Sunday, August 30, 2009

Changing as We Grow

"Getting old sucks!" to quote Terry - who, when he says that, is probably thinking about the last time he played a "fun" game of football. Tackling an opposing player, he broke his collarbone. Unlike the two previous times he broke it (as a child), this time it took more than six months to mend. I remember him saying - "I wonder if I'll ever be pain-free again..." Eventually he was, but he never played football again!

Getting older does bring changes - things we can no longer do - or do with ease - and how tied up our self image is to what we can no longer do - determines, I think, our happiness at each stage of life.

We were recently visiting a friend in her mid-80s. She had always prided herself in her appearance. Now she hated the way she looked - she had lost weight and her clothes hung on her... Never mind that her face and hairstyle belied her age. So she stopped going out, even to go shopping and attend family gatherings. She only leaves her apartment to attend medical appointments.... She has imprisoned herself and become a recluse... because she is embarrassed by the way she looks.

But you look great, I say to her, in all honesty.
You're only trying to humor me - is her reply.

When my mother moved to a new city in her mid-80s, she knew nobody - so her goal was to talk to 5 new people every day... She introduced herself to people everywhere - in the elevator of her building, and in the halls, quickly making new friends. Now (at 90) her goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day - and the pedometer she wears to measure her steps is a conversation-piece as well!

A retired minister I know - now in his 70s - has recently gone to a small village - where a part-time priest was needed. He has begun again, doing the work he knows and loves. He has a lot to offer, even though he doesn't have the stamina of his younger years.

As I look at those aging around me (and we are all aging at exactly the same rate - minute by minute!) I see that every stage of life brings new challenges - so we need new goals to match them. In a very real sense, we need to leave the past behind and look ahead... Every day is a fresh new day, with new challenges and opportunities... not only to repeat the old, but to do and to be something new...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rent a Roof? A Green Idea...

I was wandering around Home Depot - looking at this and that - while Terry shopped. Eventually I found myself standing in front of several solar panels, reading brochures on various types of solar energy available - for heating pools, indoor hot water systems ... or even to simply create electricity to sell back to the electric company.

The comment that caught my eye indicated that a panel like the one before me could potentially earn a homeowner $1,300 a year, for electricity put back to the electrical grid. The south-facing side of our roof could hold at least 2 of those panels...

That's a lot of money to get back! For simply having a solar panel on my roof?! What an untapped market - and an opportunity for greener living!

I started to imagine... What if a neighborhood of homeowners all had solar panels on their roofs and sold the generated power back to the electrical grid... How much electricity would that generate? How much could they individually earn - as electrical rebates from the company?

What if the electrical company took the initiative by offering to install panels on suitable roofs in exchange for monthly refunds in electricity costs? How much would that offset the cost of electricity? How many people would offer to rent their roofs? I know we would!

Is there anyone out there interested in pursuing green ideas like these?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Juggling My Life with Type 2 Diabetes

I sometimes feel like a juggler with half a dozen balls in the air - trying not to let any drop. That's what it's like to live with Type 2 Diabetes, trying to control it through lifestyle changes - and not medication. My juggling act is a daily struggle: If I let my guard down and "cheat," my blood sugar catches me, keeping me honest. (Yes, I prick my finger daily - not a hard thing for a quilter to do! And my little glucose meter does the rest, telling me how I'm doing. This daily ritual is an essential part of my new way of life.)

The first "ball" I have to balance is diet: I need to avoid white flour, white rice, and other processed foods that have had fiber removed. Digesting fiber takes time, and slows down the sugar rush to the blood.

The second ball is timing - I need to space the food I eat 4 to 6 hours apart, so snacking and grazing are out! This means that whenever I eat, I have to make a mental note of the time, so that I'll know when I'm allowed to eat again!

The third ball is exercise. Exercise burns sugar - the body's fuel (only diabetics have too much). So I go to Curves three times a week and build up a sweat. Walking is also an essential part of the diabetic lifestyle: While burning sugar, walking also increases the body's insulin production in a natural way. Type 2 diabetics should walk at least 10,000 steps a day - which translates into about 45 minutes of walking - in one long walk, or several shorter ones. (This is the ball that I let drop over the past months, first with winters' icy roads, then with this spring and summer's busyness...)

The fourth ball is weight. Diet changes (avoiding sugar and white flour) usually cause people to lose some weight initially. I read somewhere that type 2 diabetics who modify their diet lose on average about 7 pounds. I lost a little more than that, I think, but after a few months, my weight loss stopped. Weight is a particularly hard issue for many type 2-ers. There is the guilt factor - type 2 diabetics are told that if they lost more weight, their diabetes might entirely disappear ... (Hidden Message: It's your fault you have this problem!) But it's possible that the gene that predisposes some to type 2 diabetes may also encourage weight gain. So this may be part of a vicious cycle! ... It often feels that way!

