You Lose Some, You Win Some

Since January I have experienced tummy upsets, gastrointestinal issues. The cause has been a mystery. A partial explanation has been surmised.

I may be lactose intolerant.

In January I began to eat ricotta cheese with some regularity, because it was a low sodium choice. My issues began in mid-January. Experiments have ensued. The problem was relieved when the ricotta cheese was removed from the diet. Next, bocconcini was purchased, another soft, low sodium cheese. Bingo, within twenty four hours all of the symptoms returned. The next experiment is under way, removing all dairy from the diet. Removing milk from my already highly restricted diet is a hardship. To that end I purchased some plain almond beverage to use as a dairy substitute, which seems to agree with me, at least for now.

We are in the grips of another cold snap. The temperature should begin to rise by the end of next week, but most of March Break will be cold for the kids who are off school this coming week in Ontario. It is very windy as well, so the wind chill is significant. Attila and I are cozy here in our little house, with our magnificent thermostat!

On Tuesday, when I took the car in for servicing, I ran a few errands in town while the car was in the shop. One of the things I purchased was garbage tags. On Friday morning Attila asked me where I had put them. I though they were still in my bag, but when I checked I couldn’t see them there. Then I thought I must have put them away somewhere and forgotten about it. We looked everywhere, which does not take long in our small house. Then I though I might have dropped them when I purchased them, or at the garage when I was paying the bill. Not wanting to call the town office or the garage to ask if they had seen them, I continued to search. A few hours later, after I had removed every last item from my bag, I found them tucked between some papers. What a relief.

I was thinking about this little escapade this morning. I was upset at the time, while looking for the tags. It wasn’t the loss of the money, and the additional money that would have to be spent on new tags, that I found upsetting. It was that I might have come home and put the tags away somewhere, and had not been able to remember a thing about it. The degree of memory loss that would represent really threw me into a tizzy! Luckily, there was no memory loss involved, I didn’t remember where I put them because I didn’t put them anywhere and there was nothing to remember. There was just careless placement of the tags at time of purchase, and a search for them that was less than thorough. I made sure I showed Attila where I decided to store the tags!

The work on the book continues. The book includes the families of twelve brothers and sisters, and at last I am working on the images for the youngest child. Much more to do, adding the images to page layout of the book, captioning the images, including references for each image.

I continue to practice my crochet skills every day. The yarn and hook sit by my chair, ready for me to pick them up whenever the whim strikes. I tried my first single crochet stitch yesterday, it did not go well, but I am undeterred. Today I tried again, it was a little easier, a little bit better, and tomorrow I will try again, and the day after that. It will come. I don’t know what inspires me to spend time with my greatest physical weakness, but inspired I am. I guess I want to push my boundaries a little bit, I have time now, to be patient with myself.

Genealogy and crochet, two projects focused on lines that are woven together to make something beautiful.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 11:00 AM EST Saturday 11 March 2017
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -12.6°C
Dew point: -22.8°C
Humidity: 43%
Wind: WNW 25 gust 39 km/h
Wind Chill: -22
Visibility: 24 km

“Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity.”
469 BC – 399 BC

“Marilyn: My uncle once told me about a warrior who had a fine stallion. Everybody said how lucky he was to have such a horse. “Maybe,” he said. One day the stallion ran off. The people said the warrior was unlucky. “Maybe,” he said. Next day, the stallion returned, leading a string of fine ponies. The people said it was very lucky. “Maybe,” the warrior said. Later, the warrior’s son was thrown from one of the ponies and broke his leg. The people said it was unlucky. “Maybe,” the warrior said. The next week, the chief led a war party against another tribe. Many young men were killed. But, because of his broken leg, the warrior’s son was left behind, and so was spared.”
A parable told my the character Marilyn Whirlwind on Northern Exposure.


I am on a mental ramble here, which is how undisciplined I have become since leaving the academy. Sometimes I feel concerned about it, but most of the time I am having the time of my life, and I value the joy of living.

