Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Awesome Solar Lights set the Mood Beautifully - A Product Review

Summertime and the Living is Easy!

During the warm months of the year, it's really nice to be able to spend as much of that time as possible outdoors.  The lovely evenings are just so nice with warm breezes blowing and all the lovely scents and sounds of summer filling the air.  With a little bit of planning, you can make your backyard into an evening wonderland.  The addition of Fairy Lights in the trees, around the fence and over a pergola will allow you to enjoy that outdoors for hours after the sun goes down.



If you have taken the time to really make your space beautiful and useful, I'm sure that you would have added some fairy lights to your space.  My niece loves her fairy lights and has made their pool area and the kids play area like a magical place to be.  There is enough light to keep the kids swimming well after the sun has gone down.  With this summer of 2020 being one of the hottest so far, the kids are enjoying the added time they have in the water.





Wonderful, Beautiful and Economical Solar Lights

Years ago we would never have thought to add this kind of lighting anywhere. You would have to have a power source installed.  And then it was just too expensive to plug all those lights in.  Just think of the added costs when Christmas rolls around and the decorations are all up, the difference in the Hydro bills was sometimes staggering.  

Well, that is not a problem anymore.  Solar technology has come a long way in making outdoor lighting not only beautiful and functional, but it is affordable too.  LED lights make them bright and most important, they are waterproof.  So it doesn't matter if they get wet!   The initial cost is in purchasing the lights.  Once you have them, there is no further cost involved anymore.  The only thing you have to think about is placing the solar panel somewhere where the sun will shine on it for at least 6 to 8 hours a day.  The longer the sunshines on the solar panel, the longer the lights will glow into the night.  Mine usually turn on about 8:45 in the evening and they are still lit at 4:30 in the morning.  

You don't even have to buy all your lights at the same time.

If you are on a budget, then buy one or two strings of these solar lights at a time.  Whatever you can afford, and then the following year purchase another couple of sets.  Depending on how much light you want in your yard, you may stop with just one string.  If you are truly an outdoorsy type in the summer, you may opt for many more.  My niece and her family, spend all their evening outdoors, so they have outfitted their area with lights so that the kids can go swimming right into the wee hours.  After all it is summer and school is out!  

As you can see from these pictures, her home is done with all white fairy lights, but they also come in colors. The colored lights have programs attached so that they can fade, or twinkle on and off, or run like a billboard.  You choose how you want the lights to act.    

Fairy lights can even make the garden path glow!  You can take a walk through the grass and check for nightlife in the flower beds. Moths love the fairy lights, coming out and enjoying them as well.   Pets sure don't mind having their yard lit up!  You might even appreciate that you can check where your dogs or cats are and if there are any unwanted critters about!  Having your yard lit up can save you the trouble of giving Fido a Skunk bath!  Skunks are nocturnal, so beware.  Fairy lights on the Patio are wonderful when you have company.  No more trying to see each other in the dark.  You can still bring out some candles for ambiance if you wish, but the fairy lights themselves would be enough.

Let your imagination run wild and stir up some interest in the great outdoors!  Even after the kids have gone to bed, it's nice to take a glass of wine, some cheese and crackers and just wind down under the magic of the fairy lights and the stars.  It's a great way to relax your mind and body!

For myself personally, the only other thing I would add to my enchanting backyard, would be a nice wireless speaker playing some soft music. You can use your playlist from your phone, tablet, Amazon Music and so much more on them.   Tracey from ReviewThisReviews.com had a great wireless speaker featured you can read her review here: OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Speaker.


Don't let the summer months go by without enjoying them fully.  Evenings outdoors are wonderful and relaxing for mind, body and spirit.  Everyone I know can really use this relaxation these days.


All the pictures in this post are from my niece's home (Tara Hocaliuk)  shared with her permission.





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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Easy Wall Decor Ideas


Easy Wall Decor Ideas
Easy Wall Decor Ideas Reviewed

We decided to downsize a few years back. With the kids all grown up, we didn't need a large two-story house just for the two of us. So, we found a nice one-story house with two and a half baths, and as luck would have it a full finished basement.

We furnished our new finished basement with the living room furniture from our old house, So, now we had to go out and buy new furniture for the living room or live in our new basement. By the way, our finished basement is a perfect place for our grandchildren to play when they visit.

Our previous home had two built-in wall shelves between a window in the living room. This allowed us to display pictures, knick-knacks, and books.

We don't have any built-in shelves in the new house. We had to look for some inexpensive ideas to add some accents to the walls other than just picture frames.

Easy Wall Decor Ideas: 

The above picture is a simple wall shelf and candleholder we had in storage. We added this to our dining area. I looked on-line and found 48-inches as a recommended height from the floor. That seemed way too low, so, I set it at 65-inches from the top of the shelf to the floor. It is perfect to display our tea set. So far zero dollars spent.

Easy Wall Decor


This shelf is another one we had in storage. this one we added to the living room, But Fran didn't like the color of this one so I painted it to match walls. This is a perfect shelf for some candle holders and a small picture. Once again zero dollars spent.

