Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why does this woman have a t-shirt on her head?

It's a glamourous life I lead.

Please, if you aren't interested in hair care sagas, move along.

All my life, I've had wavy, coarse hair, which apart from a dalliance with perms in my 20s, I pretty much kept short as an adult.  Something happened when I hit my late forties... It felt too perky and mannish or something.  So I started to grow it out.

During this grow-out phase, I also decided to let me grey emerge.  With some strategic highlights and avoiding mirrors, I had about an inch or so of growth before my sweetheart commented that I was too young to let this happen to me.  I'm probably 75% grey and I suspect he wasn't ready to be married to an older woman.  His culture is one of dark haired 75-year-olds, so it kinda made sense, even though he's probably 99% grey.  So I stepped back onto the colour treadmill.

The in-between stages of the grow-out were painful, but every time i had a blowout at a salon, my hair was soft and straight and lovely.  Problem was that I couldn't reproduce this at home.  My hair constantly looked frizzy, wonky, and to my dear mathematician husband's dismay, asymmetrical.

My sister passed me a plastic tupperware container of "curly" hair product and suggested that I give it a try.  It was an improvement, but I was still spending far too much time fixing and drying and flat-ironing and messing around in my bathroom.

I had read some time ago about the "curly girl" revolution, sparked by Lorraine Massey's seminal tome Curly Girl: A Celebration of Curls: How to Cut Them, Care for Them, Love Them, and Set Them Free.  There's a website devoted to all things curly called  You can find Massey's hair classification system for different types of curly hair at the website.  I'm a 2(c):  "Wavy plus thick and coarse and a little resistant to styling and will frizz easily."  There are lots of product recs and a forum to discuss hair, which is a bit much for me, but I did peruse it to get some product tips.

The philosophy espoused by Massey and her disciples is to work with your hair to bring out it's natural essence.  My sister has been harping (nicely) on me about this for some time but it wasn't until I started reading about how to actually do this that I decided to give it a try.

The main steps seem to be as follows:

  • Stop shampooing and use conditioner to clean the scalp. Sulphate in shampoo lead to frizz.
  • Use a ton of conditioner on your hair and leave it on as long as you can. Rinse it out in cool water. Consider leave-in conditioners as well.
  • Stay away from products with silicone in them
  • Stay away from towel drying other than patting. Use a microfibre towel or cotton tshirt to wrap your head for the first stage of drying.
  • No hairbrushes or blow dryers, other than a diffuser.  Keep your hands out of your hair.
  • Product is your friend.  Find ones that work for your hair.

I haven't been a big shampooer for a few months.  Maybe once a week. So I'm good to go on that front.  I have slathered on conditioner and run a wide tooth comb through my hair in the shower to work it in.  After squeezing my hair dry, I put in product (some styling cream and soem gel) and  I hang my head over and wrap it in an old large tshirt.  After 20 minutes or so, remove towel, don't touch hair (especially, don't run your fingers through it as this breaks up the curls!). 

I did this two days ago and got quite nice waves, a surprising crop in fact.  I'm working it again today, and this time I added some gel before the towel to see how that looks.  I noticed two days ago that I had a patch of frizz on one side of my head and I suspect that I missed that area with the curl cream, so I paid more attention today to get all areas covered.  

I need to get my hair cut to avoid the triangle-head phenomenon common with blunt cuts, and my roots are screaming, but I'm pretty happy with this new hair freedom.  I'll put up some pics of my finished hair later today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Seasonal Reading Challenge starts December 1

I've been partiipating in the current Seasonal Reading Challenge over at GoodReads.  It's really focussed me on getting through lots of great books, limited my TV time, and generally been a good thing for my aging brain.

These challenges are all about reading, and you collect points for reading books that satisfy certain requirements.  For example, in the current challenge, you could get 5 points for reading a book of short stories, a book with a beautiful cover, or a banned book (three of the ten 5-point tasks).  For 30 points, one of the tasks reqiured you to read two books, one with something you find on the outside of a house in the title (I read Rex Stout's The Doorbell Rang), and one with a room in a house in the title (I read Back to the Bedroom by Janet Evanovich).  There were a total of 890 points in the various tasks, and I think I'll hit about 500 by the end of the month when the challenge ends.

