Monthly Archives: April 2013

Only Child gardens environmentally

Only Child' front garden - later in summer.

Only Child’ front garden – later in summer.

My environmental day of reckoning occurred in the mid-1970s when I opened a packet of corn seeds and saw pink. At that time I was living in a townhouse with my then husband and we had rented a garden plot just north of Toronto. As I write in part two of my memoir You Can Go Home – Reconstruct

Pink powder wafts out into the air and covers my fingers. What is this? Corn is yellow. I don’t remember any of Mom’s vegetable seeds containing this pink dust. Some research in reading gardening books and asking questions at the nearest garden centre confirm the seeds have been treated with a fungicide to protect them from damp-off and root rot. I’m afraid of getting poisoned from touching the seeds and have decided I will wear gloves to plant the corn. That same year when we visit my godmother on her farm, her youngest son comes in from planting the corn with his blond hair and fair skin pink, not from the sun, but from the fungicide.

I am forever turned organic and will wage war on pesticides.(Copyright 2010 Sharon A. Crawford)

Since then my vegetable, herb and flower gardens, and even the lawns (with one exception when cinch bugs attacked the backyard lawn in Aurora, Ontario), I have stayed away from fungicides, pesticides and the like. Before the last few years when everyone got on the no pesticide bandwagon, I had several confrontations with next-door neighbours over…dandelions growing in my lawn in Aurora.

The first neighbour over to my left banged on my front door and offered to pay for Mr. Weed Remover to sprayer my lawn. As this was soon after my husband and I separated, perhaps Mr. Neighbour felt I couldn’t afford this service. I soon set him straight. Afterwards I was worried and angry so I needed to talk about it to someone who had some authority over “Gerry” –  his Anglican priest. All he did was try to soothe with platitudes like “Gerry was just trying to be helpful.”

Neighbour No. 2  on the other side banged on my front door and offered to cut my lawn. I was insulted but at that time was a very busy mother of a grade 23 teenage boy and between running around to his school extra activities and my freelance writing career, cutting the lawn had low priority. I told Mr. Neighbour No. 2 that I would get to it later in the week when I had time.

But when Neighbour No. 1 moved, Nemesis moved in. A couple, originally from South Carolina and their two boys (both born in Toronto) and their environmental-friendly ways moved in. Soon two front lawns sprouted dandelions. I suspect the previous owner (still in Aurora) had conniptions whenever he drove by and saw his old lawn. The neighbour on the other side now minded his own business.

Fast forward to when I moved back to Toronto in 1998. I continued (and still to do this day) removing dandelions by hand using a weeder and don’t get much, if any, flack except for complaints about goldenrod growing in a few places and now for my rosebushes sticking out. I trim the latter and tell the goldenrod haters that it is considered a native plant. And you don’t kill native plants these days.

Sometimes “yellow” can be good.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, Weeding

Only Child on gardening and weather

 Only Child as a toddler  in the backyard garden with her late Mom

Only Child as a toddler in the backyard garden with her late Mom

Yesterday I spent a bit of time clearing some of the garden. Removing  the dead perennial stems and branches so that the tulips, crocuses and hyacinths could appear in all their glory (finally) helped bring on the illusion of spring. I say “illusion” because of all the crappy weather occurring in North America and elsewhere in the world. I’m not convinced spring is here to stay but I’m taking what is offered.

The ritual and actual practice of doing anything in the garden tends to slow me down, including my usual racing mind. I can admire the different colours (although mostly purples so far) and smell the hyacinths. I can check out the tulip plants and see the beginning of a bulb in one and imagine the red tulips that will emerge and colour my garden.

If the “weather” doesn’t mess it all up.

Not a fanciful worry if you take into account all the recent/current floods in Ontario’s cottage country, in Illinois and Texas and what is just waiting to happen in North Dakota and Manitoba. There was even a tornado in Shelbourne, Ontario over the weekend as well as snow in different parts of Canada and the US. Around the world there are earthquakes, snowstorms, heavy winds, droughts, extremely hot and humid weather, etc. – much of it way out of typical seasonal weather.

But nothing is normal about the weather on planet earth anymore. No matter where you live you can’t escape it. The mostly calm and normal weather when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in southern Ontario, Canada (Toronto to be exact) no longer exists. Sure we had hot humid summer days (and no air conditioning). My mother used to set up the card table and chairs in the shade in the backyard or in the unfinished basement and bring out all the dishes and food for supper. Sure, we had Hurricane Hazel hit us in fall 1954 (and that is dating me) but that was it for extra-ordinary (that I can remember). None of these extremes in weather we experience now and certainly not what is now a given – basement flooding at some point or points in time.

And I’m going to go out on a limb here (figuratively speaking, for now anyway), and say I’m not sure it is all human-caused global warming. I’m not religious, but I think there might be something in the “ranting” and “predictions” of some religious groups. The world didn’t end in October 2012, but when you see/read about all the crazy weather, you start to wonder. To paraphrase a line from a commercial “it’s not nice to offend Mother Nature” – however, Mother Nature is a figment of someone’s imagination. I’ve touched on this in a previous post. The very word “Mother” does not bring up visions of constantly living on the edge of a bad weather precipice.

