Stylocycle’s Blog

Brioche — first try
November 17, 2012, 7:56 pm
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Brioche -- first try

When I went on sabbatical in 2007, I really wanted to learn to make brioche. I ended up not spending time to learn until this year. These turned out pretty nicely, and the idea is to use the bread to make proper French toast.


It’s been ever so long!
August 31, 2012, 7:17 pm
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OK… so, I’ve been away for *forever*. I know. Things have been busy. They are going to get busier. I keep trying to scale back, and then fail because I get called into service on a variety of projects, community organizations within my profession, and extra duties to under-staffed faculty programmes on campus… 

But this post isn’t about me. 

It’s about how proud I am of my boy… who has a conditional acceptance to a really great chef school that happens, by chance, to be in our region. He needs to pass his GED at the end of September because, as a home-schooled kid for his last 2 years of HS, he needs to demonstrate to Premier McGuinty that he deserves the opportunity to enter a Red Seal apprenticeship-based programme, and he can only do that with a GED. It’s time for a change on Ontario. 

Anyway, in the meantime the boy has created a blog of his own, with a mandate to bring cooking skills  to (young) people who have no idea how to feed themselves, but who know they need to learn how PDQ. He’s starting out with a list of basic supplies that a student needs to start cooking. You can follow him at his blog, A Life in Food.

So long, 2011. So glad to be done with you.
January 2, 2012, 1:50 am
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Yeah, this past year just sucked.

My mother wonders what to do with her days now that she has no companion to share them. She went from the full-throttle demands of being an intimate care-giver to being a widow, all without ever having had the time to come to grips with the idea that her husband was sick… his cancer was terminal and advanced at the point of discovery in late March and he died in early September.

We made it through his funeral in later September: a quasi-Catholic service for the cremains. A very liberal parish was willing to provide a mass of sorts. “Of sorts” here indicates that most of the significant parts of the mass were omitted, and it left those of us with more Catholic upbringings a little confused, a little like amputees… But in early October we held a memorial for him at the Faculty Club on campus, and that was lovely. My dear friend, whom Tom had quickly grown quite fond of closed out our evening with a lovely story about Tom, and the chicken… Lucy, and how we came to be the joint custody holders of a laying hen.

But then in early November that same dear friend, who is quite young, was diagnosed with cancer herself, and so I found my heat and my time preoccupied once again. Fortunately, we have access to the best cancer care and surgeons and early detection meant that at her post-op meeting last week we were thrilled to hear that the surgeon fully expects her never to be bothered by this again and to live to a very old age. Thank you socialized medicine!

The two great reprieves of the past few months have been the weather, which has allowed me to continue daily cycling for commuting purposes, and that my friend got me completely hooked on rock-climbing (indoors — for now).

We have a new rock climbing gym in town, just about 3km away from the house, so it’s a pretty easy bike ride to get there. Each time I go I spend about 2 hours on the wall or on the belay side of the rope. It’s incredibly great exercise and it helps enormously with my tendency to get really neurotic. The only thing I can think about when I am on the wall is solving the route (and not falling off the wall); it leaves no room to think about the people who annoy me, or the projects that frustrate me. I am really grateful to have been able to learn to do it, and to find that I am reasonably good at it. Like cycling (which also helps me to avoid neuroticism), climbing seems to be a good fit with my ability and with my personality.

I hope that from wherever you are reading that your 2012 will bring some new surprise that is a good fit with your abilities and with your needs.

Every year… new academic year
September 21, 2011, 10:49 pm
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…when September rolls around I listen to David Sylvian, but this year I forgot to do it. I was busy, preoccupied…
Today is a rainy, very fall-kind-of-day, and it would be a very good day to listen to Sylvian sing his short refrain about September being here again, but we’re 2/3 of the way through and so it seems a little absurd to be heralding the arrival of a month that is on its way out.
My step-dad died on the 11th, only a few short hours after I’d written my last entry. We were with him when he went, and the night was clear, with bright stars and a warm wind; it was a good night for travel.
We all miss him. I still feel inclined to call my mum to see how Tom is doing, but then I remember the answer.
I’ve decided to use the tools that he gave us to build a proper standing desk for myself… something white and clean-lined and spare. I’m not sure if it’s feasible but I aim to build it in the basement over the course of the winter. I need to begin by drawing up the plans.
What else?
Twice some random person (I presume in a state of drunken inspiration) has tried to take one of our bikes from the side yard where they are locked up. I am happy to report that they have given up their efforts after no more than about 50 feet, finding the steel wheel locks entirely too impossible to get through to bother with the effort. Nonetheless, rather bored by retrieving them from the sidewalk, we’ve had to take to chaining the bikes to our fence. I did, however, manage to find a nice cable lock that is easy to use, and can be made longer or shorter as needed.
One of the things I really enjoy about September is that I start riding purposefully again, and that means I’m on my bike *more* in the academic year than I am in the summer (when I hang out at home more). Having a lock that is easy to use means I’m a lot less grumpy about getting out the door and onto the road than I used to be when I had to find a place to store a clunky U-lock, or a ridiculously cumbersome coiled lock.
Yay for refinement of a good idea. Check out Knog cable locks (especially as a supplemental lock because you know that you can rely on a good wheel lock and a heavy bicycle to be added impediments to the theft of your beloved).

