Self-Diagnosis

Self-diagnosis is a perilous endeavor, and it needs to be approached cautiously. All diagnosis, from all sources, should be treated with skepticism, curiosity, and exploration.

Some years ago I began to experience intermittent bouts of gastrointestinal distress. The cause was unknown. Measures such as more carefully washing vegetables, washing hands more frequently, things that could easily have been performed inadequately, were given attention. These measures made no difference at all, and the periods of distress remained unexplained.

The winter of 2014/15, when I spent the winter alone here at Mist Cottage, I enjoyed eating a bit of Ricotta Cheese each day. During that time my bouts of distress increased immensely. At the time I thought it might be the result of missing Attila so very much. But to my surprise, when I ran out of Ricotta Cheese, and ceased to eat it daily, my symptoms disappeared within 24 hours. Aha! Finally a clue to what might be going on.

Since that time, I have experimented with dairy products, and found that the gastrointestinal distress returned every time I consumed them. And so, I have diagnosed myself as lactose intolerant. The other possibility was a dairy allergy, but since my Mom is lactose intolerant, I decided to go with that as my first theory. And the results of my experiments have been consistent with the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Some weeks ago I began to make my own yogurt. I read quite a few journalistic pieces, and scientific journal articles, to determine if yogurt would irritate my system. There seemed some hope that my body might not react to the low concentration of lactose in yogurt, and that a few weeks exposure would tell all.

I have been eating my homemade yogurt every morning, for breakfast, or as a snack, for a few weeks now. My gastrointestinal system has not appreciated the experiment, and distress has been increasing as the days have passed. Over this same time period I have been experiencing short, mysterious, uncalled for, periods of mild sadness., and mild insomnia. I found this surprising. My first thoughts on this were that winter weather was the cause, or even the news of the unhappy spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Yesterday yogurt made from regular milk was removed from my diet.

Yesterday I made a new batch of yogurt. This time I used 1% lactose free milk. This lactose free yogurt was consumed for breakfast yesterday, and again last evening as a snack.

Today my gastrointestinal distress has disappeared. I slept soundly though the night. Today, thus far, I have experienced no periods of sadness. I suspect lactose as the culprit in all instances. And since I am still eating a dairy product, while my symptoms have disappeared, a dairy allergy is no longer considered a possibility.

The decision to consume fermented food daily was made last summer. Homemade Sauerkraut was a big success here, delicious, crunchy, and good for us. BUT for someone on a low-sodium regime, it gobbled up all of the daily quota, which required reducing sodium everywhere else. No, that would not do. So I searched for an alternative, and settled on yogurt, which I enjoy with a bit of syrup or jam.

Choosing milk to make yogurt has been a sequential experiment. 1% milk was chosen as it limits dairy fats and cholesterol in the diet. Regular milk was preferred, if possible, because it is half the price of specialty milks, such as lactose free milk. So the first phase of the experiment, with 1% regular milk, is over, it will not do. So far the yogurt made with 1% lactose free milk seems to have resolved the issues noted with regular milk. But time will tell.

The new batch of yogurt, strained, made with 1% lactose free milk.

Worldly

Weather

-1°C
Date: 10:00 AM EST Wednesday 26 February 2020
Current Conditions Light Snow
Wind: NNE 27 km/h
Wind Chill: -7
Temperature: -0.6°C
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Dew point: -4.3°C
Visibility: 24 km
Humidity: 76%

Quote

“When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and true maxim that ‘a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing him of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause is really a good one.”

Abraham Lincoln
16th president of US
1809 – 1865

This fails to take into account that people who are ruled by avarice and greed regard sincerity as a weakness to be exploited, seek no justice, regard reason as a flexible and useful tool, and seek no sincere friendships.

But as for the majority of ordinary people, I think Mr. Lincoln is correct.

This and That

The hydro suddenly shut off at 9:30 this morning, with no warning. Hydro One claims it was a “planned outage”. Poppycock! The message informing us came via email, which was received at 9:45 a.m., fifteen minutes after the hydro service was cut. If it was indeed planned, they might have warned us ahead of time, but they did not do that. I don’t believe for a minute it was planned. Wait a minute, I guess it is possible they plan outages for people and don’t bother to let them know in a timely manner, so that people can prepare for such an outage. Regardless of the situation, Hydro One is not to be regarded as helpful in their notifications.

