Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 30 - House Hunting

Have you been wondering what's going on with my house hunt? I know I have!

This morning I reserved a CommunAuto for a few hours and drove out to a couple of neighbourhoods that have a number of places I'm interested in visiting.  I started off in Mercier/Hochelaga/Maisonneuve area and quickly crossed the first address off my list. An hour later I'd crossed two others off my list and was unable to locate another.  Then over to the Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood where I had a look around the streets for four other properties. One is a definite no, another is a probably not and the remaining two are distinct possibilities.  Of the 150 or so properties that my real estate agent's "system" has sent me, I've narrowed things down to 10 properties. Guess that means I need to let him know that I'm ready to start poking my nose inside a few condos.  March 1st will be here before I know it.

And that's all, people. For National Blog Posting Month, I posted here every day for the month of November. My updates will go back to being as sporadic as usual. But probably in the next month I will mostly write about baking, or maybe the house hunt.

Thanks for reading. Keep warm. Peace.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Day 29 - TGIF

TGIF, people!

It's been a crazy couple of months at work but I think at long last I see the light at the end of tunnel. Things will slow down a little. She said, forgetting that busy season starts in about 2 months.

Due to all this busyness (the business of being busy, is that really a word?) a certain date has flown by me without even realising it.

It's now been over 5 months since returning home from India. I've been home longer than I was there. This time last year I was counting down the days (about 60) until my departure. Now I'm questioning why I came back, what I'm doing here, when I can go again.

It's not that I'm unhappy to be home. I'm incredibly happy to be home. As much to see my family and friends, as to live in such (comparative) luxury, and be able to move around freely and confidently without worrying about my personal safety at all times.

But I'm still planning to go back one day. The people I met in Hyderabad made a difference in my life. As I follow a few of them now on facebook, it makes me happy to see their pictures and read about their activities. I would love to hang out with them and go caroling in the neighbourhood. (Who am I?!)  What I wouldn't give for just one of Marthamma's dosa with some peanut chutney and a good cup of chai.

So for now, I will keep my eyes open on facebook, maybe buy a lottery ticket more than once in a lifetime, and be open to whatever new adventure comes my way. I'm confident one will.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day 28 - Spaceman

Commander Chris Hadfield!
 I met an astronaut! Is that crazy or what? I still can't quite believe.

Last night after work, I wandered over to my favourite post-work hangout, Indigo, got my coupon (Group 5) and then strolled around the shops until 7pm when Commander Chris Hadfield would appear for a book signing. Not just any book signing, but his own book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth.

It was a long wait. I won't deny it. Was it worth it? Yes. A hundred times, yes.

Mr. Hadfield was kind, smiled and apologized for the long wait. How Canadian of him, eh?


Our conversation went something like this:

Shaking of hands (!)
CH:  Hi there. Sorry about the long wait tonight.
ST:  Hello. No please, it's an honour to meet you.
CH:  Thanks. (Takes my book to sign it.)
ST:  Sooo ... what's your personal best on a 5km?
CH: (Looks up, surprised) Oh, I don't know! I just run until my heart goes fast.
ST:  Alright. Well, thank you very much. Have a good rest of the evening.
CH:  Thank for coming, have a good night.

I MET AN ASTRONAUT, PEOPLE!!!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 27 - Youth Unlimited

Last night I attended the annual fundraising dinner for Montreal Youth Unlimited.  My longtime family friends, Joan & Keith Wight, have been inviting me to this event for a number of years now and every year I am happy to go and hear and see how the kids at these centres are doing.

Their vision is this:  "We empower the youth of Quebec to attain their full-life potential…by responding to their relational, intellectual, physical, and emotional needs and by encouraging them to pursue a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ."

Whatever your religion or set of beliefs, you cannot deny the good that is done by this organization and the concrete proof of the change in these kids' lives. It's been impressive in the past and this year was no exception.

What marked me in particular last night was a young woman, Natasha, who is now on staff with Youth Unlimited. She spoke briefly but well. She was dynamic, enthusiastic, and a joy to listen to. I don't know her background but she seemed to me to be a natural public speaker and leader. I will be anxious to how many lives she will change over the coming years.

Last night's theme was "one". Ultimately, all it takes is one person to change one other person's life.  I like to think that even I have been fortunate enough to make a difference in at least one child's life, and if I can, you can too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 26 - Sunday cooking (little late)

This Sunday's cooking: only ended up with some soup. But it's one of my favourite soups - sweet potato, coconut and shrimp. Also, how could a soup with peanut butter in it be bad?! It's deliiiiiiiiiiiiiicious. If you're a fan of the Looney Spoons sisters, Janet and Greta Podleski, you will probably like this.

No picture of it - but trust me. It's good.

Did bake some Irish soda bread on Saturday night:  it's a Barefoot Contessa recipe and it's great too.

I'm out for dinner a couple of nights this week (tonight was the first one - will tell you about it tomorrow) so didn't want to have too much food sitting around for no good reason.

Stay tuned: next week I will probably start some Christmas baking.

Oh, and by the way, it's doing this.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 25 - Bestest Friends

About says it all
Today is my best friend's birthday. She's 45. Happy birthday, Old Woman! (hahahaha)

Also, sorry your birthday card(s) (there might be more than 1 in the mail) is/are late.