Easy Wall Decorations


Now the wall at the end of the hallway that leads to the bedrooms was blank. This photo memory quilt filled that space quite nicely. With pockets for small photos, this is a great way to display some fun memories.

Simple wall shelves are a great and inexpensive way to add some accents to your walls and display your collectibles and photos. Some other ideas for wall decor are Pictures, wall clocks, and so many choices of Peel and Stick vinyl wall decor.


Here are some inexpensive ideas for wall shelves

Amada Floating Shelves Wall Mounted, Rustic Paulownia Wood Wall Shelves Set of 3 for Bedroom, Bathroom, Living Room, Farmhouse Kitchen, GrayAmada Floating Shelves Wall Mounted, Rustic Paulownia Wood Wall Shelves Set of 3 for Bedroom, Bathroom, Living Room, Farmhouse Kitchen, GrayCheck the PriceBAMFOX Floating Shelves,Wall Shelf Set of 3,Wall Mounted Floating Shelf with Large Storage for Bedroom Bathroom Living Room Kitchen OfficeBAMFOX Floating Shelves, Wall Shelf Set of 3, Wall Mounted Floating Shelf with Large Storage for Bedroom Bathroom Living Room Kitchen OfficeCheck the Price

 

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Travel: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge - Wildlife Drive

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. We spent our time on the Wildlife Drive. Despite the heatwave and oppressive humidity, it was a wonderful experience. I am writing this review because I highly recommend this destination for birdwatchers, wildlife lovers, bicyclists, hikers, photographers, travelers, and anyone who appreciates being immersed in nature.





Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, Maryland


Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is located in south eastern Maryland - the region commonly known as the eastern shore. The refuge is over 30,000 acres of tidal marsh, forests (hardwood and loblolly), managed freshwater wetlands, and croplands.  It was established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory birds.





The Wildlife Drive


With 30,000 acres of refuge, Wildlife Drive was a manageable chunk of area for a brief visit. We paid our nominal fee and entered that portion of the refuge. 




The drive includes a paved road (approximately 4 miles in length) with a few branches of unpaved - but wide - walking trails. Due to the heat and our limited time, we remained on the roadway.  

Our first stop was the observation deck and viewing area. Had we more time, I could have remained in that area for hours.  A raised wooden walkway and deck were positioned in the middle of the marsh. Two benches were available as were two free/permanent binoculars.






We observed fish swimming in the clear sections, a large number of Red-winged Blackbirds and dragonflies, and in the distance we easily spotted what appeared to be a Bald Eagle nest and two eagles perched in nearby trees.

As we left that area, I spotted what I believe to be a Green Heron in a tree (I am a beginning bird-watcher so please do not use my guesses of species as factual). I was so excited! I believe this is only the second time I've spotted a Green Heron since I've begun to list birds I've spotted.




In the distance, I saw a little marsh "Shack". Of course I was intrigued. If you know me, you know that I have my very own Shack.  This shack turned out to be a permanent viewing blind!






Along the road, we pulled over at various spots to observe turtles, ducks, Great Blue Herons, Osprey nests, and a Great White Egret (again, I'm only sure of the identification of the Great Blue Heron and Osprey).










Wildlife and Marsh Seasons


The pamphlets that were available at the entry gate included quite a bit of helpful information. Including a general "Wildlife Calendar".  From January to December, the refuge is a living and changing community of wildlife.  As we there in July, the time frame (depending on weather) generally includes swallows, kingbirds, and flycatchers feasting on the huge amounts of insects. Hibiscus begins to bloom near the end of the month and the Osprey babies begin to leave the nests. We were fortunate to find that the Ospreys were easy to spot on their nesting platforms.





If you are a bird watcher, you may want to refer to the migration information to increase your chances of seeing the species you'd like to see. For example, I believe we saw Teal. Whether they are "blue-winged" or "green-winged" I'm not sure. I'm not even fully confident they are Teal. But Teal is listed as a species that is traveling through the area during this time on their migration from North to South. 

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is definitely worth a visit for any outdoors person or birder. And the Wildlife Drive is a scenic and comfortable front seat for Mother Nature's show.






Related Links:

Eastern shore, Maryland has many great places to visit and things to see. Assateague Island (home of wild ponies) is my favorite place in that region. For more travel information check out VisitMaryland.org.

I recently read Chesapeake by James Michener. During my entire time at Blackwater National Refuge I thought of the people depicted in that historical fiction. From the Native American peoples, to the slaves and the slave owners, to the pirates, and those who worked hard to survive in the marshes of the Eastern Shore... they were all on my mind as I wandered the refuge. Read my review of that epic novel here.

Harriet Tubman lived in this area. I have seen the home that she was born in (from a distance and during a tropical storm). I have also visited the Harriet Tubman underground railroad state park. For more information about additional Harriet Tubman sites in the Dorchester County (Cambridge, MD) area, click here



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Sunday, July 19, 2020

One of My Best Decisions Ever Was Switching to This Webhosting Company

Five Stars for This Hosting Company - Which One? Read More

Towards the end of 2019, I finally took the leap to switch my Webhosting company for my then two websites. I've since created another site, and now have three websites in total hosted with this new excellent firm.