So what is one to do? I’m going to try to get out in the garden as much as I can…and enjoy the relative peace – that is when I’m not anchoring down garbage bins, chairs and potted plants.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child' front garden - later in summer.

Only Child’s front garden – later in summer.

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Filed under 1950s, Extreme Weather, Floods, Gardening, Mom and Dad, Only child, Rain and wind storm, Sharon A. Crawford, Sign of the Times, Snow, Toronto, Weather

Only Child on seniors’ age versus finances

Only Child  contemplates some harsh realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh realities

When is a senior a senior? Is it 65? Or 60? Or maybe 59? Or maybe 70? Being senior is not necessarily your age, how you feel or how your health is. Being senior boils down to one thing – money.

Last week I did the draft of my income tax returns for 2012. Not only was the income from all sources paltry but what I can’t claim for senior tax credits upset me because I’m not quite 65 – the age the Canadian Federal government puts for seniors’ tax credits, Old Age Security  and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments (the latter can be clawed back when you do your tax returns).

But, wait a minute – the Feds aren’t consistent here. Canada Pension Plans can be paid out from age 60. Last year I opted to start receiving them and many months they saved my bacon. But if my tax calculations are correct (or nearly correct – I have to go through the draft again) my income tax payment is around the same amount as one month’s CPP payment.

Besides not qualifying for seniors’ tax credits, I’m not married or living common law and don’t have a child under 18, so can’t qualify for those tax credits either. My medical-health expenses either don’t qualify or aren’t sufficient to work in with the percentage deduction there. So I’m left with tax credits for a bank service and for having a pass for Toronto public transportation. Oh, I can fill out the form for Ontario property tax credits (age isn’t a “qualification” here) – but it is no longer used as a tax credit when filing your taxes – if approved, you get a monthly payment for the next year.

But wait a minute: the Toronto Transit Commission seniors’ age starts at 65; Shoppers Drug Mart is either 60 or 65 (depending on who you ask there), Hudson’s Bay is 60, Sears is – well I don’t know as their Sears Advantage seems geared to all adult ages. VIA Rail is 60.

Can’t we get this age senior setup consistent? I suggest 55, although that won’t help me now. Of course, that isn’t where governments are thinking for seniors’ age. Freedom 55 is more of a dinosaur than we seniors are.

Where does that leave a maybe senior who is living barely above the poverty level (counting all income sources) for a single person living alone in Toronto? (And I did a Google search for that so I’m not making this status up).

Where it leaves me is having to hit on my RRSPS (which are so meagre they wouldn’t keep me for half a year) to pay my taxes and other non-regular expenses (house repairs/replacements and the like). I don’t have a company pension and it’s too late (in my years) to get into this new government pension setup for self-employed. My freelance income sure isn’t sufficient (maybe if I could spend more time at it instead of dealing with repairs and housework, it could improve. But that’s all part of “the only person living just above the poverty line syndrome). I know I’m not the only “senior” swaying in this boat.

So I do an annual hit on my RRSPs? I figure the way things are going (stress, worry, problems, even health) if I don’t they might just outlive me.

Excuse me while I attend to the latest problem – my printer is acting up – it is printing only one page at a time, even when set to do more. And I checked the connections – even switched to another power cord.

What do you think of all this senior age-money nonsense?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Ageism, Aloneness, finances, Income Taxes, Living alone, Old Age, Old Age pensions, Only child, RRSPs, Seniors, Worrying

Only Child weighs in on eating to lose weight

Eat fresh foods where possible to lose weight http://www.arthursclipart.org/vegetables/veggiescol1.htm

Eat fresh foods where possible to lose weight

I’ve never been obese…yet, even as a child. The most I’ve ever weighed was when pregnant. In high school I came close to that pregnancy weight. After gaining five pounds over this past winter, I decided to do something about it.

“Thou shalt not” doesn’t sit too well on my stomach and when your tummy is your main problem due to a digestive disorder (that’s me), maybe looking at what you eat would help. So I trolled through the articles on http://www.besthealthmag.ca and found something really interesting – a slide show (not video) on Top 20 Flat Tummy Foods at http://www.besthealthmag.ca/swap-and-drop/top-20-flat-tummy-foods?slide=1.

Some of the foods and beverages included surprised me. Although one of my favourites, ice cream, didn’t make the list, dark chocolate did. Also included are green tea, olive oil, onions, lemon, cinnamon, cucumber, low fat yogurt, legumes, chicken, turmeric, quinoa, pears, berries, salmon, miso, eggs and greens (especially spinach). At some time or other, I eat or drink all but the olive oil, turmeric and quinoa (although I have the latter and when I figure out what to do with it, I’ll try it). This list has got me motivated to drink or eat more of the other items.

