Saturday, May 27, 2017

When Feeling Bad Is Good

So, I tried another experiment. I'd love to tell you it was calculated but, in truth, I saw macaroni and cheese and chocolate stout cake on a menu and I decided, fuck it. I was gonna eat all the sugar and processed grains and no one could stop me. When Scott tried to take a bite of the cake, I went after him with my fork (in case you're in any doubt of the addictive nature of these foods). I added insult to injury with a glass of wine. Oh, and I started the day with half an english muffin (something I've done only 3 times since January). Hmmm...

Oh Lord, people. I was so sick, so fast. And, almost 24 hours later, I'm still feeling mighty bad.

So, what happened?

Well, the first 30 minutes were a blur of utter bliss. Oh, I was high and so freakin' happy. I cannot explain how awesome I felt.

The next 30 minutes were a sad, sugar come-down. I started to feel a bit shaky. Given what I now know about blood sugar, I sense I went into a rebound low. I walked for about 30 minutes. By the time I got home I felt nausea - not surprising since I'd just eaten @ 1000 calories of sugar which I didn't bother to stabilize with anything like fiber or healthy fat or protein.

Then I got super miserable. I thought I might have to end it all as a result of the weather. Truly, I feel this way even with stable blood sugar, these days. It's been raining for weeks. A good day means it only rains half the time and it gets up to 15C. Even the people who don't mind rain are losing it. Those like me are in a perma-melancholic state. But it was particularly pronounced, this misery.

An hour later, I had to take a nap. I had a terrible headache. When I woke, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I didn't want to move but I knew I had to. When I stood up, I was dizzy and my bones/joints hurt terribly. In case I've been wondering whether my new lifestyle/diet has helped my pain, well, I've got my answer. The arthritis, as they call it, kicked in big time.*

Never mind specific symptoms - on a meta level, was so out of sorts, I didn't know what to do with myself. To calm myself, I picked up my needles. When I tried to knit, I noticed that my fingers were super-clumsy. I couldn't gain a rhythm. My body stiffened.

At that point, I ate just about the only thing that didn't make me want to throw up - a handmade coconut oil, cacao, almond butter cup (low in sugar, high in fat and protein) and I drank about 20 glasses of water. Later, I ate a salad for dinner and some pistachios. It took forever for the night to go by but eventually it was a reasonable time to go to sleep. When I woke this morning, my fingers were SO swollen it was crazy. Like old times. My stomach is still a mess.

Wow. I have gone off-road on a few occasions, of course. Usually that means an extra glass of wine or an extra tsp of maple syrup in my drinking chocolate. But I've really avoided the wheat flour to date - partly because there's nothing good about it - unless it's non-processed or from Italy -  and I don't actually miss it (not like I miss rice, for example - and even that I can avoid without difficulty). All that comes of eating it is having eaten it and likely wanting more (as it's in all the yummy things).

Will I do this again? Um, yeah. I'm pretty sure I'll forget how bad I'm currently feeling and the lure of cake will once again set in. But it's not going to happen soon, that's for sure. Also, next time I do it, I'm making the fucking cake cuz my baking is incomparable.

Till then, yours in austerity, K

*We can call it whatever but I'm pretty sure it's sugar and grain induced autoimmune response (aka systemic inflammation). Feel free to disagree, as no test can substantiate this. I'm telling you, I lived the result and I'm sure that's what it is.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Knitting Through The Stash

I’ve been doing a lot of knitting lately but, somehow, my output is down. I can’t explain it. Between January and May 2016, the year of workaholism, I knitted 17 projects. Between this January and May I’ve knitted 8 - and there's currently one project on needles. Am I making more complicated projects this year? Not really. Sure, February was a bit of a wash, with the move, and I have knit some yarn-intensive scarves this year (as opposed to smaller accessories). But I find it hard to believe that these two factors have lead to a 50% decline in productivity in 2017. I do love Ravelry because it gives me endless useful data (and it allows me to contribute to a data stream that will inform other knitters for years to come). And it keeps me honest. I suppose I could compare yarn weights and yardages of individual projects to confirm that my assessment of down-output is correct. One thing's for sure - I'm not knitting any less frequently. Note: I suspect my willingness to plan in ever more detail and to rip back work I'm not loving may be leading to longer spans knitting one item...