This new hosting company is SiteGround and based on my own personal experience, I highly recommend them.

BEST Biz Decision I Made!

I'm not a website techy guru, and for that reason, I was always reluctant to begin the process of switching to a new WebHost. Honestly, it scared me!

I was worried that the new company would be worse than the previous firm I had been using - and I had been using them for nearly two decades!

I'm not going to name my previous hosting company, because mama always said: "if you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all." I can't say anything nice, so my lips are sealed.

The fear of transferring my sites was what held me back. I needed to find a company that would be completely dependable, helpful, answer dumb questions, fix dumb problems, fix WordPress related issues, and fix significant problems if they arose.

Mostly I wanted a company to do the transfer for me and not charge a ridiculous price! And reassure me that everything would be fine.

I Started Researching Possible New Companies in Early 2019

I had so many problems with my previous host that frustrated me that I decided it was time to look into switching companies. I knew I wouldn't be able to jump into using a new company without feeling comfortable, so I started reading reviews and checking out options.

The reviews for SiteGround were excellent, so I researched them in more detail. By the fall of 2019, I knew I was going to make the switch.

Around December 2019, I took the plunge with SiteGround.

Summary of My Experience to Date

1) I used their "Professional Migration Services" - guess what, that service only cost an additional $30 per site. It's still only $30 as of this date - (prices can change, just saying)

2) I'm such a nervous nelly, I contacted them via online chat first to confirm what they offer - explained the problems I had with my previous hosting company, and why I was transferring. I think I called them on the phone too - I've spoken to them on the phone a few times since and their service is incredible. They assured me the transfer would go smoothly and that I wouldn't have the problems I had been having ... and I haven't had them since.

3) I get a lot more Server space for my websites now, for less money! I took the 'Grow Big Plan.'  The current set price is $9.99/mth, and it includes: Unlimited websites, 20GB of webspace, 25000 visitors monthly, unmetered traffic, free SSL, daily back-up, free CDN, free email, managed WordPress, unlimited databases, 100 percent renewable energy match (not sure what this is? - but I have it, lol), 30 days money-back guarantee, on-demand back-up copies, speed-boosting caching, staging, add collaborators.

4) They offer two other plans, "Start-Up" (lower price) and "Go-Geek" (higher price).

5) They are quick to respond and resolve service tickets - and I haven't had many.

6) They never say "That's a WordPress issue, we don't handle that, you'll have to resolve that yourself" - My previous hosting company was notorious for that - it was so maddening!

7) They never try to use a problem as an excuse to upsell you! My previous host was well-known for that! SiteGround finds the problem and fixes it for you - at least that's what they've always done for me - not that I've had many issues.

8) The website panels are super-easy to understand and go through compared to my previous hosting company. SiteGround's website is not confusing: quite the opposite, I'd say it's dummy-proof lol.

9) One of my favorite features is that I get 20GB of space for less money compared to my previous host, which was 2GB. My sites were down several times a day with my last hosting company. That hosting company kept telling me it was a WordPress issue, and I had to hire someone to resolve it, or pay them more money for further investigation - yah right!

10) The SiteGround staff is knowledgeable, skilled, and helpful. They explain things in simple terms for the average user to understand. They aren't about trying to impress you or themselves with their techy brains. I love that about their staff.

11) If I'm not confident about changing something or doing anything on my site(s) that is above my low-grade-tech-ability, I contact them, and they're always helpful, and willing to take care of the matter for me.

Here's a link to SiteGround so you can do your own due diligence. Just a side-note, I get a few months of free hosting added to my account for anyone I refer.

I'm genuinely doing this review to help those who are still in the nightmare situation I used to be in with my previous hosting company. I feel confident in recommending them.

The best thing I ever did was switch to SiteGround Hosting!

My hopes for SiteGround in the future: That they never sell to a big, useless company - because they are genuinely awesome to deal with, and I wouldn't want that to change.


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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Review of Long-Handle Swivel Grass Shears

Fiskars Long-Handle Swivel Grass Shears
These long-handle grass shears by Fiskars save you back strain from bending and sore knees from kneeling to trim the grass around flower beds, trees and sidewalks. 

In my collection of gardening/lawn care tools, I already owned a pair of hand-held grass shears

These shears are very handy for trimming bushes. But bending over trying to tidy-up the grass growing around the mailbox at the curb, or any trimming along the driveway or flower beds is hard on my back. 







Photos  by Ryan Austin

Then I discovered the existence of a set of grass shears with a long handle. Perfect! No more bending, no more back strain or sore knees from kneeling down to reach those annoying grasses which insist on growing around the gutter extensions and against the fence which no lawn mower can reach. 