To the left here is one of the funniest pictures of us together. The following link though is probably my favourite picture of the two of us.  I would've liked to scan a few pictures from our early years, back in 1982-83 but all my picture albums are packed away in preparation for my move this winter.

Thanks to technology, yesterday we were able to talk via Skype for a little over an hour (short, by our standards) and it was like no time has passed at all. Despite the time difference, the months since my visit in June, we always seem to pick up wherever.  There was, of course, the obligatory laughing so hard that one of us didn't understand what the other was saying and it didn't matter because just hearing the other laugh made us laugh too.

How did we meet? We met in grade 7, in music class. I was playing the clarinet and I think Yvette (who prefers to go by the nickname Why) was too. Either that or the oboe or the flute. Anyway, we were learning this piece of music called Goodnight, Ladies and for some insane reason (what other kind of reason would there be?), during a break, I was singing into my clarinet and swaying to the song. (As I write this I realise how crazy it sounds. This should give you a good idea of what will follow in the next 30 years.)  Well, my swaying and swinging caught the attention of Why and she soon joined in. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

We have probably gotten into more trouble from laughing and causing a ruckus than from any actual bad behaviour. A few examples:  we got detention for waving in biology class (Why was telling a story, I was acting it out); we knocked a shelf down in a Hallmark card store (trying to look at some book); we started using fake voices/accents (and still use them to this day - and now when I do one of those voices with my niece & nephew, they crack up too!); then there was the time Why got her shirt stuck on a horse saddle once and ended up hanging off the horse; we would double over with laughter after having photo booth pictures taken. I don't know who says what or why some things happen but we can almost guarantee when a situation requires good (quiet) behaviour, something will happen that will have us poking each other in the side or lifting our eyebrows at each other.

Sometimes I find it incredible that we've been friends since we were about 13 years old but have only lived in the same city for the first 8-9 years of that friendship. She went and married a good Swiss guy and has lived near Zurich ever since. We do manage the occasional visit, but they are few and far between. Still, it makes us appreciate our friendship very much and we take advantage of the times we do get to spend together.

Happy birthday, MyWhy!



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 24 - Part 2

The update I'm sure you've all been waiting for:

Eric came over and helped me get the back wheel off my bike but we're not able to remove the pin. It will not move. I will have to wait until I can get back to the shop on Thursday night, when they're open late, and have them change the pins.

How much do I love having pieces of bike all over my nice clean house? That would be: Not. At. All.

Now I'm going to ease my troubles in the kitchen by making some soup.

Day 24 - Sunday cooking - or not

The Sunday cooking post will have to wait (maybe I'll get to it Tuesday). I have more urgent things to say.
  1. Finally bought myself a bike trainer. The purpose of this is so that I can train on the bike all winter long and not have to pay gym fees to ride a bike when I already own one.
  2. I researched. I asked questions. I got recommendations. I budgeted. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I know.
  3. So, here we are. A cold November Saturday. But it was sunny and I decided to just do it already and get training. Lucky for me the bike shop is less than a 5 minute walk from home. Bought the trainer. Brought it home. Went back to the bike shop with my bike and had them change the back tire for a special tire to use on the indoor trainer. Brought that home.
  4. After a pot of tea and an online chat with Yvette, I mixed together the ingredients for some Irish soda bread, threw that in the oven and figured in the 45 minutes it would take to bake, that surely I would manage to put a few screws in a few holes and get the whole thing set up.
  5. What planet do I live on?
  6. Not earth. Clearly.
  7. I spent the first 20 minutes trying to figure out how to read the damn pictures on STEP 2.
  8. Then had to find a measuring tape and try to figure out what size wheel I have.
  9. Then had to text Brother #2 (Hi, Nick!) and ask him, if I was supposed to measure from the inside of the rim or the outside of the tire. Where was that helpful piece of information written? Oh yeah, NOWHERE.
  10. As I was obviously out of my depth, Nick called me and while trying to get to the earphones (yes, the ones that fall out of my ears all the time), so I could plug them into the phone and be able to talk and do things at the same time, I promptly tripped over the Styrofoam packaging from the box and may have dropped a swear word or four.
  11. Only to discover during this brotherly consulation that I also needed to change out the pin holding the back wheel in place and insert the pin that came with the trainer. For the love of chocolate, people, it's an indoor bike trainer, not a frigging space machine! (Editor's note:  Do you [I] mean space ship? My note:  Probably.)
  12. Then found the bike tool bag Brother #3 (Hi, Marc!) which contained, among other things, such as old greasy rags, some kind of multi-sized ummmm.... tools for ummmm ... unscrewing things. (Honestly, how I even manage to speak some days is beyond me.) 
  13. Of course, I had to go through all three of these "tools" and the last one was the one that fit but the nut/bolt/whatever (I have no idea what the difference is and will not pretend I do) was on the wheel so tightly, I couldn't budge it. And as soon as I tried to turn it too hard, I could feel my trusty messed up right shoulder start shouting at me not to do that. Yes, with those exact words.
  14. Some more consultation with Nick. Mostly consisting of Nick laughing at me because apparently it sounded like I was getting pretty violent.
  15. Oh yeah, and while this was happening - I am not even making this up - the oven timer went off to let me know that the Irish soda bread I was baking was ready to take out. So yeah, 45 minutes later and I still didn't have a bike ready to ride.
  16. Nick suggested I get Brother #1 (Hi, Eric!) (Good thing I have lots of brothers, I know, right?!) to come and help me and ask him to bring a ratchet set with him. 
  17. After putting the tools away, pushing the bike and boxes and training stand out of the way, I texted Eric and he will be able to help me Sunday.
  18. Then I noticed I'd screwed fly wheel (oh look, I learned a new term today, way more technical than "round metal thing that screws on to training stand thing") onto the stand backwards.
  19. Yes, backwards.
  20. So I left it there.
Let's hope things go a little better today. Updates to follow.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day 23 - Care packages

