MONDAY DECEMBER 22nd

Ten years ago, amid a litter of ten pups was born a little male whom we later named Bacchus. Bacchus was the Roman God of wine and orgies. It seemed regal yet fun loving to our ears.
When he was old enough to come home we were handed a tiny fur ball who fit in one hand. He was much smaller than the cat…but not for long!


He grew fast. He was strong and pulled our youngest to the ground once or twice but he was never mean. He would crouch to the ground every time we stopped in front of a stroller or a small child as if he knew that a flick of his tail could knock them off their feet.

 


He did have a naughty period around 13 months when he would steal and chew on things. I remember the morning after my son’s grad dance, I was doing the laundry. I had sorted the clothes by color, on the floor next to the washer. Once I was done with the washing and drying of the whites I started folding and was stunned to see a big hole in my son’s underwear. My imagination ran wild: what went on at those proms??? I was too embarrassed to confront him and went on wondering for a few days…until I ran another load of laundry and found a similar hole in my own underwear!!! That’s when it occurred to me that the holes had been chewed out by Bacchus!!
His favorite season was undoubtedly winter! He was a Bernese Mountain dog, a Swiss breed and loved snow! He would burry his face in snow or if there was no loose snow to play in he would sit on a snow bank for hours no matter how cold it got. He did the same thing in piles of leaves in the fall but in that case I suspect the rich smells attracted him.


He did not like water and never willingly went for a swim in the lake, but he enjoyed canoeing and would gladly climb in whenever we took the canoe out.


He had a habit that surprised people: he would sit on their feet. I think it was a genetic trait; as this breed, a bit like St Bernards, often worked in the Alps, and were trained / programmed to warm peoples feet.
He was a good dog, and I think he lived a happy life in our house. He developed a large inoperable tumor in his belly and when we detected that he was suffering we had him put to sleep. Although it was done with care and respect it was a very sad experience. Bacchus was not scared or nervous, contrary to what some people say I don’t think he knew what was happening. He was given a tranquilizer, he lied down on a blanket while we held him and petted him. Once he was relaxed the vet injected some substance and before she was finished he was gone. It was not obvious to us but she checked his heart beat and told us when it was over. We stayed with him a while longer and at one point he made a big sigh…as if he was relieved…it startled us but made us smile through our tears…Goodbye Bacchus…He was the first picture I posted on this website and although these are the last pictures of him I will post his memory will stay with me…


 

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 17th

Do you ever buy lotto tickets or fill out contest forms...and forget about them? I do it all the time and never win anything. Except last week when I got a phone call informing me I had won a cookbook library worth $500.00!!!They arrived today! They are not as special as the books that I have recieved from friends but they are interesting. Some of the books I already had, but most of them are new to me and interesting. Lots of cooking and experimenting in store for me!!!! Who wants to be my guinea pig?

TUESDAY DECEMBER 16th

The snow hangs on branches like cotton balls

....

MONDAY DECEMBER 15th

This fat little guy showed up in my garden today...If you want to see interesting bird photos I suggest you have a look at this site: http://www.Clint.com/baylandbirds/index.html

TUESDAY DECEMBER 2nd

I attended my second Slow Food event last night. This one was called “Chocolate and peppers”. The first thing that had come to my mind when I heard of the theme was a line in the movie “Chocolat” where the chocolate maker talks about a confection she made using hot peppers and chocolate. At the time I remember thinking that it was a funny fantasy and nothing more. After all I had once served oranges and pepper, and strawberries with pepper also. But this had been regular black pepper while this time we are talking about the red hot peppers (as in chili peppers). In french we have separate words: poivre and piment but it seems the English language is not as detailed.
It was an interesting evening, the speakers were more fun than the food. . But I feel that just like for oysters or wine, you need to educate your palate before you can truly appreciate the subtleties of these two ingredients.
We were told about the South American origins of chocolate and how the Mayans were the first to create a drink from crushed cocoa beans mixed with water and flavorings such as chili peppers, vanilla, and other spices to make a sacred drink (a bit like mass wine for the Catholics). We were taught how the pods grow on the bark of trees and do not hang from it like apples and that the bean must ferment and be roasted before it can taste of anything. Makes you wonder how all this was discovered …but that’s a totally different topic…
I would have liked to learn more about the different varieties of chocolate available, but we were not given much info except to be told that Chuau is an exceptional chocolate and that Tanzani chocolate is also wonderful as are Chocolat Barri, Toscano and Amadei. Of course we are talking 70% cocoa and up. I guess they figured that everyone there already knew all about cocoa content.
We also learned that eating hot peppers releases endorphins, like running and sex…It seems your mouth sends out a “fire” message to the brain, which releases the emergency hormone which then flows through your blood stream .
We were told that there are 5 varieties of hot peppers and that the “fire” comes from an oil called capsaicin. It seems that peppers have little smell and are mostly experienced through taste. I could not really tell them apart except by the intensity of the “fire” but I did notice that the chipolte has a more smoky flavor. We also found out that water is not a good idea to put out the fire from a hot pepper. Bread dipped in a good olive oil or rice or even potatoes are a more effective solution… because of that oil and water reaction…
The menu was…unusual: we started with a rather peppery squash soup that had chocolate sprinkled over it. The next course was chocolate turkey (or chicken) and dessert was a delicious chocolate pie served with a chocolate and pepper sherbet. The meal was accompanied with very good wines: a bubbly to start, a sherry type followed, then a wonderfiul red called: “Roche dei Manzoni, Bricco, Langue 1998”, and we finished with a golden elixir from Domaine De Rancy.
We were also given the prettiest and most delicious pepper chocolates at the end.


WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 26th

I organized a nice trip to Las Vegas: flights, transfers, hotel, shows…the works! 20 people signed up! I had planned to accompany the group, then instead of returning with them, I was to take a leisurely drive to San Francisco and then down along the coast to Los Angeles. From there I would have taken a flight to Santiago Chile. There was even talk of a cruise to the South Pole at one point.
But on the departure day, with suitcases lined up by the door, there was a medical emergency and I had to forego the trip.
So instead of pictures of roulette wheels and slot machine, I have stories of I.V. drips and blood pressure machines, wheel chairs and bed pans. Not the high drama of an emergency room, not the sweet smell of new born babies in obstetrics, not the tension of cardiology…only the dreariness of hemato-oncology. It does not take long to realize that a missed trip is a very small deception compared to the sufferings you can witness on such a ward. There is the man who has just had his second leg amputated and is on dialysis. They keep him sedated because as soon as he regains consciousness he starts to scream at the top of his lungs…There is one guy who looks just like Archie Bunker’s son in law “meat head” . He always wears a ski jacket over his hospital gown and I could not quite understand why until I saw him outside the main entrance smoking a cigarette…he has lung cancer. There is the nice woman in the yellow bathrobe with no hair left because of chemo therapy…There is the handsome tall dark haired young man who was just told he has terminal cancer….There is the strange woman with a mysterious illness who sounds retarded but is a whiz at scrabble …There is one woman who is always at the pay phone, although there are phones in every room, describing her husbands every bowel movement in great detail for everyone to hear….There is another who keeps coming out of a room crying, she blows her nose, wipes her eyes and goes back in, over and over…
You see pain, you see sadness, you see indignities…I guess I could have seen the same in Vegas, but I hear it was very cold there this weekend…so maybe I was better off here…

 

MONDAY NOVEMBER 17th

To be honest I must confess I was prejudiced against Indian cuisine. Out of ignorance I thought Indian restaurants were dirty and their food only smelled of cumin.
A few months ago I was invited to an Indian restaurant called Masala and that is where a love story began, I had a “Poulet au beurre” which I guess translates to butter chicken. which was absolutely delicious and that is when I realized that Indian cuisine is very varied and full of spices. I knew that brits are fond of curries but was unsure of what they are.
I have since learned a bit more about it such as the meaning of garam masala which is a mix of spices used in many Indian dishes.
Yesterday I decided to make an Indian meal. I had fun gathering the ingredients: ginger, garlic, paprika, , hot green and red peppers, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, coriander coconut milk, curcuma, curry powder, limes, sesame seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon…


The meat dish was a chicken tandoori Then I made three vegetable dishes: one was a green onion masala with coconut flakes, which was both colorful as tasty.


