Sunday, October 9, 2016

Weight and Garden Update

Hi everyone!  Are you all enjoying these nice crisp autumn days?  Apples and crunchy leaves and maybe a log in the fireplace?  I love autumn; it's my favorite time of year.  It's especially nice this year because it was such a hot summer, and now it's finally cooled down. 

I had to go out tonight and gather all the sensitive produce from my garden.  The weather forecast says it's only going to be 36 degrees, but my yard gets just a little bit cooler than the prediction, so I figured I'd better get out there and get as much as I could.  It's not the last harvest of the year for me; I still have sugar snap peas, cabbage, and rutabagas out there, but for the most part my garden is done.  So I thought you'd all enjoy knowing how much money my garden produced/saved me this year.  Welp, it was my best year ever, by far.  Almost twice as good as my second best year.

I made $545!  Wooh! 

My cool mini green house did superbly.  I grew 8 pepper plants (most of them with mini peppers), and I got about 18 pounds of peppers!  Which is about 40 times the amount I usually get. 

I'm in a bit of a rush tonight, so I won't post any pictures right now, but I do have a bunch to share later.  The other reason I wanted to post was to let you all know that I'm down to 203 pounds, which is awesome.  I decided that I want to take a break from losing weight, and I'm trying to maintain now until next spring.  I'm not sure why, but I feel like it's a good idea to add in some more carbs for a while.  So far so good; I've been eating more carbs for a few weeks and haven't gained or lost anything.  Plus I get to eat apples and squash again! 

That's all for now.  I hope you're all doing great!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

End of Summer Update

Well, I guess now that summer is almost unofficially over, I should really post something here about how I'm doing.  What a huge difference a season makes!  My life feels like it's going in a very different direction than it was just three months ago.  In good directions, thankfully.

First, the weight news, since this is more or less a health blog.  I have been doing a pretty low carb diet with a carb night now for a little over four months.  I went from being 236 pounds when I started, to being 206 pounds when I last officially checked my weight.  Yep, I lost 30 pounds!  I'm really proud of myself for that accomplishment, and I feel so much better.  My knees don't hurt anymore, I'm not having issues with my teeth and gum inflammation like I was, I can actually fit into a lot of my old clothes!  I'm really excited.

Within the last week, I decided to stop tracking my food.  I'm still eating low carb and we're still doing the carb night once a week, but I decided that I'm just too busy to continue tracking everything I eat.  I don't want to do that for the rest of my life, afterall.  I still have another 26 pounds I'd like to lose yet, so I hope that this won't put a damper on that.  I'm going to try it for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.

Chad has lost a lot of weight, too.  It's surprising how much we both packed on last winter without even trying.  He's lost about 16 pounds so far, and now he's starting to add some carbs back in.  Potatoes and some carbier fruits.  He may add another carb night in as well, but I'm going to leave that up to him.

I would like to reach my goal by Christmas, but I guess we'll see how it goes.  I'm not worried about if if I don't.  The fact that I've made it this far is just amazing to me.  I usually have a hard time losing weight through the winter, so I'll be happy if I can just maintain this until next spring, when I'll pick it up again.

The thing that really has helped me the most, I think, is the carb night.  We allow ourselves to eat some things we wouldn't normally eat, like ice cream or pizza or crackers, whatever we're craving, but only for one meal a week.  Then the next day, we throw away anything that's left over and go back to our low carb diet.  Not only does it keep me from caving into cravings (because I know I can have whatever I want on carb night), but it really does help regulate my weight loss.  I'll gain a couple of pounds the day after a carb night, then by mid week I'll lose what I had gained, and by the time the next carb night comes around, I'm usually down another two pounds. So far, I haven't had any plateaus, which is pretty amazing for a four month weight loss journey.

Now on to other things!  I've been heavy into a new creative excursion this past month and a half.  I don't know what got into me, but I suddenly decided that I wanted to be a craft designer.  Like, designing patterns to sell to people.  And I probably chose to design plastic canvas because I'm always drawn to things that are less popular for some reason.  My taste in music is, shall we say, a little obscure.

It's been a fun challenge.  It takes longer to design a pattern than you might think.  In a month and a half, I've so far created three good sized pieces.  That includes designing it, actually making the piece, and then putting together a pattern.  It's a challenge, but it's also something that gets me excited to get up in the morning.  I can't wait to start working on it every day.

I have my patterns available on my Etsy shop and also on Craftsy, but I haven't yet sold anything.  It's a little disappointing, but I know it takes a while to get noticed.  I've also managed to get the contact info for the three major buyers of plastic canvas patterns and I've actually submitted a couple of my projects to big companies.  I got rejected my one company and I'm still waiting to hear from the other one, but I'm hopeful.  I'm gonna make this work.

Here's the patterns I have up in my Etsy shop right now. 

Country Apple Coasters
Country Apple Coasters Pattern
Country Apples Tissue Box Cover Pattern
Country Pears Coasters Pattern
Country Pears Tissue Box Cover Pattern  
Halloween Wall Hanging Pattern

And here's a pattern I just finished today.  It's not up yet because I want Chad to proofread it first.  It should be up tomorrow sometime. 

I'm pretty happy with the designs so far, and the cool thing about it is, I have more ideas than I actually have time to make, so I should be able to keep creating for a while.  I don't have a specific goal in mind; I don't want to be rich or famous or anything.  I just want to create something that maybe other people will enjoy. 

So that's what I'm up to.  Life is an enjoyable ride these days.  I'm sure eating better has given me a better attitude and more energy, which is why we're going to keep eating this way. 

I hope everyone enjoyed their summer.  It's sure to be a lovely fall.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Low Carb Journey

Hey guys!  It's kind of been a while since I've posted.  Part of that is because I'm pretty busy this time of year because of all the gardening and house maintenance stuff, and part of it is because my computer pooped out on me for nearly a month there.  I was living off an ipad and it's hard to do anything but read the news on one of those, at least for me.

