Friday, September 28, 2012

Heeeere's Gianni

As I said before, I've met and chatted with more people downtown in just a few weeks than in years of living in the suburbs. It helps that I'm walking with a dog that makes people smile. Many stop and coo over him. This morning, I was stopped by a little Italian man who lives around the corner.

"Hey, I've seen you before, I know your dog!"

Next thing you know, we're having a grand old chat about life in Canada, and in Montreal in particular. He's from Bari, Italy.

"You know it?" No. "Well, the best pizza comes from there. And from Napoli. Bari and Napoli, we make the best pizza. And focaccia. You want good focaccia, you go to Bari. Focaccia alla barese. It don't get better than that."

I ask if I can snap his photo. "Sure, you can, beautiful woman. You a beautiful woman, you can take my picture. You married?"

Oh oh. But I think (hope) he's just being inquisitive and this isn't a pick-up line.

Yes, happily, yes, yes, very happy, yes. I ask him if he's married.

"Oh yes. But no children. So that's why I travel, everywhere, all the time. You got to live. Everybody, they don't live. They work, to buy all these things, but they don't live. Me? I live."

He smacks me on the arm as I walk away.

"I like you! I see you again!"

Ciao, Gianni.

A few blocks later, Buddy and I find ourselves in some kind of soccer game for an insurance company and he's made another new friend.

 Life in the city.

It is not boring.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Love This

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

My Typical Morning Walk



I have met and talked to more people in just a few weeks of walking around downtown than I did in all of my 24 years of living in the suburbs of Montreal.

I looked out the window to see about 10 cop cars with flashing lights involved in what looked like some sort of sting operation involving trucks. Apparently they are ticketing all trucks using our street as they're not supposed to use it. I'm beyond thrilled because it means it will be much more quiet.

This morning I met a lady janitor in a blue and black flannel lumberjack shirt (we called them a Keswick Tuxedo) walking a sweet little Shih-Tzu named Fred. From her I got the name of an excellent vet who works close by.

I met a couple visiting from B.C. I stopped to ask them why they were photographing each other mailing a postcard (writers are, if nothing else, extremely nosy.)  Turns out they were traveling back across the country and mailing postcards made with his art work back to themselves in B.C. She is a teacher at U.B.C. After a few pleasantries about what to do and see in Montreal/Vancouver, they handed me two free passes to a great art exhibit at the Musee de Beaux Arts.

I saw a guy in a tweed jacket and horn rim glasses walking a miniature ginger poodle wearing a teensy baseball cap that had "HO" embroidered on it.

I directed a couple from Paris to look more closely at the Chateau apartment building to find the "hidden in plain view" fossils. Now that I know they're there, I go to look for more fossils every time I pass.

And as I was walking back into my building, a woman stopped to ask about the police operation, and we chatted about how she and her husband want to sell the house and move downtown into our building. I urged her to just do it. She urged me to join the athletic club which is right next door and left with a wave and a "see you at the club!"

I know people think a city is impersonal and everyone is rushing about, but I really feel like I'm part of a small community here.

Love. It.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What the Human Spirit Needs To Thrive

The Human Spirit
Needs Places
Where Nature
Has Not Been
By the

And if I may add, 
The Human Spirit
Also Needs
Dark Chocolate,
Good books, 
Tanqueray Gin
with a splash of
and a
served by a 

Monday, September 24, 2012

How Hard Can it Be To Cook A Squid?

Now that I'm living in the city, I have decided to be more adventurous, to take more risks, to step boldly out of the box.

I popped in the local grocery store to buy chicken breasts, and after chatting with a woman from Senegal who praised the benefits of seafood, I walked out with a package of fresh squid.

Not having prepared squid before, I turned to the internet.

How hard could it be to prepare and cook a squid?

I knew I was in trouble when I read "first cut through the arms near the eyes."

I'm sorry, the what now?

"Then," it continues, "with your thumb and forefinger" (seriously?) "squeeze out the inedible beak."

The beak. The beak? Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot?

"Reserve the tentacles."

Sweet Moses on a cracker.