Even if you don't participate in this group, Good Reads is a great place to track your reading and keep a list of books you've read and want to read. There's an iPhone app for GoodReads which lets you track your reading even if you're not at the computer.

The new challenge starts on December 1 and the first set of tasks have been published. I spent much of my afternoon yesterday developing my reading list for the next challenge and it's in an online doc here.  As the 20 and 25 point tasks are published I'll update the list.

Here are my recent reads, pretty much all of which are associated with the current challenge. Graphic novels, audiobooks, and ebooks all count towards tasks as well, so I've usually got something going on each device!  Here's my tracking list for the current challenge.  The yellow highlighted entries are books I hope to finish by November 30 for a potential 100 more points.

Janet's bookshelf: read

In A Dry SeasonThe Beekeeper's ApprenticeEssex County Volume 1: Tales from the FarmLove and SummerRaymond and HannahThe Doorbell Rang

More of Janet's books »

Janet Berkman's  book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Too Jewish then, too Asian now - in todays @NationalPost

Throughout the 1920s, A. Lawrence Lowell, then president of Harvard University, was worried that his beloved school was becoming too Jewish. “The presence of Jews in large numbers tends to drive Gentiles elsewhere,” Lowell wrote in a 1925 letter to a...

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Let's just say it's been a heckuva week

I'm dog-tired.

This week has been a bit of a blur and I haven't felt up to blogging.  Sunday, Michael had back-to-back rehearsals so while he was at his first one, I helped my brother out at his place as he moves into the rest of his four-plex en route to converting it into a single-family-home.  I drove Michael out to his second rehearsal (way out west at Humber College) and then returned home.  We went out to Seoul House for dinner after picking him up, where I forgot my cellphone and had to drive back to get it.

Monday night was his first ever gig with the Youth Big Band. I took him out to the subway around 3 and then Z and I headed down to the Old MIll on the subway around 5:30. The band was backing Bucky Pizzarelli and I was bowled over by how great they sounded.  I have a lot of wonderful memories from my youth playing in a big band, and I just knew how great the kids were all feeling.  The house was packed, sold out, and it was a great, if late night.  On the way home on the subway, we realised that there had been a mixup with Michael's trombone lesson and he had been expected that evening. He had also just broken up with his girlfriend. I had too much wine along with my terrific dinner which resulted in a migraine the next day.

Tuesday was a relatively normal day (apart from the headache), although Z didn't make it home for dinner due to work.  Michael and I had a "snack supper" which usually means grilled sandwiches or cheese and crackers or popcorn or cereal.   I wasn't up to preparing anything else and Michael is good-natured about all this.

On Wednesday, I had a Catholic Women's League meeting for which I was asked to prepare a reflection just an hour before-hand.  I probably should have realised that I was on the hook for that, but didn't, so I pulled something Advent-y together while making dinner.  We had a very good speaker from Aid to Women at the meeting, although the turnout was quite small.

Last night I had tickets to an advance screening of The Next Three Days courtesy of The National Post and there was a surprise Q&A with director and screenwriter Paul Haggis afterwards. We both very much enjoyed the movie but didn't get home until well after 10, which is late (for me).  

Today, Z had a big presentation at 11 am and pretty much everything went wrong.  We were supposed to meet with our financial planner at 8:30 this morning, but after receiving input from his people for the presentation in the middle of the night, Z realised that he had to cancel.  He was on the phone until 10:30 and asked me to drive him downtown for his meeting.  At 10:45, stuck in the hell that is Avenue Road these days, we turned around and he took the call from home, and then raced off downtown after the call to something else that couldn't be done remotely.  On top of all this, he had a call early this morning to learn that his aunt had passed away.  She was his mother's sister and was in the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease.  It was in some ways shocking when his mother passed this summer before his aunt.

Oh, and it's his birthday today.  