The last few weeks have been mild, and one might think spring arrived early. I know better, as we experienced this sort of interlude in 1994 when we moved into our house in the little city. That warm spell was shorter than this one, but no less memorable. Yesterday began with spitting rain falling from the overcast sky. By mid-afternoon the sun came out, and the temperature soared to 15C on our back porch. And where was I? I was out on the back porch, soaking up every ray of sunshine that came my way. I cuddled in my jacket, as the brisk wind was keen on robbing the warmth the sun provided. That is where Attila found when he returned from work, and where he joined me. I know this warm weather is not meant to last, but it is a lovely reprieve, and reminder that soon spring will arrive.

DSCF0438 This is the morning view out the living room window, to which I have become so attached. The colours don’t last very long, and I am always grateful when I happen to be looking out the window when they are at the height of intensity.

In mid-January I experienced a gastrointestinal upset that lasted for a month. It was puzzling, and worrisome. I had a few theories as to what it might be, some of them downright scary, and others not so much. The problem cleared up a week or so ago, to my great relief. But my system swung the other way to experience the opposite extreme, which has been equally uncomfortable. An experiment was in order. Yesterday I consumed a 70g portion of the ricotta cheese I like so well. Sure enough, during the night my gastrointestinal system swung right back to the original extreme condition. I am in a see-saw situation.

I had used this ricotta cheese in baking, and it did not affect me at all. I froze some of the ricotta cheese, thawed it and consumed it, and it did not affect me at all. I drink milk, and eat other cheeses, and they do not affect me at all. But eating this ricotta cheese fresh does affect me, distinctly and unmistakably. Going forward it can be my own fool-proof cure for constipation. My next experiment will be to try different brands of ricotta cheese to see if I can tolerate any of the alternatives.

My son-in-law Janus has expressed an interest in my 2007 iMac. It will only run operating systems up to and including El Capitan, and so has become a less flexible solution for us, which is important because we rely on computers and not cell phones. I spent yesterday cleaning up the hard drive, removing the last vestiges of my files, updating the software that I was leaving on the machine, and creating a login account for Janus to use, since he should not use the admin login account for day-to-day use. Attila brought the computer box in from the new shed, after he got home from work, and now the computer, the OSX install disk, the keyboard and the mouse are nicely packed and ready for pickup or delivery, whichever comes first. I will miss the old iMac, it is a beautiful machine. But we really need to keep current with our technology, and we do not have room for more than one computer in our little Mist Cottage.

DSCF0432 The Ontario grown garlic we bought at the farmer’s market last Sunday, it cost $2, which is quite expensive, but it was an outing so we indulged. Attila stir fried it with the $2 organic cabbage we bought from a different vendor at the market. I am really looking forward to having a garden this summer. We will be able to eat as much as we can grow!

Today I am baking my first loaf of Finnish Pulla, using the yogurt sourdough starter my friend Auntie Mame sent me. I learned a few little things with the first loaf of sourdough I baked last week, with the rye starter. It is important in my Bosch mixer to add the dry ingredients first, the starter will smear and fail to incorporate itself into the dough if added to the mixer bowl first. Adding the dry ingredients first really worked well, and the dough was very easy to work with when it came out of the bowl. The recipe I used was sent to me along with a sample loaf of Finnish Pulla by Auntie Mame, and I am looking forward to seeing how my first loaf will turn out.

DSCF0469 My very first loaf of Sourdough Finnish Pulla. I put 1/8 tsp of salt, as opposed to the 1 tsp called for in the recipe. I also used canola oil instead of butter, as cholesterol is an issue for me. I added no commercial yeast to this, the rise is completely due to the sourdough.

Attila does not like sourdough bread. I love sourdough bread. All for me is what I say! He likes the Finnish Pulla though, and I will have to share that. The loaf of bread I baked with the rye starter was very nice, it had a very good crumb, and was nice for sandwiches. But Attila doesn’t like it. Since I was the only one eating the loaf, it was in danger of spoiling, so the last half of it was used for croutons. The result was disappointing, the croutons were rock hard, and very hard to crack with out teeth, not really very pleasant on a green salad. But we will eat them, nothing goes to waste here, our mistakes are usually consumed. Thank goodness we don’t have many serious failures in the kitchen!

