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.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Sugar Free for September

Everyone has  has been touched by cancer. If they haven't had it yet themselves, they know someone who has, or perhaps a family that has suffered through it along with their loved ones. Right now, I personally know of a few people fighting this disease in one form or another.

I have friends and family who take part in runs, walks and biking events to raise money every year to fight this disease, or help fund a cure. I don't have cancer but I do have arthritis in my hips, knees and feet, so I can't take part in such worthy events. I did, however, just come across something I can do.  It seems the Canadian Cancer Society has created an event that's made for people like me. I've signed up to participate in a Sugar Free September.

I have a friend who has been fighting arthritis for years and she tells me the best thing I could do to reduce the inflammation in my joints would to be to get off sugar.  I'm not sure there is any scientific proof of that working, but I'm about to give it a good test run. I may kill two birds with one stone, and perhaps help save somebody's life at the same time. You can help me by leaving a donation online at https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie

I have at least six social events already lined up for September, so this isn't going to be easy. Maybe some nice person will supply me with a Golden Ticket if they care to donate $20 to this cause. That would give me a day off to just eat normally, treats and all. But any donation would be gratefully received, no matter how small. It would encourage me along the way while a Golden Ticket would actually give me something to look forward to. In the meantime, I'm now going to search out recipes for homemade salad dressings and other things that are sugar free. I expect this to be a real challenge, especially since, as soon as I told my hubby what I was up to, he took me out for ice cream.

This could get interesting.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Getting My Greek On

Greek Fest is going on in Ottawa. In case you didn't know, Greeks are all about food and music. That's what you will find at Greek Fest. Darn good food, and hopefully music, if you happen to land there at the right time. Oh, and if there's music, there is bound to be dancing. It's really hard to keep your feet still when you hear Greek music and Greeks love to dance.There is also some art, and a few vendors, but that really seems to come across as something to look at while you wait for more music, or while you wait for your full tummy to make room for some of those honey balls!

It may not be the most exciting festival you will attend this year, but you aren't going to get a better meal anywhere. Admission is free and so is the parking. There is parking on site, and along Prince of Wales between Baseline and Meadowlands Drive. There is also parking on a few of the back streets too If you go looking for it, watch out for signs that tell you not to park certain places during special events. They really enforce those.


There is a free shuttle service to and from St Pius High School (1481 Fisher Ave) about every 10 minutes. Free parking will also be available (without shuttle service) at the St. John the Baptist Shrine (952 Green Valley Cres.) and the Temple of Israel (1301 Prince of Wales Drive). Please note on August 11th & 18th parking will only be available after 6:30pm.

So why am I telling you about this?  Well, my paternal grandfather came to Canada from Greece.  My Dad may have been half Scottish, and my mother was Scottish from both sides of her family, but that bit of Greek blood I inherited runs deep in my veins, and that's what I identify with. I will tell you I'm Greek and only mention the Scots as an afterthought.

Go get your Greek on. Have a great feed, and get your toes atapping. The festival continues until Sunday. You'll find it at 1315 Prince of Wales Drive.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Week one of Urban Sketching

As I mentioned last week, I have just started taking a course on Urban Sketching. One of the things we were supposed to do this week was to go out where there are some people, like an event perhaps, and sketch what we saw. We were to include the people in the drawings, even if they did move a lot. Sometimes they would even leave the scene before you were finished. Like most people, I'm not used to drawing in public. I guess that was the point, as I don't feel the need to hide anymore, even if what I produce isn't fantastic art. Anybody who came to see what I was doing seemed to understand that it's more about the process than the result. It was all a learning exercise, and I really enjoyed my week.

We did some rambling this weekend. Saturday, at one point, we were in the St Laurent Shopping Centre in Ottawa. While I was waiting for my hubby to get his glasses adjusted at Lenscrafters, I had a few moments to do a trial run on my homework. I say trial run as we were supposed to spend more time than I actually had there.

Then, while having lunch at the food court, where I resisted trying to draw, we heard music coming from downstairs. I looked over the rail and discovered that the Ottawa auditions Canadian Idol were underway. After lunch we went down and watched that for a while, and I did a bit more practice sketching.

On Sunday I had the morning to myself and Canalfest was happening down at the Blockhouse Park. I decided that would give me the time and opportunity to do my homework properly.  I sat in the middle seat of the front row and concentrated on the musicians. They could see that I was trying to draw them but it was the wife of one of them that actually came over to see what I was up to. She seemed to like it and wanted to show her friends. That's a bit embarassing but one of them even suggested I send it into the local paper. That's not going to happen! (except my blog gets reposted at Hometown TV12 in Brockville  LOL).

Sunday afternoon I wanted to go check out a Sunflower festival at Krinklewood Farm near Frankville. I expected to get a lot of pictures of fields full of sunflowers, but even though such fields were indicated on the map, there was no sign of them. There were lots of venders though.  The only sunflowers I found were those on the pottery of one of the venders, and in a few vases.

It was a good weekend, and while my Urban Sketches may not be great art, they do represent the things I saw, and I am definitely more comfortable making marks in public.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Art Taught Me a Life Lesson

Urban sketchers are people who draw on location, wherever they happen to be. They document the real world as they find it. Nothing is arranged. This has become such a trend that there is an actual organization for urban sketchers. Their motto is to meet, sketch and share.

Photo by Leyna Sanger
Saturday, 29 July, 2017 was the 56th World Wide Sketch Crawl. People all over the world were taking part in this event. In Ottawa there were three locations listed and times to go there, but I couldn't get there so I took part by going to one of my favorite local spots and trying to capture what I saw. I found two other members of the local Sketch Night in Merrickville group drawing in the same area that day. Actually, the spot was prearranged and it was hoped more of the current 59 members would take part.

I'm finding people are intimidated by drawing where others can see, and even more intimidated by the idea of posting their work online. I frequently post my urban sketches to that group, and others, in hopes that they will see that such sketches don't have to be photo realistic in order to capture the spirit of the place. Many members of this group are very  artistically talented, while I am still struggling to learn. Or, as my grandson said recently, "You can't draw, Nana, but you can sketch."  It is my hope that by sharing my less than perfect renderings some of the others will think, "if she can do it, so can I," and start sharing what they draw too. I know it would only give them more confidence as that's what is happening with me. More confidence means I am likely to draw more often, and the more often I draw, the better I'll get....or so I'm told.

Sketch Night in Merrickville is a new group that formed about a month ago. They gather every Tuesday evening between 7 and 9 pm, usually in the Blockhouse Park. I never would have had the nerve to even think about joining such a group before this year so I'm definitely moving forward.

I first learned about Urban Sketching while taking the online Exploring course through Sketchbook Skool earlier this year. After completing my first assignment along those lines, I was totally hooked. It's very relaxing to just sit somewhere and make my  marks try to line up with what is in front of you. I've learned it's important not to stress over perfection and now I always use a pen to draw with and then I add colour to hopefully distract the eye from my mistakes.  I have recently signed up for another five week course at Sketchbook Skool. This time it's entirely on Urban Sketching. Since I'm having so much fun I want to learn more about the process.

The first lesson was posted Monday morning and one of the points made was that we should find things we don't do well and just get out there and do them anyway. It isn't important if you aren't good at it. It's more important that you are doing it. So many people stop themselves from doing things they believe they aren't good at, even if they really wish they could do them. They will never learn to do those things that interest them if they don't get out there and try. What do you want to do that you have been holding back on.  Go do it! Have some fun!