The fifth ball we type-2-ers have to juggle is adequate rest and sleep - and avoidance of stress - which also raises one's blood sugar!

The sixth ball is general health. Illness raises blood sugar as well...

So there they are - the issues I have to think about every day. There are times,I feel like a tired juggler - always focusing on one thing or another to keep my blood sugar down... Don't get me wrong: I'm thankful I know how to control my diabetes - most of the time. But in order to control it, in a very real sense, it controls me!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Awake in the night

For quite a few years now, I have had periods of extreme wakefulness in the middle of the night. I wake up after three or four hours of sleep, my mind churning, pulling up thought after thought with such clarity - I wish I could replicate it in my normal waking hours! Things I need to do, ideas and insights! It's really quite amazing... except that it's one or two in the morning... And I don't want to get up, even to write these ideas down. And if I do get up, the brilliant ideas usually evaporate into a hazy fog, and I'm left with the thought that I'm going to be really tired by noon, if I stay up now.

I'm not alone, I know. In my teaching years, one colleague who also suffered from early morning insomnia shared that her secret for making herself fall asleep amid her churning thoughts was to imagine herself driving along a favorite road in Nova Scotia. I never reach my destination, she commented. I always fall asleep before I get there.

I wish I could find a trick that worked for me - counting sheep or driving along a picturesque highway. But more often than not, I grudgingly get up and start my day - never mind that it is 3 am. Yesterday morning, for example, I had done two loads of laundry - and my ironing - by 7 am!

This morning, I woke up a little earlier than usual - 1:30 am. It was peaceful and dark. The cool night air flowing in through the window was perfect for sleep - except for a slight whiff of skunk - maybe that's what woke me up in the first place. I think he lives under our garden shed and takes nocturnal prowls, keeping other night-prowlers away with his powerful spray.

The incessant music of the night was the crickets' song - otherwise all was still.

It's a tad early to get up, I thought, lying there, enjoying the cool breeze. But by 2:30 I succumbed and got up. (I read once that one should never lie in bed sleepless for more than 20 minutes! But I really didn't want to get up!)

I made myself a cup of warm milk - that sometimes helps me sleep - and after a while went back to bed. I'll give myself half an hour, I thought - and if I don't fall asleep, I'll get up...

The next thing I knew, it was 6:30!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Visiting Sutton

Friends of ours moved from Montreal to the picturesque village of Sutton, Quebec, when their children were young.

Best known as a winter ski resort, Sutton is also a lovely spot in summer.

Like many in the community, our friends and their children learned to speak French and English with equal ease - and became expert skiers! And in time, the children grew up and moved away.

So it was with memories of days before we were married and then of children (now grown) playing together, we had lunch in this resto-bistro and reminisced!

Later we wandered around the village. As usual, I was drawn to photograph flower beds...

And some interesting old buildings as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

If I were alone on a desert isle...

If I were stuck alone on a desert isle, with only one book - I would want to have the book of Psalms. This book of Jewish prayers, songs and praises are part of the Christian Bible as well. No other Biblical book gives me greater comfort or makes me feel closer to God than the Psalms.

I have recently been reading and re-reading Psalm 121 - which I have copied (and pasted) below from (I'm not sure what the rules of reproducing parts of the Bible on a blog are...!)

According to my Chronological Bible, Psalm 121 was composed after exiles returned from Babylon to rebuild King Solomon's temple, which had been destroyed a century before. It would later be rebuilt on the same site by infamous King Herod the Great. "Renovated" is perhaps a better word to describe his massive improvements. In any event, his "Second Temple" is the one that Jesus would have known.

Psalm 121, is a song of ascents, sung by dusty pilgrims trudging uphill to Jerusalem to pray and offer sacrifices at the celebration of a new moon or a Jewish holy day. I wonder if the original tune was lively and energizing. (The walkers must have been in great shape!)

Whatever the roots os Psalm 121, I find great comfort in its words.

Psalm 121
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Carp Farmers' Market

We happened to be at the Carp Farmers' Market the day they were celebrating GARLIC...

There was garlic fudge - which I didn't try. (See the chalkboard sign in the picture...)

After walking around all the stands, I bought some English pastries - made with extra garlic - tomatoes and fresh corn on the cob.

I also purchased an elegant cake from a bakery called The Girl with the Most Cake. It will be a perfect gift...

The market is so big, you could actually get lost there... which is probably why they have an information booth.

