Monday, October 30, 2017

A Useful Site

 I once told you about the difficulty I find when face to face with all the product choices available these days. In recent years I have been testing a multitude of samples through such programs as BzzAgent, Influenster, Shopper Army, Chick Advisor and Sample Source.  Even Proctor & Gamble sends out a box of their products from time to time.

I've tried new products in categories from dried pasta to electric toothbrushes. There were many shampoos, face creams and even makeup items like lipstick and mascara. I've been introduced to so many products I might never have discovered otherwise and some of them have become family favourites.

I've discovered that in some cases you really do get what you pay for. John Frieda and Vichy are two companies that I likely never would have gambled my money on. Their products are quiet pricey, but now that I've had samples to try first, I know they are well worth the money. I now have favorite products amoung these brands.

Still, there are new products introduced everyday and the choices are still hard to make in many cases.

In another blog I mentioned the Oral B toothbrush I received from BzzAgent. That post was spotted by a member of the staff at Reviews.com and she reached out to me to see if I would include a mention of their site in that post or some future one. Well, that's an old post and I doubted many people would find it (or would have if I had not mentioned it here) so I didn't really see the point of adding anything there until now.

The thing is, I have now explored their site and decided it might be helpful to some of you in sorting though products to find one that's right for you. It may even help you with your upcoming Christmas purchases. They do extensive research on a wide range of products and name what they feel are the best. They tell you how they reached those conclusions and realize everyone likes different things for their own reasons. They even welcome your input.

The first review I found, of course, was about the electric toothbrushes. The amount of research and effort put into this one review is so extensive it boggled my mind. But it proved to me that this is not just some lone person, like me, with an opinion. Looking further I discovered there is a team of at least 50 people in this company and they really do look into not only products but services as well, before giving an unbiased review.

It is an American company so some of the things just don't apply up here. On the other hand, a great deal of it does and is very helpful. The only thing I can compare this site to is Consumer Reports but the lists of things they review don't often overlap. I suggest you go to https://www.reviews.com/ and check it out for yourself. Decide what type of product you would like to see their top choice for and put it in the search box. Play with it a bit. Decide for yourself if this site will be useful to you in helping you make difficult product choices in the future. I think it is at least a site worth knowing about.



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sugar Celebrations

Well, I did it. I survived 30 days without sugar. That means I had no cookies, cakes, muffins, squares or pie; no ketchup, pizza or barbeque sauce; no soft drinks or specialty coffees; no potato salad, pasta salad or even a typical salad dressing on a veggie salad. And most important, no ice cream during all that hot weather even though one of my sponsors offered to buy me some.

I was one of 6,529 people who took part in this challenge. Together we raised $122,145 for the Canadian Cancer Society so far. People are still free to donate, so if you were putting it off until you knew I'd stay the course, you still have time to add to the total.  Personally, I managed to gather $287.28, and I'm thankful to everyone who donated to my campaign. I'd love to get over that $300 mark though.

As a bonus, along the way, I managed to lose 6 or 8 pounds, but one day of celebrating when it was over likely put half of that back on. It's okay. That wasn't the goal anyway, and I'm sure it will drop back down again over the coming week.

Saturday was the last day to pick up our annual Buttermilk pie from the North Gower Farmers' Market. Even if I couldn't eat it that day, we had to go get it. Franks makes the best baked goods anywhere, and at a more reasonable price than most. I would never consider drinking buttermilk like my Mom did, but it sure makes a great pie. This year I chose one with raspberries in it.

As if that wasn't enough of a reward, my sweet husband thought I deserved to celebrate the end of these self-imposed restrictions. He was impressed with what a good job I did of sticking to my promise to avoid sugar for the month. What better place to indulge in whatever caught my fancy than at Rideau Carleton Raceway. They have a buffet that has something for everyone. It was so nice just to choose to eat whatever I wanted without having to stop and think about how it was made and if any of the ingredients contained sugar when we went out on Sunday, Oct 1st.

My first plateful was from the salad bar, as usual, so I got my potato salad, pasta salad, seafood salad, and a veggie salad with a real creamy dressing. I don't know if it was Ranch or Caesar but I really enjoyed it, sugar and all. I also had some egg rolls with a chicken stir-fry later. Plum sauce definitely has sugar, even if they do call it something else in commercial versions. The third plate was probably safe as it was surf and turf. But of course one never has just one dessert at a buffet. I had four. The butter tart that I'd looked forward to all evening was less interesting than the trifle, blueberry mousse cake or the coffee cheesecake. I'm sure I got a month's worth of sugar all in one meal. And I finally got a butter tart worthy of my craving on Wednesday at Treats in Ottawa. I'll be good for the rest of this week and eat pie with my Thanksgiving dinner. I still have not had any ice cream yet. I will do that soon, before it gets too cold. Really though, I'm likely not to go back to eating quite as much sugar in the future as I have in the past. I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. I just found I wasn't as hungry as often as usual. Unfortunately, the experiment didn't do anything for my sore joints though.


