Thursday, December 03, 2009

If you're reading this...

you're very lucky. Just like I am for being able to write it.
In the spirit of American Thanksgiving (I know: I'm fiercely, proudly Canadian, but I have a lot of American friends, so I was very aware of their recent holiday) and of living with gratitude in general, I thought I'd share a recent thought. First, to give you the background:
Last week, I had a little "procedure" done to remove a chelazion (basically a cyst from a non-draining oil-gland) off my eyelid. The whole procedure took less than 10 minutes and was done right at the clinic I went to. Very very simple. All I had to do was ice it for the next two days, and put in ointment to help it heal.
So, there I was after the surgery, lying on my couch, trying to decide what to do with my sudden free time. I thought about watching tv, but it was super hard to do with an ice pack over one eye. Same with surfing the internet or reading a book. Even without the ice pack, my eye tired very easily and didn't want to do a lot of work. In the end, I napped and listened to the radio, but it got me thinking. I can see. and the fact that I can see gives me access to so many things I have come to rely on as basic in my life, things I didn't know what to do without for 48 hours. Take it one step further. Not only could I see, I had access to a computer and internet.
I'm not sure what percentage of the world's population has internet at home, but it can't be the majority of us - not even close. Some of us don't even have running water.
So yes, if you're reading this, you likely have running water, and access to medicine, and you can see. I have all three of these things and many many others that I take for granted. And for all of this, I am grateful.
Happy thanksgiving - or as my friend Jenny calls it - Happy Gratitude Day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A modest request for the coffee shops

You know I'm a lover of sitting in your wonderful, relaxing atmospheres. You know there is little I enjoy more than kicking back with a latte and a book and just losing myself in the setting.
Of course, I can't drink milk, lactose free or otherwise, because of my allergies. and my solution has always been soy. Well, recently I've read some frightening things about soy (including the fact that 90% of the soy generated for North American consumption is genetically modified - if you haven't yet watched the future of food, you should!). As a result, I've switched to almond milk and stopped buying soy products. Now, this works at home, but in coffee shops, the only non-dairy alternative is soy. Timothy's, Second Cup, Starbucks, anyone who can make you a latte without milk can only make it with soy milk. Now, I'm not drinking these every week or anything, but it would be really really nice if someone started offering almond milk based drinks, or any nut milk for that matter.
So, I'm asking you, please oh coffee shop people, give me something I can drink while I'm reading a book other than herbal tea. Give me a latte without the bad stuff. Please?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Awesomest Eid Ever

We are on day 3 of Eid Al-Adha, but really wrapping it up because tomorrow's a monday and we'll be back at work. Normally, we end up celebraiting Eid for a day because it's too hard to take more time off, or we're travelling to and from Ottawa or TO, but this Eid, this Eid was different. My parents were coming to Montreal, M's parents and brother were also coming, and my younger sister's in-laws were also in town. Basically, we celebrated in true family style, as-in a bunch of people around an extended table, elbows pressed together, laughter and conversation and ladels being passed from person to person to person. The food was delicious and the company even more so.
It was such a success that M and I (and my younger sister and her hubby) are all insisting that there must be one communal Montreal-style Eid each year.
Repeat, for sure!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

4 Umbrellas Later

I don't think I've mentioned here yet that I've started working out of the Montreal office more and more. I still go to Ottawa for work, but not as often, and since the Montreal office is so wonderfully close to our place, I actually walk to and from work now when I'm here.
Now, I love everything about this new arrangement except for one little detail:
I am notorious for forgetting my umbrella at home. No, scratch that. I bring my umbrella, I just bring it on the days it's not raining. I can carry it for a week to and from work and that week the clouds will not shed a drop. Then I'll forget it and before I head home that afternoon, I'll look out the window and it'll be pouring away. So, I'll go into the Pharmaprix in the plaza downstairs and buy an umbrella - and use it that day before the cycle begins again.
I don't dare get up and count the number of umbrellas M and I have at home, but my guess is that the number is around 7 or 8- and we're two (2!) people. And I'm pretty sure 4 of those were purchased in the last month. By me.
Case in point: yesterday I checked the weather - no rain expected on Monday, but rain expected today. No worries, I would take my brolly today.
And then today happened, and while I was packing my lunch, I remembered that I need the umbrella, but by the time I was done, I'd totally forgotten. and then it wasn't raining in the morning, so I didn't notice when I left the building.
Then, this afternoon as I was heading back from work, I left the office and it was dripping. I walked 100 feet, turned around and went back inside to the Pharmaprix to buy yet ANOTHER umbrella. And then I walked the rest of the way to my errand, did my errand, and walked home without needing it at all. The moment I had the umbrella, the rain stopped. Go figure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A little dose of inspiration and beauty

The words in this are perfect, so I won't add my own:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Remember the Dove Commercial? A Leafs Spoof

I'm a huge hockey fan, and my team is the Montreal Canadiens, who's archrivals are the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Way back when, I posted the Dove Beauty Commercial below. Well, today I saw the parody version with a Leafs fan, instead of a model, at the centre of the clip.
Check them both out. Enjoy the hilarity.

Dove Commercial:

Leafs Parody:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are you Muslim?

I was coming up in the elevator today on my way home, and there was a pizza delivery man there too. He looked at me a bit hesitantly and then asked me, "are you Muslim?"
I smiled and nodded. He said, "Assalaamu alaikum" (the Muslim greeting meaning "peace be upon you"), and I replied "wa alaikum assalaam" ("and peace be with you").
That was it. Simple exchange. Nothing fancy, but it made me wonder.
I wear a hijab, and I'm of Arab descent, so I assume, especially because of my hijab, that I'm a very obvious Muslim. And yet this isn't the first time I've been asked if I'm Muslim by a male Muslim before he says salaam.
With women it's very different. If we spot a fellow hijabi, we smile and say salaam right away. We don't ask. We don't need to. Why do they?
I'm not bothered, just curious. It seems unnecessary, no?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Watch This!

So funny. Apparently there's a comedy show in Australia called "Salam Cafe" (salam means peace in Arabic and is a big part of 'Muslim speak') and they did this hilarious sketch about working with Muslims. I got a real kick out of it. It's good to make fun of ourselves once in a while.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Food Rules to Live By

I've been paying a lot more attention to my food during the last two months, trying to figure out the healthiest way to be eating, thinking of my body as a machine and the food I consume as the fuel. A friend who shares my nutrition zeal sent me this neat list of food rules compiled by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemna. While I don't agree with every rule, it's an interesting list and gives a neat perspective. My personal favourites are #s 9, 11, and 20.
My personal rule, which I haven't quite managed to implement but which I'm working towards, is: Eat foods in inverse proportion to how long they take to be edible. What I mean by this is that vegetables are the fastest and easiest thing to grow and so should make up the largest portion of our diets, followed by fruits, then grains, then meats.
I don't actually do this, not yet. I wish I did. Working on it.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Time is Upon Us

It's fall, there's a chill in the air, and your new-look Montreal Canadiens are about to start their 2009-2010 season (if this opening ceremony ever ends!)
Will they be better this year? I don't know. I hope so. But I hope so every year. Either way, I'm ready (I have been since 3 weeks before training camp) to become a hockey fanatic again. The season is upon us. Yay!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Revealing Ramadan, Take 2

The same day I posted my previous Revealing Ramadan blog post, I got an email from the good people at Speaking of Faith. I did a brief interview with them today, and read my Ramadan piece. Same for Jen. Not sure if they'll be posting the audio, but the piece is now on the website, here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Newest Angel on the Block

Exciting news: my baby sister now has a baby of her own! Our newest little angela made her debut yesterday morning bright and early. She's a beautiful, healthy baby and her parents are already doting over her as we speak (unless she's napping; then they're gratefully trying to get some sleep as well ;))
Once again, I find myself in an enviable position to establish myself as "favourite aunt", since I'm the one living nearby (my baby sis literally lives down the street in Montreal) and I'm working hard on building that status, as I did with my two little Dubai Angels when they were still Ottawa Angels and I was still in Ottawa. (to my other two sisters, I kid of course. We can have a three-way tie for favourite aunt :))
A funny story about our newest angel: At some point during my sister's pregnancy, Montreal Angela was dubbed "Baby Banana" (this had something to do with my sister grocery shopping and coming across plantains which we called Baby Bananas, I think). Anyway, even when Baby Banana was well beyond the size of her namesake, we were still calling her that.
Well, last week, my little Dubai Angel ate a banana, looked up at his mom, and told her, Mama, I have a baby banana in my tummy.
To which his mom responded, What about Auntie? Does she still have a baby banana?
His answer: No, I'm the one who has it now.

