Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wintersong





Winter has arrived at the lake. It is not yet frozen, but it won't be long before everything is buried under a blanket of snow and ice. Unbelievably, the five loons are still together, swimming through the icy waters. I wonder when they'll head for warmer climes? I wish I could join them, but for now, I'll don my snowshoes and push through the cedars and birch and spruce, their branches heavy laden and sparkling in the low winter sun, and marvel at the beauty that is a Canadian winter.











Friday, November 28, 2008

Never Give Up

I am a subscriber to Darren Rowse's wonderful, online Digital Photography School. If you have an interest in learning how to use a digital camera, or simply want to learn how to take better shots, this is a great resource. There are lessons on every subject - lighting, portraiture, composition, exposure - and a forum to post photos for critique or ask your questions. Everything is explained in a simple, straightforward manner and beginners are encouraged to just jump right in.

Although the post linked below was written for budding photographers, it can also be applied to those writers out there who are struggling to stay positive and focused. Remember you're not alone, be free to make mistakes, accept criticism and reflect on it so that you can improve, find others who share your passion, embrace your successes big and small, and never, ever give up.

Go Here to read it.

Have a glorious weekend everyone. Remember, miracles can happen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Six things you may not know about me

I've been tagged by my friend Laura at The Grape Journal who has asked me to list six things you may not know about me. I don't usually do these sorts of tag things, but I love The Laura so I'll do it for her.

1. Well, Laura mentioned she doesn't watch ER because it freaks her out. I, on the other hand, love medical shows and would cheerfully sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch an autopsy because I like knowing what the body is all about. I have watched every episode of ER since it first aired, and it paid off, as fate would have it. Years ago, when Doug's knee popped out of joint in the middle of the night and he was writhing in agony, I grabbed his ankle and calf with both hands, leaned back, and popped his knee back into place. He had instant relief, and asked how it was I knew what to do. I said I'd seen it on ER. Thanks, Dr. Mark Green.

2. I have met, and had a conversation with both Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, but not on the same day.

3. People think of me as very outgoing and social when in fact I'm anything but. Given my druthers, I prefer to be alone with a good book. Paradoxically, I also like to have people nearby as opposed to me living alone in a cabin, which is why I've enjoyed being in the heart of a bustling city like New York or London or Paris or even (whispering) Toronto. I think this misconception of me as gregarious stems from from the fact that I tend to babble when I'm in a crowd, which is more out of nervousness than anything else. To quote Mike Myers, I'm a "site specific extrovert" in other words, I rise to the occasion. I do, however, also have the reputation of getting people to open up and reveal their most intimate secrets, often within minutes of meeting me, to their surprise and mine. To quote Geoffrey Rush, "It's a mystery."

4. One of my favourite desserts is creme caramel. I had it every day for two weeks while on our honeymoon in Paris. I was also pregnant and didn't know it (which explained the cravings for Snickers Bars and olives eaten together.) I brought home our baby exactly nine months to the day we married, which the nurses thought was high-larious.

5. I've never been able to wear anything but natural fabrics - silk, cotton or wool. Putting me in anything synthetic produces a meltdown of epic proportions. I'm shuddering just thinking about it.

6. I've always wanted to fly. Not in a plane, but actually fly like a bird. I jumped off the roof of our house not once but twice when I was a kid. The first time was with a homemade parachute made of garbage bags, and the second time was with the patio umbrella. Neither attempt brought satisfactory results.

I now tag:

Bush Babe (because I'm curious) (okay, nosey)

kc dyer at leftwriter (because I know it annoys her)

Lottery Girl (because she's been offline lately and I miss her)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why I love Montreal Reason # 873

When the weather turns cold and gray and wet, we (and by "we" I mean "I") turn to comfort food. And what better place to find it than here in Quebec, home of poutine and steamies.

It's difficult to explain poutine (pronounced "pootzin") to someone who has never experienced it. It's like trying to explain an orgasm; once you've had one, you just know, but until then, it all sounds pretty sketchy.

Poutine doesn't sound or even look remotely appetizing, so it's hard to convince visitors to give it a try. Basically it consists of french fries, topped with cold cheese curds then smothered in hot barbeque chicken gravy. It's important that the curds are cold because the idea is to prevent them from melting completely under the hot gravy so that when you eat them, the cheese squeaks against your teeth. As you dig through the hot fries however, the curds do get gooey and the strands end up plastered all over your chin. Definitely not a First Date Food, although if my husband-to-be had taken me out for this, he could have skipped the whole flowers and movie and sweet-talking schtick and just fast-forwarded to third base. What can I say? I turn into Carb Gal every fall. (Not in the other three seasons, no sir. Just raw veggies and tofu for me in those seasons.)


