Sunday, January 02, 2011
Remember that old song by the Temptations? Also known as "My Girl"?
Well, my guy presented me with a light box beaming out a powerful 10,000 lux, which I've been using every morning. Sunshine bright!! I've positioned it over my lap top, so the middle of the screen is at eye level about 12 inches away from my face -- nice for illuminating my morning SP login while I sip my coffee and scan the newspaper, Charlie curled up at my feet!
There's a lot of interesting research on the use of light boxes for treating a wide range of full blown clinical issues including depression, seasonal affective disorder, jet lag, shift work disorientation, post partum, PMS and even senility. Here's a link if you'd like to read more: there are a couple of scholarly articles and the second one in paricular cites the literature quite thoroughly.
As for me, I'm pretty sure that I don't have any of these clinical conditions. But I am the original sunshine girl -- love sunshine, crave it, thrive on it. When other people want to be closing the blinds, I'm basking in it. Generally speaking, people tell me that I've got a pretty sunny disposition. (Dunno, but I've been spontaneously nicknamed "Sunny" in so many different contexts, from little girl days onwards, that maybe there's some truth to it.)
Anyhow, April through September mornings after the gym often find me and Charlie on our east-facing verandah with my coffee and newspaper. But no question even for sunny types it's harder to feel sunny when there isn't any . . . um . . . sunshine. For weeks. For months. Which had made me curious about use of a light box to help me keep my mood upbeat during our long cold dark winters, when day after day we head off to work in the dark and come home again in the dark.
But there's more. In addition, light box therapy may help with winter weight loss or weight maintenance. That's because sunlight deprivation seems to be associated with carb bingeing. Apparently there is some research evidence that the long dark days tend to trigger a craving for more comfort foods . . . and more sleepiness too (so less exercise). The big ol' bear hibernation effect, I suppose. We are circadian-sensitive mammals, so that makes some sense to me!
Added on to my multivitamin and extra vitamin D and calcium, I'm now experimenting with 20-30 minutes of 10,000 lux light box exposure early every morning . . . getting my days off to a bright start So far, it does seem to be waking me up, cheering me up, and helping with the excess carb control.
The light box was a total surprise from my guy. Truly, I've now got some sunshine on a cloudy day. In the words of another fine old song, it makes me happy when skies are grey -- which as I mentioned (yeah, I know I mentioned it, wasn't whining, just mentioned it) is in this part of the world at this time of the year, kinda constant.
So I do appreciate the thoughtfulness of this gift. I do appreciate the sunshine. And if in addition the light box can also help me control the carbs, emerging from hibernation without any extra winter weight would make me even happier!!
Friday, December 31, 2010
I will turn 60!! And how is that possible?? Gotta be delusional: almost-sixty still feels so so young, yes it really does!! Although if you'd told me that 60 could feel young when I was 25, I'd never have believed it. But given that I really am almost 60, I do have a substantial past and so I will reflect on what I've done and where I've been, keeping in mind: "The past was the best thing that could have happened to me". Even for those parts of my past where believing that to be so is a willed choice . . . I'm choosing to believe it.
I will actively seek out every opportunity every day to notice and to value all that is beautiful, all that is meaningful, and all that is zest-inducing in my life as I experience it: "The present is the best thing happening to me". Yeah!!
And: I will continue to maintain my weight loss and fitness levels: nothing new, but for me this will always be one of the toughest goals of all. It's not trivial, it's essential because I am a body and I cannot value my past or experience my present without cherishing the body that carries me forward into the future. Keeping on keeping on, keeping as healthy as it's possible for me to be. Exercising eternal vigilance to avoid the temptation that I know I can't resist. Exercising of the cardio and strength-training varieties too because (as I read in the Toronto Globe and Mail this morning), the unexercised life is not worth living. The unexercised life really is the unexamined life. Eternal vigilance and exercise so that "The future is the best thing that's going to happen to me".
Friday, December 24, 2010
My son and I took Charlie to the off-leash dog park this afternoon for a long romp this afternoon: he loved it! So did we.