Looks like he'll be looking out for his little cousin from the get go!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Revealing Ramadan

My dear friend Jen let me know about this fabulous website for NPR's Speaking of Faith program. They're doing a "Ramadan special" where they've asked Muslims to write in with their personal reflections on Islam and/or Ramadan. Some were chosen to air on the radio. Others were chosen to show on the site where you can read them. Jen's is here.
Mine was sent in, but doesn't seem to have made the cut. Since I liked it though, I decided I'd share it with you here.
Don't forget to check out the rest of the stories and reflections on the site. I really enjoyed seeing so many different perspectives.

When I think of Ramadan, I think of many things, but the first is almost always my mother, up before the rest of us an hour and a half before dawn to prepare the food we would sleepily consume in the last half hour before the fast began.
My mother, a doctor with a strong interest in nutrition, was always sure to get as much protein into our systems as possible: there were scrambled and boiled eggs, fava beans slow-cooked the traditional Egyptian way, tuna salad. But there was always something for our teenage taste buds: My mother would wake us up with home-cooked french fries, still sizzling on the plate. Into our bedroom she would sweep, singing “wake up, wake up, your food has come to you” in a jolly voice, and as I rolled over on the top bunk to face her, I would find a handful of hot, salty fries stuffed into my mouth before my eyes were even open. It certainly was an effective tactic.
When we were younger, we would “fast” from breakfast until lunch and then from lunch until dinner, feeling for the first time what it was to have sustained hunger, to not cure it immediately with a stop at the fridge or the cupboard. The pangs in our stomachs would knot first, then twist, and there was something so satisfying about not succumbing, about defeating that part of ourselves that cried out to be served, to be given now now NOW!
Experience is learning, is knowledge, and the value of that knot in the pit of my stomach can never be underestimated. I knew, ever so briefly, what it was to want; knew the slight pain, the slight light-headedness that came with it; but more than anything, knew the gratitude of sunset, of taking that first sip of water, that first sweet bite of a date, sweet and soft and buttery, melting on my tongue. And as I got older, I knew too the gratitude of having that water, that date, having what so few have, and especially what so many everywhere can't reach: a fridge full of food; a house with a roof; a blanket to cover my bed; a loving mother who would wake up in the middle of the night to make sure her daughters were well-fed before the fast began.
My father broke his fast with a glass of hot milk, heated to the point of scalding in the microwave, nearly foaming at the top, and three or five dates to go along. It was my father who taught us the supplication to make when breaking our fast:
“Oh God, for you I have fasted, and from your blessings I have broken my fast, and on you I depend, and in you I believe”. And then each one of us would turn inward and think of what she wanted and pray a private prayer, just between her and God, before that first bite, that first sip. It could be anything: I would pray for a good grade on an upcoming test, for a class trip somewhere fun, to get out of babysitting that Friday at the mosque, for forgiveness for my sins – a rude word, a look of ridicule, the missing of one of the five daily prayers.
After the dates and milk we would pray our sunset prayer before having a proper meal, and there we would stand, my mother, my three sisters and I behind our father, reciting the Quran, choosing, somehow, the verses that would nudge our hearts that particular day, his words poetry, a calling to God.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A post about coffee (which I've been meaning to write for weeks)

You will not believe this... Not if you've read my previous mentions of my coffee addiction, including my complete failures the last two Ramadans to not drink it before starting to fast. Are you ready? Drumroll.............

I QUIT! I, Noha Beshir, professed coffee addict of over 10 years, lover of the Second Cup Paradiso blend, the Timothy's Vanilla Soy Latte, and the regular old Large Timmy's with one milk, have not had a coffee in over three weeks. And, the coffee I consumed three weeks ago was simply due to the fact that I was a counsellor at youth camp, chasing around many lovely, high strung teenage girls on less than 2 hours of sleep for the second day in a row. Before that, I had gone two weeks without coffee as well.
I won't lie: the first 5 days of non-coffee drinking were brutal. Headaches, exhaustion, all that good stuff. But now, I'm smooth sailing. When I'm tired, I try to sleep instead of caffeinating, and I think I'm generally a (slightly) less bubbly person. But yeah: Noha, without coffee. Whoda thunk it, eh?

Monday, August 24, 2009

United Breaks Guitars, but Skype Steals Credit

Have you heard about the whole United Breaks Guitars saga? This poor east coast musician (named Dave Carroll) was flying to memphis, or somewhere else in the states, via United Airlines, and the baggage handlers totally killed his guitar. Someone on the plane witnessed the whole thing from their seats.
He spent odious amounts of time on the phone with United after, trying to get them to pay for the repairs to the guitar, and of course, got nowhere. So he did what any self-respecting east-coaster would do: he told them he would make two revenge songs and post them on YouTube. And he was good to his word.
The Vidoes, of course, went viral. And it was then that United came through with an apology and some cash (which he's donated to a music school), and Taylor guitars, the makers of his broken guitar, gave him a new one.
The Videos are completely hilarious, and because I'm a total dork and I love spreading the joy, I'm posting them here for your enjoyment:

So, all this to say, we're glad that things ended well for Dave Carroll, and though our ordeal is much smaller, we're reminded of him in a current "situation" we have with skype:
A few months ago, M and I put some money on his skype account to call some of our wonderful relatives in Egypt. We spent a pleasant afternoon chatting with family on both sides, and when we were done, felt we'd made a great investment. Fast forward a few months to this week: it's now the beginning of Ramadan, and we want to call our family in Egypt, as well as my sister in Dubai, to wish everyone a blessed month. M tries to get on skype, but it won't accept his password. No sweat, he tries to change the password. And then, the persistent error message. Skype is having issues. Skype has not let him change his password for over a week, and won't accept the password he's putting in.
Ok, let's call them and tell them we're having this problem. What's that, they have no phone number? Ok, but they must have an email form. M fills out the email form, and as he's about to send, hits the next snag: in order to submit an email form, guess what you have to have? That's right! a password (ba-dum-dum!)
Almost at the same time, Skype sends M a message saying that they've noticed he hasn't gone into his account for several months, and that, the credit in it, if not used by X days, will expire. Oh, the cruel, cruel world... I debated the prospect of making a video a la united breaks guitars, but I can't play guitar and I can't be bothered to write (or sing) a song for the world to see, and to be honest, I can't compete with Dave Carroll. More than anything, I'd just like to get skype working again. Anyone have any ideas?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's Time

I could try to write something more beautiful, more profound about Ramadan, but sometimes it's better to recognize when someone has already found the perfect words, and just borrow them:

This month is a feast... not of noise, but of silence; not of banquets but restraint; not of forgetfullness but remembrance. This month is a feast for the faith. - Tariq Ramadan

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I came across her writing

in a note on facebook, and though I hadn't seen her in a decade, though I couldn't quite place her location, her life, I felt I knew her essence again, could here her soft voice, her rising cadence, rushing forward, then retreating, as though each sentence was brought by the tide.
And I was transported to old coffee-houses during lit, to high school, to what was, oddly, my best writing time, the period in my life when I could, when I had the luxury, to bend over my notebook for seconds, turning into minutes, into hours, just to find the right word to fit the end of a line, a sentence, a feeling or thought.
I thought I was so tired then, so overworked, with my grade 11 lit and my algebra-geometry homework, with history and physics and world issues. I didn't know where I'd find the time to memorize Shakespeare and solve problems 3 a - i. I was overwhelmed.
It's almost laughable in hindsight, this emotion, this sense of purpose when I hadn't lived enough to have enough to write. And now, with something worth putting down, with my own stories, I am too afraid. If I share, will I be recognized? Do I want the recognition?
We are all afraid, have moments of defeat, of sadness or uncertainty, but we so rarely put them out there, so rarely want to use them as material.
I used to say, "I wrote this, but don't worry, I'm happy;" used to say, "don't worry, this isn't about me"; and usually it wasn't, but isn't life just a series of small joys and small disappointments building into larger moments? Isn't it normal in the day to have a moment where you don't have a clue, where you want to just stop? and then another where you could go and go and go to the ends of the round earth, where you would have to crash into a brick wall not to keep going?
She wrote about her life, and I could hear her in her words and I could see her brushing a wisp of straight black hair behind her ear as she read. I imagine one hand holding the paper, the other randomly reaching up to touch her head. Funny how we remember certain nervous habits, how her voice is still in my mind so many years later. How I can see her smile.
I told myself I wouldn't write for a living. I told myself I would write for life.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Who Knew?

Yesterday M and I and a few of our friends went for a bike trip around the downtown/lachine canal area of Montreal. It was supposed to take a couple of hours, 3 max. 6 hours later we were heading home with extremely sore legs, sunburns, hunger pangs, and huge smiles. I've biked along the Lachine canal before, but never past St-Pierre (the point where Highway 20 meets highway 138). Yesterday, we continued well past that point, and were rewarded by our discovery of Parc Rene Levesque, an absolutely gorgeous little peninsula off Lasalle, sticking out into the river.
On our way back downtown, we left the canal and rode back along the river path itself, through Lasalle and Verdun.
All I can say is that Montreal has surpassed my expectations for natural beauty and gorgeous, quiet neighbourhoods I didn't know existed. I'm somewhat in love with my adopted city right now. Stunning, and totally bikeable.