On the bright side, Alex turned 19 today (he shares his birthday with his father), which is "legal" in Ontario.  I queried as to whether he hit a bar after midnight and received an affirmative reply.  He sounds good and has been calling regularly, which makes me very happy. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Middle East Prayer Service in memory of Syriac Christians killed in Iraq

Last Thursday's Prayer Service for Christians of the Middle East was a powerful evening of prayer and support for a community suffering. More than 600 people came together from across the Archdiocese with faith leaders from 15 participating to demonstrate their support.

For those who were not able to join us at the Cathedral, Salt & Light Television will be airing the prayer service this Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. with an encore showing on Sunday, November 21st at 1:30 p.m.

It's an opportunity to hear the gospel proclaimed in Arabic, reflections from the Syriac Catholic Bishop of the United States and Canada, Bishop Yousif Habash, as well as our own Archbishop Thomas Collins sharing his own thoughts on the current plight of Christians in an increasingly violent region.

Charles Lewis also has an interesting piece on Holy Post regarding the Prayer Vigil and its broader significance. You can access the story here.

Thanks to all those who worked so diligently in a short time frame to organize this special evening of prayer and communal support.

We continue to offer our thoughts and prayers for all those Christians who continue to suffer in the Middle East and around the world.

Photos: Bill Wittman

Sadly, we were unable to attend, but our hearts are with all those who are suffering.

How can you tell if you live with a 15yo boy?


1. Dog is found mummified, yet still alive and snoring.
2. Disorder in front hall after he leaves for school.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shepherd's oldie but a goodie!

Had some leftovers from our wonderful lamb dinner the other night, so put together a quick shepherds pie.  Here's my go-to method:

Hopefully, you have some leftover meat, potatoes, vegetables (or just use frozen peas and/or corn), and gravy.  

Chop and fry an onion and some garlic (there was enough garlic in the gravy from our leftovers, so I left that out this time.)  Add minced leftover meat and chopped veggies (I had some green beans and broccoli that I threw in).  Heat this up and add gravy to make a thick stew and put it in a casserole dish.  (If you don't have gravy, use a cup of beef or other broth, a tablespoon of tomato paste and 2 tbsp of flour and just throw that in instead. Season with salt and pepper and maybe some parsley.)  

Mash the potatoes if they are not already in that form, with lots of whatever makes them creamy.  I like to add some cream cheese and/or butter and/or cream plus some Lawry's seasoned salt.  Top the meat mixture with potatoes, grate some old cheddar or whatever cheese you want to use up, and pop it in a medium oven, uncovered, for twenty minutes or until the cheese has melted and the stew is bubbling up the sides.  (You can assemble this in advance and just heat it up before you're ready to eat.) 

Total comfort food!  Additional gravy to pour over the top is a bonus.

WWW Wednesdays

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?

From the library:  Raymond and Hannah by Stephen Marche

On my Kindle:  Death of an Obnoxious Tourist by Maria Hudgins

Listening to on my iPhone:  The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout

• What did you recently finish reading?

From the library:  Back to the Bedroom by Janet Evanovich, Stitches by David Small, The Incident Report by Martha Baillie

On my Kindle:  Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers

On my iPhone:  Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

• What do you think you’ll read next?

From the library:  Skim by Mariko Tamaki

On my Kindle:  Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese

On my iPhone:  Love and Summer by William Trevor


Head on over to Should be Reading to post your reads!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jamie Oliver’s slow-roasted lamb shoulder


Made this terrific lamb dish last night. I couldn't get lamb shoulder at my local butcher so used half a leg of lamb. It took less time to roast than the recipe, but I simply reheated it in the oven before serving.

You roast the lamb on a bed of rosemary and garlic, and then make gravy with the drippings, removing the herbs but mashing the garlic into the sauce. Adding fresh mint and red-wine vinegar gives a beautiful, rich taste. I served it with fingerling potatoes and broccoli, along with the beautiful gravy in the recipe. It was the perfect fall dinner!

Click on the link above for the recipe.

My baby...


...heading up to Collingwood with the Hannaford Youth Band to perform for students.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So, what CAN he eat? The post-kidney-stone diet.

My dear one had his follow-up appointment with his surgeon yesterday following the removal of his stone.  Analysis suggests that it was a calcium oxalate stone, with some magnesium as well, which is the standard type.  He was given a sheet of dietary guidelines to help prevent future stones.

