Thursday, June 24, 2010

wraps late entry

Here's one more wrap for the lineup (see next post down) because blogger lets me post 5 photos and we had 6 wraps:
  • bulldog clamp - advantage: powerful and reliable disadvantage: pinching hazard
bon appetit (for fun and food)!

naked wrap festival

Linda and I had some fun at work on Wednesday, crafting ways to hold our lunchtime wrap sandwiches together without disposable plastic wrap. These pictures illustrate some of our ideas.

We found lots of effective ways to hold our wraps together without using plastic wrap, however each approach had its pros and cons:
  • knitting yarn ties - advantage: inexpensive, biodegradable disadvantage: tongue-tied
  • plastic clip nylon bracelets from the 1980s - advantage: retro-chic disadvantage: retro-chic
  • buttons - advantage: debonair and minimalist disadvantage: choking hazard (also fake)
  • satin ribbon and belt buckle - advantage: reliable and colourful disadvantage: terribly twee
  • antique buttons from Grandma's house, with olives for accent - advantage: reminds us of lunch at Grandma Olive's house disadvantage: a bit like having Grandma Olive for lunch
Linda brought pasta salad and grapes. I brought fresh veggies and home made hummus. We removed all inedible components and enjoyed our naked wraps.

No wraps were harmed in the making of this blog post. All fastening materials were returned to their desk drawers and sewing boxes for future practical application as fasteners.

question: do you play with your food?

mompoet - good for the environment, and good fun

Sunday, June 20, 2010

dad weekend

My Dad's birthday is June 19. Father's Day is June 20 this year. I believe that the two events should be celebrated separately. I am glad that my Dad concurs.

On Saturday, Mom made an awesome feast of red snapper and risotto. I brought a salad, made with some of the local strawberries that Andy and I bought at a farm in Port Coquitlam earlier in the day. We sat out on the deck at Mom and Dad's place for supper - finally warm enough for an outdoor meal! Mom made a delicious angel food cake with chocolate glaze. You'll note from the photo that Dad has binary birthday candles (64 YES, 32 NO, 16 NO, 8 YES, 4 NO, 2 YES, 1 YES = 75).

On Sunday, Dad and I took our traditional "sushi walk." I bought sushi and packed it on a walk out around Burnaby Lake. We enjoyed a picnic out at the end of Piper Spit. Dad brought a little stove, and made miso soup and green tea. We saw a family of ducks, having a rest on the beaver dam that sits at the end of the spit. It was a good day.

It was very nice to spend time with my Dad this weekend. We caught up on family news and history and agreed about how wonderful it is to have a beautiful place like Burnaby Lake, within walking distance of Mom and Dad's house. I didn't even get a single mosquito bite, so it was pretty much a perfect day and a grand weekend.

question: how did you celebrate Father's Day?

mompoet - big weekend of Dad stuff

Thursday, June 17, 2010

naked wrap challenge

First thing Wednesday morning at work, my friend Linda beckons me to the staff room. "I have to show you something!" she says, gesturing towards the fridge. I wonder, "does she have a picture of her grandchildren in the refrigerator?" "Did she grow a giant rutabaga in her garden over winter?"

Linda opens the fridge, takes out her lunch and shows me a re-usable plastic container. She opens it up and shows me her wrap. I'm sure my yelps of delighted laughter can be heard all over the building, even with the staff room door closed.

Linda and I have been discussing how difficult it is to pack a sandwich wrap to work for lunch, without using clingy plastic wrap to keep it from un-wrapping. I have enjoyed some success with using a snug plastic box, and also with bringing the components separately, and building the wrap at lunchtime. On Wednesday, Linda tried toothpicks.

I think this is wonderful. Linda told me how, at first, the box lid wouldn't snap on because the toothpicks were too tall. She wondered, "Should she cut them shorter?" but settled on angling them to lower the profile. She also determined that she needed more than one toothpick (three actually) despite also employing cream cheese to glue the wrap shut. Linda likes cream cheese, so she did not offer to let me remove it before she ate her lunch. hmmmph.

So now the game is on. How many wraps can we eat in the next couple of weeks? How can we hold them together? Linda has Grandma's antique hat pins, but wonders if they are food safe. I was standing at the photocopy machine later in the day, glanced at my new name tag and shouted, "MAGNETS!" We are going to have some fun, and I will document it here.

