2004

TUESDAY DECEMBER 28th
This year started with the death of my husband on January 17th and is ending with the passing of my father this morning.
When I read in the papers about all the people who died around the Indian Ocean this last week, I feel privileged to have been with him during those last days and to have had the time to say goodbye to him.
He was a very intelligent and cultured man, a gentle human being, discrete and peace loving. He valued justice and fairness. He was an epicurean, enjoying the finer things in life: music, art, good food and drink. He still wanted to listen to Mozart on his diskman yesterday. He had a very sharp sense of humor and one of the last things he managed to tell us through his oxygen mask, was to liken his second dose of morphine to a glass of bubbly.
He loved to travel, and got to see a lot of the world with my mother: Europe of course, but also Asia, Africa, South America, they sailed the Yangse river, the Danube, the Nile, the Scandinavian fjords and to Alaska. A few weeks ago they were in Paris attending concerts and plays, going to museums. So it is a comfort to know he lived the life he loved until the end.
I was startled to discover how blue his eyes were when he was not wearing his glasses. Such kind eyes…
He was loved and he will be missed…

FRIDAY 17 DECEMBER
While in Toronto, I took the opportunity to go see “Mamma Mia”, a musical created to showcase many Abba songs. It was thoroughly enjoyable. The two lead roles (the bride to be and her mom) were amazing both in voice, dance and good looks! Some of the costumes were hilarious. There was a lot of energy and humor. A good show!


I also had the chance to see the Modigliani exhibit at the Art Gallery. I had always associated his name with portraits of women with long necks but I knew little about the man and his work. First of all he was very good looking. This is something that always surprises me when I see photographs of people I thought had lived a very long time ago. I found out that he was born in 1884, which made him 3 years younger than Picasso but his career was much shorter as he died at 35. He was born in Italy amid a cultured Jewish family. He moved to Paris to try his luck. This is where he lived a bohemian life of drink, drugs and women but also where he produced the bulk of his creations. He painted and he sculpted, but he has been remembered more for the latter. He painted almost exclusively portraits. Many of them with elongated necks and faces empty eye sockets, yet despite shadows and details he managed to convey the model’s personality.


He painted people he knew, people he met in cafés, he painted for food and lodging and sometimes he painted hired models. This was the case for the nudes he painted and who are not identified as any of the women of his entourage. Those nudes created quite a stir when one of them was hung in the window of the gallery where Modigliani was having his first show. It is interesting to see once again how with very little details he succeeds in creating a very sexual mood.

TUESDAY DECEMBER 14th
I have not posted in a while. I got so many reaction to the puppy photos…I was shocked. Like someone dancing on a stage thinking she is alone and then discovering that there were spectators in the hall…
I am over it now and ready to write again.


This is my second week of training in Toronto. The first week was spent secluded in a hotel near the airport but removed from anything else. No restaurants, no malls, no cinemas, only the garden café and my room. All I could do besides read, was to watch a lot of television and catch up on the shows that everybody is talking about. “The apprentice” and their ass licking participants, “Survivor” and their conniving, lying competitors, “Amazing race” with some very lovable and some very despicable contestants, “The Swan” where they can take women with all sorts of physical oddities and turn them into assembly line bimbos through major cosmetic surgery, “The Biggest Looser” where a group of obese people compete for the most weight lost, and my favorite: Trading Spouses” (or some similar title)

.This is a show where 2 women get to spend two weeks in each other’s homes, complete with husband and kids. The perk for them is a $50,000.00 prize. The interest lies in the contrasts between the two families. In one show there was a wealthy, boisterous, swearing, well padded, easy going black woman trading places with a rather austere looking, very sensitive, skinny white woman. The white woman’s family was composed of a white haired, white bearded, barefoot, new age father who did yoga and tai chi with their two teen age sons, who still slept in the same room as their parents. Their house had almost no furniture. Needless to say the overweight lady had a bit of trouble with the hiking and the exercises and all the nature stuff…At the other end, the white lady never connected with the 2 spoiled teenagers and was very hurt that they made fun of her guitar playing. The twist is that at the end the women find out that they must each decide how the other’s $50,000 is to be spent. This show fascinates me, probably because of its voyeuristic qualities but also because it is interesting to see so many different lifestyles and the way they clash…or adjust…. They usually pair totally opposite families such as very religious Christians with non practicing Jews, or democrats and republicans, consumers versus ecologists, wealthy spoiled versus hard working poor and so on…


We had our first snowstorm last weekend in Montreal. It was all white and pretty when I woke up in the morning.

But for those of you who do not live in Canada and may think that it is all very romantic…let me tell you about the underside of the story…in this case: ICE! When I had to use my car I started brushing off the snow only to find that the car was wrapped in ice…it took a good 20 minutes to get it off the windshields and door handles. And then, the tires skidded on the mix of snow bank over ice …so I had to shovel the driveway and sand it down. Ahh the joys of winter!!!

 

 


I was attending a gift-wrapping party for a charity and was very embarrassed to notice that my nails were blue…at first I thought it was the cold but even as I warmed up the blue remained… Over the next few days even if I washed the blue away it seemed to come back…I was getting concerned…. Was the blood not getting to my fingertip? Was this some rare medical condition? Were my fingertips going to fall off? Was it the Toronto air? The bad lighting in the hotel bathroom? Until it finally dawned on me that I was wearing navy kid gloves and when they got damp the colour bled….DOH!

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 7th


I went to see two movies tonight (I had found a great parking spot, free and close to the entrance…might as well make the most of it…no?)
The first movie was called “Sideways”. It was rated 4 *. I would give it a bit less even if I did enjoy it. In short, it is the story of two male friends who spend a week together in California wine country before one of them gets married. They are opposites and have very different agendas. The groom to be wants to get laid…his friend wants to drink wine. There are some funny scenes but the format is a bit choppy…There is a lot of wine talk…which is not that informative …The scenery shots are nice…I had an uneasy feeling about the characters’ personal hygiene…
The second movie though not as original was more enjoyable for me. It was called: “Shall we dance?” with Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez. It is the story of a fortyish lawyer who decides to take up ballroom dancing. He does not tell his wife…because he feels ashamed to need something more to be happy when he knows he has everything at home…I am very partial to Gere and Sarandon…and in this movie they are so well dressed…it contrasted with the dirty T shirts of the first movie…A girl’s movie for sure and very American…but heh! I’m a sucker for feel good flicks

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 5th


This weekend I am dog sitting a Bernese mountain dog puppy…like Bacchus. It is amusing to notice the differences in temperament…. this one is very laid back…he is big for his age …his paws are especially large… so much so that he stumbles over himself when he walks…. he is a sweetie.

