To read or not to read? Netflix to the rescue!

For the photo that could have been taken at my house, I thank Dianna at  http://www.diannahuff.com/2013/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2012/

For the photo that could have been taken at my house, I thank Dianna at http://www.diannahuff.com/ 2013/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2012/

Like many people who love to read, I have stacks, and shelves, of books I want to read. When I got my TNBC (triple negative breast cancer) diagnosis, I had visions of me lying in bed, propped up by countless pillows, a cup of tea on the nightstand, Clover and the cats lounging on and around me, as I read my way through those books. Between chemo and surgery and radiation, it became very clear that reading anything longer than a magazine article, and I mean a short one, was not going to happen. Chemo made me feel artificial and achy and foggy, surgery made sitting up and holding a book uncomfortable for anything more than 20 minutes. Concentration is poor, my body aches, and I just don’t care about people in books. It takes too much effort. Just like so many things. And I used to love reading my books in bed, and if I lie down now it’s 95 per cent certain I will be asleep within minutes.

Enter Netflix, streaming TV series and movies to your TV, computer and even the phone. Netflix has become my go-to hobby, pastime, babysitter, amphetamine, sleeping pill, best friend, you name it. Eight seasons of House M.D. had 176 episodes, which is approximately 7,920 minutes, or 132 hours of viewing nirvana. After almost every episode I also read a review and medical analysis written by Dr. Scott over at Polite Dissent—we agree that House was the best medical series EVER. If I hadn’t had cancer and been sentenced to the life of a hermit, I would never have had the chance to watch it.

I’m on a roll. I haven’t been completing many things these days, but I think I can pull a list together. Here is what I have consumed as a cancer hermit:

Luther, from the BBC, a psychological police/crime drama, starring the gorgeous Idris Elba. Three seasons; 14 episodes.

Fringe, a sci-fi, parallel universe, time-jumping, paranormal series that fills a bit of the void left by X-Files. Lead is female (Anna Torv! yay!) as FBI agent, with Joshua Jackson as her right-hand man and John Noble as an LSD-dropping scientist. Five seasons; 100 episodes.

House of Cards, political thrills drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright that got 13 Emmy nominations. Netflix original. Two seasons and a third in the works; 26 episodes.

Boss, super-dark political drama starring Kelsey Grammar as the mayor of Chicago as dementia with Lewy bodies begins to take over his body and his life. Only two seasons, which is a crying shame; 18 episodes.

Orange is the New Black, everybody knows this one. I’m halfway through the second season; 18 episodes so far.

The Fall, British detective drama (BBC) with lots of murders and fabulous accents, starring Agent Scully Gillian Anderson. Only one season thus far, but a second season is in the works; five episodes.

The Killing, very dark, crime drama, based on the original Danish production, features intricate weaving of plots and personalities. Best lead actors of any show. Three seasons, and eagerly anticipating season four, available August 1 (or 5, I can’t remember); 36 episodes.

Damages, legal drama with huge arcs, adore Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. Five seasons, 59 episodes.

Canterbury’s Law, courtroom drama starring Julianna Margulies, whom I would watch acting in just about anything. It was a warm-up to watching The Good Wife, see below. One season; just six episodes.

The Good Wife, courtroom, legal and political drama starring Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry and Christopher Noth (whom I have adored since the first-ever Law and Order in 1990). Four seasons; 113 episodes

Shameless, Brit comedy import about a drunk dad and his eight kids and how they basically bring each other up. Four seasons; 33 episodes.

Dexter, super bloody, murder-an-episode set in Florida with C. Michael Hall playing a psychopathic forensics tech who kills the criminals he feels have eluded their true punishments for bad deeds. Sometimes too predictable. Seven seasons; I’ve watched 36 so far.

The Guardian, legal drama and social work meet as Simon Baker (swoon!), corporate lawyer who likes coke way too much, is forced to rack up 1,500 hours of community service as an ad litem. Three seasons; 67 episodes.

Lie to Me, behavioural psychology meets crime drama starring Tim Roth and Kelli Williams. Three seasons; 48 episodes.

Homeland, American political drama, starring Claire Danes, the CIA, the Marines, Al Qaeda. Two seasons; 24 episodes.

Numbers, a crime-solving pair of brothers who rely on mathematics to solve EVERY case! I make my son watch this one to show him the pure beauty of math. He got 100% in a summer school math test = TV is good for your grades. Six seasons; 119 episodes.