"Feel inside the mantle" whatever that is "for the chitinous pen." Ditto.

I look up mantle. "A loose sleeveless garment." Nope. "A figurative cloak." Nope. "A soft external body wall that lines the test or shell of a tunicate..." Sounds about right.

I look up chitinous. "A horny polysaccaride that forms part of the hard outer integument especially of insects, arachnids, and crustaceans."

Going three for three, I look up pen.  "A small enclosure for animals." Nope. "An implement for writing." Nope. "The internal horny" (there's that word again) "feather-shaped shell of a squid." Bingo.

Now that I know what a chitinous pen inside a mantle is, I look up what I'm supposed to do with it.

"Firmly grasp the pen and attached viscera and twist it from mantle." Okay, I don't even have to look up viscera to know it's nasty, and I would imagine squid viscera is especially so. 

I regret ever meeting that woman from Senegal. Damn her and her persuasive squid sales pitch.

"Wash and drain the mantle, which you can now stuff. Arms can be minced, chopped up or left whole." 

I am encouraged to harvest the squid ink from the ink sac, a thin and silvery beauty nestled in the innards, by puncturing the ink sac and squeezing it into a small bowl. I am advised I won't get much ink, but "a little goes a long way." If I find myself wanting more (as if) "small deposits of ink can be found behind the eyes."

Holy Mother of Pearl.

Update:  When I opened the package of fresh squid, I was beyond delighted to see it was already relieved of its chitinous pen and was as clean as a nun's whistle. Yippee. Game on.

Update #2: Despite the fact that every time I walked by the bowl of raw squid I flinched, I breaded it, fried it and watched the miracle of conversion from a chitinous hot mess into calamari. A Most Excellent Meal was had by all. And by all, I mean me and Doug.
 yes, I know I'm not a food photographer...check out the squid arms which I decided to leave whole, as the idea of chopping them up hit a ten on the squeamish-o-meter

Update #3: I tossed and turned all night, and dreamed that I was diving off the coast of Portugal (why Portugal??) and a giant squid grabbed me by my legs and pulled me down into the dark ocean waters to a depth no human could survive. However, this being my dream, I fought back with a knife conveniently strapped to my leg. As my mask cracked and threatened to implode, I stabbed the giant squid's arms (which I now know are located near its eyes and can be minced, chopped up or left whole) then inflated my BCD (buoyancy control device) and rose to the surface with enough lifeless squid arm meat to feed an army.

Note to self: no more squid before bed.

Update #4, and the last one, I promise. Holy Calamari Batman, this really happened to a diver! Read about it here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Stones Walking Tour

No, not those Stones. There was no Mick or Keith in sight. I'm referring to a lecture tour about building stones used in some of the historic buildings in Montreal. It took place just a few minutes walk away from my new digs this afternoon, so I hoofed it over to McGill and joined the group.

The Redpath Museum, where the tour originated, dates to 1882, and is the oldest building in Canada built as a museum. It's also part of the science faculty of McGill University. It's mission is "to foster understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our biological, geological, and cultural heritage through scientific research, collections-based study, and education."  (I know, I know. Blah blah blah Ginger.) In brief, it holds the collection of Sir William Dawson, a Canadian natural scientist, who collected a lot of stuff. There are over 3 million objects crammed in this building - extinct animals, fossils, and the second largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in Canada (the first being the ROM in Toronto. Hurrah. All together now....we're number two, we're number two! But where would you rather go to gaze at dusty mummies? Toronto? Or Montreal where you would also go for a plate of oysters and glass of Chardy on the terrace? Exactly. And don't shoot me. I can poke fun at Toronto all I want because I was born and raised there.)

Oh, and there are dinosaurs there. But I wasn't there for the dinosaurs. I was there for the stones.

I arrived breathless (because Doug said it was a 10 minute walk over there and it actually took 20 at full speed) and looking like a kitchen skivvy, so the tour guide took one look at me and directed me to the water fountain. (This happens to me a lot.) She claimed it had "the best water in all of Montreal." And it did. But I wasn't there for the water. I was there for the stones!

