Friday, March 30, 2012

Big Macs - Basically Salad

One time I was eating lunch with a few people at work and the conversation somehow turned to McDonalds.  I don't remember how the discussion got started, or what particular aspect of McDonalds we were talking about, but I definitely will always remember this quote from someone in the conversation:

"Well, a Big Mac is practically half salad!  You barely get any burger, it's all lettuce."

Here is a picture of a Big Mac from the McDonalds website:

Ah, I see what you mean.  I can barely see the meat and bread behind all that lettuce and pickle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's up with the garlic anyway

So you should know about my garlic that I planted in January and I mentioned last week that I was going to maybe try to dig it up to see what was going on (if you are a real gardener reading this you're probably like WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU but I am blaming it on my engineering background).  So I did dig up one plant the other day to see what was happening and there were a LOT of roots, which I should have left undisturbed (I'm the worst) and instead of the little clove I planted, it seemed to have rounded out a bit.

It looked a bit like a "seed onion", you know those little tiny onion bulbs you plant and then they turn into giant onions?  So anyway clearly it was not time to dig up yet.  I put it back and hopefully it doesn't die.

I did some more reading about garlic because the internet was giving me some conflicting ideas, and it turns out that garlic needs quite a bit of heat to actually mature, so unless you have a heat lamp or something, I don't know how feasible it is to actually grow garlic indoors in the winter.  You can absolutely START it indoors, which I have done, but I think it's going to need a summer outside in the hot sun to finish.

What you're supposed to do with garlic for best results is plant the cloves in the fall so the roots get established, then it sort of has a dormant period over the winter, and then it grows in the summer and you harvest the following fall after you planted.  Interesting!  So I think for now I'm going to leave my garlic to sleep in the garage until it gets warm out and then see what happens over the summer.  My parents planted a bunch of garlic last summer and it didn't do anything so they just left it over the winter - I'm interested to see how their crop turns out.

In case you are still horrified that I would dig up a plant to see what was going on, I think that's just kind of my style.  I hope someday I'm one of those master gardener type people who can figure out a way to grow kiwis in Saskatchewan (people do it, believe it or not) and stuff, and I think for me sometimes digging stuff up to see how a plant is developing helps me to learn.  Experimenting with growing things is the most fun, even if I occasionally kill something without meaning to.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Yogi Returns

Since my post where I first introduced Yogi, the cutest dog I know, I have received many more pictures.  These ones don't have a theme like the first set but they are still very cute and I'm sure you will love them if you love puppies.

Yogi turned 10 on the weekend so happy birthday, tiny dog!

 Yogi likes to squeeze in between a person and the couch.  The snuggliest dog!

 Obviously Yogi likes to sleep on people and things, like giant piles of blankets.

 KITTY how did you get in here!!!

Just a couple of laser dogs fighting over a duck I guess?  (This is Boson who belongs to my friend Danielle, and her friend whose head she is sitting on.  I know these dogs aren't Yogi but this is a post about dogs okay.)

 Yogi wants to sit at the table with the people.


Snow buddy.

Thanks to Jamie (and Brahm I think) for all the pictures!

Friday, March 23, 2012

RSS Feed Trouble Again!!!

So it looks like Google Reader is choosing not to publish my blog again this morning??  Here's a link if you're seeing this in an RSS feed.  I'm going to have to figure out why it is not publishing my Friday posts.

Crest Pro-Health Peels Your Skin Off

**NOTE:  This post is long, but I recommend you read it because it may save you from a LOT of potential dental health issues at some point!  

A couple years ago I bought a tube of Crest Pro-Health toothpaste because it was on sale.  I used it for a while because I kind of liked that it made my mouth feel really clean - it had gritty bits in it that reminded me of that polish they use at the dentist, so I felt like my mouth was getting scrubbed pretty good.

However, I also noticed that it seemed to make the skin peel off the inside of my mouth and sometimes made my tongue hurt, which was sort of gross, plus it was expensive, so I eventually stopped using it.  Shortly afterwards, I went to the dentist and found out I had receding/inflamed gums and was told I was probably brushing my teeth too hard so to use only extra-soft toothbrushes and brush my teeth lighter.