 

SATURDAY OCTOBER 30th

When sorting my trip photos I came across one that did not make it to the website but amused me enough to put up here. In most Caribbean hotels the cleaning ladies decorate the rooms with flowers and by arranging towels in creative ways…this one used up all the towel supply in the room to make a very large and realistic cat…

FRIDAY OCTOBER 29th
Last spring I bought a pepper plant not knowing it was a hot pepper variety. It bore a lot of bright red “fruit”. When there was the first risk of frost I harvested them and took them inside. They were too hot to use in large quantities so I put them in a wood bowl and let them dry out. They have shriveled and taken a variety of hues from deep plum to orange…I have brought them company in the person of some garlic cloves…

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 27th
Well I am back from my speedy Mexican excursion. It was supposed to be free…but it ended up costing me a pair of glasses. I checked with the insurance companies but there is not protection against stupidity, especially my own…
Remember last winter when I had all these amaryllis flowers that had been stuck in baskets and only one still had the bulb attached to it? At the time I let the flower wilt, then I cut it off and I put the bulb away in the garage. Last week as I was cleaning the gardening paraphernalia, I came upon the bulb and noticed a new stem had formed and was starting to grow. So I put the bulb in a pot, added some dirt and watered it before taking it inside. Guess what was awaiting me when I returned this week?


FRIDAY OCTOBER 15th
Because October is Halloween month, and I had a cooking demonstration to do, I decided to call the activity “Desserts in disguise”. I made candied orange peels that looked like French fries…and served them in MacDonald’s fries containers. Then I made a batch of meringue mushrooms and served them in a cardboard fruit basket.

 

 


WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 13th

A few years ago an illness destroyed most of the Dutch elms in Montreal. We had the oldest and biggest one in our neighborhood and it had to be taken down after it split in half and tore down the utility post. Across the street there was one elm that seemed to resist the epidemic. It stood erect for another 15 years. Unfortunately this summer it became obvious that it was dying. And because it was dangerous for the house next to it it too was taken down. Judging by the rings in the bark this tree was probably over 50 years old…it took so long to grow yet got taken down in one day…

 

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 28th

It is finally sunflower season!

I went back to Notre Dame du Portage and visited the village. There are some lovely houses.

I walked through the cemetary and was amused to see a loaded clothesline flappping in the background.

TUESDAY AUGUST 17th

This past weekend I visited an area called "Le Portage". It is on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence river est of Quebec city, towards the estuary and the Atlantic. It is renowned for its sunsets. The sun dips below the mountains and colours the sky and river for a long while before darkness sets in.

SATURDAY JULY 31st

I took a quick road trip to the States this week. I ended up in my old haunts: Kennebunk, Wells and Ogunquit. The weather was rainy but it was fun to walk along the almost deserted beach It reminded me of the Magdalen Islands....

SUNDAY JULY 25th

When the “Vagina monologues” first came out a few years back, I remember thinking this was one of those feminist avant-garde plays. I was not particularly interested in seeing it. But when I saw it playing here this summer I decided it was time to find out for my self what it was all about.
I was pleasantly surprised. For those who have not seen it, here is a brief summary. Four actresses are on stage and they talk, in turn or together about …you guessed it: vaginas. There are monologues, as the title indicates, on various aspects of this rather delicate subject. Some are hilarious, such as the one about different types of orgasm and the one about the “find your vagina workshops”, some are poignant such as the one about rape and the one about mutilation, some are sad such as the one about ignorance, some are empowering like the one about birth…I enjoyed most of them.
What surprised me were people’s reactions when I mentioned seeing it. Men’s reactions especially. It had not occurred to me how threatening the title is to them. You say vagina they think performance anxiety. IF there was a “Penis monologues”, I don’t think women would feel threatened… Vaginas are a part of women’s bodies and there is a lot to say about them without even involving men. Not to say that men are not concerned by them, they are, but this play is definitely NOT about men. It is a play about women written by women for women. And it does a good job, educating, reassuring, de mystifying this taboo subject. I must say there were men in the audience and I think they not only enjoyed the show but they might have learned a thing or two.
In other words: a very good show, well worth seeing.


The theatre was located on St Denis Street, in the middle of the “Just for laughs festival” area, so I took the opportunity to walk around and take in some of the action.

It was amazing! On top of all the plays and shows in theatres such as the one I had just seen, there were performances everywhere, in the middle of the street, on makeshift stages, in parks, on church steps, some were improvised some were more organized, many were interactive. There were activities that you “walked through”. I caught an unusual dance number in and under waterfalls…

 


There were booths on every street with animators to keep people informed of upcoming attractions. There was an area for games: chess, checkers, backgammon, scrabble, darts…you could play for fun or compete with champions

There was music, food and drink everywhere. They even had a “Grande bouffe” event where they served 20000 meals for free. There was corn on the cob and a veal and veggies dish there was fruit and dessert…some people had bread and cheese too. I was awed at how they succeeded in serving so many people and in a rather short time too!

 

 


As a Montrealer I am aware of all the festivals held here in summer but I had not been to this one in a few years and I am very impressed! There is never a dull moment. The site is lively, clean, well organized, the people are pleasant. A must see!

 

 

MONDAY JULY 19th

I have a new boarder. He is a totally black cat with green eyes (even if they appear blue in the photo). He has been shaved but his face is intact and beautiful, I cannot wait for his fur to grow back. He is not a kitten anymore so there are some power struggles between Gus and him. So far the competition has been solely vocal. They hiss, meow and growl. I am amazed at the variety of sounds that can come out of their mouths. Gus sounds like a disturbed baby...They go at it when they meet in small spaces or in front of the feeding bowls. I tried seting up separate feeding stations but that did not work. I guess they have to setlle it themselves. I have read a lot about cats and their territory and about dogs and dominance...It will be interesting to see how these two will ajust to each other.

SATURDAY JULY 17th

I went to the movies again. Saw another two films. The first one, "The notebook" is a very romantic story about an old couple in which the wife suffers from Alzeimer's disease. The husband reads to her the story of their life together, to help her remember. Half the film is in the here and now, the other half is flashbacks. The actors are very handsome and the story, touching. A slick tear jerker.