Next I made a vegetable curry flavored with coconut milk, curry powder and limes, which was a bit stronger than the green onion dish but much milder than the Aloo Gobi which is a fiery dish of cauliflower and potatoes with hot chilies.


I made a big bowl of basmati rice and got some “naam bread” to mop up the sauces.
As for dessert I made a very refreshing frozen mangoe Lassiala, which is a purée of frozen mangoes with yogurt and milk. I could not resist buying Lebanese pastries while I was shopping so I served those as well. I have yet to learn about Indian desserts but would not be surprised if they resembled middle eastern delicacies made of honey , nuts and dates.
I poured some Chai tea with dessert. As for drinks during the meal, besides water, I had a hard time finding a wine strong enough to hold up to the fiery spices. But I settled on a California wine that proved to be just what I needed a Fetzer fumé blanc.
This was a lot of fun and I hope to add more dishes to my repertoire soon. I might even add an ethnic section to the cookbook….

SUNDAY OCTOBER 26 th

I have been working with passengers from the Regal Princess cruise ship. People will ask you the strangest things. I had one lady who wanted to make sure there were professional escorts/ dancers on board (remember Igor and the owl on the Olympic cruise last year). When I suggested she attend the singles party on the first night to meet potential dance partners, even if they might be amateurs she informed me that only a professional would do…She will be disappointed. as I inquired today with the tour director on the ship and was told that professional escorts have been abandoned a long time ago …
We get a lot of enquiries about restaurants, some people want steak, others want pizza, some are a lot easier to please: I was asked for anyplace that serves fattening food. But what I like best of all is people asking me for the best restaurant in town with no budget limitation! I have a field day with those!
I saw a few people arrive wearing shorts (it is below freezing here at night this week), one of them even left for a walking tour this morning wearing them. (I was wearing a wool tuque and mittens) when I asked him if he might suffer from the cold he replied “I am from Singapore” I must be very ignorant because I did not know that Singapore could be that cold. Or maybe he meant that people from Singapore are very tough…I may never know…
But the person who wins the prize as the most special passenger was an older gentleman I met today. There was a group of people bent over a map and a cell phone looking puzzled. I went up to them to offer my help. They were from Utah and had seen a Mormon temple from the ship as they came into port. They wanted to go visit it. Together we managed to get the phone number and the address and speak to a sister there who gave them the schedule of events. Then the older gentleman, holding a pale blue leather book in his hand, took me aside to tell me he was on a crusade and wanted a few minutes of my time. Right away images of Jehovah’s witnesses sprang to mind. I confess I am not very knowledgeable on religions. But I was not in the mood for a conversion so I excused myself to go to the washroom hoping they would leave. I took my time but he was still waiting for me when I came out. So I had no choice but to listen to his story. He explained to me that his wife had always written poetry and that from the early days of their marriage she had wanted to publish a book of her writing with photographs taken by her husband, but they never got around to it. She passed away in July of 2002 and so he has assembled and published the book since. And now he travels the world and offers the book to people he meets through his travels. They were married over 50 years and had 8 children. Most of the photographs in the book are of members of their family. There even is a CD with the book of songs related to the poems. So he gave me the book after writing a personal message on the first page. It was very touching. Leaving books all over the world like planting so many seeds.
In a way this reminded me of the movement in Europe that consist of leaving books, that one has read, in public places with a notice inside inviting anyone who picks it up to read it and pass it on but also to write back via E Mail to the person who left it there. So that the itinerary of the book can be followed by its original owner. I will definitely write back to this man thanking him for his kindness.

SUNDAY OCTOBER 19th

The highlight of the day was seeing a heron at the lake! It is a large bird which is very impressive when in flight. A bit less so at rest as he blends in with the background. It was interesting to see him startle some ducks who were quietly floating about but then get scared away himself by the tinest squirrel who brazenly trotted up to him. I managed to catch one photo of him as he took flight. At first I found his profile in flight confusing. I was not sure what was his beek and what were his feet. His reflection in the water looks unreal but I did not touch up the photo at all...

SATURDAY OCTOBER 18th

I went to the open air market last week and could not get enough of all thepumpkins displays.

I got some small ones to use as soup bowls for a dinner party.

MONDAY OCTOBER 13th

Today was the "Canadian" thanksgiving. It is not as important here as it is in the States later in November.But it does afford a holiday at a beautiful time of the year for us. I often get teased about being snowed in 9 months of the year. But have a look at the photos I took today...this is life outside of winter in Quebec.

 

 

I was surprised to find some mushrooms close to the cabin. I know nothing about wild mushrooms but found them to be fascinating in their diversity. These look like little bells. The kind you see in oriental temples.

These area richer colour but irregular in shape.

These grow on a tree stump. They remind me of clams because they do not have visible stems.

This one was much larger and all alone, growing on a wooden step.

This last one was a bit dull but nicely set off byt he red leaf that had fallen next to it.

 

SATURDAY OCTOBER 5th

I admit I am not much of an athlete so when i took my bicycle out today I felt very self-righteous. It was a beautiful day and I figured I could do my errands this way rather than take the car. My tires felt a bit soft. I had not ridden in a while and my weight has not gone down so it was nothing to be alarmed about. I remembered that when I first bought the bike four years ago someone had explained that the amount of pressure recommended is engraved on the tire side. So I decided to go to a service station and inflate them myself. As I huffed and puffed I rehearsed in my mind what i would do. First locate the air machine. Aren't they usually to the side of the service station building? And then isn't there some kind of handle that you crank to choose the pressure you want? And then a bell rings every so often probably like an elevator, telling you what floor you have reached. OHH and I must not forget to remove the screw-on "stopper". No use pumping air onto the lid. And I must be carefull not to loose that litle part as it must screw it back on once the air is safely inside the tire. I was a bit worried that there might be some maths involved, but had more or less decided to play it safe and stay below recommended levels lest I blow my tire to explosion.

Everything went according to plan, I made it to the station, I found the machine, I got off the bike, I crouched down, removed the stopper and started cranking my neck to find aforementioned numbers. But when i reached out to pick up the hose I noticed a little sign that said 25 cents for air fillup. I was totally shocked! How dare they make me pay for air??? I decided right there to leave the premises and never return. I crossed the street figuring this must be some unique gimmick and I could fill my tires for free elsewhere. Lo and behold this machine had a sign also but it cost $1.00 to fill up on air!!!

I rode back home on my squishy tires and resolved to use the hand pump next time I want to go for a ride.

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 26th

Have you ever heard of an organization called “Slow food”?It is a movement that started in Italy and has now spread over Europe and America.
It is devoted to the preservation of traditional food and food preparation methods.