They hydro service resumed at 11:10 a.m., and we received an email message to let us know that it would be resumed at 11:15 p.m., an email we could read because the hydro service had been restored.

Hydro outages seem to happen quite frequently here at Mist Cottage. When I think about it, it is a more frequent occurrence here than it was when we lived in the country house. Luckily, my laptop is fully charged and I am able to continue writing this entry!

Sunday! The luxury of a weekend, I’ve appreciated them so much since they came into our lives. Attila used to work all hours, for years and years it was at least 6 days a week, dawn to dusk, and at times 7 days a week. Then he worked shift work for a few years, later in life, and that was a brutal adjustment. And then, miraculously, he worked five days a week and had two day weekends… which we have been enjoying for the last three years and nine months. We are counting, our blessings.

So here we are on this sunny, relatively warm (3C) morning! The weather is fortuitous, considering that we spent the morning without heat, due to the hydro failure.

I admit that my spirits were low one day last week, when a snow storm raged outside, I think it was last Tuesday. But that dip in internal balance righted itself by Wednesday, when the weather improved. Winter is not done with us yet, we have another frigid blast arriving next weekend, if the weather people have it right. But with any luck that will be winter’s farewell kiss. It is only a matter of weeks until I will be hanging the laundry to dry out on the back porch.

As usual, most of the energy intense projects have to wait until the weekend when the hydro is half the price. Since the hydro service suddenly disappeared this morning, it is a good thing the projects were completed yesterday. I was on my feet for more than nine hours, in the kitchen. I baked five loaves of bread, one dozen Cranberry Chocolate Chip Muffins (frozen for lunches), one dozen Orange Chocolate Chip Chip Muffins, and used the steam juicer to produce four cups of vegetable broth (frozen for cooking ingredient).

Vegetable scraps are saved in plastic milk bags, in the freezer, until there are enough to warrant processing them into vegetable broth. I use scraps that we wouldn’t think of eating, like onion skins, carrot peelings, the inner seeds of fresh peppers, that sort of thing. Some people use regular vegetables, that they would eat, and then dehydrate the solids to make a vegetable powder. If we had surplus vegetables this might be something I would experiment with, but we eat all of our edible vegetables.
Here is the steam juicer, with the vegetable scraps. I usually steam the scraps for two or three hours on a simmer.

Since there is so little counter space, the timing of each step for each project creates quite a dance. After a project is completed, a complete cleanup has to be implemented, to clear enough space to begin the next project. There is not enough room in the kitchen to tackle several projects simultaneously. There are a few advantages to this approach, as taking things slowly results in fewer errors, and allows for regular breaks so that I can sit for a few minutes now and then.

The condiments I made last weekend had no sugar or salt in them. It occurred to me yesterday that they would not keep as well because they lacked sugar and salt, which are preservatives. The vinegar in them will help preserve them, but without the sugar and salt their shelf life is diminished. So the Squash Sauce (a substitute for Plum Sauce) was divided into small containers, and put into the freezer. This sauce is a perfect dip for Sweet Potato Fries, so the small containers can be removed from the freezer and thawed, to enjoy with that treat.

Preparing small cups of Squash Sauce as dipping sauce, to be stored in the freezer till needed.

The containers used to freeze the Squash Sauce are little plastic cups, that contained single servings of fruit cocktail, purchased at the grocery store on sale. Attila ate the fruit in his packed lunches, and the containers were washed and saved for future use. There is very little single use plastic that comes into our house, we make our purchases with an eye to reuse.

The Sweet Thai Chili Sauce was being stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator, but has now been repackaged in a recycled squeeze bottle, that once contained commercial Sweet Thai Chili Sauce.

Attila has installed all of the drywall on the front wall of the basement, and is applying the second coat of paint today. Now he will turn his attention to rewiring. He has already done quite a bit of work on the electrical system, which was outrageously implemented. For instance, the electrical supply to the refrigerator in the kitchen circled the entire perimeter of the house, when the outlet was only about 15 feet from the electrical box. Attila thinks it was wired after they finished basement, so they wired around their walls etc. Crazy! We gutted the basement the summer we bought the house, ten years ago. It feels good to be finally taking care of some of these “good enough” upgrades implemented by who knows who.

Today my focus was on the lap blanket I am crocheting for Attila. At last, I am working on the border! Attila chose the colour for the border, so it is his design. I am glad to finish the blanket before the warm weather sets in. In the winter having a blanket on my lap is cozy and welcome, not so much in the spring and summer months.

