No Sugar... No problem?

A month has passed on my attempt to reduce my sugar consumption. I'd love to say: "Look how well I did" but if I rocked it from the start, I likely didn't have a sugar problem to begin with.

I could quote academic journals on the differences between the refined sugars and the "natural" sugars I've been trying to allow myself, but this is the internet, where I don't feel the need to support my claims with proper evidence and scholastic support. I'm not trying to persuade you my way is the right way. It's just my experience on getting over my sugar addiction. I wanted to reduce my consumption of sugar, and I thought the easiest way to do that is to select only certain sugars to consume and force myself to get create at avoiding the others.

Again, what I've been allowing myself:
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Honey
  • Treats on special occassions. 

(So pretty much "sugar as God created it" and "weekends off". We had a lot of special occasions. And yes, if I had access to sugar cane, I would have totally chewed up that bad boy).

How did it go?

The successes
  • I love my smoothie recipe. As soon as we stock up on watermelon again (which fortunately goes on sale regularly, though still not as cheap as Regina, where they wear it as hats. Google it, people. Google it). 
  • My granola bar recipe was a good start, but needs some work (mostly so I won't destroy my keyboard with its crumbliness). (Watch for recipes of both the smoothie and the granola bar coming soon)
  • My concern about giving up ketchup in the middle of hamburger season was unfounded. Load on the tomatoes (a food which I just recently started eating)!
  • Given the expense of honey, I certainly found myself using less and less
  • I discovered how sweet many foods are once your taste buds adjust
  • Most mornings were much smoother, not only in not having a "sugar hang over" but also in just being able to jump out of bed and go. Having pre-made my breakfast also helped a lot too!
  • Starbucks Shaked Iced Passion Tea (unsweetened) makes a great summer treat

The Setbacks
 - I used "Special occasions" loosely
  • My friend got married! (And I chose to eat half of the dessert table myself)
  • My grandparents celebrated their 60th anniversary (limited myself to one dessert at the dinner, but may have gone cray on cookies and ice cream at the lunch the next day)
  • My MA was conferred! (And I got sweet breakfast treats, afternoon ice cream and a big dollop of ketchup on my hot dog)
  • My mom made cookies! (I may have eaten at least a dozen in 24 hours)
  • My husband was on vacation! (I couldn't deprive him of a case of Coke for that... but I could deprive him of half of it)
  • My department helped organize convocation! (Being at work before you're usually awake some how equates to a very sugar-laden Starbucks)
  • My coffee was only 25 cents! (Starbucks anniversary meant 25 scoops of sugar with it... mostly kidding)
  • My car died! (And to make up for not finding the ginger snap I wanted to buy, I got 2 chocolate chip cookies)

Believe me - after every one of those legitimate and illegitimate indulgences, I felt the effects. Lethargy, early morning headaches, stuffy nose (ok, that may be due to the fact our office is about 65 degrees on a good day).

What I found most interesting in this experiment was not how easy it was to avoid sugar (which I did do very well at times, despite the above list), but rather what other addictions it created or fostered:
  • Can't have a cold can of coke at the end of a long, hot bus ride? Why choose water when there is beer?
  • Can't run out for ice cream when the evening "snackies" hit? Why not have something overly salty? 

Where do I go from here?

I can't go back to "life as normal" after experiencing waking up WITHOUT a headache. I think (sigh) I may have to turn this month's experiment into a lifestyle. This last month allowed me to see both how easy it is to limit sugar, but also how easy it is to form new "food addictions". So going forward, for the next month my goals are this:
  • Establish a better granola bar recipe (I think the afternoon run-to-the-caf-for-a-cookie routine was the hardest to give up)
  • Work on increasing water consumption without increasing boredom by adding lime, cucumber, or herbal tea
  • This one is key: develop the skill of treating myself without over-indulging
 I'll post my latest smoothie recipe hopefully this coming week, and my granola one once it's "perfected". I don't know if I'll check in mid-month (accountability: good. Only posting about food: bad), but hopefully I'll make it to the end of July!

Take a picture, it will last longer

(It has recently come to light that a number of my relatives frequent this blog. Hi!!)

While the title may sound like a snarky comment, there is truth behind it. We take pictures because we worry we will lose the memory of a moment. We look back through these pictures, hanging them on our walls, placing them on our desks, to remember the event, or recapture the emotion.

I never doubted my grandmother's love for her family and friends. It was blatantly displayed on every possible surface of her house, then later her apartment, then later her room in an assisted living facility. One of the last interactions I had with her was showing her the picture Scott & I had taken for our engagement / Save the date / Christmas cards, and pinning it by her hospital bed, amongst various other pictures my cousins had placed there as well.

Over the years, as my grandmother amassed more and more family, but moved to smaller and smaller houses and suites, my aunts or my mother would attempt to corral all the pictures she had placed on her wall (some in frames, others taped or pinned in place) into one large collage. With the rate at which the family grew, it almost seemed that as soon as a collage was finished, it would be outdated. With time, pictures began to filter into my parents' house as my grandmother ran out of room for them.

