Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The red and grey and black squirrels in our back yard are irresistibly cute. We have a veritable squirrel paradise: walnut and chestnut trees, pine and spruce cones, wild grape and raspberry . . . and plenty of "leftunders" courtesy of the bird feeders. Plus the suet block we hang all winter for the chickadees and woodpeckers and nuthatches : several athletic grey squirrels have learned how to leap on the suet block holder and (even though we had thought squirrels were not carnivorous) can chomp their way through a whole block in about a day and a half.
So: wouldn't you think they'd be grateful? Not so much.
The grey and black squirrels are hardy types who live outside all year round, with huge dreys in a number of trees. ("Drey" = the traditional leafy squirrel house -- one of the first words my kids taught me).
Red squirrels consider our house to be their house. Actually, we are graciously permitted to occupy the lower levels of the house, but the attic is theirs.
Squirrels are "protected wildlife" which means by law we're not permitted to poison (no no no , we wouldn't want to do that) or trap (no no no again: not even live trap for removal elsewhere). We're only permitted to have squirrel guy install one way "exit doors" and then (after a suitable interval for the squirrels to pack their bags and depart) come back and close in the entrance altogether.
So: squirrel guy is a too-frequent visitor.
Last week, he installed yet another one-way door.
I came home from work to find a totally indignant red squirrel on the back deck. Glowering. Pouncing. Posturing. Flexing his little biceps. Glowering more, fixing me with one bright eye and then the other, head tossing.
He KNEW I was responsible. He wanted me to know he knew. Chchchchchchchch. And that he wasn't going to forget it.
Had he weighed 80 pounds more, that red squirrel would have been truly menacing.
We've heard him trying to re-enter that one-way exit. We know that there will be another assault on the fortress. It's just a matter of time before the squirrels create a new hole. Necessitating another visit from squirrel guy.
Cute? Yeah, they are. I keep telling myself that. Cute. Cute. Cute.
But: annoying also. Very very very annoying!!!
Saturday, May 28, 2011
I'm not sure what came over me, but today I spent quite a bit more time in "housewifey" tasks than usual -- I'm generally quite non-domestic!
Did laundry (carefully hanging up my husband's favourite golf shirts after 5 minutes in the dryer, as requested!!). And then a little ironing for next week's work outfits . . .
Made soup -- variation on a Lime Cilantro Black Bean SP recipe recommended by FLOWINGWATER. It smelled great while it was simmering away: the basic concept is to puree one can of black beans with a cup of salsa in the food processor, then add a second can, well rinsed and whole, with lots of cumin. I turned my version into more of a hearty stew with diced tomatoes, brown rice, shredded carrot, chopped red and green peppers, corn, onion, roasted garlic . . . this will be my supper soup for the coming week!!
(Went to the gym for a great cardio workout on the elliptical and then a full strenuous upper body weight routine: but that's pretty routine for a Saturday, and doesn't fit my more-domestic-than-usual theme).
Got to the nursery and picked up some hanging bright red geraniums for the front verandah and back deck: I've got a new Canadian flag flying as well. Walked around my garden, admired my iris, pulled a few weeds, picked some lilac and lily-of-the-valley for a bouquet on the kitchen table. (That's the one domestic thing I always do: flowers. Always.)
Did the groceries by myself: a task I hate, especially when I go alone: but DH was at the office, working on urgent stuff for next week, so he was definitely entitled to a free pass. However, on my way to the grocery store, found a new pair of white flat sandals, the kind with the little zippers up the back and lots of straps: very very cute, and comfortable (and not at all expensive . . . ). Figured that I deserved 'em.
After I got the groceries all put away, I made dinner for myself and DH (with leftovers for DS when he gets home from work any minute now . . . ): roasted chicken, baked potato, steamed local asparagus, and a marvellous low cal rhubarb cake recommended by BLUESKY called Oma's Rhubarb Cake . . . thick Greek yogourt and egg whisked together and mixed into the chopped rhubarb, then folded into the dry ingredients -- whole wheat flour. I tried a little variation on the crumb topping, with large flake oatmeal and brown sugar and cardamom and butter . . . very very delicious warm with a tiny scoop of low fat vanilla ice cream!!.
(Yes, I did finish off my day within calorie range. And weighed in this morning at 139 on the Y's scales . . . )
But: laundry and ironing and cooking and gardening and grocery shopping and dinner prep including baking, all in one day??? This is waaaaaay more Martha Stewart than I usually manage!!
And of course, if I were reliably domestic, do you suppose that anyone would appreciate it? No, no, no: all that effort would just be taken for granted, right??
So I'm thinking I'd better revert to my usual patterns right away. Have to manage expectations carefully . . . Tomorrow it's back to the golf course, yeah!!
Thursday, May 26, 2011
A recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail offers some encouragement to those of us who used to smoke: current brain imaging research demonstrates that quitting smoking apparently strengthens your will power for application in other areas of our lives, such as weight reduction!
Here's the link: www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/
OK, I'll admit that I used to smoke -- more than 30 years ago. I came from a family of smokers. My husband of 32 years has never known me as a smoker. But I'll also admit -- I've never stopped wanting to smoke. I know I'm one cigarette away from a pack a day. Every day. Working in a cancer hospital for terminal patients as a ward clerk was highly persuasive: watching people in the very last weeks and days of life who still wanted to smoke -- who needed someone to hold a cigarette up to their tracheotomies -- that was an image which stuck in my mind. And I stopped smoking. Cold turkey. Over night.