My BFF (Hi, Why! This is a picture of the two of us taken this past June) and I have a tradition that goes back a few years now. At Christmas, we don't exchange regular gifts but rather care packages. So today I'm going to tell you about what goes into a care package and how long it can take to put such a package together.

At various times throughout the year we will email each other and ask the other to put this thing or that thing on "The List". I like to keep a list going all the time so that I'm not stuck trying to think of fun items to package up for Why's Christmas package.

Here are a few items I usually include for Why (and I'm sure she'll correct me in the comments if I'm wrong):

  • Advil Cold & Sinus tablets
  • Cheezies
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
  • Tea or coffee
  • Dishtowels
  • Specialty kitchen items
  • Books
  • Crackers or snack type treats
  • Spices
  • Cereal (Cheerios or Corn Bran)
  • Magazines
  • Mugs
  • Ugly present of any type (tacky thermometer, note paper, etc.)
Usually early in the summer I start looking at my list for Why and little by little, shop for a fun dishtowel or kitchen item. By October I badger her for any in particular she might like (crackers or chocolates or something). By November I should have the package wrapped and mailed to her but I am often late sending it. My poor ol' Why has been known to receive the Christmas care package in late January or even February. Terrible, I know.

This afternoon I finished buying all the little bits and pieces for Why's care package (no ugly present this year, sorry!) and will have it in mail to her on Monday. (Monday also happens to be her birthday and I have a special post planned about our friendship.) With any luck, she might get it by Christmas, and if not, it will be early in the New Year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 22 - Tea cozy lady

Day 1 (Black bag and green bag)

White bag and green bag
Guess who I saw in the metro again this morning?! Tea cozy lady! I know, eh?!

I see the hat's the same, the scarf, the jacket. But are the pants the same too? Huh. At least she changed her bag, so we know it's two different days.

Wonder what we'll see next week ...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day 21 - My weird ears or Apple's bad design

First things first:  Got my bangs trimmed tonight and I can see again. It's very exciting.

Second thing:  I could have weird ears. Let me explain.

Until they started making these "earphones" instead of "headphones" I had never been aware that I have weird ears. But apparently so. Ever since my first iPod, some years ago now, I have never been able to wear a pair of their earphones comfortably or properly. They just seem to fall out of my ears before I can even breathe. It's a right pain in the hoo-hah.

Or ... is it the design of these earphones that's weird and my ears are just fine? Is it similar to the way they make clothes to fit a multitude of sizes and shapes and in fact, they fit none? Maybe what I need is custom earphones. These would be pricey, I'm guessing. Kinda the same way custom clothing is (unless you're in India and then you can get a custom outfit made for less than $15.)

I'd seen an article in the news about some company (local Montrealers? I don't remember) and they'd designed these little clips to help keep the Apple earphones in place. My brother (Hi, Eric!) got me a pair for my birthday. I was soooo happy to try these. They do work. Kinda. But not great. The earphones still fall out if my scarf (again with the scarf!) brushes against them or if it's too windy.

The only pair of earphones that ever truly stayed in place for me, were by Sennheiser, and of course that model has been discontinued. The closest thing I've been able to find are these. They were pretty pricey, especially as they'll probably only last about 2 years. But honestly, right now the cost would be worth it not to have to fiddle with stupid earphones every time I attempt to stick them in my ears.

Any other suggestions? Or do I just have weird ears? Wouldn't surprise me if I did.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 20 - End is in sight

I am making stuff up to tell you now. Just so you know.

Well, not really. I have nothing much to say so I'll tell you about my completely mundane day.

Gave this training this morning that was supposed to be recorded, but as with the last 2 sessions, there have been some kind of technical failures and they have not recorded. Guess what I get to re-do?! *Sigh*

On the bright side:  this big project I've been working on for the last little while is nearing its end. Quite glad about that.

Also - I nearly got my hair cut tonight except that I left it too late and my hair guru was all booked up.

That is all. Now to go and stand in front of my fireplace to warm up.

PS - Hair guru herself just this second called back and will take me tomorrow night! Woot, I will see again!

PPS - That is really all this time.

PPPS - Has anybody else noticed that it's so cold it makes your thighs cold when you're walking? I hate that.

PPPPS - OK, really done now. Bye.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 19 - Tuesday

Remember when I was in India and I gave you a random daily schedule? How about we do that again, except for here at home? Here's how today went.