The second film on the other hand, is a bit more difficult. It was a british film called "The mother". It is a well made film, with unusual shots and interesting lighting but I cannot swallow the script. It is the story of an older woman whose husband passes away. She decides to go visit her children in London. She has a son who is totally superficial and a tormented daughter who has a married lover. The mother ends up having sex with her daughter's lover. My intuition tells me this story was written by a man. It makes no sense to me that this woman would choose to have sex with a drug addict who only wants her money, who is neither especially nice, nor clean looking and who is her daughter's lover to boot. There is little passion to justify this transgression. The mother does not express any deep thoughts or feelings,she comes across as very plain on all levels. She is irritating in her apathy. This affair could be her awakening but she never seems to wake up even when her daughter punches her in the face. In the last scene she packs her sketch book in her bags and walks away from her house... letting the viewer imagine her fate.

 

 

FRIDAY JULY 16th

Speaking of desserts. I got to watch a pastry chef assemble the most intricate dessert I have ever eaten. He started with a strawberries and blueberries salad, adding a rasberry sauce around it. He then placed, on the side of the plate, a small dollop of chocolate ganache and a hazelnut dipped in sugar syrup which had been pulled to form a long sugar needle. Next he poured some sabayon (hand whipped egg yolks and white wine ) and seared it with a torch (like they do for crème brûlée). To top it off he deposited a pastry cage over the plate!!! It was as delicious as it was pretty.

TUESDAY JULY 13th

I have tried a new recipe that sounds very odd but is surprisingly tasty. I might put it in the cookbook some day but for now I will slip it in here for those of you with a daring soul.

Sautéed strawberries in balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup icing sugar 125 ml.
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar 150ml
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 2 ml
1 tsp orange or lemon zest 5 ml
1 tbsp thinly sliced mint 15 ml
2 tbsp butter 25 ml
1 tbsp granulated sugar 15 ml
1 1/2 lbs fresh ripe local strawberries 700 g

In a saucepan, bring icing sugar and vinegar to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium low and cook uncovered till slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Add black pepper and zest of orange or lemon.
Let cool. Stir in mint or coriander.
In a skillet, melt butter and sugar. Toss in strawberries, stirring and cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, just enough to warm them. Transfer to bowl. Add balsamic syrup, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
To serve, spoon strawberries into chilled glass dessert bowls and top with ice cream or frozen yogurt. Garnish with Maple Tuile on the side.


 

MONDAY JULY 12 th

I took my gardenia outside for ther summer and it produced the most perfect flower!


MONDAY JULY 5th

I saw two movies this weekend: “Fahrenheit 911” and “The Corporation”. (My way to celebrate July fourth.) There are many parallels to be made between the two films. They both aim to sensitize and inform the viewer about goings-on in today’s (American) society.
Before I went to see Fahrenheit I was concerned about the fact that, even though Michael Moore has said it is not a documentary, the film did win an award in the documentary category in Cannes. According to the Oxford dictionary, a documentary means: “ 1) consisting of documents 2) giving a factual report of some subject or activity” while propaganda is: “ publicity that is intended to spread ideas or information which will persuade or convince people”. This film sounds more like propaganda than documentary. Sure Moore used real film clips, but like a sentence taken out of context, the way they are put together does not feel very objective or factual. Although I applaud Moore for making the movie and addressing these topics I am a bit insulted by the techniques he uses. He seems to think that his audience is very impressionable and is not overly bright. His film is a bit messy. I don’t know if this is done on purpose to give it a more “truthful and believable” look but it comes over as shoddy. The numerous images of Bush between serious scenes…also are easy shots…. we KNOW the man looks idiotic…but that is not the point. There are tearjerker scenes, gory, bloody scenes. This is war…the USA went to war…don’t they know war kills people? I guess some people need to be reminded daily what war is…but I am not one of them and making me cringe or cry will not help. There is little in this film that I did not already know or suspect and there are many things that are not even addressed…
People here wonder if it will have an impact on the presidential elections…somehow I doubt it because, once again, the people who do not want to see will not open their eyes.
The other movie is closer to my idea of a documentary at least in the sense that it strives to inform us of what corporations are in a more structured and seemingly objective way. I learnt a lot about sweat-shops, about pollution, about profit making, about conflict of interest… This film uses a much more didactic technique with “chapters” developing different themes. It is much more polished. I am impressed that the filmmaker succeeded in keeping my interest with little more than people talking and short film clips. The thesis is interesting: they argue that corporations are like human entities and that they are thus accountable for their behavior, which can be assessed like human actions, can be. This film was more informative and thought provoking. It leaves you with the feeling that there is hope, that each one of us can make a difference…You walk out of there wanting to take action while I walked out of Fahrenheit a bit depressed.
It is interesting that Michael Moore is interviewed in this film and explains how come his film will get shown in US theaters. It is not so much freedom of speech (although there is something to be said about that) but it is because there is money to be made. By the way I found Moore to be much more likeable in this film than in his own…
Here is a link to the film’s information such as where it is being shown in the UK and the USA:


http://www.thecorporation.com/

 

MONDAY JUNE 28th

I am back from a week at Club Med Cancun. The story will be up on the travel side shortly. The straw hat proved very usefull, the flip flops a bit less and as they were not very comfortable. While we were there the Mexican television was filming episodes of a very popular soap so we got to rub shoulders with some local stars. The Mexican on staff at the Club were very excited! Too bad we don't get Mexican channels here...we might see ourselves in the back ground...

Speaking of filming, I went to see "The terminal" with Tom Hanks yesterday. The story of a man who gets stuck inside JFK airport in some king of diplomatic limbo because of a coup in his country. The interesting thing is that this script was inspired by the real life story of an Iranian who has been stuck in a Paris airport for over 10 years!


FRIDAY JUNE 18th

I am off again. A very different trip this time with different gear too...Stay tuned in about 10 days for a report...


TUESDAY JUNE 1
Departure is approaching…In case you have not figured it out yet, I am off to Costa Rica. This is not a place for all inclusive beach resorts. People go there to see the rain forest and the cloud forest and the volcanoes and the birds and butterflies and monkeys…to do the canopy rides, to go horseback riding and river rafting. We shall see how much of that I can cram in one week.
But my first concern is packing. This is the rainy season and I am going into the rain forest…static electricity and dry skin should not be a concern…but keeping mildew and yeast infections in check might be.
I have gone to heavy duty sporting goods stores to get my gear, no designer ponchos or strappy sandals for this gal! I bought the ugliest rain costume! It ties at the face, neck, wrists, waist and ankles. It is said to be totally waterproof yet it breathes! (but very quietly…I have yet to hear it). As for footwear, I have chosen a pair of shoes that are like kayaks (they are almost the same size too!). They have an inner skirt that ties around the foot and, should water penetrate nonetheless, they are perforated with holes to let the water drain out. So although they are not waterproof, I am assured of a circulation of fresh water between my toes at all times.


I am told the Costa Rican fashion patrol is very understanding…
I did remember to pack insect repellent and after bite lotion…
Look out for the whole story in the travel section around mid June.