I became a member recently and attended my first function. It was centered around the theme of the Montreal melon.
This melon used to be a very popular delicacy at the turn of the last century. Large portions of the island of Montreal were devoted to its culture. Unfortunately through some mysterious circumstances this culture has all but disappeared.
There has been a renewed interest in the melon in recent years and at least one group has started growing it again. Our slow food activity started in the community garden where the Montreal melon experiment is being carried out. They use two different culture methods, both very “bio” and natural. No chemicals are used. The melons must be turned regularly so that all sides benefit from the sun . The specimens we saw were not very large. As a matter of fact they looked very much like cantaloup both in colour and in size. But it seems that in the old days they could reach a much larger size and weight. I never got to find out what the insides look like because they were not ready for the picking. So the mystery remains….

 


The second part of the activity took place in a coop store. Very new wave (with terry cloth sanitary pads) and all sorts of seeds and weeds….a lovely store. Unfortunately they also sell lots of soaps and have them displayed unwrapped, and, you guessed it, I sat down right next to the soap display. I am afraid that the smell of all cucurbitae (sp) is forever associated to the smell of soap in my mind. But that did not prevent me from learning all about the squash family from pumpkins to pattypans. We also got to taste squash purée, squash marmelade, squash jam, squash soup, squash bread and even squash ice cream…very interesting…


The next activity will be around mushrooms and risotto…comfort food at its best! There is also an upcoming one called chocolate and peppers…now THAT is intriguing. It brings back memories of the movie “Chocolat”…

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 18th

I had the chance of visiting a very unusual art gallery recently. It was started many years ago by a man who commissioned an artist to paint a picture of the building which housed his company so he could use it as a Christmas card.
He repeated the experience and the project grew from there. He now has an imposing collection of works all depicting the Avmor building. He moved the company to other premises but kept the old building for his offices and art gallery. It is a wonderful house.


As the owner is full of whimsy he decided at some point to give a white tie to every artist he commissioned and asked them to paint the tie. The ties now fill a room…they are amazing in their diversity.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 10TH

I attended a family reunion last weekend. it was held in a lovely location. There were lovely flowers and of course i did not resist temptation and shot a few of them.

 

 

MONDAY SEPTEMBER 1st

Went to Toronto this weekend. A quickie trip.
But managed to catch the Lion King. I found it to be spectacular as far as the set and costumes were concerned. The songs were uneven. But all in all a pleasant experience.
I also managed to visit the National Gallery where they had an exhibit of Tom Thompson’s work. He is a Canadian painter who loved nature and spent a lot of time in Algonquin Park, fishing and painting. He died an early and suspicious death in Canoe Lake. Through the years my kids have done a lot of canoeing on those lakes and rivers that Thompson painted so this exhibit was of special interest to me…Here are two of my favorites:

 

SUNDAY AUGUST 24th

Of mice and moi

Today I went to check the cabin…had not been in a while …we had rented it out…
And of course I found traces of mice activity. Everyone has a theory about mice; some say they only come in when the weather turns cold. Other say they only enter unoccupied houses.. Some people say they don’t get any. Others say that everyone gets them and that those who claim not to are simply not looking close enough. We have tried everything, to keep them out: from the old standard wood trap to the sticky pads to plug in gizmos…But they keep coming back and it is part of life I guess…What amuses me is what they choose to nibble on. One year it was my pastry brush that was the star attraction. The bristle took on odd shapes at it got chopped down a little bit at a time. Another year it was the sunflower seeds we used as bird feed. That year we found seeds behind furniture, under pillows, even inside folded socks. Another time they had eaten through a box of plastic backs…But today, I must admit they showed good taste. They started with a bottle of virgin olive oil. They removed the cap, carried it to the shelf below, where they proceeded to chew through a plastic bottle of mayonnaise. They also chewed out the paper label on a honey bottle as well as a vinegar bottle. Now if that is not the making of a great salad dressing I don’t know what is! I suspect that if I had waited another week to come by I might have noticed my wire whisk was missing…

FRIDAY AUGUST 22nd

I often skip lunch when I am at work, but the other day, the weather was so beautiful, that I decided to take a walk …this is what I walked by…

THURSDAY AUGUST 21st


I got to watch the sun go down on the city from the chalet de la montagne…

 

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 20th

What a day!
I was supposed to meet three friends for brunch and later was to work for a conference. I set out at 9:30 for our 10:00 meeting at my friend’s home. She had sent me directions via E mail so I felt confident, never noticing that we had never exchanged phone numbers... I was supposed to take the Ville Marie expressway direction Champlain bridge. Well I should have known something was wrong when I saw the signs that offered the choice: Ville Marie Expressway OR Champlain bridge. It went downhill from there. I had to backtrack several times, and finally gave up trying to follow her directions. I tried guess work and got lost. Entered one-way streets in the wrong direction, ended up in a surprising number of dead ends. Needless to say I was without my map book. (I always have it with me but having just changed cars I had not yet transferred that precious piece of equipment into the new vehicle). There were no open gas stations. I tried asking directions in a few convenience stores but got nowhere. I went through every conceivable emotion, from mild annoyance, to irritation, to despair. I was in tears. Strange how something as mundane as getting lost can make all kinds of other pain surface. It was no longer just finding my way, it was a matter of pride, How could I get lost in my own city? I felt like a failure. I finally found a phone booth with an intact phone book still hanging and called her. Lo and behold the other two had also got lost. She gave me verbal directions that proved to be wrong once more…Direction giving is not her forte. One hour and 45 minutes after departing I finally made it to her door.
Once we had all cooled down and calmed down, we hopped back into my car and set off for one of the loveliest drives one can take in Montreal: we followed the water’s edge all the way to the western tip of the island. As I was driving I could not take photos, but it truly is a scenic road, dotted with incredible houses and mansions. We stopped in Sainte Anne de Bellevue, where we had lunch on a terrace on the water’s edge. It was a Greek restaurant and I had the most wonderful roasted vegetables salad with feta cheese sprinkled over it.

 

 

After lunch we walked along to the locks looking down at all the bathing suit clad people on their boats waiting to go through. There was a fair, and a marching band. We crossed over to the park and sat in the shade of a weeping willow. It was a lovely day.

 


Later we came back, I changed clothes and headed for the convention centre. I parked in an empty lot, crossed the street and went in. I was early. The job was easy: setting up a shuttle service between the center and the opening night reception a few blocks away. Everything went smoothly and when we neared the end of the scheduled rides, we decided to hop on and ride over to the party to see if they needed help there. My co- worker asked if I had put enough money in the parking meter to leave it there for the rest of the evening. That’s when it occurred to me that I had omitted to put money as it was a Sunday. I rushed out to go put some coins in before leaving for the reception. When I got to the lot, it took me a little while to realize that my car was not there. I first thought I was in the wrong lot and walked around the block to make sure. This was not my old smelly red car, it was my brand new blue car! Luckily I had it equipped with a boomerang. But was hesitant to call them as I could still hear the saleslady’s booming voice saying: “ there is a $250,00 fee if you misplace the car…say in a parking lot”…yeah! Like those old ladies with alzeimers! HA! Not me! But when my coworker confirmed that she had seen my car parked there, I felt confident enough to call them. They were very nice and said the first thing to do was to call the police to make sure the car had not been towed away. So I called the police who gave me the number of the towing company. I called the towing and they assured me they had not towed in that area all day. Then I called back the boomerang people so they would start the search. Then I called the police back, as they needed to fill out a report. They took all my information and told me to way for a patrol car. I was still standing on the street corner, holding my cellphone, in one hand, a binder in the other, and balancing my purse on my shoulder while trying to extract registration papers from my wallet. I was also writing down everything that had been left in the car: my morning clothes, my CD collection, a make up case, my favourite umbrella…I was down to the kleenex box when the phone rang: it was the police. They had found my car! I was impressed, they were faster than the boomerang service!! Guess what! It had not been stolen at all, it had been towed but by a different company than the one they told me to call. All I had to do now is go bail it out from a dingy place in a deserted alley. I was very impressed by the sign above the wicket: “everything you say and do is being recorded and will be used….” I can imagine that some people might get a tad aggressive… I almost was, when I tried to drive out of the holding pen. They had blocked my way with 2 other cars and the people there were just sitting there staring. When I backed up into a post one of them slowly got up and cleared the way.
I drove away feeling foolish but relieved.


