Online vs Local Economic Calculation

So I finally went and bought a pair of the Vibram FiveFinger shoes. I've never tried on a pair before, so I have no idea if I'll like the fit. But I did the math, and am taking a chance with an online order.

With the advent of online shopping, we now have access to sales all over the country, and I found several retailers who had various styles and colors of the shoes in my size (as based on my foot measurement per the online sizing guides). The prices were about half off full price, the reason being that they only had a few pairs available in bright colors. Since I want these shoes for walking out here in the country, I don't care too much about what color they are. If it turns out that I love them so much I want to wear them all the time, I might get my next pair in a more neutral color so they won't draw attention to my feet, but I am not at all sure that I want to really appear in public in these things. These are those shoes that fit over each individual toe, if you didn't recognize the brand.

Since I'm not sure they will fit me comfortably, I wondered whether to buy them locally. But none of the local retailers have them on sale now, so essentially, I'd be paying about $50 extra for the privilege of trying them on if I wanted them, but it would be free if they don't fit. I think it is unethical to try things on locally then buy them from another store online, so I wouldn't do that if they did fit. Since I'd have to pay return shipping to the online store if the shoes don't fit, I'm only going to be paying about $8 for the privilege of trying on those shoes if I don't keep them, but it would be free (and a significant discount from the local store) if they do fit.

So my mental calculation is that I think the odds that I they will fit and I will like them are greater than the odds that they won't fit, and that I'm willing to risk $8 to find out, which is way less than the $50 I'd risk the other way.

The pair I got is black with hot pink, in a model meant for "trekking" which I presume will be suitable for walking over gravel and through fields. I can do it barefoot, but I've found over the summer that it makes my feet rough and I'd prefer they stay softer, and it is very annoying when I get scratches or bug bites on my feet from this. Plus, it will be getting colder, so I want something minimalist to wear when my sandals (I got Teva sport sandals for the first time this year and really like them) will leave my feet too cold. Plus, the scratches and bites are a problem with the sandals around here, I could really benefit from some toe protection.


  Interviewing Gardeners

With T working full-time at ChartIQ, and working nights and weekends with Liz Fitz Darcy, there is just no way that I can maintain the entire property here by myself, even with a reasonable number of babysitter hours to free up some time. I am limited by my own physical strength-- I've discovered that a single hour of digging requires about four days of recovery time for my body. I can weed for a few hours, but again, I am too sore the next day to repeat the task. And while keeping a nice large play area neatly mowed is within my abilities, there is so much more that needs to be done. And the number of hours I can physically work the property is not even enough to keep the encroaching woods at bay.

So I've decided to hire a gardener until this place looks kempt. I placed an ad on Craigslist today, and and within hours had several responses. I'll begin interviews on Wednesday. I would like all the major projects to be done by next spring-- the boardwalk and plantings on the hill over the pond, boardwalk paths in my garden, proper beds around all existing flower beds and trees, orchard maintenance, the driveway allee planted, etc. There are at least two months (Sep & Oct) good for planting this fall, and some infrastructure work is probably even easier to do in November when things die back if it's not too cold. Then not much in December and January, but if the weather is typical then we can start back up with infrastructure work in February. This past year was not typical-- it stayed too cold for too long to do much this spring, everything was pushed back a month. Wait, longer! I couldn't even start infrastructure work in March since the ground was too wet from the late snowstorm.

Hopefully one of the candidates will have all the skills needed for everything so I don't need to manage different people for different tasks. Although I am so tired of living like I'm in that Sleeping Beauty castle that was overgrown with 700 years worth of briars and weeds that if I have to manage a crew, I will figure out a way to do it.


  Cholesterol Results Are In

In the name of science, I'm posting my cholesterol test results online, since many people have expressed curiosity about the results of my experiment.

Last fall, I had my cholesterol levels taken as part of a physical (my first in over 20 years). My cholesterol levels were the only thing my doctor worried about, and he asked me to try to bring them down.

For the next seven months, I didn't do anything drastic to bring them down, the only changes I made to either diet or exercise was to consciously add more vegetables and salads to my diet, since I read that the fiber "scrubs" the cholesterol out of your veins. But this was not scientific or rigorous, I just kept in mind that I should be eating more vegetables than I did before. And the middle column shows that my cholesterol went down quite a bit just from making that minor adjustment.

However, my doctor told me that wasn't enough, that he wanted me to get my cholesterol down below 200. So starting after the blood test on 4/13, I went vegan for 12 full weeks. I describe a little bit of the experience in the Diet section of my blog, but I didn't blog about it much just because I didn't think it was terribly interesting. I missed butter, I missed sour cream, but other than that, it really wasn't a great challenge to eat vegan from a logistical standpoint. But over time, it made me just feel lousy, so I'm not going to continue the vegan diet. But if you look at the third column with the 7/11 test date, you'll see I did indeed get my cholesterol from 246 down to 197 with just changes in my diet. I didn't really change my exercise, except actually stopping during the summer because it's too hot. I was actually coming off several weeks without exercise at the time of the last blood test, so the lower levels were clearly caused by diet.

