Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Goodbye to 2014

After a couple of days cooped up indoors nursing this wretched cold, I decided I needed some fresh air. We're at the cottage, and once you step outside, the only light you get is from the moonlight. It's disconcertingly dark after the bright lights of the city, and so silent you can hear the blood pounding in your ears. Well, silent except for the ice on the lake blindsiding you with a low moan or thunderous crack when you least expect it. 

It is windless tonight, thankfully, but a skin-numbing minus 16C. I armed myself with long underwear, and refused to let this stupid virus, or my fear of the dark, and that damned woo-woo-wooing lake, be the boss of me. (Plus I took Buddy and Doug along.) 

Oddly enough, there is almost no snow on the ground, crazy for this time of year and us being so far north, which meant we were able to walk with ease through the cedars and birch, guided by the moonlight, right down and then on to the lake. 

We hugged the shore and shuffled along the ice, marvelling at the sheer number of stars spread out overhead. The surface of the lake was like glass, the ice reliably thick, perfect conditions for skating literally miles without stopping, or hitting a bump or patch of snow but, as Doug pointed out, terrible for hockey because "if you miss the puck, it'll keep going forever!" 

A beautiful, perfect night and a wonderful way to say goodbye to 2014.

Happy New Year. May you find peace, happiness and joy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter in Montreal

And the view from my flat is holiday themed. This is the racquet club next door, a beautiful old Tudor style building.

This was taken very quickly out of my sunroom window one evening, on my iPad. No enhancements or post processing or filters. This is exactly what it looked like.

Note the bike leaning on the fence. Someone actually rode a bike to the club.

Winter is so not the boss of us, here in Montreal.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Do you believe in Synchronicity?

Well, my socks were blown off today.

Recently I wrote a piece on coincidences. It began like this:

Coincidence kills good fiction, as the saying goes. In fiction, we expect patterns of cause and effect. If everything happens by convenient accident, there is no buildup of suspense, no curiosity about what comes next. At best, there’s an eye roll. At worst, we exit the movie theatre or throw the book across the room. When everything is contrived, it destroys our willing suspension of disbelief. 

So why, when it happens in real life, does it seem like a small miracle? Carl Jung called that synchronicity, Deepak Chopra calls it synchro-destiny. Whatever you call it, whether a “conspiracy of improbabilities” or fate poking its cold wet nose into our hands, real life coincidence is meaningful and fills us with awe. Twins who found each other as adults. Best friends whose parents dated...

I went on to describe events in my life that were too coincidental to ignore. I didn't know what if anything they meant, but the pundits say, ask yourself what is the message, the significance? If you do, the answer will present itself. 


So here's the thing. Throughout the year, at odd times, I'll start to notice the clock saying 11:11 or 2:22. It happens often enough that I pay attention. Sometimes it's not even the real time, like the flashing clock radio in the kitchen I never bother to adjust because there's always another power failure to knock it back again. (Also, I don't know how.) So sometimes it will say 11:11 when it's really 8:02.

My sister Lisa and I have taken to texting each other when this happens. "Haha, look. It's 11:11 on 11/11!" Once the fire alarm went off at the cottage during the night, and we collided into each other in the hallway. The time? 11:11.  Then there will be nothing for months, but it will start up again, and we'll send more "BOO!" texts back and forth. It's a silly game we play.
What do you think it means, I asked her, because it happens with such frequency I'm starting to find it kind of creepy. I'll wake up in the night an press my alarm light to check on the time and more often than not it will read 3:33 or 4:44 or 5:55.

Maybe it's Nana saying hello, you know, from the other side, said my sister. Our beloved grandmother passed away in 1988, just after my son was born. Okay, I could deal with that. That wasn't creepy, that was comforting. (Numbers repeating for no reason is creepy. A dead relative saying hello beyond the grave is not creepy. That, my friends, is how my brain works.)

So now my sister and I text, "Look, 11:11! Nana is saying hello, haha."

Last year, a cousin I had never met, indeed, never even knew about, contacted me through this blog and sent me a photo of my grandmother and her older sister Edith. I'd never seen it before, and was thrilled to have it. 

The photo arrived on November 24th, Nana's birthday.

This year, her birthday was last Monday. I thought about Nana all day. She would have been 125. (If you think that's impossible you haven't heard of this lady.)

The day passed uneventfully.

This afternoon, Buddy stood in front of my china cabinet and barked at it. Repeatedly. He'd woof, back up, stare intently, woof again, look at me, stare at the cabinet. To be fair, he's a bit of an oddball dog. He doesn't bark often, but he will woof at the couch if the blanket is in his way, or at his bed if it's in the wrong position. But there was nothing in, on, beside or under the cabinet that would account for his behaviour I looked for a mouse, a moth, food, anything. The only thing in there was my grandmother's china. And he wouldn't stop. I'd haul him away, and a few minutes later, he was back, staring at the cabinet and softly woofing at it again.