First, remember how I mentioned that he was getting so much sleep now that he didn't have pain?  Well, with the amount of fluid he's to be getting every day (3 litres), he's up at night for other reasons. 

On the diet front....

Calcium:  post-surgery, he realized that he was not bothered by what he thought was lactose intolerance anymore and had been enjoying café au lait in the mornings and ice cream after dinner.  Hah!  He has to keep his calcium intake to 500 mg per day, or about 1.5 cups of milk-equivalent.  He could switch back to soy milk, in on the verboten list (see below).  Knowing Z, he'll stick to cheese and drop all other forms of calcium.

Oxalate rich foods:  this is so funny.  I mean, all the things that he's been eating as part of the Mediterranean diet seem to be limited.  For example, he takes 3/4 cup greek-style yogurt with a handful of walnuts and raisins in his lunch every day.  Yogurt?  calcium =>limited.  Walnuts (in fact, all nuts)?  oxalate =>limited.

What else is on the oxalate list?  beets, beans (he heats up cans of mixed beans for lunch), parsley (tabouleh????), celery, okra, sweet potato, dark greens (spinach, kale, chard, endive, etc), strawberries, tea (TEA????), marmalade, chocoate, cocoa, nuts, wheat germ, cola, tofu.  

Animal protein: He is to eat less meat, poultry and fish, with special emphasis on avoiding the following foods that increase uric acid: organ meats, goose and partridge, anchovies & fish roe, game meats, rabbit, sardines, herring, mussels, scallops.  This is so depressing.  We eat anchovies.  We love sardines and mussels, and had been eating lots of the former for fish oils.

Sodium:  reduce it.

Fibre:  increase it, particularly using rice bran and wheat bran as they bind to calcium.

Supplements:  NO Vitamin D, Calcium, or Vitamin C supplements, or fish oil.

It's going to take me a while to figure out some new meal plans to avoid or reduce our intake of oxalates.  I'm already a fairly low sodium cook, and now that he's giving up nuts, that will be reduced even further.  But I'll have to re-evaluate our vegetable purchases, and forget about anchovies on pizza, those great packs of mussels from Costco, and the multi-can packs of sardines we go through every month.  We'll have to keep tabs on the amount of protein he consumes because so many good sources are limited due to either calcium, oxalate, or uric acid issues.  Pleasures?  I don't see coffee, beer, wine or other alcohol on the list.  Most fruit seems okay.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thinking about Josephine: All Souls edition

This morning, news of the bombing of a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad hit my feed reader via the Archdiocese of Toronto blog.  I directed me to the BBC report of the incident, where I read with horror of this targetted attack on the Eve of the Feast of All Saints.

My first reaction was to call my mother-in-law Josephine to see if she knew anyone in that parish.  She had contacts world-wide in the Syrian-Catholic community and elsewhere.  And then I remembered her passing almost three months ago.  It's funny...Zouheir says that he keeps going to pick up the phone to call her and then remembers that he can't.  Josephine made friends wherever she went, and even in the months before she died, she kept in contact with friends and family by phone.  She was also introduced to Skype in her final year and enjoyed seeing her grandchildren that way, even if she couldn't see them in person.  And she was a prayer warrior, keeping us all close to her heart and the heart of Jesus.

Today, she would have been praying for the church in Baghdad, and I ask for her intercession for the repose of the souls of the dead, and peace to the injured and bereaved.

Monday, November 1, 2010

You never know where KISS is gonna pop up...


I attended the wonderful Creepy Classics concert with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night.  It was a great program of short-ish pieces, all with a spooky theme.  The evening started out with Bach's Toccata from Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565, with a stage dark, the organ lit in blue, and a witch in a tall pointed hat on the organ.  We got some Mussogorsky, two pieces from Bernard Herrman from work he did for Hitchcock in Psycho and Vertigo, plus Saint-Saens, Berlioz, and Stravinsky.

The musicians were all in costume, and a number of shots were posted this morning on their Facebook page.  I think the award for creativity goes to the trumpet section who blessed us with their KISS getup.  

It was a great night all 'round.

Photos courtesy of the TSO Facebook page.