I thought I'd better at least drop a short note letting you all know how I'm doing.  I'm still doing a low carb diet to help me shed the weight I gained over the winter.  If you recall, I started at 236.6 pounds.  This morning I weighed in at 221 pounds.  Which is pretty cool!  Here's my weight chart if you're interested:

The yellow line is how they predict my weight should be going if I were to get to my goal of 180 by next May.  I did some figuring and decided that the path that I'm on will actually get me to my goal around Christmas time.  Of course, the goal weight is just arbitrary.  I would of course like to lose weight and be able to fit back into my old clothes, but I'm actually just happy to be living this way again.  I feel great.  I have a lot more energy, I'm rarely hungry, and I've only been sick once since I started cutting my carbs low again.

I also got a Garmin Forerunner 235!  A gift from my cool hubby, who also has one and loves it.

I got it in frost blue, but that's not exactly my color.  So I looked around on Amazon and found a pink replacement band for it:

That's much more me.  I wear it face down because it's comfier for me that way, and plus that way it doesn't look like I stole my boyfriend's watch.  The face is huge and definitely looks like a dude's watch.  I've only had it for a couple of days now, so I don't have a lot to say about it, other than it has gotten me more interested in getting active again.  It's funny how knowing what your numbers are can motivate you to increase them.

I have a lot more to say about what's going on in my life, but I have a lot of catching up to do now that my computer is working again so I'll leave that for another day. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I Scream for Ice Cream!

I love ice cream.  I eat it all year long.  We live in western NY, and I believe our heater runs about 8 months out of the year and the AC perhaps a single week, but that doesn't stop my ice cream love affair.  I eat it when there's four feet of snow outside my door and I'm shivering from the cold. 

That's usually my downfall with eating low carb.  There's a lovely little ice cream shack in the next town over, that serves fairly locally made ice cream (that's very good), and Chad and I frequent it at least once a week in the summer.  Sometimes three times a week, because we love ice cream.  And I've been known to get two giant scoops of the melty goodness, which as you can imagine, probably has a billion grams of sugar in it.  Especially the kinds with pieces of cake or bits of brownie, or ripples of caramel (aka browned sugar).  I know if I want to stick to this diet for any length of time, I'm going to have to get serious about making my own ice cream. 

Thankfully, I discovered that Carolyn over at All Day I Dream About Food has a pretty impressive list of low carb ice cream recipes.  Last night, I tried her recipe for peanut butter fudge ripple ice cream, and it was pretty darn good.  I haven't tried it now that it's fully ripened, but even if it's still kind of hard and icy, it'll still be delicious. 

It does call for some things I don't normally have in the house, like Swerve sweetener and almond milk, but I have a trick up my sleeve.  My mom and I frequently go to a discount grocery store run by some Amish folks.  They go around and buy short dated items and stuff from stores that are closing, and resell it for amazing prices.  I got seven bags of Bob's red mill almond flour for $1 a piece!  That's a savings of about $60, no kidding.  I put it in my big freezer so it'll stay good longer.  The other day, I was lucky enough to run across two bags of Swerve sweetener for $2 a piece (it's usually $11 online), and some cartons of almond milk for 69 cents.  I love that store!  It's funny to listen to other people walking through the store, telling their friends to watch out for outdated food!  Folks, the expiration date is a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule.  It's almost always still good to eat for a long time after the date (with the exception of certain fresh food and things like nuts and grains, which can go bad/rancid, but you'll definitely know by how bad it smells).

I probably should take some pictures of my ice cream, but it's all the way downstairs and I'm happy right where I am. 

I'm thinking about buying some cake/wafer type cones to eat my ice cream on.  It's made of starch, but it's practically nothing but air.  I believe a whole cone is around 3 carbs.  And ice cream just isn't as fun when you eat it with a spoon. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Low Carb Thing

Well, it's been two week now since Chad and I decided to go back to serious low carbing, so I thought it was time I gave you an update.

I feel great!  Why does this surprise me so much?  I know that low carb makes me feel great, but here I am, shocked by my merry mood.  It can't exactly be the weather that's making me feel good; it's been kind of cold and wet and icky.  Hormones might be playing a part in this, but I don't think it's the whole reason.  I've been happy for a change, and looking forward to my day (except for laundry day, blargh!).  I find myself singing a lot randomly, usually about how happy I am.  I even took a walk today just for the pure joy of it, which is pretty amazing.

I've decided that I'm going to weigh myself for now, and if I start to obsess over what it's seeing, I'll stop.  And I also decided that it's ok to want to lose weight; I know the limits of my body by now, I'm not going to try to get down to 130 pounds or something silly for my body shape or push it to be super strong.  I just want to fit into my old clothes and be able to do the things I love (like biking, hiking, gardening) without it wearing me out.

I feel pretty ashamed to say out loud what my starting weight was.  I'd be ok admitting this to strangers on the internet, but my husband also reads my blog, and somehow it's much more shameful to admit it to him.  I try to tell myself that it's just a number, and there's no reason to feel like such a terrible failure about gaining weight under the circumstances, but it's no use.  I just feel bad.

So maybe that means I need to just say it and get it over with.

My starting weight two weeks ago was 236.6 pounds.

In my two weeks of low carb dieting (somewhat induction/keto style, though probably higher in the carbs, maybe 30-40), I've lost 7 pounds.  That's really good!

I've been reading my old Atkins book.  I actually never read the whole thing through when I first got it; I had done so much reading on the internet and of other books, that I mostly got it for my mom and for the recipes.  It's a pretty interesting read, if you've never had the chance to yet.  I like Dr. Atkins style of writing; it's mostly pretty laid back and very engaging, like he's talking to you.

I realized, reading his book, that Chad and I have never actually tried a pretty low carb diet despite being into low carb stuff for about four years now.  We've always been on the higher end of the spectrum, more 70-100 carbs, when we were seriously low carbing it (which, to be honest, didn't happen as often as I'd like).  I wonder if that's why I wasn't able to lose more on it.  Or perhaps it's because I'm just not meant to be lower than 180 pounds.

I bought some unmodified potato starch so we can start getting more RS into our diet.  I plan on buying plantain flour next week and start mixing them up a bit.  I stopped drinking my water kefir, but I eat yogurt almost every morning and we have homemade sauerkraut in the fridge too.  I don't want to hurt my gut bugs eating a low carb diet, not after working so hard to get them in shape.  I need to look into other fermented foods I can try making that's lower in carbs, like cucumber pickles or beet kvass.  Or maybe I should look into probiotic pills.  That would be the easiest way to make sure I get what I need, but probably the most expensive.