Fiskars Long-Handle Swivel Grass Shears


Swivel blades for easy trimming (c) Ryan Austin
The Fiskars grass shears have a 36 inch long shaft with blades that swivel 180 degrees for easy trimming at any angle.  Can be used horizontally for trimming and vertically for edging.  

The 4-1/2 inch blades cut all the way to the tip and hold grass up for clean cuts. It is easy to edge and trim around borders and obstacles with precision straight snips. 






More Features of the Fiskars Long-Handle Swivel Grass Shears


Available on Amazon

These long-handle grass shears are of steel construction which stay sharp even through heavy use.  They have an ergonomically designed handle which provides a comfortable grip.  The smooth-cutting mechanism makes each snip easy. The easy-open lock protects the blades during transport and storage. 

A definite improvement to my line of lawn tools. Even though my sweet teenage grandson does most of my lawn mowing, I am in charge of keeping the trimming done. It is a weekly chore as the grass grows so fast this time of year! The Fiskar long-handle grass shears have certainly made my lawn-care life easier.

Fiskars Long-handle grass shears review written by Wednesday Elf (c) 7/18/2020



More Lawn Care Tools and Tips on ReviewThisReviews








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Friday, July 17, 2020

Fracture Movie Starring Anthony Hopkins & Ryan Gosling Reviewed

I recently watched Fracture (2007) starring Anthony Hopkins & Ryan Gosling again.  It is one of the older movies in my DVD collection, which I have been delving into lately.  

I have been reminded how some of the movies from the past are a lot better than current day releases. They have an actual plot that keeps the viewer enthralled in the movie.  This is not light-watching material that can be used as background noise.  This is definitely a movie that demands your attention.

While there is some bad language, it seems to fit with the plot and not shoved into the dialog for ratings. Even though the movie is about adultery and murder, nothing requires a viewer to turn away due to grotesque or salacious scenes.  None of that extraneous stuff was required in this movie. The plot, itself, is enough to keep you glued to the set.

In fact, my DVD stopped about 25 minutes before the end.  I cleaned, wiped, and even washed the DVD, but nothing I did cleared the issue.  Apparently, my DVD has a deep scratch in it that cannot be repaired.  We were determined to see the end though, so my dad purchased a two day rental just so we could finish the movie.  

It is quite sad that my DVD is ruined!  It had been long enough since the movie's release, that I had totally forgotten most of the show and definitely the end.  It was like watching it for the first time.  


Plot Synopsis of the Movie "Fracture"


 Fracture (Widescreen Edition)I find myself wondering why the movie was named "Fracture".  It could be because of the fractured marriage.  Or perhaps, it may refer to the injury incurred.  It would also be applicable to the faulty thinking due to emotions.  Let me explain why either would be accurate. 

Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is an aeronautical engineer that owns his own company.  He is calculating and methodical. To say he is a genius, might actually be an understatement. 

When Ted discovers his wife is having an affair, he doesn't immediately respond.  He plans his revenge.  He takes steps to ensure he will not be found guilty of anything in a court of law.  He shoots his wife, but not fatally.  She is in a coma with permanent brain damage.

When Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), the bright shining star in the D.A.'s office, is appointed to prosecute Ted for attempted murder, he believes it is an open and shut case.  After all, he has the assumed evidence, as well as a confession.  However, his legal mind is challenged by Crawford's meticulous intellect and plan execution.    

The decisions both of these men make will have a lifetime of consequences.  It was quite fascinating to watch these two men face-off and match wits.  

Like any great suspense movie, or book, you should expect the unexpected.  The twists and intellectual genius are what makes this movie spectacular!

 

Check Out More Movie Reviews at
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Fracture Movie Starring Anthony Hopkins & Ryan Gosling Reviewed by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Thursday, July 16, 2020

National Lost Pet Prevention Month

Fenway Bolted Due to Frightening Gunshots

Count off two seconds with me.  One, one thousand.  Two, one thousand.  Stop.  Someone has just lost a beloved pet.  Again: One, one thousand.  Two, one thousand.  Another fur baby is missing.

This happens every day, every two seconds.  If you add it up, that is 30 missing pets per minute, 1800 per hour, and 43,200 per day.  I did the math.  That comes out to over 15 million missing pets each year.  For anyone who cannot imagine a life without animals, that is a horrifying number.

I hate to tell you this, but it gets worse.  Only 1 in 10 of those lost animals will return home.

Blessing Escaped From a Vehicle - She Has Not Been Found

Though one might be able to set aside cold, hard numbers, it is much more difficult to forget the names and faces of the missing.  Likewise, the desolation of not knowing the fate of a pet is the kind of thing that haunts a pet parent forever.

Given these statistics, it seems clear that more needs to be done to significantly reduce the number of animals that go missing, and more needs to happen to successfully reunite the lost with their loved ones.  It is no coincidence that July is National Lost Pet Prevention Month.  Over the 4th of July holiday, animal intakes in shelters across the nation increase by 80 percent.  No doubt, much of that has to do with the terrifying nature of fireworks, and how extreme distress causes so many animals to bolt in sheer panic.

Why do pets become lost?  What happens to missing pets?  Why are some found, while others seemingly disappear into thin air?  What makes the difference in giving these lost animals a better chance of being reunited with their families?

Pets become lost for any number of reasons.  They can bolt when scared or when involved in an accident (like Jade in Yellowstone National Park), escape when given the opportunity (an open gate or door), go looking for love (if not spayed or neutered), take off during a hike in the woods (in pursuit of a wild animal), become disoriented, or upset, after a move to a new home (and go looking for the familiarity of a former life), jump out of a vehicle, dig under a fence, get snatched while unattended, and so much more.

Harley Went Missing During a Move
She Was Found Eight Miles From Her New Home

What happens to your missing pet?  Many different scenarios can unfold depending on the animal's physical condition and age, her confidence and personality, familiarity with the territory, weather conditions, proximity to helpers (remote area vs. urban area), and actions taken by those responsible for finding her.

Some animals are found, but have no identification tag or microchip.  The finder doesn't know who to contact to return the pet.  That dog or cat may end up being kept by the finder, or adopted out by an animal rescue organization.  This is one reason why it is so important to notify regional shelters and online lost pet forums.  Highly visible, and widely distributed, lost pet signs are also critical in these cases.  Harley was reunited with her family last week because the finder saw her posted in a lost pet group on Facebook.

A dog missing for three weeks was found just yesterday thanks to a lost dog sign that was seen by an individual who sighted a dog dragging a leash.  Despite being lost in a major city, Coco had evaded searchers for 21 days, and was found hiding in a field one mile from where she bolted.  She ran in fear from an outside seating area at a coffee shop due to an unexpectedly loud crashing noise.  Her leash had been wrapped around the leg of a chair while her owner was picking up an order.  Just like that Coco was gone.  Never leave your dog unattended.

Coco is a Real Flight Risk

Pets riding in cars should always be restrained.  This can be done with a travel crate, a harness system that hooks into a seatbelt, or similar safety features.  Blessing escaped from a vehicle because she was not adequately secured.  Always, always secure your pet in a vehicle.  Some dogs are able to lower car windows by standing on the power window buttons (Blessing was one of those dogs).  That provides a vehicle escape route.  Be sure to activate the child safety locks in your car when traveling with pets.

Our organization microchips every animal adopted from our shelter.  It is not unusual for a pet to get away from a new owner.  Keeping your pet's chip registered and updated with current contact information is essential.

If you take your dog hiking or camping in remote areas, you might consider outfitting him with a GPS tracker collar.  Out in the wilderness, this could save his life.  It is also a good idea if you have a dog that has gotten away from you before, or that tends to be easily frightened.  A skittish dog on the run can be harder to find given the tendency toward evasion.

Some final tips: Be aware of your pet's body language.  Pay attention to the behavioral, and environmental, cues that may alert you to a potential escape.  Have a plan in place for how you will respond should one of your pets go missing.  Read up on the essentials of how to find a missing animal.  Even if your pet is primarily an indoor animal, always ensure that she is wearing a collar and identification tag.

It is said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Given the estimate that 1 in 3 pets will go missing over their lifetimes, now is the time to ensure your precious companion will not become one of those sad statistics.

It takes all of us together to ensure the safety of the beloved animals that count on us and that enrich our lives beyond measure.  Please consider supporting our new Lost Pet Search and Rescue Initiative.  Given the epidemic of lost pets, this collective effort to save lives has taken on a greater sense of urgency.  Thank you for joining forces with us.




































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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part One

On June 4, 2020, I kicked off a new series of posts reviewing my experiences during My First Year on the Keto Diet and sharing some of my insights and lessons learned over the course of my successful journey so far. Since that post was published, I’ve lost another pound, even though I’m no longer actively trying to lose weight, bringing my total weight loss since May 25, 2019 to 57 pounds. I am healthier and feel better than I have in decades. (Oh, and being able to wear shorts and sleeveless tops this summer without feeling embarrassed feels pretty amazing, too!)

Text "Set Yourself Up for Ketogenic Diet Success" on a background photo collage of keto-friendly foods
©2020 Margaret Schindel. All rights reserved.

Last spring, after a serious medical scare when I learned that being obese and post-menopausal had put me at significantly higher risk for endometrial cancer, among other life-threatening diseases, my doctor stressed the importance of losing my 50+ pounds of excess weight. I had tried many times to strictly limit my consumption of the foods I constantly craved—sugars, grains, and other foods that are high in carbohydrates or highly processed—and failed just as many time.

After reading a lot about what causes those types of food cravings and how to lose weight without giving into them, I realized that I and many others with an obesity problem had become psychologically, emotionally, and in some ways, almost physically addicted to those foods, and in my case, it probably dated back to my childhood. Note: If you're interested in learning more about this phenomenon, the journal articles "Food Addiction: Implications for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Overeating" (Nutrients, September 2019) and "Sugar Addiction: From Evolution to Revolution" (Frontiers in Psychiatry, November 2018) discuss it in depth.

The good news: I finally understood why all my previous efforts to lose weight and keep it off had failed. The bad news: Losing enough weight to meaningfully lower my risk for developing cancer and other life-threatening illnesses—and keeping it off—wouldn't be as simple as just cutting back on calories, sugar, and flour, and getting more exercise. Achieving those goals would require an all-in commitment to overcoming my roughly 60-year-long carbohydrate, processed foods, and sugar addiction for good.

Preparing for Success on the Keto Diet

From personal experience, I knew that no matter how badly I wanted and needed to succeed, or how hard I tried, desire and effort without the proper preparation would not be enough to make that success a reality. To quote legendary former college football coach Bobby Knight (who won 902 NCAA Division I men's college basketball games and knows a thing or two about critical success factors), "The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare."

Choosing to spend a few weeks preparing myself mentally, psychologically, socially, and environmentally before giving up the foods I was addicted to "cold turkey," whether temporarily or for good, was one of the best decisions I made.

Following the most important things I focused on during those weeks of preparation that helped me be successful on my keto weight loss journey.

Making a Serious Commitment to Losing Weight and Eating Better

I was overweight and, yes, clinically obese, for decades, and it made me miserable. It badly eroded my self-esteem. And as a former clotheshorse who worked in the fashion industry in New York City for many years, it was painful to try on beautiful clothes and see how bad they looked on me (or how bad I looked in them). In retrospect, even that constant pain and shame must not have been enough motivation to make the dramatic, long-term changes to my eating habits needed to lose the excess pounds, since my many attempts at dieting over the years had all failed.

This time, my serious medical scare provided a powerful enough motivation to make me commit 100% to fundamentally change my way of eating, and choosing better quality, more nutritious, and less processed foods. Without that kick in the butt, I doubt I would have succeeded this time, either. I encourage you to think about what your motivation is to commit to this much more restrictive way of eating.

Many people boast that they have lost a lot of weight following their own version of a ketogenic diet that includes "cheating" on a regular basis, or even a planned rotation schedule of being "on" and "off" keto. Others might lose weight using a less restrictive variation of the classic keto diet approach, such as so-called dirty or lazy keto. If that works for them, great!

I can only share what has worked for me, an approach that I chose based on my own situation, goals, and self-knowledge based on past experience. Everyone is different. As always, your mileage (and your choices) may vary.

Researching the Keto Diet and Understanding Its Basic Concepts

Keto is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein approach to eating, often referred to as LCHF (for low carb, high fat). Regardless of whether you follow this dietary approach or what foods you eat, losing weight requires a calorie deficit, i.e., you need to eat fewer calories than your body uses. On a ketogenic diet, most of your calories should come from healthy fats, a smaller percentage should come from from proteins, and very few calories should come from carbohydrates (and, ideally, mostly from low-carb vegetables and berries).

That's a very simplified overview, and I had to do weeks of extensive research and reading before I had a good grasp on all the most important aspects of this way of eating. Here are a few of the many resources that helped me educate myself on this subject.

Helpful Online Guides and Articles

  • "The Ketogenic Diet - A Keto Guide for Beginners" on ruled.me is one of the best places to start familiarizing yourself with the keto or low carb approach to eating. It contains lots of helpful, actionable, easy-to-understand information and advice, including explanations of macros and net carbs.
  • Wholesome Yum's "Low Carb & Keto Diet Guide" is another excellent, informative, and easy-to-understand resource for newbies.
Here are a few other articles I found helpful in understanding the benefits and risks of this type of diet:

Recommended Books

Although I focused primarily on cookbooks, some also contained helpful information, explanations, and inspiration for anyone interested in living a low-carb lifestyle, like these:
I also own two wonderful cookbooks by well known, highly respected keto diet author and expert Maria Emmerich. I'm also looking forward to adding this book, which she co-wrote with her husband, to my growing collection:
This cookbook, which was released just two months ago, is one I definitely would have purchased as part of my self-education if it had been published at the time:

My Favorite Keto YouTube Channels

Strict vs. Lazy vs. Dirty Keto

As I explained in my previous post, there is no such thing as "the" keto diet (or ketogenic diet) outside the context of certain medical treatments. There is only "a" keto/ketogenic diet, which is a low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat approach to eating based on achieving a metabolic state called ketosis the majority of the time, which enables the body to become fat-adapted.

Despite this, there are countless self-proclaimed "keto experts" (aka "keto police") who have lost weight using this approach and are on a mission to "educate" (i.e., lecture) everyone else on the "rules" about what they (or another keto "expert") are convinced is the right or wrong to follow a ketogenic diet. They often will argue passionately with other self-appointed "keto police" about whose rules are the "real" rules, which is ridiculous and, more important, extremely confusing for newbies to this way of eating who are trying to figure out whom to trust as a reliable source of information and advice.