6:30:  Alarm went off
7:00:  After hitting snooze every 9 minutes, got up
7:46:  Left home
7:48:  Caught bus to metro
7:50:  Arrived at metro station, ran down short staircase, looooong escalator, and one other staircase to miss it by a second
8:20:  Arrived at work, ate breakfast, drank coffee, read email and started on work not finished the night before
8:45:  Regular work day began - work stuff, and work, work, work
12:00: Conference call to discuss issues on current big project
1:00:  Work
2:00:  Dry run of Wednesday's training
3:00:  Work
5:00:  Finished preparing for Wednesday's training, went through course once more, tested examples once more
6:00:  Crawled to metro, missed bus, crawled home
6:45:  Washed, changed into pyjamas, heated dinner
7:00:  Ate dinner
7:15:  Cleared up dinner, prepared breakfast and lunch for next day
7:30:  Decided what to wear tomorrow, decided against ironing the necessary items, found a sweater to wear instead
8:00:  Decided against walking to pool/going for swim, decided to stay home, stay warm/dry
9:00:  Read/watched something on Netflix and goofed around on computer
10:30:  Lights out

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day 18 - Sunday Cooking

Another week gone by. Another week of food to plan, buy and cook.

Here's what happened in the kitchen yesterday:

Mushroom, spinach and red onion mini-frittata
Mushroom, spinach and red onion mini-frittatas: 

This is pretty tasty. Admittedly, I did add more spices than the recipe called for, just because I know myself.

Now, I don't know if I didn't spray the muffin tins enough or if maybe I need a new muffin pan (likely) but the frittatas stuck to the bottom like crazy. Could also be that they were so jam packed with spinach & mushrooms, that the egg mixture couldn't work it's way down through everything. Could be.

They're great for lunch at work, with a big salad on the side, or a bowl of soup to warm you up on a horrible November day.



Sweet potato & goat cheese puffs
Next:  Sweet potato & goat cheese puffs:

Fun to make, if time consuming. Could use more cheese, for my liking, and more ... spices too.

Turned out well though.

Tried both of these recipes to see if I might use of them for a potluck at work next month. Still undecided. Next weekend I will try something else.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 17 - fashionABLE

 Did I write about this company around this time last year? If you haven't heard about them, go check out their site right now.

Last year, through the power of internet blogs, I found out about this company that trains women to weave as a way of helping them earn a living outside of the sex trade in Africa. Awesome concept, right?  Right!

The cherry on the cake though is that the scarves are beautiful! And soft! And each one is unique. I simply love them and am dearly tempted to buy one of each. My budget doesn't stretch that far and so this year I only bought one.

I can also tell you that the one (yes, one!) scarf I took to India with me, was a fashionABLE scarf. It was the best decision. It was perfect for the weather, the style of clothing and matched so many of my outfits.

Of the other two I bought last year and had to leave at home, one I wear a lot with my trench coat - the colours go together so well. The other one I have used as a picnic cloth, wrap and scarf. Did I mention versatile?

You know how people can be known for something they always wear? A statement ring, or big necklaces, or ... whatever. I think I'm becoming the scarf person. I always have one with me. I probably have more scarves than I have necklaces and shoes combined.

Anyway, looking forward to wearing this new scarf proudly and mentioning the good work they do at fashionABLE. Looking forward to next year's collection!


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 16 - Hair cut

I need a haircut. My bangs are too long right now. They were too long for my Grandma's 99th birthday party. They are even longer now. Terrible, I know.

I could show you but I'm too embarrassed to take the picture.

Maybe next weekend there will be time.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 15 - This is hard

Half way through this daily blog posting month and in case you haven't noticed, I have run out of stuff to write about.

It's a Friday. Middle of November. Montréal, Québec. It's cold. It's dark early.

Hard to find the motivation to do much of anything:  get up for work, exercise, sort through pictures, read, write. Not much different than January and February, really.

I suppose the thing to do is to look for the good things. For me right now, I'm enjoying cooking a lot. I remember the years in Club Med when I couldn't cook a single thing, ever. Some people would love that. I didn't. It would also be safe to say that last winter in India, I found it hard not to be able to cook.  Do you know what happens when you can't cook? For me, I start to imagine the most elaborate meals. All my favourite foods. Menus with pizza for each course. Menus with cheese for each course. All kinds of ridiculous and wonderful meals.

So. What'll be on the menu for next week?

(Will try harder to find something interesting for tomorrow.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 14 - TED Talks

About a month after coming home from India, I decided to cancel my cable television service. I still have internet and I still have the AppleTV box, so I have access to fun stuff like Netflix.

Thanks to not having cable, I have done two things:

  1. I have been reading more.
  2. I have discovered TED Talks.
FYI - According to the TED website, they have over 1500 talks! That's a lot of video to watch. Not all of it will be interesting for me but there's still all kinds of stuff that is fascinating. If you have the chance to poke around on their website, or maybe watch a few videos, I think you'll find that regardless of the the topic, most of their presenters are quite remarkable speakers. I love that.

It's been over 3 months now and I think the only show I missed watching was the fourth season of Downton Abbey.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 13 - New computer

The company I work for has a great program. When our office supplied laptops get replaced, we have the option of purchasing our old laptops for a very good price. This is the only way I've been able to afford a new computer at home, every three years, for the last 9 years.

