Saturday, May 30, 2009

Living without water

I've been without hot water in the bath for about a month now, due to a broken tap. I've been managing to bathe, though, using large pans of warm water transferred from sink to tub (and I've even taken a couple of cold showers), and washing my hair in the kitchen sink. Yesterday I visited my fitness club, for the first time in a couple of years, to take a hot shower and wash my hair. It was wonderful!

Determined to DIM (do it myself), I bought tools and replacement parts, turned the water off at the main, and have been trying my damnedest to get the taps off. I talked to veteran employees at two major hardware chains and they agreed I'd been doing everything right up to now (except fixing the stupid things). I succeeded in unscrewing the cold tap, which blew a couple of days ago and provided a steady stream of wasted water until I shut off the main, but even with the specialty pliers, vice-grips, or plumber's wrench, I can't get the old brass cartridge out. And while I've loosened the screw on the hot water tap I can't get it all the way out.

I've been using rain-barrel water to flush the toilet (one bucket does the job). But I can't do dishes or laundry or even wash because when I do turn the water back on the bathtub faucet comes on full. I filled the tub to save me a few trips to the water barrel, and I've filled the bucket with that clear water and am using it to wash floors and walls.

But fixing the problem is beyond me, so I need to call for help. I'm afraid I've done irreparable damage to the works, and unless a strong, smart person can do it, I may be forced to do a bathroom renovation. After 10 years here, it's probably the worst room in the house (after the computer room). I'd love a tub I can actually sit down in (my neighbour has the same tiny 48" tub -- bottom measurement is 39"/1m -- and he is 6'5"!). And except for the wooden IKEA vanity (which I installed myself, along with new supply lines and PVC drainage pipe) there's no storage.

Since I've barely used the tub except to shower since I've lived here I wouldn't mind a stand-alone shower. There's no ventilation except for a hole in the ceiling leading out to the roof, typical of houses of this era (1920). And yes, those are nicotine stains on the ceiling. Hey, it's my reading (smoking) room!

So what's it like living without running water? I can't compare myself to a refugee camp inhabitant, or even a person living on a First Nations reserve in Canada (close to the same thing in some cases). I did fill the coffee maker at the same time I filled the tub. I have access to laundromats and a dry cleaner; ready-made ice, bottled water and other liquids from the store to drink; and a fitness club and probably neighbours I can impose upon to borrow shower time. But I refuse to feel despair, since my procrastinating is really to blame. I plan on staying in this house for a long time yet so a reno is a GOOD idea.

But if I get a renovation started I have to use money I don't exactly have at the moment...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Overpackaging is a sin!

This is the package containing free samples of skin lotion I received the other day. The quality of the image is lousy, but the tubes are on the lower right next to a Canadian dollar coin (aka loonie). The box is about 12" x 5" x 2", and the accordian folded paper was rattling around inside. My goodness! I will probably keep the folded paper for something (maybe carry it around in my bag and use a piece to steady a wobbly patio table).

When I buy shoes I make the store keep the boxes. I didn't buy an interesting product (a little tube of window cleaner that you dilute with water in a spray bottle) because along with the huge cardboard package with testimonials, instructions, and cautions, it was all wrapped in PET plastic, the kind you need scissors or lawn shears to open.

I think I'll e-mail the company to thank them for the product and ask them to reduce their packaging.

UPDATE: I did get a canned response from the company that didn't exactly address my concern about overpackaging:
P&G is committed to ensuring our products, packaging, and operations are safe for consumers and the environment. For products that go out with the trash, our approach is to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, or incinerate waste (with energy recovered) prior to land filling, wherever it's environmentally and economically appropriate. We're continually researching alternatives for more environmentally improved products and packaging. For more information about what P&G is doing to achieve this, please visit Thanks again for writing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

There's one born every minute...

Onychomycosis. That's a fancy name for nail fungus. It's very hard to treat. Unlike many other people who just assume from their nails' appearance that they have an infection, I was actually diagnosed: my last doctor but 5 took nail clippings and confirmed it. I was prescribed a very pricey oral medication that may take a lot out of your liver and required blood tests after three months to check for liver damage (yes, I took it anyways, but not for long enough). I don't have the grossest-looking case (photos show examples that look like fudge brownies), but this year the left big toenail was sufficiently misshapen that I got an ingrown toenail (self-diagnosed and self-treated). And I can't wear nail varnish on my toenails any more.