I finally got to the reception. It was going full swing. Kids were running all over, their faces smeared with chocolate. There was an ice cream table with a chocolate fountain! There were clowns and balloons everywhere. There was also wonderful food… Later, much later, after everyone had gone and everything had been cleared, I got to take some photos of the old port at night. I seldom go there…and was seduced by the lights…

 

 

SUNDAY JULY 27th

I was in the garden, admiring my zucchini plant...

when something caught my eye. It was a butterfly that had landed on an onion flower. This flower is lovely on its own: a fluffy ball composed of hundreds of tiny white flowerets, but with the colourful Monarch resting on it it was worth a photo;

SUNDAY JUNE 29th

A friend wrote me this poem:

Getting into the flow
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
When things around you are not as you'd wish
Withdraw inside and create a new dish
Imagine the aroma, as nutritious foods blend
Your taste buds tingle as your loving hands tend
 
Sweet anticipation accompanies your dream
Of calorie-free sugar and fat-absent cream
All things are possible in the depths of your mind
Mango bananas and lemon pork rind
 
So free up your senses and open the flow
How will you get there if you choose not to go?
Making your mind up - the first step on your way
Letting it in, serious effort through play
 
The key to success lies not in your worry
or pushing yourself, or trying to hurry
You only get "there" when you bring "there" over here
An impossible task, with worry and fear.
 
So imagine it first, and live "there" here now
This is the secret that lets you allow
Before you know it your dreams are now real
Because you let go, and let yourself fee

WEDNESDAY JUNE 4th

Waiting...
What is the first thing you remember waiting for? Christmas maybe? That pure excitement, the magic...there were no fears, no worries, no disappointments. I think that our expectations were not very high in those days. There were no Fisher Price toys, no Little Tikes, no Nintendo or computer games, no DVDs. Little girls got rubber dolls, little boys got toy trucks or guns. No we did not get oranges, that was a bit before my time. But we did get candy canes and they were wonderful even if they cut your tongue at the end... I remember lying in bed the night before Christmas forcing myself to be totally still, hardly breathing pretending to be asleep. I could hear the grownups moving about the house, getting things ready. I could smell wonderful food slowly cooking, and perfume...secure in the knowledge that I would not be disappointed...This was innocent waiting...


Later I remember waiting for telephone calls from boys. A different kind of waiting. There was a lot of uncertainty and even more expectations. Would he call, and if he did would he say the right things, and would he like what I replied...would he ask me on a date...would it be fun...would he be nice...It was a lot less predictable than Christmas. But it happened more often. The outcome was never the same but the thrill was always there with every new boy. You could not show it too much though, you had to be cool! So you only shared the excitement with your closest friends. Parents pretended not to notice... So they were not part of it...This was discreet waiting...


Later still, the best wait of all: waiting for a baby to be born. Waiting for a new life to begin is the most wonderful thing yet it also can be tinged with contradictory feelings. Unwanted pregnancies of course carry their load of guilt but even long awaited babies can bring out fears and worries. Concerns about the baby's health, fear of pain, worries about one's abilities as a parent, about changes in our lives, about financial issues and so many others. A mother to be is often torn between wanting to see her baby and wanting to keep him inside her. She may be tired and uncomfortable but knows that caring for a newborn is more tiring still. She wants to know the sex but once she does, half of her fantasies have to die. When you conceive a child everything is possible, there are no limits, but once the child is born many of those dreams dissolve. It is not to say that giving birth is anything short of the most extraordinary event in the world, but it goes to show that waiting for it is a bitter sweet experience.


There is yet another wait...unexpected...dreaded...the wait for biopsy results. Once the doctors have found something suspicious you feel as if you are dangling over a precipice. You want to know and yet you don't. If the results are to be good you want to be told as fast as possible but if they are bad couldn't they wait a bit so you can have one more day of blissful ignorance before tackling the battle? Since you do not know what the results will be you dangle...waiting...over the precipice...

WEDNESDAY MAY 7th

I don't recall ever reading anything about sidewalks, yet there is a lot to be said about them. If Marcel Proust could go on and on about a little dry cake why not write about something that absolutely everyone has experienced: walking on sidewalks!
Who has never waked, head down deep in thought or looking for pennies or trying not to step on the cracks?
Some sidewalks are very wide like along les Champs Elysées in Paris, others are barely wide enough for one person, some are works of art like in Prague with their beautiful cobblestone motifs. But when you are a kid, it is not the size that you notice, it is the texture. Some are smooth, others are pockmarked while others are cracked, some are new cement other are old and worn.
Do you remember old fashion metal four wheel roller skates? The kind that went over your shoes (leather shoes not sneakers) and that you tightened with a key? You wore the key on a string around your neck.You could really feel the sidewalk when roller skating with those. The regular thump of the cracks every few feet and then the vibrations over the rocky parts, even your voice got funny over those areas. The rush of adrenaline when your skate caught in something and you had to regain your balance...the fun of feeling the wind on your face when going down a hill...the noise they made too...
How about writing with chalk on the sidewalk or driveways? Drawing hopscotch grids, or hearts with names and arows running through them. When the chalk was short you would scrape your knuckles. Scraped knees hurt more with all those tiny black pebbles under your skin...
What about sitting on the sidewalk in summer, pulling on your dress to avoid getting little rocks imbedded in the back your thighs, playing marbles or building dams with twigs when there was water in the street or watching ants carrying crumbs larger than themselves...
But my favourite time to enjoy the sidewalk was always at the end of winter. When the first patch of dry cement appeared out of the snow. After months of wearing rubber boots over my shoes, I would deliberately remove them standing on the dry patch and just rub my shoes on the concrete. I would feel the sand rolling under my soles , all the sand that was thrown during the winter months to make the roads less slippery. It make a nice soft sound. I could feel the warmth of the sun hitting my face and the cold coming from the snow still remaining on the ground. It felt like a battle, but the sun had won and the snow had nothing left to do but to retreat . This patch of bare sidewalk announced skipping ropes, doll carriages, wooden wagons, tricycles...happiness..

SUNDAY MAY 4 th

I remember "Mister Rogers neighborhood" from when my children were young. It was a very comforting show, very calming...I remember Mister Rogers would slowly put on his cardigan at the beginning of every show...He was a soothing presence, never threatening just a quiet loving person...
He passed away last February and his memorial service was last week. It was a large gathering of friends and family, both famous and ordinary who came together to share their love for this man.
I read the newspaper reports on it and it seems to have been a beautiful and touching ceremony. What upset me was the fact that there were protesters outside.
"A group of about a half dozen members of an anti-gay organization gathered to protest what they called Rogers' failure to condemn homosexuality. The group held signs expressing their hatred of gays and, while standing on a torn American flag, their hatred of America."
First of all protesting a memorial service is totally no class, no matter who passed away. Second, attacking someone for "FAILING to condemn" homosexuality makes no sense: the man was a children show host not a judge! Thirdly, and this is personal, expressing such hatred for fellow human beings, no matter what their personal choices are, is hard for me to understand. I have a hard time grasping why some groups are so aggressive in expressing their beliefs and forcing others to share them. I can respect that someone has beliefs and practices that differ from mine...I am not threatened by it, why can't others do the same? If a group is convinced they are the only "right" ones...why attack others? Be happy that heaven will not be overcrowded...and leave well enough alone...If I had very strong religious beliefs and wanted to convert the world to them...I would use positive marketing techniques to do so...attacking does not sound like the way to go...
I know this sounds naive...I also know that this is only a very small part of the debate on tolerance and on rising conservatism ...