P.S. My sisters are back home in Cali and Dubai respectively. I miss them insanely but I'm surprisingly not bawling my eyes out every 5 seconds. I'm shocked at my resilience.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Acapella at its best

The whole thing is pretty impressive, but if you don't want to watch the whole vid, the first minute and 50 seconds are the coolest...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Going Home

On Thursday, all the angels go home (along with their parents, of course). I'm still trying to wrap my head around it, this flocking away, as though fall is here and the birds are leaving for warmer climates. I know Wednesday night will be hard. I've already warned my friends at work that I if they see me crying next Thursday, they know why...
Next summer, God Willing, each of the angels will be one year older, and one year wiser (although I'm not sure wise applies to anyone under 10, or even 20, and they're not even close. Maybe a better term would be 'one year more equipped to deal with the big bad world'?)
The two terrible two-ers will be terrible three-ers, approaching pre-school-hood, getting close to truer interactions with the world.
My oldest Angela will have finished first grade (first grade!), and she'll show off her reading with confidence and look up with that precious smile after hard words (her "did you hear that? Did you see that?" smile).
My oldest Angel just might manage to sit still a bit longer, having spent another year in kindergaarten and so becoming more familiar with desks, but honestly, this I doubt.
My little Angela won't be little anymore, she'll be a whole 4 and a half, and she'll keep doing her best "little grown up" immitations, and acting as though she's one of the big people, and pretending the terrible two-ers are her children.
I'm missing them already.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kids say the darndest things

Still on vacay (horror of horrors, Calabogie now has internet! I'm trying not to over use it, but this was just tooooooooooooooo good not to share).
A scene from the beach:
Dubai-Mommy sitting on the beach with Dubai-Angel, while Grandma, Dubai-Angela and yours truly are swimming in the lake.
Dubai-Mommy: Angela, 10 more minutes and it's time to get out for a nap time.
Dubai-Angela (to Mommy): Okay. (To Grandma): Grandma, I want you to get out with me
Grandma: to nap?
Dubai-Angela: no, to work.
Yours truly: it's vacation! Grandma's not working.
Grandma: what would I do.
Dubai-Angela: well, you could always cook dinner, for example...


Friday, July 17, 2009

And We're Off!

It's that time of the year again - Calabogie is just a few hours away. It's our crazy family reunion (although we've *mostly* all seen each other in the past couple of weeks as the various parts of my family trickle into Ottawa from Dubai and Cali, it's not official until we're sitting around the dinner table - elbowing each other and asking someone to pass the salt/salad/water, with the windows open and the lake just a few steps away).
M and I are tacking a little weekend getaway to TO on the end of the week, to hang out with his folks and the always articulate K.
I hope to come back refreshed and sunburnt (and, ideally, with a pile of great nature photos and hilarious stories about my little angels discovering nature.)
Talk to y'all in a few days!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Once Again, he just says it so well

So, a few of days ago I was opining about how I was too hooked on technology, and then last night, I read this hilarious little gem from Scott Feschuk. I couldn't get through the last two paragraphs in one go because I was laughing so hard my eyes couldn't focus. I would LOVE to have this man's sense of humour. Since I don't, I'm point you straight to him for the article.

Little Angel Sandwiches

My current goal in life is to be the favourite aunt of my nieces and nephews. The way I approach this is to be around often enough that they see me, but not so often that I have a lot of opportunities (or need) to punish them for misbehaving.
This last week, I was in Ottawa from Monday instead of Tuesday for a course, and just got home tonight... My nieces and nephews, all 5 of them, were extremely thrilled to have me. (Part of the mystique was, of course, that I disappeared every morning at 10 a.m. and wasn't back before 6'ish).
At dinner, I would often find myself the pb and j in a Little Angela sandwich, seated between my California Angela and my Dubai Angela, each cutie-patootie doing her best to out-talk the other. More than dinner, though, was bedtime... The girls, especially, each had to have their night where they slept next to "Khalto Noosa" (or thought they slept next to me all night. I would lie there until they drifted off to sleep, and then get up to continue my evening.)
One night, though, was especially funny: it was Cali-Angela's turn for me to sleep next to her, and as we lay there, Dubai-Angela found an excuse to come into the room, and, eventually, got permission to sleep there too. She made her way to the other side of me, and put an arm across my shoulder. By this point, we had told our bedtime stories, read our Quran, and were in 'silent mode'. Cali-Angela was lying quietly on my left side, trying to fall asleep, but Dubai-Angela had no such plans.
She started by stroking my shoulder lovingly and repeatedly, as though I was the child and she was the aunt and she was the one putting me to bed. And for some reason, probably because I was trying to be completely silent and pretend I was asleep, this gave me the giggles. I tried to laugh silently, but she could feel me shaking, which, in turn, caused her to start laughing, and the whole idea of sleep was then in jeopardy - a laughing 3-year old stands very little chance of calming down at bed time.
By this time, Cali-Angela noticed that Dubai-Angela was practically hugging me, and there is nothing a little girl wants more than something another little girl - especially her cousin - has. So now they were both hugging me. Problem: if they ever feel asleep, how would extract myself from the tangle of arms and legs without waking them up...
When I finally managed to calm myself, Dubai-Angela upped the ante, leaning over and whispering, in her newly acquired English and her best angelic voice, "I love you Khalto Noosa". I laughed. She laughed. Cali-Angela laughed. and so the evening continued and sleep seemed very, very far away...
It was 40 minutes before I got out of the now-sleeping Angela sandwich. The next night, the sandwich was an Angel sandwich. Small sacrifice for the return, really.

Friday, June 26, 2009

One Trash Bin + One Year

These people put me to shame. I need to - at the very least - recycle more. And think about it before I go around buying things I don't really need. and figure out how to get rid of things I don't want anymore in the best way possible (as in, donate to people who need the stuff, organizations, freecycle, etc.)
Seriously, one garbage bin's worth of trash all year. 1!!!!
For more details and a consistent dose of inspiration, I've added their blog to the blogroll: Clean Bin Project.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Power Out

Do you know that song, Power Out, by The Arcade Fire? That was my evening yesterday, in Ottawa.
First, let me set the stage: the day before, I had arrived at my parents' place after work and it was alive. The Angels, all five of them, ran to the door to greet me. The oldest California Angela let me in before I had finished rummaging for my keys. Her baby brother blocked me by trying to run out to hug me. It was lovely.
All evening, the place was buzzing. Kids playing/fighting/singing/screaming/exchanging toys/yanking toys out of each other's hands, and their moms (and my mom and dad) preparing for a little trip they were going to take to Toronto. So, Tuesday, a house with 5 children 6 and under, and 5 adults. Wednesday, me.
My plan, early on in the day, involved a trip to the gym after work, but as it got closer to quitting time, the heat had taken its toll on me. I felt like I was melting, and had no interest in getting any hotter. So I went home instead. At the grocery store in the plaza next to my parent's house, I bought two oranges and went in search of their spelt bread (the store has just changed hands, which means some of our "alternative" products are usually eliminated or modified... I have to say, the new company is not as interested in providing the allergy free stuff as the old one was) I was walking up the last aisle when the power cut. Darkness. Kinda refreshing, actually.
They were still able to check me through at the cash, but when I got home, I realized it wasn't just the plaza, it was the whole neighbourhood.
I could read, right? well, I could, but I didn't feel like it. I wanted radio. I wanted noise. The problem was that my mp3 player's battery was almost dead, and all the other radios in the house worked off electricity. No good. I used my laptop until the battery died (25 minutes, no internet, obviously). I switched to my dad's laptop. 25 more minutes. I dug up the flashlight ad emergency candles, in case. I sat there feeling pathetic that I didn't know what to do without outside stimulus. But I didn't.
In Montreal, I would have gone for a bike ride. In Ottawa, I have no bike. I eventually went back to the plaza to find their power returned before it did at the house.
I am resolved to find some way to not need technology so much. But right now, what I have is proof of dependency.
I'm writing this from Montreal, on my now-charged laptop, with another window open on another blog, a third on facebook, and a fourth on my email. Must stop?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More Little Angels

My parent's house is like a playground, but in 3 more days, it will be like a small, Montessori-style daycare. Dubai-sis, with her two little angels, has been here for nearly two months. Cali-sis is on her way in a few days, with her three little angels. I am insanely excited at the prospect.
It's been a year since the various munchkins interacted, and a year is a life time for small children.
The two youngest, born a month less a day apart, were one when they last met... that was old enough to kind of laugh together and crawl around each other, with the possibility of tentative steps occurring. This time, they'll be over two. I predict one way conversations, where each rambles in his version of baby-talk to the other and then doesn't wait to see what his cousin has to say back before continuing.
The three older angels will be 6, 5, and 3.5, respectively. In the year they've been apart, both my female Dubai Angela and California Angela have become more enamoured with clothing, brushing their hair, and the colours pink and purple. My Dubai Angela has even modified an old Egyptian saying to stress the importance of pink:
Bahibbik add il-donya - meaning "I love as much as the whole world", has been modified to bahibbik add il-bamba - meaning "I love you as much as pink".
We'll have to see whether the Angelas gang up on the Angel and insist on games revolving around tea time and bows in their hair, or whether he'll manage to entice them with a little bit of tag...
Regardless, children are a blast to observe... I'm planning on having some fun.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wow! (and not in a good way)

Okay, so by this point, I'm seeming borderline obsessed with the Obamas, but this was too horrible to ignore. I'm just thinking, really? Honestly? Hmmmm... I'm saying hmmm because I don't want to say anything nastier, or more horrible, but I'm also honestly perplexed that someone could percieve this as a joke. That someone could consider this funny. Apparently, there are still people who consider a comparison of African Americans and apes amusing.
We are so not as far along as I like to delude myself into thinking. Gross.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is Barack Obama Ruining your Marriage?