Attila’s lap blanket. He loves the colour green, so I chose the green yarn to surprise him, and he chose the yarn for the border. This is a very warm blanket, the Suzette stitch is dense, and has some loft. This is perfect for chilling on the sofa to watch a program, or cuddling under for an afternoon nap.

I will briefly mention the COVID-19 coronavirus, that is in the news and tragically affecting many lives, as I am well aware of its existence, and its potential threat to the well-being of humans around the world. I have no idea how the situation will unfold, no one does. It has the potential of affecting any human life here on the planet, no one has a free pass in these situations, the virus has no respect for human social constructs, status or wealth. There is no cure, no vaccine, and very little knowledge at this point. Big business science has not followed through in finding solutions to this threat to human life. This is the third wave of coronavirus threat since SARS arrived on the scene 2002, and MERS in 2012. Attila and I check with the Johns Hopkins data every morning, and are not comforted by what we find there. All I can hope for humans is that they are able to eat well, live well, and that their good health carries them through. And that those who do not enjoy these advantages are able to get the health care they need to optimize their chances of survival.

Well, I did not want to end on that note, so I will share with you what I had for lunch. It tasted like junk food, and nourished me like health food!

I had Sweet Potato Fries, made in the Air Fryer, and enjoyed my recently made Sweet Thai Chili Sauce as a dip. The sweet potatoes were peeled, cut into 1/2 inch strips, then tossed with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. The program for Fries was used on the air fryer, which is 400F for 18 minutes. They were stirred after 5 minutes, and again when they had been in the fryer for 11 minutes. With the Sweet Thai Chili Sauce as a dip, I felt like I was eating something that was too good to be good for me!

Worldly

Weather

3°C
Date: 2:00 PM EST Sunday 23 February 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 2.6°C
Dew point: -1.6°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: S 22 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
John Green

Life and star dust.

A Great Snack!

It is sunny here this morning. As you can see from the weather information below, our weather is all over the place. Wednesday night is supposed to be -19C, and then the temperatures will swing up again. It has been a bit of a roller coaster through February.

We are enjoying a Statutory Holiday today, Family Day. I would have preferred if it had been called something a little more inclusive, such as Kindness Day, or Friendship Day, which would include families and those who are flying solo through life, but the government decided on Family Day, so Family Day it is. Whatever it is called, it is a welcome break in the dead of winter.

As I sit here typing, I can hear scratchy noises from down in the basement, with intermittent sharp cracking sounds. That would be Attila. Yesterday he moved the freezer out of the way, and finished installing electrical boxes, so that today he could install the last large stretch of wall with vapour barrier today. After he tapes the vapour barrier he will cut and install the last big sheets of drywall. I will help him carry in the drywall, it is so awkward to move it around in the cluttered basement. When the drywall is screwed on, it will be time to tape it, and then paint it.

There are two sections of the basement that will be very difficult to complete. One is the wall behind my canning jars, which will all have to be moved, a daunting task, I have a lot of thinking through before that gets tackled. That wall is insulated, with taped vapour barrier installed, but it needs drywall. The other finicky bit is a 16 inch space behind two full three drawer filing cabinets. Attila only wants to move those once, so he is waiting until we organize down there, and know where they will be placed long-term.

I’ve been having a ball in the kitchen. Yesterday I baked a dozen Cranberry Chocolate Chip Muffins, and used most of the whey I had collected when straining my latest batch of yogurt. A batch of Apple Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Muffins went into the oven after that, and Strawberry Rhubarb Squares went into the oven when they came out. After all that I cooked a pork roast in the Instant Pot, made gravy, and we enjoyed a meat and potatoes dinner.

Condiments from the grocery store have a lot of sodium in them. I have made low-sodium pickles, relish, and chow chow. But I have been craving Sweet Thai Chili Sauce, and Plum Sauce, two favourites that have been off-limits for years due to their high sodium and sugar content. So I thought I would give it a go, making my own. I started with recipes I found on the internet, recipes full of salt and sugar, tasty! But not for me. I omitted the salt called for, and substituted liquid stevia for the sugar called for. For the plum sauce I used pureed pie pumpkin instead of plums. The results were KAPOW! Even Attila choked a bit when he agreed to a taste test. My versions are full of flavour, perhaps a little too acidic, perhaps not. What I am noticing, as I learn to cook with liquid stevia, is that it does not cut the acid the way cane sugar does, so the amount of vinegar may need to be reduced, or perhaps there is another trick yet to be discovered. I use these sauces to mix with noodles and cooked vegetables, so they might be great, or not. I have yet to try them. I won’t share the recipes because they are a work in progress.