United States of Tara, a comedy/drama about a mum with dissociative identity disorder (Toni Collette), her husband (John Corbett) and their family. I don’t know anyone with this disorder, so I can’t vouch for how on the mark it was with the psychiatry, but I could have watched another season or two. Three seasons; 36 episodes.

And I am watching Wallander, starring Sir Kenneth Branagh, a fabulous BBC Scotland project that is adapted from Swedish novels, and filmed in Sweden, Three seasons; I’m on the last of 12 episodes, and an episode is an hour and a half long—lots of time for character development.

So you know I have to do what I’m going to do now. Add them all up.

946 episodes. Roughly 135 episodes a month, which is four and a half episodes a day. And I cook and clean and do laundry and sweep and fold clothes while Netflix streams on, keeping the little voices in my head how I like them—overpowered.

Things I Love Thursday: a new book—Do I Need to See the Doctor?—and a giveaway!

DoINeedToSeeTheDoctor_CovertiltWell hello, and I’m back on the Things I Love Thursday blog carnival! In the few weeks that I haven’t played, the number of bloggers have increased threefold—yay Jill! What I love about Things I Love is the fact that these are honest endorsements by real folks.

Things I Love is a self-explanatory theme, but I’ll go ahead and explain anyway—or rather, I’ll let Jill explain:  “pick an actual thing that you love. Feel free to do a product review, but make sure to let your readers know that you have been supplied with the product to review so we are keepin’ it honest.” Yes, this is an endorsement to be sure, but I borrowed it from a friend, and now the two copies I have been supplied with are going to be given away to two of you! For more excellent things that we love, check out The DiaperDiaries.net.

Here’s a quiz: Every time one of your kids has a symptom, what is your first thought?

  • I told him not to play in the sandbox
  • can ringworm be that perfectly round?
  • what side is the appendix on?
  • how long has that been like that?
  • do I have any thermometers left?
  • do i need to see the doctor?

Ha!

“Do I Need to See the Doctor?” is the title of a new home treatment encyclopedia—don’t groan, it’s a concise 218 pages long—that was written by three working doctors—Brian Murat, Greg Stewart and John Rea— (personal observation: all three of them are cute, married and with kids. oh well). What I love about this book is the in-your-face design, nature and writing. It mirrors in print exactly what your mind is grasping for when you have a sick kid. There are tons of photos, charts, sidebars and a flow chart for each illness that I wish I could reproduce here to show you. The page first presents the topic, say Umbilical Cord Care, then gives a summary of what it is, and what should happen to it. Next, the flow chart begins with a big circle that says START HERE, with an arrow pointing dow. Don’t you already feel like these doctors know how to take care of you so you can take care of yours?

Then there are a series of questions, which you answer, and your answer will direct you to

  1. See your doctor
  2. See the section Home Suggestions, and then start the flowchart again after a specified time limit. 

Home suggestions are good, common sense measures, tricks, treatment and care to undertake in the hopes you can cure the ailment and alleviate any discomfort along the way. After you’ve tried the Home Suggestions, you go back to the flowchart and assess the condition again.

This is an excellent book for parents and even parents-to-be, since a range of just-post-birth conditions are covered, as are baby, toddler, child, teen and adult illnesses. The doctors even cover issues of mental health, from depression, anxiety and psychosis to domestic violence and dementia.

I love this book. And you can too! The lovely rep at Wiley, the publisher, has given me two books to give away, so answer even one of my questions in the comment box below and you’ll be entered to win! I’ll pick the winner April 2, so pass the link on to anyone you think would like to win!

MY QUESTIONS FOR YOU: when you make the big decision to keep a kid home from school sick, do they stay in their bed all day LIKE WE USED TO? Or do they get to run around and play the computer, watch TV, wear no socks and ask for gingerale? (this is my house, if you haven’t yet guessed). Do you often feel like a dork taking your kids to the doctor just to be told “It’s a cold. It’s going around.” Got any secret family remedies you’d like to share?

Best of luck to you all!


Things I Love Thursday: pineapple upside down cake that I don’t have to make! plus a contest!

tilt.jpgOver at The Diaper Diaries, it’s time for Jill’s weekly “Things I Love Thursday” blog carnival. This week I am sharing a delicious dessert that is so retro not only will you want to serve it again and again, you’ll want to make Spam appetizers, a sputnik cheese ball and maybe those Swedish meatballs in a fancy sauce that we didn’t know until later was melted grape jelly and ketchup!

Yes, I’m woman enough to admit that I bought this President’s Choice Pineapple Upside Down Cakes dessert by its cover—who could resist that happy homemaker, in the upper-left corner, with her teeny waist and coifed hair and “there’s-a-martini-on-the-sideboard-for-you-dear” air of confidence about her?!?