Near the end, I found a totally sugar free muffin recipe.It was so easy I will definitely make it again. I only wish I'd found it sooner. I didn't even have to share them with my son as he thought they looked funny and was afraid to taste them. They look different because there is no flour in them. They are not only a quick snack but also nice at breakfast time. Here's the recipe:

1 cup mashed bananas
1 cup oatmeal
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of blueberries
I added 1 tsp cinnamon
You can also add nuts if you like, or any other berries

Bake for 5 minutes at 425F and then decrease the temperature to 375F and continue to bake for another 12 minutes.
This makes about 8 muffins. If you only have tins that hold 12, put water in the empty ones.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, but since it was the first baked goods I'd had all month, I highly doubt it.





Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Little Enlightenment

Jim Carey is not who he used to be. In fact, if you listen to him now you will hear him claim that Jim Carey does not exist. He has never existed. Jim Carey is just a character he plays, just like he plays all his other characters.

From an early age, he says, we are often urged to be a certain way, act a certain way and believe in the things that others around us believe in. Doing so may cover up our real selves. The person we become would be nothing more than a character we create while trying to fit in.

He found acceptance by making people laugh from a very early age and continued to do so and had a very successful career. Then he made a movie in which he portrayed Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon.  He got so deeply into that persona that when it was over he had trouble getting back to being Jim Carey. That's when he realized that Jim Carey, as we all knew him, never existed and was just an act.

People started saying Jim was depressed and he was for a while. After all, his off and on girlfriend of three years died of an apparent suicide. And as if that wasn't bad enough he then had to face a wrongful death lawsuit from her mother. That's enough to depress anyone. Jim says though, that sadness and depression are two different things. Sadness is a reaction to things that happen. Being depressed, according to his doctor, is you body saying it needs a Deep Rest from trying to be the persona you have created for yourself. You are tired of pretending all the time and you just want to stop.  That's what happened to Jim.

Forget about the  existential and the tetrahedrons and any other thing he's said that sounds crazy to you. The things I've mentioned in the preceding paragraphs hit home with me, just as his playing Andy managed to touch him.

I have never felt that I fit in and have often joked about being from another planet or at least having been dropped off on the wrong one.  If he's right and he and most other people invent themselves as they go along in order to fit in, I missed out on doing that and just always wondered where I belonged. Apparently instead of sitting on the sidelines and wondering why I was different I should have made changes in my thoughts and behaviours to become part of a group. While Jim Carey and others  are busy playing the part of being who others around them expect them to be, I have always been just me. It wasn't the easy route to take, but perhaps it was the best one after all.

As I've aged I have come to accept my own uniqueness and am now comfortable with myself. I no longer worry about whether you like me or not. It took me a long time to get to this place. Somewhere along the way I learned from Dr Wayne Dyer that differences are not necessarily a bad thing and that some of us are just more highly evolved.  Jim Carey just had to evolve the hard way. How are you doing with your journey through life?


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Three Down and One to Go!

Three weeks with no sugar.  I think that's quite an accomplishment. Especially since one of my sponsors forgot and actually offered to buy me ice cream!  I resisted. The Sugar-Free September people on Facebook saw a post where I mentioned that and commented on how strong I was. I'm pretty proud, I can tell you that.

I felt like I was missing out on some things just because I like them with mayonnaise. There are nice fresh tomatoes at this time of year and they make wonderful sandwiches, with a dab of mayo on the bread. I usually use Miracle Whip, but it has sugar in the ingredient list, so I found a recipe and made some of my own.

Pat Trew was a local food columnist for many years, and she put out a couple of cookbooks along the way. I happen to have one that I picked up at a yard sale a few years back. I've never really paid much attention to it before, I just wanted it because I knew her. The one I have is called It Doesn't Have to be Gourmet to be Good, and is listed as a Canadian Best Seller. One of my friends wanted to make some squares that were a favorite in her youth and her cookbooks were all packed away so she asked her Facebook friends if they had the recipe. She said it was one of Pat Trew's. Sure enough one of them had, not this, but the other book and it was in there. Meanwhile, I had pulled out my book to look too, and though I didn't find the requested recipe, I did find one for mayonnaise and one for spaghetti sauce, both with no sugar.

I have now made, and enjoyed both and will be checking to see what else I can make from this book. It's heavily sprinkled with desserts though, so I'll have to wait until next month if I want to try those.
The spaghetti sauce is made with tomato soup instead of tomato sauce. Surprisingly there is no sugar in the soup. The sauce came out a slightly different colour but was very tasty.