So I was checking online for topical treatments. I found a site with testimonials galore about a brush-on product that's a combination of exotic oils and elixirs and magical potions from third-world nations. The 6-bottle deal was too good to pass up for a person who is already on enough meds. And shipping was free, and the package arrived on time through Canada Post.

I have to say that, after five days of 3x/day treatment, which is certainly not enough time to see any difference in the condition of the infection, the nails were softened enough that I could clip them without major flaking and cracking, and the cuticles were softened nicely. When you have diabetes the advice is to NOT soak your feet, but up to now that was the only way to soften the nails enough to trim them. And the cuticles, after a winter of closed-in shoes, were a mess.

My toenails do look better after my amateur pedicure, though, and while I'm not a "fuck-me high-heels" summer shoe person I do have a few pairs of sandals I like to wear with a skirt. If I've been a sucker for a snake-oil pitch I'll know in a few months.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Don't hate me because I'm skinny

A few people at work have had great success following the Weight Watchers(tm) plan. It's all about healthy eating, with the assistance of product labels, web sites that help determine "points" for permitted/recommended foods based on nutrient values that you find on product labels (always a good idea!).

But I have unintended weight loss. It's due to uncontrolled diabetes. My body-mass index (BMI) is at an unhealthy low. My size 2 pants are getting baggy. My energy levels are low. I do try to eat properly but usually fail (carb cravings and mindless eating). I get enough sleep, but if I take a nap it can last for eight hours. And I often "forget" to take my medication, especially my night-time insulin shot. Also I drink and smoke too much. And it's hard to get motivated to exercise. I need to get more recent blood tests and I haven't seen my endo for about two years now.

I have an extensive library on diet, exercise, diabetes, cookbooks (vegetarian and cooking for diabetics) and general health. I just got Dr. Richard K. Bernstein's book (Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars, ISBN - 13: 9780316167161), which is intended for an American audience and suggests drugs that aren't available in Canada (and uses the mg/dl measurement for blood sugar values, meaning I need to divide by 18 to get my mmol/dl values). I get numerous e-newsletters (several a day) on diabetes, eating well, living well, and how to reduce my "real age." I am still re-reading "Take Charge of Your Health" by Diehl and Ludington.

But I'm not doing well at all. Is it time for multiple daily injections (MDI)? I bet if I quit smoking I'd gain a bit of weight...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Another lovely day in the T-Dot

Brilliant sunshine, clear skies, 8C (about 47F in US gallons). Possible rain showers in afternoon.

I need to start making lists again. I haven't made much progress on de-cluttering and cleaning the house these last few months, but except for the kitchen floor it hasn't got any worse. My method used to be to list what I needed to do by a given date or by necessity ("Change kitty litter! Empty dishwasher! Pick up drycleaning!"). Now I merely list what I have accomplished, which isn't a bad method either, except that these days the list reads: "Starting thinking about considering the best day to change the kitty litter." I used to ask a co-worker to remind me to leave myself a note to do stuff. He thought it was pretty funny.

But the front garden needs a bit of work. Or a lot. Oak leaves (from the many mature trees to the west) fill the garden beds. They don't decompose readily (due to the tannin) so they mostly have to go into yard waste bags to be picked up by the city and (we hope) make it into the compost process. On Environment Days in each ward residents can pick up free compost (bring your own shovel and containers).

My gooseberry bushes need to be moved to a sunny spot before they leaf out any more because once the rampant raspberry canes start up they block all the sun. Also the rhubarb (good Scrabble word) should be moved into a sunny spot. My front door faces west so the sun appears in the east in the morning (I think...). I have lots of room on the north side of the property along the fence to put these things, since once there they get the most southern exposure. If that makes any sense.

My roof would be ideal for solar panels: the gable roof over the front part faces east and west, so it would get morning, afternoon, and evening light. But the start-up cost is high (though I could probably get some rebates or grants from federal, provincial, or municipal sources).

In the meantime, I took a laundry load down to the basement and brought up the yard waste bags I didn't use from last year. I feel like I've accomplished something already!