The Carp Farmers' Market is at least ten times bigger than the one at North Gower (which I wrote about last Saturday) ...

... But I like both equally well.

I enjoy seeing who made (or grew) the food I buy - and supporting these small businesses.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Buying Time

Time is the one thing we often need the most, and they say you can't buy it, a friend commented one day. But I've discovered that by bringing home prepared food, when I'm busy, I am buying time - the time it would take me to shop, cook and clean up. That is one way I actually "buy time." Now I don't feel guilty about not cooking when I'm busy. By bringing home pizza - or anything else - for supper, I'm buying time to spend with my family instead!

And emotional well-being, if cooking at the end of a long day stresses you out!

That comment changed the way I (then a working mother) viewed take-out food... and ended my sense of guilt whenever I chose to "buy time" by bringing home prepared food rather than to cook.

There were other ways I "bought time" in the busy years when I worked full-time and my kids were teenagers. At one point each one was assigned a night to prepare supper for the family. To add to the privilege of being able to choose what we would eat, they were also given the car and money to purchase whatever they needed. They were learning about meal preparation, and I was "buying time."

Recently, I heard a similar comment shared by a successful entrepreneur: In your business, go with your strengths and buy your weaknesses...

I have a very small book-selling business - but every year I spend one or two very long, stressful days calculating and re-calculating my business taxes. (I've discovered that one small error - like a number written on the wrong line - can take years to correct when dealing with government bureaucracy!) Maybe it's time to see a professional accountant, not only to buy time, but alleviate my annual tax-time stress!

And the little jobs I'd like to see done around the house - like painting the halls - which I can't bear to start, because I know house painting is always a bigger job than it looks! Well, maybe I need to think of bringing in a professional to do that as well!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Upside of Clutter - Adventure

I was recently browsing in one of my favorite stores, discovering household items I would love to own (but probably don't need, and definitely have no room for) - when the thought crossed my mind - I could work in this place! I love this ambiance! You never know what you'll find next!

There was a real sense of discovery about the place...

I didn't fill out a job application ...yet! But the energy and excitement I felt in the store reminded me of how pleasant a workspace should be...

It needs to be exciting and fun!

Later on, reflecting on why I liked being in this store so much more than other household goods stores, I realized that it was because it was CLUTTERED! Not messy or dirty or untidy - but full of one-of-a-kind objects. Shopping there was a real treasure hunt!

As I meandered down the aisles, I wondered what neat gadget, food item or unusual piece of furniture I would find next!

I thought of my own clutter at home ... how it holds surprises, too - when I find a book I had forgotten about, or a project I had started long ago...

I guess I thrive in clutter, because of the sense of adventure in re-discovering things I love - but had forgotten about!

So rather than get down on myself about how messy or cluttered my home is, I've decided to celebrate the sense of adventure clutter brings... When I tidy off my desk today, what treasure will I find under the mounds of papers?!!

By the way, if you were wondering what the name of this delightfully cluttered place was, it's ...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Storage or Work Space?

Not long ago, my daughter sent me a blog link to a beautiful sewing room (You can see it at the bottom of Stash Attack posted May 08, 2009 on Chemistry Couture.) The room looks bright and airy - quilting fabrics are organized according to color shades. There's a sewing table and lots of storage space. Organization experts tell you - store what you need close to where you need it. So this space is absolutely perfect!

My first thought was, where - in my house - can I create a sewing room as lovely and as useful as that? There must be somewhere...

But as I thought about it, I realized that this well-organized sewing space would never work for me. I love to do my sewing in the center of the house - in the midst of family action - where light streams in through large windows - and I can glance up and see flowers and trees outdoors. So I sew on the dining room table, where we eat all our meals! Yes, it does disrupt meal time a bit - but that's where I like to be! Unfortunately, there is simply not enough unused space on the main floor for me to create a lovely sewing area there.

So my new goal is to create - not a sewing room - but a useful storage space somewhere, probably in the basement or an upstairs bedroom, where I can easily find what I need when I sit down at the dining room table to sew!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Know Your Readers

One of the first things would-be writers are told in a writing class is: decide who your audience is. Know your reader, and write for that person.

When I started to write this blog, my goal was to share bits and pieces of my life. My reader would be - well, I wasn't sure who. But I envisaged a person much like myself, possibly at the same stage of life, with many of my interests - like gardening, traveling, quilting. So in the doubtful possibility that there were others like me out there, I wrote for someone like ME - sharing my life - occasionally trying to be profound.

I always enjoy hearing from people who read my blog, people I know and people I've never met. It's amazing that bloggers can create such beautiful pages with so little effort - thanks to the computer techies who have created templates and programs that are easy to use - and free sites that allow us to create them! The posted pages look gorgeous - and it's fun to know that someone out there is reading them...