Breakfast has generally been eggs or oatmeal with strawberries. I have found that no sugar is needed as the natural sweetness of the berries works well.

The rules actually say I can have chocolate as long as it's not milk chocolate. 85% dark chocolate may be too bitter for many of you, but I've enjoyed it for several years now. This month I have not even been tempted.

As I've mentioned before, I don't find I'm as hungry as I usually am, but I did get nibbly one evening as I was reading. As I was wondering what I could have, my son decided to make himself some popcorn. I collected a bowlful for myself. It was perfect. I've always preferred salty over sweet anyway.

During this process of avoiding sugar, I have discovered Andy De Santis and subscribed to his newsletter. I will definitely be making some of the recipes I found on his blog, starting with one of carmelized brussel sprouts with chestnuts and cranberries, right in time for Thanksgiving! Another great bonus for getting involved with Sugar-Free September.

I can say at this point that I'm sure I will break the $200 mark as far as donations go towards raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. Feel free to add to the total, either by getting in touch with me or leaving a donation online at https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie I'll even pass along the recipes I mentioned if you ask for them.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

My Sugar Substitute is Fat

I have now completed two weeks of the Sugar-Free September campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society and have managed to avoid a great deal of sugar in the process. One thing I have noticed is that I'm not nearly as hungry as I normally am. They say sugar is addictive, but I thought that meant you go looking for more sugary things. I'm not even looking for regular food, and occasionally have to remind myself to eat something before I wait too late and find myself not hungry enough for the big meal I make for the menfolk at the end of the day. Normally I would be looking for something to munch on about every two hours! That's just not happening.

I'm not going to tell you about all the horrible things cancer can do to you. Everybody already knows that.  My blog posts on this sugar-free campaign will be more about my thoughts and discoveries while taking this journey.  Some of it is still muddled in my mind, as you will see, but I hope to sort it out as I go along.

I'd like to report that I'm lost even more weight, and one would think that would happen when you don't eat as much, and all the added sugars have been eliminated. But it's just not so.

For many years we've been told that fat is not good for us, and while the population now eats 10% less fat than it did 30 years ago, obesity has doubled. When you take fat out of your diet, you are bound to add foods that have more sugar. Sugar is now very hard to avoid as manufacturers added it to things to make them taste better when they cut back on the fat content. Sugar, not fat, causes weight gain. Calories are not the same across the board. I learned that way back when I did Weight Watchers years ago. We had a calculator that let us keep track of points, based not only on calories in any given food but also the fibre and fat content as well. We counted points, not calories and I found I could actually eat more and still lose weight easily. So, here I am, trying to avoid sugar, but have not been avoiding carbohydrates at the same time.

These days I seem to be doing the reverse of what used to be recommended. If I can't have sugar, then something with more fat tends to be my first choice. Recently we had a fast food meal. I often have a salad. The dressing would have contained sugar, so I decided I'd have an order of fries instead.  So now, as my sugar consumption goes down, my fat consumption has gone up. That's not necessarily a good thing either.

I'm thinking I'll see how many carbohydrates I can eliminate soon. Then, not only won't I be eating things with added sugar, I'll be eliminating things that turn into sugar after I eat them. I always feel good when I get rid of the carbohydrates, though I find two weeks is my limit. Even if I add them in again every second day, I suddenly want more, and more often. I've never had a sweet tooth, so my body doesn't crave sweet things. It does, however, react to carbs as if I'm addicted to them.

I've been to a couple of nice outings with various groups now. I passed up all the lovely cookies, squares and apple crisp and even refused the sandwiches at these affairs, not knowing for sure what was in them. I took a big Greek pasta salad to a potluck, just to make sure I had something to eat. I was lucky that there were several sugar-free dishes available and nobody had to question why my plate was empty. I did identify the problem dishes as I walked down the length of the table though. Someone commented that I was very knowledgeable about the ingredients.  I told them what I was doing and that I was getting rather good at reading labels and identifying the pitfalls.  Luckily for me, there were even fruit platters at these events so I was able to have dessert too.  Yes, I know there is sugar in fruit, but it's not added sugar and is allowed.

I think I'm doing well. People have told me they could never do what I'm doing. It's not that hard really. It just takes a little thought and commitment. I am, however, looking forward to a nice big piece of pie at Thanksgiving. September will be over by then.

I am disappointed at the lack of response to my fundraising page but my local friends have been quite supportive. I'm grateful for that as it encourages me to continue to stay away from the sugar and I get to do my part for the Cancer Society. I'm so glad to have found a way to help. If you want to help too, the fundraising page is still at https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Doing Battle with Sugar

I am nearing the end of my first week on the Sugar-Free September campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society. Nobody said it would be easy, but I'm finding that it's not just about skipping the treats and watching out for sugar laden condiments. There is sugar everywhere!