Just before I left Montreal for India, last January, I was advised that it was time to replace my laptop. However, seeing as I was going to be away on a leave of absence during the order processing time, I was told I would have to wait until my return in June to place this order.

So I went to India and I came home again. (Am asking myself why an awful lot lately, mostly thanks to the hideously cold weather.) I placed the order for the new laptop and the day came that I could pick up the new laptop and use that at my desk. Yeah! - a computer that worked faster (or so I'm told.)  Naturally, the IT department had to hang on to the old one for a little while to make sure of ... whatever they make sure of. A little while turned out to be a little longer than I thought possible. At long last, I picked up my old computer yesterday. Very nearly three months (I had been expecting about 1 month) from the time I picked up the new laptop, they finally decreed I could take my old one home.

I shouldn't complain. For less than $100 I have replaced this machine I'm using right now. It will be the weekend before I'm able to transfer my files and whatever else I should do. (May need to put in a call to Brother #1. *Ahem* - Hi, Eric!)

All of this to bring me to my point:  where can I get rid of an old laptop? It's 6 years old. It works fine. It's not fancy but it's pretty reliable. What happens to this poor thing that's been with me to India and back? Anybody have suggestions? I'd love to do something useful with it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 12 - Sunday Cooking

Originally drafted on Sunday, before I had iTunes problems that messed up my head and I needed to vent so this post had to wait.

Venting done. Let's get down to business ...

Recently an acquaintance told me that in her Italian community, the question of the day on a Sunday is "Have you made your sauce yet?"  I smiled and lauged at the time. It made me think that my question of the day on a Sunday is usually "What am I cooking this week?"

For my weekly cook fest, I've only got 2 items to work on. By the way, am still eating last week's leftovers - everything I made, made a lot.  That's lunch Monday and Tuesday sorted!

In pictures:

Kale, potato and rosemary tart - Not so sure about this. Don't feel the potatoes had enough time to cook. **** Update: I was wrong! Potatoes are cooked through! But crust is overcooked and tastes burnt. Gross. The rest is delicious though. Will make it again, with a few modifications.








Homemade tomato sauce, as it was simmering. It got poured on top of some store-bought manicotti pre-stuffed and frozen (shameful, I know) but at least I made my own sauce. We can't all be domestic goddesses every week.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 11 - Remembrance Day

Chester's grave
On this 11th day of the 11th month, I am remembering my Grandmother's brother. We never met. He died 24 years before I was born (somebody will need to check my math on this.)

Here's a picture of his grave, and below, one of the cemetery where he is buried in Germany.

While I was an au-pair for a family in Munich in 1988-1989, I was lucky enough to be the one person in my family to ever make the journey to this site. To this day, there is not a year that goes by that I don't remember this visit.

The pictures were taken for my Grandmother as she had never had the chance to visit herself. Can you imagine how hard that must be, to never see your brother's final resting place? Hurts to think about. I would like to ask Grandma just how she feels about not visiting herself. Does she feel regret? Loss? What?

I would also like her to tell me the story that she told me once, many years ago. Here's how I remember it. For the record, it's entirely possible I'm making some up this up, but it's what I think I remember:  At the end summer of 1945, she was up at the cottage (I think) and she'd gotten up in the middle of the night. As she gazed at the night sky, she saw a shooting star and thought to herself, that's Chester, he's gone now. When the news came to the family that her brother had been killed in the war, she told me it wasn't really a surprise because she'd known, the instant she'd seen that shooting star, that he'd fallen.

Grandma is not a fanciful woman. She's thrifty, practical and honest. It wouldn't be like her to make up a story like that (at least for me.) Still, whenever I think of this story, it gives me chills.

Rest in peace, Great Uncle Chester.

Durnbach British and Canadian Military Cemetery

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 10 - Technology

This is not at all the post I thought I would be writing today. Given that it's Sunday, I thought I'd write about what I'm cooking this week. But nooooo, technology has a way of stepping in at the most inconvenient time. Today is one of those days.

Somehow, some application necessary to iTunes has been deleted from my computer (don't ask) and I am now unable to do certain actions. I have had to remove iTunes from my computer and am now in the process of re-installing the whole thing. That sighing you hear? It's me.

It seems like every week I'm having to install, update or otherwise refresh some software on my computer. Today is one of those days where it drives me nuts. I am not a patient person by nature. All this installing, updating and otherwise refreshing ... can we say impatient?!

The pictures and brief text of what I'm cooking this week will just have to wait.

Blame it on technology.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Day 9 -Toys For Tickets

Have you heard about this program? In Red Deer, Alberta, people who receive parking tickets from 1 November to 6 December can pay with toys. Toys, people!

Apparently this program was launched 7 years ago and they have received approximately 3,300 to date so that less fortunate kids wake up to a Christmas present. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and cuddly inside?

Can we do this here, Montreal?

(Thanks to George Stroumbolopoulos for posting the link on twitter the other day.)

Friday, November 08, 2013

Day 8 - Up On The Roof

Last Sunday Brother #3 fitted new insulation around the air conditioning pipes up on the roof.  This was one of the issues addressed during the home inspection a few weeks ago.

