Saturday, June 27, 2015


In my effort to wean myself from my favorite beverages, like coffee and wine, I've been focusing more on water.  I noticed that although I always had a cup of cool filtered water at my desk at work, since I retired, once I stop drinking my morning coffee or tea I drink little or no fluid until cocktail hour comes around.  No wonder it feels like time for a drink!  I decided to do a little research on water and how much I should be drinking.

Here is a long list of the good things water does in our bodies:

  • Transports nutrients in the body and enables the kidneys to flush out waste products
  • Helps regulate body temperature
  • Helps the heart pump blood more effectively
  • Aids in digestion
  • Energizes muscles.  Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue.
  • Keeps skin hydrated, plumping up the skin cells and making you look younger
  • Helps lessen achy joints and muscle cramps
  • Helps lessen congestion during colds or flu
  • Helps prevent kidney stones
  • About 70% to 80% of your brain tissue is water.  If you're dehydrated, your mind is stressed.
For more details see

So, how much water should I drink?

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), reported in Medical News Today, an adequate intake for men is approximately 13 cups (3 liters) a day. For women, an adequate intake is around 9 cups (2.2 liters).  Yikes! This is even more than the 8 8-oz glasses we were taught in health class!  Of course, all fluids count, not just water.  "Anything but alcohol", says Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD also an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University, in Medical News Today.  He says,  "Alcohol interferes with the brain and kidney communication and causes excess excretion of fluids which can then lead to dehydration."  Beverages containing caffeine are also less than ideal due to having diuretic properties, meaning that they cause the body to release water.

I counted up my fluids for a typical day - 7.5 cups, not too bad, but 3.25 of those were coffee.  I see I had better drink more water instead!

I learned it is possible to drink too much water.  This is called water intoxication and apparently it isn't very rare.  When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia.   It can happen to athletes who go overboard in drinking water to avoid dehydration, and also to young people who challenge each other to water drinking contests.  It is serious and can even be lethal.

 For myself, just increasing my water consumption by a few glasses seems good enough, but if you want to be more technical about it, here is an online hydration calculator, which computes your ideal amount of water based on your size and activity.

How important is it to filter my drinking water?

For many years I have kept a Brita pitcher in my refrigerator for drinking water, and I find it tastes much better than water straight from the tap.  However, I do fill the tea kettle, coffee pot and pots of cooking water from the tap.  There are many, many articles online about the importance of filtering water, and after reading some of them, I will hopefully be more patient about running coffee and cooking water through the Brita.  

Eating Well blog says standards for tap water are set by the EPA, however, there are many toxins found in drinking water that are not controlled by the EPA and can legally be present in any amount.  They recommend having your own tap water tested, and once you know what is present you can choose a filtering system effective against those particular toxins.  It's possible the Brita will do just fine.

 I can't possibly list here all the scary news I found, but here are a few items that made an impression.

This tip from Pure Water Services in New Zealand caught my eye because I used to live in a 100-year-old house, and my granddaughter lives in a fairly old home.

Very few water systems can remove lead. Lead may be a problem in older homes where lead solder was used to join copper pipes. If the water supply is acidic, it will eat away at the lead - and copper - overnight, so that your first water in the morning may hold high levels of both minerals. For this reason it is always a good practice to run the tap for a minute or so before using the filter first thing in the morning.

The Environmental Working Group makes a note about fluoridated water being harmful to babies' teeth, and says that the carbon filter of a Brita does not remove fluoride.  They suggest all water for babies' formula be made with water from a reverse-osmosis filter.

EWG also reminds us to change water filters on the recommended schedule.  A dirty filter can be worse than no filter at all, harboring bacteria as well as letting contaminants through.

I was especially shocked to hear there are a lot of hormones and drugs like Prozac and Viagra in ordinary drinking water!

Bottom line:  at my age I'm not going to do more than use the Brita pitcher, and perhaps now I'll use it for cooking and coffee too.  However, if I were raising young children and/or living in a home I planned to stay in for a few decades, I would look into getting the water tested and getting a full home system of some kind. 

 So, how am I going to drink more water?

Well, mainly I think it takes awareness.  I need to remember to go to the fridge and pour myself a nice cold glass of filtered water.  I'll be more likely to do that if I haven't had three or more large cups of coffee, so note to self:  cut back on coffee!  I did well drinking no coffee at all for the entire month of May.  That's a bit too drastic long-term, but I can go back to having a few coffee-free days each week.