 

MONDAY MAY 31st.
I went to the casino today. The view as you approach is very pretty especially at night. The trees are al lit up the building itself is spectacular. It was built in 1967 to be the French pavilion for the world fair. It is one on a few such buildings that were built to last more than one summer. After Expo 67 ended, France gave the building to our government which finally turned it into a casino. The inside is as impressive as the outside, there are many levels surrounding a central open area. Of course there are thousands of slot machines that blink and clatter endlessly. People sitting in front of them have a robot quality…they keep pushing the same button over and over again with a glazed look. Some people have a “fidelity card”. It looks like a credit card and works like a frequent flyer card. Every time they play a slot machine they insert the card and it registers how much was played. Since these players spend hours in front of the same machine they leave the card in the machine but in order not to loose it they usually attach it to their shirt with a clip and a red spiraling plastic leash, very reminiscent of what babies have to tie their pacifiers to their clothes. It is a bit pathetic. And to watch people hanging on to their pail of coins reminded me of people holding on to their IV pole in the hospital.
I had more fun watching the game tables. There is roulette, craps, black jack and various kinds of poker. I do not understand how these games are played but watching the people playing them is very interesting. I expected to see misery but that is not what I saw in people’s eyes. It was more a kind of feverish anticipation as if they expect every next roll to be THE one that will make them rich. I am sure there is despair for many but I did not see it. I must say I did not go to the high bidders section. I had enough with seeing people loose hundreds of bucks in one roll of dice or one hand of cards or one spin of roulette at the $10.00 tables.
I spoke to one woman who had been there for 12 straight hours…I wonder how long is the average visit…I also wonder how often people come to the casino. There was a lot of Asians tonight; I guess the stereotype takes it origin somewhere…
The croupiers are mesmerizing. They have such smooth moves. They are so fast. I wonder how long it takes to master this art…It was an interesting evening but I will never be a gambler…


WEDNESDAY MAY 26th
Tonight I attended a play titled “Incendies” which means “Fires”. It is the story of a will. The will left by a woman to her twin children. We learn that this woman had not spoken for the last five years of her life. Her children seem very angry with her. In the will she asks her daughter to find their father and give him a letter enclosed in the will and she asks her son to find their brother. Everyone was under the impression that those two had been dead a long time.
Weaved into the play we see the deceased as a young girl, then a mature woman and, eventually, as an old woman. We see how her first born was a love child taken away from her at birth. We follow her as she leaves her village to get an education and returns to carve her grandmother’s name on her head stone. Later she leaves to try to find her son. She is caught up in very violent political clashes. Three different actresses play her at different ages… It is half narrative and half action. In one incredible scene there is a sprinkler on the stage as it is a summer garden scene. It is spurting water on the back wall…then you notice our heroine standing there, her back to the wall and she gets hit by the water jets back and forth as she describes a massacre that she witnessed and the water becomes the riffle shots…and then the blood spurting…
There are many poignant scenes describing how she was made prisoner and tortured and raped, how her friend becomes a suicide bomber…
We find out that she stopped talking after attending the trial of one of the perpetrators of these atrocities.
A strange character appears…a crazed killer who enjoys shooting people in order to photograph them…
As the story unfolds we learn that her twins were the result of a rape while she was in prison…The twins learn as we do who this man, their father is…and who the crazed sniper is…he is one and the same…but he is also their brother…a very oedipian story: the mother looses track of her son, they are reunited without knowing who the other is and, in this case, the son rapes his mother…
The story takes place in part in some Arab country yet the tone and the language are very real and close to us…To relieve the tension from time to time the notary misquotes some old sayings or mispronounces some foreign sounding words.
The final tableau has all the actors sitting all in a row on wooden chairs (that were used as props through the play) it starts to rain so they pull a plastic cover over their heard in silence…and then the lights slowly fade to darkness…
It is a powerful play…troubling…hauntingly beautiful… I am still wondering why it was called Incendies when the theme that was recurrent was water…not fire…

 

TUESDAY MAY 25th

I went to a very fancy restaurant today. Funny how the name of the place is very unpretentious but everything else about it is on the snobby side. It is called "Les chèvres" (the goats). They have a "carte des eaux" meaning you have a list of bottled water to choose from, depending on how much bubbles you want and if you want a pronounced flavour..or a subtle one...sheesh this is water we are talking about, the stuff that flows down mountains...The meal was delicious mind you...

 

MONDAY MAY 24th

Lily of the valley, my favourite flower...

SATURDAY MAY 22nd

Sorry to report that my would be tenants have moved on... I will never know who they were...but at least I can close the window now.

Today is Stephen's (my tech support extraordinaire) 40th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Stephen!!!

FRIDAY MAY 21st

Now the lilacs are in bloom...when will computers allow us to smell?

WEDNESDAY MAY 19th

I have been indulging in a movie binge. I have rented 9 videos in the last week.I started with silly romantic comedies, both french and american. And the winner is........

"Something's got to give" with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. A middle age love affair...in a beach side setting...It is refreshing to see an older woman cast as sexy and fun loving. Even Nicholson seems to inhabit his character, rather than his usual detached style.

A second prize for "Tanguy" about a yound man who will not leave home, and his parents who are determined to push him out of the nest. But he is so nice and compliant it is hard to fault him...some humorous dialogue.

Tonight on the menu: "Calendar girls" about some mature gals who decide to put together a girlie calendar to raise money for a good cause...

Next week I tackle heavier stuff, starting with "Bowling for Columbine". I am curious to see what will happen to his latest movie "Farenheit 9/11, it could be a test case for freedom of speech. I have also heard of a Canadian documentary called "The Corporation" in which large corporations are treated as quasi human entities and thus submitted to psycho analysis...This one I might go see in a cinema...

SUNDAY MAY 15th

I am still toying with the idea of a B&B, but it seems that I might have some boarders/tenants for the summer. Here is what I saw then I pulled up the blinds this morning. I still have not seen the bird. I am very curious, what kind of bird is it, is it a single or a couple, will it lay eggs? I am not sure I should let it continue, I usually plant flowers in that window box and what if I need to close the window when it rains? I'll keep you posted.

SATURDAY MAY14th

The apple trees are in bloom. I am not sure what is prettier: the pink cloud or the individual blossoms...

TUESDAY MAY 11th

Some of the other clues included a jungle, a beach, a volcano, a rafting river and a squirrel monkey.

Check the travel section next month to find out where we went.