Apparently, he's ruining this guy's marriage... It seems the gentleman who wrote this article is a little miffed that people compare Mr. Pres to the average guy who doesn't have Air Force One at his disposal for a quick trip to New York or Paris, never mind the cooks, maids, and gardeners.
Good for a quick laugh, and more evidence of how Obama has somehow morphed into the perfect-everything, not just a model politician, in the minds of the media.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Concrete Canvass

This is, I guess, one way to protest. And a good way, I think.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Pot and the Kettle

Let it be known that I prefer Iggy to Harper. Let it also be known that I still find Iggy a little too self-important (and I have a story to elaborate on my point, but that'll be a post for another day). In the meantime, I give you this laugh-out-loud article from Scott Feschuk comparing Iggy's hyperbole to Harper's arrogance.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Well, at least now I have a new record to break for next time...

I broke. At 2 a.m. this morning, despite trying to satisfy my sweet-tooth craving with raisins and walnuts and repeatedly telling myself to just go to sleep Noha. Nothing good can come of this, I opened the freezer and reached for - gasp! - the cookies and cream ice cream. It wasn't a rash decision. My mind knew full well what my hands were doing. I even stopped to calculate how far I'd gotten, to decide if the number of consecutive allergy-free days was respectable enough to break now, or if I should hold off a little longer. 49 days. Respectable. I had the cookies and cream ice cream. I had some chocolate fudge brownie ice cream too, for good measure. And then, only then, did I finally go to sleep.
I won't lie. They tasted positively divine, but if I was expecting harps playing in the background, or the sensation of being carried off to some dessert-flavoured, chocolate-based, culinary heaven, it didn't happen. Things you can't have always seem soooooooooooooooooo much better than what you can.
I woke up with a stomach-ache this morning, but I suppose I earned it. I've also decided that today is a day off. A day to allow myself to indulge in whatever else so that tomorrow, when I start again, I'm not already craving things. I've basically decided that I'm failing today to succeed later. Twisted logic? Maybe. An excuse to stuff myself with anything and everything today? Also maybe. But a funny thing is happening so far: I've had a slice of cheesecake that was in the fridge, left over from a visit we had on Friday, and nothing else. I've been down to press cafe, and looked at the brownies and cupcakes, felt nothing, and ordered my usual coffee. I think I'll end up getting something else, something gooey and chewy and wheat-based, and chocolatey-sweet, before the day is over. But if I don't, it'll be okay because I know how to make the wheat-free, dairy-free, processed-sugar-free version from scratch now. And tomorrow I'll start over. And while last time, my goal was to go as long as I could, this time, I'll have a number in mind. I want to get to 50 days of allergy-free food. At least. 50 days and beyond. Far, far beyond.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


When I said my sister and her kids' arrival from Dubai was pending, I meant pending. Last Monday, Dubai-sis and the Little Angels arrived in Montreal as part of a little surprise for my parents, who weren't expecting them for another two weeks. The accomplices in our little plan were my sis and her hubby in Dubai (well, they were actually the engineers, the rest of us were accomplices) and my sister and I, plus our hubbies, here in Montreal. We've been keeping our little secret for months, casually fake-counting-down the days until their arrival with my parents, and finally, the day had arrived.

At the airport, my sister's flight arrived shortly after another one from Mexico city, and the cbc was there to cover the Mexico flight given the whole swine flu, thing, so we were hanging back as we waited for her, hoping that my parents wouldn't happen to be watching the news on cbc that night... She told us later that the porter who helped bring her bags out walked really slowly so as not to come in contact with "the mexicans" as he would say it, and kept telling her to keep the kids back. Now, my dear sis makes a point of avoiding the news (too depressing, she'll tell you) and had essentially spent the last two days in transit. When she'd left Dubai, the story was still breaking. By the time she'd arrived, it was everywhere, but she'd missed the whole thing. All she could think was "why is my porter racist? How unfortunate..."

I took Tuesday off work, rented a van, and she and I drove up with the little angels alternately fighting and falling asleep in the backseat. We called my parents when we were about 40 minutes away, and they were confused, then surprised, then thrilled. My mom actually figured we were on some sort of three way conference call when she heard my sister's voice on my phone.

Now, they're here for the next three months. Next up is my california-sis and her little angels' arrival in late June. It's gonna be a par-tay!

I had figured I would cry when we saw each other at the airport, but the reality was that it just felt so natural, so as though we'd never been halfway across the world from each other, that I just fell right back into my routine with everyone. I'm pleased to report that Little Angela still adores me just as much as I adore her, and she's trained Little Angel well. Whereas she calls me "Khalto Noosa", he - in his two-year-old manner of pronunciation, calls me "Katto Nooda" (this is a full-fledged graduation from "Nonno", what he called me last year as a one-year-old before they moved, and equally adorable).

So, spreading the joy and reporting on the beginnings of a fabulous summer of aunthood. More stories to come, I'm sure.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Heartmelting ensues...

One of the perks of having a blog is that I have a forum for going on an on about the most adorable kids in the world (another perk is that since it's my blog, I can be completely biased and call them the most adorable kids in the world with no regard for the complete subjectivity of this statement.) I speak, of course, about my little angels and angels.
The latest heartmelting story comes from Little Angel #4 (if I'm going chronologically - really Little Boy Angel #2 since I call the girls Little Angela's), and in honour of their pending arrival from Dubai, I share this "aaawwww" moment. I apologize to Dubai-sis in advance for inaccuracies in this story. I got it 2nd or 3rd hand from our parents:
Dubai-sis was showing the kids some family pics on the computer, and Little Angel, who's just barely turned 2, and can be sort of understood, tells her, "I miss grandpa. I want to give him a kiss". Dubai-sis says to go ahead and blow grandpa a kiss and Little Angel does.
Next picture, same comment. "I miss uncle X. I want to give him a kiss". And Dubai-sis obliges of course. This goes on for a few more pics before Little Angel looks up at his mom and says something she can't quite make out. She assumes he's just saying he wants to give another kiss and says okay. Suddenly Little Angel is trying to climb up onto the table and the computer feet first. She asks him what he's doing, and Little Angel's response is, "I'm going in."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh, to be this smug

For my fellow Canadian readers, check out this 22 minutes spoof of our-almost-definitely-next-prime-minister.
For the rest, you may have heard of Michael Ignatieff. An academic, he lived in the U.S. forever and then swooped back into his home country (that would be Canada) when the possibility of becoming the leader of a major party (that would be the Liberals) became available a couple of years ago. Sadly for Iggy, a different professor - the hapless but sincere Stephane Dion - surprised everyone by winning that Liberal leadership race. Then, happily for Iggy, Dion essentially promoted a policy that would tax carbon emissions in the following elections, and despite Canadian citizens' posturing that they wanted to pay attention to the environment, they certainly didn't want to do it at the expense of money, so the Liberals crashed and burned. End result, Iggy was handed the Liberal leadership on a silver platter following the election. Now, with the governing Conservative party waning in popularity, it's only a matter of time before Iggy brings down parliament and starts the next election cycle, which he will almost definitely win (whew! and you Americans thought your system was frustrating and demotivating).
My brother-in-law, K, showed us this hilarious Ignatieff impersonation from This Hour Has 22 Minutes (basically the closest thing Canada has to the Daily Show). It's frighteningly spot on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

M and I watched An Inconvenient Truth last weekend. Wow. Depressing. Important. Scary. Effective.
In honour of Earth Day, I suggest everyone watches it. And then act on that fear. We had already switched most of our light bulbs to the EFC bulbs, but now we're going to switch the rest. And buy green cleaning products. and wash with cold water. and install low-flow aerators on our faucets. We have no car and we bike/walk a lot, so we feel okay on the transportation front.
I encourage everyone to ask themselves what they can do.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Open

Remember this? It's finally open. Day 1 today. and they have TV's. Showing hockey. Heaven.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Zen and the Art of Sitting Still