The place was teeming with other similarly-beloved dogs: pugs, a beagle, a South African Babul (?? big sweetie, like a fawn Great Dane with jowls. . , never heard of it, can't find it on google, but that's what his peeps told us), an Australian shepherd, two other goldens, a chocolate lab, a Boston terrier-type (but beige rather than black and white) and lots of assorted "originals".
Our fenced dog park area is a generous size and an interesting terrain but quite a long hike away from the parking lot. We took the route through the woods to get there: up and down steep hills. The white pines were heaped with snow, the sun dappling through their trunks.
Charlie certainly knew where we were headed and wanted to zoom as quickly as possible: easier for him than us with his claw-equipped traction paws!! But he waited for us as necessary, smiling and wagging every step of the way.
We rewarded him for his patience with two complete circuits of the dog park path and lots of play time. Then took a different long route back, this time beside a gurgling brook with acrobatic chickadees on the overhanging branches.
The new happiness research tells us what we already knew: doing stuff creates more pleasure than acquiring stuff. I'm pretty sure that the hike through the sunny woods to the dog park with Charlie and Dave will be one of my best memories of this holiday season.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
. . . . when I got out of bed at about 2:30 a.m. to check out the winter solstice lunar eclipse.
The moon was a moody dark orange with a bright penumbra of light. Brilliant stars spread across the cloudless night sky, our birch tree a white skeleton. Behind it the forest of tall red pines soughed in the wind, laden with snow. The air was so cold it sparkled and tingled in my nose.
I was not here the last time this happened. I'm not at all likely to be around the next time it occurs either.
And so yes, it was worth stumbling out of bed, sliding my feet into my sheepskin slippers, wrapping myself in my dark green dressing gown and stepping out onto the back deck.
Yes, it was.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Those who check out my blogs regularly will know: I'm not very domesticated.
But: amazingly, this far before the 25th, I have already decorated the tree, set up my Victorian village in billows of cotton wool on our living room mantel, and this morning actually baked shortbread.
Shortbread are DH's faves. The recipe is simple. No rice flour, no white sugar, no icing sugar, no cornstarch: none of these. Just good ol' salted butter, brown sugar, white flour (almost never used in my kitchen any other time of the year) and a touch of pure vanilla. Just like my Scottish ancestors made them . . . yeah! No red and green sprinkles or maraschino cherry bits on top, no chocolate chips or pecans baked in. Basic buttery goodness with just enough flour to hold it together.
(And I know there will be many for whom the quintessential shortbread and all the memories are baked up differently, but these are the ones that do it for us).
Of course DH likes them rolled out and cut into little shapes: that's fussier. But, once a year and seeing as how it's him -- why not?
So here's the recipe:
5 cups all purpose flour
1 pound (2 cups) salted butter, room temperature
1 packed cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
Cream the butter and the brown sugar till fluffy; add the vanilla. Incorporate the flour gradually until the dough comes together. Roll out small portions on lightly floured board, about 1/4 inch thick, using as little extra flour as possible: cut out the shapes, bake at 325 for about 20 minutes (until very lightly golden). Reroll and repeat with the scraps (I chill the dough while I"m waiting for the first batch to bake). Cool on wire racks and then store in closed tin with layers separated with wax paper.
Makes about 60 small shortbread cookies. Calories/fat/carbs??? We don't wanna know.
Now, that lightly golden part? Charlie NEVER ever helps himself to anything off a counter or off the table -- not even a juicy rare steak (I don't eat these, but the resident carnivores certainly do . . . ). Charlie is a gentleman who waits to be offered anything special. With the occasional exception of . . . butter.
But: these ARE mostly butter. And if they are "lightly golden" that would have to mean that they were specially baked for the golden, right?
I could not believe my eyes when I came back to the kitchen to pack away the second batch only to discover a number of shortbreads missing from the cooling racks, the remaining cookies in disarray and tell tale crumbs on the counter and on the floor!! Looked over at Charlie who wagged at me forgivingly . . .
"Shoulda used the dog bone cookie cutter . . . but that was clearly just an oversight. Still quite acceptable, thank you."
Oh, Charlie. Guess they're your faves too!! And it was kind of you to take only a few!!
Since I had a couple myself -- gotta get to the gym for a little extra cardio burn! And after that, I should probably run Charlie around the block as well!!.
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