A year passed of me using only extra-soft toothbrushes and light teeth-brushing and coincidentally (I did not realize at the time), no Crest Pro-Heath.  I went back to the dentist and was told my gums had healed from last year's issues.  Hooray!  They gave me a bunch of coupons for some free Crest Pro-Health.

"This is sweet," I thought, "going to the dentist is basically paying for itself in all this free toothpaste!"  I went out and picked up a tube with one of my coupons.  I took the tube to work for my backup toothpaste for when I ran out of the tube I was currently using.

Near the end of last shift, I ran out of Colgate Total and used Crest Pro-Health for my last couple days of work.  I noticed that the skin-peeling thing was starting again, but didn't think much of it.  When I came back the next week, about 4 days into my shift, the skin peeling was getting out of control (every time I brushed my teeth a layer of skin would peel off the inside of my mouth) and my mouth was starting to hurt a bit.  I finally realized that MAYBE this wasn't a good thing for a toothpaste to be doing, so I Googled the issue to find out if it was a common problem.

And holy crap - there are a lot of people out there who've had the same problem and worse.  I know several people who do use this toothpaste and don't have any issues, but perhaps for people with more sensitive skin in their mouth or something, it can definitely do some major damage!  I had primarily the same reaction as the latter link - skin peeling off the inside of my mouth to the point where my mouth was dry and my tongue felt like it had been burned, which it had.

I find it interesting that the Crest website defends the fact that it is chemically burning the skin off the inside of people's mouths by saying the following:

Since using Pro-Health toothpaste, I've noticed a "shedding" of the lining of my mouth. It is like a layer peels off each time I use it. My mouth feels cleaner than ever, but I'm not sure if this is normal.
The shedding that you have noticed in your mouth is not unsafe and is a result of the natural process to remove dead cells from the skin surfaces in your mouth. The cleaning action of both Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste and Crest Pro-Health Rinse can accelerate this process and often results in the skin coming off in sheets, making the removal of dead skin cells more noticeable. 

Okay.  I'm no doctor/dentist BUT I am pretty sure that any "cleaning action" in a daily cleanser to ANY part of your body, especially inside your mouth, should not be peeling off a layer of skin every time you use it.  I'm not dermatologist but I am pretty sure that dead skin doesn't "generate" that fast after you burn off a layer.

So then I also Googled the main ingredient in Crest Pro-Health, the one that is gritty and supposedly is awesome at removing tartar according to Crest:  sodium hexametaphosphate, a major component in water softener salt.  As a registered Engineer-in-Training also certified in WHMIS (and WHMIS for Supervisors, NO BIG D), I also looked up the MSDS for this ingredient and SURPRISE, it is a major skin irritant!

After finding out this crazy information, I still had a few days left in my shift with only Crest Pro-Health to use for brushing my teeth.  I used it for another couple of days but the pain and dryness in my mouth only worsened, to the point where it was painful to eat because I felt like my tongue had been badly burned (you know how you burn your mouth on hot pizza or whatever?  That's exactly what it felt like, but I hadn't eaten any hot pizza or especially hot food).  I started telling people about my problem because I felt like it was my duty to warn others about the dangers of Crest Pro-Health, and eventually someone took pity on me and gave me a tube of Colgate Total.

It was like instant relief - my mouth honestly felt soothed after brushing my teeth with the Colgate.  I think it's because toothpaste is supposed to be gentle on the delicate skin inside your mouth and not cause further irritation if you have, oh I don't know, CHEMICAL BURNS INSIDE YOUR MOUTH, for example.

Unfortunately this did not instantly reverse the damage.  I've had blisters building up in my mouth for the past few days (I have never had mouth blisters in my life) and my tongue still feels a little burnt, but it seems to be healing alright.  Needless to say I am NEVER using Crest Pro-Health (and maybe any Crest products at all in protest) again in my life.