 

THURSDAY MAY 1st

Last weekend I was doing "meet and greets" at the airport. That means that I spent many many hours standing around holding little signs with people's names on them. But it also means that I got to do some serious people watching!
The departure level fauna is very different from the arrival level one. I prefer the arrivals for people watching.
First of all, all travelers comes out through just one exit, so if you are standing in the front row, you get to see everyone. There is a theatrical feel to the procedure as the doors are frosted glass so the passengers are hidden from view until the doors open to let them out. You can tell a lot just in those few seconds between the doors opening and the time they get swallowed up by the crowd. Some shoot out as if followed by fire...others are very slow scanning the crowd for a familiar face... others stumble out and hit the door frame and their bags slide off the trolley and they trip over It..
I like to try to guess which flight they were on... Some are easy...The very tanned old ladies with blond hair and lots of rings usually are coming from Florida, they are either American or snow birds...The younger tanned ladies, showing a lot of skin, be it cleavage or belly, are usually coming from Cuba or the Dominican Republic. I noticed that many of them are wearing ridiculously high heels and pointy footwear, and i mean pointy! the two inches at the tip must be empty as no one has feet shaped that way... The very very tanned men with open shirts are usually coming back from Mexico. Thankfully the huge sombreros don't seem to be as popular as they used to be (those made the guessing too easy).
Now the pale people: those with huge backpacks usually are coming from Europe. You have the penniless students often pierced or tattooed or sporting messy hairdos. Then you have the high tech yuppies, they have brand name everything: the pack of course but their jackets, their shoes, sunglasses even their water bottles bear famous logos. Lastly you have the brave and often haggard looking families, with a baby in a backpack and another one sprawled across the luggage cart. Most of them are flying from Paris, or Zurich, or London.
Another category of travelers are those participating in a group tour. Those returning from one, are usually on their sixties, french speaking, wearing quite a bit of jewelry, and salon hairdos and they seem to move in pairs. Those arriving for a tour in Canada are usually French, wearing very sporty clothes, no make up and short hair...they are expecting the rough life.
There are also the business travellers. Europeans often wear a blue shirt with tan slacks, they look crisp even after such a long flight. North American business travelers have a more varied dress code but will usually be chewing gum and have a computer carrying case. There is the occasional Texan or Albertan wearing a stetson ....
Next you have the immigrants, arriving with enormous bundles of luggage, often wearing ethnic costumes. Some are greeted by relatives right away , while others seem to wander looking lost and i always wonder what will become of them...I wonder if the moslem ladies will retain their veils and their apparent submission after a couple of months here...I wonder if the indian ones will still be wearing their beautiful saris next winter and will the men still wear their impressive turbans? How will the haitian ladies with their sunday hats adjust to our harsh weather?
The welcoming squads can be entertaining too: people with flowers, or balloons, or huge welcoming signs. Many people bring their dogs...When school groups arrive there is often a lot of cheering and clapping by classmates. I once saw a guy dressed as cupid, with blond wig, a gold bow and arrow, a short white greek tunic and sandals..in february...
This weekend one lady won the prize for originality: she had on turquoise leggings, a turquoise tunic and a brown hat with two very long feathers pointing to the sky!

FRIDAY APRIL 26th

I have just found out that the logo of the glass manufacturer is "etched" in the glass of my eyewear. It is not true of all glasses, but it is not unique to mine either. I think that many of the new rimless models have it. The way to find out is to breathe on the glass and look quickly while there is still fog on it, the logo stands out as if there was an anti fog treatment on it.
It is not visible otherwise and generally goes unnoticed. But I wonder if the eye perceives it in some way, in the same manner that it supposedly picks up subliminal messages. Do you recall the rumors that circulated a few years back about hidden messages inserted in movies to make people crave a certain soft drink? Then there were alleged messages in songs, that you deciphered if you played the tune backwards.
Rumor or not the fact remains that people who work in advertising know how to suggest a message without actually spelling it out...It is both fascinating and scary. Fascinating to see the variety of ads throughout the world, what they aim for and how they attempt to do attain it. But scary to think that we are being manipulated. Advertising does work! That means that it is possible to influence people's behaviors, thousands at a time, without even meeting them.
Scarier still is the power of the media. They control what we know of every situation and that, in turn, shapes what we think. We got a good example of that with news reports from Iraq that gave very different versions depending on what country was doing the reporting. Through the internet we now can access information from all over...but everyone has an interest somewhere...
THAT bothers me because we have no choice but to rely on the media to keep us informed yet who can we trust?

 

TUESDAY APRIL 22nd

I went to a presentation tonight, it was held at the Botanical Garden. I had never visited the greenhouses at night. It is a totally different feeling when there is no light coming from above, only darkness. They have hidden lighting among the plants of course, which makes for more dramatic displays. I am beginning to discover orchids and photographed several, here are two samples.

SATURDAY APRIL 19th

Today being Easter sunday I decided to make a special dessert. New York has it's Easter bonnets, why not create one of my own? I have a vague recollection of such a cake made by my grandmother when I was a child. I remember she had covered the plate with icing to resemble the rim of the hat , the cake being the crown. She had decorated it with flowers made out of glacé cherries, and pieces of marshmallows. the stems were angelica (a kind of green candied fruit or leaf or vegetable i never knew...even if i can still recall it's smell).
Armed with these recollections I set out to first make the cake. I chose a poppy seed cake because it holds it's shape and because I knew i could make three small cakes with one batch. The recipe called for flour, which I sifted over the mixer so it got blown all over the place. Then I had to use my hand held mixer to beat egg whites separately so I inserted each little beater being careful to fit the one with the thicker end in the proper hole. I clicked them in place and pushed the button. One beater fell off, I had to pick it off the floor, wash and dry it and insert it again. I was holding the beater close to my face to make sure I had inserted it properly and started it to check. this time it did not fall off, it flew off right onto my nose. Those mixers are lethal instruments! My old one would come unplugged while I was using it and the wire would fall into whatever I was beating (more often than not, egg whites). One time I was in a hurry, and wanted to quickly clean the plug before reinserting it in the mixer, so I stuck it in my mouth to lick the meringue off. WRONG move...it was still plugged into the wall socket!

My motto is : "Never let them see you sweat...or bleed" soooo I finished the cake...made a lemon icing and decorated it with a mauve ribbon and some sugar flowers. It was very good even if not quite an Easter bonnet look alike.

SUNDAY APRIL 12th

I have not written in a while...I refused to write about the war because it felt like giving attention to something i disapprove of, yet I felt that writing about anything else was too mundane.Things are beginning to settle down politically and so I feel it is decent to start writing again.I have been to the movies and want to give you my take on three films I have seen.>

The first one is a little french film called "Etre et avoir" referring to the two verbs to be and to have. It is cinema vérité in that a small town teacher was filmed over one school year. There is no story line, you just follow the children and their teacher through the seasons. It is a one classroom school so the ages of the kids go from 4 to 13. It is oddly touching to discover some of the childrens' sad stories. The teacher is very calm, and patient. He is soothing to the point of being sensual although he seldom touches the children physically. The photography is beautiful whether you are looking at fields or at a close up of a runny nose ...Not an action flick for sure but a reassuring one to see in these days of war. It shows you that tolerance, respect, acceptance and love do exist.

