasant long-distance conversation with one of my eBay buyers (he really really really wanted the espresso makers). He was in La Paz, Bolivia. It was interesting to think of the actual distance, though our time zones were only one hour apart. (Average year-round temp in La Paz -- daytime 23-25C, nighttime 12-15C. I think I will move there.)

I don't know why he's there; maybe business or visiting family. But he won't return to Canada until spring.

Anyways, I kind of envy people who can plan and execute a distant vacation or business trip. I get stressed if I have to drive in downtown Toronto, and planning a trip home to QC seems to take weeks. I've never had my own passport (travelled on my parents' on my only off-continent trip to the UK in 1970). The last time I left Canada was in late January 2001, for a seminar in New Jersey (took the bus to Manhattan and spent a blissful couple of hours in MoMA, got to a few clearance racks at Saks Fifth Ave., and I got to watch the SuperBowl too), and did some heavy-duty outlet shopping in Secaucus, NJ. When I got to US Customs at the Toronto airport, the officer chided me firmly for not having any "official" ID. I couldn't find my baptismal registration (no birth cert from Quebec at that time), of course no passport, and she didn't much like my driver's license. But I got into the US and back home again. Eight months later it wouldn't have happened.

My mother and brother are great fans of travel -- my mom has been to visit family in Aus/NZ and Ireland four or five times now and my brother has been to Aus/NZ twice and is planning his next visit in 2010. When my dad was living the parents went on cruises and tropical and temperate vacations. Maybe that two-month UK trip when I was 14 and we got dragged around three countries, mostly by car, soured me...

But I do have the application mostly filled out; got my QC birth certificate; got my dentist to certify that it is in fact me on my passport photos (nice ones, thanks to my local photog Hoi); got my neighbours to agree that yes, they have known me for more than two years; and got most of the forms filled out.

Since my company cut almost all travel/training/entertainment/conference budgets late last year there's next to no chance I'll be asked to represent. The nearest possibility is dinner with family in the US (my family all lives within an hour or so of the Vermont border).

It's not like I'm going anywhere soon. But I do love to get postcards from people who travel!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Excessive joy injures the heart...

is the title of a novel by Elisabeth Harvor (I picked it up used but haven't read it yet; I think I just really liked the title). Anyway, yesterday (Valentine's Day) I was meeting my friend De at on Queen St. E. for a light lunch. Finishing my smoke standing near their fair-weather deck. A red-white spaniel-type dog was crouched there looking into the windows where I could see his/her "owners" finishing their leisurely meal (couple and baby). Poor dog was quivering in anticipation (not barking or whining) (or else he was shivering in the -5C temp), little stub of tail zigzagging almost to a blur. This behaviour escalated when his "owners" started getting up, putting on their coats, and strapping the baby to the tall male.

They came out, lounged up to the deck, and DIDN'T EVEN SAY HELLO TO THE DOG, let alone pat him and thank him for so patiently waiting for them out in the cold. The dog was going quietly crazy with joy, while the female leaned down to undo his leash (one-handed so she could hold onto his collar) and the male stood there like a lump (well, he did have an infant strapped conveniently to his chest). The only words spoken were, "Hang on." No acknowledgment that this little member of their ideal family group was so happy to see them and be near them that he was nearly going insane.

Can dogs get broken hearts?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Cat Came Back!

We thought he was a goner but the cat came back! My neighbours and I have been feeding and caring for a feral (probably abandoned) old tom who sleeps on our porches and in our sheds. I think he likes me the best, though---he'll follow me down the street, let me pat him and (very briefly) pick him up, accepts pats and scritches, rolls on his side for side pats, though not on his belly! And he has him some pretty sharp ends. He's called Mr. Jones, BossCat, Old Cat, Mr. McScuffersons/Scuffy, Scruffy, and Him.

