Hot Drink Time Machine: How a Common Cold Remedy Made Me Friendly

November 21, 2011  |  Survival Tips  |  , ,  |  18 Comments

Why were strangers smiling at me? I wasn’t pregnant or pushing granny in a wheelchair. Yet, people were in my grill, sending good karma with their smiles as we walked along the sidewalk. One guy even nodded.

“We live in the Big City, people, not Petticoat Junction!” Sinus Sister refrained from pointing out. More smiles were delivered, and the one nod turned into two…Then three.

It took a few blocks before the eureka moment hit: they were all carrying a big fat Thermos. So was I, uncharacteristically. By accident, I fell into the Hot Drink Time Machine and joined the cult of old-fashioned, friendly Thermos people. We are Wealthy Barberites, forgoing a $4 pumpkin latte. We are recycling nuts—I mean, enthusiasts—who’ve waged a war against Styrofoam. However, this welcoming tribe probably can’t guess my true motivation: to drink  Sinus Sister’s Apple Cider Vinegar Cure on the road, without having to explain myself or give directions to baristas who hate serving plain, hot water. (No, not everyone wants your double dose of caffeine and sugar, dude!) Smug and superior with my Thermos, I now stride outside with pride, looking to make eye contact with my peeps. Tomorrow, I may start to nod.

Common Cold Remedy from Mila Kunis: Fish Oil & Vodka?

Mila Kunis is the spoonful of sugar that makes her cold remedy go down. Only a ravishing starlet like Kunis could get anyone to try her health potion. She recently ladled it into ailing writer Michael Idov while he interviewed her for a GQ article.
“This will kill everything”, said Kunis, boiling up some water—the first step of her recipe:

Mila’s Germ-Killing Tonic:

To a saucepan of boiling water, add Cabernet, an avalanche of green-tea powder (“It’s vitamins!”), two gelcaps of fish oil (“What’s the difference? It’s all going to end up liquefied and syrupy”), apple-cider vinegar (“‘Cause that’s just always good for you”), and Ayurvedic chai. She finishes with a generous splash of vodka. Okay, two generous splashes. Hold your nose and drink.

Illness Etiquette: Get Some, When You Feel a Cold Coming

November 15, 2011  |  News, Survival Tips  |  ,  |  4 Comments

 Honestly, we won’t be offended. Cancel your business presentation. Call off your dinner party. Be a “no show” at a baby shower. It’s okay. When we hear the rattle in your lungs, we’ll be glad you stayed home. Yesterday, the Globe & Mail published an article about illness in the workplace, by Wency Leung, who is now an honorary Sinus Sister. Wency talked to the experts and coughed up this valuable piece of information:

In general, after the first 48 hours, people’s immune systems kick in but they could continue to spread illness for four to five days, says Bhagirath Singh, director of the centre for human immunology the University of Western Ontario. Regardless, they may not feel topnotch for a while. Typically, a common cold can last around seven days, while the effects of some flu viruses can last several weeks, Dr. Singh says. “Obviously you will still be feeling miserable and terrible, but you won’t be contagious.



Handwasher’s Helpmate: Avoiding Granny Hands with Lush Dream Cream (Review)

November 13, 2011  |  Cosmetics  |  , ,  |  4 Comments

Sinus Sister reaches for some lube

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Washing your hands six or seven times a day has consequences. Not only does it give people the chance to mock your O.C.D., but your hands start to look old—old like they survived the siege of Leningrad. Looking down at her red and cracked fingers of Irish descent, Sinus Sister thought her hands belonged to a refugee from the Potato Famine, clawing her way onto a coffin ship bound for Canada.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But when a woman sees the early stages of her own granny hands, she freaks. Then she spends money. Enter the hand creams. Expensive hand cream is one of the most satisfying spends in the pharmacy, because the results are instant and reassuring. Lush’s Dream Cream is aptly named and worth considering for your sink-side moisturizer. It soothed my embattled hands within a few days and doesn’t feel slippery or oily. Witness the lack of fingerprints on my laptop. There are oats in the formula—always a good sign—along with rose water and chamomile.

What we love about Dream Cream: the whipped-creamy consistency
What it smells like: Play-Doh, which isn’t necessarily a deterrent
What we don’t love so much about Dream Cream: the price ($24.95 for 8.4 oz.)
Why we’re willing to pay: gnarled hands are avoidable

Hands Down Winner: Beating the Common Cold with O.C.D.