>I know I know you must be thinking I am moralizing so I will stop here and tell you about the second film. A much more famous one. It is a spanish film titled "Habla con ella" (speak with her) by film maker Almodovar.This one is totally the opposite as there are many plots unfolding, many themes, many moods. The music is an important part of the film ( there is a performance by a famous singer that is breathtaking) . So are colours ( you see a bull fight up close and the putting on of a suit of lights). It is a strong film not a soft subdued one like "Etre et avoir". It is hard to tell the story, but lets say that there are two "couples". One is formed by a writer and a woman torreador, who meet as the film starts. The other is composed of a male nurse, whose identity is a bit foggy ( he looks like he could be mildly trisomic, yet he acts and talks almost normally...so it is hard to tell...) and a young ballerina who is in a coma in the hospital after a car accident. The torreador also ends up in a coma in the same hospital so the two male characters meet. But their reactions are totally different. Benino , the nurse, treats his ballerina as if she was alive, he talks to her, he reads to her, he cuts her hair , he dresses her, washes her etc etc...again it is a sensuous film as you see him washing and massaging her limp naked and very beautiful body. The writer on the other hand has trouble talking to his inert lover. He eventually leaves when he finds out that she had been about to tell him she was leaving him, when she got gored by a bull. Meanwhile it is discovered that the ballerina is pregnant. Benino is sent to jail. When the writer finds out he comes back to see if he can help his friend. He finds out that the ballerina lost the baby but recovered consciousness in the process. He is asked NOT to tell Benino as he might try to contact her. So he tells him that the baby died. Benino commits suicide...The last shot is of the writer meeting theballerina at a recital...
>Hard to make sense of it all. So many images...so many symbols...so many ways to interpret...but I enjoy films like that...even if I do not understand it all..I feel the film is rich like a gift.

The third film is a recent release, an american production titled "Anger management" with Jack Nicholson. I don't think it has any grand ambition as a deep film. it is an easy comedy but well paced, with effective gags. I am reminded of "Something about Mary", although the humour is not as low. The acting is very good, even if most of the roles are caricatures. In two words, a poor quiet guy gets caught up in a situation that lands him in an anger management program. All kinds of ludicrous situations arise. The end is overly sweet and predictable but this is an american feel good film...A good mindless diversion.
>

SUNDAY MARCH 16th

I went to a peace candlelight vigil tonight. It was my first time as I have not been able to attend any of the peace demos so far.
There were to be vigils all over the world tonight. In Montreal there were many different ones. I chose one held in a park not too far from where I live and where I knew I could park the car easily.
I saw them from the street standing in a gazebo with their candles. I parked the car and headed towards the tiny pavilion. The snow was deep and soft so I sank into it up to my knees. I got there out of breath but was greeted with smiles. I got my little votive candle out but noticed everyone else had long candles pushed through a plastic tumbler to protect the flame from the wind.
There were almost dozen people, men and women old and young, looking serene.
After a few minutes the girl who seemed to be the leader proposed a plan for the vigil. We would gown down the steps and gather in the snow for a grounding activity ( I was a bit worried as I had never had such an experience before) and later would walk around the park.
A young lady took out a flute from her bag, stepped outside our circle and started playing. The moon was almost full and the sky was a strange shade of blue, between gray and charcoal. Very light clouds veiled it briefly at times . It was so beautiful. Everyone looked up.
It was a magical moment…very peaceful.
After she was done we walked down, and again stood in a circle. The young leader talked briefly of her reasons for doing this, explaining that expressing our opposition to war was a meaningful gesture, that more and more people were doing it and that it was having an impact. Then we were silent. Being on the ground rather than on the floor of the gazebo made it feel different. I dug my heels in, first for balance but then because I wanted to feel in contact with the earth as if I could be in touch with all the other people standing all over the globe holding candles for peace like I was. I guess this is why they call it “grounding”. I stared at the tiny flame, almost hypnotized , I could feel the heat, smell the sweetness of melting wax I thought of my friends all over the world…I am not sure if that is called praying…but it was wishing very hard for peace to prevail…
After a while we set out on our walk. We walked for about 30 minutes, first on the park grounds and then along the street. We stopped in another smaller park and again the flutist played for us…There is something shy and vulnerable about the sound of a lone flute…similar to the flicker of our candles in the wind.
We later dispersed in different directions walking in small groups, everyone seemingly happy, as I was, about this experience .

TUESDAY MARCH 11th

As I sit here at the computer, the cat is meowing at my feet. He should be dead by now. He should have died many times already.
This cat has ruled our household for over 15 years and he is not about to stop. He still jumps on the table to steal pencils when we are writing or push the dice off to the floor if we are playing. When I come down in the morning I find muddy paw prints on the stove top.
He is an ordinary looking cat: gray and white, green eyes, a long tail, yet he seems to think he is part of the dog family. He walks along with the dog every night and sits on the sidewalk waiting while his “brother” relieves himself.
Since cat food is obviously yummier than the dog kind they have devised a system to allow the dog to eat some of that forbidden food. Here is how they do it. The cat asks for food, by meowing or nibbling at my feet.. I put his dish on the floor. He sniffs it, might take a bite or two and then walks away quietly. This is the signal for the dog to quickly go to the cat food dish and gobble it down before I have time to stop him. And it works! I do not have the time or patience to stand by watching the cat fiddle with his food. They do this several times a day. Often the dog is not even in the room, yet he knows when it is his turn. I know the cat does this in part to get me to open a new can of food. He likes fresh and varied food obviously, but I suspect a certain complicity between them.
When he was younger we used to take him with us every weekend to the cabin, but he hated the car and would cry and growl and make such a racket that we ended up feeding him Valium to keep him quiet. When we would let him out of his cage he would stagger like a drunk for a few hours until the effect wore off. When it was time to head back to the city he would hide. Many times, after loading the car, dressing the kids, turning down the heat, shutting off the water, turning off the lights I had to get back in the house turn on the stove and cook some bacon to entice him back. We discovered that his favorite hiding place was in the unfinished part under the house so we got that fenced off. But he would still try to run away whenever he expected a car ride. A couple of times we had to leave without him and then drive back up the next day to retrieve him.
During the ice storm we lost him for several weeks. We had brought him with us when we went to live with friends. He escaped the house and it seems he hid in a nearby shed feeding on bird seeds until our friend saw him walking through her garden. We now know that as dogs are attached to their masters, cats are attached to the house they live in. So we had a special trap door installed for him and he can now come and go as he pleases and we no longer take him with us when we leave.
Did you know that cats have a very elaborate social system? Within a neighborhood, there are public cat ways and semi public ones and finally private ones? This is all in relationship to the house each cat lives in. Usually the backs of the gardens are public throughways for all cats to use. There are paths through the gardens that “only friends” are allowed to use and finally close to the house, on the steps or the balconies is the private domain of the resident cat. This is the usual way but at times a dominant cat might capture a weaker cat’s territory. That is why cat fights occur. Our cat always was a strong tom cat, a fighter, but he lost one battle that cost him dearly. This fight was not with a rival. From what we were able to reconstruct he got in a fight with a raccoon and lost. He was very badly hurt. His shoulder was ripped open to the bone. He managed to drag himself back home and we rushed him to the veterinarian. He was saved but spent a long time confined inside. When an animal has a wound he will try to lick it and rip out the stitches so the vet puts a plastic collar (funnel like contraption) around his neck to prevent him to reach the wound. This was too big to allow the cat to pass through bushes or fences so we had to keep him inside until he was healed. The word spread through the feline grapevine and very soon our cat’s territory was subject to a hostile take over. When the collar was finally removed we let him out and no sooner was he free that he got in a fight and hurt his paw. Back to the vet. This time he came back with a cute little bootie. He had to be kept in again . When he was finally ready to be let out again we gave him a bit of a hand by spraying with the garden hose any cat who seemed to be hovering a bit too close to the house.. Things got back to normal after a time and he now reigns over his domain unchallenged…both inside and out!