Saturday we bought the supplies and Sunday morning we climbed up to the roof and fixed it all up. For $5 it was all done in about 20 minutes.

Here are a few pictures of the results.

Hello up there!

View from the roof

Newly insulated pipes

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Day 7 - Foodie Night With A Friend

A fellow foodie friend (Coucou Thanh-Thuy!) is on her way over for dinner tonight.

On the menu:

  • Grainy bread with 2 kinds of cheese and cream cheese
  • Steamed clams
  • Pumpkin and roasted squash soup
  • Leek, potato & Gruyère quiche
  • Argula salad with tomatoes, radishes and carrots
  • Pumpkin and dark chocolate chip cookies
And there may be some partaking of a good bottle of wine.

Will try my hardest to remember to take a picture of each plate/bowl.

Bon appétit!


Updated several hours later ............

As promised:  pictures from dinner

Steamed clams

Grainy breads with various cheeses

Pumpkin and roasted squash soup

Leek, potato & Gruyère quiche, with argula salad

Pumpkin and dark chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Day 6 - It's beginning to feel a lot like ...

Yes, I'm about to mention Christmas. In November. In the first week of November. Yeah, yeah - I know. Me. You may be asking yourself, who is this person and what has she done with Stef? Fret not, my friends. It's really me. And I have a bone to pick with Christmas preparations.

On 2 November there were Christmas decorations strung up in the malls. The Halloween candy wasn't even on sale yet!

Over the last few days I have noticed more signs of the upcoming Silly Season. The thing that threw me tonight:  arrived home from work, went to shut the drapes in my bedroom and noticed Christmas lights on the balcony of the house across the street. I may have even shouted an "Oh, come ON!"

Why, people, why? Why do we need to do all this business now? It's no wonder people get fed up with everything. We get bombarded at every turn with a holiday that means nothing even close to what it is supposed to mean.

Just - ugh.

I'm not a "Scrooge" even though it sounds like I am. I love to bake a lot of fun treats for my friends and family. I love to give gifts to my niece and nephew. I even kind of like buying a $10 gift for the Titcombe Family Annual Pit Game (played after Christmas dinner). It's all this other nonsense that drives me crazy. Songs and lights and decorations and craziness.

It's official: Scrooge has arrived.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Day 5 - Sold!

In all the excitement a few weeks ago, somehow I forgot to mention that my condo is SOLD!

It took 23 days and buyers are paying just over 98% of the asking price. Not too shabby. I will need to move by 1 March. This is good as it will give me lots of time to find something good for me.

Selling my condo this time was a whole lot easier than 4 years ago. Feeling good about my agent, the sale price and pretty much everything right now.

You should've seen me do my happy dance when I found out. I hadn't quite expected the deal to go through, and was resigned to having it on the market for a little longer. But no, the deal came through in the end and I couldn't be happier.

There are a few little things to take care:  fix 2 windows so they open AND close, and replace the insulation on some pipes on the roof.  Wanna see something cool?  Brother #3 was able to fix one of the windows (and was very quick and thorough installing the insulation on the a/c pipes on the roof). Here's a video to prove it can close without any funny business.

video

Monday, November 04, 2013

Day 4 - Tell me why I don't like Mondays

If ever there was a day that was hard to get through, Monday would be it. Unless of course, it's a Tuesday after a long weekend.

Mondays are hard work. I've been doing some online reading (read: wasting time) to see if there's a reason for this, and all I can tell you is that it's basically a reminder that we work, so we can live, so we can take the occasional holiday. Sigh. Not the most motivating of results.

But at least we have music (you knew this would come up) - and you can thank Mr. Geldof and the rest of The Boomtown Rats for the ever popular, especially on a Monday, Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays, to help you through the end of it.

Granted, the history surrounding the song isn't uplifting but Geldof reasoned it was the perfect senseless song to illustrate a senseless act (shooting spree at an elementary school in California.)  Strangely enough, this is another way to remember people who have passed away.

Dia de los muertos
Diwali
Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays
Remembrance Day (Canada)

I'm starting to think November is Remembrance Month. Huh

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Day 3 - Diwali

Today is the start of Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, in India (and a number of other Asian countries).  After my little sojourn there earlier this year, this is one of those festivals I do wish I had been there to see and experience for myself.

If you don't know anything about Diwali, maybe a few pictures will entice you to learn a bit about it.  You can check out some beautiful photographs here, and also here.

Ah well, one day, right? Right!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Day 2 - Coffee

2 November - An ode to coffee

If I was a poet, I really would write an ode to coffee.

Weekdays, I don't drink coffee at home. There's just no time in the morning before leaving for work. The coffee at work isn't so much coffee as industrial machine clogged with gunk to provide you with, some days more than others, a coffee inspired beverage. On average, I would guess I end up buying coffee from a shop once a week.

Weekends I drink coffee at home. It's the first thing that happens after I get up. Before a shower, before turning on the computer, before de-arming the alarm system. The kettle is filled and plugged in for coffee.

I must admit to spending a little more for coffee beans than I would normally budget for food, but it does make a difference. I figure it lasts a long time and it's only for weekends, so why not, right?

