Monday, June 30, 2008

Wonder Deoderant!

I have finally found it! A natural deoderant, free from the nasty (or at the very least the questionable) chemicals that regular deoderant is full of that actually works! I've tried in the past to switch over to natural deoderants, but had to give up and switch back for the sake of all those within a 10-foot radius.

Then I read about a product over at Crunchy Chicken's blog that she raved about and made a mental note to look for it next time I was out and about, and on Saturday I found it at Shoppers. Both the TC and I have been using it for a couple of days now, during some pretty intense heat, and we're fresh as daisies! Or in TC's case, a very manly daisy :)

It's called Crystal Body Deoderant, and here's what the site says about it, all of which I have found to be true:

Crystal Body Deodorant is made of 100% natural mineral salts, which are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, paraben free, non-sticky, non-staining, dries instantly and leaves no white residue ... [the mineral salts] form a topical layer on the skin, creating an environment impossible for bacteria to thrive. They eliminate the odor-causing bacteria and therefore prevent body odor.

Isn't that fantastic? It costs $7 for the crystal, which seems pretty steep until you realize that it lasts up to a year. I really can't recommend this highly enough. If you're looking for a natural alternative to your regular deoderant, this is it folks!

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Big Read

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicise those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them ;-)

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (Well, I've read 4-1/2 of them. Part of the way through the Order of the Phoenix I got fed up with Harry's adolescent self-centered angst and had to stop, but I hope to finish the series eventually.)
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (Another proviso - I got half way through this one, and once again got fed up with the angst and had to put it down. I do plan to finish it someday, though.)
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (Except for the last chapter - again, I was fed up with Anna's behaviour and had to stop. I didn't realize I did this so often!)
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (Is this not part of the Chronicles of Narnia? Why is it here twice, I wonder.)
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
69 . Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville (I had to stop this one over halfway through, but this time because the book was actually making me feel sea-sick. I do intend to finish it!)
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73.The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare (Again, why is this not included in with the Complete Works of Shakespeare?)
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

43 - I didn't think I'd have read that many. I guess it pays to have an English major for a husband. Even the books that I haven't read I know are on his bookshelves somewhere :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sweating it out...

Keep Yer Cool Challenge

One of the less pleasant realities of living in TO is the incredible heat that we experience every summer. Seriously, I had no idea it could get as hot and muggy as it does here on a regular basis. Growing up in the moderately climed Maritimes, a/c was something you only encountered at places like the mall or the grocery store, or in people's cars. In my entire acquaintance growing up, there was only one family who had a/c at home.

The opposite is the case here, with most people having some form of a/c at home, and for reasons I understand but don't necessarily agree with. It's freakin' hot in this city! For those of you who live down home, o loyal blog readers, think of the hottest day of the year, add at least 5 degrees, jack up the humidity and make it last 2 months, with brief stints of relief when it rains. Sleep becomes next to impossible, and all you do is lay there and sweat.

That being said, we do not have a/c in our apartment. Nor will we be getting any. One of my biggest pet peeves is the fact that people use a/c make their homes and/or businesses a temperature that they would deem unfit during the winter. I should not need to wear a sweater inside when it is 35+ degrees outside, people! That's aside from the obvious waste of energy and natural resources that using a/c causes.

Now, I don't think that using a/c is an inherently evil act. There are those for whom the extreme heat of summer is a genuine hazard, such as the elderly or those with certain health concerns. And think of all the people who work in bakeries during the summer - how miserable and/or lethal would that be with no a/c? But outside of these and other such exceptions, I just can't seem to justify the wide-spread use of a/c for comfort (check out the article on a/c and comfort here).

I have therefore accepted the Keep Yer Cool challenge issued by Crunchy Chicken to sweat out the summer without a/c insofar as it is within my power to do so.

So let me ask all of you - how do you keep cool in summer, without a/c? Any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I recently discovered a farmers' market just north of where I work that can easily be reached during my lunch break, so today a friend and I decided we would check it out. No sooner did we enter the courtyard where the market was being held than we were hit by that delicious summer smell - strawberries! Mmm, so good. Eating produce fresh from the fields is the kind of thing that just makes your cells feel good, if that makes any sense.
Too bad I have to wait til I get home from work to dig into those berries...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Going Home!

Yay! We're going home! I got my vacation update at work the other day and figured out that I could take a week off this summer and still be able to have 2 weeks at Christmas, so we're going to go home!

I'm so glad it has worked out this way. It's the MIL's 60th birthday, which we wanted to celebrate with her, and I still haven't seen the house where my parents live except for some pictures as it was being built. I booked the tickets yesterday, so there's no turning back now - we'll be home in 18 short sleeps...not that I'll be counting...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Saturday at the Zoo

What fun! Our friends L&M from Kingston came to visit us this weekend, and aside from shopping and just hanging out, all that they wanted to do was go visit the Toronto Zoo, to which neither TC nor I have ever been. I loved it! The day was perfect, a little overcast so it wasn't too warm, but warm enough that we didn't need sweaters. All of the animals (except for the cheetahs) were out and about, including...

...the Greater Kudu. Check out those horns! Sidenote: Is there a Lesser Kudu?