If I serve these pineapple upside down cakes to my family, I too could pop right onto that box!

So $6.99 later, there we were, lined up in front of the microwave, elbowing and guilting for position—”I was at school longer than you!” “Yeah, well I carried the groceries in!” “Mum should go first, she works hardest!” That’s what I said. These little cakes are delish—sponge cake, the pineapple slice, sweet caramel sauce (not enough, mind you, but for me there never is). Each cake (you get four in the box) has 16 g of fat, takes 55 seconds in the microwave and can be eaten in one to five minutes, depending on your willpower. And, get this, they’re a product of Canada!

Now, you have three things to do:
1) leave me a hello below
2) pop over to The Diaper Diaries and see what other things make the Things I Love list
3) click over to enter my contest. Want to win three Consonant Body Organic Skincare products from the Pure collection? They are perfect for babies, children, pregnant women and anyone with sensitive skin or a sensitive nose, because these products have no added colours or scents, organic or otherwise.

The giveaway consists of a full-size Pure Unscented Body Wash, Pure Unscented Body Lotion and the Organic Olive Oil Pure Unscented Soap. All you need to do is answer one of my questions in this post (or more, if you’d like), so click and enter my contest!

Things I Love Thursday: Consonant soaps and a contest!

tilt.jpgOver at The Diaper Diaries, it’s time for Jill’s weekly “Things I Love Thursday” blog carnival. A couple of months ago I did my TILT (Things I Love Thursday) posting and held a contest to give away what I loved. It was a success, so I did it again, this time using a huge messenger bag from Teletoon, stuffed with Teletoon-themed DVDs, books, travel mug, school supplies, and the winner is HenniPenni! You can read all about this uber-cool great-grandmother who loves the Simpsons in this post. And I’ll be doing a giveaway on the fabulous line I’m talking about today!

PhotobucketPhotobucketWhile I am the first person to scoff at hokey ad come-ons, “Change your TV, change your life,” and the way they drill concepts into the brains of our kids (and us!), I am a sucker for well-written, clever copy. Hence my very first impression of Consonant Body Organic Skincare’s body soap. I picked up the box, turned it over in my hand and read:

“Well look at you, you unapologetically discerning shopper. you. Holding this bar of organic body soap just inches from your meticulously groomed face. Examining every last detail. Ensuring it contains the finest quality natural ingredients. Wondering whether it’s safe for all skin types and hoping you are right for such a great product.

“Well, it does. And it is. And you are.”

Obviously this has to be a superior soap, because it has superior copy! How clever, how tongue-in-cheek, how presumptuous! I loved it before I even opened the box, which, when I did, let escape a wonderful “eat me, chew, me, spread me on your skin” fragrance of spearmint and sage. Folded carefully into the box was a slice of loofah, all the better to exfoliate, and a bonus since I had no idea it would be there.

I received three soaps, and have tried all three. Warm, gentle and rich describe them. The scents are subtle, and even the exfoliating soaps feel soft and gentle. The slogan for Consonant Body is “What goes on your body goes in your body,” and so only the puest and fewest ingredients are used. The president of the company, Bill Baker, says “Our bodies can’t process all the chemicals we absorb. They are ‘persistent bio-cumulative,’ and as they build in our bodies they are irritating at best; toxic and dangerous at worst.” Consonant Body products have no parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, artificial colours, dyes or synthetic fragrances—all those things you usually see on the shampoo bottle if you can focus your eyes in the shower.

I have tried the body wash and the body moisturizer too—both are amazing—but I’m stuck on the soaps for now. These are the types:

  • clove (organic vanilla, buttermilk and clove oil)
  • goat’s milk (organic vanilla and goat’s milk)
  • goat’s milk and hemp (organic oatmeal, shredded hemp and goat’s milk)
  • olive oil (organic beeswax, spring water and glycerin)
  • spearmint and sage (organic citrus oil, spearmint and sage)
  • spearmint and sage with exfoliating sage (hominy grits, dillweed, polenta, oatbran, spearmint and sage)

This company is Canadian (yay!), and just starting out, with plans to expand its line of soaps, body washes and body lotions to products for the face (double yay!).

And the best news for you: Consonant Body Organic Skincare is providing me with a giveaway of items from the Pure collection, perfect for babies, children, pregnant women and anyone with sensitive skin or a sensitive nose, because this line has no added colours or scents, organic or otherwise.

The giveaway consists of a full-size Pure Unscented Body Wash, Pure Unscented Body Lotion and the Organic Olive Oil Pure Unscented Soap. And all you need to do is answer one of my questions (or more, if you’d like).

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: on a scale of 1 (not important at all) to 10 (vitally important), how imortant is organic purity in what you put on your body? How important is organic purity in what you put on your face? How important is organic purity in what you put IN your body? Would you buy a skin care product from the internet after researching it and finding good reviews? Or would you have to be able to try it, or at least examine it, in store before buying? And last, but not least, who would you buy a $12 bar of organic soap for: yourself? your partner? your teen? your grade-schooler? your baby?

That’s it! Post an answer and maybe you’ll be loving your skin with Consonant Body products. Contest closes January 30th, so spread the word, get your mum to enter, your sister, your friend—just decide ahead of time if you’re sharing!

You can buy all the Consonant products online from Consonant Body, or in Toronto at Delineation, Lileo, Outer Layer and Pir Cosmetics.

Good luck!

Things I Love Thursday: cartoons and a contest!

tilt.jpgOver at The Diaper Diaries, it’s time for Jill’s weekly “Things I Love Thursday” blog carnival. A couple of weeks ago I did my TILT (Things I Love Tursday) posting and held a contest to give away what I loved. It was a success, and I’m doing it again.

I love cartoons. When I was little, it was Top Cat (I knew every word—I checked it out on YouTube, and yes, my memory is smokin’: “Top Cat! The most effectual Top Cat! Whose intellectual close friends get to call him T.C., providing it’s with dignity. Top Cat! The indisputable leader of the gang. He’s the boss, he’s a pip, he’s the championship. He’s the most tip top, Top Cat. Yes he’s a chief, he’s a king, but above everything, he’s the most tip top, Top Cat. Top Cat!” I will have to spend more time on YouTube—it is cartoon therapy!); Wally Gator (whom I received plenty of teasing over as a kid, now sing along! “Wally Gator is a swinging alligator in the swamp. He’s the greatest peculator [OK, I never knew this meant embezzler. Wally Gator was an operator, but an embezzler? Now I’m starting to take offense] when he really starts to romp. There has never been a greater operator in the swamp. See ya later, Wally Gator!”) and Snagglepuss, of “Exit, stage right!” and “Heavens to Meratroid!”

Kids today have it made in the cartoon department. They get the brand-new cartoons, the animé and the oldies. Luka has recently shifted away from the newer offerings to Teletoon Retro and it’s phenomenal retro catoons—The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris Badanov and Natasha, Dudley Do-Right, Woody Woodpecker, The Jetsons, The Tom & Jerry Show, even the original Spider-Man and that spine-tingling theme song (small note, I sang it as a wake-up lullaby to my sons, and it really worked!).

In addition to a nonstop diet of retro on Teletoon Retro (and that’s retro to viewers in their ’30s, 40’s, ’50s, 60’s and beyond), the regular Teletoon channel has all the good new cartoons such as 6teen (which we cannot live without at our house), Wayside, Ben 10, Johnny Test, My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, Futurama and returning soon, Total Drama Island.

Here is the holiday sked for those all important “Watch the Christmas movie, pass the tape and keep signing those cards” family evenings that are happening right now. All new this year on Teletoon are the broadcast and Canadian premieres of:

Side Show Christmas, where Santa is hypnotized and made part of The Most Unbelievable Show on Earth (Dec. 16 at 6p.m., Dec. 22 at 7 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.). A Dennis the Menace Christmas has Dennis staying true to character (Dec. 20 at 7:30, Dec. 23 at 5:30 and Dec. 24 at noon). Gotta Catch Santa Claus is an animated feature where a 12-year-old boy sets out to prove Santa is real, and finds a monster named LeFreeze is also on his trail. You have to tune in for this one, because William Shatner is the voice of the big guy (Dec. 21 ay 6 p.m., Dec. 22 at 11 a.m.

When Dec. 20 rolls around, it’s back-to-back cartoons with a Christmas theme of one kind or another, right up to ther big day.

It’s never to late to jump on The Secret World of Santa Claus, a 26-episode extravaganza of Santa and the elves foiling the useless attempts of troll-villains Gruzzlebeard and Dudley. Catch it every weekday at noon and 7p.m., and on the 25th, all episodes run in order from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

SO, HERE ‘S THE CONTEST! This fabulous bag of swag is king-size, and includes, among other items, a sparkly Teletoon travel mug, the hat and pencil set pictured below, a big hardcover Looney Tunes Storybook Collection, Teletoon notebook and matching pen, plus three DVDs—6teen Deck the Mall, the original Tom & Jerry A Nutcracker Tale, and the original Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! That has to add up to $100 easy. And all you have to do is answer one question below, or more if you like!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: what was your favourite cartoon as a kid? Do you watch cartoons now? With a kid, or on your own? What’s your current fave? What is your favourite Christmas or holiday cartoon?

Now, check out The Diaper Diaries for more Things I Love Thursday posts, and enter my contest!

Things I Love Thursday: Better Life coffee

tilt.jpgI find it totally interesting that over at The Diaper Diaries, host of this weekly “Things I Love Thursday” blog carnival, Jill is talking about Dove and the company’s forays into making girls feel good about themselves. Self-actualization was the last thing on my mind when I was given two packs of Better Life coffee. I thought, Excellent! Coffee! I didn’t think what is the impact of this product on a homeless man on the streets of Vancouver this winter?

I ground, I brewed, I drank. The espresso, pictured here in the package, did have hints of caramel and chocolate, just as promised. It’s a traditional Italian-roast style (which is especially nice, since I am embarking on a personal exploration of things Italian), and organic, which assuages all kinds of Tim Hortons coffee guilt. The other coffee I tried, Ethiopian organic, was exactly how I love my coffee, soft and strong, intensely flavoured, but mellow. Success on both fronts. My next step was to check out the price, availability and the company. Price: totally competitive at $12.99 for 340 g; availabilty: online store, super easy, all over the western half of Canada now, and approaching the east; the company: WOW!

A philanthropic model for emerging companies or what? Better Life is coffee and chocolate now, all organic, with a fixed portion (5 to 10 per cent) of the price of all products going to the Give a Better Life Foundation. The Foundation has three projects on the go now: constructing a clean water system in a village of 850 people in Bulate, Ethiopia; winter shelter for the homeless in Vancouver; safe shelter for women and children rescued from human trafficking for the sex trade, not halfway around the world, but here in Vancouver. Great projects, reasonable costs, accountability. Right now, you can view videos and vote on the charity you would like the Give a Better Life Foundation to support. And the board of the foundation reviews all suggestions from customers as to projects and charities that might offer a good fit. A small Canadian company with superior products and a human plan. That’s more than one Thing I Love this Thursday!

Four things for you to do:

1) say hi to me in the comment/response box below

2) check out The Diaper Diaries for more Things I Love Thursday posts

3) click here to enter my little contest and win a copy of Desmond Morris’s new book Amazing Baby (Firefly books, $40, hardcover). Contest closes Sunday, Dec. 7, so don’t delay!

4) Check out Better Life, spend some time on the site and read. Take my word for it, the coffee is delicious, and once you read about their mission, head to the online store. Coffees and chocolate, $2.99, 60 per cent Belgian dark infused with orange…

Things I Love Thursday: a ring, but no ordinary ring

tilt.jpgThis blog carnival is called Things I Love Thursday. The rules are simple: “pick an actual thing that you love. Feel free to do a product review, but make sure to let your readers know that you have been supplied with the product to review so we are keepin’ it honest.” This Thursday the thing I love is a ring that I can imagine on my finger right now, but sigh, it isn’t. This week’s item could also go under the catchy title “Things I Covet,” you know, things that I love that are completely, utterly, 100% unattainable by me, and even if I were given one, I likely couldn’t afford the insurance? I am not a social climber (well, if someone holds the ladder steady, I have a day to prepare and someone invites me…), so chances of me eventually owning it and being able to claim it is my favourite piece are zilch. I love this Dior ring, the Diorette. Isn’t is sweet? It is a perfect combination of sweet and over-the-top. It’s from last year’s collection, and can you believe it? No markdowns planned, not even for Black Friday. It is so insanely pretty! And from a mere $2,550 to $15,000 (this one, the one I need, is in the upper range) (of course). Sapphires, diamonds, amethyst, citrine, pink sapphire, amethyst, mandarin garnet, tsavorite, yellow sapphire, aquamarine. Aaahhhh! You can click here to go to the official site. QUESTIONS FOR YOU: what doth thou covet most? A finger bauble, a rope of Tahitian pearls, Jimmy Choo shoes, a shiny Porsche, or a killer 4 x 4? I want answers, here. Make it unattainable in this lifetime, like “teens who don’t fight” or “a husband who insists on doing the floors.” Over at The DiaperDiaries.net, Jill and her family are celebrating American Thanksgiving and so no links to go exploring on. So, then jump back a day or two to enter a contest to win a beautiful book about babies. The closing has been extended to December 7, so enter now!