I ignored him and checked my emails. A casual glance at my junk mail file showed an unfamiliar name with a subject title, "A fun little mystery unfolding....maybe." Another Nigerian scam, I figured.

It said, "I don't know if you are the right Pamela Patchet, but I thought it might be fun to send you this note and see what comes of it."

The woman who wrote, W.W., lives in California and said her father was a former senior editor of covers and photos at Newsweek Magazine. He passed away, and she was going through his things when she came across a letter from an E.L. Patchet in Toronto. (Ernest Luther. My grandfather.) In the letter, he said how surprised he and my grandmother were to see a photo of their granddaughter (me) on the cover of Newsweek. In fact, it was the woman who wrote me the email who appeared on the cover back in 1960, and I guess the resemblance was such that my grandparents felt compelled to write and ask. 

She said, if you would like your grandparent's letter, the photo, and the copy of the Newsweek cover, she would be happy to send it.

Then I looked at the date of the email.

November 24th. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Montreal Walkabout

 Today I had lunch with my wonderful friend, Kathy Down The Road. We have known each other for over 25 years, and have so much fun together, it's kind of ridiculous. Stream-of-consciousness conversations, laughing from the moment we sit down together until we part ways to go home, it's the kind of friendship that makes people wonder if we're sisters. And we kind of feel like sisters. Odd, odd sisters from odd, odd parents. We can even share dessert without either of us wanting to chomp off the other's finger. Now that's a friend.
An ornamental cabbage. Hope they're not edible, because Buddy christened the rest of them whilst I took this photo.
We wandered up Greene Avenue after lunch, past the uniformed schoolgirls who walked and texted without regard to passersby or traffic, swollen-lipped women with flat-ironed blonde hair in fur coats, men in paisley foulards and polished loafers, and one tall woman behind us having a loud, animated discussion with what I thought must be her grandmother, as it was the kind of one-way conversation you'd have with a hard-of-hearing, cantankerous relative who refuses to turn up her hearing aid. Turns out it was her brown Labrador retriever who loped past us, off-leash, not giving a rat's patootie that this woman was talking at it full stop. This wasn't a "Heel, Espresso, HEEL!" kind of talk. This was a "Hey, do you think it's going to snow, and do you think our current prime minister is doing a good job" kind of conversation.
She then threw open the door to a ritzy hair salon and let the dog bolt ahead of her. We were left to ponder how the unsuspecting patrons felt about this slobbering dog and the Human Megaphone it belonged to taking their zen by the throat and shaking it to death.

Anyway, KDTR asked me why I hadn't posted any photos of my walks as of late, and I said it was part laziness, and part wondering if it was just all too much navel gazing. But she asked me to, so I will oblige and post a few I have taken recently around my 'hood.

If you enjoy them, let me know via the comments. If you don't, feel free to explain why to your dog.

They are replacing the pavement down the street. It will soon cover up all evidence of the old cobblestones and track for the streetcars.

Front Lawn Art. I want to rescue this poor, rusty Underwood, but it seems happy with the pink flamingos and louche ceramic frogs.

The Catholic nuns and priests got all the good properties.

Typical door in Shaughnessy Village

Typical door in my daughter's neighbourhood

A friendly neighbour checking me out.

A Random P. There's a lot of that in the doorways of my neighbourhood.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I know Amy Dupire through the Compuserve writers' forum, and also from the annual contest at the Surrey International Writers' Conference, where she inevitably places in the top storyteller category as either a winner or runner-up.

Amy has now published a collection of stories called GOD-THING: AND OTHER WEIRD AND WORRISOME TALES and her first novel ALL KINDS OF HELL was published last month.

Her short stories are mysterious and strange and beautifully written, and creepy in a good way. Look what Diana Gabaldon has to say about Amy. She just added Amy's book of short stories to her Methadone List (what Diana calls her book suggestions for those waiting for her Next Book in the Outlander series.)

"The stories here are written with delicacy, humor, and a healthy dose of uneasiness. And they are… well, you know… short. Whether you’re in need of a literary appetizer or dessert, immersion or distraction— you might just find what you’re looking for in this collection of "Weird and Worrisome Tales." " Diana Gabaldon

You can read excerpts on Amy's website www.amydupire.com.

If you want to order her books, either hard copy or on Kindle, go to amazon.com!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mistakes Can Actually Work Out (Or, Pretend You Meant to Do That)

After I transferred my photos from camera to laptop a while ago, I noticed something odd about them. Many of them were over-exposed, while just as many were under-exposed.