Comments for each slide go into the benefits of each food item – for your tummy and other benefits such as antioxidant (berries, for example). Green tea may take the cake (which is not on the list) because it has a great effect on your metabolism – drinking it often can increase weight loss (as well as bathroom visits, no doubt) but it also slows down fat absorption and is an antioxidant. My green tea supply has disappeared but this three-prong piece of information may get me going to replenish the supply and drink it.

Another article tells you how to beat belly fat http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/prevention/7-ways-to-beat-belly-bloat?slide=1. This one goes into some of the belly fat problems such as gas, bloating, etc. and references IBS. Suggestions include cut down on the salt, drink more water, peppermint tea and a baking soda-water combo (and live in the bathroom – it doesn’t say that).

For those who are focusing on the belly, you might also want to read Five Reasons Your Stomach  Hurts http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/health/5-reasons-your-stomach-hurts – it covers acid indigestion, IBS and hits on the gut-killer – too much stress. Pointers include to cut the stress, calm your nerves and slow because we are always in a chronic state of stress.

That last point says it all. You can try to slow down all you want but will that get rid of the stressors? Getting rid of the stressors has always been my idea of reducing the stress level. However, that is not always easy, especially if, like me, you are alone in the world and have to do and organize everything yourself. Sure, you can try to cut back on what you do (and I’ve blogged about that before), but in reality the stressor may be something you have to do (for example, a painful treatment for a disease, which some people have to go through). And what if the stressor is a person in your life? You can’t go around killing your stressors.

But…I am a writer and journaling about it, putting the “stressor” (disguised and fictionalized, of course) into a short story or novel, works wonders. A relative who really irked me was the inspiration for a bad person in one of my short stories.

And I can pay more attention to what I eat and drink from those 20 food suggestions. I’ll get over ice cream not making the list but…isn’t it written somewhere that we can cheat one day a week? Or eat our favourite food in moderation?

Ice cream does contain milk.

Happy eating.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under antioxidants, Digestive disorder, Health, Only child, Overeating, Stress, Water

Only Child weighs in with super-size kitchens

My childhood kitchen - my uncle, godmother and Mom

My childhood kitchen – my uncle, godmother and Mom

How large is your kitchen? In a New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/is-your-kitchen-a-health-hazard.html?_r=1& paediatrician Neil Isenberg thinks today’s trend towards supersize kitchens is contributing to our supersize bodies. The founder of KidsHealth.org lists all the extras from wi-fi to two fridges to separate freezers to pizza-makers to breadmakers as big contributors. So is our penchant for making our home the centre of entertainment and socializing. It’s all this proximity to food in our daily lives that may do us in.

My kitchen is small – about the same size as the kitchen in my childhood home – the latter a World War II built- bungalow. My current home is post-war (by four years) but the style is similar. Unlike many people, I don’t want a big kitchen – when I moved here 13 years ago I downsized in kitchen space. Visitors still hang out in my kitchen – whether for a party, snack break for my writers’ group gathering, or to eat lunch or dinner. And there are walls between kitchen and living room – no open spaces here. I like my rooms separate.

I have one fridge with freezer on top, stove with smooth top, room for a table and chairs, some counter space, double sink – few extras unless you count the rice steamer, crockpot and drip coffeemaker. No dishwasher (unless you count me) and yes, I have a breadmaker but I have to store it in the linen closet down the short hallway because it doesn’t fit in any kitchen cupboard. I don’t mind that – it’s having to climb up on a chair to get to the second and third cupboard shelves that irks me – but that’s not design – that’s because “the Lord” made me so short (to paraphrase what my late aunt used to say; she was shorter than me).

I like my kitchen; I like my house and its design – despite my complaints about always needing house repairs – but all houses, even new, need repairs. Sure, it’s a throwback to my growing-up years but lately I’ve been leaning back to a lot of things from earlier eras, even before I was born – at least pre-1975 because the more I live the more I see that I don’t like (Note: I do like some current things such as computers, e-readers and wireless phones – when they behave).

But for the most part, hurry-hurry-too-much information- too-much-to-do days do not sit well on my stomach.

And that may be the core of much of society’s obesity. We have too much to deal with, too much coming at us and we eat food for comfort and convenience.

Dr. Izenberg has one thing right. Proximity to food gets us eating more but that doesn’t apply only to super-size kitchens. I don’t have a dining-room per se, as I converted it into my office. However, it is two steps in from my kitchen and I like to snack. I try to do so on healthy foods, but when chocolate is around I get carried away.

My name is Sharon and I am a chocaholic.

So, I try to balance it all by walking and gardening (the latter if spring ever arrives to stay) before I become overweight.

What says you? Does kitchen size equal body size? Or?

Note of interest: At the end of another article at http://www.theloop.ca/opinion/family/article/-/a/2192453/New-study-suggests-that-our-kitchens-could-be-making-us-fat you can vote on kitchen size. I just did and guess what? So far most of those voting have a small kitchen.

Happy, but moderate eating.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Health, Kitchen Size, Life demands, Mother, Obesity, Only child, Overeating, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized