Jan 22, 2010


I'm officially a boarder. My brother is visiting and we hit the slopes today. He also went yesterday, but given hubby was having a massively painful surgery on his eyes (PRK type lasik), I stayed home as official eye-dropper and general care-taker for food, pets, you name it. Since hubby was feeling a lot better today and cannot really do much other than mosey around the house, the sibs took off to board.

It was my first time ever, and we spent about 3.5 hours on the slopes. In that time, I learned to board well enough to make turns, and link them together (as well as stay upright, stop, and on two occasion catch the "wrong" edge and face-plant or butt-plant into the snow -- which is very ouch and I do not recommend!). 

The afternoon was a success. I can string together about 10-12 turns without stopping and managed to get all the way down the small mountain with the easiest of green trails without falling over. The only problem now is muscle strength. I could potentially string more turns together but my thighs start to burn at that point, requiring that I sit down and take a rest.

But still, I am surprised. You hear of people saying it takes three days of sore knees and painful butts before they find the groove. I was grooving quite nicely today, and on occasion, with quite a bit of speed. It was tiring though, and after 3.5 hours, my legs refused to go any further. Bet I sleep well tonight!

I do love being less than an hour from a ski resort, and paying less than 150 bucks for a season pass.

Jan 20, 2010

Night Skiing

Last night I went night-skiing. And it was awesome. The weather was perfect, a balmy -1C. The slopes had just about the right amount of snow, aided by a bit of a sprinkle from the previous day, and not icy. 

I was wearing and testing out my new ski pants. Although they are lime green and therefore clash hideously with my almost neon-blue ski jacket, they are without a doubt the best ski pants I've ever owned. Never in my life have I been hot, skiing. I mean, sure, I get warmed up with the activity, and my legs burn and all that. But I cannot recall actually sweating on the slopes. Yesterday I did. 

I was probably a bit overdressed for the weather, but this is Quebec. And one just never knows when the temperature will suddenly decide to plummet from balmy cold to arctic frigid. So better safe than sorry. I was not sorry at all to be too warm, though it did make for a rather unpleasant smell in the car later on.

The other fantastic part about the night skiing was the view. The entire slope is lit up with lights, and from the top you can see the "town". If you choose, you can ski past all the lovely chalets on your way down. On the way up, the ski lift passes by the tops of the trees, the deciduous ones whose leaves have long since dropped, had a coating of snow attached to them. As they caught the lights from the slopes below, the tops of the trees sparkled prettily. It was just amazing.

What made it all the more exciting was the fact that I did not have to worry about contacts or glasses. I just popped on my goggles and off I went! It made me appreciate my new eyesight all the more. Although tonight is another story - after an entire day of coding, everything is blurred. I will ask the Lasik people about that tomorrow. Hubby reckons it's just that my muscles are over-tired.

Jan 19, 2010

Losing battle

I'm waging a losing battle against cookies. And wine. And chips. And big lunches. 

To my detriment, I tried to get into a pair of jeans I bought in Belgium early December, and found that I could not zip them up. It wasn't just that they wouldn't zip up. I had about an inch of space to cover between the button hole and the button itself. There was just no way out. I simply had to face it. I gained weight.

Not weight so much as fat, I think. My weight still seems ok, but with a lack of exercise over the holidays my muscles have probably shrunk and body fat took over. 

I will be the first to admit that I've also been stuffing my face rather a lot. I've been unusually hungry for the past month or so. Even hubby had begun to comment on it. I simply allowed myself to eat. I just kept telling myself that I exercise a lot and that if I'm hungry, my body must need the food. 

But in spite of it all, I still managed to get a really bad cold. And on top of it I can't fit in my pants. Pretty depressing. So today was the day that the "beach diet" started. For two reasons:

(i) we've planned a fabulous vacation in Cuba for next month; that means many people are likely to see me in a skimpy bikini

(ii) I just bought a pair of ski pants that are ever so slightly too tight on the waist

Both are supposed to be good incentives to get me to stick to some sort of diet. If I can shed the excess inch, I will treat myself to a new bikini (I'm in dire need of a new one). An added bonus will be that my ski pants won't be too tight any longer.

Crazy, I know. And as things stand tonight, it's 1-0 to the cookies. When I get hungry, I can't sleep. So I've given in on 2 small cookies at roughly 120 calories. And a cup of tea.

Tomorrow will be easier. As will the day after that. The first few days are always the hardest. But the good thing is that I did both Pilates AND the gym today. So I don't feel all that bad about myself.

Jan 16, 2010

Home alone

Hubby is off to Toronto for a night so I'm home alone. It's kind of nice, to have the place all to myself - a rare sort of luxury in which I can do anything I want without disturbing my partner. It's also more difficult to manage the household this way, what with cats and dogs to feed and walk. I already feel guilty for only taking my dog out for 10 minutes at the time. But my cold is still bad enough that I struggle being outdoors any longer than that; I just get tired, cold and cranky. Today is not that cold, but particularly windy, which has an adverse affect on my sinus function, so after a short 10 minutes, I turned around and came home. The dog was looking at me quizzically, as she's used to much longer walks, but she trotted along happily enough. I gave her some extra attention at home in the form of combing out a few knots that are starting to form in her long hair. She let me do it for about 15 minutes, and then decided the hell with that and moved on to more interesting (and less painful) things to do.

I did a bit of work this morning, to catch up on the days I lost with my cold this week. I made a major decision as well: I'm not taking on any additional projects at the moment.

It's easy, as an academic, to slip into a dangerous downward slope of doing reviews, favors, organizing talks and seminars, sitting in on meetings, and gods know what else. All of it takes more time than you think. And none if it really helps you do your research. As a non-teaching semester this term is supposed to give me time to do research. And we are now in the middle of January and I have little to show for it. So, my mind is made up. No more stupid little articles, administrative favors, etc. What I have on my plate is more than enough, and I need space to read and write. 

I hope that this decision helps to make me feel a bit more in control and stable. Without that, I have no hope in hell to write anything successfully. And write I should, and will. In the meantime, I'm trying not to think of how distracting the next couple of weeks will be: hubby will be getting his eye surgery, my brother is arriving for fun on the slopes, and a friend will visit to go shopping and no doubt, to get drunk. All of it fun, of course. But as ever, I feel the added pressure of the pile of work awaiting me.

Saw a fantastic video on TED today, on the creative process. And also saw Nine yesterday. Both have made me think a lot about what type of job I'm in and how it affects the state of mind, my relationships and my life. Wow. In a word. I suddenly realize that I must be quite difficult to live with. But perhaps all this will make me more comfortable with the creative process and just allowing it to be what it is.

Jan 14, 2010

Hairy legs

The cold got worse and I woke up feeling particularly groggy, with huge bags under my eyes and barely able to breathe for all that is clogging my sinuses. Decided to stay at home and baby myself, under the pretext that my virus would otherwise spread among my colleagues. Unfortunately, the theraflu doesn't seem to be helping much, or maybe it's just that my cold is particularly bad. My hearing has gone almost completely.

I'm supposed to be attending a contemporary dance class today, but not sure I will go. Nor do I imagine I'll be going to the after hour drinks in honor of a major conference deadline that takes place today and tends to keep about 10,000 management professors and doctoral students on their toes and sleepless throughout Dec/Jan.

On a plus note, for the first time in about 20 years I was able to shave my legs in the shower and actually see what I was doing. The benefit is that I managed to get rid of all the hairs in one go, rather than guess where there might be some left and find hairs sporadically located across my shins when I put my glasses on after I'd dried myself off. I do love my new eyes. 

For those of you who are wondering why I only seem to shave my legs once every 2 weeks, here are three reasons: (i) I don't have that much hair, (ii) it's the middle of winter and no one sees the hair, plus it might help to keep me a teeny bit warmer, (iii) I'm European and we don't freak out about natural bits of fluff like most North Americans.

Jan 13, 2010

Cold. Brrr. Grrr.

I have a cold! Not that this is necessarily an unusual thing. Except that I can't recall the last time I had a cold. Usually, my gym routine keeps all the bugs away, and since I managed to get through the last semester without a cold in spite of standing amidst lots of bug-ridden students, I thought I was invincible.

Alas, it was not to be, and like everyone else this winter, I have to do my time. At first I blamed the weird tickle in my throat on the lasik surgery. My eyes have been permanently wet since the procedure, with a splendid eye drop routine of anti-bacterials, antibiotics and simple artificial tears. Since the stuff leaks straight through to my sinus/nasal cavity and into the back of my throat, I figured the drops were irritating some internal lining. 

But when my ears started hurting and then getting clogged, to be popped painfully every half hour yesterday, I realized it was more than just the eye drops. And sure enough, I woke up this morning with a head full of mucus.

Not such a disaster, I suppose. Except that I'm sorely tempted to skive. I'll do everything in my power to avoid that temptation, since this is my research semester and I ought to be writing. So far, January has looked more like an administrative exercise. Not good. Every day lost is a day wasted. And at some point someone is going to evaluate my efforts.

Not even the -14C degree temperature this morning will put me off. After all, I've already braved it to take out the dog (promptly forgetting my obligatory sunglasses that I have to wear several more days to protect my eyes). At least the dog was bouncy about it all: she loves it when I'm up early enough to take her out before hubby does.

Jan 9, 2010


I have been given the gift of sight. Well, I paid for it, but it's still a gift in my opinion. After years of thinking about it, I finally went ahead and got lasik surgery. And less than 24 hours later I woke up being able to see my surroundings for the first time in about 20 years.

Like many people, the very thought of someone or something cutting into my eyes scared me. I had heard people say that you might go blind. This was enough to put me off to even consider it as an option for many many years. I figured I would just plod on with my contacts and glasses. Especially contacts (since I hate wearing glasses) - these were fine. But as I got older and more sensitive to irritants, I found the contacts more and more annoying, constantly having to re-wet them or remove them to clean them, feeling the dryness of them in the evenings, etc. So for the last year or so, I've been wearing my glasses more often than my contacts. Since I had astigmatism, I saw better with my glasses, and this was better for all the computer work I do.

Still, I was getting tired of wearing my glasses. Nor do I look particularly fetching in them. It seems no matter what their style, they just don't suit my face. So partly for cosmetic reasons, and partly for practical reasons such as the ability to do sports, swim, be outdoors and all that without having to worry about getting dust or water in my contacts, I decided to take the plunge into lasik.

I started to read up about it seriously just before moving to Canada. I'd heard that the procedure was much more affordable here than in the US. I liked what I read. Turns out that the blindness issue, although theoretically a possibility, is largely a myth. In over 3 million procedures done by this particular clinic, no one had ever lost their sight. Sure, there are risks. Just like any surgery. And some of those risks are scary: wrinkles in your cornea, halos and starbursts at night, and other very rare major risks. I had to sign off on each single one before they would let me into the operating room. 

The entire process was pretty simple. In December, I went to be assessed, and it turned out I qualified for the surgery. But only a customized one since my corneas are too thing for the regular (less expensive) lasik. I decided to go ahead with it. I liked the sound of the customized one, as it used more modern technologies that seemed to have better benefits. 

I got an appointment to do the procedure in January, and spent three weeks wringing my hands anxiously at the thought of a laser cutting into my eyes. Two days before the procedure I worked up the courage to read through all the risks. I didn't sleep a wink that night. I was so tired the night before the surgery that I rested better. The following day, I spent about 4 hours in the clinic, although the actual surgery lasted less than 10 minutes.

"Looks perfect", two doctors and two technicians announced. I let out a huge sigh of relief. Truth is, I was pretty nervous about it, and took their optional "chillax" pill beforehand. Not that it seemed to help much.

I spent the rest of the day resting in bed listening to an audio book and putting eye drops in my eyes roughly every 30 minutes. I woke up the next day feeling excited and being able to see. Today is day 3, and I managed to take a shower and wash my hair, and my eyes are feeling good (though my sinuses are clogged - the latter I fixed with a decongestant). 

I could not be happier about the entire thing. It is wonderful to be able to see. Even if I do have to wear ugly dark glasses whenever I go outside for the next week. Soon, that too will be done. 

So above, a pic of my new eyes. The red dots in the white area are a normal and temporary effect from the suction cup that holds your eyeball in place during surgery. I only read up about how it's actually done a day after the surgery. I wasn't brave enough to do that beforehand. 

Jan 4, 2010

In love with my coat

I'm in love with my coat. Not just any coat, but my hooded down winter coat by Montreal designer Rudsak. It is just awesome. Even in the minus teens. It's a polished white - not the color I'd normally choose for a coat, but I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and then the sales lady said she had a spray (no doubt horribly environmentally unfriendly) to protect the coat from smudges. She was right about that - so far it's not smudged except on the ribbed sleeves and bottom which is a different material. I'm sure my organic stain remover book will be able to help me out with that one. 

My coat has two large front pockets that hold my wallet and phone, and has a huge hood that can be cleverly clipped back to fit my head size. The hood has fur lining (coyote, I think), which some people might argue is not environmentally friendly but the way I see it, neither is making polymer linings. The sleeves are deliberately too long, so that you can pull your hands back into them without any trouble. They also have a thumb opening (like my old coat), but I'm less fond of that as it lets in the cold air, and I'd rather hide my thumb up my sleeve than expose it to the bitter elements.

Today, while I was walking home from work in the dark, I fell in love with my coat all over again. It was freezing and windy, and I had no hat or gloves with me. Yet, the coat wrapped me up just like a mini duck-down cocoon. Ah, I love Montreal designers who actually consider things like cold weather when designing a coat.

Which reminds me, I must get my ski boots changed - the damn things leave my toes icy and cramp my style so much that I can barely get my feet into them. High arches ...

Jan 3, 2010

Veritable ski bunnies

We've become obsessed with skiing. Thirty-five centimeters of snow today in the last 24 hours, 45 cm in the last 2 days and falling. Yet that didn't stop us from braving the mountain in -11 Centigrade (at the bottom of the hill). 

Steve had signed up for a private ski lesson, so I was off on my own, exploring other trails. I did everything from green to black, though I avoided the trails through the trees. It was difficult enough to deal with the amount of snow on the slopes, and I didn't fancy joining the young psychotic ones through the insane territory. I'm still just warming up my ski legs and getting back into things. The ski lift I took this time was about twice as long as the beginner slopes, and packed a serious cross wind 3/4 of the way up. My goggles iced up from tiny snow pellets, to the point where I could barely see the slope.

Not surprising, then, that I ended up in another part of the mountain altogether. At a completely different ski lift. The trails are rather confusing even though there are signs everywhere. I kept looking for "Cowansville" and never managed to find it. Instead I followed "New York" to the east side of the mountain. I warmed myself (and my goggles) up with a small cup of coffee and braved my way to the top again. This time I found the right way down and did it once more before meeting up with Steve.

Lo and behold, he showed me that he passed the bronze ski level!! I'm so proud of him. Twice on the slope and already a bronze, well on his way to silver per the instructor. We promptly went up the mountain again to see his skills and enjoyed a newly groomed slope ... wonderful!

That's when my toes gave out and got too cold for comfort, so we headed back. The drive there and back was probably the most challenging part of the day. But I can't complain. After all, it's just wonderful to be outside, even if you get blasted by icy pellets. We've become veritable ski bunnies.

Jan 2, 2010

Happy New 2♡1♡

A new year, a new decade, even. It all started off with a bang (fireworks). Before that, we also had a small bang in our house. That was when the casserole cooking pot exploded and all the oil and chicken I had just heated up in it dripped down onto our electric hob and caught fire. A few minutes of excitement later, hubby had the situation under control. We got the chicken out of the way before it charcoaled too much (no way you'd find any stores open at that time of day on New Year's Eve, and it was my only source of protein in the house). We managed to save the chicken, safely dump the pot and the oil, and I restarted the process, this time in a steel wok instead of a piece of pottery which seems to work better on spiral electric hobs. Let me mention at this point that I really hate electric hobs, and our kitchen in general because it is too small and full of appliances that have issues.

In the end, all went well and we had a very nice dinner with the few friends we've made so far in Montreal who don't have kids. Even Velcro had a play-date for the night. A few bottles of wine and some decaf coffee later, we decided to hop onto the metro to go look at the fireworks. Unlike New Yorkers, Montrealers don't bother to spend hours waiting outdoors before midnight on New Year's Eve. I think it's just too damn cold. And although the weather was reasonably mild, and the snow light, we were few amongst many getting off the underground about 10 minutes before midnight. It was crowded, but there was live music and we managed to find a good spot to view the visual display.

All in all, not a bad night at all. Welcome 2♡1♡. Let's make it a good one.