Here are a few things I can do to make water seem more special:

Squeeze in a lemon wedge

Use my SodaStream to make sparkling water

Then add a few drops of raspberry or caramel or vanilla syrup 

Order a drink Mira introduced to me - sparkling lemonade - one-third lemonade and two-thirds club soda

Order San Pellegrino or Perrier and take it when we travel or visit friends

Order iced tea - unsweetened of course

Add a lot of ice to any other beverage.  Granted I shouldn't be drinking any Starbucks frappuccino, but at least with lots of ice is better than without! 

Carry my water bottle, filled from the Brita, and just drink it!

Water Tasting?

Did you know there are people who taste water like wine?  Here is an interesting article about Martin Reise, a water sommelier, certified by the German Water Trade Association, who holds water tastings.  It sounds like fun!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

More Time Out for Quilting

Finally I can show you the quilt I made for Mira.  I've been keeping it quiet as a surprise, but she graduated from grade school last week and that made a perfect gift-giving occasion.  It took a while for me to get just the right idea for a quilt for Mira, and the inspiration came from a photo of her in the sunset at Yachats, on the Oregon coast.  Here's the photo:

And here's the quilt I made:

I used a kit of fabric fused to printer paper to print some photos of good times in Mira's life onto fabric to be imbedded in the quilt.  It was easy and fun.

The graduation was lovely.

Mira's bell choir performed

Mira graduates!

After graduation we had treats outside the school and Mira opened my gift.

What a lovely girl and a wonderful day!

Later in the week Mira spent some time with me and we did a sewing project.  Didn't she choose sharp-looking colors for this pillow?

Notice those flashy fingernails for graduation!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time Out to Remember My Mom

My sweet mother, Edna, passed away two years ago today, June 14th.  I miss her a lot!  I know I was very lucky to have her in my life all this time.

This photo was taken in the library of Mom's retirement community, where she was the volunteer librarian.  She was very well liked there - everyone wanted to be her friend, sit at her dinner table, and sit next to her in the bus.  She had several close friends, and some dates with nice gentlemen too, although she always said she was finished with romance - no one would ever measure up to my Dad.

Mom was very careful never to be a "burden", or impose on my time, or ask me to do things for her.  She was independent right up to the end, and remained healthy to the age of 93.  So how did she age so gracefully?

Most important was her attitude - you accept what happens in your life and keep moving forward.  She was raised with her sister in Connecticut, by their widowed mother who was often ill.  Mom would have loved to study library science in college, but instead took a job as a library clerk until she met and married my dad.  Theirs was a romantic marriage, and it was a terrible blow to her when he died in 1985, leaving her to live their retirement years alone.  She moved to a retirement community, volunteered in the local grade school helping kids read, and started organizing the community library.

Mom was always a modest eater.  She felt it was good to eat everything, but in moderation, and scoffed at special "health food" diets.  She had disliked milk since childhood - I wonder if she was lactose intolerant - and she loved coffee and chocolate, calling herself a chocoholic.  She liked fresh fruit and vegetables, too. When I was growing up our family rarely had Coke and no freezer full of ice cream, as some of my friends had.  Now I'm grateful, as I was slim and had pretty good eating habits by the time I went off on my own.

She also exercised regularly.  Our family had only the one car that Dad drove to work every day, and  Mom walked everywhere.  Our town had sidewalks under big leafy trees, and we could walk to the stores, the schools and pretty much anywhere we needed to go.  In her retirement community there was an exercise session several times a week, and Mom was the substitute leader when the employee responsible wasn't available.  She said "oh those exercises aren't much", and also lifted hand weights in her apartment.  I joined in the exercise session once when I was staying with her for a visit, and they seemed pretty vigorous to me!

In her 80's and 90's, when many folks opt for comfort over style, Mom still cared about how she looked.  She dressed for dinner in the common dining room every evening, and despaired over the clothing that she ordered from catalogs that didn't always fit and look exactly as she had hoped.  She got her hair done every week and "put her face on" every day, even when she didn't have any special plans.  She always looked lovely.

Mom kept her brain active, too.  In her 50's with us kids nearly grown up, she enrolled in Charter Oak State College for the college degree she had always wanted.  At Charter Oak, you study on your own and take exams in your major and minor fields.  Mom majored in English Literature, spent a happy year reading, and easily passed that exam.  Then she tackled European History; not so easy.  She spent another year reading, and had index cards with names and dates stuck up all around the house.  She passed that exam too, and it was a proud day for her when she received her diploma.  Later she got involved with a company that did proofreading, and spent many hours working until her eyesight was no longer good enough.

And she was a kind person - always thinking of others before herself.  She hated to think someone was unhappy, and spent time helping out some of the folks around her in the retirement community who were slipping mentally and having a difficult time.  After her death I had notes from her very loyal group of friends saying how much they would miss her.