The night after my grandmother passed away, my mother started pulling together pictures from various albums, frames and collages to bring to the funeral. To say the carpet was covered in pictures would not be an overstatement. To see the number of people who loved my grandmother and whom my grandmother loved was overwhelming. 

My grandmother's estate finalized a few weeks ago, and my mother saw to it that both my sister and I were offered a portion it so we could purchase something, preferably which would remind us of our grandmother. However, my grandmother was not a woman who tended to spoil herself. She freely gave to others whom she saw as being in need, even if it meant she would do without. We would frequently go to visit her and find that she had loaned a chair or a television to a friend. I struggled for a long time with finding something that properly commemorate my grandmother, given her disengagement with things normally believed to have value.

But as I found our spare bed covered with photographs for a slideshow to commemorate my other set of grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary, the answer was clear: a camera. Even if (as I dream I will almost every night), I drop the camera into the ocean, smash it on concrete or bury it in dirt, I will still have the pictures. And some day, when my children untape pictures from my walls, and pick frames off my shelves to compile collages of my friends and family, I will tell them of their great-grandmother and how her love for her friends and family could never be contained to a frame.
My grandparents on the day of their wedding, in the locket I wore the day of mine
(PS - did I mention I've enabled anonymous comment again?)

I've got blisters on these...feet!

Some weeks, it's so easy to decide what to give away  - all I have to do is look down.

Scott and I went for a walk to pick up some essentials tonight. Our walk was roughly a kilometer, not bad. I said to Scott as we threw on shorts to beat the heat. As I grabbed a pair of shoes, I said: "I'm going to regret this".

I wasn't going to regret the walk in the heat - it was really only half the walk it should have been. Our parking lot had been cleaned today, so this morning, we had to move our cars. I drove mine to the nearest "Park and Ride" and grabbed my bus from there. However, I forgot to pick it up on the way home.

Walking to the car/on the errands was just enough time to destroy my feet with these sandals. That it - out they go!

When yoga pants ruin all your fun

I judge the classiness of a restaurant not on the food on the menu, weight of the cutlery or the prices on the bill. I judge it based on how FEW of the serving staff are wearing yoga pants.

I hate the way the yoga pant trend has made the idea of "black pants" mean "that which you wear to contort your body in the name of physical and spiritual flexibility". I've seen it paired with a hoodie, a tunic, a grocery store smock, even as part of a suit.

The worst is the fact that I can't wear my black (dress) capris to work without fearing someone thinking I'm wearing stretchy athletic gear. Lululemon, I place the blame on you for messing with my once perfect: "Mix of business and casual" approach to business casual (that is: one business piece + one casual piece + one statement piece)

So believe me when I tell you, these are not yoga pants. These were once full length pants which I cropped for summer wear. They have a button and a zipper. They have three slit pockets. They have a crease down the front and require ironing.

Words from the couch

Context: Quote from Dexter
Rita: It's hard to hide a secret from your wife.
Dexter: Why would you want to?

Scott: Cara, I've been hiding a secret from you. I'm a serial killer. Only, instead of "killer" it's "eater" and instead of "serial," it's "cereal"

Marriage Advice

Our first year of marriage is coming to a close, and we have a big problem.

We don't know what to do for our anniversary.

We concocted a great plan about 4 months ago - we complained when we discovered we'd planned our wedding for the same weekend as the local folk festival. However, this worked to our advantage: a no-thought-needed gift & activity to celebrate our marriage every year.We were STOKED when we heard Feist was playing.... only to discover she was playing the Wednesday night, and there wasn't much that interested us for the rest of the weekend.

We've tossed around other ideas (a night in a fancy hotel... a weekend at the in-laws cabin... a nice dinner out...) but everything just felt... a little cliché... more "anniversary" and less "us".

Now, despite that last sentiment, I (we) need your help... what were some anniversaries / dates / events that you've shared with a loved one that were unique or memorable?

Mid-Month Check Up

Even though I haven't really been blogging, I've been trying to keep reducing my sugar intake. Among the changes made so far:
 - Altered my daily smoothie recipe by replacing fruit-flavoured yogurt with plain, and a tablespoon of white sugar with a teaspoon of honey
 - Replaced my sugar (and salt) -laden peanut butter with natural
 - Drastically reduced sweets consumption at work.

Among the differences I've noticed:
 - I only crave sweets for a couple days following a "sweet binge".
 - Related, I crave sweets less, but tend to want salty options 
 - I've been more motivated to ensure I have made a proper breakfast and lunch before I go to bed.

Curating my closet catch-up

It's been a few weeks since I've posted what I've gotten rid of from my closet. I'll try to do it quickly to not bore you, and I've made a theme about it: Shoes.

All three pairs were bought on a whim (Walmart, Walmart and Payless). They were great for the short term, filling a specific void, but all were cheap and pinched and blistered something fierce.

