My first tag!

Woo hoo !  This comes at the perfect time since I have many half-thought-out posts in my head but nothing to actually write.  I’ve been sick for the last week – not feeling so bad, but with a cough that is annoying & keeps me awake.  Usually I take Nyquil and get some sleep but last night I tried another medicine.  It wasn’t marked “non-drowsy” but I could feel my heart pounding away, so there was something in there that didn’t agree with me.  Hence today, on about 2 hours of sleep, wanting to post but just not quite up to it.

Until I got caught up with Portraits in Sepia and her adoption journey and discovered … I’ve been tagged 🙂

The idea is to give one word answers to the questions, but I may have to elaborate on a few …

1. Where is your cell phone? Long story.  The charger got all gooey with molasses so it doesn’t work anyway!
2. Where is your significant other? at volleyball
3. Your hair color? brown
4. Your mother? wonderful – in a quiet, loving, good listener, one of my role models way
5. Your father? wonderful – in a sometimes gregarious, sometimes hermit-ish, always loving way
6. Your favorite thing? being with those I love (but I need time to myself too!)
7. Your dream last night? scary
8. Your dream/goal? hit the elusive work/life balance – time for spiritual growth, to nurture relationships, exercise, fulfilling career, travel, etc.
9.The room you’re in? study

10. Your hobby? reading, cooking

11. Your fear? being in suspended animation (in regards to the employment situation) forever
12. Where do you want to be in six years? a house with a wood burning fireplace
13. Where were you last night? in bed, unable to sleep
14. What you’re not? a fashion plate
15. One of your wish list items? a skating rink in the backyard
16. Where you grew up? Southern Ontario
17. The last thing you did? snuggled w/ DH before he left
18. What are you wearing? jeans, soft sweater
19. Your T.V.? probably the cooking channel
20. Your pet? don’t have one, would like to get a dog someday
21. Your computer? window to the larger world
22. Your mood? tired
23. Missing someone? girl friends I haven’t seen in awhile (but will see in a few weeks) 
24. Your car? stick-shift!  I loooove driving standard 🙂  OK, so it’s DH’s car that is standard.
25. Something you’re not wearing? socks (unlike everyone else who’s done this, I am wearing underwear!!)
26. Favorite store? hm – a book store
27. Your Summer? good
28. Love someone? Yes!
29. Your favorite color? green
30. Last time you laughed? this evening
31. Last time you cried? yesterday afternoon

Now YOU are tagged!

Hairy Farmer Family

“Just” a Stay At Home Wife

A Soldier’s Girl

Breeding Imperfection

Candid Engineer

Tragic Optimist

Barren Wheatfield


Why not Mason Jars? (Food Chronicles 8.2)

I mentioned avoiding BPA-containing cans in the initial food chronicles post, and this is a bit of a tangent.  Part of the whole healthy/sustainable living quest will eventually involve replacing plastic food storage – the Glad & Ziploc containers that usually hold my leftovers, or extra batches of soup or sauce, the ziploc freezer bags that hold various things, and other plastic containers in general.  While this has been percolating in my mind, no solution presented itself until my brilliant friend D made me a treat she had cooked – in a small mason jar.  Voila!

As it turns out, she’s begun using Mason jars for food storage.  Apparently you can get small ones (125 mL) and large ones (4 L) and many sizes in between.  D says they go in the fridge, the freezer, can be sterilized in the dishwasher, and are easily available and not too expensive.  How, how, how did I miss such an obvious solution??  And how many “duh” moments will I have this month?  But  I am glad to benefit from D’s wisdom!

I haven’t yet made the trip to the basement to bring out Mason jars, or looked around for a greater variety of Mason jar sizes, but I am looking forward to replacing my plastic food containers.  I don’t think I’m ready to let go of Ziplocs yet.  (Every time I use them I remember a line from a radio show, about how every bit of non-degradable plastic manufactured is still with us today.)

Along the same lines, I’ve been really happy with the Laptop Lunchbox/Bento Box that I purchased a few months ago.  I love bright coloured containers, and the fact that I don’t need plastic wrap or sandwich bags.  It’s been so much fun to think of what to put in each container to enjoy the contrast of colours, and what will fit where.  It also fits only a certain amount of food, so that’s automatic portion control; plus it encourages variety for the different containers, which has encouraged me to up the veggie intake.  The one thing I would change is to have lids for the smaller containers too – if I want to pack a yogurt it must be in the bigger container.

According to the website “we manufacture our lunch containers here in California using plastics (polypropylene and polyethylene) that are FDA-approved for food use. We do not use any binding agents or plasticizers in the process. We do not use any materials that are suspected carcinogens or endocrine disrupters”  Apparently it is also possible to recycle the plastic that it’s made of, although everything in the set seems very durable and I don’t anticipate needing to recycle anytime soon.

I’d really like to hear any brilliant ideas that have come your way (or come from your own brain) in a quest for healthier eating, or more environmentally friendly eating.  I’m wondering how many more “duh” moments are in store for me!