SUNDAY MARCH 9th

More flowers

SATURDAY MARCH 1ST

Many of the flowers are in bloom . Each one different in colour and shape. Here is what they look like.

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 22nd

Well the Morocco trip is off, it seems the agency could not agree on prices with the Moroccan authorities. I was told they might organize something to Cuba instead. I don't think so! I had my heart set on a Mediterranean country. Right after, I almost booked a fam to Egypt. This is a country I would love to visit. So much history and wonders there. Unfortunately, it was rather expensive, and given the uncertain political situation in the Middle East I decided to pass. So until I find myself a warm spot to rest my bones I am stuck here in the cold. Trying to make the best of it here are some more pictures taken at the cabin. And I assure you I have not touched up the colours!

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 19th

Lately, my car has been smelling strange. I thought it was moisture, damp carpets and all, so I removed the wet winter rugs. As it did not seem to help, I put the car inside the garage for a few nights with the windows rolled down and the hatch opened. Still no change, the smell was ever present. It was a hard to define smell, nothing i could recognise. It was not a damp basement smell, it was not a food cellar smell, it was not a sour milk smell, it was not a dog poop nor a cat pee smell either. I wondered if that was what rust smells like as I noticed some orange popping up on the red hood. I thought maybe it was rotting carpet, or whatever synthetic ice melting products the city has chosen to put on the streets this winter.
I was almost ready to either put the car up for sale or to hang one of those awfull smelling cardboard christmas trees on the mirror. It had gotten to the point where I felt my clothes smelled strange when I got to the office.
This morning when I got to work and was about to get out of the car, I noticed my purse had tipped over and one of my gloves was missing. So I pushed the passenger seat forward to better see where my glove had gone. And guess what I saw, comfortabily nestled under the passenger seat? A rotting turnip! It was not moving on its own yet but it was very soft and was growing some nice samples of penicillin...It must have rolled out of a grocery bag a while ago and was never missed...Turnips are not that memorable that you will open the fridge door and exclaim "WHAT is missing in here? Of course there is no TURNIP!!!"
Now I must confess I did the non noble thing and I threw it under the car. I was not in the mood to carry it down the street to a proper garbage can.
I cleaned the dark circle it left on the bottom of the car and the smell is already better. Maybe I will keep the car a while longer....

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 13th

The cold weather continues...my car door keeps freezing up so I have to get in through the hatch door, or, when I am really lucky, through the passenger door. Anyone who has ridden with me knows what I am talking about. First of all the car is high off the ground, so you need to really climb up, then you must choose carefully which foot to put in first and where to put it as you will need to pivot later. I usually put the right foot first so I am facing backwards, I give myself a swing and end up kneeling on the passenger seat with my behind in the front window. Keep in mind that I am wearing a bulky winter coat and carrying a purse, a briefcase, a shoe bag and a lunch box. I must now close the door with my extended left hand before attempting step two of the operation which will consist of a total somersault landing me facing forward in the driver's seat. I must close the door now because, this door swings totally open and cannot be reached from the drivers seat when open. Back to the somersault: I must attempt to pivot my feet while swinging my entire body over the stickshift and under the steering wheel. The seat themselves are frozen solid so they do not give. On the other hand the pant savers ( these are plastic carpets that you put in the bottom of your car to gather water from melted snow) are very mobile and usually travel with me during my flight so that they cover the pedals once I am ready to start the engine. This means one more acrobatic move as I must somehow grope in the dark to get a hold of a corner and pull it so that the pedals are accessible. It would be more ecological to ride the bus i know, but i would deprive myself of a very good exercise session and I would freeze my ass off waiting for it.

 

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 12th

I must update my amaryllis progress as some of the plants have literally shot up and are already blooming while others are still barely out of the bulb.Here are one picture taken at week 3 and two taken yesterday, which is week 4.

 

 

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 4th

This morning I noticed rain whipping the window panes. When I stepped outside to get to my car I was confronted by a wrapping of ice covering the car. I managed to chip enough off the get the key in the lock and to grab the door handle. After starting the motor, I went back out to scrape the ice off, fighting the wind and rain.
I drove slowly as the roads were slippery . But even after having to wait at the train crossing for what seemed to be an eternity, I got to work on time and found a parking spot less than a mile away from the office.
I stepped out of the car and right into a very deep and cold puddle. I had many bags to carry: my purse, my briefcase, my shoes, my lunch…I juggled them all as I walked against the wind, trying to find the office key and the piece of paper that has the alarm system password written out on it. The outside door was unlocked, which led me to believe that my co worker had arrived before I did, so I dropped the key and paper in my deepest pocket and walked up the stairs trying to catch my breath. When I got to the actual office door, it was locked, so I had to put all my bags down and fish for the key and pass word again. I struggled with the key for a while and as I was ready to jump on the alarm control panel I noticed a set of keys stuck in the keyhole inside the door. My co worker was already there but he must have been busy.
Today was recycling day, yet the green bins were still under the desks. Since I had my coat on I decided to carry them outside, secretly hoping to shame my co worker into coming out to help me as this is his responsibility. There were two bins, made heavy by discarded phone directories and two large cardboard boxes filled with travel brochures and loose paper. I started with the bins, I had to dig a hole in the snow bank to keep them from sliding off into the street. The wind was whipping my hair into my face, the sleet was pinching and freezing me at the same time. My feet were cold, the stairs were slippery. I had one last run to make from office to curb. It was the large cardboard box. As I got to the top of the outside stairs the bottom gave out and the contents spilled out and slid all the way down the steps. Balancing the box on my hip, holding it’s bottom with one hand, I bent down at each step to pick up and stuff everything back in, while the wind was blowing papers left and right. Once at the bottom I had to fish papers out of puddles, pry some that were wrapped around fence posts while others seemed to be playing tag with me flying away as soon as I reached down for them.
And then you have to answer with a smile in your voice when a customer calls you three times to ask if the tub is facing a window in a 2 stars hotel, in some godforsaken place.

I thought my day was done when I left work at 6 PM, but I had another thing coming: my door locks were frozen solid. I could not turn the key nor move the handle. I tried the passenger door to no avail. The only lock that had been spared was the hatch. So I had to crawl in over the back seat and the stick shift. Luckily by the time I got home the heater had had time to soften the ice and all I had to do was hit the door a few times...