On Saturday afternoon I glanced at my front door and there was the pathetic face of Mr. Jones peering in---he had been missing for over a month. I rushed to pat him and check his condition. His paws were a bit bloody, and while he gets scrawny and fleabitten in summer he tends to put on the fat and fur when fall arrives. The last time I saw him, around New Year's, I couldn't feel his ribs he was so chubby (and I got my cat sitter Ol to put out food for him). But he vanished and we thought he was a goner. I think he was trapped in someone's garage or shed, because otherwise he'd be fatter since several of us feed him at least twice a day!

After I put out some kibble with warm water, I immediately notified my neighbour Sus who brought over a bed with warm supplies and some canned food; yesterday she dropped off an octagonal coffee table with a door in the base that we'll try to put his bed in so he'll have more shelter. Although he didn't take to the bed at first, when I looked out a half hour later he was snuggled up warmly. And I'm sure my neighbours Cor and Dar and Liz will start bringing him his once or twice daily can again. And I have printed up some fliers to drop in mailboxes on the street asking for a dollar or two towards his vaccinations and neutering, so he can live on the street but not contribute to the unwanted kitten population (I think he is Peabo's daddy).

My poor guy. I didn't note this before, but he lost the tip of an ear due to frostbite.

See my Vesuviana Cappuccino Electric Espresso Maker on eBay!

My lovely vintage electric espresso-cappuccino maker has 6 bids, 16 (now 17) watchers, and 134 (now 136) views, with just over a day left. I'm hoping for a good price. I sold my Sunbeam vacuum brewer for just over asking price -- with the combined fees (buyer pays shipping) I think I might just have broken even. That's not exactly my goal...

My Sunbeam percolator: has a few views and two watchers; I don't expect to get much for it, although it's just gorgeous. I hope to get my asking price on this one.

I've a few visits to my 1975 Bialetti stovetop Moka but no watchers and no bids:

I do have quite a bit of fun writing up the item descriptions, though, and I enjoy bringing life back to a dusty or greasy treasure. And eBay now gives some great tools, like shipping labels paid through PayPal and Canada Post and printable off a laser printer. I still have to go to a CPC dropoff but it'll be a lot quicker.

I've found that a sinkful very hot water with about a 1/4 cup of washing soda (Borax) will take the skin right off your hands and soften baked-on grease marks off old Pyrex glass and newer Corningware (white with the cornflower pattern) so that they can be removed with a scrubbing pad (dollar store variety). President's Choice Green Multi-Purpose Cleaning Putty (which I got in a bag of full-sized freebies at the Green Living Show last spring) does a good job at polishing up chrome and stainless steel, as will a gentle scouring with baking soda on a damp cloth, plus I keep a handy suppy of elbow grease. I use wooden toothpicks for everything but my teeth---they are gentle yet firm when I need to reach into crevices to restore an item to a clean condition. I can't get away from the toxic copper cleaner, though---it does such a good job, and if you're not careful while polishing you'll return the patina to the copper surface (that's not a bad thing, always).

I found a genuine Oster spare glass jar and lid for my genuine Osterizer chrome beehive blender at a good price. However, there was no gasket, blade, or jar nut. Luckily some replacement parts are available. With the US exchange and shipping I figure I'll have a complete spare mixing jar for about $30 CA. Not bad. All the parts are genuine Oster...and I can return at least one of the parts if it doesn't fit.

I suppose my goal is to declutter the house of items that I don't use that are usable but that I don't want to drop back off to the thrift store where I got them. When I sold on eBay a few years ago the goal was to make some money for my kitchen reno (and, what the heck, to share some vintage items). I did OK. I hope to do some more OK stuff.

Speaking of vintage, I used a free download coupon to buy a Stan Rogers tune that's been running through my head. He was a great Canadian artist who can never be replaced. The song I bought was "The Mary Ellen Carter." Chills are still running down my spine.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Desperate times call for desperate measures...

So I'm selling off my beloved coffeemaker collection. Here's the first one:

I added a few more coffeemakers (see the labels); no bids yet but a couple of watchers. I should have mentioned that water from a bathroom leak is staining my kitchen ceiling, so I really need some money to spend on repair or renovation.