So off we went to peer intently at the exteriors of a few buildings on campus, then along Sherbrooke Street, weaving amongst the well dressed families out walking their kids and dogs. The funny thing is, I had just photographed many of these same buildings last week. Back then, I had only seen the architecture, the flower boxes, the windows, or the way the light and shadows danced on the stone. I hadn't really looked closely at the stones themselves.

Take this place, for example. It's the Mount Royal Club, built in 1906. Last week, all I saw was an attractive building.

Today, I peered closely at the stone wall surrounding the building and saw these 470 million-year-old sea snails, or gastropod molds, all over the place.
Last week, I saw an apartment building built around 1925 (above and below)
 Today I discovered that the building is made of Tyndall limestone, some of the most distinctive rock found in Canada. This is the same rock used to make the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. It is also  470 million years old. And if you look at the stone walls, literally inches from your nose as you stroll along the sidewalk, you see this:

 Cephalopod fossil (above)
 Colonial Coral Fossil (above)
 Colonial coral (side view)
 Fossilized worm burrows from shrimps and crabs that slithered through the ooze on the seafloor!
 Looky looky!
 It's right there! You can just reach out and touch them!

It was pretty amazing to see all of this at our fingertips, literally right under our noses the whole time. As I walked home, I looked at all the stone walls on my walk with fresh eyes. And sure enough, as I went for groceries, I looked more closely at a wall I'd passed dozens of times on my walk with the Budster. If you look past this graffiti:

 You see this!
 And this!
 And this!
 And this funky looking grotto!
 I really love this city. More soon, including some mystery bricks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cannot Wait for This

 My favourite musical ever. Ever.

I've seen the live show several times, and I didn't have high hopes for the movie version, but they're performing live, rather than recording in the studio and acting to a playback. It will be more powerful, more real. More awesome.

How far in did you get before you started crying?


At 1:50.

This is going to be amazing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ah-Ah the Blue Monkey

Yay, technology! And yay for moms who know what really matters to a little boy. Thanks, Yutha, for the link.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kick Your What Ifs In The Butt

Always go out there


without hesitation,


give it

everything you've got.

Because if you don't,

you will always ask yourself,

"Did I do enough?"

As long as you can answer

yes, yes I did,

then it's okay.

AddendumdumDUM: I'm putting my answer here instead of the comment section because I want to make sure a certain someone sees it.

As long as you give any effort everything you have, even if you fail, you will be able to say at least I tried and I did my best.

The worst thing, the absolute worst, is not to try at all, or make a half-assed attempt because you're afraid of what people will think or you convince yourself you can't do it.

Go to the edge and jump.


Do not listen to other people. Most people are cowards. And those cowards love to tell others "you can't do it" because they're too afraid to try themselves, and pulling you back justifies THEIR decision not to try.

Failing is not something losers do.

Failing is something winners do, repeatedly, until they succeed.

Real failure is not trying.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I read and hear a lot in the news about how people in Quebec are always fighting and how no one gets along, but then I see something like this and my faith in Montreal is restored. I am having such a blast walking around the city seeing the good, bad and yes, even the ugly. Maybe even especially the ugly. But somehow, it all works. And it makes for joyful days of discovery.

Gives new meaning to the word "swingers" doesn't it?

21 Balançoires (21 Swings) from Daily Tous Les Jours on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Big Dreams Matter

"Everything is incredible and people don't accept it."

No one has the right to tell anyone else that what they're doing is unimportant.

If it matters to you, then do it.

Stay with it.

Never give up.

Meet Agustin, from Siguatepeque, Honduras.

Ravaged by childhood polio.

Confined to a wheelchair.

Lived his entire life in poverty.

Worked as a shoemaker.

He decided to build a helicopter using pieces of scrap metal collected at the dump.

And pieces from his new wheelchair, sent from the U.S.

He began in 1958.


When you are tempted to give up, think about Agustin.