Okay, so the truth is that this post has nothing to do with Zen, but I can't think of a sentence that includes "the art of" and not start it with "Zen". It's the tail end of flu season here in the wonderful Ontario/Quebec region of Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal. I include all three areas because M and I were in TO for a fabulous long weekend last week hanging out with my awesomely extended family, but towards the end of the weekend, I caught some sort of lovely bug. At first, I couldn't figure out what I had, but as Sunday rolled into Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday), I felt like I was running the slightest fever, followed by general icky-ness, sore-throatedness, congestion, headaches, you name it.
Everything was unpleasant enough to make me a general grouch, but not enough to keep me at home sick. By Thursday afternoon, I thought I was back on the upswing, and had high hopes for a long bike ride in Montreal on Friday after work. Not so: Friday, I crashed and burned. My body had had enough. Sleep! it screamed at me. Sit still. and so I did, for basically the whole day. and then M came home from work and made me a cup of peppermint tea and we watched a movie and then I slept more.
I got up this morning at 10 a.m. feeling like a new person. Energy? For reals? and I was so pleased with it. So pleased I felt I needed to load the dishwasher, and pull out the dustbuster, and gather a few other things that were here and there and needed doing. And then M asked me, ever so thoughtfully to please.just.sit.still.
Hmmmm, good point. The man is on to something. See, I'm obsessed with multi-tasking. I can't just ever be watching the hockey game or writing a blog post. I do both at the same time (like, right now... the Habs are down 2-0. Not pleased. Trying to stay on topic). I can't cook one meal at a time. I usually put 3 things on the stove together, or I cook while I'm on the phone. Read and/or write and/or eat on the commuter bus. Same for the OC transpo bus when I'm in Ottawa. Even at work, I rarely have one window open at a time. I like to switch between 3 or 4 tasks so I don't get bored. I find I get more done this way, except....
Except when I'm sick. Then I'm supposed to sit still. Right? Right. It actually took about 3 hours yesterday to settle back down and get into bed. I kept not being able to stay still long enough to go to sleep, even though my body was exhausted and my eyes were drooping. And today, the second the energy was back, it was like I couldn't possibly read a book or watch something.
Productivity is good, but I think I need to settle down and read my body's signals. Relax. I sat still to write this post for the last 30 minutes, so there's improvement there, right?
Oh, and the score is still 2-0.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Anywhere but here

I've cited good articles in MacLean's magazine before, and this one is my latest favourite. Paul Wells talks about Stephen Harper's latest penchant for getting the heck out of Canada to avoid those pesky reporters that, you know, cover his government and report back on it. They even ask him questions - gasp!
A couple of months ago, my father-in-law sent us all a link to an interview Harper had done on MSNBC about the Canadian economy. I watched, expecting not much of anything. What I saw really surprised me: here was my prime minister speaking to a tv audience and answering questions as though those watching at home were intelligent adults. Not what he does when he's in Canada, eh? Have you ever noticed that Harper talks to us, his electorate, as though we're two year-olds on the verge of a tantrum and he's the kind, calming father? Looks straight into the camera, offers that fake smile meant to reassure and goes back through a few, repeatable selling points about whatever his latest five-point plan is regardless of the question? Asking about the environment or unemployment? No problem, we've got an answer for you! and that's why our plan to lower the gst will make everything better and the sky will be filled with rainbows and the clouds will rain cupcakes on the streets of Toronto. It's like we're in permanent election mode (and to be fair, with a minority government, we are. But still, I will get more out of your answers if you actually answer the question!)
What started of as pleasant surprise actually turned into frustration. So it's not that he thinks the entire world is composed of idiots, I thought, just us. But seriously, no one under 18 is allowed a vote in this country the last time I checked. I wish he'd remember that the next time he tries to woo us with 5 word phrases on perma-repeat.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Family Evolution

When I was a child, my family in Canada consisted of my parents and sisters; the closest relatives we had were an uncle in the U.S. that we saw on occasion and his family. We took trips to Egypt to visit extended family every few years, but in reality we made family in Ottawa to compensate. I think back over my childhood - all the way up to university - and lose count of the "aunts" who became my aunts, the girls my age who acted as substitute cousins. These were the people we spent our special occasions with: the people we saw during Eid and Ramadan and grew up around. In some ways, they were more than family, because we had chosen each other; in other ways, they would never really be family, and we each had our distinct, nuclear units because at the end of the day, we only had a certain common history, and no common blood.
I remember my excitement when my mother's youngest brother moved to Ottawa, how absolutely thrilled I was that I could start a story with "my uncle" at school, and really, truly mean "my uncle" and not a friend of the family. I remember how thrilled I was when my baby cousin was born and I had an actual cousin to play with and coo at within driving distance. In some bizarre way, the presence of relatives in the city validated Ottawa as my home. I had family here, close by.
Over the years, it became normal. My Canadian family grew as more cousins and second cousins made the move. Eid became a celebration at our house where, instead of my parents trying to find a way to surround us with company, we tried to figure out how to seat everyone around the table. My parents' house became the "family house", the house where everyone came together for events and holidays, the equivalent of my grandparents' house with the massive veranda in Alexandria. When my sisters got married, the family grew again in the form of brothers and their families. Until that point, my only experience with brothers was through my male cousins, who played rough with us and pushed us in sports and up trees on our visits to Egypt. Two cousins in particular served as my older brothers, teasing and joking with us through out the years. As they got older, they would come to North America to work in the summers, and then stop by Ottawa to visit for a couple of weeks before they returned for the fall semester.
Eventually, the older one moved to Ottawa; two months ago, the younger one moved to Toronto. Last night, he and his family came to visit at my in-laws' place, where we're visiting in TO for the long weekend. There was something remarkably unremarkable about looking around the living room, seeing M and his family and my "original older brother" and his family there all in one place, a new family extension forming. 
When I was little, I could count on one hand my extended family in north america. At one point, I couldn't even do that. I now need both hands and feet to do it, and I love it.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


The habs need one point between tonight and Saturday. They're leading by 1 goal with 20 minutes left. I'm glued to the radio and Mike Boone's hilarious blog.
If they win, or tie in regulation, tonight, they're into the playoffs and we avoid this.
If they lose, it goes down to Saturday night and Noha is nervous all weekend. My little sis, who lives down the street and just as close to the Bell Centre as I do, wants them NOT to make the play-offs so that we don't have to deal with bad traffic into the spring. I am die hard; I will bear the traffic for my beloved team. I will bear any annoyances of downtown life, including honking horns and too much noise at 2 a.m. post game... In fact, if it's because of a win, I will not only bear it, I will revel in it.
Go Habs Go!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Heheh... the world of the nanoblog

I couldn't resist. I had to post this. Too funny:

Friday, April 03, 2009

Eat Green, Be Green

Everyone knows I like me some meat, but I also think that there is something to be said for our meat consumption in North America, and the effects it has on our health and our environment. I found this article on the topic absolutely fascinating.
My bottom line after reading something like this? Everything in moderation. Factory farming is nasty, not to mention cruel, and the ugly truth is that, without it, we would never be able to consume as much meat as we do today. To my mind, the way nature intended it, meat is meant to be eaten, but not with the frequency we eat it.
Do I have the self control to cut it down to the levels I think are ideal? Probably not, but I think the article points out that even small changes could make a big difference.
Good night. I'm off to eat my lentil soup.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Word About Will Power

I'm on day 14 of my sugar-free, wheat-free, dairy-free diet. This week I endured
  • a friend's baby shower at work, where home baked cake, breaded chicken wings, and a traditional kosovar bread-roll of some sort were being served - on Wednesday
  • the left-overs of said baby shower on Thursday, and
  • a benefit event to raise money for Palestine - where the food being sold came in the form of sandwiches, tarts and butter rolls, and brownies, on Friday

Today, I subjected myself to cake-baking. No one told me to make the cake, I just really wanted to make it. For the first time in probably my life, I didn't lick the left over batter off the pan. Instead, I made a second batch of cake for myself where I replaced the wheat flour with Kamut flour, the milk with almond milk, and the sugar with stevia (big mistake about the stevia, horrible aftertaste, but now I know to use honey for next time)...
I haven't cheated yet. I think what stops me is that I've made it all so public. If I broke down now, I'd have to tell you all. I'd have to post it to Facebook. I'd have to start counting at 1 again. If I only had myself to tell, I would have broken down at least 5 or 6 times by now. I'm sure of this because I've made the "no more allergens" promise to myself countless times before. I've typically made it to mid-morning of the same day the promise is made; on the days my will power has been phenomenal, I've made it to just before bed time. But in the end, I've always caved.
I like to think this isn't just my lack of will power, but how humans work in general. We need to own up to someone or we cave. I've figured out what makes me tick, what motivates me. I know I'll break sooner or later, but my plan right now is to go on for as long as I can. And when I break, my plan is to announce it, lick my wounds, and start over. It's worth it. I feel so much healthier. And it's easier every day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