People often break out the high-level differences in ketogenic diet strategies into three groups. (Again, what each approach is called and how those labels are defined can vary, depending on who is doing the labeling and defining.) Most commonly, these three approaches are:
  • "Clean Keto" aka Strict or Classic Keto
    • The "clean keto" approach focuses on high quality foods and optimal nutrition to support a healthy lifestyle.
  • "Lazy Keto"
    • Lazy keto" usually refers to tracking carbohydrates and limiting them to 20-25 net carbs per day, without calculating/tracking macros or calories or eating specific types of foods. However, some people use this term to mean simply eating only keto-friendly foods—no calculating or tracking macros or calories.
  • "Dirty Keto" aka IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)
    • "Dirty keto" is basically eating anything you want, as long as it fits within your daily carbs and calorie limits, protein target, and fat allowance. This approach focuses exclusively on weight loss, simplicity, and freedom of choice, without concern for nutrition or food quality.

Choosing and Personalizing an Optimal Ketogenic Diet Strategy

Based on my own and close friends' successful keto experiences, my belief is that each of us has to decide, or figure out through trial and error, what works best for us where a LCHF diet (low carb, high fat) is concerned.

"Lazy keto" and "dirty keto" would have taken less work and were tempting, but ultimately, I decided that the best strategy to help me kick my food addiction and lose the weight I needed to at a reasonable pace would take a mostly "clean keto" approach, but slightly less strict. I would focus primarily on cutting out all added sugars and refined carbohydrates, eating more whole foods, choosing grass-fed, organic, and/or non-GMO foods whenever possible, cutting way down on processed foods, and increasing my daily consumption of fresh, low-carbohydrate vegetables.

I also decided to track my dietary fiber intake and supplement what I was able to get from food with a safe, gentle, osmotic laxative like MiraLAX, which an endoscopy nurse I met during my most recent colonoscopy visit told me she takes daily to stay "regular." Sometimes I buy an equivalent product from a different brand, such as Member's Mark ClearLAX or Amazon Basic Care ClearLax, that has the same active ingredient (polyethylene glycol 3350) but costs less per dose.

With so much weight to lose, and a powerful and urgent motivation to do lose it and also lower my health risks, I decided that I didn't want to "cheat" when eating out, or for holidays or special occasions, or when I was under a lot of stress. To support that goal over a long period of time, I knew I would need to be proactive in preventing myself from feeling deprived, and decided to plan homemade or purchased keto-friendly treats, made with high-quality, nutritious, and some minimally and, occasionally, moderately processed ingredients, into my daily menus.

When I was chose to get started on keto, my short-term goal was to lose the weight I needed to in a way that I could sustain as long as necessary. I made a commitment to myself to do whatever it took, for as long as necessary, to achieve that goal. The strategy I chose to follow turned out to work extremely well for me, based on my individual needs, challenges, and goals. Someone else might do better with a significantly different approach.

I encourage anyone who is seriously considering a ketogenic approach to losing weight to be brutally honest with themselves about how much, how, and for how long they are willing to change their eating habits, and then define their own personal guidelines/rules for their unique keto journey and modify them over time, if needed, as they discover what is and isn't working well for them.

Consulting With a Doctor

The surgeon who explained that one of the most likely contributors to the cause of my cervical polyps was being obese and postmenopausal also told me that losing my excess body fat was one of the best ways to reduce my risk for developing additional polyps or uterine cancer. I mentioned that I had family members and friends who had lost weight successfully on keto, and that I was considering a "clean keto" approach with a focus on making healthy, nutritionally sound choices and losing pounds at a moderate rate. She said it sounded like a reasonable approach and one worth trying, at least for a limited period of time. So, I was fortunate to have her support.

Some medical or nutrition experts, however, are not in favor of a ketogenic diet for weight loss. Some also have misconceptions about keto, and many advise against it because it is so restrictive. But most support adopting a low-carb diet as a permanent lifestyle change. In fact, I don't know of any medical or nutrition professional who would not encourage patients to either cut out or restrict sugar, refined carbs and processed foods from their diet.

It's also important to understand that keto is not always the best option, or even a good one, for every person. If you have a health condition, eating a very low carb diet might help, but it also could make it worse. So, it's best to have this conversation with your doctor, and to discuss what things should be monitored, how often, and whether you can monitor them yourself or will need a medical professional to run periodic tests.

Note: If your doctor isn't aware of recent evidence-based studies and their findings regarding the potential health and medical benefits of a keto or LCHF approach to eating, you might consider sharing either of both of the following articles published in professional journals:

Determining a Daily Calorie Target and Calculating Macros

Like many other people, I found the not only the concept of macros but also how to calculate what mine should be extremely confusing. In the context of keto, "macros" is short for macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. A person's macros refers to 1) the relative percentages of their target daily calories allocated to each of those macronutrients, and 2) the number of grams of net carbs, protein and fat that person can/should eat daily. One of the most common macronutrient ratios is 5/25/70, i.e., 5% of the person's daily calories come from "net carbs," 25% come from protein, and 70% come from fat. To clarify a common misconception, this does NOT mean that for someone who chooses a 5/25/70 macro ratio, 70% of the amount of foods they eat on keto will consist of fats. Fats have 9 calories per gram, while proteins and carbohydrates each have only 4 calories per gram. So, allocating 70% of your daily calories to fat translates to a much smaller percentage in terms of weight (in grams). And, for daily tracking purposes, what matters is the daily number of grams of carbohydrate, protein and fat consumed.