Last week, while walking Buddy, I came across a dead cicada, mostly intact. Thinking I'd like to photograph it, I eased it into one of the bags set aside for Buddy's ejectamenta putidus and carefully carried it home. It wasn't easy. The wings were fragile, Buddy was frolicking, people in the city were jostling, oh, the jostling...
I got it home and gently placed it between two sliding windows in the kitchen so it could dry out, undisturbed.

I figured it was safe there. No one goes in that corner of the kitchen unless they're cooking.

And I am the only one who cooks.

The other night, as I sat at the kitchen table talking, I glanced over just as Doug opened the windows and surreptitiously tossed my cicada clear out the window. He looked over at me, puffed out his chest and said, "You are so lucky you didn't see that thing. That sucker would have freaked you out!"

A common bumblebee instead which, trust me, isn't nearly as interesting

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Little Visit to Halifax


Maritime Museum
Storm is coming
Chester, where I'm going to live some day (though I hope it's not this exact spot)

Check out the skull and crossbones to the right!
A nice chat with the craftsman who makes custom, hand-thrown, hand painted plates from Nova Scotia clay



Lunenburg Academy atop Gallows Hill, used in the movie Simon Birch
Outside my hotel

The boat I want
The boat I can afford
What happens to pirates
Used in a movie with Sandra Bullock
Halifax Harbour
Doug had a conference in Halifax last weekend so while he talked teeth and gums with all his pals, I got a chance to wander around Halifax and the south shore of Nova Scotia. And I met Eldest's boyfriend's parents, who are the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. And really, would you expect any different? The Boyfriend is a sweetheart and the east coast is one of the friendliest places on the planet.

I have always loved Nova Scotia. I put in a request with my beloved to move there thirty years ago but Dr. Doug wouldn't budge. He'd just bought his practice right before we met so he couldn't go anywhere but Montreal. We were staying at a B & B in Annapolis Royal and the two ladies who ran the place invited us to stay for a lobster dinner, even though it was not included in the price (see, I told you they were the nicest people!) And over dinner, they pitched the idea of us moving there because the town dentist was retiring and they thought Doug would be perfect. (They're nice and they're smart.) The practice even came with a house "and a crystal chandelier" (important in a dental practice) but it didn't pan out.

That summer before we got married, we took two weeks to drive around New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, along the Cape Breton Coast and all the way over to P.E.I. (back in the days when you had to go by ferry) and it was one of the best holidays we've ever had. Doug ate chowder every day, literally every day sometimes twice a day. You can't find better chowder than east coast chowder. Ditto fish cakes. And hodge podge, ooh, that's good. Do you know hodge podge? A lovely lady in Chester Basin made it for us for lunch. It was another B & B, an old frame house looking over the sea, with a garden buzzing with hummingbirds. Hodge Podge goes like this: you take as many fresh vegetables as you have on hand, and you layer them in a pot with cream and butter. You start with the veggies that take the longest (e.g., new potatoes, carrots) and you add the others (green beans, yellow beans, turnip, etc.) and you cook them for about 45 minutes until the vegetables are tender, then you spoon them in a bowl with the cream and serve it with crusty bread. Voila, a dish that "feeds the soul" as they say in N.S.

So this time around, I walked along the new (well, to me) boardwalk in the city, dined at the local restaurants, visited the Maritime Museum (exhibits about the Halifax Explosion in 1917 and the Titanic recovery) and watched Canada's only handblown crystal makers at work. Originally from Ireland, these Irish crystal makers decided after their Waterford factory closed that they would keep the tradition alive, so they moved to Nova Scotia. These men (they were all men) had to apprentice at for at least 8 years before they got to the master craftsman stage. They moved like athletes, everyone knowing their place in this choreographed dance with molten crystal. I was awestruck, and that was before I walked in the shop! I bought a little wedding gift for some friends and a birthday gift for Doug - single-malt glasses in the "Titanic" pattern, inspired by the light fixtures in the 1st class cabins. (No worries, he doesn't read this blog so the secret is safe until this weekend.) And I may have bought a teensy piece of something for moi.

If you want to read more about this Most Excellent Crystal, go HERE.