Test Date 9/21/12 4/13/13 7/11/13
Cholesterol 246 225 197
HDL (good) 48 51 49
Triglyceride 137 138 119
VLDL 27 28 24
LDL (bad> 171 146 124
Non-HDL 198 174 148
LDL/HDL ratio 3.56 2.86 2.53

So as far as I'm concerned, there *is* something to the idea that if you eat foods with cholesterol, you will have high cholesterol. If you eat foods without cholesterol (all vegan foods), you will have lower cholesterol.

One note about my vegan diet-- this was not a low-fat vegan diet, I ate about 30-40% of my calories in fat each day. It was, however, low-protein. I would get roughly 5-10% of my daily calories from plant-based protein, and the rest was carbs.

I did this because I watched the film "Forks Over Knives" and figured I'd give it a try. They said that people don't need as much protein as commonly believed, and that 5-10% of calories should be adequate, so that's what I tested.

But overall, the vegan diet made me feel so constantly fatigued as the weeks went on, that it is not something I will pursue, despite the cholesterol-lowering benefits.

My doctor wants me to get tested again in several months, so this next phase of my experiment in controlling my cholesterol through diet is to follow, "The Plan," a new way of eating authored by Lyn-Genet Recitas. Instead of eliminating all animal products, you test everything from vegetables to nuts to cheese to meats to find out if anything is causing inflammation in your body. Many of her clients lowered their cholesterol by eliminating what she calls "reactive" foods, and eating more foods that their bodies process well. I've already written a little bit about this "Plan" in the Diet section of this blog, and will probably add some more thoughts as I go through more tests and more meal plans.


  10 Pounds From A Stylish Wardrobe!

I've just lost 8 pounds in the past week from my new (non-vegan) diet. It's called "The Plan" and I wrote a little bit about it in the Diet section of my blog. So I decided to face the giant box of old clothes that T found and has been taking up space in my bedroom for weeks now. Happily, I could actually fit into one silk outfit. The rest of the clothes I could put on, but generally I couldn't fasten them all the way, it if they were knits why were too tight. But just by eyeballing them, I figured they'd all fit if I lost another 10 pounds.

Then I did the math, and that confirmed it-- I am now 12 pounds away from my pre-baby weight (all these clothes last fit the summer of 2009, before W was born). On the new diet, one is supposed to lose about .5 lbs per day until you hit your goal weight. So if it works as advertised (and so far it has, the author has gained my trust), I should be back at my pre-any-baby weight by sometime next month. Which means I'll still have over a month to wear my old summer clothes! There is an entire wardrobe there, from casual to dress-up and everything in between and it is all immeasurably more stylish than what I've been sporting lately. I found one item which I will take to the consignment shop-- it actually fits now but is not figure-flattering, and losing weight will not help with that. The rest of the items are not only in good condition, but still suit me style-wise, and are age-appropriate. Except possibly for some board shorts, but those are swimsuits after all and by necessity bare a lot of skin, so I will hold onto them for now and see if I think they are too young-looking once I fit into them properly.

I will put the clothes back into new boxes, properly labeled so I find them when the time comes. It's probably time for me to go ahead and order a new girdle in the next size down, too. Since childbirth, I've become a big fan of foundation garments, the old-fashioned kind with reinforced panels, as opposed to Spanx. Although I' have worn the stretchy compression underwear over the girdle for a little extra smoothness under a clingy dress, so they have their place.


  Worried About M

We didn't worry when M wasn't speaking at age 1, but now that he's fully 2 and not speaking, T and I are concerned. What is most concerning is not that he's not speaking words, but that he's not even practicing making sounds. W started babbling a lot at 18 months, although he didn't speak much until closer to 24 months. But M doesn't really babble.

M says one word with regularity-- "uh-uh". In the past few weeks he's added another, "uh-oh" which is adorable with his little baby inflection, and I hear that a few times a day when he drops something. If I cajole him, he will sometimes say, "mama," but other times he'll refuse and just shake his head and say, "uh-uh." I can't even get him to make sounds for me, like ba ba ba ba or da da da or anything. I get the feeling that he probably could make these sounds, but he is just refusing. The question is why?

If he is self conscious about not speaking as well as W and I, how do I get him to relax and just go for it anyway? Or is he self conscious because he really can't make the sounds? Does he have some sort of unseen defect of the tongue where he can't control it enough to make various sounds?

He doesn't seem to have any other developmental delays, and he has all the speaking "readiness" skills (pointing to objects in books, following oral directions, etc.) but he's just not speaking (except for his two words). We checked a couple of websites, and they universally recommended that if in doubt, get it checked out. So I've got a phone call in to the child development department, hoping to hear back soon.

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