Of course, it doesn't matter. Well, I say it doesn't matter but I knit presents, for the most part, all year long and I never have an issue finding good homes for the finished objects. To some extent, knitting is my gift stash - my boutique of hand mades (which do not look home made!). On the one hand, I knit often (and quickly) because that's how I roll. On the other hand, I get to knit all kinds of strange things I might never have come to organically because I'm committed to using my stash yarn (even if I do replace it more frequently than necessary). That combo leads me down a very productive path, for the most part.

My urge to destash (well, not so much to destash as to use the yarn I've purchased because I desired it it and I wanted to use it) has resulted in finished objects that , in retrospect, I'm very happy to have constructed, even if I wouldn't have chosen them under different circumstances (which is to say if I'd had larger yardages of remainder yarn).

That's how these things came to be:

The Vertex vest was a crap shoot - a strange, asymmetric vest that could be very chic or super granola. The yarn, bought in a moment of nostalgia last year, was also a crap shoot. It has great hand but it's an awkward colour, especially in a land so perennially taupe. It took forever to match it to a garment. I aimed to use as much as possible of the 1500 yards I purchased, because it's been strangely difficult to purpose. It's very silky with a ton of drape. It would make a great (if stretch-prone) blanket but I didn't have enough of it to go that route. The colour isn't flattering enough to wear against my skin without something to break up the beige. Vertex uses a lot of yarn for a vest, though less than the pattern suggests, but that's partly because I changed the dimensions - particularly vertically. I didn't want to go too long given that I'm short in the torso - and given the propensity of bamboo to stretch. (Note: the alpaca gives it a kind of resiliency, along with the chainette construction of the yarn, to mitigate over-stretch.)
Vertex Vest
I thought I'd give it away as a big-ticket gift (my mother knows what that means) but I couldn't do it. There's something so warm and comfortable and, strangely, even chic about this vest. It's not perfect but I could see myself making it one more time in a slightly sturdier fabric in a better colour.

What will I do with the remaining yarn? Probably, I'll make another Starshower. Having made it before, I know that I can use up all of the remaining yardage.

Lessons Learned: Don't buy taupe. Experiment with different fibers - it makes things challenging and interesting. Try a pattern out of the comfort-zone - but with touchpoints that are likely to make it work.

This Stockholm scarf, which I made in the round, is an interesting exercise in simple lace-work but I don't love knitting lace. Occasionally I do it because, damn, it looks pretty and when the pattern, yarn and yardage align, you have to adventure. This used every last inch of yarn I had - only the second time I've experienced this in all of my time knitting. It's wash/dryable, very feisty and soft. I've lost interest in cerise, of late, but I know this will be a popular gift:

Stockholm Scarf

No remaining yarn. I first used this yarn to make this sweater - but I never wore it (who needs a short sleeved sweater??).

Lessons Learned: Do smaller lacework projects to keep the process from becoming tedious. Don't work with the Filatura unless size doesn't really matter. This yarn stretches stupidly, the way so many superwash yarns do. That's why I'll no longer knit superwash unless the project is socks, something for a baby or something unfitted that gets a lot of wear. Because I won't hand wash and dry those sorts of things.

Then there's the two- (or more-) toned simple sock thing I've got going on. I've become comfortable with colourwork by using up random yarns together to make pairs of socks out of small remnants.

What will I do with the remaining yarn? Well, in the end, there's very little left (though enough to fix holes). The best part is figuring out how to use the complementary yarns in different ways so that you get more pairs of socks by inverting the pattern from pair to pair.

Lessons Learned: You can really use up every last yard of yarn if you're willing to get granular enough. Only 3g of yarn are needed for a toe. So get creative with socks - colour-wise if not pattern-wise. (But don't mix colour and patterns. They cancel each other out.)

The Binary Scarf gave me the opportunity to do a fancy-seeming Brooklyn Tweed pattern without using the yarn (which is a pain in the ass to knit with and scratchy against the face). But it's made in a BT-style neutral, albeit using Quince Finch:

Binary Scarf
I used unwound, not rewashed yarn in a colourway I never liked on myself (taupe with a pink undertone?!) Originally it formed the bulk of this sweater. I never wore that thing. So unknit it was. I do wish I'd started with washed yarn, so I could have seen how open the initial end result was destined to be. I'd have gone down a needle size. In the end, I shrank it a bit in the dryer to bring the pattern to the fore. Quince shrinks a lot, and quickly, but it doesn't seem to felt.

What will I do with the yarn left over? I still have 230 yards left over... I have no idea what I'll do with it. A matching hat, perhaps? I'm so not into knitting hats...