SATURDAY MAY 8th

I am preparing a treasure hunt for one of my kids. Here is one of the clues:

TUESDAY MAY 4th
I went to a baseball game today. I had heard that our local team is owned in joint custody by Porto Rico and Montreal, that their only star was exchanged last year and that we are a “looser” team. But I know NOTHING about the game. Whenever I attend a game I always seem to be looking at the wrong place when something happens. The only celebrity I can always recognize is the mascot: Youppi!


This time I was with an expert. He explained all about strategy, about left and right-handed pitchers and hitters, about fast runners and strong hitters, about batting averages, about fastballs and curve balls, about fly balls and bunts… He kept me looking in the right direction .It was an exciting game: the Expos won 10 to 4! …I even saw the catcher drop a ball (seems this is a rare occurrence) I still don’t know what a strike and a ball are….but heh!! There is just so much time in a game…

MONDAY MAY 3rd
I have been driving a German car…great mileage…it felt smart…then the other day a light started blinking on the dash board…I called the dealer and tried to describe the blinking symbol. It was neither a triangle nor an oil container; to me it looked like a motor outline…they could not figure it out over the phone so they suggested I take the car in for the spring tune up. When I picked it up the next day, I inquired about the blinking warning. OH yes! They had figured it out! It seems that the gas tank cap was not twisted properly back on, the last time there was a fill-up. The weird thing is that once it lights up you cannot turn it off, even if you re close the cap properly. You must take it back to the dealer and they charge $79.00 to turn it off. What you save on gas you spend on service! They took pity on me and say they did not charge me for it as this was my first time…but next time they will….

SATURDAY MAY 1st

I have been attending a seminar on opening and running a B & B. It is both a bit dry at times and fascinating. There are so many rules and regulations. So much paper work. Permits to obtain, associations to join, the checklists are endless, but listening to the speakers tell of their experiences is very interesting. The few B &Bs I had visited in the past were all a bit run down and depressing, but this weekend I saw photos and heard descriptions of much nicer ones with great breakfasts and spectacular accomodations...Once again...tempting and daunting...

FRIDAY APRIL 30th

I have been hugging a bag of frozen peas for a week now. Why you ask? To ease the pain of a small but badly placed cyst. The cold is supposed to numb the pain...until it either explodes or gets syphoned...which ever comes first. I have an appointment for a sonogram a week from now. I expect they will then give me another appointment two weeks later for the syphoning procedure...Pain does not bring out the best in me...

WEDNESDAY APRIL 28th

Spring iis in the air.A few flowers are popping up in the garden...strangely they are all blue

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SATURDAY APRIL 24th

I attended an unusual concert tonight.The composer was Sergei Rachmaninov, a famous Russian composer who died in 1943 and who is famous for his piano concero no 2. Because "The Vespers" is a Russian orthodox religious piece, there could not be musical instruments, only voices. This particular choir was composed of over 100 singers who managed to carry up to 11 different "tunes" in parallell at certain times...and all in Russian!

I was happy because the concert was held in a church that I had never visited before. I was taken aback when I got there because the church was dark. Only a few candles burning at the front of the church helped us find our pews. When the singers entered the church they did so from the back, each holding a lit candle. It was beautiful to see the church slowly light up, it reminded me of the Easter eve service. Once they were all lined up along the aisles they started lighting the candles of the specators, so the light intensified. The candles lasted one hour which was the lentgh of the concert. I was transported in another time and place...imagining cathedrals in the middle ages...a wonderful experience.

THURSDAY APRIL 22nd

Happiness is finding a brand new pair of sandals in a box on the top shelf of the closet with the "50% off" label still stuck to the soles. I must have bought them at an end of season sale, too late to wear them and then totally forgot about them. All I need now is warmer weather to be able to wear them out.

MONDAY APRIL 19th

I also recieved a beautiful box made out of white marble. The same marble used to build the Taj Mahal. It is inlaid with semi precious stones such as Lapis Lazuli , Turquoise and Mother of Pearl, to form lovely flower patterns. There are 712 tiny pieces on this box which is approximately 4 by 3 by 2 inches.

SUNDAY APRIL 18th

I was given a box of Indian sweets. They are the prettiest display of food I have ever seen!

The box cover was decorated with a picture of a strange creature with the head of an elephant on top of a human body. He is Ganesh, a very popular deity in India. Legend has it that Shiva was away and that his wife Parvati was lonely so she created a son, Ganesh. He was a chubby and joyfull little boy. When Shiva returned, the child was guarding the entrance to where his mother was bathing in the nude, and would not allow Shiva to pass. Furious Shiva cut the boy’s head off. Needless to say Parvati was very distressed, so Shiva decided to cut the head of the first living creature he would meet to replace his son’s head…and that was an elephant. This is why Ganesh is pictured as a little boy with an elephant head. He is the remover of bstacle, the god of luck, of children, of domestic harmony and of success. He is the most beloved and revered of all the Hindu gods, and is always invoked first in any Hindu ceremony or festival.

I enjoy symetry in a lot of things, and food is one of them. That is probabbly why I like that box of sweets so much and also what makes me prepare salads the way I do. This is the one I made today....Am I obsessive?...

EASTER SUNDAY APRIL 11th

For dessert, I made little meringue baskets, glued the handles with melted chocolate, filled them with whipped cream and strawberries dipped in orange liqueur.

TUESDAY APRIL 6th

Guess who runs the office?

 

SUNDAY APRIL 4th

04/04/04... Once a year we get a date like that…. It would be cool to have that as a birth date....



I went to see “The girl with the pearl earring”. Someone said it is like watching paint dry, I say it is like looking at a photo album or, even more, an art book. Beautiful photography, exquisite lighting, nice sets and costumes…but no action…none.
It is all about a painting by famous Dutch artist Vermeer. This reminded me of a game we used to play when I was a kid. It was called “Les grands maîtres” meaning great masters. Each player was handed a group of cards depicting different masterpieces and along with a “value” card for each one. Some were very expensive but others were forgeries. The idea was to sell your paintings at an auction and to make the price go up. It required some selling abilities and forced us to look at our paintings closely in order to better “sell” them. It was a fun game and educative too as we learnt about art. To this day I vividly remember one of the paintings from that game, it was a well endowed woman with a plunging décolleté, I think it was by Watteau…I can't seem to find the title...I will keep on looking.