My biggest and best project for the weekend turns out to be a vegetable project. When we were shopping for supplies on Saturday, sweet potatoes were on sale, so one was purchased. Today it was peeled and small portion of it was cut into 1/2 inch strips. Out came the Air Fryer, which I’ve not yet used, and Attila uses constantly. He agreed to walk me through the process, to make Sweet Potato Fries. Who knew! I omitted the salt and pepper, and replaced them with 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder (our garden onions dehydrated), then tried the air fryer for the first time. Attila stood by to provide support, as I pushed buttons and learned how to use the appliance. It is very easy to use. WOW! These are so good that not for one second did I miss salt! They are healthy enough that they are good for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for snacks. This Air Fryer has real potential for the low-sodium, low-sugar, low-cholesterol eating regime.

Sweet Potato Fries, I love them!
They look a little burnt in the image, but they weren’t, they were nicely browned and a bit crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. The picture shows only the half that was left when I remembered to take a picture.

We were talking about which appliance we might prefer, the Instant Pot or the Air Fryer, if we had to choose but one. I would choose the Instant Pot, hands down, and thought Attila would choose the Air Fryer. But no, he also chose the Instant Pot, for its immense versatility in preparing ingredients and whole dishes.

While not in the kitchen, you will find me shuffling our belongings from here to there, as I go through the daily chores. The house is not as cluttered when we first stuffed 1800 square feet of furniture and belongings into a 640 square foot house, but still, it is cluttered with the basement storage under renovation. Eventually the basement will be completely insulated and the daunting task of organization will begin.

We do everything in this little house that we would do if we lived in a bigger house. We grow food, and store all the related equipment. We preserve food, and store all the related equipment. We cook almost everything from scratch, and store the related equipment. Very little goes out to the garbage, or even recycling, and there are weeks where we do not put out anything for garbage pickup or recycling. The renovation projects require equipment and supplies, all stored on site. Every square inch on the main floor of our little house is in constant use.

The lap blanket I am crocheting for Attila is coming along slowly, the last ball of yarn for the body of the blanket has been started, and the yarn for the border, picked out by Attila, has been purchased. I anticipate completing this blanket before spring begins. I thought it would be finished last winter, ha! Plans, no use getting too attached to them.

Worldly

Weather

-22°C
Date: 5:00 AM EST Friday 14 February 2020
Condition: Not observed
Pressure: 103.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -21.7°C
Dew point: -26.4°C
Humidity: 66%
Wind: NNW 13 km/h
Wind Chill: -30
Visibility: 24 km

-6°C
Date: 10:00 AM EST Monday 17 February 2020
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -6.2°C
Dew point: -12.6°C
Humidity: 61%
Wind: NNE 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -12
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy
1828 – 1910

Brrrr

We are experiencing another cold snap, last night the temperature dropped to -20C, wind chill -25C, and tonight it is predicted to fall to -21C, wind chill -25C. In reality it has been a little colder than that here at Mist Cottage, as the thermometer outside the kitchen window reads a little higher than than the outdoor temperature, because it is mounted on the wall of the heated house, where some heat is being given off. We are cozy though. The winter thus far has been mild, so that we have used less than a quarter of our winter fuel oil. Last winter we used 3/4 of a tank, so I suppose there is still time for this winter to catch up!

Life is very quiet, which is lovely.

The work on the basement insulation has slowed considerably, Attila’s next step is to work on wiring, and that requires shutting off the electricity to the house, to be absolutely safe, so it will be put off until the weather is a little warmer we need our heating system right now. In the meantime, this week he finished the trim and painting on one of the windows in the basement, it is quite cheerful down there now! We plan on painting the floor joists and underside of the floor boards, which form the ceiling in the basement, and that should add quite a bit of cheer down there as well.

Our fermenting projects have yielded mixed results. We still have much to learn. The unripe ground cherries I fermented were very good, I ate a few everyday, and now, alas, they are all gone. I like to have some fermented food each day, so I decided to make Yogurt.