7 Days Done

So I told you about the 7 day challenge I gave myself last week to avoid wheat, sugar, and dairy products. Well, I'm happy to report that I'm now on Day 8!
In total honesty, I didn't really think I'd get this far. Sure, I might have been able to make it on the weekend, or on my first Monday, when I was working from home, but on Tuesday, I was back in the Ottawa office, with the pharma plus, in all its Toblerone-selling glory, and the Marcello's, with its rice pudding and nanaimo bars and apple fritters and chocolate chip muffins. Well, at 2 p.m., as the afternoon yawning came in, I went down and got a coffee and some celery sticks. Yup, celery sticks...
Wednesday and Thursday were similar. On Friday, I spent most of the day in the Montreal office, and had to walk by the best bakery ever 5 times, without buying anything I couldn't eat. I discovered that the Pharma Prix sells almond and date bars in the back of the store. I checked the ingredients. I bought two. They were yummy, if overpriced, but they helped me get through the day...
7 days may sound like not a big deal, but before I started this, I was eating "allergy food" nearly every day, often more than once a day, so I'm really, really relieved to have gotten this far...
Oatmeal is one of my best friends when I'm craving dessert. Put some dates or berries in it, sprinkle a little cinnamon or cocoa on top, and it's gooey like something baked would be, and just sweet enough.
My next goal is to hit next Sunday. If I get there, that's 14 days. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 20, 2009

If you're confused about the Credit Crisis, watch this...

I'm pretty responsible with managing my own personal money, but when it comes to economics or the global financial crisis, I'm essentially a first-grader, no matter how much I try to read up on it. If you want to actually understand what the heck happened and why we're all going to be poor (sorry to be such a debbie-downer, but someone has to face the cold harsh truth), watch this video. I think I FINALLY understand what's going on.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tales of Geekdom from the Unapologetic

This is the post where I come clean about my true identity, and finally say loud and clear that I am, indeed, a geek. Now, you may have already figured it out from my "100 things about Noha" post, where I admitted to being a grammar obsessed comma queen, and loving the parentheses (especially the nested ones), or corny jokes, or run-on sentences (see the sentence you're reading right now for evidence - no, proof!), but maybe you thought all my geek-characteristics were purely linguistic. Well, I'm here to tell you otherwise.
This week, it really dawned on me that I'm a geek on sooooooooooo many other levels than just my linguistic quirks, starting primarily with my academic geekiness. While I constantly tell myself that I could never do grad school (unlike my PhD-pursuing hubby), and while I shuddered one time when he actually asked me if I remembered what the sine of e-squared (or something like that) was, I will admit to loving (LOVING!) my third year logic and discrete mathematics course.
Deductive logic was honestly, truly a thing of beauty, a marvel to me. I would sit there in the front row (yes, by choice), hanging on to the professors every word as he showed us one incredible proof after another, scrawling formulas down the page until at the bottom - bang! - everything just balanced. I remember how he would turn before writing the last line on the board and wink at us, and say "nothing up my sleeve" and some of the students would role their eyes. Not me, I was entranced. To me, that line where everything balanced, where the right side of the equals-sign and the left side of the equals-sign suddenly fell into perfect synergy was like the part in a book with 10 pages left where you suddenly get exactly how it's going to end, and yet you have to read on just to respect the author's genius, or that last scene of the sixth sense when the twist becomes evident and you're shaking your head in shock (and yet delighted!), and you're telling yourself "Oh my God! I didn't see that coming! Did I see that coming?" and then you replay the whole thing in your head trying to figure out exactly when you started to figure it out...
And this is how I feel about deductive logic, ergo, I am a geek.
I did the same thing when I started comparing my programming and design logic to the philosophy notes my sister (a psychology major) took. And-Or constructs in programming where just another way of talking about necessary and sufficient conditions in philosophy. Philosophy and math were the same thing, and to me, this discovery was another little miracle.
I love finding connections. It's hard to describe beyond that, but I think that all disciplines in science and art are very intertwined and it's just for us to delight in finding the links....
Today, I stood in my boss's office for about 5 minutes at mid-morning, staring at her marker-covered whiteboard and shaking my head with a similar level of satisfaction. We were both doing it, looking at the board, happily, and telling each other how beautiful it was... "beautiful" one of us would say. "It's beautiful, just beautiful. It all fits together" the other would respond. We've been working on a problem for a few weeks and it started off as a huge mess of seemingly random information, and now we've found a little box for each piece of the 'random' information and the pieces fit in the boxes, and there are links. It was beautiful, and we couldn't stop repeating it. So the highlight of my day was seeing the pieces click together on the beginnings of a process model that has been hurting my head and running me ragged for the last little while. and after 5 minutes of being pleased, we laughed at ourselves and realized that the process model wasn't going to implement itself, (in fact, was still in the early stages of development), and I walked out to make phone calls and fill out spreadsheets of information... But happily. Maybe the geeks out there will understand?
P.S. My food challenge is still going. I haven't eaten any dairy, wheat, or sugar-products for 5 days (with the exeption of a few drops of milk in my coffee...)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Crazy Subliminal Cucumber Post

Cucumber would have to be one of those vegetables I rarely eat. It's good in salads, but M's not a fan, and when I buy them they end up going bad before I get through the small package of 4 or the one massive one. Plus, you can't cook cucumbers, so you can't salvage the slowly wilting veggie by slicing and dicing and throwing it in a pot, right?
Well, it would seem that cucumber is subliminally trying to convince both myself and a friend of mine that it can indeed be cooked or baked. The evidence:
Situation A
Last week, I was describing to my mom the vegetable soup I was planning to make as part of dinner for a little dinner party M and I were having on Friday night (random note: I ended up making cream of mushroom soup. M made the most divine chicken. No one could believe he'd cooked it. We have left overs. I'm in heaven.) So, as I'm describing the soup, I say it has diced onions, celery, cucumbers, only I'm saying all of this in Arabic, and my mom goes "Wha?? Cucumbers? WHY are you putting cucumbers in your soup?"
To which I respond, "I always put cucumbers in my soup. I got it from you. YOU always put cucumbers in your soup" and she shakes her head profusely and we continue to have this debate for 5 minutes before my little sis says "I thought M didn't like cucumbers?"
I start to answer that "no, no, M doesn't like.... oh, wait, M doesn't like cucumbers". At which point I realise that I've been saying cucumber all along when I meant to be saying carrot. Cucumber in soup jokes ensue for the remainder of the evening.

Situation B
I have been eating everything on my allergy list with complete abandon on and off for about 2 months and I have decided to put an end to it with a 7-day no wheat, no dairy, no sugar challenge to myself. For moral support, and to hold myself accountable, I posted this to my status on facebook and my friends have been very good in cheering me on. So much so that one of them offered me her "cucumber cookie" recipe.... Now, having just had this cucumbers-don't-cook conversation with my sis and mother, I am very skeptical, and ask her what on earth this could possibly be. Somewhere in the back of my mind I'm thinking there's a teensy possibility that a cucumber cookie does in fact exist in some alternate raw food vegan universe, but I'm just doubtful that my friend belongs to this universe. Well, ta-dah! I'm right. Friend meant zucchini cookie. She sent the recipe too. it looks divine, but it has butter, sugar, and wheat flour... I could substitute. I might give an alternate version of the recipe a try. if I do, and it's edible. I will post.

So there you have it folks. Cucumbers are feeling the heat (or they aren't and badly want to be... hardy-har-har).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ah, to be a litte girl

I write a lot about my Little Angela in Dubai, and her kid brother the little angel, but I think most of you know I have a Bigger-But-Still-Little Angela in California too (not to mention her two little angel kid brothers)...
BBS (Bigger But Still) Little Angela is 5, going on six in a month. She's in Kindergarten, and to listen to the conversation she had with my mother on Wednesday night, you would want to be her age again, and back in Kindergarten... I hadn't spoken to BBS Little Angela in months, so the conversation was extra-amusing for me. My favourite parts:
  • "Grandma, can you send me a letter with a picture in it? I'm going to draw you a picture and send it to you in a letter first and then you can write me back."
  • "Grandma, do you have Mama's address so you can send the letter?" (Always skeptical)
  • "Grandma, can you also buy me a a beaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful blouse from the market?" (and people, I wrote beautiful that way because I swear, that's how she said it. The moment she said beautiful, I felt like we were out of the actual conversation and in a fairy tale where they were talking about the "beaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuutiful princess").
  • When Grandma asks what colour the blouse should be: "Oh, a beaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuutiful pink blouse. But if you can't find pink, it can be purple or white or any other colour" (so the key here again people, is that the blouse just needs to be "beaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful")
  • And my favourite, as the phone call is winding down: "Grandma, I have to go now, because I have to watch TV"

Where do I get a time machine? Are they accepting applications to be 5 again somewhere?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I want my hour back!