SUNDAY MARCH 28th

There was another "Slow food " activity today. This one was a sugaring off party at a Bio farm.
Let me explain. Sugaring off parties are a tradition at this time of the year. They are held in sugar shacks, some of them are the real thing where sap is actually collected, carried to the sugar shack and boiled but most of them are just rustic halls with kitchens and heavy-duty sound systems. The farm we went to does have a maple grove, but the trees had not yet started running so there was no boiling going on. The dining hall and kitchen were a bit makeshift and very cold.
The food served at such events seldom varies. It consists of pea soup, ham, potatoes, omelets, baked beans, pieces of pork rind called "oreilles de crises”, thick bread, a variety of marinades and for dessert, pancakes or maple tarts or dumplings. After the meal you step outside to have the maple taffy, which is poured boiling over snow. You stick a piece of wood in it and roll. You end up with a marvelous maple taffy lollipop. Some people like to wander among the trees and collect a bit of sap and mix it with gin… it is a very effective laxative…
As for the farm, it is certified "bio" because it respects a set of rules regarding pest and weed controls, farming techniques, animal feeding and treatment. This one has both vegetable farming and animals. The animals include chickens for meat and hens for eggs, beef for meat and cows for milk. Choosing to maintain a bio farm is a bit like keeping a kosher home, you must believe in it because it is definitely not a profitable option.


We are told ad nauseam that bio food tastes better because it is the ingredients’ “real” taste. I wonder if this is snobbism or if I am just an ignorant consumer. Not only do I not notice a difference between bio eggs and regular ones or grain fed and hormone fed animals but also I found the meal we had to be awful. I am all for ecologically sound and equitable farming but I am a cook not a farmer and my concern is preparing meals that are both healthy and taste good. This experience was not convincing.

SATURDAY MARCH 27th


I got back from spending 3 days in a small village 232 km north of Montreal called Chutes St Philippe. It is a quiet place visited in summer by fishermen, in the fall by hunters and in winter by snowmobilers. This is off -season for them now as the snowmobile trails have melted too much to be of use. Unfortunately the weather was not great, it was cloudy and it rained on and off. We managed to visit nonetheless and saw a charming covered bridge, but no Clint Eastwood lurking around it.

The view of that river was very romantic.


We took a sleigh ride at night, which included a stop for drinks and songs around a campfire. The theme was definitely western…


We got to fish for our lunch. Which was much too easy to be fun. But the rainbow trout was very fresh and delicious.


But the highlight of our stay was definitely the deer that came to feed on our doorstep. I know that it is not ecologically sound to feed wild animals…but what could I do?…except enjoy them! During the day we could see them crossing the lake in the distance, but at dusk they came much closer. First there was one, then another then a third and within an hour there was a dozen of them right in front of our door. They are surprising animals: a rather large body atop spindly legs, a very delicate muzzle framed by big ears. Beautiful eyes that seem lined with kohl and of course, when they turn their back and run away: the tell tale tail: fluffy and pointed to the sky.

 


Over the course of just a few hours we saw the snow disappear from the lake leaving in its place the shiny surface of water covered ice.

MONDAY MARCH 15th

I have modified the butterflies photos so that they are now clickable thumbnails. You might like to go back and have a second look.

SUNDAY MARCH 14th
I went on a walk this morning and ended up in Little Italy. I entered a church to have a look. It felt like being transported in Rome, a white, bright, airy church, very pleasant, welcoming, appeasing.
My eye was attracted to the bright fresco on the ceiling, the usual grouping of saints and apostles….but with one intruder…a man on horseback…


Amid all the allegory stands a proud Mussolini! It seems that when the church was built and the fresco painted, in the early 1900s, Mussolini was a hero to many Italians. Later on, after the war, his image was shielded to hide it from view. It was only recently uncovered as part of a refurbishing of the church.

SATURDAY MARCH 13th
I got up this morning determined to get through the pile of unpaid bills and unopened letters.
I sorted everything by order of importance, double-checked each charge, wrote out the cheques carefully, filled out the records book, stamped each envelope, then filed each bill in its rightful folder. I calculated my bank balance as I went along. I was doing everything by the book and feeling pretty righteous…until I got to a pair of envelopes with a “Bell “ heading. I had already paid three phone bills (smartly combining them in a single envelope to save on stamps) and remembered thinking this must have something to do with my cell phone.
I opened the first one and realized it was not Bell “telephone” but rather Bell “Sympatico”, the Internet provider. Relieved that I was not being pursued by my phone company, I read on. It said that my credit card had expired and that I needed to get in touch with them so they could update my file and charge me my yearly fee of $365.00. I gingerly called the number and after the usual recorded messages and instructions I finally had a real human being on the line!
I explained my situation and he seemed to understand what I was saying. I asked him what card number they had on file; it was mine, all was cool. I gave him the new expiration date and told him to proceed with the payment. He left me waiting a few times but finally came back with a confirmation number. I was ready to hang up when he informed me he needed to transfer my call to tech support. I was surprised, but he explained that my account had been deleted and they could not update it, they needed to create a new one. I asked this new guy how could my account be deleted if I still had the Internet running. He fumbled a bit but explained that it was sheer luck that I had not yet been disconnected. It was unclear how long my account had been “overdrawn”, but it seemed a bit excessive to cut off the service after sending only 2 warnings. He then proceeded to ask me how much I was paying. He argued with me that I do not have high speed Internet (I know very little about computers but I DO know high speed) but who am I to argue? Heh! If this is the basic package, so be it! It suits me fine. Just leave it at that and don’t change the price! He then informed me that he needed to transfer my call yet again to a technician. I was getting irritated. This third guy was not a nice as the previous two and I was getting fed up repeating the same info all over again…I was getting very irritated and when he started again with the new account business I yelled at him that I had had enough and, bravely risking loosing my Internet connection, hung up on him!
I have NEVER hung up the phone on anyone! I was a shaken.
When I spoke to my daughter a few minutes later, I described the whole story to her. She was silent for a minute…and then she said…
Mom, I think we use Videotron not Bell Sympatico…

WEDNESDAY MARCH 10th

A nice surprise this morning, my Hibiscus is in bloom. I just had to take a photo.

FRIDAY MARCH 5th

I went back to the botanical garden today to try out the macro feature on my camera. It was late afternoon and raining so the light was not good, and a lot of the flowers were past their prime, but mostly what struck me was the number of blemished butterflies. No matter how many signs and announcements are made telling people not to touch the butterflies I saw kid after kid trying to take hold of them and accidentally tearing off bits and pieces. It was a anticlimactic after my first experience and left me feeling a bit sad.

 

But I did get a good shot of a group feeding.