The opposite of gratitude

This past weekend was the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  For most of my family & friends, it’s a family based event involving quantities of delicious food – usually featuring turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie, as well as other dishes.  I understand that in the USA, Thanksgiving is the *big* holiday.  Around here, usually Christmas time is a bigger deal.  (Interesting, since many Canadians are of non-Christian faiths.  But I guess everyone enjoys having statutory holidays anyway … and we really need the festivities to get us through that darkest part of the year.)

I made it to church on Sunday and have been intrigued by part of the sermon.  The main theme was thankfulness.  The priest asked the question “What is the opposite of thankfulness?”  I immediately thought of ingratitude, but his answer was greed. (He tied the greed theme back into the economic situation which has been rocking the world.)

This made for a great conversation with DH (who did not attend church with me).   His view is that ingratitude shows that a person isn’t grateful for something because they feel entitled to it, so of course they should have it.  Greed implies that a person feels entitled not just to what they have received, but that in fact they should have more.  I can see how greed would make you miserable as you would always be feeling that you really should have more than what you do, as opposed to simply oblivious because you don’t appreciate what you have.  Either way, you miss out on the joy of treasuring and cherishing something, since it is taken for granted. 

Now, let’s bring this back to the Thanksgiving meal.  I enjoy partaking of it all, savouring my favourite dishes, and even having second helpings.  I am thankful for this chance to celebrate with my family and for all the work that we put into such a wonderful meal.  But I do eat a lot of it.  Is that greed?  Is that just appreciating excessive quantities of something?  If you are thankful for it, can you still pig out and not be greedy?    I’ve always seen it as exuberantly celebrating … but really, it’s not that great for me to eat quite so much.  I guess I have to learn to enjoy and be thankful in smaller portions.  That seems hard when my family seems to enjoy things based on “if a little is good, a lot is even better!” I have to find a way to do this so I don’t feel deprived, I guess.

For any of you who may be reading and who are believers in the power of prayer, positive energy, good vibes etc … there is a job possibility that we are really hoping for.  There’s been talk of some of the details, but the final decision has yet to be made.  Please send us your good thoughts!  We would surely appreciate & treasure being employed now, in a way that we would never have done before …

Food Chronicles 8.1 – BPA and canned tomatoes

Hm – I’m already off track – I’d planned to go along my list in a nice, orderly fashion and already I’m jumping to #8 on my food chronicles list!  However, I think seasonal relevance trumps orderly – and I’ve discovered an easy alternative to canned tomatoes, so I just had to post now in case anyone else could use this information too.  

First, there has been alot of hype about BPA (bisphenol A), a kind of plastic that is widely used and has been assumed to be safe.  It didn’t have to pass the same kinds of safety test as other substances that came to market after the mid-1970’s since it was already in use.  Common places BPA is used include hard, clear plastic bottles (polycarbonate bottles, some kinds of Nalgene bottles, some baby bottles), the liners of many metal cans, and -as I’ve just realized- containers like my food processor bowl and probably my gravy separator as well.  

However, some observations of lab animals have recently caused concern about the health of effects of the constant low dose (or even higher dose) that most of us are exposed too.  When you consider the meteoric rise in issues like infertility, allergy, asthma, obesity, and other health issues, there must be some factor or factors in our way of life that are affecting us.  It’s probably a combination of things – from pesticide use and air pollution, to our food supply and sedentary habits.  We have so many thousands of genes and tiny amounts of things can switch them on or off.  I am concerned enough about BPA to make some changes, but not everyone is as concerned – particularly the industries that use and make BPA.  There is room for doubt, but I am playing it safe.  Here are some sources for more information:

For a general overview of plastics & recommendations: guide to plastics

This explains why BPA  may not be dangerous, since humans metabolize it differently than the rodents who have been studied for exposure.

This explains why BPA may be dangerous, as it may mimic female hormones, and as it may be correlated with other health issues.

I have already switched to stainless steel water bottles, and am now looking at reducing exposure to the liner of cans.  One of the canned items I used most are tomatoes.  And …. tomatoes are now in season.  So, I should get out my very dusty canning kit and cookbook, right?

WAIT!  There is an easy alternative.  I didn’t know it, but you can just freeze tomatoes.  I was so excited to discover this (not only am I lazy lately, but short on time).  Basically, I just washed the tomatoes, took off the stem tops and any bruises, placed them on parchment paper on cookie sheets, and stuck them in the freezer.  When I remembered about them I popped them into ziploc bags, like frozen little baseballs.

On Saturday I made a spaghetti sauce and tossed in some of these frozen tomatoes -they melted right in and didn’t require much mashing.  (They did take some time to melt down).

If you do want to peel the skin off, you can do so before freezing, or run the frozen tomato under warm water and (apparently) it’s quite easy to peel the skin off with your hands.

