Sunday 3 January 2021

Many walks, much study, pierogi & cgm

Happy New Year, dear blog readers. I apologise for my long absence; the writing well had run dry. As it is, I have been on Christmas holidays since December 23 (although I wrote at least two articles during that time) and yet only now do I feel sufficiently enthusiastic to put fingers to the keys. 

What have I been doing? Well, Christmas baking and Christmas cooking: florentines, gingerbread cookies,  Chelsea bun, makowiec (poppy seed cake), Alaskan trifle, cheese-and-potato pierogi, mushroom-and-cabbage pierogi, clear red borscht with mushroom dumplings... Not bad for a woman who had Christmas dinner elsewhere, i.e. in the countryside with husband and friends. 

And I have been going for walks: a lovely long countryside walk in Fife, and then a tramp up and down Berwick Law (and I fell heavily on the ice three times on the way down and was then quite terrified), and yesterday a hike along the Firth of Forth (and B.A. fell heavily on an icy stone and had to limp to the bus stop). Today I walked around and around the icy Meadows by the University of Edinburgh in the rain, under an umbrella, chatting with a girlfriend who wears latex gloves under her woollen gloves, as her hands got cranky from too much hand sanitiser. 

Then I have been studying: weekly Italian classes over the phone, and making and memorising Polish flashcards, reviewing Polish grammar, and reading Polish articles clearly derived from my own articles. 

Polish Catholic journalists are quite clear about their sources, and it is interesting to see how many Polish articles end with the words "Zródło: LifeSiteNews." I am both happy and annoyed that most of the articles in Polish on a certain story of Polish interest are derived from my articles on the story. On the one hand, I am pleased to be so influential, but on the other, I wish the Polish journalists would find out something new for me to cite in return. 

In related news, I am getting rather better at making pierogi. I had relatively few in-pot explosions this year, and when I was running low, I just mixed up another bunch without fear and trembling. The secret to pierogi-making, besides not putting in too much or too little stuffing, is to make many often--or, at very least, make them every Christmas for years. The ultimate goal is to make pierogi dough so soft and thin that it all but melts in the mouth when you bite into the pierogi. If eaten boiled, it should taste of clouds. If you fry them afterwards in butter, though, it can just taste of ... well, summer holidays near Wrocław, winter birthday weekends in Kraków, and Christmas Eve. 

I have been trying out a new hobby: the Curly Girl Method. In short, I got tired of wearing my hair in two braids all the time, like a superannuated Greta Thunberg. For a week I wore it in rather untidy box braids, hoping to look more like a hippy than a culturally insensitive white pop star, and then I read a lot of agonised online questions from other white women with super-dry, super-curly, super-thick hair on some forum about socially acceptable hairstyles. Che incubo/jaki koszmar/quel cauchemar/what a nightmare! 

I decided to find out what my curl pattern actually would be if my hair wasn't as dry as horsehair sofa.  I hydrated the living daylights out of it, and then plopped it on top of my head in a long-sleeved T-shirt to air dry. The result was a mass of waves and ringlets no wider than a pencil and an itchy scalp. Within a week, the ends of the waves and curls had snarled together and my hair was drier than ever. So I repeated the operation, this time with more products, and I again had a mass of waves and ringlets that eventually snarled together before drying out. 

What the CGM & NHM call "Day 2".

This went on for a month or so, and then this morning--after an arduous hour in the shower involving only Maui Moisture Hair Care Shea Butter Hair Mask, Faith in Nature Dragon Fruit Conditioner, Cantu Coil Calm Detangler and Aussie 3 Miracle Oil--I drew a straight line down my scalp with my comb and put my damp (but tangle-free) hair in two braids. My hair still isn't dry yet, so I may undo it and attempt to coax it  into 18 ringlets. On the other hand, I am not Bernadette Peters, and I can just keep winding my braids around my head like Dorothy Day. 

Of the above, the second-cheapest, Faith in Nature Dragon Fruit Conditioner, is pretty useless for my hair (not enough "slip", as the Natural Hair Movement video stars say), and the cheapest, Cantu Coil Calm Detanger, is the best. I read and watch good things about other Cantu products, so if you have somehow stumbled upon my idiosyncratic blog by Googling "Curly Girl Method," I recommend trying them.  

I have learned from the Natural Hair Movement that box-braids, cornrows and various different kinds of hair arrangements are known as "protective styles" because they stop dry and fragile hair from snarling breaking. However, they are laden with cultural significance, and I dread being attacked on the bus by Guardian readers for appropriating the wrong one.  

Well, a few more months, and I will be able to wind my braids over my head so thoroughly, I will be able to braid the ends together and tuck them up, and that will be the superannuated Greta problem solved. 


  1. As my hair type is your hair type's exact opposite, I cannot comment from experience of your hair 'issues'. However, I have heard that some women with very curly, dry hair have had great luck with oils like argan oil that have become popular in recent years. Have you tried any of them?

    1. I have bought some and put it in, but as I then braided up my hair for the week, I am not sure what difference it has made.

  2. Well, perhaps you can keep experimenting and see if it really does make a difference. I've read, also, that different types of oil (marula, squalane, castor oil even) have varying effects, and also that different brands vary in quality. I haven't tried these oils in my hair but I have become a great believer in oils for skin as moisturisers and so forth. Some even seem to be good for their anti-aging effects. There is a Canadian company, The Ordinary (such a Canadian name...) that sells them cheaply.