This weekend, we turned the clocks forward to daylight savings time, and while we won't have to deal with the sun setting until nearly 7 p.m., the downside is that I suddenly feel so behind.
Daylight savings time (DST) used to happen on the first Sunday in April, and all through university, this hour-thievery had such an enormous effect because it was always, always, always right around exam time. I felt like the time people were out to make sure I couldn't have just 60 more minutes to figure out a proof, to solve a program that refused to compile, or even to just sleep so that the next day's studying would make some sort of sense...
Two years ago, the U.S. decided to move DST three weeks earlier, and being the good Canadian neighbours we are, we of course followed right along. It was necessary, 6 weeks of time difference (three in the fall when setting clocks back, three in the spring when setting clocks forward) between places like New York and Toronto would have wreaked havoc on the business world, but you wonder why Uncle Sam really thought it was such a good idea to do it anyway...
The theory was that it would save energy, that 3 weeks of extended day light would mean people would turn their lights on later, blah blah blah, yadda yadda, insert more detail...
There is NO way to ever measure whether this worked. What I do know is that at work, we were thrown into a frenzy working on the DST project, making sure all IT infrastructure, systems, and applications were DST ready... It was many hours of overtime for many people. Some did so much OT they bought flat screen TVs with the money after. Others took vacations. (Me, I just did the boring thing and put it in the bank). It was like a mini version of the Y2K freak-out 7 years earlier... We love to have to worry about whether something wrong with the machines can possibly cause the whole world to end.
In hindsight, I look back fondly at the DST project as the first really technical, large scale project I worked on. But I still got up this morning and realized that instead of the 9:50 blinking on my clock, the time was 10:50. And I still feel groggy while I write this. And I still feel, well, honestly? A little jipped.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Pool, Continued

In case you're wondering, I've been swimming at the condo's pool several times since this happened, the most recent of these times having been this morning. I thought I'd share the good news that each of these swims was completely uneventful and unremarkable, i.e. no more angry racist swimmers trying to ban me from the pool for wearing too much. Thought I'd let y'all know.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

From Conan, and stolen from my friend's facebook page... Really funny and really true. Watch and appreciate your life:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Books to Love

I've been able to get back into a reading groove, and I thought I would list out my current suggestions of good stuff to read if you like novels, in case anyone else is having difficulty finding goodness.
1-Bel Canto: By Ann Patchett. I've rambled on and on about this woman's brilliance and this book is currently my absolute favourite. Vivid, great characters, great story, great writing. I want to write a book like this (well, I just want to write a book, and beggars can't be choosers, but if I could have written any existing book, this is the one I would want in my name). I think the best word to describe the writing is 'lyrical'. Warning: you have to be up for a bit of sadness.
2- March: Little Women may be a classic, but every time I've tried to read it, I've found it absolutely insufferable. It's pretty ironic, then, that I loved this book about the father of those "Little Women" and his imagined experiences while he was away during the civil war. The character attempts to be so noble, it makes your heart ache. And yet it shows a lot of different view points: man vs. woman, north vs. south, black vs. white. A very different tone than Bel Canto, and, I thought, a harder book to read. But excellent.
3- The Book Thief: I'm reading this book about a little girl growing up with her foster parents in Germany in World War II. Her family is poor. They're also hiding a Jewish man in their basement. It's devastatingly sad, and yet the writing is so creative, and so lively and so so so different than anything else I've read in a very long time. You know the books that take "normal" things in childhood and magnify them and make them exceptional. This is one of those books. I can't put it down.
4- Catch 22: I read this sometime last year - borrowed off K's bookshelf, and I loved it. Set during the Vietnam war, following American soldiers. The best way to describe this book is irreverent and absurd. And so much fun in such a strange way.
5- The Glass Castle: This is a true story by Jeannette Walls, more of a biography than anything else, but it reads like a novel. Absolutely impossible to put down. You can't believe all of this happened to a real, modern day public figure.

Some general observations:
I seem to love books set during epic wars: WWII, Vietnam, you name it. I think just having those settings, something so huge that all of us are so aware of and devastated by in some capacity, lends these books a huge gravity, and helps us confirm all the tragedies of war. I do, however, find it sad that we don't seem to feel the same devastation towards the wars and battles and conflicts going on write now. It's like we can only ever see the human suffering in hindsight, and we tell ourselves 'lest we forget' even as we 'forget' the pain and loss of life happening in our time every day every minute every second. I wonder why we always have to look back before we admit wrong.
I also love books that go through whole lives and/or whole family histories. Another one that comes to mind is "Fall on Your Knees" by Anne-Marie MacDonald. She covers three generations of a family in the book. The plot is not a plot as such, but an entire lifespan. I completely admire people who can thread out such a long story.
I read the kind of books I wish I could write, in style and tone. This is why Ann Patchett appeals to me so much, because her writing is a similar style to mine, only a million times better. Same with Ann Marie MacDonald. Same with the author of The Book Thief. Maybe it's a bit self-centred, but the other reason I do it is because I am so impressionable, I start writing like whoever I'm reading, so it's easier to read in a similar style than a totally different one I have no hope of imitating.

Anyone with other good book suggestions? Next on my list are the Joseph Boyden books. He's Canadian, the books are about WWI and family relationships, and they've won awards. Right up my alley, I think.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Noha 1, Cell Phone 0!

And she might have lost to the throat and sinuses, but Noha bravely rises from defeat to overcome the cell phone's refusal to talk to the computer... Below, Little Angela's Marvelous Works:

Throat and Sinuses 1, Noha 0

So it turns out that that annoying sore throat was really just building up the energy to launch a full-blown offensive. I am on my second cup of "gollum juice" today, and third in the last 24 hours. It's slowly doing it's work...
I also tried to upload my little angela's piece of art, but my computer and cell phone (on which the picture currently resides) seem to have gotten into a fight and aren't talking to each other... The picture will come soon, I promise. I would hate to rob you all of her genius abstract work. (I say abstract because none of us would have been able to figure out that the circles were a boat, but they are, they are!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Moth is Not a Butterfly

Random-Noha-Fact #8, in my last post, is about songs with beautiful words. Here's one I loved:

By Hawksley Workman

A moth is not a butterfly
And I know why, I know why
It kind of makes you want to cry
That a moth is not a butterfly

But some are happy in the bluest sky
And others search in the dark of night
And sadness is a silent right
A moth is not a butterfly

A stone is not a grain of sand
It's hard, I guess, to understand
Both broken parts scatter the land
A stone is not a grain of sand

And one has lived for longer still
The other longs to break until
The wind can lift it in its hand
A stone is not a grain of sand

A desert's not a mountainside
And I know why, I know why
'cause one is vast and one divides
A desert's not a mountainside'

cause one has need for open space
The other simply in its place
It must be known far and wide
That a desert's not a mountainside

A moth is not a butterfly
And I know why, I know why
It kind of makes you want to cry
That a moth is not a butterfly