Lately I have been watching a channel on youtube, about a family who moved into a yurt with three small children and built a small house over the course of three years, which they moved into. I enjoyed the mountain dream home series Fouch-o-matic, which featured the whole family. They are very likeable people, and I enjoyed hearing about how they met their challenges and made progress.

The wife Esther did another series which featured just herself, and other homesteading wives, all around her own age. This series I found tedious, there was nothing new to me in anything that they were talking about, which is not really a problem. One positive aspect of it was that the information “taught” held no glaring areas of misinformation. I think my problem was more that they thought of themselves as teaching others, when in fact they were only just learning themselves. I would have enjoyed hearing about what they were learning, but could not get past their belief that they were in a position to teach, when all they were doing was sharing their learning experience. Trained as a teacher I know how carefully one needs to structure information and delivery in order to make it easily understood, and what a thorough knowledge one needs of the subject at hand to successfully teach others. We can learn from sharing, but the act of sharing is focused on the me, and not the same as teaching, which is student centric.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 10:00 AM EST Friday 24 February 2017
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 2.5°C
Dew point: 1.2°C
Humidity: 91%
Wind: NE 22 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”
Edward R. Murrow
1908 – 1965

Rideau Camp

The page was blank this morning, but now it isn’t.

The weather is wonderful, cool, sunny, breezy, truly astonishing for this late in November. I have been out for my walk already this morning, it is now getting on towards lunch time. Usually I walk briskly, and do not pause. This morning I paused, looking up. There were hundreds of Canada Geese flying overhead, flying in a southerly direction. We live near the water, we can even see it in the winter when the leaves have fallen from the trees. The geese gravitate towards this water, and we enjoy hearing them as they travel through, both in the spring and in the autumn.

I spoke with Terra this past week, for the first time since July. She has been busy, nesting and bonding with her babies. Both are healthy and over 11 pounds now, bright eyed little treasures. We interacted via Facetime, and they stared and stared at me as Terra presented my image and voice to them, and then they cried, they were making strange! That means they see and recognize that my face, and my voice, are not their mother’s. This is a very good thing. Although they were born in June, they would have been full term the second week of August, so their gestational age is 3 months.

“Your baby may think of a new person as unfamiliar, which can make him feel unsafe. 3 and 6 months of age. This is why many babies between three and six months of age ‘make strange’ when they are spoken to or picked up by a person they don’t recognize.”

I continue to take my blood pressure twice daily, it is work. I am now taking the original low dosage of blood pressure medication, and when I began this dosage my blood pressure shot up again, not quite so high as it was in August and in September. I resigned myself to the possibility that I would have to double the dosage again, but decided to give my body a chance to adjust before making any decisions. As I had hoped, my blood pressure has come down again, I have even reached my target levels on two or three occasions. I don’t know if it is the strict low-sodium, low-sugar, low-fat diet I am following, the slight weight loss (finally my body has decided to release a few of those calories it has hoarded away), the Apple Cider Vinegar & Honey concoction I drink before each meal, the regular daily walk, the lavender oil scented sachet by my bed, and/or the mission to reduce stress in my life. I KNOW the drop in my blood pressure has nothing to do with prescribed medications. If I reach my target levels, and can stabilize my blood pressure at a normal level, I might try eliminating the high blood pressure medication altogether, but I am getting ahead of myself, that is just a fantasy.

To take my blood pressure I have a machine with an arm cuff. This has meant I have to change how I dress! It is miserable, and chilly, to have to pull a sweater off over my head to bare my arm each time I want to measure my pressure. I have had to drag out my summer blouses, and wear them under a cardigan sweater that is easily removed when needed. There is a wrist model device that will measure blood pressure, made by OMRON, but I am going to wait, as the wrist model does not allow relaying the data to a computer, not yet. The newer cuff models will use bluetooth to relay the data to a spreadsheet, even send it to your doctor, but the wrist model only displays the data. I am waiting for the technology to advance a little more before I consider the investment. My present model merely displays the data for each reading. I then have to record it with pen and paper, then enter it into the spreadsheet, then type in the formula to average the readings for the session.

