Friday, June 03, 2011
Where did spring go?
Normally, by early April I'm longing to plant my containers on my balcony,... I look at gardening catalogs, maybe order some stuff, and plot out what I want... list the herbs, brainstorm flowers, etc.
This year, we had a really warm few days in April and I remember thinking "Oh I want to plant! But it's much too early." And as if to prove that the case, the weather turned cold and stormy. *Very* stormy. And it rained for pretty much all of May. So before I know it, it's almost Memorial day weekend and I haven't even so much as glanced through a gardening catalog.
Ooops. And to make things more interesting, last weekend we were out of town, this weekend is packed solid, and I won't be able to go shopping for plants or plant anything next week, either, so that meant that I had to get it done this week or it would be mid-June before anything got done.
And they repaved the parking lot in front of our apartment this week, so we had to park far away and I didn't want to have to carry flats of plants and bags of potting soil that far.
But yesterday the parking opened and I went to go get my flowers. Saturday I'm going to a farmer's market and I m hoping to pick up some herbs and either a couple of tomatoes or a tomato and a bell pepper.
So today I planted all the flowers, and even repotted a couple of things that needed to be re-potted. For those of you who haven't followed me, I have a big balcony--8 feet by 22 feet. our old apartment balcony was small and I completely filled it with plants--tiered, even, so that there was barely room to get out there to weed, deadhead, and water them. Now we have this huge balcony and I can't afford to fill it with plants like that but we have approximately 20 pots, 3 window boxes, and 2 upside down containers. Now, a lot of those pots are pretty small, but still, it fills the space nicely.
The downside of shopping for plants so late is that the selection is poor. I wasn't able to et my normal one or two show pieces, flowers that draw humming birds and/or butterflies, etc. This year it's pretty much petunias and mini-petunias (superbells), with a couple of daisies and some moss roses for variety. But the upside is that everything was on sale, so it was probably the cheapest year ever.
This year the color pallet is a little different, too. For the past 9 years, I've stuck to a rich dark purple, bright yellow, and red-golds. This year I opted for softer colors of the same--so softer purples and a softer yellow; no reds. Everything is minimal maintenance--I won't have to dead head anything, so all I have to do is keep them watered, and with the self watering containers that's easier; I can usually get away with watering only a couple of times a week instead of every day like I used to have to.
I took some pictures, though keep in mind this is still very much a work in progress so I have bags of dirt etc. still on the balcony and 2 window boxes, 3 pots and 2 upside down containers still to fill, my bike is still on the balcony, and my window boxes aren't put up yet. But I am hoping to post pictures soon if I can, since people were asking for pictures and the only picture I have of the balcony on sparks is the picture of me standing out there this spring, when everything was still pretty bare and the balcony mostly empty (we do have some furniture--a nice bistro set, a bench, a shelf unit, a small table, and some storage units that stay out there year round; it's a really big space so it basically serves as an outdoor room.
Unfortunately, I have a crazy-busy weekend, so I don't know if I will be able to get on line or not. But fingers crossed.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Otherwise known as my crazy Memorial Day Weekend.
Last weekend was very busy, to say the least. We had friends stay over Friday night and got up very early Saturday morning (we were to be on the road by 4:30 am) in order to reach Kentucky no later than 10 am. Saturday was the Kingdom A&S competition, and I scored well enough at regionals that I was in it. One of our friends was judging. Sunday was Crown tourney, which are friends were in (he as a combatant, she as the person he was fighting for) and we were their support crew.
It was a great weekend, even though I'm bummed that I wasn't able to meet up with Euphrates like we'd hoped to. My entree didn't quite score a first place rating (I was just shy, alas) but I thought my score was fair and the feedback from the judges over all positive and constructive. My class had a few rough edges I'd like to polish off (I jumped around a little too much, and went a little too quickly) but it went pretty well as a whole. And my friends, while they did not win the tourney (no surprise, seeing who he was up against) had a good day---he fought well and felt he learned a lot and all in all they both felt it was a good experience.
I was chatting awhile back about my entree in the regional competition (I entered 2 Japanese flat braids in a style called Karakumi, one of which is finished and the other was left on the loom so that the judges could see the braiding process) and someone on sparks who had heard of the SCA was surprised that we do arts and sciences. All she had been familiar with was the martial arts side of the SCA. I wish she could have seen this event. Because the schedule Saturday was so hectic, I didn't get to see everything but what I did see was amazing.