The week before I started this I made a cake and went out with friends a couple of times to places where I could get a nice treat to go with my tea. The day before I began my hubby wanted to know if I wanted to go to Rideau Carleton for the buffet. We had been there not long ago so I didn't think that necessary. I realized he was just trying to give me a last chance to pig out without having to totally analyze everything I ate.

I eat eggs for breakfast most days, so there's no problem there. For lunch on the first day, I thought I'd make myself a mini pizza on a pita with lots of fresh veggies. Too late I realized there was sugar in the pizza sauce. Oh well, the rules say to start slow and not beat yourself up about every little infraction. This was already proving to be a learning experience.

Before someone tries to tell me there is sugar in bread I will mention that the Cancer Society has kindly provided sample meals and recipes and they do seem to include pitas, tortillas and crackers and such, so I'm not totally eliminating that kind of thing yet. I may go totally carb free near the end but I know as much as I enjoy how that makes me feel, my body can't handle it for more than 14 days before I start to get dizzy.

On the second day, I had some leftover sloppy burgers. There's sugar in there too (besides the buns) but only one tablespoon of brown sugar in the whole pot so at least the amount that got into me was minuscule.

Then came the time when my hubby wanted to take me to McDonald's. As we walked through the door he asked what I wanted. Well, I knew they dress everything with a mayo type sauce and even the dip for the chicken nuggets would be full of sugar. Luckily I like their tea so I'm no longer forced to drink soft drinks. I just shook my head and said, "I can't do this!"  It was then that I realized that my being sugar-free is going to affect others around me.  The adventure had just begun.

I made spagetti sauce and two days later I realized there was sugar in the tomato sauce. I guess I'll have to buy some tomatoes and make my own now as we use a fair bit of that around here.  My only other failure was when I polished off a couple of spoonfuls of brown beans that were in the fridge. Once again that was more of a habit. I was cleaning out the fridge before garbage day and it was either eat them or throw them out. There was no can at hand to remind me of the probable sugar content. Beans are something else I'll be making my own of, much to the delight of my hubby, I'm sure.

Lesson number one: Step away from anything that comes in cans!

So, here I was feeling like a failure with so many infractions in less than a week. But I really have cut down on the sugar intake and the scale proves it. I'm down 4 pounds already! That's an added bonus I wasn't looking for.

At six days in I have twenty-four more days to go. I'm doing battle with sugar for those who are doing battle with cancer. Please support the cause if you can.   https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie



 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Whatever It Is, Just Do It

I'm almost finished my urban sketching course. I have definitely fulfilled my New Years resolution to take my art more seriously, and I'm sure I've improved at least my drawing a lot this year. It hasn't really given me much time to paint very often but I did learn to use watercolour in a looser style.


Back in February, I tried to draw the house across the street. I used a method called contour drawing, where you follow the outside lines and then fill in the middle with details. I found that method works pretty well for some things but it wasn't working at all well for that house. 


A couple of weeks ago, during this Urban Sketching course, I learned a new method called spiraling, where you pick a starting point and draw outward from that in an ever increasing
spiral. I was interrupted by a major downpour but as you can see, my drawing of that same house improved greatly over just a few months.

This course often had you drawing in public too, as I mentioned a month ago.What I've learned at this point is that that's not nearly as scary as it sounds. People either ignore you completely or stand inside your picture frame and teasingly wonder out loud if you are going to include them. I even had one guy offer to park his snazzy car where it could be added to the picture. I actually thought that would be a good idea, but he didn't do it.

All during these warmer months while I've been out of my house drawing in various place only two people have actually come right over to have a look, and both of them were very kind and complimentary.

I joined a group of local sketchers that met once a week this summer and even they don't really make a point of checking out what the others were doing very often. Everyone was busy doing their own thing. I'd like to get that point across as the group actually had 60 members, but very few of them could get themselves to come out and draw with us. The others obviously wanted to or they wouldn't have joined the group in the first place. They were too shy, or perhaps felt they weren't good enough. Hey, I certainly don't have a natural talent for this stuff either, but it was just plain fun.  You can't get better at something if you don't at least try to do it more often. I hope some of those people see this and understand that they won't embarrass themselves as they won't be attracting nearly as much attention as they imagine.

There are a lot of things many of us would like to do and don't because we're afraid of looking foolish. I know I've said this before, but other people really don't pay that much attention to you at exercise classes, dance groups, drawing classes or anything else. If they are there, they are busy learning or exercising just like you are. They don't have time to look around and make notes on who is screwing up. And, as I found, when I sat and drew all by myself in public places, most people are too polite to just barge into your space and check out what you are up to. I'm not actually getting braver, I've just found out there is nothing to fear.