After much fiddling and confusion on my part, I finally figured out that I inadvertently pressed the "bracket" (Auto Bracket) button. This means the camera is assuming you will take three shots in a row of the same subject, and each one will go from light to dark, and then you're supposed to go to photoshop and blend them together for an HDR type photo.

But I didn't do that, I just went on my merry way, snapping anything that took my fancy in the park up on our mountain. So some shots looked bleached out and others looked vivid and other worldly.

But once I got over my panic of not knowing what I did (and I fixed it) I kind of liked the shots. Note that these were taken within minutes of each other in almost the same spot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Hummingbird Rescue

I needed this today, and I suspect many of you do too, after hearing about my tragic raccoon tale, which still has the capacity to make me cry. But this fine morning, I bring you a good news nature story.

Despite the fact that I deliberately keep our cottage windows dirty to prevent bird collisions (confession: the city windows are dirty from pure laziness) there is still the occasional accident.  My husband protests but a) he's not the boss of me and b), see a).

This morning, as I sat outside on the deck reading, a young hummingbird zoomed right above my head straight into the glass, then dropped with a thud at my feet.

I hustled Buddy into the house and we left it alone for a few minutes as it writhed on the deck. Experience has shown that the first few moments will determine whether a bird will live or die. Sometimes death comes in seconds if it breaks its neck, but more often than not, they suffer a mild concussion and recover quickly.

That is, if the squirrels, or Buddy, doesn't get to it first.

Then it becomes breakfast.

So this poor little hummingbird struggled on its back, wings sprawled, fluttering in a circle. But suddenly it righted itself, a good sign even though its eyes were still squeezed shut. Definite concussion, but still.

Buddy and I watched together from inside the cottage so as not to frighten it, but then a red squirrel showed up to spoil the party.

I ran outside and shooed the squirrel away, then I bent over the hummingbird to check on it. It suddenly flew into the air, hovering like a little helicopter in front of my face, the buzz of its wings so incredibly powerful and strong for such a tiny creature. I instinctively held out my hand, and incredibly, it landed in my open palm!

I couldn't believe it. I stood stock still, thinking it was going to take off at any second. My camera was inside, as was my phone, but I'd been reading on my iPad (okay, I was playing Candy Crush) and I thought I might be able to snap a photo if I moved quickly and carefully.

And by that I mean like a stealth ninja.

An old, creaky, plump, stealth ninja.

The photo isn't as sharp as I'd like, but it was left-handed. Using an iPad. WHILE HOLDING A HUMMINGBIRD.

May I say, do you know how hard it is to take a photo whilst juggling an iPad with one hand? With one non-dominant hand? With a hummingbird balanced in the other hand?

I struggled with the damn electronic demon and cursed its stupid design, which slipped and flipped each time I tried to hit the play button (yes, I know about the other button, but again, one-handed, holding a bird) all the while trying to a) not drop it, b) startle the hummingbird.

I did get it on film. The little guy was in no hurry to vacate his warm, cushy home. I had to coax him onto a nearby cherry tree branch. Within a minute or two, he flew off, unfazed.

You can watch the video below, or I recommend you go to YouTube HERE and watch it on HD and on full screen.

Or you can watch the tiny version here:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Me and A Very Rocky Raccoon

What is it with me and wild animals?

It started as a simple task - walk up the hill with the Budster and put all the neighborhood garbage bins back in place. However, my sunset stroll quickly turned into a rescue mission.  

I heard weak mewing coming from one of the bins, ours 'natch. The sound seemed to be coming from our bin, even though there was a large rock on it. I carefully opened the lid and there was a juvenile raccoon sprawled at the bottom. The smell of rotting garbage and who knows what else was horrific. I realized the poor wee thing may have been in there for as long as a week.  It was in really bad shape, so I carefully tipped over the bin, and Buddy and I waited for it to scamper away. It took five, very long minutes to crawl out, then it collapsed on the grass, calling for its mother, unable to get up. It crawled forward on its paws, dragging its body behind it.

It really did look close to death, so I ran (crying) back down the hill to the cottage, got some water in a dish and a bottle (cursing myself for not buying the turkey baster in the dollar store last week! which I had in my hand!) then ran back up the hill and approached it cautiously. I was worried it might bite, but it was so emaciated and thirsty it could barely move. I went right up to it with a water bottle, and poured some into the side of its mouth and on its paws which it tried to lick. It barely managed to crawl over to the water dish and drink with its head half in the water, then collapsed on the grass again. I ran back down the hill again for some dog food, a piece of steak, some nuts, a strawberry, and ran...back...up...the damn hill again.