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 29th

The other day I decided to make a cheesecake. The recipe called for three blood oranges, two for juice and one to be candied. When I got home from the store, I put two away in the fruit bin in the fridge and left the third out on the counter as this one was meant to be sliced and candied and that was what I planned to do first.
I sliced the orange up, prepared the syrup, dropped the slices in there and let everything simmer for an hour. Being the busy woman that I am I tended to other chores and when I returned to the stove the slices were a nice shiny black…it seems I had set the stove temperature too high.
It was late and the stores were closed, so I decided to cut just 3 slices off the top of one of the other oranges (as I really only needed one to decorate the cake), hoping there would be enough juice left to fulfill the recipe requirements. I wrapped the remaining orange in cellophane and put it away until the next day to finish the cake. I repeated the syrup and simmering and this time succeeded in producing three nice transparent slices.
The next morning, I set out to bake the cake. I needed the lovely red juice of my one and three quarter oranges to make the glaze. I opened the fridge and quickly located the amputated fruit, but was less successful at locating the third and last orange. You see I had a dozen ordinary oranges in that fruit bin and they had gotten shuffled a bit during breakfast preparation. Sure blood oranges are supposed to look different…but I was hesitant. Two oranges seemed to fit the bill. I gambled and chose one. I took it to the cutting board, sliced it open and…I lost. It was an ordinary Florida orange. No matter I retrieved the other suspect and gingerly put the knife to it, secure in the knowledge this was the one! Well…it wasn’t! Again I was looking at a nice pale Florida orange. Undaunted I returned to the fridge. I patted, weighed, rotated, smelled each and every orange in that bin…and came up with two more prospects…again cutting each one up to reveal it’s pale orange flesh…I was getting frantic. This time I randomly chose four, figuring the law of averages would surely play in my favor. Well… No such luck! Believe it or not none of them was the elusive blood orange. By now I had 18 orange halves dripping juice all over my countertop. I was beginning to worry about what to do with all these oranges. They would spoil before I had time to eat them…I could not go on cutting up more.
So I did the only reasonable thing: I got my coat, went back to the store and got myself one more blood orange.
The cake turned out very nicely and I made myself a pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice…I still have not encountered the missing blood orange.

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 28th


Today I went to the botanical garden to see the “Butterflies go free” exhibition.
The star of the show this year is the blue Morphos, This butterfly is brown with exuberant markings on the outside but when it opens its wings a beautiful blue appears. The sparkling blue wings are caused by the way the light reacts with their scales. This butterfly is said to have magical powers and there was a movie made recently about them.

CLICK ON EACH PICTURE TO OPEN IT UP.


The butterflies are purchased from “butterfly farms” around the world in the form of cocoons and chrysalids. They are kept at the insectarium until they emerge and then they are transported to the exhibition greenhouse. To feed each variety there are many different flowering plants, which make for an even more colorful display.


There were displays and presentations to explain the life cycle of the egg to the caterpillar to chrysalid to butterfly. There were some cocoons that still contained their chrysalid and we could see them move when sprayed with water. The “Cobra” which is one of the few nocturnal butterflies in the exhibition does not eat. It lives on its reserves.


Most (but not all) butterflies feed themselves using a long “trunk like” antenna. It is rolled up when not in use and quite impressive when stretched out.


Ever time I go to the botanical gardens I am reminded how colorful nature is. Man has not invented much in terms of colors or patterns. All these butterflies are another example.

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 25th

I really need to exercise…I have decided that walking would be a safe gentle way to start. For the longest time the weather was very cold, so I had a good excuse to postpone going out. But this week, the temperature has been milder and this morning the sun was shining, the sky was a sparkling blue with not a cloud in sight. This was the day to start walking. I had the perfect destination: I had clothes to pick up at the cleaners, mail to drop at the post office and a deposit to make at the bank, all next to each other about 15 minutes from my home.
I took my sweet time getting ready…I used up all my delaying tactics: I cleaned, cooked, made phone calls…but it was TIME!
I gathered the mail, the cleaner’s stub, got my wallet, my keys, my sun glasses, I put on my coat, boots and scarf, I gathered my gloves. I was ready!
I confidently stepped outside, inhaled deeply, straightened proudly and was on my way! My very first step landed on a patch of nice slick ice. I saw the tip of my boots point to the sky, heading upwards. That was intriguing but not without elegance…until the rest of me followed. I landed on my butt with a thump. It hurt! I did not bump my head but got a good whiplash. My hands were scraped, as I had not yet put on my gloves. I pulled myself up, my pride hurting as much as my backside and walked back into the house with as much dignity as I could muster in case someone had seen me fall. I took off my coat and decided that walking was too violent an activity for me. I went straight to bed and took a nap.

MONDAY FEBRUARY 23rd

I woke up this morning to find that my snowman was missing an eye...These were no ordinay eyes! They were slices of blood oranges that I had candied myself. I looked around in the hope that it may have fallen off...but the snow was pristine...

I sensed a movement to my left...there was the culprit! A grey squirrel. The weather had warmed enough to entice him out of his nest and he had found a sweet snack on my snowman's face!

Like any self respecting squirrel he tried to hide his bounty, but since the ground is frozen and covered with snow, he did the next best thing he hung it on a tree...

 

 

MONDAY FEBRUARY 16th

I went to the "Carnaval de Québec" (Quebec city winter carnival) this weekend. It was my first time ever. When I was young, my parents would not let me go because it was said to be too wild. Later on I did not go because I was worried about the cold. Well, let me tell you, it is WAYYY too cold for anyone to get wild.Yesterday morning it was minus 32 Celcius (minus 25.6 F). As you can see the only way to stay alive is to wear a scarf in front of yout face, but when you do that, your glasses fog up and freeze over, so I was transformed into a red cyclop...

I will put a more thorough report in the travel section, but want to share here some of the photos I took. What fascinated me more than all the snow and ice, were the people. There were men dressed up like in the olden days...

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 13th

I wanted a snowman for a card so I decided to make one. Here are some of my attemps at finding the proper head dress for him.