Where you go to get your poutine is also clutch. You'll find roadside stands called casse-croutes or chains like Lafleur's or La Belle Province all over Quebec. The fries are best when fresh and cut by hand, and if you can get them cooked in lard, better still. Proper fries are always cooked twice, once to cook the inside, then again to brown the outside. Unlike McFries, they are fat and soft and greasy, real chest-clutchers. The gravy is also important, as it shouldn't be too salty and have a nice, robust, spicy flavour.

Then of course there are the steamies "all dressed" which are simply hotdogs stuffed in top-loading, steamed buns which are slightly soggy and chewy (the rest of Canada uses side loading buns apparently, and why does this NOT surprise me?) Then you smother it in onions, mustard and fresh coleslaw, most of which ends up down the front of your shirt. They always come in pairs.

Toasted buns are always offered on the menu. No one ever orders a toasted bun. Ever. It's like a chef's salad in the land of the Golden Arches. They offer it, but they don't really mean it.

Sure this meal is loaded with fat and sodium and pig parts you probably don't want to know about. It'll kill you if you eat enough of it, but you'll die with a big greasy smile on your face.

I guess I should go on a field trip and experience it firsthand. For my readers' sakes.

You'll have to come hither and try it for yourself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My pond is frozen and so am I

Go, sit upon the lofty hill, and turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild, do hymn an autumn sound.The summer sun is faint on them — the summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone, except your musing heart.How there you sat in summer-time, may yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing, beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around, you would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees, doth cause a leaf to fall.
Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth, that flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings, when change is on the heart.
Hear not the wind — view not the woods; look out o’er vale and hill —
In spring, the sky encircled them — the sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold — come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound, can ne’er be desolate.

With thanks and apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but I have to respectfully disagree. I will count down the days until spring. Until then, I might be a tad crabby.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This is so NOT a snowflake

As some of you know, when he's not drilling, filling and billing teeth, my husband lives to play music. In fact, he's been known to sit at the keyboard singing his heart out for four or five hours at a time. He has actually reached the point where he's been forced to stop because his stomach muscles ache, and I have actually reached the point where I want to tear his stomach muscles out with my salad tongs if I hear one more verse of Elinor Rigby. But I don't, because he loves it, and I love him, and I love to hear his voice raised in song (just not in the concert equivalent of a full marathon.) He and his buddies sometimes play together at our cottage, setting themselves up in the basement where the acoustics are such that the whole house is filled with joyous noise, for hours and hours, which I enjoy whilst the other wives sip gin and tonics on their docks and listen to the loons of the avian variety.

Together, they call themselves The Olde Farts Band. They may need bifocals to read the music, but by gosh they know how to rock like it's 1974.

There's my husband "The Molar Man" providing vocals.

There's John "The Marathon Man" on keyboard. He favours Billy Joel and Elton John tunes. John is a defense attourney in his other life, and he runs marathons for fun. To me, that's like saying, "I gargle broken glass for fun!" He says he enjoys it, though his agonized Long Distance Runner face and sweat-soaked clothing seem to indicate otherwise. I always make an effort to join him, metaphorically speaking, by raising my coffee mug high above my Sunday newspaper to salute him in a show of solidarity as he slogs around the lake.

There's Ross "The Glass Man" (he owns a glass company) who is Doug's cousin and technically not a member of the band as he claims he has no musical talent, so he operates more as a roadie. He provides moral support and cold Laurentide beer and the occasional tree-felling service. He has a long-standing love affair with his chainsaw and refuses to upgrade, despite the choking haze of blue exhaust from its stuttering motor. When the music moves his soul i.e. early rock and roll, he dances with wild and unfettered abandon, hence his other nickname "The Rubber Man."

And then there's Claude "The Pad Man" on guitar, a gentle giant of a guy with a big heart. Now, you're probably asking yourself how Claude got his moniker. He designs and manufactures Feminine Hygiene Products, or more specifically, sanitary napkins. Now, like most men, in his early days of marriage he was never comfortable tripping the light fantastic down the Aisle That Shall Not Be Named. That is until he began a career in analyzing Aunt Flo's monthly visits, and it opened up the flood gates, as it were. Sitting at a dinner table, he will wax poetic about the quick release backing on one's panty liner faster than you can say "pass the salt." He will reach into the nearest handbag or bathroom cabinet to back up his assertions that there's more, so much more, to the humble pad than meets the eye. He even donated a jacket, which I won in a golf tournament, that reads "Be Nuts for Peanuts," peanuts being common parlance for the panty liners with the unique peanut shape. Though they've never met, here is a Brother In Arms, hard at work to change public perception.



