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 :)