I'm still not sure if I want to live my life totally low carb; I've read so much about how starches actually are good for you when they're the right ones.  But it's clear to me that I'm not going to lose weight eating that way, and it might be worth giving up the good starches for a while to get my body back in balance.  Like Dr. Atkins said in his book, if your body is unbalanced, you need to eat a died unbalanced in the opposite direction to find balance.  The picture explained it better that I just did, sorry.

Wish me luck!  I'm going to try getting my body back to health.  It feels so much easier to stick with this now that my mood is so much better.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Jaffa Whip

So as I said the other day, I'm going low carb again.  My biggest weakness is always sweets.  You'd think that I would be able to give them up after all the times they've made me sick, but I just keep going back.  I guess I like hurting myself.

I'm not a big fan of artificial sweeteners, but I understand that they have their place.  For me, when I'm cutting out sugar, I need something to replace it for a little while until I've gotten over the initial withdrawal. 

Thank goodness for Linda over at Linda's Low Carb!  I love her website.  I probably visit it at least once a week, even when I'm not eating low carb.  The recipes are just good and easy and usually pretty healthy.  I don't know what I'd do if her website went down; I actually asked Chad if he thought it was crazy to print all her recipes and make a kind of book (he said that yes it would be crazy). 

The latest recipe at Linda's is called Jaffa Whip.  It's a recipe she found from someone else's website that isn't there anymore (see, I'm not paranoid; it could happen!).  Thankfully, she saved it and posted it for all of us.  It's supposed to taste like a Jaffa cookie, which I've never had but that sounds delicious.  It's a little bit of work to make it, but I have to admit that it's the most delicious thing ever!  Here's a picture from Linda's website:

It's extremely hardy, though.  Linda says it makes four servings, but I'm going to say it'll probably be more like 6-8 for us.  I personally can't eat very much of this in one sitting since I don't have a gallbladder.  Usually fat doesn't bother me these days, but this is pretty much a fat bomb, so I have to be careful.  But that's ok, because a little really fills you up.  Plus, you get your chocolate fix!  

Thanks for saving and sharing the awesome recipe, Linda!  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Prayer In Spring

(For some reason, this didn't post when I scheduled it a month ago.  What's up, blogger?  So here it is now!  It's still relevant!)

I'm a big Robert Frost fan.  But then again, who isn't?  I have a nice little book of his poems sitting on my art desk, and once in a while I pull it out and read one of my favorite poems.  It usually cheers me up, because a lot of his poetry is so down to earth and lighthearted.

One of my very favorites is a poem called A Prayer In Spring, and I like to read it when the flowers start blooming and the bees are out.  It helps me to remember to slow down and enjoy spring while it's here.

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;

And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

 I got some nice pictures of a couple of the early flowers coming out in my yard.  They're so early this year! 


Snow crocuses
Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers sometime.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Positive Move

Sorry about the extreme angst in my last post.  I thought that once I hit 30, I would stop being quite so angsty, but it just never happened.  You should have seen me as a teenager though!  That was quite a sight. 

After writing that post, I spend the night thinking about diet and body image.  I wondered if it would actually be that bad to go low carb again to lose weight.  I mean, how many health writers have I read in the past year that have said it's not healthy to eat or exercise in order to change your body?  Quite a few, actually.  I've been trying to love my body the way it is now and the weight it wants to be, knowing that diets tend to make me feel more negative about myself.  I actually do feel pretty good about my body most days.

But it's still true that I'm a lot heavier now than I was just six months ago, and I'm finding it harder to do things that used to be easy for me and my knees are bothering me as well.  Not only that, but I grew out of most of my clothing, and I just hate that. 

Poor Chad has also gained weight.  Are most guys like that?  When you're off your diet, they eat badly with you?  Chad sure is.  Every time I indulge, he's right there with me.  It's nice to know I'm not the only one that wants to cram buckets of icecream in my face, but it makes me feel bad when he complains about the clothes he can't wear anymore.  He wasn't very big to begin with, but he's gotten more of a belly. 

So when he came down on Monday morning, saying he couldn't fit into another shirt, I took it as a sign and asked him if he wanted to go low carb again.  He was all for that.  I know guys aren't as sensitive about their weight as women, but I can tell it still bothers him that he's gained (I'm guessing 20 pounds). 

It's been three days now!  I forgot how easy low carb eating is.  Luckily, I didn't really have to change much since we don't eat bread or other carbage.  Basically, I cut down on the fruit, started using lower carb veggies (Brussels sprouts instead of carrots, say), stopped drinking as much milk, and cut out all sugar which includes my water kefir.  I also cut out the resistant starches for now.  I'm considering this as a kind of fast, kind of like the original Atkins diet that has a super low carb induction period that gets your body into the swing of things. 

I'm not following a plan, just playing things by feel.  I think what we'll do is eat this way for at least a couple of weeks and then see how things are going.  At that point, I might add back in resistant starches, since they're important to gut health.  Again, I really have no plan.  I just want to lose some of this weight. 

 I actually decided that focusing on losing some weight might be good for my body image right now.  It's not like I want to lose 100 pounds; at this point, I know that's not something I can do.  I have a limit of 185 pounds.  And who knows, that limit might be higher now that I'm older.  I just want to lose the weight I gained this fall and winter.  It was such a hard time for me emotionally, and getting rid of the weight might help me fully move on from everything that happened. 

I feel really good about this!  I'm definitely excited.  I've gotten out for long walks everyday, including a nice long hike on Sunday.  Plus, the garden calls!  I went out and planted my snap peas tonight, which means it won't be long before I'm out there everyday.  Oooh, and my raspberries shipped yesterday!  And my apples are just about to bloom.  Oh, I'm so excited. 

So yes, I'm in a much better mood than I was the other day.  I guess I have my moods.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ghosts From The Past

I randomly decided to read some of my old posts on Tumblr.  It was kind of funny to see how wide eyed and gung ho about low carb I was.  And also kind of sad.  It seems like I'm always struggling with my weight, and I'm always fighting with my body about the food I put into it. 