November 4, 2011  |  Lifestyle, Survival Tips  |  , ,  |  No Comments

Sinus Sister scrubs up for winter

We walk among you, undetected. If you watch closely, however, you’ll see we never touch a door handle or push a shopping cart without wearing gloves. We avoid shaking hands and we will never, ever grab the communal Ketchup at a restaurant. Sometime around Thanksgiving—either Canadian or American—we turn our attention to the one activity that gives us solace: washing our hands. With each murderous orgy of soapy rubbing, we smite the germs and declare ourselves victorious. TAKE THAT!

Welcome to hand washing season, commonly known as “winter”. Let me be your guide. Hand washing season begins with a messianic faith in pump-action liquid soap that claims to have sanitizing properties. A bottle of this soap will only last two weeks in high season, so stock up. Anyone living in your house who doesn’t share your enthusiasm for hand washing will comment frequently on your dedication to the process. Those comments will be tinged with concern and an edge of accusation—like, “don’t you dare go crazy on me”. This person will try to sucker punch you by suggesting therapy. Ignore that suggestion. It’s the default solution of someone with an iron-clad immune system. Resume hand washing. Repeat as needed. Don’t touch the doorknob on your way out of the public bathroom…but you already knew that, didn’t you?

The Common Cold: Rhyme & Reason

November 2, 2011  |  Book Mentions/Reviews  |  ,  |  1 Comment

The Common Cold, by Ogden Nash (d. 1971)

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I’m not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught! (…click here to continue)

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Halloween Sinus Scare: Public Transit, The New Yorker & Tissues From Hell

Understated. That’s how I like Halloween. Save the ketchup-soaked costumes and theatrical ax murders. The sound of a creaking staircase does not, as a rule, make me scared at parties. But if you think I’m a stick-in-the-mud beyond fear, you’re dead wrong.

Sinus Sister got the scare of her life on Halloween: minding her own business, she stepped into a subway car and resumed reading The New Yorker, where Canadian Craig MacInnis is a finalist in the cartoon caption contest! (Vote here!) After laughing at Craig’s witty entry, I moved on to read Rebecca Mead’s profile of fashion icon/heiress Daphne Guinness. While it was an engrossing article, I slowly became aware of a building chorus of sneezing and sniffing. Looking up from the magazine, it was like a scene from a Hitchcock movie. Instead of birds flying at me, it was germs, from every direction…There was a sneezing art student with bedhead…a party girl coughing without covering her mouth…Another passenger was picking his nose, staring at me with unblinking eyes. I was trapped. My subway station was three stops away.

Nobody heard my silent scream as I reached into my purse and pulled out a tissue—as if it could save me from the onslaught of germs flooding the subway car. At least the 4-ply Sniff tissue ($1.60) accurately reflected the situation: black with a skull and crossbones. Would it be rude to wave the tissue like a pirates flag, and declare the subway a sneeze-free territory? Probably. Did I fantasize about burying an ax in the party girl’s chest, then suffocating the art student? Yes. The nose picker would get more of a Dexter Morgan treatment, later. Sinus Sister fled at her subway stop, cursing the sneezers on her way out, and disappeared into a safe sea of Harry Potters, Lady Gagas and Jack Sparrows.

Steam Cleaned: How to Pick a Humidifier

Sinus Sister consults The Boogor Doctor

His real name is Dr. Russell Faust, but most people know him by his online name, The Boogor Doctor. He works at Lakeshore ENT, in Michigan, but he helps patients everywhere via his cool blog. Sinus Sister is not a doctor—with the science scores to prove it—so she laps up the good doctor’s advice on how to hunt for a humidifier. Boiling a kettle, it seems, is not enough. Here’s what you should know:



The Three Types of Humidifiers:

1- Evaporative

This type of humidifier uses a cloth or mesh belt that acts like a wick: it dips down into a vat of water, then rotates up so that a fan can blow across it and evaporate the water off the belt into the air. Effective way to humidify the air, but these have some downsides.

2- Ultrasonic

This is the so-called “cool mist” humidifiers. These use a small ultrasound transducer to vibrate a stream of water so that the water vaporizes. Effective, inexpensive. These have their own special disadvantages as well.

3- Steam Vaporizer

These are little more than a pot of water with a heating element that boils the water to produce steam. Very effective, but of course, they have their own issues, too.

Most of us are also familiar with the humidifier on our central heating system, if we have forced-air heat. The only thing to keep in mind with those is that the system should be cleaned. How often? I have no idea. The thing to do is to read the instructions for proper maintenance. I have asked several people if they have ever cleaned theirs, and the standard response has been “what?”.