The thing that bothers me the most about this whole situation is that where did I get this toothpaste?  FROM MY DENTIST, who noticed I had gum inflammation and receding gums at one point from supposedly being too harsh on the inside of my mouth.  So great idea to help me fix this problem by loading me up with a super harsh toothpaste that dissolves my mouth skin and gums!  And don't defend the poor dentists on this one - they MUST know that Crest Pro-Health causes irritation for a lot of people by now.  Even the Crest website acknowledges that this is an issue, except they try to cover it up by being like "you're just getting your mouth EXTRA CLEAN!"  Um, yeah, usually when people try to burn their skin off to get "extra clean" that's a sign of a serious psychological problem, not something that health care professionals generally recommend their patients do.  If you read through a lot of the complaints on that consumer affairs website or the comments on the blog I linked above, some people spent a lot of money trying to diagnose the "medical problem" that their dentist/doctor insisted they must have because their skin was peeling off the inside of their mouth.  Because there's no way it might be caused by something like a high-end toothpaste that the dentists are pushing on all their patients.

Due to the fact that my blog seems to get its highest traffic numbers from my dental-themed posts (celeb!!), I'm hoping this post follows suit too because I'm legitimately angry that this product exists and is promoted by dental professionals (that's why I titled it like a Google search).  Yeah, maybe it works fine for some people with no issues, but there's a lot of us that have had severe reactions to it so in my opinion it's irresponsible for dentists to be recommending it to all of their patients, especially ones they know have sensitive gums.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

RSS Feed Problem

Hey friends, if you catch my blog through Google Reader or another RSS feed, last Friday's post did not show up in my Google Reader (what, I subscribe to my own blog) so maybe it also didn't show up in yours.  Weird!  So anyway if you missed it, you should click that link and go read it.  If not, carry on.  I'll be back tomorrow with a thrilling expose on the toothpaste industry.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stock Photos

One of my favourite things to cook is soup.  Soup is generally amazingly easy to make, although you can get complicated and fancy if you want.  I enjoy making the whole spectrum:  simple pureed soups, soups with a ton of different ingredients (I made that one recently from the new Looneyspoons book and it's awesome), but I think maybe my favourite kind of soups to make are comfort soups started from absolute scratch:  chicken noodle and beef barley.

These soups can only be as good as their stock, so for me, the real fun and challenge is making an amazing stock.  I actually love this part so much because I am super awesome at making stock and I will brag about my amazing and delicious stock until you are sick of hearing about it but totally jealous that you can't make stock as good as mine.  (I should note, when I make pureed soups and stuff I just use powdered stock for the base because I consider my scratch stock to be too good to use in a soup that will just hide its flavour.)

I don't have any secrets though, as the recipe for stock is basically just boil a bunch of stuff and add some salt and eventually it will be delicious!  I don't quite understand how people who make bad stock do it.  Last time I made chicken stock it was absolutely out of this world though, and I think the reason for that was that I added leeks as a stock ingredient - I will never make stock without leeks again because they add a ton of great flavour.

Here is my recipe though, if you're interested:

Throw the following in a pot and simmer for a few hours until it tastes like you want it to:

Chicken carcass or beef soup bones

Strain the broth to get rid of all the gross bits (this is important so your soup looks and tastes nice and clear).

Especially with the beef, there will be a lot of melted fat floating around, so what I do to extract the straight stock and remove the fat is put the strained broth outside (if it's winter) or in the fridge until the fat solidifies and then remove it, leaving only flavourful stock behind.

That's all!  For my chicken noodle soup I then add chopped carrots, celery, (pre-cooked) noodles, shredded chicken, and fresh parsley if I have any.  For the beef barley I add tomato paste, chopped carrots and celery, shredded beef, and (pre-cooked) barley and lentils (the lentils are not a "classic" beef barley soup ingredient but I like the added nutrition they provide, and they don't have much flavour so they're just easy to throw in without sacrificing anything).