Not all cheeses are made alike. In September I began my sodium reduction campaign by eating only soft unsalted cheeses, Ricotta and Pressed Cottage Cheese. My first Ricotta cheese was a product made by Saputo in a plastic tub, there was something about the taste I just did not take to, and I found myself avoiding eating it. On our last shopping excursion I purchased Ricotta cheese made by Silani, it was pressed and sold wrapped in paper, and then sealed in plastic. I find myself looking forward to eating the Silani product, which has a similar taste to the Saputo, but fits my taste buds much better. The pressed cottage cheese I purchased was made into an odd Mac n’ Cheese that used pureed pumpkin and cottage cheese as the sauce. It was OK, but not stellar. I am going to try a macaroni based lasagna dish next week, and hope it will be a better fit for the pressed cottage cheese.

My taste buds are adapting to eating food without any salt added, in cooking or at the table. It is a big adjustment. What I have found to date is that when I am hungry, the taste is acceptable, but when my appetite is satisfied, the taste begins to seem very, very bland, and there is no temptation to eat beyond actual hunger. So far I have not wanted any “seconds”. Most of the sodium I consume comes from bread, and flavourings. My sodium intake levels are well under 1200 mg a day, and always over 500 mg a day, as one needs some sodium in their diet.

I miss the sugar, I miss the fat, but most of all I miss the salt and flavourings.

You know, I really understand how older people talk about their health a lot. Maintaining it becomes so challenging and intrusive, and can require so many extreme adjustments to daily life, that it dominates one’s thoughts, just as it can come to dominate one’s daily way of living. I did not understand that when I was younger, and luckily was not prone to criticize that which I did not understand.

When I was in my early 20s I had the privilege of working at a Senior’s Centre. I loved almost all the people I met at the Centre during those years. A friend and I ran programs of all kinds for the YMCA, and organized events and trips as well. One of the seniors, Melli, was a dear character. She wouldn’t commit to any activity, coming only when she was able, providing us with the caveat that she would be there “if the bowels move”. She was so straightforward about what she had to cope with, and we delighted in her. And here I am thinking fondly of her, more than 40 years later. That was one of my most loved jobs, ranking up there with developing communication devices and skills for people who could not speak (mostly quadriplegic individuals without the power of speech). I guess I just really like spending time with people who live their lives beyond the bullshit in our culture, even if it is because they don’t have any choice.

We spent last Sunday at the Rideau Camp, it was busy, in a restful, regenerating sort of way.

Then. This is the log pile as it was when we purchased the property in April. It was taller than Attila, topped with dead trees, and surrounded by a field of brambles. It was daunting. Everything in this pile was removed by hand by Attila, a giant pick-up-sticks game, and either stacked by Attila, or burned by me. I pulled all of the brambles out by the roots, individually, and then burned them.
Now. Looks a mess doesn’t it. Looking at it brings pleasure to both Attila and I, as it has changed tremendously. We aren’t quite done yet, but we are getting there!
Our Rideau Camp sits in a level area of clay soil, but all round it the Canadian Shield makes itself evident. This is the landscape that Attila and I trek when we go for walks at the Rideau Camp. At one location on the property there is a thirty foot rock cliff.
A November evening at Rideau Camp. The sun begins to fall into the horizon early in the evening, still visible through the barren branches.
The Harvest Moon was spectacular on Sunday evening. I took this photo as we were heading out of the bush on our way home.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 11:00 AM EST Friday 18 November 2016
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 10.2°C
Dew point: 6.0°C
Humidity: 75%
Wind: S 17 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“We should manage our fortunes as we do our health – enjoy it when good, be patient when it is bad, and never apply violent remedies except in an extreme necessity.”
Francois de La Rochefoucauld
1613 – 1680