Lessons Learned: Don't make a patterned scarf with unwound, kinky yarn. It takes the fun out when you can't see the pattern emerge. And flat scarves are freakin' boring to make, no matter the pattern, unless there's colour work involved.

What I'm knitting now:

Welcome Back Garter
I am knitting this one on a whim. And I'm not whimsical. There's a 3 skein version and a 6 skein version. Perfect way to use up a 400 yard skein and 5, 130 yard batches of fingering yarn - or 3 single skeins of 400 yards each. It produces a bias-cut shawl in garter stitch. Super fast, uncomplicated knitting on US 6 needles. And the colour possibilities are endless. I can totally see myself doing the 6 skein version when I've got moderate increments of yarn remaining from sock projects. But in this instance, I'm using 2 colourways I bought at the Yarn Frolic (Shelridge Yarns in Pussywillow and Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Mink) and a third colour (Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Slate) that I've already used some of to make a pair of socks, given that I bought 2 skeins.

If you're into colourwork, this is a fantastic, fun knit. If you're into buying single skeins of sock-weight yarn and they orphan cuz you never make socks, but you haven't got enough of the yarn to make much more than socks, this is a great pattern. The emerging mosaic is so enjoyable. I'm using merino with nylon so that I'll be able to throw this shawl in the washer and dryer.

If you want to destash, getting comfortable with colourwork is a worthy undertaking. I'm partial to stripes and colour blocking. I haven't had the chance to do to much in the way of intarsia or stranded yet. But I'm not afraid of these techniques and, sooner rather than later, I'm going to get bold and steek.

So that's a bit of a knitting update.

Today's questions: Do you obsess over your stash or do you eat through it with little concern for what may become of the remanants (or the full yardage, if it's a challenging fiber)? Have you got a recurring colourway in your stash that you never seem to use because you really don't love it, though it beckons in the store? Is your knitting 20 per cent for you and 80 per cent for your gift boutique? Let's talk

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alternative Lifestyle

Here’s the thing: Renovating a house that’s 130 years old is folly, pure and simple. The fact that we’re experiencing the wettest spring on record, like ever, since records began, is just an plot point. And, in ironic hindsight, last summer was the driest on record. You may recall we were meant to begin the reno then, but the City fucked it up for us… To address the elephant in the room, no, the builders are not currently on schedule, and the reasons are completely force majeure. We cannot blame them for the outputs of global warming.

Brief depressing sidebar: Global warming is terrible in all the ways – macrocosmic and minute. Small silver lining? TO may eventually be one of the most livable places, once the West coast has been crippled by that impending earthquake (sorry West Coast), and the South is uninhabitable from drought and heat. We’re far enough north and not predisposed to the blights that will be the end of many other places. We are land-locked but we have a Great Lake and adequate water supply. Our economy is sound and we are a seriously, one might say absurdly, commerce-based culture. You don’t live here so much as you work here. I know, sounds fun. But till things get worse, the impact of global warming on this microclimate may continue to be rain, damp and cold. Toronto was a fine place to live, weather-wise, until about 15 years ago. Now the formerly-short springs are non-existent and the winters vacillate wildly. The rain and grey (really it’s more taupe than grey) are omnipresent for, literally, months at a time. It’s like merging all the crappy elements of English weather with BC weather with a bit of Norway thrown in. And, I regret to inform you, unlike London, Victoria and Tromso, this city is full-on ugly without a blue sky and the sun.

But back to my house and its renovation schedule. In addition to the time-sucking weather, we’ve identified a substantive issue in the foundation-digging phase. I’m not going to get into it for many reasons, not least of which is that my freaking out over the internet isn’t going to solve the problem. That's why we have a team of competent builders, architects and structural engineers. Furthermore, these stories are best told at the end of the trial, over a massive martini, in one’s newly landscaped – and envy-making - back garden. Let me just reiterate that renovating a house that’s 130 years old is fucking folly. And really, having undertaken this, even given that I could have bought 2 houses in Baie St. Paul for the quoted cost of this renovation, I’d have been na├»ve to think it wasn’t going to get more complicated and more expensive still. My refrain for 2017: It’s just money.