It’s been forever… and here’s why
September 10, 2011, 9:30 pm
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In February my step-dad fell ill with what we thought was a flu; he was tired, had joint pain, but no other specific complaints. You know what’s coming, don’t you?

Within a few weeks, he was seen in the ER for pain in his abdomen that was non-specific, but my mother was tired of him moaning and doing little, so she forced him to go. They sent him for a CT scan and discovered lesions on his liver. By March 17th, we were sitting with the general surgeon who explained that the lesions were likely a metastasized cancer… and so the hunt was on for the source.

By April 2nd, we had our answer: small cell lung cancer with metastases to the liver and the bone marrow. Spring and summer were consumed by palliative chemotherapy, and other clinical visits. His final chemo treatment was on July 28th, and his final CT scan was on August 21st. While the liver initially responded well, and the bone marrow was more resistant, by the end of the treatment regimen that pattern had been reversed; the liver cancer cells had become resistant and were growing like wild-fire. In the two weeks since his final clinical assessment with the head of oncology he has gone from tired but mobile to hospice care.

My step-dad is currently in hospice, and my spouse and I take turns staying through the night so that there is extra support there to prevent him from being in danger as a result of his attempts to get out of bed at night. If he were to fall, he would be seriously injured, and then he would have to go to the hospital, and nobody wants to see him in hospital.

We expect that it won’t be more than a few days now, but even that would be too much suffering. What the oncologist said was, “You won’t have any pain; you will just become more and more tired, and eventually you won’t wake up again.” That doesn’t sound like such a bad way to go. Too bad it’s complete bullshit. It’s true enough that he does not have much pain, but until you witness it, you have no idea what this kind of exhaustion (and severe jaundice) mean. He still has the mental will to do things for himself, but his body is incapable of cooperating. Swallowing is a task. Speaking is near to impossible. He has trouble breathing because the fluid in his abdomen and his enlarged liver compress his lungs. It’s not *painful* but it’s harrowing nonetheless. He has no muscle left on his bones, so his legs cannot take him to the washroom; he cannot go outside except in his bed.

I’d like to chain the oncologist to a chair and make him sit in the hospice for two weeks to witness what “tired” means.


Soon, my step-dad will be released from all this… but he gave us a gift that was meant as a bit of a joke… which we have kept as a joint effort with a friend. We now have a laying hen, a little Rhode Island Red, and she gives us an egg a day.

And so, from commuter cycling to the backyard farming… my life takes turns I could never have predicted.

Enough already.
February 28, 2011, 8:12 pm
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I embrace winter. Really. I do.
I ski (both downhill and x-country).
I skate.
I go walking with my friend and her dog on looooong walks.
I ride my bike all year round….
But dammit! The 14 day forecast isn’t even hinting that spring might be on its way.
I am ready to pack it in. It’s time to hibernate until, oh, early July.

February 14, 2011, 9:29 pm
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I’m not a big product plugger.

However, if you need a versatile pant that can take you from yoga to your bike to the office to a hike… (or whatever blend of professional and outdoorsy you want to make in a single day), then I really can’t say enough good things about Lolë’s ‘dress pants’. I love the comfort of the cut, the zippered flat pockets, the special internal pocket for things like rings or other small jewelry items that can get in the way, the fabric… and the price. I love that they repel water and operate as a nice windbreak in colder weather, and I love that once I’m in the office nobody is any the wiser to the fact that I may have just come from a ride (like today) through a combination of salty slush and wet rain, or from a yoga class.