A wrap is a great way to combine all sorts of ingredients in a neat package for lunchtime eating. Using a re-usable box instead of plastic wrap is good for the environment. How we make it work is a challenge that we relish, or cream cheese, or salsa. Watch for more developments.

question: do you pack a wrap? How do you fasten it?

mompoet - please remove inedible fastening devices before consuming your lunch

Thursday, June 10, 2010

naked lunch

A facebook friend invited me to join a challenge this month to reduce or eliminate the plastic that I discard. It has been an interesting challenge. I have achieved a couple of plastic-dump-free days, I have found it to be very difficult to totally swear off throwing plastic into the trash.

Dump-free-days makes me think of Dumfries Street, which some teenagers (who will remain nameless) think is the funniest street name they have every heard of. They pronounce it "Dum Fries" street (like french fries) and have declared that when they grow up, they must own a house on Dum Fries Street. It's a pretty nice neighbourhood, near the cemetery, so I wouldn't mind visiting them there. I would probably help them pack their lunches to take to work, while they sat out in the yard in Adirondack chairs, drinking ginger beer and chortling about the name of their street. "heh heh heh! We live on Dum Fries Street, heh heh."

I have focused my plastic waste reduction in a couple of areas, the first being the lunches that I pack to work. Check out the photo of my lunch from a few days ago. If you go back to my previous post, entitled "lunch bag," you will note that this week's lunch uses less disposable plastic, which is good. It's relatively easy to use re-usable containers in place of plastic bags and plastic wrap. They keep the food fresh and contained, although they make my lunch bag a bit more bulky. In preparation for plastic waste reduction month, I re-organized the kitchen cabinet that holds the plastic containers. It's amazing how many lids we have that do not match to any containers, and vice versa. My theory is that the missing pieces are in the same place as the socks, the pens and the scotch tape.

My friend Linda talked to me about packing wraps for lunch, and how it's difficult to put a wrap in a plastic box and have it hold together. We discussed a few options for dealing with this problem:

- toothpicks
- lots of cream cheese, used as glue
-a kilt pin (remember to remove the kilt pin before eating the wrap, which I guess should also be said for the toothpicks, and the cream cheese, if you do not like cream cheese, but use it to hold your wrap together). If we eat lunch together, I will offer to remove any offending cream cheese before you eat your wrap. This reminds me of a long car trip, during which my kids (not yet teens at the time) obliged grandpa by sucking the chocolate off of the almonds, then feeding the almonds to him.

Ooops, I think I just went off on a tangent. Back to plastic waste reduction.

Another solution for the problem of the unraveling wrap is to bring the ingredients (in a re-usable container) and assemble them at lunchtime. This is especially good if you want to combine reheated fillings with cool crispy ones in your wrap.

Aside from this, packing lunch without disposable plastic is a piece of cake (just not choke cake, please).

The next area of waste reduction on which I have focused is shopping. Lots of stuff at the store comes wrapped in plastic. I feel fortunate that our children are young adults, and we don't buy toys for them any more, because by far the worst offenders in this regard are toys. I remember spending 10 minutes releasing a Barbie doll from bondage one Christmas, while our daughter practically died from anticipation. The poor plastic doll was tethered in her display box with about a dozen tiny zap strap type plastic ties, AND her hair was taped to her head with a cellophane head band. What did the manufacturers think? That she was going to hatch an escape plot and crawl out of the box while it sat under the Christmas tree? I just don't understand. One solution for this is to buy (or get for free from friends and family) used toys. Kids like them as well as brand new, and they can have them as soon as they see them.

I shop for food almost every day, and I've observed that the closer to the source a food product is, the less likely it is to be over-wrapped. Fresh fruits and vegetables are an excellent example. They sit naked in the produce store until we load them into clear plastic bags before they go into the shopping basket, then maybe we put all of those plastic bags into larger bags for the ride home. Starting this month, I have been re-using the clear plastic bags from fruits and vegetables that I have finished up. I just stick them into the bag bin where I keep my cloth grocery bags, then pack them with me when I go out. Nobody at the produce store has complained that I am not using their clear bags, so I'm at least getting a few repeat uses of the clear bags before I have to chuck them. Linda tells me she brings a lot of her fruit and veggies home without a clear bag at all. She gets them weighed together, then puts them into her shopping bag. It must be nice for the bell peppers to mingle with the limes and zucchinis. Kind of like fruit and veggies going commando.