After pouring the hot water over the ground coffee, I let it steep for exactly 4 minutes before pressing the plunger on the French press. Then I pour the coffee over warm milk (yes, I am just like my Grandmaman) and, as they say, Bob's your uncle!  He actually really is, in this case, no joke.

That first sip is what wakes me up. No more morning breath. Now it's full on coffee breath. Taste buds are alive with the heat of the coffee, that mix of bitter coffee with creamy (fine - skim ...) milk. Soooo tasty going down. And a few minutes after that, I can almost feel my brain waking up. No more is it a question of time - generally a few hours - before I feel fully awake, now it's just minutes.

Wakey, wakey!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Day 1 - NaBloPoMo

I'm not selling drugs. I'm going to try and blog every day this month - National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo)

1 November - Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. Ever since I started learning Spanish (1987?) and more so since I lived in Mexico (1995 - 1997), Dia de los Muertos has intrigued me far more than Halloween:  "honoring the deceased using sugar skulls,marigolds, and the favourite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts." (Thank you Wikipedia)

In the same way that spirituality is different for everyone, for me the Day of the Dead is about remembering. I remember friends who died as teens. The friends' parents who died far too young. Family members who died unexpectedly. And lately, my grandparents dying - except for my incredible 99 year old Grandma.

The weather was all over the place here in Montreal today. Cloudy, stormy, sunny and windy. As usual, I took the metro home from work, and on my walk from the metro to home, the wind pushed up and around me. I watched the tree branches get tossed this way and that. Noticed the heaviness, and layers, of the clouds. It was the force of the wind against me though, that had me thinking:  maybe this wind is all the people in my life who have died and they are here, now, today, reminding me. Speaking to me from beyond the grave. Speaking to me, in their own way.  It wasn't a scary or sad feeling. It was warm. It was comforting.  I liked it. 

Remember the dead. And remember to live.

Peace.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Pen-Friend's Parents

A million years ago, Jilly and I became pen friends. We were 10 years old. Thanks to Jilly's great-aunt Lil, who was a member of my parents' church congregation, she hooked up two young girls who have been writing to each other for the last 34 years.

We haven't only written though. We've managed a few visits as well. Jilly came to Canada for a summer holiday when she was 15. The friendship we had on paper only grew as our visits became more frequent over the next 20+ years.  I was fortunate enough to be part of Jilly's wedding, and even have the great honour of being god-mother to one of her three amazing daughters. But you know, life happens, and the visits have become quite rare now (9 years since our last). Thanks to technology though, we do still write, though not as often as we did when we were teenagers.

Last night, by some amazing circumstance or something ... I don't know what to call it, but thrilled it happened - Jilly's parents were in Montreal on a tour (Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Québec City) and I was able to meet up with them and spend a few hours catching up on all the family news. What a total pleasure!

Seeing Pat & Brian has made me realise how much I have missed seeing Jilly and her family, and all the fun and laughs we've had over the years. Clearly a visit is long overdue and you know me, I love to travel! But it's also high time Jilly and John (her husband), make the trek over from England to spend a little holiday in Montréal.

Here's a little picture of the three of us from last night.

With Brian &  Pat

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Change

How many more times will I have the chance to sit at my desk and look out this window?
Even the tennis ball that I constantly roll under my foot :)
When has change often occurred in your life? Is it the spring, summer, fall or winter?  For me spring doesn't usually bring a lot of change (that I can think of) but rather fall. Fall is the time that I have mostly, but not always, moved to other countries, other homes, other jobs, other relationships.

This fall I hope to be moving. I signed the papers with my real estate agent last week, and today a photographer stopped by to take the pictures that will help sell the place.  I won't be moving far. No more lengthy trips to India (this year). I'll stay in Montreal but hope to find a nicer, quieter neighbourhood. No more drunken fools outside my bedroom window every night of the week, no more lifetime supply of earplugs.

Tempting to write about Montreal's delicate political climate but I'm not nearly articulate enough to present an argument properly. Suffice it to say, I'm staying - for now.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

44 (?)

Today's my 44th birthday. How did that happen?!

Today I can honestly say I don't feel my age. Granted, 2 glasses of rosé might have something to do with that but whatever.  Yesterday was an entirely different story. And who knows what tomorrow will feel like.

I have big plans for the next year. More yoga, more triathlons, more books, more photos. But first, the thing I need most right now, is a little more laughter.  Work in progress.

Peace and may all your lives be filled with some really big belly laughs.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Miss Representation

I have just finished watching Miss Representation and have pledged to take action to immediately make a difference:

1. Tell 5 people (hopefully more than 5 people will read this but I have also posted on twitter, so that must count for at least 5 people combined) about the film and share the trailer: http://bit.ly/MissRepTrailer

2. Parents- watch TV and films with your children.  Raise questions like “What if that character had been a girl instead?” (I don't have kids, but would encourage my friends and family with children, to pose the question.)

3. Remember your actions influence others. Mothers, aunts and loved ones- don’t downgrade or judge yourself by your looks. Fathers, uncles and loved ones—treat women around you with respect.  Remember children in your life are watching and learning from you.

4. Use your consumer power. Stop buying tabloid magazines and watching shows that degrade women. Go see movies that are written and directed by women (especially on opening weekend to boost the box office ratings). Avoid products that resort to sexism in their advertising.