Here are some of my "stock photos" (they aren't that great but I just wanted to call them stock photos):

Last time I made beef stock I didn't need to use the whole batch for a pot of soup, so I froze half the batch in a sandwich bag in the freezer (it was really concentrated so it was only about half a cup or so of liquid).  Today I decided to make another batch of beef soup so I chopped up some carrots and celery and then put them in a pot.  I took a sandwich bag with some brown frozen liquid out of the freezer and dumped it on the carrots and celery.  It didn't look quite right though - it just didn't seem like enough liquid and it had appeared to have become extra dark during its two-month stay in the freezer.  I smelled it to see if it was actually beef, but it didn't have a smell.  I was beginning to suspect it might be a liquified banana, but there was only one way to find out.

I touched my finger to the gelatinous brown lump and then tasted.  It didn't really have much of a taste and I wasn't about to take a bite because quite honestly it looked like actual poop, but I seemed to get a bit of sweetness on my tongue.  I looked again in the freezer and found my bag of frozen stock.  Excellent, I had a thawing liquid banana in my soup pot.  Luckily I was able to scoop it out in one piece:

I know, looks like poop right?  Gross!

The real bag of stock.

I'm glad my instincts told me that the banana-poop wasn't actually beef stock and I was able to save my soup... because it was awesome.  You wish you could have some but you CAN'T.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wedding DIY

Remember how I was going to make these stupid lanterns for wedding decor, so I could say I at least made one craft?  Yeah so that's out.  Why?  They weren't especially hideous or anything, but they just weren't fun to make either.  They were annoying to make and the thought of having to make 50-100 of them is stressful.  So they're out.  We'll buy a bunch of tea light holders from Ikea/the dollar store and sell them on Kijiji after the wedding.

I've talked before about one of my favourite blogs, A Practical Wedding.  Something really awesome about A Practical Wedding is that its creator, Meg Keene, wrote an awesome awesome amazing book also called A Practical Wedding.  I think everyone who ever plans to have, be in, or even attend a wedding sometime in their life should read it.  It's just got incredibly practical, sane advice and insights about weddings that most people don't think about, or stress out about because they think you have to do it, but the book is like "you don't have to do that!" or "here's why this situation is stressful and here's how to deal with it" so it's awesome.  Definitely the best wedding-related literature out there, not that I've read a lot, but I can't imagine anything better.

SO, how did I get from lantern to book?  Here's some great advice from the book about DIY projects, which are totally all the rage at weddings these days:  don't do them if they're not fun.  Do them if they ARE fun for you, or if you can't afford not to, but don't do them if they're going to stress you out and you can afford to pay for the alternative.

Brilliant and simple advice, right?  Duh, really, but wedding culture is a weird one to navigate.  You want to make your wedding your own, so you want to do nice crafty things... but you have to realize when it's time to Say No to Crafts.  And that time is when you hate them.

We're taking the advice and still doing some things that ARE fun for us.  For Brahm, that's designing the invitations (in Adobe InDesign, no gluing ribbons onto 5 layers of coloured paper for us thanks) and wedding website.  For me, it's growing the flowers and making the floral "arrangements" (throwing a few flowers into a vase or taping them into a bouquet).

Obviously I'm great at growing tomatoes and herbs and okay at growing other random vegetables, but I've never really been interested in growing flowers until now.  But thinking about it more, there's a whole bunch of cool stuff to learn about growing flowers for cutting which I'm really excited to learn - when to cut the flowers and how long to hydrate them in water so they'll be good in bouquets, etc.

I've got about 20 bucks' worth of heirloom sunflower and other good cutting flower seeds, and all the "vases" were donated (that's a surprise for later though), so if I can pull this off our entire wedding flower and centrepiece budget will be under 50 bucks, and extremely environmentally friendly.  Sunflowers are also some of the easiest plants to grow too, so I'm hoping for success!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Garden 2012: It begins!

How is my garlic doing?  Well I'm not totally sure but I think it's still alive and growing.  It seems to be drying out a bit but I'm not sure if that's good or bad and it fell over quite a long time ago:

I'm not sure if this is good or bad or what but it's a bulb, so I don't think I can really kill it unless I overwater it too much right?  I'm nervous to dig them up to check but maybe I should - like I said, it's a bulb.  Maybe this is a project for next week so stay tuned.