And here I am, 45 pounds heavier.  Yes, really.  I keep telling myself the weight is from the hormones of being pregnant and then being on Depo.  Maybe that's true, I don't know.  My cycle still isn't normal, seven months later.  But I also haven't been eating exactly that well, and I sure as heck haven't been exercising. 

I just feel so lost lately.  I have a wonderful life, a loving husband, a beautiful home, stimulating hobbies and family that mostly cares about me.  So why do I feel like I'm lost at sea, bobbing aimlessly? 

At least when I was low carb, I had something to be really passionate about.  It gave me purpose-- I was going to eat well and lose weight so I could be featured in one of those cool blogs.  It also gave me a tribe to connect to.  The low carb community is vast and usually pretty welcoming. 

But I feel like I know too much now.  The whole resistant starch thing and safe carbs and everything else has made it too hard for me to strictly follow that diet anymore. 

I wish I had something to be passionate about.  Or maybe I just don't have it in me to be passionate right now. 

I've been thinking a bit lately about kids, too.  I actually thought I was all over this stuff, so I don't know where this is all coming from.  It's sad to think I'll never had kids.  And surprising.  I feel like I haven't figured out what my life purpose is going to be yet.  When you have kids, it's like you have an automatic purpose; you raise them, send them off into the world, and if you die young, people will think, "Oh, well at least he left a legacy".  What do I have to show for myself?  I'm an introverted high-school dropout housewife who spends too much time watching Netflix and making art that no one will ever see. 

And I really hate being as big as I am.  I wish I could lose the weight, but it's not budging.  To be fair, I'm not trying very hard.  But I don't want to try really hard, either, because I usually go too far and end up doing some mental damage.  I'm so confused about life.  I wish I could just be happy with my body the way it is, but I'm just not.  I keep thinking that people are looking at me, thinking about how lazy and gluttonous I must be, and I know they're right.  I am lazy and I do overeat. 

What's the answer?  The part of my brain that likes happy endings is telling me, "Just get busy with your art/crafts/house repair work and you'll feel happier and you won't eat as much".  That's great advice, brain, but right now it just doesn't feel good enough. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Totally Not Dead

I haven't posted in two weeks, for shame!  It feels weird not writing in my blog; I kind of got used to it there.  I don't get many comments, but somehow it still makes me feel connected.  At least I know my thoughts and ideas get out there in the world a little bit.

Part of the reason I've been away is because I was unwell for a week, unhappily riding the couch.  I had the weird infection in my face again, brought on I'm sure by excess stress and sugar.  You know how sometimes when you drink too much and get a really bad hang over, and then you never want to touch alcohol again?  I wish I would get that feeling with sugar.  That would make it easier to give it up.  Ugh.

The other reason I've been away is because I've been busy sewing!  Which is much nicer than being sick.  I've decided to start selling some quilts on my Etsy account.  If I actually manage to sell any, it'll be great!  That way I can quilt and not have an oversupply of blankets (we're already at about 10 for two people, which I think is a bit much.  The situation isn't helped by the fact that my mother-in-law also quilts).  I really enjoyed working on the first one I made for sale, I'm just having trouble getting good pictures of it to put in my shop.  I have to get unlazy and get a good light setup for it sometime.

So here's some bad pictures of the quilt I made.

Here's a cute little mini quilt I made too.  Also a not very good photo.

So now we're all caught up and maybe I can get back to posting more regularly :)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Art: Lemons and Pumpkin

I actually have two pieces to share today, not because I'm very productive, but because I'm very lazy :)  I finished this pumpkin last week sometime:

And these lemons I finished yesterday:

Both are in acrylic.  I enjoyed experimenting with acrylics for a while, but I'm ready to get back to gouache. 

I got the reference for both photos from

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Cycle of Things

I used my last garden onion a couple of days ago, which is kind of interesting because my new onion seedlings just came up.

I guess that's part of why I love gardening.  There's such a beautiful cycle to everything.  We can miss it if we're not looking.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Making Perfect the Enemy of Good

I can't really say what kind of eating I'm doing these days.  I mean, certainly I eat, but I don't know if my eating patterns has a name per se.  Chad and I eat lots of meat, veggies, eggs, and dairy, plus some nuts, fruit and resistant starches, as much of which is organic as we can managed.  Are we paleo?  Low carb?  Primal?  WAPF?  I dunno, honestly, and I've pretty much given up caring what our title is. 

It was fun in the beginning there, when low carb and paleo were new to us.  We got really into the community, read lots of blogs, kept up with the latest health and diet news, bought lots of books.  It gave us the drive we needed to change our diets to improve our health and well being, plus it gave us that sense of community when everyone around us thought we were weird for eating the way we ate.  (It's amazing how much has changed in four years -- low carb and paleo were still "weird", whereas now you see it everywhere.  I just bought a paleo crock pot recipe book from the checkout line in Wegmans!)

The community started to feel really stifling to me after a while, though.  It stopped being supportive and started to feel restrictive.  Everyone had opinions of what's best, and they were very outspoken about it.  You had to be careful not to enrage someone by saying something that went against their beliefs.  And then it seemed like there was a new bit of information that came out about once or twice a month, some new way to be healthy and live forever.  Certain ways to exercise, certain new foods, sleep patterns, whatever it may be.  It felt so overwhelming, like I had to learn about every new piece of evidence and add it to my already restrictive eating patterns if I wanted to live into old age.

For a number of reasons, I stepped back for a while.  We started listening to our own bodies and our own cravings and what made us feel good (or bad), and tried to live by those rules. We don't always do well at it; we splurged megatime around Christmas, and I have my chocolate days, but for the most part we eat really well.

Yesterday I was on, reading the comments on an almond flour chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I wanted to know if anyone had any thoughts on how to make the recipe sugar free (except for the chocolate chips, of course).  That was the very first comment, actually.  The following comment suggested maple syrup, honey, or date paste.

Then the comments got interesting.  The next reply suggested ace K as a replacement, and BOOM, out come the crazies!  People were accusing one another of being ignorant, saying chemicals cause cancer, suggesting that if you didn't agree that you were really dumb and you were abusing your family and you were going to die a horrible death!  Haven't you read the literature?! 