Out in the outdoors

We aren't using our patio enough. And there is one reason for that - we still have work and family and things.

Ok, ok, we don't spend all the rest of our time out there. There aren't any outlets on our balcony, and my little netbook doesn't run too quickly unless there is a constant stream of electricity to it. From time to time, we do try to unplug (literally, not figuratively. My netbook is, as always, ever present), and eat outside.

Fresh air, fresh veggies and a fresh take on life!!

The ripple effect

I haven't been planning outfits out ahead of time like usual. Instead, I quickly throw stuff together in the morning. The speed usually means rushing around in the morning, feeling harried as I fly out the door, and not taking the time to see what exactly I look like.

Wednesday morning was no exception. I was zipping up my boots, ready to run out the door when Scott quickly called from down the hall: "You look all cute and sassy in that"

Sure I still had to run down the hallway, across the lawn, through the parking lot, down the street and around the corner. I still didn't get a chance to see exactly what I looked like. But for the rest of the day, I knew I looked polished.

Was I any more pulled together than any other day? Not necessarily; it's hard to say without having seen myself. But just knowing someone else thought I looked good made me feel that good. From my interactions with colleagues and students, to my attention to work, I felt more confident. Was it the colours? The fit? It wasn't about the clothes; it was about knowing someone thought I was beautiful.

Two and a half weeks of thought

So my blogging hiatus seems to keep going and going and going... I certainly didn't expect it to last this long. I've spent some time contemplating why I had such a sudden and extreme shut down. I've shortened the list down to one general reason... I've outgrown... everything.... with my blog.

First and foremost, I've outgrown my technology. I've become increasingly frustrated with my camera and trying to focus it when using the self-timer. And with the configuration of our apartment, it's difficult to deal with lighting issues. I really want to develop my photography skills, but as great as my point and shoot camera is, I need a camera with more range.

Secondly, my computer lags something fierce. My desktop will turn 10 this fall. My netbook will turn 3. Yes, I've upgraded pieces on my desktop, and I do take decent care of my netbook, both have outlived their usefulness. Loading pics off of my camera is an exercise in patience. Editing them? Yikes.

Finally, Cara's Closet doesn't quite leave much room for evolution. Clothing, a still a favorite topic of mine, feels a little limiting. Yes, I tried to expand it with my new weekly schedule, but that felt too regulated. In trying to stop the regulation, I stopped blogging all together. It just seemed to hard trying to break the free of the ootd (outfit of the day) format especially given the association with clothing in the name.

The first two are easy solutions. I am in the process of researching what kind of camera and computer would fit my needs (currently a Rebel T3i and a MacBook Air are the frontrunners in each category). By the end of summer I should have both. Add to that a cell phone upgrade in fall, and I'll enter the 21st century.

The last one? A number of my favorite bloggers have gone on hiatus in the last year and every time, I have thought "why are they quitting? They don't need to quit. They are may feel they've outgrown the blog but I haven't outgrown them!" I feel the same way about own. I have made no plans to quit blogging, but I may quit Cara's Closet.

I haven't made any decisions yet. Instead, what I'd like to hear is your thoughts on:
1. Laptops offering portability and power
2. DSLRs that can grow with my skills
3. Favorite parts of Cara's Closet
4. What you'd always wanted to see on here / read about
5. Blogger vs Wordpress

Thanks, dudes... I've missed you all!

Honey, oh sugar sugar, you are my candy, girl!

My attempts to cut way back on refined sugar in June are off to a rocky start, given I forgot Friday was the first day of June. Between forgetting to make my smoothie on Thursday night and therefore grabbing a quick sugar-laden breakfast (lower-sugar instant oatmeal) and then opting for a grape cream soda while for Friday socializing with co-workers. But set backs will happen, so starting off with one? Should be par for the course!

So here is my plan:

1. Plan ahead
It means stocking up on appropriate desk-side treats to keep me from running to the cafeteria at 3:00 for a sugar-y fix (in my defense, the cafeteria on campus makes everything from scratch - even their peanut butter - using fresh, simple ingredients in socially responsible ways)

2. Make ahead
It means finding recipes for some of my favourite treats that have sugar alternatives, such as my oatmeal to go bars.

3. Think ahead
It means not getting stuck on days when I just have to have that cookie, or need the ketchup on my burger.

So what constitutes sugar in my "no sugar" plan?
1. Granulated white and brown sugar
2. Processed food products that contain large amounts of refined sugars (cookies, ketchup, barbecue sauce)
3. Artificially created sweeteners such as Splenda, Aspartame, etc.

What is allowed?
1. Honey
2. Naturally occurring sugars found in fresh foods like apples, bananas and carrots
3. Moderated amounts of sugar products at special occasions and while being a guest in someone else's home

What are my goals?
1. Reduce my dependance on sugar
2. Get into the habit of avoiding processed foods
3. Increase my daily intake of fruits and vegetables

Hopefully, over the month, I'll be able to stop in from time to time to post some of the great recipes I'll be trying!
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