Some examples of things I saw:
Lots of garb (period clothing) and accessories, including hats, ruffs, belts, socks, gowns.
Wooden children's toys.
Metal work, including a needle case and Viking broaches (which the women wear with their apron dresses)
Wire brocade trim (awesome!)
Nalbinding (which is a bit like a cross between crochet and knitting; I don't know how to do it).
Spinning... including a woman spinning on a 300 year old spinning wheel.
Lots of foods and drinks (not for general consumption, but they all smelled wonderful)
A felted piece
Leatherwork, including the arm bands archers use to protect their forearms
In a lot of ways, this weekend really typified the SCA. The A&S competition itself was the creme de la creme, so to speak--because only those entrees that got high enough marks are able to compete at the Kingdom level. So in that sense, it was not typical. But A&S is a central part of the SCA and everywhere I saw people displaying, talking about, teaching, or working on arts and science projects.
The next day was the Crown Tourney, which is a very important armored combat tourney in the SCA. The winner of the tourney and his or her consort become the next Prince and Princess; after 6 months, they become King/Queen and another tourney is held to determine the next Princess and Princess. The King and Queen are expected to support not only the martial arts (mostly armored combat, rapier combat, archery, and thrown weapons, but also includes activities like equestrian) but also the arts and sciences. In fact, while one of them is always King or Queen by "right of arms," the consort is explicitly the patron or patroness of the arts and sciences.
A lot of the time, especially during the summer "war season" (in Michigan, at least, our major fighting events happen May-September because we can have out door events), the arts can be less obvious than the martial arts, but they are always there. I was talking to a friend about the role of A&S in the society and she pointed out that it's so prevalent in part because it's practical.
Most of what we do and use involve things you can't just go to Walmart or JC Penny and buy. From the clothing we use to the armor we wear to the tents we stay in, a lot of this stuff is handmade--if not by yourself, then by someone. Some of the goods require specialized skills that only a few people have (I don't know any fencers who make their own swords or helmets, though many have made their own gorgets and other parts of their armor) but in general, we make a lot of this stuff ourselves because it's expensive to buy. What we don't make for ourselves, we often barter with friends for--perhaps exchanging beadwork for wood working, for example. Or we give it to each other as gifts.
We are also an organization that has picked up crafts so that we have something to do with our hands, such as at court or at long meetings--but it also works for while watching television. It's not uncommon for someone to fight all day and then work on a project in the evening at court. For example, when we were waiting for court on Saturday, I was braiding and my friend was doing some hand sewing/embroidery. I happened to glance behind me and the gentlemen behind me--a knight--was working on an absolutely stunning piece of embroidery. I mean stunning. One of the things that I have always loved about the SCA is that no one blinks an eye at either a lord or a lady doing fine embroidery at court or a meeting and then the next day strapping on armor and going out to fight. It just is.
When I first joined the SCA, we were encouraged to do three things:
Be someone (pick a region, a time, and a name. For example, you could be a 12th Century Scot.... or a 15th Century Italian... or be like me, an 11th century Japanese lady).
Make something (usually for new members, this is garb because we have to have something to wear, but not everyone sews. It could be anything--painting, weaving, making armor... just make something.)
Do something (get involved with an activity, whether it be dancing, fencing, fighting, archery.... or it could be service, like helping out in the kitchen for feast).
Monday, May 23, 2011
Basically, the gist of the article is that a study was done that showed that when women went from drinking 1 can of regular pop a week to 1 a day, they gained an average of 10 lbs over a 4 year period. So the conclusion is that soft drinks make you fat and debating about whether or not a warning labels should be added to that effect.
I expected, when I saw the warning, some kind of warning like carbonation was linked to reflux or that yellow 5 might cause liver disease or something. I don't understand why soft drinks have come to be viewed as such an evil. Especially since the study shows a similar weight gain with fruity drinks.
I keep reading about how soft drinks have "caused" the current obesity epidemic and various strategies, from warning labels to an extra tax, should be implemented to stop it. While I've heard all sorts of interesting, and sometimes conflicting, stories about the effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup on appetite and how the body stores fat, near as I can tell it's not POP that causes weight. It's calories.