Net Carbs vs. Total Carbohydrate Grams

Most people on keto base their macros calculations and tracking on net carbs, rather than total carbs. The reason is that dietary fiber, most sugar alcohols, and Allulose (one of my favorite keto-friendly sweeteners) aren't digested and, therefore, aren't metabolized and used by the body for energy, so they don't have an effect on achieving or sustaining a metabolic state of ketosis (which is the core of a ketogenic diet approach). The most common way to calculate "net carbs" (and the formula I use) is: Total Carbohydrate - Fiber - (most) Sugar Alcohols - Allulose sweetener = Net Carbs Note that some people only subtract the dietary fiber, others subtract only half the sugar alcohols and/or Allulose, and some even track total carbohydrate grams vs. net carbs (which is much more restrictive and/or is based on a higher percentage of carbohydrates).

Keto Calculators / Macro Calculators

When I was preparing to get started on keto, I had no idea how to choose a ratio for my macros, how many calories my body burned, how to decide on a calorie deficit percentage, or how to calculate how many grams of net carbs, protein and fat to eat each day. Fortunately, there were lots of articles and calculators to help.

Ruled.me's ketogenic macro calculator is one of the most user-friendly of those I've tried. It's a good tool to help you figure out your daily calories target for weight loss and your starting macros, both the ratio (as a percent of calories) and, most importantly, the number of fat, carbohydrate and protein grams and calories you will consume daily on keto).

Downloading Carb Manager or Another Good App to Track Calories, Macros, and Other Key Nutrients

The thing I resisted most when starting my keto diet journey, and also the one I knew would be critical to my success, was committing to track every bite of food and every sip of drink that went into my mouth before I consumed it. Lots of people lose weight on keto without doing this. I can only share what was important to my weight loss success on this diet.

There are a number of good apps for tracking your macros and calories. Some can also help you track other key nutrients. If you have high blood pressure, for example, it might be important for you to track your sodium intake. For me, tracking my fiber intake was a high priority, since many foods that are high in fiber are also high in carbohydrates and/or calories, which makes it hard to get enough dietary fiber daily for gastrointestinal health (and to avoid constipation!).

My favorite tracking app, which I use every day, several times a day and recommend highly, is Carb Manager. The free version of this app has everything you need to track your macros, other nutrients of your choice, and calories. (I subsequently upgraded to the paid, premium version because it offers additional features I find helpful, but it's absolutely not necessary for keto.)

Carb Manager has a huge library of foods (many of which were entered by other users, so I always check user-entered nutrition data against the manufacturer's nutrition data from the package label). You can make a custom entry for any food, either by manually entering the nutrition data from the package label or manufacturer's website, or by pointing your camera at the barcode on the packaging, if available, to see whether the data for that product can be imported into the app automatically (or has been entered already by someone else).

Note: Carb Manager automatically calculates net carbs by subtracting fiber and sugar alcohol grams from the total carbohydrate grams. However, it doesn't yet include Allulose, which is a relatively new keto-friendly sweetener, in its calculations. Also, the USDA doesn't require manufacturers to list Allulose in the nutrition data, so it's not always clear how many grams of Allulose are in some products that use it. Fortunately, when you enter or edit the nutrition information for a food in Carb Manager, you have the ability to choose to enter carbohydrate grams as net carbs or total carbohydrates. Net carbs are often printed on the packaging for foods containing Allulose.

One of the things I love about Carb Manager is that it has a macro calculator with adjustment sliders that can help you see in advance how changing your macro percentages would affect your daily fat, protein and carbohydrate grams, or how increasing or decreasing your desired calorie deficit percentage would affect the number of calories and net carb, protein and fat grams you can eat and the estimated length of time to reach your weight loss goal.

Another great aspect of the Carb Manager app is its "Smart Macros" feature option that, if you turn it on, will automatically adjust your daily macros and calories over time, as your weight changes. The app also allows you to enter and track your body measurements, BMI, and other types of metrics to gauge your progress, a feature that I use and find extremely helpful, since the numbers on the scale can (and usually do) fluctuate regularly, often for no apparent reason, but a tape measure doesn't lie.

This terrific app has many more features and capabilities than I can go into in this post, but the website has a very robust database of articles that explains each feature and how to use it. You can also take a brief tour of the Carb Manager app to get a sense of how it works and what the user experience is like before you download it.

We're only halfway through the list of things I did to prepare myself for success before starting my keto diet journey. I'll cover the rest in my next post.

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." 〜 Abraham Lincoln


Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part One by
Margaret Schindel



More Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas):

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating




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