My friend Mary, Mom and myself

At Melanie's wedding

Grandson Christopher presents a gift made by his mom Jennifer

How I hope I can be as kind and gracious a "lady" as my Mom, as I get old!  She always said getting old isn't for sissies, and she was a great role model for me in how to age gracefully.

Don't Mom and Dad look happy?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Physical Therapy Really Works

A year ago I finally stopped ignoring the pain and stiffness in my hips and signed up for physical therapy.  At that point I was lifting my leg into the car with my hand, walking up stairs putting both feet on each stair,  and sometimes at the end of the day, climbing upstairs to bed on all fours.   When I stood up from my chair or the car, I unconsciously waited a few seconds for the stab of pain to stop before limping on my way.   Anne Morgan, of Olympic Physical Therapy, watched me do a few movements and said the problem was my core, that is, my pelvic floor, abdominal and butt muscles, or rather lack thereof.

Anne had me start with some exercises that seemed so simple I was sure they would do no good, until I tried to do 20 repetitions in good form.  We progressed to harder ones fast, and soon got to some that I couldn't do at all without pain.  It was also a real pain to go up to Bellevue once or twice a week for my 7:45 AM appointment, but I'm so glad I kept at it.  Now, a year later, I'm not very faithful with the actual exercises, but I find myself tightening my core and butt muscles automatically during my everyday life, and the pain is gone.

(These are not the most flattering pictures of me - how I have humbled myself for this blog!  Just keep in mind how good I feel now compared to my "before" self - that is the message I'm trying to convey.)

First Anne introduced me to the foam roll.  I lie on my back just relaxing for a while, then move my arms while keeping my pelvic floor and abdominals tight.

On my back on the floor, I march, lifting my feet off the floor one at a time, using my core muscles not my neck and back.

Then "clam shells", not difficult, but I had to work up to 25 on each side.  I focus on using my gluteus medius, not my hip or leg muscles.  Gluteus medius is the muscle right under the back pocket of your jeans.

When I could do the clam shells without pain, I started doing leg raises with my upper leg straight.  Much harder, and at one point I overdid, and caused a lot of extra pain on the right side, which is my worst side to begin with.  It took a long time to work up to 20 on each side, and the occasional 25.

The next exercise shocked me because it looks so simple and I couldn't do it.  Step up on a step and over, then back.  Even on a very small step, the stepping back part caused pain, especially on my right side.  I practiced this for months, adding height, and I can still feel just the tiniest bit of weakness on that side.  No pain though  : )

My granddaughter and videographer, Mira, helped me demonstrate:

I'm still working on the final exercise.  It's my hope to go back for a follow up with Anne and show her that I can do it. 

I knew Mira would be able to do this exercise easily!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Garden Update

We're having beautiful spring weather and things are really happening in the garden.  We went to Wells Medina Nursery for flowers and tomatoes, and we have lots of planting and weeding to do!

Here's an update on our efforts.  The herbs and tomatoes in the AeroGarden are coming along nicely.  We've used the herbs, and I'm just starting to pick tomatoes.   Readers - do you have any good recipes using fresh dill?

I have also been picking lettuce from the pea patch - had a great salad the other day!  (You can see we have some weeding to do - arrgh!)  I also harvested some rhubarb - not sure what to do with it.

Here are the flowers I planted this morning.  I was disappointed at how rootbound the salvia was.  I tried to unwind them a bit and loosen up the soil from the little packages.  Readers - advice here?

I found these planter boxes in the yard last year and cleaned and stained them.  How nice to have them all ready and full of nice soil for planting today.

My color scheme will be purple and orange - purple petunias and orange lantana and salvia.  I'm hoping we have enough sun for the lantana, but with the way spring has started out perhaps we will.  Hmm, guess I could invest in some nicer-looking pots.  Maybe for next year.

That's Stan's pond in the background.  A nice family of about 8 goldfish live there - easy pets as they are pretty much self-sufficient.  Stan's plan is for them to eat the mosquitoes.  Must be working okay,  because we don't feed them, and we don't seem to have any mosquitos.

Here's what I did in front - some impatiens for the spot under the eaves where nothing grows, and geraniums next to the front door.

Charla gave me these Egyptian walking onions - I had never heard of them before.  I had to google How to Plant Egyptian onions, and one person said "toss the onion sets down where you want them and step back".  These don't have onion sets on the tops yet, so I planted the whole thing, hopefully at the right depth.  I'd love to have onions available!  Stan does a lot of cooking with shallots but doesn't like onions, and apparently these are "shallot-like" so he'll like them too.

Don't these chives in our backyard look nice!  Time for Stan to make his potato-crab appetizer  : )