You have to love the woman who asked "Are you a snowflake?" Seriously. I know we live in a cold climate and we get a lot of snow, but how many snowflakes have you seen that look like a giant sanitary pad?

Oh, and if anyone has any free time next summer, the bands needs a drummer. Any volunteers? We have cold Laurentides and an unlimited supply of pads with your name on them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lives I (not so secretly) Covet Part 23

My Canadian writer friend Laura lives in France with her handsome French husband and three adorable daughters with names that are as beautiful as they are. She is surrounded by the French countryside, is within driving distance of Paris (le sigh) and can get fresh baguettes and croissants and wine from the vineyards that are situated right there, in the surrounding villages. She and her husband offer vacation rentals in several homes they have restored over the years, and they arrange wine tasting tours. They even have a vaulted wine cellar in one of their homes for tastings, and you can search her blog to see photos of the restoration (look up Beaune Wine Cellar Project.) If she feels so inclined, Laura can hop over to a local chateau or two to just hang.

In my village, I can get my tires rotated and my clothes dry-cleaned. The only "chateau" around here is the one with the big neon sign advertising barbeque chicken and fries. We used to have an excellent local bakery, but that closed. A new pub/bakery opened up down the road, and while the beer is good, especially when served alongside a hockey game on the big screen, the fresh, flaky croissants au chocolat and chewy baguettes are a longer walk away. We don't have vineyards but we can buy wine in our local depanneurs (corner shops) and grocery stores.

And so I live vicariously through Laura's wonderful posts and photos on her blog THE GRAPE JOURNAL. If you have not done so, I urge you to head over and check it out HERE. She's a brilliantly funny writer and captures that je ne sais quoi we all love about France.

My ultimate fantasy is to go and rent one of her beautiful homes for two months to just write and eat and walk and think and eat and drink and eat. Okay, strictly speaking that's not my ultimate fantasy, but it is in the top ten. Buckingham Palace, Johnny Depp and a royal sceptre feature prominently in my ultimate fantasy, but it's pretty darn close.



Bisous from Canada!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bridesmaid Dresses or, It seemed like a good idea at the time

Bush Babe, one of my favourite bloggers, just posted a sweet and touching story about her wedding. I'd share one of my wedding photos with you but my scanner has gone belly up and is currently pining for the fjords. (Bonus points and initiation into ANW's personal fan club if you know what that means.)

I thought about wedding stories I could share, and there was one, tiny hiccup at the ceremony that still freaks out my husband of twenty-three years. The sweet woman in charge at the church had early, undiagnosed dementia and forgot to come and get me. The music started, and everyone stood, including the groom, and looked expectantly at the chapel doors. No bride. The organist went through the Entire Song, stopped, then played it AGAIN in its entirety. Still no bride, and at this point, the groom started to sweat and was convinced his beloved bride had bolted. Nope, she was downstairs, oblivious, peering in a mirror, chatting to the maid of honour, wondering when the woman was coming back to bring her upstairs. It was soon sorted out and the wedding proceeded. The relief on my soon-to-be husband's face was palpable, although it was tempered by the agony of having to endure the music a third time.

The reception, like the wedding, was a small affair without a professional photographer or speeches or flowers or any other folderol generally associated with weddings so we only have a handful of photos that guests took for us. We just wanted to get married, so we did it simply, in front of 48 invited guests, in an old chapel at McGill University. And then, in our "going away" outfits and with confetti in our hair, we ran from the reception and hopped on to a plane bound for Paris. There, in the City of Love, we took the motto a little too literally and came home pregnant. Our first child was brought home nine months to the day we married. And then fourteen months later, I was pregnant again. And then fourteen months after that... Let me put it this way - on my fourth wedding anniversary, I was expecting our third child. All I can say is, do NOT honeymoon in the City of Love unless you mean business. I would suggest you go to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, instead.

What I can show you is a photo of my sister "Yutha" and her husband at her wedding. My sister "Brink" and I are bridesmaids. I'm on the right, Brink is on the left, and the sister responsible for our dresses is in the middle. My question is, should we forgive her?