I found a couple of sites on the internet but also spoke to my friend and my mom to get tips.  Now, it could be that  you are saying “duh!  of course!  I’ve always known you can freeze tomates” – it’s so easy I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.  Sometimes I need someone to point out the obvious.

My favourite links were from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the freezing tomatoes guide from pick-your-own site.

Men, Women & Risk

A couple of years ago, DH told me something he’d heard about how men and women evaluate risk.  Apparently men will evaluate a risk considering more the likelihood of danger, versus how serious that danger is.  Therefore they may decide to take a risk with a potentially very dangerous outcome, if they think it’s highly unlikely that dangerous outcome will actually happen.

On the other hand (so DH told me) women will weigh the severity of the potential outcome much more highly than the likelihood of that outcome.  Thus a woman may decide to not take a risk that carries a lot of danger, even though the chances of it actually happening are small.

When I look at how DH and I make decisions, it seems pretty accurate.  He was happy to have laser eye surgery done – and has been very happy with the results.  Although I know it’s a well-researched procedure and it has a good track record, there is always a small risk that something could go wrong.  I just don’t want to take any chances I don’t have to take with my vision.  Glasses don’t really bother me (and in fact, given my general klutziness, they are a pretty good idea anyway.  At least once a year I walk into a wall or a door, or something pokes at me in the vicinity of my eyes, and I’m glad to have eye protection!)

So what do you think?  Does this observation about gender and risk taking ring true to you?

Introducing the Food Chronicles

One of the things that brings excitement to my life is food.  It was always a big focus in my family growing up, with rituals like wine with Friday & Saturday suppers, favourite dishes, family get-togethers and meals for birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  When I was away at university my grandma baked banana muffins and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and mailed them to me – just like a hug from home!

Eating has gotten much more complicated lately.  I am trying to balance many things, several of them contradictory.  I’m hoping that blogging about it will help me sort them out – remember them – and perhaps gain advice from you, my esteemed readers!

Here are the issues that I keep in mind for food, roughly in order of priority:

1.  Allergen free (ie none of our allergens)!  No eggs, fish or tree nuts.

2. Organic if possible.  (still to come:  the lists I have found of “most important to eat organic” and “things that don’t really matter if you eat organic or not).

3. Choices with some thought to foods that are supposed to be healthy for you – especially from the “Foods That Fight Cancer” and “Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer” books by Dr. Beliveau.  Overall he advocates more fruit & vegetables, of course, but there are some interesting research nuggets in there.  However, I feel that it’s important to keep a sense of perspective.  Slavishly following these books doesn’t mean you’ll never get cancer.  If you know someone who has had a cancer diagnosis, it isn’t their “fault” for not following these guidelines.  I think there’s some great information here but I’d hate to have it transformed into a “blame the victim” situation.

4. Lower carb/more whole grains.  DH and I followed the South Beach diet several years ago and it did wonders for DH’s blood lipid levels, and also for his weight loss.  I lost some weight too but it was really surprising how well it worked for DH.  There’s type II diabetes in my family so I think this is a good strategy for both of us.

5. Less meat, more vegetarian meals/dishes.  As I grew up eating meat with every supper, this is a shift for me.  (note how this is more difficult w/ the south beach diet, mentioned above!)

6. Eating 3 course meals a la “French Women Don’t Get Fat”  – this is a recent introduction to our food habits (for supper), and we are loving it!  Some typical things might be a soup course, then a salad course, and then the “main” – all of them small, and meat usually just at the main course – or sometimes it’s all vegetarian.  One recent meal was 1) soup 2) corn on the cob 3) a bit of beef stew, mashed potato, sauteed mushrooms & onion, and broccoli.  By the time you get to course #3 you’re already partly full, plus I generally use smaller plates.  It is a bit more work but I”m starting to get into the groove.

7.  Environmentally friendly/locally grown – sometimes I am good at keeping this a priority – other times not so much.  Last year we got most of our fruits & vegetables from a farm about 40 min away.  It was a great experience but it was a commitment of money & time to drive there and back!

8.  Not from BPA-lined cans.  (a whole new level of obsessiveness for me)

9. Gluten-reduced (I haven’t really incorporated this much, but it’s something I’d like to aim for in the future)

10. Less dairy (Dairy is so easy, high protein, good flavour for us.  But I think we are having too much of it). 

So, you may be able to see some of the conflicts here!  South Beach advocates a high protein breakfast, and highly recommends eggs – that goes against our allergy!  It also emphasizes high protein to keep you feeling full – a bit harder to do when striving for more vegetarian emphasis.  Then there’s the preventing cancer thing, where omega-3 fats from fish are fantastic!  Unfortunately, we are allergic to that.  Then there’s the overall cost of buying organic … argh.  Of course a good variety of fresh veggies & fruit is an admirable goal, but you can’t get that much which is local in the wintertime in Ontario.

No wonder I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the (supposedly) simple task of eating!