To address the other elephant in the room: Since I have gone through all of the misery of moving house once, and I appear to be happily living elsewhere (though it’s more accurate to suggest I’m residing), do I wish I’d just sold the Victorian row house and gone somewhere else? Well, if ever one were going to answer that with a hell, yes, it would be now, but given that the housing market in Toronto has gone super nova this year (even more so than the super nova insanity of other years), I need to temper my answer somewhat. In short, what’s happening in this housing market is quite different than what’s happening in Vancouver, for example. Our issue isn’t so much foreign investment driving up prices but actual lack of supply. You simply can’t find a house to buy. And if you can, the price has shot up by 30 per cent in this year alone and probably 200 per cent in the last 15 years. So, while I could sell my house for a small fortune right now, really, I’d have to spend a larger fortune to find another. Not to mention that my small fortune would be smaller, in the absence of this home improvement, for having known about (some of) the structural issues because I’m a discloser.  More to the point, any new downtown house would likely be in way worse shape than the one I currently own. Because, no question, I’ve done right by my home. I have fixed it, nay – lovingly restored it, multiple times over. But no scenario is near-perfect without effort of some sort. And the trajectory I’m on is not for the risk-averse. Did I mention I’m kind of risk-averse? Oh well...

Times are very strange right now, that’s for sure. Liminal doesn’t quite describe it. I live in a place that seems less home-like than many an AirBNB I’ve rented (not that I can fault the place, it meets every need). My kid is only nominally a kid and soon she will leave to begin a life of her own. My old job is my new job and I’m trying to figure out how to express my new self within the usual dynamic. (Note: My old/new job continues to be kind to me in every way and for this I am very grateful.) So much money is going in so many different directions. And it’s not like spending it is fun. I’m not relaxing in Europe. In fact, I’m so far from the finish line that it seems even more impossible to imagine it now than it was before this whole thing got started.

And yet, I can’t say things are bad. The money is quantifiable. On some level, it lives in a spreadsheet. I still go out for fine dinners – to new, fun places now in a new 'hood. I have a quiet, clean place to live. I don’t have to parent in that perennial, exhausting fashion of my friends with young children. My time is mine, more that it has been in years. Scott and I are getting on like 2 lovers on vacation, which is bizarre given that we are generally bickerers when the stress is up. While this city is not at its best, weather-wise - and I’m not at my best once I’ve lived through 9 months of terrible weather - the likelihood is that it’s going to improve. (Note: I’m not stupid. I’m resigned to a wan summer and it does make me angry.) Despite the damp and cold, systemic pain is being kept at bay by a years-long overhaul of my lifestyle – on just about every front. Sure, it hovers, but I’m managing. Despite constant stressors, I’m looking rather good these days.

Some people wander from place to place and they find the constant in themselves. I find the constant in a new inch of height in the cedar in my front yard, in the modulated curve of molding against a century old plaster wall. I find the constant in the room where I’ve practiced yoga thousands of times, staring out the window at the flowers, flowers that now line a bin out back. (My dwarf lilac didn’t make it, btw. It was unceremoniously executed last week and I use that term specifically.) To suggest that I can be where I am is as true as it is impossible because I’m tied to the ties and they’re like vines that grow slowly. But what I've learned recently - and it's very cool shit - is that there’s no reason I can’t be a traveller, unencumbered. After all, this may be as close as I come to living in a new city for a long, long time.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Little Bit of Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

A couple of Sundays ago, I undertook an unassuming biochem experiment on myself, to see what would happen, if anything, to my blood sugar level if I drank alcohol without eating at the same time. Apparently, in some people, drinking alcohol in the absence of food lowers blood sugar. And yes, to address the elephant in the room, I have gone through a zillion little needles because, seriously, I'm not moderate but I am curious. (BTW, while the process isn't painful, it is irritating. One gets little bruises on the fingers pretty quickly. I feel for my diabetic friends who have no reprieve.)

So here's something that's leaving the repertoire stat, whether it's warranted or no: drinking any amount of booze on an "empty stomach". BTW, when I speak of drinking, I'm not talking about hard liquor or umbrella cocktails laden with sugar. On the distant heels of a robust breakfast* (admittedly more than an hour earlier), 4 oz of red wine lowered my blood sugar to the low end of normal** and might or might not have led to a really shitty, possible low blood sugar experience later in the aft. 

To clarify - I ate again an hour after drinking the wine (a few pieces of salami), thought I was sated, and then 30 minutes after that I felt legit hungry, so I ate more salami and some pistachios. My point is, I didn't just drink a glass of wine after more or less fasting for 16 hours. I ate protein and fat at breakfast and then again for a snack. But, while I was pleasantly sitting in a chair eating that lunch, I started to feel the feeling.