It was shocking and disturbing to read that after being away from the community for a while now.  Why do people get like that?  Ok, so maybe ace K isn't the best sweeter in the whole world, but it's not up to you to decide what other people do with their lives. If you don't want to eat it, cool, but don't evangelize the point with threats of damnation.

And you know what else?  We're all going to die.  Eat as clean as you want to, but eventually it won't matter any more.  You'll die just like everyone else dies.  It seems to me that people heavy into the whole foods/healthy eating communities are striving to live forever through their diets, even though they'll deny it if you point it out.  I certainly felt that way when I was into it.  I wanted to eat well so I'd never get cancer/heart disease/diabetes/whatever disease.  Essentially, I wanted to die peacefully in my sleep at the ripe old age of 120, or possibly older.

Last year, my aunt died of pancreatic cancer.  At the time, I  was thinking to myself, "if only she had eaten a more clean diet she never would have gotten cancer!".  I look back at that now and think how silly that sounds.  She was in her 80s when she died.  If she hadn't died of cancer, she probably would have died of something else in short order.  And why is it so bad to go that way?  Yes, it was sudden, and it was scary, and she left us before we were ready, but it was her time to go and at least she had a chance to say goodbye.

If you're going to eat well and take care of yourself, do it for how it makes you feel right now.  Don't do it because it  will make you live longer, because no one knows what the future holds.  Scientists have recently started switching over to the idea that the number one factor in how long we'll live is genetics.  Even smoking, one of the deadliest things you can do to your body, only shortens your life by 10 years. 

Certainly eating pounds of sugar a day if you're a diabetic is going to shorten your life, but how much time do you lose on this earth by eating ace K?  Or by eating a cookie once in a while?  Once you've changed your life for the better and started eating well and exercising your body, what significance do the small changes have, really? 

We can live healthy lives without obsessing about the little stuff.  I bet being obsessed about health has a big impact on your well being anyway. 

I guess my point is, don't make perfect the enemy of good.  Or as Shakespear said:

Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Art: Strawberry Bowl

A lovely bowl of juicy strawberries. 

I took a painting class with my mom a couple weeks ago.  It was still life painting in acrylics.  I really enjoyed it because the instructor was very free with her art.  She didn't have us draw the painting first or anything.  We started by simply painting what we saw!  It was very liberating.  I thought I might try that method again at home, and I really enjoyed working that way.  I'm not sure if I'll do all my paintings that way from now on, but it's nice to break out of the cycle of perfection that I get into with most of my paintings. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Found It! My Dream Greenhouse!

Yep, I've been looking at greenhouses again.  And I finally found my dream greenhouse.  Y'know, for when I have my dream house. 

It's a Grandio Elite, specifically the 8x20 model.  Isn't it awesome? A website called Greenhouse Reviews named it their top hobby greenhouse.  I just think it looks really cool, plus it's really reasonably priced (at least, I think it's a reasonable price!). 

Sigh.  At least I can dream.   But at least now I have something to look forward to. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Garden Report: Aerogarden Progress

As promised, here's the Aerogarden progress.

The Bounty (on the right) has 8 lettuce pods, including two grown from my own seed. The big leafy one on the left is at day 20, and the rest are at day 16.  Impressive little plants for only being two weeks old! 

I'm so excited to start harvesting them!

Here's my tiny little basil in the back.  It's growing, but slowly.  

Check out those roots!  These plants are doing amazing, but they're not even close to the plants in the Aerogarden time lapse videos.  Still, I'm sure this is much faster than I've grown lettuce in soil.

I took one of the pods out of the Bounty because I didn't think it was growing, and was about to throw it out when I saw a little bit of fuzziness around the seed, which was the first signs that the seed was germinating.  So, I stuck it in the back of the 3SL.  It's growing alright, but it's been very slow about it.  It's Deer Tongue lettuce, a variety I've never grown before, so maybe it's just slow in general.  I guess we'll see.

Also, in the front there in the 3SL, is an experimental plant.  It's a Tiny Tim tomato, an heirloom dwarf tomato that only gets 12-18 inches tall.  I also decided to experiment by planting it in a regular sponge rather than the expensive grow sponges that Aerogarden sells.  It seems to be working! 

I have a piece of foil around the one side of the Bounty.  It's dual purpose; first, it reflects some of the light back to the plants, and second, it keeps Chad from being blinded to death when he's sitting at his desk (which is next to this stand). 

I planted some Tiny Tim tomato seeds down in my basement at the same time that I planted them in the Aerogarden.  I plan on keeping them down under my grow lights.  It'll be interesting to see the difference in growth between the soil toms and the Aerogarden toms.

I also just started my onions today, too!  It's so nice to work with plants and soil when it's single digits outside.  C'mon spring! 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Garden Report: Broken Pump

(I decided to steal an idea from Tom Naughton over at Fat Head; whenever he posts about his farm doings, he titles it Farm Report.  Since I don't have a farm yet, I decided I'd call my posts about garden stuff my Garden Report.  That way, you guys will know what you're getting into before you start reading.) 

When I bought my little Aerogarden 3SL a few weeks ago for a mere $30 on clearance, I didn't realize that it was a pretty low quality model.  I would have hoped that, at its original price of $50, it would at least last a few months or maybe even years.  It's hard for me to part with money, and when I do, I like to get the highest quality thing I can afford.  I knew I was buying a cheap Aerogarden model, but I didn't know it was a very badly built model. 

The reviews on Amazon had a lot of talk about how the pump frequently stopped working, and sometimes the lights would then stop working as well.  So I paid extra attention to my 3SL to hopefully take care of this problem before it ruined the whole device.

Sure enough, a few days into owning it, the pump stopped working, as I wrote in a previous post.  I simply cleared the holes of the bubbler as best I could, and it seemed to work just fine.  I would have to do this every day or two, but I figured that would be that and the 3SL and I would live happily ever after.

Except, one fine day, the bubbler just wouldn't work no matter how much I tried to clear it out.  The bubbler might have been clogged further in; for some reason, even though it had screws that could be unscrewed to remove the bubbler, I couldn't get it to detach completely.  However, I didn't think that was the problem; the pump just seemed to be getting weaker.  I wasn't really sure what to do, but I didn't want to leave it running and burn out the pump before I made up my mind about how to handle it.  So I turned the whole unit off and moved the seed pods from the 3SL to the three holes in the Bounty whose seeds never germinated. 