It was quite an ordeal trying to figure out how to do it in the Instant Pot! The manual is useless for my purposes. Almost every recipe I bumped into on the internet was for cold start Yogurt, which is fine, except that it requires the use of ultra-pasteurized milk, which is very costly. I wanted to use regular milk, at regular prices, and finally found a video made by a woman who was using regular milk to make her Yogurt in the Instant Pot.

My first run through any food preservation or preparation project is usually pretty rocky. This Yogurt project was no exception. I first discovered that although I had a Duo Instant Pot, as the woman in the video had, the control buttons on mine work differently than hers. So I opted to begin the process on the stove top, heating 5 cups of 1% milk in a saucepan, over s slow heat, simmering it for 5 minutes. Then I poured it into the Instant Pot, and let it cool to 110F. In a small bowl I added some of the cooled milk to 3 tablespoons of active culture Greek Yogurt, that I had purchased at the grocery store, mixed them together, then added the mixture to the Instant Pot. I stirred that in, put the lid on, leaving the vent open, pressed Yogurt on the controls, and set the timer for 6 hours. Success!

This is my Instant Pot Yogurt. I used 5 cups of 1% milk, just regular milk that we Canadians buy in 1.33 liter plastic bags. I love it mixed with Maple Syrup or my Dandelion Bloom Jelly.

Since my first batch of Yogurt, I have done more research. Apparently, on my Instant Pot, I can adjust the Yogurt button to read boil, which will boil the milk in the Instant Pot. This means I will not have to wash a saucepan next time, a small improvement, but they add up over time, so it is worthwhile.

Let’s see, what else is going on around here. Last year I knocked over a table lamp, and broke the glass shade. Finally, the right shade presented itself!

Here is the new shade on the lamp. I really like it, Attila chose the pattern.

And finally the Christmas Tree project continues. The Christmas ornaments were removed from the tree and stored away in boxes above the basement stairs, where they will wait patiently until next December. The lights and tinsel remain, to provide bright lights and sparkle to the new decorations. The new decorations are small hearts, in honour of the approaching Valentines Day. I was decadent today, and also bought Attila a box of chocolates, which I gave to him, under strict instructions to enjoy them privately, as I should not be eating candy.

Worldly

Weather

-20°C
Date: 8:00 AM EST Saturday 8 February 2020
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -19.7°C
Dew point: -23.9°C
Humidity: 69%
Wind: NNW 7 km/h
Wind Chill: -25
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
Eddie Cantor
1892 – 1964

Robin Hood Is Turning In His Grave

Our hydro bills are increasing at an unbelievable rate.

We have new energy efficient windows, maximum insulation in the attic, a newly insulated basement, and have taken many measures to reduce our hydro usage. And we have succeeded reducing the amount of hydro we use.

When temperature is considered, January 2020 was on average -5C. January 2019 was on average -10C. This winter January was warmer, and above -7C much of the time, and that means that we used electricity to heat our home much of the time this year. So in theory our hydro usage should have skyrocketed, but instead it dropped by 1.9%, mostly due to the new insulation in the basement.

Even though our hydro usage for January, 2020 is slightly less than our usage in January 2019, our bill is 51% higher. In one year, using roughly the same amount of hydro, our bill has increased by 51%.

When they privatized our public hydro system, they preached competitive pricing…

In the meantime my very small government pension was reduced due to a government “claw back”. I think the claw analogy is apt.

Lower income, much higher billing.

Robin Hood is turning in his grave.

January 2019
959.39 kWh for $77.98
on-peak: 163.7 kWh for $21.61
mid-peak: 160.4 kWh for $15.08
off-peak: 635.3 kWh for $41.29

January 2020
940.95 kWh for $117.72
on-peak: 151.1 kWh for $31.43
mid-peak: 151.5 kWh for $21.82
off-peak: 638.3 kWh for $64.47

% increase = Increase ÷ Original Number × 100

% Increase COST
117.72-77.98=39.74 increase
39.74/77.98 x 100 = 51% increase in the bill

% Decrease USAGE
940.95-959.39-940.=18.44 decrease
18.44/959.39 x 100 = 1.9% drop in hydro usage

Worldly

Weather

2°C
Date: 3:00 PM EST Tuesday 4 February 2020
Mostly Cloudy
Wind: SW 13 km/h
Temperature: 2.4°C
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Dew point: -2.1°C
Visibility: 24 km
Humidity: 72%

Quote

“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 – 1882

Something to keep in mind when politicians are doing their thing.