Hippos are such massive animals! And apparently they're quite deadly if you happen to enter their territory. We arrived as the keeper was giving a little schpeel, and I think he said there are about 300 people killed by hippos each year. Crazy!

Isn't he (or she?) beautiful? I've never seen a giraffe before, and I was really struck by them. They're so tall and graceful and gentle-looking.

They were feeding the elephants when we got there, which was neat. They're rather comical - their eyes are so small in relation to the rest of them, and yet their ears are huge (not to mention the obvious nose thing).

This beast of a thing (a Great Indian Rhino) looked like a cross between a rhino and an armadillo. It had what looked like hinged armor plates all over its body.

Is that not the picture of contentment? The lions were pretty sleepy when we saw them, so they just kind of laid there soaking up the sunshine.

This guy came up to the fence and posed for this picture - what a showboat! :)

The Great Indian Rhino's less armoured, though massive, cousin, the White Rhino. Apparently they're called White Rhino's not because they're white (as you can see), but because the native name for them, which translates roughly as "square-headed" sounds like the english word "white".

I think tigers are absolutely gorgeous. You can't tell from the picture, but he's (she's?) actually sitting on the top of a hill in the middle of the tiger enclosure, surveying his domain.

These fish are called Lake Malawi cichlids - all beautiful blues, yellows and silvers.

Does anybody else watch Meerkat Manor? If you do, you'll understand why the highlight of the zoo visit for me was seeing these little guys. They're smaller than I thought, being about the size of very small cat. But still very, very cute!

And of course we got to see some local wildlife too :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gaining Perspective

I, that's not right...I know that I should stress out a lot less than I do. I mean, if I really stop and think about it, no matter how busy I get, I know that I have been just as busy in the past and pulled through. It's just that I sometimes lose perspective and need to be reminded that there are bigger things than me and my problems out there.

Last night that reminder came in the form of a Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert that we attended with our friend JD. As we sat there and listened to the music, I was completely swept up in it. There were points when I had to remind myself to breathe, especially during the third piece that they played: John Corigliano's Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra. It was such intense and moving music, so beautiful and haunting.

It was also great to reconnect with JD, who we went to university with and now works with a missions organization. She just returned from a trip to Bangladesh and had wonderful things to tell us about the work that is being done toward improving literacy among the women and children in that country, as well as the on-going translation of the Bible into their language. You can't help but realize how paltry your own problems (or at least my problems) are when you realize how much you have to be thankful for - the ability to read, the freedom to believe and worship as I choose, more food and clothing than I really need.

So what if I'm busy? :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I'm not sure whether I think it's neat or cussed that I'm continually learning new things about myself. Life would be so much easier if we were born knowing, or least came into the knowledge at a certain point in life. But it's so much more complicated than that, especially given the fact that we change over time, for various reasons. This can be a very good thing since nobody is perfect, and there is nothing more rewarding that seeing someone overcome a negative aspect of their personality.

But sometimes the change is more on the part of your perception of yourself than who you actually are. I used to think that I was an extrovert, who loved to be busy and out and about with lots of people, and in the last couple of months I have come to the realization that this is not, in fact, the case. I love people, and spending time with friends will always be a priority in my life, but I'm discovering that I need to put limits on this. Lately I have begun to feel increasingly overwhelmed by the amount of social committments that we have. If I look at my calendar for last week and the next couple of weeks, I actually feel oppressed. Of the 21 days, only 4 evenings are free, and it's been like this for the last month or so.

I found myself so overwhelmed and exhausted this week that I didn't go to a friend's birthday party on Monday night, and then called in sick yesterday and proceeded to sleep a good part of the day away. And it's not that I'm one of those people who can't say no - I actually say no a lot, but you can only say no so many times.

I think at least part of the reason I'm finding it all so overwhelming is that we're in Toronto. Not that the physical city itself is the cause, but rather its subcultural norms. Everything is so planned here. We wanted to get together with some friends a while ago, and ended up having to book an evening 3 weeks in the future to do it because everyone was so busy. That's Toronto. It's so easy to overbook yourself when you're planning that far in advance.

But I could deal with the over-scheduling if it weren't for the fact that when people do get together in Toronto, it's almost always at an outside location, i.e. a restaurant or park or movie theatre. Very rarely do people invite you into their homes, not because they're unfriendly, but that's just not how it's done here. You get together with people to do something, and this usually involves a trip to and from the agreed-upon location, which using public transit can take up to 45 minutes each way.

There are exceptions to this, of course, and it's not that I don't like doing things with people. It's just that I'm discovering that I need a lot more down time than I thought. I never noticed this back home, because the nature of social interaction there is much more laid back. You don't need to plan 3 weeks in advance, you just go visiting. If they're not there, it's no big deal. If you don't want to go out, you don't. You can just spend an evening in, doing what you would normally do, except perhaps with more people if they should decide to come visit you. Of course sometimes plans are made ahead, and people do do things together, but not to the extent that it's done here.

I'm not quite sure what to do about all this yet. I don't want to be anti-social or unreliable, but our current pace is just too much. I'm hoping that things will get better through the summer, as some of our responsibilities ease up a bit, but then September will roll around again and back we go. But I don't want to go back to this paralyzing state of over-committment. Maybe I just need to resign myself to having to say no even more than I am now.