But back to the question: who are my readers?

Well, my husband reads my stuff. As he says, he has no choice! My kids read it - probably to make sure I'm not misrepresenting anything they say or do! (And that is probably a really good reason to write - to share my stories and my ideas with my kids.) Occasionally my kids even mention my blog to their friends...

So those are my readers - a generational mix...

And what do they like to read? Well, I haven't taken a survey, but I occasionally get comments:

You have a lot of pictures and not much content, my husband noted the other day. I like it when you write more...

Did you see my blog? I recently asked my daughter.

I think so. Words, words - there were so many words... (So she obviously likes it when I post pictures...)

I showed Mathieu your picture of the pedestrian crossing with both stop and go signs, my son tells me. He thought it was cool.

Yes, my husband comments: That was your best blog.

My best blog?! Really?! So much for trying to be profound!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We live on borrowed time...

There is so much I want to do when I quit working, I told one former teacher who had retired a few years before me. I know I'll keep busy...

Yes, and if you don't do it today, there's always tomorrow, she laughed. That's the way it is when you retire... There is no pressure. If you don't do it today you can always do it tomorrow...

Since leaving the daily working routine over a year ago, I've discovered the truth of her words. I do accomplish something every day. But some of the big projects I have planned to do for many years are still undone - because there's always tomorrow.

When I was still working, I started - but didn't finish - a number of writing projects - a family history, a second spelling workbook, a homonym dictionary, articles on this and that. In fact, I have a filing cabinet full of unfinished projects - waiting for tomorrow! And then there are all my unfinished quilts and knitting projects...!

Last week, I watched a documentary on one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott. In the film, she tells how becoming a mother - and having no time to write, but making time in the midst of her busyness - brought her to a new level of commitment to her craft. Her best writing (in my opinion) has been done since then, in time carved out of her busyness.

We live on borrowed time, she concludes. Nobody is going to care if we write, but us...

And yet, if she hadn't written, if she hadn't taken the time to write, how much of what she has to offer would have been lost!

So I am reflecting - again - on how to spend my time, at this stage of life - when I have so much flexibility. So that in the future, when I look back at what I did and didn't do, I won't have to live with regrets!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

North Gower Farmers' Market

Often Saturdays will find me heading to a farmers' market in a nearby village or town. Here is one I recently visited, about 40 minutes south of Ottawa...

But it wasn't fresh fruit and veggies I brought home from this market. Here, my favorite stands sell home-baked goods.

I ate Amina's baked veggie turnover before before thinking to take a picture! But here are some other things I got...

Brownies and cherry pie!

I don't make them very often - too many calories! But I can't resist them when someone else does!

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Growth

I love African Violets but have never managed to start a new plant from a leaf. These were donations from a kind neighbor.

A few months ago, I thought I'd try again. Taking a leaf from one plant, I tucked it into the soil of a different kind of plant - a plant that needs to be kept moist or it will droop. I needed that reminder to water the plant!

Nothing seemed to happen for a long time, though the leaf didn't die... It just lay there.

Then this week, I noticed NEW GROWTH!

The next step will be to transplant it into a pot by itself.

I'm so encouraged, I may take a leaf from one of ALL my African Violet plants, and see if I can propagate new ones in ALL COLORS!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heroes Among Us

I discovered several amazing people the other day - thanks to an online article on Alzheimers Disease and several YouTube interviews.

As often happens when one is surfing the net, one thing leads to another. It all started with an online article written by an Alzheimers caregiver - a daughter (Kathy Hatfield) who looks after her father.

In it she says, "I ... learned that his reality brought on by Alzheimer's disease was as real to him as my reality is for me. The difference was I could join him. He was never coming back to my world."

Who is this lady? I wondered, and did a google search...

Before long, I was on YouTube, listening to Regis Philbin interview her...

Then I discovered an interview with Mike Briana who cares for his wife Betty. It can be seen in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2...

All this to say that it is easy to let bad news stories dominate our thoughts, just as they dominate the news. It is easy to become pessimistic and cynical about life. But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of good news stories we rarely hear about and unsung heroes among us who make our world a better place through their daily lives and sacrifices made - not out of a sense of duty - but of love...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This Morning's Garden

I stepped out to enjoy the flowers this morning...

The yellow daisies are still blooming...

As are the white ones that planted themselves in the grass.

New in the garden are phlox in white..

... pink and red...

This little critter - clinging to the white front door - ignored me when I opened it.

What a beautiful moth!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Peach Season is here!