What are those little plants at the bottom of the picture?  I started some of my summer plants already!  Hooray!

A few weeks ago I started my Goyo Kumba eggplant, which I learned from trying to grow eggplant last summer, probably need a big head start on the tomatoes.  Most of the plants are poking through the soil now, with a few late bloomers still coming up.  I'm not totally sure if this experiment will work but I'm excited to at least try!  A close up:

One thing I'm doing with all my indoor starter pots is filling them completely with vermicompost from last summer's harvest instead of dirt from the store - I'm hoping this ensures a super healthy head start!  Seems to be working fine so far, and I've actually had to weed the pots a bit because random seeds from other things that got composted last year are sprouting in the fertile mix.

Today (note: this post was scheduled - I actually wrote it last weekend) I got impatient and with an okay from a plant scientist I decided to start my tomatoes!  I think this is okay because at the rate spring is coming, I imagine I'll be able to start keeping my plants outside a lot earlier this year than last year, so starting them a couple weeks ahead of time this year should be okay and will actually give them a good head start.

This year, even though I don't like to mess with a system I know works, I decided to buy a Jiffy Greenhouse for my tomatoes to save space and so I wouldn't have to go through the whole separating of plants like I did last year:

So that's 24 little starter pellets in a compact little tray (and I added a bunch of vermicompost for the nutrients) that when the seeds are ready for transplanting, I just pick up the dirt clump and plant it in a bigger pot!  I'm hoping there's no downside to this.

I'm doing the same variety of tomatoes as last year, plus the spoon tomatoes I talked about a while ago, and a really dark, almost black variety that I can't wait to taste.

I also planted something REALLY COOL today that I really hope works:

That's cauliflower!  (Source - I ordered from here too.)  It looks so cool and I love cauliflower anyway so I wanted to try it out.  Because cauliflower is in the cabbage family I'll have to be careful about maggots, but I'm prepared.

I think this might be it for my vegetable planting this year, since I also want to plant flowers for wedding use (post coming about that soon).  No doubt I will have all my usual herbs, and I'll probably be too tempted to not pick up another vegetable seedling or two at a greenhouse sometime in the spring (it's seriously an addiction) but these are my major food-growing projects for the summer.

I can't wait to see how these all turn out and I hope this is interesting (possibly inspiring?) for you to read!  Planting things is so much fun.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One Hundred Pushups

About 4 years ago Brahm and I both started working on the One Hundred Pushups training program.  It's a very very simple pushup program where you do (ideally) 5-8 sets of pushups 3 times a week for 6 weeks (but most likely it will take you much longer than 6 weeks, probably more like 10-20), adding a few each time, until you are strong enough to do 100 pushups in a row at the end of the program.  Check out the website to see how the weeks work.

It's really for absolutely anyone, even the tiniest, weakest weaklings like me because the first day you literally do sets of 2 and 3 pushups.  It's super amazing though how fast you do build muscle and how fast you can suddenly pump out 20+ pushups in a row like it ain't no thang.  Two weeks in and you'll suddenly realize you have muscles and can lift things that you couldn't before.

Last time I tried the program I ended up giving up in around the 4th week - we went on a camping trip and it is basically impossible to do pushups when you are camping, and when we got back I just felt like I'd fallen behind and didn't want to do it anymore so I stopped.  But this time I started again because it was really cold at work (like -40) so I couldn't walk to my office from camp, and I am a gymophobe (afraid of going to the gym because I don't know how to even turn on a treadmill), so I felt like I needed to at least do some sort of exercise, even if it was just a bit of strength training, so I started the program again.  I also admit I was being a little bit vain and wanted my arms to be toned in my wedding dress this summer, although those results could realistically be achieved just by doing a few pushups each day during the week or so before the wedding, given how fast pushups build muscle.

I'm now about halfway through Week 5 (the weakling Week 5, i.e. the one that starts with 17), meaning I almost did Day 2 of Week 5 but not quite, so I'll repeat it until I can get all the sets done without collapsing.  At the end of Week 5 I'm supposed to be able to do 45 pushups in a row (I know, me??) and then it will be on to the final week, after which I should be able to do 100 pushups in a row!