Then I took the 3SL apart!  I enjoy taking apart electronics and seeing if I can fix them.  I was pretty surprised when I opened that baby up; I'm sorry I didn't take any pictures of it.  Inside, there's two circuit boards, a tiny pump, and some wires.  Surprisingly simple.  But it was very illuminating.  I instantly found my problem, and also the reason why so many other 3SLs were breaking down.  The whole thing inside was covered with water.  The pump didn't have any one-way valve or anything, so I think when it shuts off at night, water runs down the tube, into the pump, and then it starts leaking all over everything else.  Sigh.  What a terrible design. 

I had a couple of options, but I decided to go with the simplest solution, which was to cut out the original pump and aerate with an external pump.  Which is fine, because I was actually thinking about getting a pump for the Bounty anyway.  The Bounty doesn't have an aerator built in; it just trickles water over the seed pods every so often.  I heard that with an added aerator, the plants grow much faster (plants like air; who knew?).

Now, picture time!

After cutting out the pump, I very thoroughly covered the hole with packing tape.  I took the plug from the top of the 3SL (that covers a little opening for an extrernal pump tube) and used it to plug the bottom of the tank, and then taped that on as well.  It doesn't leak a bit.

Here's the annoying little pump I pulled out of the 3SL. 

And here it is next to my new pump!  Kind of puny.

Here's all the supplies I got for the project; a small pump, 8 feet of tubing, two check valves, and a couple sizes of air stones.  All told, it was about $20.  I could have gotten it cheaper, probably in the $15 range, but we got a more expensive "quiet" pump.  It says it's the shape of silence.  I wish it was the sound of silence, because it's surprisingly noisy (it sounds like a small fan).  But, I guess that's a sacrifice you have to make in the name of indoor winter vegetables.

I set the two Aerogardens next to each other in our computer room.  I think they benefit from being close together; the 3SL gives the Bounty some heat from its CFL, and the Bounty gives the 3SL more light from its mega bright LEDs.

And now I have a little oasis of green growing things in the dead of  winter.  Chad's keyboard (the musical kind) is night next to this, so I usually come in and sit on his piano stool and just watch the lettuce grow. 

I'm not the only one who enjoys the green growing things, either.  I found this guy the day after I installed the pump.

I actually installed the pump over a week ago, and the plants are ridiculously big compared to these pictures.  I'll be sure to post again soon to show their progress.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Resolution Review

So here it is, nearly half way through  February.  Isn't that amazing?  It seems like time goes so slowly in winter, but when you look at the calendar, you wonder what on earth happened to January!  Or is that just me? 

I thought now would be as good a time as any to look back at the year so far and see how I'm doing with my resolution.  If you can't remember, my resolution was to eat well and exercise more, treat myself with respect, and find time to do the things that I love. 

I actually did really well for 2/3 of January.  But then circumstances made me crash pretty badly.  I'm having major issues with Depo Provera (a progesterone birth control shot).  I got the shot in September, and it theoretically ran out in mid December.  However, because of the nature of the shot, the effects can linger for up to a year.  The effects I'm having from Depo are weight gain, moodiness, and a nearly constant period.  And starting in the beginning of January, I started having a really heavy, really crampy period.  The cramps come on about every other week, last for a week, and then give me a break.  Ugh.

The first thing I do when I have cramps is run to the chocolate.  I dunno why; it's just something I've done for a long time now.  It doesn't make the cramps go away or anything.  I kind of feel like, "If I'm going to feel like crap, I have the right to eat junk food".  It makes sense at the time, I swear. 

So anyway, there were a couple of weeks there where I was eating lots of chocolate and other junk, and it made me feel pretty junky on top of the cramps.  Last Saturday, I decided that that was enough, and I needed to start caring for myself again, and thankfully I haven't touched junk since then.  I'm making an exception for Valentine's day because Chad got some reservations to a nice restaurant that I've never been to, but then I'm getting back on the wagon.

Exercise has been sporadic for me.  The weather has been so unpredictable that I can't really get out much, so I haven't had much chance to go walking.  I do get up on my exercise bike once in awhile, but not as often as I should.  I don't know why I don't do it.  I think I just forget most days.  I need an annoying reminder to keep me at it.  Of course, if I had an annoying reminder, I would probably just disable it. 

As for treating myself with respect and doing the things I love, that also took a back seat while I was cramping out on the couch through most of January.  I'm happy to report that I'm busy working on finding things I love and moving toward a more fulfilling life again.  I borrowed a cool book from the library called I Could Do Anything, If Only I knew What It Was.  It was written to help people find their passions and what they want to do with their lives, and so far it's been a lot of  fun reading it.  I've discovered that I really do like doing art and working with plants, and it's ok to pursue those desires further. 

Have I lost any weight?  I'll admit that I did step on the scale the other day.  I hadn't lost any weight, but at least I hadn't gained any from the pounds of chocolate I'd eaten, either.  I weighed myself a couple days later, after eating well for a few days, and I had lost about a pound.  Not a huge deal, but at least it's encouraging.  I'm off the scale again for a while though.  I don't want to start obsessing about numbers.  What's important is that I'm feeling better. 

I've noticed that since I gained a bunch of weight since last fall, my body feels different.  My knees feel weak, and it's harder to get up off the floor.  I don't like that feeling.  I'm only 31; I shouldn't feel like an old woman.  I really want to start exercising and lifting weights so I can feel strong again.  It's hard to get started, though.  I keep thinking about how I want to do it, but I don't actually get around to it.  There always seems to be something more important to do.  I have some pretty bad self discipline.  It's a miracle that I even managed to stop eating chocolate. 

So that's how I'm doing so far.  How is everyone else doing? 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Down With BMI

Scientists have done another study on BMI and have found, once again, that it doesn't have much to do with how healthy you are.  As most data from previous studies have shown, BMI is just a silly set of numbers that don't affect much in the real world, and shouldn't be used to gauge a person's health and certainly not how much a person should be paying for insurance.