 

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 5th

You have read endless accounts of man meets beast, how about woman meets machine? I got to use our humongous snow blower for the first time yesterday.
Getting it started is the biggest challenge. You need to set one lever at neutral, another half way down, you need to pull out the choke and push in a little rubber button to pump some fuel, then you turn the ignition on and finally you PULL! Yes yes, the old rope pull like gasoline lawn mowers. There is something so frustrating about the force you put in the initial pull and then you end up with a limp cord in your hand and no motor sound. And so you pull again…and again…and again…and then you figure “lets do the ritual all over” as if this is a sacrifice to some mechanic God. So you turn off the ignition, you move the levers a few times, pull the choke and pump some fuel, and you worry that you might flood the engine (whatever that means…it seems obvious that flooding must be related to liquid addition), and you pull again…and again…and then… OH surprise!! A cloud of smelly black smoke , a thundering sound. It is RUNNING!! Quick! push back the throttle, stand back, breathe and be proud!
But that is not enough. I needed to get it moving and chewing up some snow. This stage is both easier and harder. Easier because there are only three things to watch, harder because it requires concentration and physical force.
I had to hold down a lever attached to the left handle to make the wheels move after having chosen a forward or back up position on another lever. That was easy enough but I sometimes forgot to let go and the machine would keep on going and it bumped into the garage doors a few times. On the other hand there were times when it would get stuck in a hole or, the wheels would spin on a patch of ice and no amount of encouragement would help. I had to push the monster out. Man it is a heavy machine!
The handle on the right side controlled the blowing mechanism, no challenge there: if I went through a big pile of snow it would spit out a graceful jet of write snow. If, on the other hand, I was going over an already cleared patch then it would drool some gray slush (I will save you the image that came to mind…but it is impossible to miss the Freudian symbolism of the bended neck spewing…)
Speaking of which, the last handle to watch is the one controlling said neck and thus the direction taken by the thrown snow. This may sound easy but if you forget to turn it every time you change direction you mess up the area you just cleared.. I had to be vigilant as the driveway is not very long and I quickly reached the sidewalk or the front steps, two areas you do not want to throw snow on. Another thing I discovered is that the “peeing downwind out of a canoe” concept is a useful one to follow unless you want all that snow to get blown back in your face.
I am proud to report I mastered the beast and succeeded in cleaning my driveway! I am woman hear me roar!

SATURDAY JANUARY 24th

Two weeks since my last entry. It feels like an eternity.So much has happenned...

I dicovered life in the emergency ward...nothing at all like the TV show. There is little excitement there. It is mostly anguish, worry, exhaustion and sorrow. If there were trauma cases I never saw them. I did see a drunk woman who had called the ambulance because she felt lonely, I saw a very old oriental woman whose family was waiting for her to die, I saw a woman who had slit her wrists...this troubled me to see someone who wanted to die waking up next to people who are struggling so hard to stay alive...I saw so many people pass through...never knowing their fate....too busy was I with our own drama...I met and watched dozens of nurses and related personnel...most of them kind and dedicated...

I got used to the harsh lights of the observation room, to the illusion of privacy provided by pull out curtains, to the stretchers in the hallways, to sleeping in a chair, to the portable X ray machine, I learned all about oxygen masks and oxygen saturation...IV drips, anitbiotics, anti coagulants, potassium and steroids, decongestants and pain killers...I figured out how to slip a straw through a breathing mask...how to clean out a urinal without splashing...

Then we moved to the ICU. Another floor, another world...Warm and clean and quiet compared to the emergency....large soft beds that you could move into every concievable position...with real sheets and blankets...large windows to let the sunshine in...the nurses were gentle attentive and calm. There were no loud noises...only the occasionnal alarm from one of the monitors, but it was reassuring to see how quickly the staff would go check...I was impressed by the fact that the staff listened and took every comment into account. They went out of their way to make their patients as comfortable as possible.

But even with the best of care the cancer won the battle...I had never witnessed a death before and was very apprehensive...I still cannot express what I felt, except sadness...sadness for my children loosing their father, sadness for all the things he did not have time to see or do...but I take some comfort in the fact that he died peacefully surrounded by his friends and family, and in the belief that he did not suffer physical pain.

We then had to go through the rituals which are said to be so helpful to the mourning process...I dreaded the wake and funenal more than death itself it seemed. But...we all got through it...some of it was very emotional, some of it was beautiful...we cried, we laughed, we consoled and were consoled...and now it is over...

We tried bringing back home some of the nice flower arrangements we recieved, but we forgot about the minus 25 degrees outside and all the flowers froze, so I now have a house filled with wilted flowers...it smells like a funeral parlour...At least the crustless sandwiches survived the cold...I will be eating them for weeks...while I will be adressing hundreds of thank you cards ...

It is both scary and exciting to think of the road ahead, alone and free...

SATURDAY JANUARY 10th


What can I say? You know the dog was put to sleep...the travel agency where I worked closed its doors...and at my other job, I got replaced by a younger model...My husband is hooked to an oxygen machine...It is bitterly cold outside...My throat is sore...I have a head ache...

Nevertheless, today I  decided to take down the Christmas tree. I had bought a real tree this year, which means there were a lot of needles to pick up. Once I had gotten the hundred  glass  balls and ornaments back on their respective boxes and unwound the three strands of mini lights, I dragged the tree to the front door and out into the snow bank. I then proceeded to vacuum the living room floor and hall way. All of a sudden, the vacuum stopped, I figured the plug had probably fallen out of the wall socket. As I was bending down to check, a piercing sound started. It was the oxygen machine! Which told me right away that the electrical power has been lost. My first reaction was to turn it off so the noise would stop. But then I had a choice
to make: should I run downstairs to the fuse box and try to locate the culprit and jump start it OR run upstairs and start the portable oxygen bottle? I knew I had a few minutes before the need for oxygen became desperate so I chose to go fix the fuse. Flashlight in hand I climbed over the shopvac which was sprawled on the furnace room floor for reasons unknown to me, then over a stack of plastic waiting room chairs to finally land almost face first in font of two intimidating electrical panels. Have you ever noticed how even if most of the switches are labelled, the one you are looking for is NEVER identified??? I ran my hands blindly over them, hoping to feel a defective one. After a few false tries I found and reset the living room one. I ran back up and re-started the oxygen machine. When everything was purring normally, I switched wall sockets and started the vacuum again, only to have it die on me again and the siren start howling. I ran back down, over the same obstacles (practice makes perfect) and re set the fuse. Then I returned upstairs, re started the oxygen machine, retracted the vacuum electrical cord and put it away ...We can live with pine needles for a while...besides they smell nice!

 

TUESDAY JANUARY 6th

In many french speaking countries today is "Le jour des Rois", it refers to "les Rois Mages" (the three wise men who found baby Jesus). It is also known as Epiphany. Traditionally, on this day, a special cake is made: "la galette des rois" and inside the cake a bean (or coin) is hidden. The person who gets the bean is crowned king for the day.

Depending on the region of France the recipe varies, but the most widely used one is called a Pithyvier. It is a rather dry cake made out of flaky dough and filled with an almond mixture.

Over the years I have made many different cakes for this occasion, always with two beans, to have a king and a queen. But this year I decided to buy it ready made. I found a Pithyvier and was pleased to see they even included a pretty crown with it. I was disappointed to see they only had one "winner" but decided to be grown up about it, thinking I could insert an extra bean from underneath...I asked the baker if it was a bean or a coin...and was surprised to learn they use Disney figurines.!!! I am still trying to find a link between Minnie mouse and the magi...