Admittedly, maybe I'm not the best example because according to the calories in/out model, I should have reached my goal weight ages ago. But I actually CUT my pop consumption in half or more.... and gained an average of 10 pounds a year for 5 years (whereas when I was drinking 2-3 cans of pop every day, I stayed the same weight--on the low end of the healthy BMI--for over a decade). I have, except for the occasional treat, mostly cut juice entirely. I eat mostly healthy most of the time (I aim for the 20/80 rule and if 30/70 is maybe more accurate, it's a work in progress). In theory, I cut about 1200 calories a day from diet right there, not to mention the other dietary changes... but the pounds aren't coming off.
My weight gain seems to be mostly caused by
1) a hip injury resulting in an abrupt and long term sedentary lifestyle
3) possibly medications (I'm not sure what role medications have played, if any, but I have read some health news stories which suggests that it could have played a part)
4) getting older/metabolism changes (I suspect too that I really screwed my metabolism up in gradschool when I had no money).
Obviously, if my diet had adequately kept up with the other changes in my life, maybe I wouldn't have ballooned 50 pounds. Maybe I wouldn't have stretch marks not from pregnancy but from rapid weight gain. But seriously, putting a warning label on pop saying that it causes weight gain is so overly simplistic it's ridiculous. Are you going to put the same label on the meat counter? On the bread aisle?
I'm not saying pop is healthy, because it's not. It's empty calories--worse, empty calories that don't help you feel full, so you eat more. But there are more calories in a Starbucks fancy coffee or Chai (seriously--I had a chai awhile ago at a local coffee shop and was shocked that it was over 400 calories!) And if people can lose weight on a diet of purely twinkies, or purely taco bell, then clearly junk food, in and of itself, does not CAUSE weight gain.
There are many many reasons why Americans are overweight and that growing numbers of people are obese. Sure, soft drinks have a role in that, along with fast food, tv dinners, sedentary jobs, donut urban planning, neighborhoods that are not pedestrian friendly, people not feeling it safe for their children to play outside, shorter recesses, school lunches of low nutritional value, snack foods, coffee shop coffee, portion sizes, restaurants not serving healthy options, (or very limited healthy or low calorie options), cable tv, the fact that many of us live in areas without effective public transport.... the list goes on.
Slapping a label on a soft drink? It's like slapping a band aid over a spurting artery. It doesn't begin to address the true underlying causes--consumption, lack of active lifestyle, etc.--and accomplishes nothing.
If you want the government to do something about obesity, than have it do something really useful, like create programs that help kids be active, incentives to encourage businesses to provide fitness centers and give incentives for employees to use them, create streets and sidewalks where people can safely walk, run, or bike, create parks, encourage small businesses in neighborhoods over box stores on the edge of town, encourage restaurants to post accurate nutrition information and to have healthy options--and make it easier for patrons to chose those healthy options. Make healthy options at the grocery store more affordable or encourage urban gardens so that even the most poor can afford things like vegetables and lean meats.
Do they think people aren't aware that there are calories in a regular soft drink? That soft drinks are actually good for you? Have they done studies to show that people will change their consumption patterns because of the labels.... and that this will be enough to curb the obesity problem?
I'm not saying that nothing should be done to address the problem. It's a real concern. But I don't think that labeling soft drinks is an effective answer. It's a simplistic answer for a complicated problem--as if by slapping the label on, the problem will just go away when the label doesn't begin to address the real underlying issues.
The underlying issues are complicated and the solutions aren't cheap. But I'd rather see that the government invest the money effectively elsewhere than to throw good money on a bad program.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
1) I treated myself to fresh raspberries, because I could. I'm still feeling a bit icky, but I'm glad I was able to enjoy them anyway.
2) I drank my 8 cups of water. I've drunk 8 cups (or more) of water every day for the past *757 days* I wish I could say that I liked water. I don't. I have to make a point of drinking it, every day. Sometimes I drink water with a bit of lemon or orange in it, and lately I've been drinking a lot of carbonated water (no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, but there is a bit of natural flavoring like lemon or lime) as a substitute to for soft drinks because when my allergies are bad or I'm sick I crave the fizz. But still, I've done it. For 757 days.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Okay, since I'm almost done I figured I would keep posting the things I did right....
1) I got up this morning, did some stuff, was utterly exhausted (and still feeling crummy) so I went back to bed and slept like the dead for about 4 hours. I guess my body really needed the sleep--especially since I didn't sleep so well last night. Thankfully, I'm finally starting to feel better, though; hopefully tomorrow I can get back on track. I've lost too much time as it is.
2) I ate really well today. Still foods that were pretty easy on my stomach, but still it was a pretty healthy day as far as food goes.
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