I cannot stress how easy this program is to follow if you decide to commit to it, and how incredibly fast you begin to see and feel the results.  And how awesome would it be to be able to brag that you can do 100 pushups in a row?  Even most athletic-types suck at pushups! 

A couple neat things I've learned this time around:  a lot of being able to do the sets is in your head.  If you dread doing them and feel like you're not going to get a set, you probably won't be able to.  I've definitely noticed that as soon as I give up mentally I struggle a lot more, but if I'm in a better mindset going in, I can usually squeeze out a few more pushups.  Also, resting a day or two between program days is crucial - it's much harder when you try to do the sets the next day.  It's really neat to see how your body requires the time to grow the muscle (is that how it works?  It grows muscle tissue?  Sounds right I guess), and how much stronger you suddenly are two days after doing the sets.

I'd recommend this program to anyone, but especially anyone who is looking for a really easy program to follow and an easy, free way to get some muscles in the comfort of your own home.  It really works great and it's super cool to feel these almost immediate changes in your body as you build strength on a daily basis.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lime Yogurt: The Continuing Saga

Note:  the day after writing this I FOUND SOME LIME YOGURT at Sobeys so it really does have a happy ending, but I had already wrote this tragic blog so why waste it right?  Just know that you don't have to be super sad for me after all.

OMG okay you guys I am SERIOUSLY sad.  Remember how I was so excited about Oikos making key lime yogurt, because key lime yogurt is like my actual favourite food of all time?

So anyway, you would think that this is where the saga ends because my favourite food is once again available for purchase in my local grocery store so I can just go buy it whenever I want!  This should be the happy ending to the story of me and lime yogurt, star cross'd lovers.  BUT IT'S NOT.  The story does not have a happy ending.  The story has an EXTREMELY SAD ending and we are still star cross'd lovers.

On Thursday I went out to buy some lime yogurt.  I went to Sobeys, where it had been on sale, and it was sold out.  A little bit of sadness set in.  All I wanted was lime yogurt and it was the one thing Sobeys didn't have.  I remembered my sister telling me that some of the people she works with told her you have to go early in the morning because it always sells out.

After Sobeys, I went to every single other place I thought might sell Oikos lime yogurt on 8th St in Saskatoon:  Superstore, Co-op, Safeway, and even Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drugs.  NOTHING!  The only other store that actually sells it besides Sobeys was Co-op, and they were also sold out.

Sad and dejected, I went home with a plan to hit up Sobeys early the next day.  I was sad that I'd have to wait a whole extra day to get my favourite food, which I'd been looking so forward to for almost 2 weeks now since I last had it in Montreal.

The next morning, I got up early and headed over to Sobeys around 9 am.  The lime yogurt spot on the shelf was empty.  I asked one of the shelf stockers if he knew if they were getting more in.

"I don't even think the company can keep up with the demand for that yogurt, because we keep trying to order more because it sells out so fast but they hardly ever send us any" he said.


So I went to Co-op, hoping for a lime yogurt miracle, but it was the same situation.  Co-op sure had tons of strawberry yogurt though, which is gross, like who actually eats strawberry yogurt, how about NO ONE.  Hey Oikos how about stop making so much gross boring strawberry yogurt and make more lime yogurt which is WHAT THE PEOPLE OBVIOUSLY WANT.

I am now very very sad about this, because who knows when and if I will ever get this elusive key lime yogurt again.  What if the company is like "it's not worth all the extra work to keep up with the demand" and discontinue it?  I don't live close enough to a Sobeys or a Co-op that it's feasible for me to keep checking out the stock every single morning that I'm home, and from the sounds of it on the rare occasions that they actually do get any in stock, it sells out right away.

Unless I have a stroke of luck to be at the right grocery store at the right time, or unless Oikos decides to start producing way more, it is not looking good for me and lime yogurt :(

Just give the people what they want, Oikos!  And what they want is not strawberry.