It took the steak in one hand and the strawberry in the other, and tucked them under its body. Then lay its head down, quietly huffing, struggling to breathe. I was a wreck at this point.

Back down the hill to call the game warden thinking that's what they do, no? Help with wild animals? That was an interesting conversation, since he was French with no English, and I couldn't think of the word for raccoon* but it didn't matter because he wasn't going to come for this. 

*Raton-laveur, in case you wondered. Literal translation is "young rat who washes"

I phoned my trusty guy up here who knows everything about everything, and he said, and I quote, "It's a raccoon! Let nature take its course."

I couldn't. I'm hoping the little guy makes it through the night. I'll check in the morning.

Does this make me a cidiot?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Corn and Black Bean Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette

Oh my.

A friend at the lake decided to surprise his wife with a party for her 50th birthday. And by "party" he meant dinner for 43 people in their home.

A sit down dinner.

As a surprise

Guests supplied salads and desserts to go with the German sausages and beef tenderloin and roasty toasty potatoes he threw on the BBQ. I can't believe Karl pulled it off, actually. He faked a back injury (had a massage, took Advil) and sent Mary-Anne off on a 2 hour boat ride, claiming his back was just too painful to allow him to go. Then he enlisted the help of some stalwart friends who rushed over to set up the tables and get everything ready. We all jumped out from behind the house and yelled "SURPRISE!" (which never, ever gets old.)


I needed a salad to feed a crowd. 

When I found the recipe for this salad, it said a similar version of it (with lime cilantro dressing) was a real crowd pleaser and one of the most asked for recipes. It is referred to as "Veggie Crack" which, I discovered, is accurate.

Here it is, with my twists. If you go to the website, you'll see I doubled the recipe. I used frozen organic corn from Costco, not corn on the cob. (Purists could do as the recipe says and cook fresh cobs then cut off the kernels, etc. These are the same people who make their own yogurt and almond milk and churn butter and spin wool.)  I just threw in a bunch of frozen corn, probably 4 cups worth if not more. And I used 3 chipotle peppers which gave it bite without making people splutter.  I also added chopped cherry tomatoes, and substituted basil for oregano, because I hate oregano. Well, hate is a strong word. Actually no, I really do hate oregano. And I doubled the number of avocados because unlike oregano, they are divine.

So here is my version.



4+ cups of frozen organic corn
2 cups of chopped red onion
2 (14.5 oz) tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 red peppers, diced
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, diced
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4 avocados

Place everything except the avocados in a large bowl. Move on to the dressing.


4 TBSP red wine vinegar
4 TBSP lime juice (3-4 fresh limes)
4 TBSP honey
3/4 cup oil (I used canola)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp basil (or oregano)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Place the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and whirl until mixed.

Pour the dressing over the salad, mix well, cover and let it marinate for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Right before serving, dice up the avocados and gently stir them in. Can be served cold or room temperature. Garnish with more cilantro if you wish.  Put the leftover chipotle peppers in the freezer!

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Today's Walk in Montreal

Overheard on my walk today to the post office. 
A young father pushed his little girl in this giant pram. She couldn't have been more than three, curly-haired, cute as a bug, and she was not so much sitting in it as lounging, resting her head on one hand. 
As they passed I heard him ask her, "I'm sorry, did you just say you want to fly to Vegas?" 
She heaved a big sigh and said,
I died on the spot, as did the father.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Flutter-bys in Arizona

When I was little, I called butterflies "flutter-bys" because in my tiny, unformed brain, that was easier to pronounce. However, I maintain it's because it is more accurate than referring to them as flying butter.

I also called high heels "hee hiles" and the couch (chesterfield) was a "fester-eedle" but I digress.

I visited the butterfly museum in Arizona a couple of weeks ago, and it was pretty special. Except for the 102F temperature outside and extreme humidity inside the atrium where the butterflies lived. And the sweaty tourists with freaked out kids who kept ducking and swatting the butterflies like they were missiles.

And of course, this was the trip I did not bring my good camera. However, I had my trusty point and shoot. Settle yourself on the nearest fester-eedle, put your hee hiles up and take a gander, if you're so inclined.

Blue Morpho, the most beautiful one in my opinion, but also the most difficult one to photograph because they never stopped moving. Except this one. Which got tired. Or maybe it was on its last legs.

The King of Butterflies, the Monarch.

Parthenos Sylvia or Clipper Butterfly. I'd like to decorate a room in these colours. I find them very soothing.

Banded Peacock.

Another view of the Blue Morpho.

Arched-wing Cattleheart

This looked like it was made of plastic. It's called, appropriately enough, Greta Oto, the Costa Rica Clearwing.