I don't understand why people are so ready to use BMI to attack people who are big.  In the book Body of Truth, the author talks about how people have started using health as a reason to attack and shame fat folks because it's no longer politically correct to make fun of fat people outright.  Instead of saying we're fat and ugly, they tell us that we're ruining our health, that we're going to die young, that we're wasting billions of American dollars on medical costs, all because we're fat and lazy and we won't lose weight.  None of which is true. 

I'm tired of the fat shaming.  Yes, I'm fat, and I'm pretty sure I'm always going to be fat.  But that doesn't mean I'm unhealthy or that I'll live a short life.  It also doesn't mean I spend tons of money on medical stuff, either.  I bet I go to the doctor less than most people do, actually.  I'm hardly ever sick, and when I am, it generally goes away quickly.  And as far as fatness shortening my lifespan, scientists have been coming to the conclusion lately that the number one determining factor in your lifespan is your genetics, and environmental things only play a small part in that.  My grandma lived to 102, and I have aunts in their 90s.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to live a long life. 

So what if I'm obese?  It's just a silly term the government scientists made up so they can categorize us and tell us what we should do.  It didn't even have an official meaning until the 90s, seriously.  Well, I'm tired of it.  I'm not a number, whether it be weight or BMI.  I'm a human being. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Aerogarden Update

It's been a week and a half now that I've had my little white Aerogarden, and I thought I'd post an update.  It's doing pretty well, for a $30 clearance model.  The plants are growing pretty well, though not as quickly as the videos on the Aerogarden website would have you believe.

The biggest problem I've been having with my little Aerogarden has been the bubbler.  The reviews of this specific model have people saying that the pump stopped working a few days in, so I was prepared for that to happen.  Sure enough, a few days after setting it up, the pump seemed to not be working.  I took the tank off the base, and the pump started working again.  Hmm...  What I found was that the bubbler holes had gotten clogged; who knows if this is because of our hard water, or the sediment from the plants or the nutrients you add to the water.  At any rate, I just poked the holes clear on top, then cleared the tube on the bottom that connects to the pump, and set it back on the base.  Works like a charm!

Of course, it was clogged again in the morning (it seems to happen over night, when the pump is off), so I got out my bead reamer and made the holes bigger.  That really helped.  Now I only have to poke the hole on the bottom every couple of days to get things working. 

Here's the bubbler with bubbles.
I had planted lettuce in two of the pods instead of the herbs, because I'm more of a lettuce person anyway.  They're doing great!  One set of seeds didn't sprout; I'm guessing they're no longer good, since the packet's quite old.  So I took those out and planted some of my new seeds that I got this year, a variety called Magenta. 

Black Seeded Simpson in the middle, and Magenta on the right.

I did plant the basil seeds that came with the garden, and it's finally starting to show its little green face.

Teeny tiny basil seedling just coming up.
Now, as you may recall, I said last time that I might be getting the biggest, nicest, newest model of Aerogarden.  I wasn't sure if I'd get it at the time, but it turns out I did, so now I can tell the story about it.

The night I bought the little Aerogarden at Walmart, I went to Aerogarden's website to see what other models they sold and how much they cost.  They sell a lot of different models, from ones that look like the one I bought, to six and seven hole ones, all the way up to the huge 9 hole models with touch screens and automatic everything.  The really big ones were about $300 (unless you got the stainless steel one, and then it was nearly $400!).  So, curious, I clicked on the black one to read what it had to say, and I noticed something funny.  At the top of the page, it said the model was $300 and would be $250 if you used a coupon they were offering.  However, down below, where you added the item to your cart, it said it was $85.  Hmm...  So I added it to my cart to see if it actually would register, and indeed it showed up as $85 in my cart.  Hmmmmmmmmmm.  Then I added the coupon code, and it came down to $68.  HMMMMMM!

I consulted my husband about the situation.  He was a boy scout for a long time, and his scout friends said he was honest to a fault; when I have a tricky moral issue, I talk to him about it.  Would it be wrong to buy this device knowing that they had to give it to me for the price listed on the website?  Would he think badly of me if I did?  He said that he wouldn't think badly of me, and it was the company's fault for not catching the mistake earlier (he's also a programmer, so he can see it from that perspective too).

So I bought it!

And the company sent it to me!  When it came, the receipt said I'd paid $250, so I checked out my card, and it turns out I only paid the $68.  I even got free shipping.

(They did fix their mistake the next day.  Which is a good thing, because if they hadn't, I was very tempted to go buy another one with a $50 off coupon I had found, and that really would have been wrong.)

And here's my new beauty, the Aerogarden Bounty.

Ooooh, ahhhhh....  Shiny...
And like the little one, it came with a set of seed pods and a bottle of nutrients.  I ordered the heirloom lettuce seed kit with this one.

And for comparison, here's the little one next to the big one.

Aerogarden 3SL next to the Bounty.  Huge difference!
It was pretty simple to set up.  The Bounty has a touch screen that has a walk through when you first start it up.  Just select the type of veggie you're growing, set when the lights will come on and off, add water, nutrients, and seed pods, and there you go.

It's a pretty sleek looking device, too. 

The lights are crazy bright.  I have it set up in our computer room (a large bedroom that has our computers, my sewing machine, Chad's music stuff, and our exercise bike), and at night, we don't even need to turn other lights on.  It's energy effecient, too, because they're LED.  I think the whole thing takes 40 watts.

It has white, blue and red lights so your plants get the kind of light they need to grow.
It's been nearly a week now, so I took some more photos of it last night.  All but three of the pods ahe started growing.

Aerogarden guarantees that the pods will grow, and will send you new ones if you need them.  I asked Chad if that would be wrong for me to get new pods if these ones don't grow, and he said that yeah, it probably would be.  So what I'm thinking about doing is bringing up the three pods from the little garden and putting them in the big one, and then using the little one to either grow tomatoes (yep, you can do that), or start seeds in.  We'll see :)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Flowering Cabbage

Edit: Apparently I scheduled this post but it never posted!  So here it is; better late than never?

So Friday, I posted a pretty deep, dark post about how bored I was with life.  After posting it, I went off to my bath, but instead of reading, I sat and just let my mind wander.  It was kind of nice.  I decided that as soon as I got out of the bath, I would put on some music, get out my paints, and start painting the picture I'd started.  And what do you know, I really enjoyed myself.