Don't like smoking: the smell in hair and clothing, the mess of butts on the ground. Yup, I avoid smokers. Long before it was commonplace to restrict others' smoking socially, I made it clear that I would not want anyone to smoke in my home or in my car -- which was a huge problem with both my mother-in-law and my father, no matter how I tried to be "nice" about it and explain that I had a child with severe asthma.
But despite all of that, if I'm honest there's never a week which goes by when I don't experience the craving for a cigarette -- after a meal with a cup of coffee, or passing by someone on the street enjoying a smoke. It's a craving that I sometimes experience daily, even multiple times a day. So I try hard not to be self-righteous about being a non-smoker: I don't have anything to be self-righteous about. I know that nicotine is a powerful powerful addiction and that I haven't "licked" it.
So: you can imagine how chuffed I was about this Globe article which says that developing self-control by giving up smoking can actually result in measurable changes in the brain. And that the increase in self-control learned from quitting smoking is highly transferable to other challenging areas of activity! But also that sustained self-control over a period of time can lead to a "snapping point", and for that reason it's best to ensure (through frequent small meals, exercise, regular breaks) that we maintain stable levels of glucose for optimal functioning of the "self-control" centres in the brain.
Beck talks about the importance of not eating standing up, regardless of the trivial amount of calories you might be consuming, because it's important to strengthen the "resistance" muscle and not to strengthen the "giving in" muscle. That "resistance "muscle" is apparently located in the dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex which is notably more active in brain scans when we're exercising self-control. That part of the brain is measurably thicker in people who do sustain self-control
So: if you've developed the self-control to give up smoking, does that mean you're likely to be more successful in controlling your weight too? What do you think?
I don't know, but I do see some similarities, some differences. I haven't smoked for over thirty years: I've sustained an 80 pound (now 90 pound) weight loss pretty consistently for almost a decade.
However, I don't really expect ever to stop wanting to smoke, AND I don't expect ever to stop wanting to eat potato chips. But I know that even though I can risk eating a few potato chips or French fries from time to time without triggering a binge, since I quit smoking I've never ever taken the chance of risking even one cigarette.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
In Canada it's Victoria Day long weekend . . . an historic celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday set for the Monday closest to May 24th (and often referred to beerily as "the May 2-4": Queen Victoria is unlikely to have been amused about that).
It's the first long weekend of the summer. People plant their gardens if they really believe there won't be any more frosty nights: I'm waiting a bit to put out some annuals in among my late tulips and irises, which are providing lots of colour right now. People who have cottages traditionally head north to open them up for the season, battling traffic and black flies and mosquitoes, putting out the dock in the still freezing-cold lake, getting the water pump running . . . I'm not a cottage person (although we sometimes rent one for a week or so in August). It's time for summer foods, too: I had an amazing burst of domesticity and prepared Atlantic salmon with quinoa and cumin-sauteed veggies plus fiddleheads for last night's dinner shared with DH and DS. It was delicious, if I do say so myself! I permitted myself a small serving of vanilla and dark chocolate icecream (yup, tracked and within calorie range . . . ). I'm experiencing a rhubarb craving . . . will have to indulge that soon!!
And -- there persists the somewhat antiquated tradition that only AFTER May 24th is it appropriate to wear the most "summery" clothing: seersucker, linens, and in particular white cottons and white shoes. Lots of people do of course ignore that old-fashioned "rule", but we've had a coolish spring such that really summery stuff hasn't felt right up until now anyhow.
So this weekend I've been busily laundering up my summer whites and linens, and cleaning my white sandals and white loafers. It's interesting for me to realize how many clothes I've had that weren't fitting me last summer (even at 158 or so) and are fitting me now very easily (hanging in at 141 for the last 10 days . . . . . . . very little fluctuation). Loose waistbands help keep me motivated to stick with the Beck programme!!
Our lilac hedge is in full bloom across the front of the house and smells glorious. We've got the patio furniture out on the back deck (I say "we", but in fact DH and DS took on that task after dinner last night): all the flowers on the deep rosy crabapple have opened overnight, and there are late trilliums and Mayapples and lily-of-the-valley in the wildflower gardens. Any day the chestnut trees will flower too.
May. Thanks, Queen V, for giving us an extra day to enjoy it . . . I'll be heading for the golf course soon! Although it may be that we'll be playing in a light drizzle!!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Many of us are at SparkPeople because we want the change or we think we do -- changes of better health through weight loss and increased fitness. And other kinds of changes too: a greater sense of community, a greater engagement with people and our own selves within our individual lives.
But change is also frightening and sometimes we don't commit fully to change because -- even though the status quo may not feel optimal -- the way we are living our lives is at least familiar. Those size 20 pants fit, literally and figuratively!! And also, of course, change is darned difficult and a lot of work. That's because change is never fully achieved, and change is always slipping away as the new condition becomes status quo in turn.
Rilke has always been a favourite poet of mine. But I hadn't found this Rilke piece about the importance of wanting change until quite recently, when I read an article in O Magazine which makes reference to it:
Want the Change
Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.
What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.
Pour yourself like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.
Every happiness is the child of separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.
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