The clear bag re-use plan will also work for bulk food shopping, and possibly at the fish store or butcher, however I have not visited either of the latter this month. What it can't help is all of the foods that come pre-packaged, which sometimes even includes fruits and veg. And I can't help thinking about how they were wrapped while they traveled to the store, and sat in the cooler at the back of the store. Even if I don't see the plastic when they're on display, it may have been part of their journey. At least with plastic you take home, you can decide to re-use or recycle it. We're very good with milk jugs, yogurt containers, etc. taking them to the recycle bins. Sometimes I wonder if they are actually recycled, or if we're just paying someone to pick them up and make us feel virtuous.

The final area of focus is general trash disposal. We live in a townhouse complex. We have recycle bins and a green waste trailer, to divert all but "real" trash from the waste stream. We're planning to install a composter this summer in our back yard, to help our new box garden in the future. That will take care of our food scraps, egg shells etc. The "real trash" goes into a dumpster, and we have to bag it before it goes there. Loose "real trash" falls out of the dumpster when the truck flips it. Bagged "real trash" tumbles into the truck like good little trash. This is particularly critical for "real trash" categories such as used cat litter. Nobody likes that stuff to rain on their parade. I re-use whatever store bags we have for the trash from bathroom and bedroom wastebaskets, but I put a brand new, store bought plastic trash bag into my kitchen waste container every 2 or 3 days, and I use the same thing (only double bagged) for the aforementioned weekly used kitty litter disposal. I haven't figured out a way to get around this, and welcome any suggestions. Reusing store bags just doesn't work. They break, leak and scrunch down inside the kitchen wastebasket, all resulting in horrible yukkiness.

If I have not been successful in totally eliminating my plastic waste, I do feel good about changing my habits a bit, and improving my awareness. I'll try to keep this up even when June is over.

question: are you taking the no-plastic challenge? How is it going for you?

mompoet - look out for kilt pins and call me if you need help with surplus cream cheese.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

how to sleep

Recently, I completed a 21 day wellness challenge at the rec centre where I work. Participants committed to doing one healthy thing for 21 days, and recorded their progress on a big wall chart. I chose sleeping. I am good at sleeping, but I suspected that I might be healthier if I slept a little longer each night. My specific commitment was to get 7 hours sleep each night. I was successful on all but two nights of the 21. The most difficult part for me was getting to bed early enough and/or staying in bed long enough in the morning to achieve a 7 hour total. I generally get good sleeps, but I'm prone to wanting to be up and awake and doing things, rather than spending time in bed. I guess that means I also have good energy.

In response to a request from my friend Muhd in Singapore, here are some tips for successful sleeping:

1. Go to bed
If you are tired, get into your bed. Don't sleep on the couch or in your chair. Don't sleep in the car (especially if you are driving). If you find yourself falling asleep during the day, that means you are not sleeping enough or well enough at night. But zonking out in place, mid-activity is not satisfying or refreshing. Take a nap in your bed if you need a nap. Thirty to sixty minutes of napping can be the refreshing rest you need. Nobody wrote a rule that you have to get all of your sleep in the night time. Try napping, and nap properly (undressed, in bed). If you need to be up and doing something at a certain time, use your alarm clock.

2. Wake Up
Be active during waking time. Go get busy. Get tired. Exercise your body, mind and spirit with your daily activities and interactions. Make something to dream about. Empty your tank. This will help you be ready for sleep at night.

3. Deal with It
If something is bothering you, do something about it before you climb into bed. Don't save up a big stressball all day, then gnaw on it once your head hits the pillow. Worrying and sleeping and mutually exclusive. You might not be able to solve every problem before bedtime, but you need to consciously put them aside. Write down a list of things to deal with tomorrow, and leave them in another room. If they start to nibble at your consciousness, speak sharply to them (out loud if necessary), "Go away troubling thought! I will think about you tomorrow."

4. Deal with the Body
Pain, hunger, a tickle in your throat, itchy elbows - whatever it is about your body that needs tending, tend it before you retire. It's not a good idea to go to bed 15 minutes after eating a big feast, but it's also not good to go to bed hungry or thirsty. Have a small snack an hour or so before bedtime. Get your pillows right. Take an antihistamine. Do some stretches. Don't drink coffee or alcohol too close to bedtime, either. But you know that one already.