There is another type of humidifier that I have no experience with – the “impeller” humidifier. These produce a cool mist using a rotating disk. I suspect they may have issues similar to the Ultrasonic type of humidifier (see below), but I have no personal experience with them.

So, after years of using these other 3 types of humidifiers in my home, including experience with multiple belt-evaporative humidifiers growing up in my parent’s home, here is my own assessment. My apologies to humidifier manufacturers. No doubt some will take offense at my admittedly simple and anecdotal comparison of these types of humidifiers, but this is based on decades of personal experience, and experience with each of these types of humidifier.

(1) Evaporative (2) Ultrasonic (3) Steam Vaporizer
Efficiency Efficient Efficient Less efficient
Construction, Ease of Use Complex Simple Simple
Cost / purchase $$$$ $$ $
Cost / to run $$ $ $$
Cleaning Challenge to Clean Easy to Clean Easy to Clean
Microbe risk: mold, etc ++++ ++
Boogordoctor endorsement + + +++
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Blood Simple: Dexter, Nosebleeds & Sinus Sister’s Dark Passenger

Sinus Sister’s Draws First Blood

“What would Dexter think of this splatter pattern?”, I wonder, looking at my pillow case…



DEXTER MORGAN enters a disheveled BEDROOM, and heads straight to the blood-splattered PILLOW, but not before finding an empty bottle of TYLENOL SINUS on the floor and noting a GLASS OF WATER on the bedside table. Detective ANGEL BATISTA eyes some LINGERIE on the floor. The RED NEGLIGEE is surrounded by crumpled KLEENEX. The two detectives exchange a LOOK.


It’s not what you think, Angel.


              It’s not? Chances are, we’ll find her body in the vacant lot next door.


(Dexter looks out the bedroom window at the VACANT LOT and sees RAGWEED)

She’s not dead.

DEXTER returns his attention to the PILLOW. His eyes trace the BLOOD SPLATTER.



It’s low-velocity splatter, from zero distance. There was immediate contact between her head and the pillow. See the smear? It’s from tossing and turning all night. She’s about 5’6″, 120 lbs.

Dexter surveys the bedroom, looking for something. He notes the empty ELECTRICAL SOCKETS.


No humidifier. That’s it. The dry air gave her a nose bleed in the middle of the night. She panicked.


Well, where is she?


At the pharmacy, getting more Tylenol Sinus.

ANGEL was satisfied by DEXTER’S explanation, but DEXTER looked nervously out the WINDOW at the VACANT LOT.


(voice over)

She’s not at the pharmacy.

She’s going to kill the Slum Lord responsible for the ragweed next door.

ANGEL holds a file labelled MISSING, and crosses off the name SINUS SISTER.


(voice over)

A sneezing fit woke her up. She saw the blood and met her own dark passenger.

DEXTER has a violent SNEEZE.


(voice over)

I’m gonna help Sinus Sister kill this deadbeat.

Best Unicorn Bait: Cavalia Review by Someone Who is Allergic to Horses

October 24, 2011  |  Lifestyle, Reviews  |  , , , ,  |  No Comments

Cavalia’s in town! If you don’t know what Cavalia is, imagine this: Cirque du Soleil meets the Calgary Stampede. Cue the New Age music because Cavalia is not, repeat NOT, a hoedown. It’s a fairy world of flying sprites and Middle Earth dresses. A tribe of bendy men do triple flips and bounce on stilts, while damsels-cum-gymnasts do miraculous things on horseback. The Big Top is the width of a football field, so the 50 horses have room to let loose. The entire show is excellent bait for unicorns, who threaten to appear at any moment.

Horses excite city girls—even city girls who were sent home from Equestrian Camp with a refund. Where there’s a barn, there’s hay. Where there’s hay….ACHOOOO! Equestrian Camp had been my idea, against mom’s better judgement and dad’s budget. But I went and sneezed for five days straight, before the camp leader invited me to leave (It wasn’t a complete loss; I got a sleeping bag). Ejection from horse camp in 1979 did nothing to deter me from seeing Cavalia in 2011. Quite the opposite. Wearing my best equestrian boots and armed with allergy medicine, I hightailed it to the Big Top. The show was a dizzying blur of antics on horseback and big-screen projections.

What we loved about Cavalia:  the trick riding, live music
What we could’ve done without: the slow-motion carousel number
What we really didn’t need: antihistamines
Most enchanting part: the stable tour, meeting the tumblers
Most regrettable gift shop purchase: voodoo horse doll
Number of tissues used: 0
Number of Unicorn Sightings: depends who you ask