Bear in mind that when I stood beside my husband, a tall, handsome clean-cut kind of guy in a suit, we looked exactly like Barbie and Ken. (Yutha, do you have a photo of us?) Well, strictly and anatomically speaking, he isn't exactly like Ken. See City of Love above for clarification on that count.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Tommy Emmanuel and his Magic Guitar

Well, actually it's Tommy who is magic. I defy you to sit still when you listen to him play. I couldn't help but tap my feet, then I started drumming my fingers, then I found myself swaying with my eyes closed just absorbing his music. He's electrifying. Thank you Bush Babe for bringing him to my attention. How could I have not heard of him before now? If you like these, check out some of his other performances on YouTube - Angelina, a Beatles Medley, and Imagine. Oh, be still my heart....

Here are some highlights:

Guitar Boogie



Over the Rainbow



And a lesson/performance of Michelle for Claude "The Pad Man" so he can play this with the O.F. band next summer along with John "The Marathon Man" and Doug "My Main Man" and Ross "The Glass Man" alternatively known as "The Rubber Man" for his skills on the dance floor, especially after a few Laurentides:



And an update - Claude "The Pad Man" countered with THIS guy, Andy McKee. I've never heard of him, either. Would anyone like to see the rock I've been hiding under for the last few years?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Photos from a Foggy Fall Day

We've had some really warm weather the last few days, and since I live just up the street from a large lake (part of the great St. Lawrence River) we sometimes get morning fog. This is what our street looked like when I walked to the car yesterday. Not exactly one worth framing seeing as it was garbage day, but it gives you an idea about how thick the fog was.



On a sunny day, it looks more like this:


So I stopped at a local park on the water and took some shots. Enjoy! The guy cleaning out the pond thought I was nuts. I was photographing the leaves as fast as he was scooping them out.





This one wasn't enhanced in any way. It's a straight out of camera shot, around 9 a.m., looking right at the sun. The quality of the light was amazing.







Have a fantastic weekend everybody!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Star Wars A Capella

Okay, how genius is this? What a talent.

This is for geeks and nerds and Star Wars fans and John Williams fans and movie buffs EVERYWHERE.

With thanks to Eldest for bringing it to my attention!

Brilliant! Enjoy! Send your friends! Sing along! Laugh your patootie off! And then let me know what you think!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm Singing the Sugar Blues

One of the many pieces of advice the wonderful Vicki Pettersson gave in her workshop was this - writing is ACTIVE. Nutrition and fitness are connected to managing yourself as a writer. So I've begun another journey, one that leads me towards wellness, and that means stepping up the daily walks with The Budster, and changing my eating habits. Doesn't that sound tra la la wonderful?

I'm sure you know the old adage "when momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

Well, giving up my long love affair with sugar and carbs means ain't nobody happy around here at the moment. Let me pass on this bit of sage advice. When in the throes of withdrawal, do NOT clean out the dining room and then ask your husband to throw out his old textbooks from dental school. (Don't ask me why they were stacked in our dining room. Just don't.) Because it will result in a meltdown of epic (one-sided) proportions with momma insisting, "You haven't cracked open even ONE of these books in years. Throw them in the recycling box!" And him, equally stubborn, countering with oh, they're stayin' baby, totally missing the irony that he's sneezing from the dust because THEY HAVEN'T BEEN OPENED IN TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. His argument? "You never know."

Holy Moses in his underpants! Yes I do. I know they're going to sit here for another twenty-five years and we're going to be having this same argument (sorry, DISCUSSION) again, only next time, he's going sneak them into The Home where I know I'll end up pushing them out of the way with my walker until the fateful day when I trip over them and BREAK MY HIP.

Well, I am nothing if not calm and rational, so we reached a compromise - the books can go but he wants me to haul them down to our local thrift shop and donate them. Now, call me crazy, but I'm fairly confident the casual browser who is looking for a book on crockpot recipes or muffins for every occasion will not want to bring home ORBAN'S ORAL HISTOLOGY AND EMBRYOLOGY or THE STOMATIOGNATHIC SYSTEM - FUNCTION, DYSFUNCTION & REHABILITATION. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe someone would interested in a medical textbook with graphic black and white photos of the gnarliest teeth and gums imaginable, or as I like to refer to it, The Worst Case Scenario guidebook for what happens when you don't floss.

We'll see. In the meantime, I can now walk around the dining table without tripping. Of course, now I have to tackle the TBR stack beside my bed.