5. Transition
Think about what you do leading up to sleep. The more routine and calming, the better.
Bad pre-sleep activities: flamenco dancing, sword fighting, dog grooming, writing a letter to the editor
Good pre-sleep activities: reading, doing just one simple task like putting the recycling into the recycling box, checking in with the people who are still awake in the house and saying good night

6. Get a Mantra
The typical one is "counting sheep." You could do that, or choose something more original. Just pick something about the length of O Canada or the Lord's Prayer (that's mine). It should be simple, familiar and contain no emotionally charged content. When you are moving towards sleep, say it to yourself. If you wake up during the night, say it to yourself. You'll condition yourself to associate your mantra with falling asleep and you'll be able to use it as a shortcut to slumber.

7. Visualize
I picture myself at the edge of a deep, dark lake. The water in the lake is sleep. The water is warm and calm and safe. It will support me until morning. I picture myself diving into the lake - Goodbye wakeful day. Hello sleep. I feel my fingers, hands, arms, head, body, legs, toes enter the water and I'm gone. If I wake during the night, I visualise myself bobbing to the surface for a single breath, then I surface dive down, back into deep sleep. If you don't like water, your visualization might involve warm sand, or a cloud or a forest - it's up to you.

8. Be Well
You will sleep best when you are well. Do all you can to be well.

9. Tell Yourself the Good Story about Sleep
If you are experiencing wakefulness, do not conclude that you are a bad sleeper. This could become a self-fulfilling prophesy, even if you are quite sure that you are a bad sleeper. What would you rather be: right? or rested? Tell yourself that you had a short sleep last night, but don't put pressure on yourself by following up with, "so I have to get a good sleep tonight." Every night is an opportunity, not an imperative. Maybe you'll sleep better tonight. That would be great.

10. Make Sleep Delicious
Love your sleeping place. Choose colours, textures, images, scents to make your bedroom a great place to fall asleep and a lovely place to wake up. Isn't it awesome to sleep on the beach in the summer and wake up to the sound of the water and the sight of the sky warming up in the morning light? Have a book, a glass of water, some music, whatever you need to feel comfortable, even pampered, close by. Sleep should be one of your favourite activities. It is really delicious.

question: how do you help yourself sleep?

mompoet - PhD in Z

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

the sleep challenge

Yesterday was Day 21 of the Move for Health Challenge at work. Staff and participants at the rec centre where I work challenged themselves to adopt healthier habits from May 10-31. Some gave up treats, or reduced meal portions. Some increased activity. I decided to try to get more sleep. I specified that I would go for 7 hours sleep each night.

Getting 7 hours sleep is not easy for me, mostly because I like to get up so darned early in the morning. Here I am, at 5:40am, and I have already fed the cat and got myself a big glass of cold water, and now I am blogging (and toasting almonds for my breakfast yogurt and fruit bowl). I don't have to leave the house until 7:15, but I am up. The benefit of this is that I have a stretch of quiet, to-myself time in the morning, before the day starts jumping with demands and challenges. I like the extra hour in the morning for myself.

Rising at 5:30 means that I must be asleep by 10:30 if I want to get a full 7 hours. I have discovered that I must be determined and organized in order to do this. Falling asleep is blessedly easy for me, but getting myself into bed some time before 10:30 is another matter altogether. On nights that I am up late, I must stay in bed past 5:30 in the morning to achieve 7 hours sleep, and that requires more effort than one might think. I feel like I'm missing something if I roll over and grab another 30 or 60 minutes of snoozing. Nevertheless, I have persisted in trying to get me some sleep for the past 21 nights. I have succeeded on all but two nights. One night, at the tail end of my bout with the flu, I had been sleeping day and night for 2 1/2 days. Suddenly I couldn't sleep at night. I know I could have counted the day sleeping towards my debt that night, but I didn't. The other night of not sleeping 7 hours was last night - the final night of the challenge. I was out until 10:45, in bed at 11:00 and asleep by 11:15. At 5:30 I got up, and here I am.

Sleeping 7 hours is probably good for my health. I have read that 7-8 hours sleep is good for memory, weight loss, mood, cholesterol, and blood pressure. I can sleep 7 hours most nights of the week, but I'm not sure that forcing myself to sleep 7 hours every night is worth the effort. I don't actually feel any more rested for doing it. Maybe if I stuck with it longer than 21 days I would notice a change.

For now, I will say goodbye to the 21 day challenge, and sleep 7 hours most nights, a whopping 7.5 to 8 hours on weekends, and my typical 6 and a bit whenever I have reason to stay up late. I'm glad I took the challenge. I'm already thinking about what I might do next year. Hmmm?

question: how many hours sleep do you get most nights?

mompoet - early bird