As for the feeling - here's how it goes when it's bad (note: I paid as much attention as I could to observe the fast cascade of symptoms, which usually just feels like an onslaught). First up I felt icy-strange, vaguely depersonalized. Then I got hot and cold at the same time and neither temperature would take hold. Effectively I felt feverish on the outside and freezing on the inside but that doesn't really describe it. There was a tinny sensation - like there was metal around me and I could taste or smell it. I became confused - even as I'd been concentrating on something, with no issue, moments earlier. The thing about confusion is that you know something's not right but you can't figure out what the fuck is going on. My arrhythmia kicked into gear. I was lightheaded. I could feel my body searching for some normalcy - a steady heart, the groundedness of my corporeal self. I mean, just the nausea almost had me on the ground.

I did stand, prob not wisely, because I was desperately looking for an escape. On some level, I knew I had to get some food though I couldn't figure out what. (In retrospect, it couldn't have hurt to take a swig of maple syrup, but I wasn't thinking clearly.) As I walked the few feet from the chair to the counter, I also knew I had to get down on the ground because everything was swirly. Note: That's when I got it that things were really not going well. My descent was more by collapse than intent but I was able to make it lighter than it would have been otherwise.

Scott was on the third floor of this fucking rental mansion we live in currently and he couldn't hear me calling, not to mention that I wasn't yelling very loudly. After some period of time that was probably a minute but felt like an eternity, I dragged myself to my phone and called him. No answer. I pressed the button again. He was asleep and his phone was in the other room. Finally I texted: I need help. Somehow he woke up, thought he'd heard me calling him (I wasn't at that point) and came downstairs.

Long story short, he brought me a shawl and pillow (I was on that floor for a while), some water and quickly toasted me an English muffin with a ton of butter - why did neither of us think of maple syrup or a freakin' cookie for the quick fix?? After about 10 minutes of sitting on the floor, becoming gradually less wrecked, I moved to the couch where I fell asleep for about half an hour. BTW, I knew, even as I lay there feeling crappy, that this would be a perfect time to test my blood sugar, dammit, but I could not move to get to the gizmo (or work the gizmo, who am I kidding?). I was pretty cold after all of this. Eventually I moved myself to my duvet-covered bed where I sort of slept for 2 hours. When I got up, Scott brought me some blackberries and a piece of gouda, and some more water. I was fine after that.

I'm sure you'll agree that this is not the kind of thing one wants to experience on repeat. The only thing I did differently on this day, vs other days, was to drink a glass of red wine on a relatively empty stomach. Not that it's the first time I've ever done that (and I don't usually end up on the floor under that circumstance). Were the low normal reading after the wine and the subsequent horrid experience independent of one another? I hope not. I'd like to think I've identified a problem and a solution at the same time! :-) In truth, this isn't the first time I've experienced this fugue and it's been happening since long before I knew about blood sugar, not that it's a regular occurrence. Not having been able to distinguish one biochemical response from the other, I've previously assumed it was an anxiety response. It would be bizarre to determine that this kind of horridness is fueled by low blood sugar fueled by wine on an empty stomach - because that's stupidly avoidable. What the fuck else lowers blood sugar, cuz I need to know! Bring on that lancer, baby. 

What I'll also say is that I will not experiment on myself again without some sugar nearby - not that I have any proof that this was a hypoglycemic incident. In the event that I brought this on myself, I'm a total idiot. My motto: Experimenters, be prepared.

So, today's questions (for the blood sugar savvy): Does this sound like a non-diabetic hypoglycemic episode? Could a small amount of alcohol, taken in the absence of food, lead to this sort of outcome (given food timing). Have you ever experienced anything like this and, if yes, what steps have you taken to avoid recurrence? Let's talk!

PS: It has occurred to me that what allowed this to happen is more systemic than I've assumed. I've been eating no grains or beans and not so many carbs for a few months now. My blood sugar may be generally lower as a result. Furthermore, I drink about 25% of what I used to. I can't imagine this, but maybe my tolerance is lower. Plus, I weigh somewhat less. So the response I had, if blood sugar related, may have been influenced by these factors.

* Look, I don't like eating breakfast - robust was a wet cappuccino with collagen peptides (8g protein), an egg and then, an hour later, my hot chocolate (utterly equipped with fat and calories). Secretly, when I make this drink I usually replace the water with heavy cream on top of the unsweetened coconut cream... And I do eat vegetables, just not in this post.

** For reference, my fasting level was 5.2 mmol/L, after breakfast it was 6.1, after the food-free wine experience it was 4.3. Next time I could test was 30 min after dinner and it was 5.4. How I wish I'd had the wherewithal to test during the "episode".