Saturday, February 14, 2009

100 Random Things About Noha

Inspired by COTW's list, which was apparently inspired by someone else's list, here is my own list of 100 random things about me.
  1. I love parentheses. They were created for people like me who can't finish a though without launching into a second (and third) tangential thought.
  2. Nested parentheses are even better
  3. Sometimes I wish I had was a starving artist and the whole world read my writing and thought it was beautiful, instead of a gainfully employed civil servant working in IT
  4. Most of the time, my practical side wins out and I am happy to have more than 1/2 a month's rent in my bank account, or be subsisting on beets. It's a romantic notion, but I'm actually not that romantic a person
  5. I now love certain foods I was completely indifferent towards in my childhood (exhibit a: the date)
  6. Though I fancy myself a creative person, I have very few original ideas. Most of what I say was read/heard/seen elsewhere first
  7. I don't think this contradicts being creative
  8. Songs are really just poems set to a tune. The ones with beautiful words can make me cry
  9. I used to be afraid of daddy long legs.
  10. I am still afraid of centipedes
  11. I have a tendency to be very silly
  12. I hate serious confrontation. It literally makes me sick to my stomach
  13. My favourite people in the world are my family (hubby, parents, sisters, and all their kids, hubbies, families, etc.). We're close in ways most people I know find unreal.
  14. When I was little, I could get so engrossed in books that two of my sister's could stand over me, insulting my favourite hockey player at the top of their lungs, and I wouldn't even hear them
  15. Said player would be Doug Gilmour
  16. There are teachers who I will never ever forget for how much they contributed to my childhood and by extension, my personality: Mr. Falls (6th grade), Mr. Knox (9th grade science), Mr. Fitzpatrick (9th to 11th grade lit), Mrs. Alexander (high school chemistry). I truly respect and admire these people, and if I knew where they were, I would walk up to them with a box of chocolate and say thank you.
  17. I read Quran really well, but have a bit of difficulty reading regular Arabic, because the writers usually don't include the accents.
  18. Strangers in Egypt can usually tell within 15 minutes that I'm not a native
  19. My parents are my heroes
  20. I constantly read other people's blogs and think - Man! How did she think of that great idea/phrase/concept?
  21. I tend towards being very vibrant or very quiet. I have a small "in between" window.
  22. I'm working on that
  23. I'm addicted to coffee
  24. Lately, I'm also liking tea
  25. and ice cream
  26. I am sometimes inexplicably sad for no reason.
  27. When this happens, a conversation with one of my favourite people is usually in order to fix it
  28. I took gymnastics as a child and still know how to do some of the stuff - cartwheels anyone?
  29. I also did track and field, and usually made the team more on effort than on talent
  30. I made the tennis team in 9th grade because not enough people tried out. My doubles partner and I lost every match. Badly
  31. I LOVE water sports
  32. My favourite place in the world is Calabogie lodge. Been going there with my favourite people in the world since I was 8 or 9. You can probably trace our family story by following our summer vacations through the years...
  33. I used to write for at least an hour every day. Not always good, but forced quantity used to produce at least a bit of quality
  34. I love The New Yorker
  35. I love The Far Side
  36. If there's a new alternative health craze out there, you can bet I've at least read about it, if not tried it in some capacity
  37. I have a whole slew of food sensitivities, which I regularly ignore.
  38. My favourite thing about Montreal is the bike paths that are all over the city. I'm the girl in the hijab you see biking all over the place in the spring/summer/fall downtown.
  39. My favourite hockey team is the Montreal Canadiens, even though I was actually a Leaf's fan the last time they won a cup.
  40. I get caught up in political stuff. I can't separate it from life or turn it off since I see how much it affects some people's lives. Maher Arar used to pray at the same place as my family in Ottawa before he was sent to Syria for a year of torture. I go to Egypt to visit extended family and I see the corruption everywhere (in non-collected garbage and crumbling buildings and taxi drivers complaining about how to make ends meet). It's impossible to close my eyes to this. Politics is life for the part of the world that isn't as lucky as the other part (aka, us).
  41. I get very upset at injustice, whether to me, or those I know and love, or strangers.
  42. I have a good memory for useless trivia
  43. I have three handwritten unfinished novels in notebooks under my bed. My younger sister, aka my audience, has yet to forgive me for leaving her hanging.
  44. I cry a lot. Not because I'm easily sad, but because I'm easily moved.
  45. If you have a cough, drink Gollum Juice.
  46. Also, Oregano oil is the most disgusting tasting thing on earth, but insanely healthy and good for germ-killing.
  47. I am the run-on sentence's biggest supporter.
  48. My ability to sleep has nothing to do with the noise/light situation around me. The position of my neck and something to use as a pillow though? Absolutely necessary. On my weekly bus rides, I have devised ingenious pillow variations.
  49. I know random small talk in Russian, Swedish, and German.
  50. I am trilingual (English, Arabic, French)
  51. I LOVE names and their origins.
  52. Also, trying to figure out what language someone is speaking when I don't recognize it (is that Polish? Russian? Croatian?)
  53. I am currently buying books way faster than I can read them.
  54. I have a very low tolerance for heels, or anything that hurt the soles of my feet.
  55. I have chronic back and neck pain from a dislocated rib/neck incident in 9th grade. It sounds sinister, but it came about in the most mundane of ways. Also, slightly embarrassing.
  56. I've gotten stitches on multiple occasions, but never broken a bone or needed a cast (yet!)
  57. If I'm reading a book by an author, my writing (if I'm writing at the time) inevitably takes that author's tone/style.
  58. I started writing to be like my older sister, who is also my best friend.
  59. Whenever I hear a song/poem I like, I immediately email it to said sister. Given she has two little ones under 4 (my Little Angela and Little Angela) her inbox is probably overflowing with these emails.
  60. My favourite blog is by this lovely Canadian woman living in India with her husband and children. Moving. Funny. Exceptionally written.
  61. I can't draw to save my life
  62. I can, however, cook. I make up my own recipes.
  63. I never thought I'd be a good cook and am mildly proud (and surprised) of this accomplishment.
  64. I get a lot of joy from reading Scott Feschuk's hilarious columns in MacLean's Magazine.
  65. I feel like we're living in a very momentous time in history. I think that over the next few years, the world will change a lot.
  66. I hope they're good changes
  67. I want to be part of it.
  68. I love looking at beautiful pictures.
  69. CBC Radio 1 is absolutely awesome.
  70. Bel Canto is the most amazing book.
  71. I second guess myself a lot
  72. I buy recipe books, look through them once, and then rarely go back.
  73. My husband continuously befuddles me with his ability to do 4 page mathematical proofs. I happily left these behind in 1st year university.
  74. I have been an A+ student my whole life.
  75. I never took biology because I was too easily disgusted. The bit of dissection we had to do in general science never ended well for me.
  76. and yet I can prepare meat without problems.
  77. I am a wannabe health freak.
  78. I am also a wannabe environmentalist.
  79. My favourite verse in the Quran is the second last verse of the Chapter called The Cave: Say, "If the ocean were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid."
  80. I am a big believer in always remembering that you don't know everything (or even most things)
  81. I love chocolate, but also salad.
  82. I love Canada fiercely, but I make a distinction between love and pride for my country and criticism of it.
  83. I get homesick easily when I travel.
  84. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is perfectly up my alley when it comes to humour.
  85. Corny jokes are also brilliant.
  86. Jon Stewart is a genius. Also Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and any political sketches on SNL
  87. This one is stolen with modifications from COTW's list: I would happily take a job at the Ministry of Silly Walks.
  88. I love calla lilies and irises.
  89. I want to go to New Zealand some day for a very nature oriented vacation (hiking, rafting, etc)
  90. I have seen the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean sea, but not the Atlantic.
  91. My favourite season is summer, but I think winter is extremely pretty.
  92. I didn't have a cell phone until a year ago, and now I can't live without it.
  93. I can go on a small amount of sleep, but I become either silly-hyper from too much coffee, or somewhat cranky.
  94. My toes are the first part of me to get cold. Once this happens, I become extremely cranky.
  95. My sisters and I are all daddy's girls. He used to whisk us off to Timmy's for warm, sweet treats every chance he got when we were still in university.
  96. I love to sit in small cafes with a hot cup of coffee, either reading a good book, people watching, or trying to write.
  97. My favourite place to do so is Planet Coffee in Ottawa. I'm still looking for my *favourite* place in Montreal.
  98. I am still very close a couple of my closest friends from high school, though we almost never see each other.
  99. Everyday I get to know M better, I am amazed by new similarities I discover between us. Deeper ones that didn't surface before.
  100. I miss carrying my Little Angels and Little Angelas around, hugging and kisses them to bits, giving them horsey rides and other invented silly games. I can't wait to see them again in a few months when they all converge at my parents' house.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My most precious piece of art

I'm not a huge collector. I tend mainly to go for small handmade things from Eid bazaars and the cool pictures that almost everyone has from Ikea. (In fact, M and I are in love with Ikea art. At least 3 separate walls in our apartment are graced with Ikea art. Imagine if we had more wall to cover! We'd probably buy out the entire collection.) Anyway, my hubby is definitely the one with the skill (and the knack) for decorating, and he's managed, with precious little of my assistance, to give our home a beautiful aesthetic, which I can wholly appreciate but couldn't have dreamed up for my life.
But yesterday, I got a new piece of art that I fell immediately in love with. It's simple and small, 8.5 X 11, on a blue background, and some with more refined taste might consider it amateur. Not me. This piece is going up on my cubicle wall at work.
It's from my Little Angela in Dubai, a jumble of red circles (roughly circles... maybe 'circle-like shapes' is a better description?) with some smaller, green circle like shapes around the edges. Then, there is my sister's annotation (probably word for word recitation of my niece's description of her work) along the bottom of the construction paper. In Arabic:

"This is a boat named jeen hay.
(Noha's note: this is not an Arabic word. Not one I can think of, anyway. It's simply Little Angela's wild imagination running away with her as usual... Correct me if I'm wrong, sis!) There are people in the boat named grandma and grandpa and me and my brother and mama and baba and my uncle and my cousin. I'll let Khalto Noosa and Khalo M (Noha's note again: that would be myself and M) ride on the boat too. I'll let them."

There are other annotations, informing that the green circles are waves, and then along the top there's a dedication to me.
I love it. Simple pleasures, man. Simple pleasures.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

But the Chips Were So Much Cheaper...

Is this not utterly depressing? Apparently a new study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation has found that food pricing across the country can vary hugely for a lot of healthy foods. How much, you say? Well, in Toronto, you pay about $1 for a bag of 6 apples. In Calgary, you pay over $5. Sorry, but what? And it's not like this is a "who cares" item of interest either. We're hardly eating well as a country as it is.
My favourite quote from another article on this study:

"You have to wonder why we control the price of alcohol but allow such price inconsistencies for healthy food - and not just in remote regions of the country - but even between larger metropolitan areas."
Well, at least we know we all pay the same amount for something, eh?