Peaches are one of my favorite summer fruit. I often buy 2 ot 3 baskets of local Ontario peaches at a time and let them ripen in the dining room. (Ontario peaches grow near Niagara Falls, in southern Ontario.) The smell of ripening peaches reminds me to check them every day, to see which juicy ones are ready to eat.

Today several were over-ripe, so I decided to cut them up, remove the bad spots, and stew them up with a few frozen blueberries. Once they cook a bit, I will cover them with crumb topping and bake mini peach and blueberry crisps. I always have a container of crumb topping - ready for fruit crisp - in the fridge.

For breakfast today, I cut up several peaches, topped the fruit with cereal, and poured milk over it all.

It's one of my favorite summer breakfasts!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I was when I looked up at this pedestrian crossing! (You may have to click on the picture to get the full effect...) I can only assume one pedestrian crossing light was realigned when a truck drove past... But which one?

So I grabbed my camera. The situation - to cross or not to cross - seemed symbolic of a decision I have to make. And the laughing face on the bus shelter seems amused at my dilemma!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cherry Kuchen

I was flipping through some of the blogs I follow when the words Plum Kuchen caught my eye. My grandmother used to make plum kuchen! The words brought back memories of this fruit-covered coffee cake, a summer favorite when plums were in season.

It was in the Vegan Yum Yum blog (Remember her "knit" marzipan cupcake icing?!) Well, she had veganized a Gourmet Magazine recipe for Plum Kuchen. So I went to the original - then googled Plum Kuchen, wondering if there were other ways to make it - as my grandmother had put the fruit on the top - half plums pushed into the dough, then sprinkled lightly with sugar and cinnamon - and these recipes put the fruit in the bottom, then turned the cakes upside down when removing them from the pan.

My hunt for another recipe led me to another food blog (Smitten Kitchen) that raved about the Gourmet Magazine recipe - and offered her own variations. So I decided to try it...

I must admit, as usual, I didn't exactly follow the recipe! So here is my own whole wheat and spelt flour variation!! (Isn't modifying recipes and experimenting what cooking is all about?!)

I also made it with some frozen sour cherries I had in the freezer instead of plums!

So without repeating the original recipe, I'll provide my variations.

1. Instead of 2 cups of white flour, I used 1 cup of (unbleached) white flour plus half a cup of spelt flour and half a cup of (soft) whole wheat flour.

2. I used milk reconstituted from skimmed milk powder plus a teaspoon of vinegar instead of yogurt. A teaspoon of lemon juice instead of vinegar would have added some interesting flavor. ...Next time!

3. I used salted butter in the batter and the pan, but then I rarely add salt when I cook.

4. I let the dough rise in the oven with the light on to generate a little warmth - I didn't cover it.

5. And finally, I sprinkled a little sugar and cinnamon on top of the batter before I baked it.

A note about yeast... I find that most yeast - even if it has been in the fridge for a long time usually will bubble up - if given enough time (unless it has been scalded). The yeast I used was not fresh, so I did have to wait a bit longer to have it bubble up. And I added a tablespoon of sugar to the yeast/water mixture to speed things up a bit!

I don't know what the gourmet magazine kuchen tasted like - it must be amazing to have so many blogs comment on it - but I was satisfied with my kuchen...

Next time I make it, I plan to use plums, put the fruit on top, and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on it - just like my grandmother did... Hopefully it will taste as good as hers!

Friday, August 7, 2009

My New "Cottage Industry"

It doesn't take long for a hobby to turn into a "cottage industry"...

After making a few flower cards last week, I got inspired to create a few more: I find the "learning curve" - figuring out which program works best - takes me so long, I may as well keep going once I find the program that works.

For the small cards, I went to the Avery website and downloaded their template, since I was using Avery brand cards. For the big cards, I used software that came on the computer. It was intended for album pages. I chose one for 2 pictures, then left the bottom picture space blank. But I had to remember to turn the picture upside down so that it would face the edge, not the fold! Next time, I think I'll try an Avery template for the big ones too.

Now that I have this supply of flower cards - what to do with them?!

Hostess gifts? Personal thank-you notes?An online Etsy store? Not sure yet! But my little "cottage industry" has been a lot of fun.

My next project will be an album of flowers in my garden - with names of the flowers next to them, as I never seem to be able to remember their names!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A New Hobby!

I have been taking a lot of pictures of flowers this summer....

Like these tiger lilies...

And these daisies...

I have a lot to learn! But I've already discovered that flowers look fresher right after the rain. And the slightest breeze can blur a potentially beautiful shot!

What to do with these dozens of flower pictures? Well, with an inexpensive color printer... And a box or two of card paper...

It's easy to create note cards!

So that's my new hobby!