Not only that, but I'm quite pleased with the results, too.

It's a flowering cabbage with really lovely coloration.  I got my reference photo from Paint my Photo, which you have to be a member of to see the pictures.  But in case you are a member (or become one), here's the reference I used.

Yay art!

Good News for Home Canners

If you're a canner like me, you know there's two types of canning methods that are deemed safe; pressure canners, for low acid food like meat and vegetables, and water bath canners for high acid food like fruit and pickles.  Most home canners use their water bath canners the most; jellies and pickles are fun and easy to make, afterall.

Some of you might have heard of a third method of canning that's kind of been on the fringe of canning for almost a century, and that's steam canning.  Basically, it's just like water bath canning, except instead of surrounding your jars in boiling water to kill bacteria, you surround it in steam.  It makes sense, since steam actually gets hotter than boiling water.  The problem is that the government has never done any real tests on steam canning to deem them safe, so we've been told for a very long time not to use that method.  Which is a shame, because steam canning uses a lot less water and energy that water bath canner.

However, I just found out to day that the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), with the help of a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, conducted a study on steam canners and found them to be perfectly safe for high acid foods


I actually knew for a long time, maybe a year and a half, that the government was conducting a study on steam canners, and I've been waiting patiently to see what the results would be.  I'm disappointed that it took me five months to finally see that they released the data; clearly, canning news isn't really exciting to most news agencies.  The study was also testing the safety of reusable Tattler lids; I haven't checked to see if they released that data yet, though. 

So since I knew they were doing the study and that they were having pretty good results, I went ahead and bought myself a dual-purpose canner last year.  It's a Victorio steam and water bath canner.

It looks like a regular water bath canner, but it came with a reversible grate that can be used for both water bathing and steaming, and it has a cool dial in the lid that tells you what temperature it is inside so you know when to start your timer.  I have to tell you, out of all my canning gear I've ever gotten or owned, this is my favorite!  Steam canning is so much easier, faster, and simpler than water bath canning.  Do you know how long it takes for a giant pot full of water to boil?  FOREVER.  But it only takes a few minutes for a few quarts of water to start steaming.  Plus, it's big enough for quart sized jars, which is great if you're into canning fruit.  Those old fashioned graniteware blue speckled water bath canners said they were big enough for quarts, but if you actually tried to process quart jars, you'd get water spurting out all over the place. 

So yay for progress!  We can finally officially steam can!

Monday, January 25, 2016

My New Garden Toy

I spend a little time over at the Square Foot Garden forum through the winter.  There's not much to talk about, plant wise, but it's nice company in the dead of winter with like minded folks who are also itching to start planting.  One of the people there said she got an Aerogarden for Christmas, and not really knowing what that was, I decided to spend some time researching it.

What I found out is that Aerogardens are small hydroponic systems that take the thinking out of hydroponics.  When I think hydroponics, I usually envision crazy tubes and light setups, plus lots of ph testing and carefully balanced nutrients.  Apparently, the Aerogardens are set up so it's neat, compact, comes built in with everything it needs, and takes a universal liquid nutrient.  Then you just pop in seed pods that the company sells, push a button, and it pretty much grows itself.

Now you might not think I'm interested in something like this.  I mean, I may not have a very big yard, but I do in fact have a yard and soil and gardens to work with, and I don't really need to depend on a hydroponic system to grow food.  However, if you were thinking that, you clearly don't know me very well.  The instant I saw these adorable little growing devices, I started wanting one something fierce.  I mean, how cool would it be to have fresh lettuce in the middle of winter, or a fresh vine ripened tomato?  Just being able to watch something grow, even herbs, would fill up my dreary winter days!  I suppose I could plant some seeds in pots and put them under my grow lights in the basement, but somehow that's not the same.  Partially because, once seed starting season comes (mid February for me), I could no longer grow indoor lettuce because I would be starting outdoor onions, which are far more important and pressing.

The thing about Aerogardens are that they're very expensive, in my opinion.  The smallest, cheapest one sells for $65 on Amazon, and the extremely nice ones are nearly $300.  I would certainly pay that much if it grew as much as my outdoor garden, but not for a device that has up to 9 slots to grow things (that's for the big one; the small one grows 3 plants).

Well, as luck would have it, Chad and I were walking through Walmart last night, looking through their outdoor gardening section (yes, I am obsessed), and I happened to spot a display of small Aerogardens on clearance.  They were the small cheap ones, originally selling for $50 in Walmart, marked down to $30!  So I grabbed one.  I figured this is a cheap way to see if I like the system.

It's the one with three holes to plant in, and it came with the herb kit of basil, dill and parsley.

It came with the device, a bulb, three seed pods, and a bottle of nutrients.
I'm not exactly a fresh herb person.  I like growing herbs, but I always forget to use them.  I mean, what would I use fresh dill in, anyway?  I rarely use the dried dill I have.  And although I like parsley, it doesn't exactly have an amazing flavor or anything that would make me want to use fresh over dried.  I do, however, really enjoy fresh basil, even if I don't use it very frequently.  So I ended up digging the seeds out of the dill and parsley pods, and putting in some Black Seeded Simpson lettuce and some Baby Oakleaf lettuce seeds in those pods instead.

Now it's all set up and running.  Since getting this yesterday, I have found out that this particular model is the worst one they sell and it's not uncommon for the motor to stop running or the light to burn out.  Still, even if I only have a 60% chance of having a good experience with this thing, it'll be fun trying.  I set it up in our dining room so I can watch it grow, although I think I want to move it to somewhere more out of the way.  The light is really bright, and kind of takes away the nice ambiance I have going on.  The nice little trickling water sound it makes is a nice touch, though.

Yes, that's a fruit basket on the right, and a fruit basket shaped cookie jar on the left.  Why do you ask?
I may be getting the largest, nicest version of the Aerogarden, but there's a story behind that and I'm also not 100% certain I'm actually going to receive it, so we'll save that for another day.  Until then, at least I have this little beauty trickling in my dining room.  Lettuce usually takes about three days to sprout when I grow it in seed starting mix, so I think by the 26th or the 27th it should be up!  I'll be certain to post updates.