 

TUESDAY JANUARY 28th


Florida seems to be a popular destination again with travelers here, and lately I have been doing some research for resorts both on the east and west coast. This has brought back some fond memories
A few years back, I was sitting on the beach at Marco Island, when I noticed people standing waist deep in the water, staring down at their feet. At first they seemed isolated from each other, but after a while they seemed to congregate and form groups, all staring down next to each other.
This went on for a while until one of them left the group to return to dry land, and that is when I noticed she was carrying a bag. I nonchalantly ambled over to peer into her bag. It was filled with sand dollars, those lovely round shells with a star design on the top. The lady kindly explained that all you had to do was to scratch the sand with your toes as they are usually not buried very deep. She also mentioned that they are often found in groups, so that if you found one your chances were good of finding others. Which explained the groups of people standing together.
I knew the area was renowned for shells but had never found a sand dollar myself. So I grabbed a plastic bag and went in the water.
This was my kind of sport: no need to get all wet, no exertion, you just stood there wiggling your toes. I was happy, soaking up the sun, when I felt something hard under my foot, I dipped and, sure enough, retrieved my first sand dollar! I was very excited and must have jumped up and down and screamed a bit, (after all, this was not an elevator), so people noticed, and when they saw me dipping down again a few minutes later, they started moving towards me. I soon had a nice little crowd around me. People were very nice, talking about their various experiences at shell collecting, and I kept dipping and putting more and more shells in my bag. I seemed to be the only one doing so, I was feeling very lucky. After a while I figured I had better leave some for the others and decided to head back to shore. I waved goodbye to everyone and sauntered away. When I got to my beach towel, I sat down to count my bounty. The bag felt light, even out of water. I opened it and peered in, expecting to find a pile of sand dollars. There was only one, and a big hole at the bottom of the bag…I had been picking up and dropping the same shell all this time…


 

MONDAY JANUARY 27th

One grandmother was rather adventurous. She loved to travel and literally saw the world. I remember one summer in the fifties that she spent studying Russian in preparation for a trip she was about to take. I recall seeing her picture on camel back in front of the pyramids, with elephants in India, sitting in a rickshaw in China, standing in the Coloseum in Rome and in front of the Eiffel in Paris tower.
She always brought me back a souvenir. Often these gifts were dolls. I had many black dolls with baskets on their heads; I gather they were from the Caribbean. When my grandmother came back from Prague, I remember she brought back a plaster baby Jesus with many different outfits, and I had the feeling that this was tacky and I was hoping it was not for me. Another gift that I will never forget was a red embroidered silk kimono from Japan. It was soft and shiny on the inside and covered with lovely designs on the outside. I wore it to Halloween many times and at home until I outgrew it completely.
One of the stories she liked to tell was of her first trip to Europe. The war started while she was over there (the first world war), so it was a mad scramble to get back. She did secure a ticket on a ship just as it was about to sail. As the ship pulled away from the dock, she saw her suitcases were still on the ground. Her first reaction was to rush to the ship’s dress shop to get herself an evening gown. All the money she had was in a money belt that she wore under her gown at night and it would dangle from her waist as she danced. It seems that her dance partners were a bit puzzled over what was rhythmically hitting their knees…
After the war was over the suitcases did make it back to Montreal…slightly worn and spilling their contents on the dock, but back nonetheless.


 

SUNDAY JANUARY 26 th

After one week, two of the plants have shot up. The others show little change.


FRIDAY JANUARY 24th

It has been bitterly cold here lately.
No snow to soften things, only wind.
Yet there is beauty even in such inhospitable conditions.
Here are pictures of frosted windows.
It looks like flowers or trees...



SUNDAY JANUARY 19th.


Today I planted Amaryllis bulbs. People usually plant them in November to have them bloom for Christmas, but I am aiming for an end of February explosion.
The bulbs themselves are uninteresting. It is what grows out of them that is spectacular. They must be the most phallic of all flowers. But rather than describe this to you I have decided to share this experience with you and post pictures and updates as time goes by.
When planting you only burry half of the bulb and leave the top exposed. Some people deposit them over water in special containers but I prefer to set them in soil as they can be very top heavy and fall off to the side if not well anchored.
Day one: A few of the bulbs already have a green tip showing. I place the pots under a table in a room that does not get artificial light. Rightly or not I do this to prevent the stems from shooting up too high.


TUESDAY JANUARY 14th


It is said that traveling is an education. Let me tell you about my lesson number one.
I was 18 ( a very naïve eighteen) and was taking my first trip to Europe. I was traveling with a group of people slightly older than myself.
We drove straight to Lyon after landing in Paris. By the time we had settled in our rooms at the hotel it was evening so we agreed to meet on a terrace for drinks.
In those days terraces were none existent in Montreal, so this was very exciting. I was not much of a drinker as I had just recently reached legal drinking age back home, but I was used to wine and had sampled the usual girl drinks like planter’s punch. We were seated in a circle, and as the waiter started taking orders, I strained to hear what everyone was having. I wanted to appear worldly. I heard the person next to me order “Triple Sec” (brand name for an orange liqueur), and immediately the waiter said to me “ Et pour mademoiselle?” I was about to say “the same as my neighbor”, but then I thought: “ a triple something sounds a bit excessive”. All I could think of was Bill Ballantine, a huge Scottish hero in the Bob Morane series who always ordered “double scotch” and out it came, I blurted “Un Double Sec s’il vous plait”…so much for trying to be debonair…
It was during the same trip that I jammed an elevator between floors by jumping for joy . To this day I always stand very still in elevators, the memory of an angry French woman yelling at us down the elevator shaft still vivid in my ears.

 

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 8th

Another great grandfather had close to a dozen children. Unfortunately, all the boys died in infancy. So he and his wife were left with six daughters.
The story goes that towards the end of his life he had an affair with the wife of one of his tenants. She bore him a son. And when he got too ill to go visit them he would ask to be pushed by the window in his wheelchair so that he could watch them go as she walked by his house with the stroller. I have a copy of his testament, and sure enough there is a provision for that boy in it.
I am not sure what to think of this story…I wonder what was the reaction to it in those days and what would happen if it took place today…I never knew him but my grandmother (his granddaughter) adored him and had fond memories of staying at their house as a child. She was the first grandchild and I suspect she got spoiled there.

MONDAY JANUARY 6th


People ask me where I learned to speak english, as I am originally french speaking. It sounds good to say I learned on the street and in a way it is true. I learned by playing with english speaking neighbors. I remember wanting to play dress up because my friend had high heel shoes in a box that attracted me but i did not know what they were called. I somehow got the words barbie dolls mixed up with high heels or shoes and every time I tried to ask her to play dress up we ended up playing with barbie dolls which I hated. But I must have figured it out at some point because now I know the difference between dolls and shoes.

My other motivation to learn english was that my grandmother used to speak english to my mother when she did not want me to understand. She had been sent to school in Toronto as a young girl, her best friend had been an Ontarian and so she loved to speak english. I either inherited this from her or she taught me to love english. Either way I am thankful today to be bilingual. Both my grandmothers were important women in my life and each one had interesting stories to tell, some sad, some funny...I will try to share a few of them with you.

Here is one about my great grandfather and my great aunt. At the end of the 19th century, my great grandfather was a well respected man living in a small town. He was an authoritarian man. After five years of marriage and two children he decided to return his wife to her parents claiming she was unfit. But nature being what it is, he did call her back after a time and got her pregnant with a third child before sending her back for good. Maybe because she was the result of a long abstinence, this last child, a little girl, developed an intense interest for boys, that was deemed inappropriate for the time. Determined to solve this problem, the father offered to take her to Montreal to meet a potential suitor. Very excited at the thought of coming to Montreal and meeting a young man, this naive child readily accepted. Thinking that she was entering the grounds of a boys' college she followed her father inside St Jean De Dieu mental hospital, where he left her...never to come back...


JANUARY 1ST 2003

Since I started this diary at the end of december, I must mark the change of year somehow...here is a picture of the cake I made for the new year's party. The almond paste snowmen were holding flags that had "happy new year" written in different languages: "Bonne et heureuse année" "Happy new year" "Prospero ano" "Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar" "Felice Anno Nuovo" "Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun" "Blwyddyn Newydd Da" " Gl|ckliches Neues Jahr" and in chinese also.




SUNDAY DECEMBER 29th 2002

I have often marvelled at other people's photos, how they find beauty in their everyday surroundings. I have been trying to look at my environment differently. Here is what I saw during a walk this morning.

 

And here is what someone else saw...