5. Mentor others! It’s as easy as taking a young woman to lunch. Start by having open and honest conversations with a young person in your life.

You are now dialed into a national movement to stand up to sexism and challenge the media's limiting portrayals of gender. Together we will make a huge impact on contemporary society.

Don't forget to visit missrepresentation.org for frequent updates and other ways of getting involved.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Back in the kitchen

Finally started cooking again.  Look at these tasty little treats!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Canada Day Weekend

Pictures from our Canada Day weekend are up here.

We had a lot of fun. It was sunny and warm-ish and there was plenty of good food.. It was great to see all the family together again - first time since Christmas.  Also crazy to see how much Darcy & Wesley grew in the last six months.

Happy to be home!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Neat Freak-ness Pays Off

Got up, showered, dressed, made the bed, did my hair and just as I was starting to put my make-up on BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP ... BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP ... BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP ...

The CO alarm in my hallway was going off and waking up anybody in a 1km radius.  It scared the living daylights out of me. That alarm is loud! How happy am I that it didn't go off in the middle of the night? Ridiculously happy.

I pulled the alarm out of the plug in the wall and unplugged the battery. Once the alarm stopped and I could hear myself think again, I read the instructions on the alarm and it seemed it was telling me I needed to get out into fresh air and call 911. Not exactly great timing but I figured I'd better do what it said even if I was pretty sure there was no way there could be a gas leak and now I would be late for work.

After calling 911 and explaining the situation, I took the food compost out for pick-up and before I could get back to the bathroom to finish putting on my make-up, the firemen were pulling up outside my building. Ten minutes later they were gone. Five of them came in, one with some kind of machine to read gas levels (I guess) and they tested everywhere. The fireplace, the bbq, the vents, the drains, the water tank. In the end, it seems this high humidity (I don't think it's that humid but apparently others feel differently) played a mean trick on the CO sensor and set it off.

Now, if you're ever planning to have 5 unannounced firemen (although when are firemen ever expected in your home, unless you're putting together some kind of fundraising calendar ;) hee, hee!), you'll be pretty glad to have made your bed and have everything in the house in its place. No dishes in the sink. Counters tidy. Cushions placed just so. Bed made. Clothes put away. Etc. I can certainly tell you I was very relieved there were no unsightly dishes sitting around or a messy bed to be looked upon by complete strangers. Believe me, I was pretty happy that my neat freak-ness finally paid off.

So yeah, my house was clean and there was no gas leak to worry about!  But then I realised I had 5 people tramping through my house in their big fireman boots and now I will have to clean the floors. Also, this made me 3 minutes late for work.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Out of India

While I'm in India I'll be keeping track of events, adventures and stuff over at Stef Out of India. You will find me posting there starting in February, once I get a wifi connection sorted out.

I hereby solemnly swear to post many pictures and make you very jealous ;)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Another "last"

Today is my last day at work for the next five months! To say I'm excited about my Indian Adventure would be putting it mildly, to say the least.

The refrain in my head these last few days has mostly been something along the lines of "GAH!" and "Lalala!!!" and "Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta-tah!!!" and other ridiculous exclamations.

That is all. (Too excited to focus on what I'm writing any longer.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Last week in Montreal

Down to the final 7 day countdown!  Next Monday I leave for nearly a week of Chocolate, Cheese & Hysteria Therapy (aka Switzerland with my best friend.) Two weeks from today I'll be in India!  Woot!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back "home"

What's that saying about "you can't go home?"  Well, I have but I haven't.  Having rented out my condo and the last minute change in departure date, somehow I find myself moved into my parents' house for two whole weeks before I leave for India.  My parents' house is not "home" the way the house in Lachine was "home", if you know what I mean.

My stay at what is jokingly referred to as the Titcombe B&B in NDG is off to a rough start.

Moving Day 1 & 2: Track slush and muck all over carpets and hardwood floors.
Day 1:  Wake up with fever, go to work, come home at lunch time and sleep all afternoon.
Day 2:  Blow a fuse drying my hair at 6am.
Day 3:  What could tomorrow possibly bring? I'm afraid I will overstay my welcome as a guest at the Titcombe B&B pretty fast if anything else happens ...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Visa update?

8:30am

Does this sound to you like my visa for India has come through:

"Processed application has been dispatched from the Operations hub to the Indian Visa and Consular Services Centre, Application Centre Montreal on 09-Jan-2013."


Yes? No? Maybe?


4:00pm - Update

"Your application is ready for collection at the Indian Visa and Consular Services Centre, Application Centre Montreal where you had submitted your application."

I think this means my visa is ready. I think.

6:42pm - Update

YES!  It was ready! I have it! I have my visa for India!  Woot!!!

India, here I come!  (After I buy my ticket (now that I know I can get in the country), of course.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Another week down

Counting down like nobody's business and have crossed another week off the waiting list.

Trying hard to be patient. Not easy.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Coming together

Ever so slowly, things are coming together as I prepare for my 5 month stint in India.

Tonight I signed the lease to rent my condo for 3 months, with the option for an additional 2 months, if the guy needs it.  This is a huge, and I do mean HUGE, relief for me. It will make all things budget related that much more manageable while I'm gone.

Now if my visa would just come through, I'd be able to start breathing again.