Thursday, July 16, 2015

Summertime fun

So far summer has been amazing! I finished working about a month ago and every day is just a joy to wake up to and think, "What do I want to do today?" The life of a teacher, while not the highest paid, is one of the most gratifying. Plus summers off. I spent the first three weeks of June finishing up my evaluations and then began to plan my weekends. That's because Serge signed up for school. His program is aimed at people who are working so the courses are Wednesday nights and weekends. Which leaves me alone on the weekends.


Here he is before going to class on the night where they took pictures for their linked in profile. He is so handsome. So the first thing I did was plan a little getaway to Massachusetts for the fourth of July holiday.


I stayed with our friends who had time to get most of their house organized since the last time I saw them at the end of July. They have a beautiful property in Worcester (why is it not spelled Wooster as that is how they pronounce it?) and we enjoyed little junkets, barbeque and movies. Here we are in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is a lovely town on the water. It took us more than double the usual time to get there as EVERYONE was heading up to vacationland for the holiday weekend.


They were so sweet and bought me a Boston hat and took me to Newport, Rhode Island, thus helping me cross off another state from my list. After Alaska later this month, all I will have left is Iowa. Here I am on the grounds of the Breakers, the Vanderbuilts "cottage". Or what the filthy rich call a cottage.


It was right up there with Versailles in the opulence department. Everything dripping with gold and platinum. There were 28 rooms just for the servants, whom they called "staff". This wording is supposed to indicate their benevolence as uber-wealthy. When we got back to their place, we watched a bunch about the Vanderbuilt's rise and fall. Essentially, the early family members built up enormous wealth and all the descendants squandered it. Imagine learning as a child that you would never have to work your whole life.


They wanted this maple whiskey that is hard to find in the states so I brought them that as well as other maple treats. OMG it is the BOMB. Just perfect to sip with some ice cubes. We made ice cream with it which was to die for. Not only that, but I got to have a lobster roll in Newport. It was a great weekend with one little glitch. See, the ex-best friends are mutual friends with them. Once they knew I was visiting (one of the perils of facebooking) all communication stopped (their specialty) even after a "Happy fourth" text from them (not me). Petty children, they are. We get it, they hate us, I wish we could all just move on.


The following weekend I booked a trip to Toronto to see my cousin. Although not as grand as Grand Central, our train station is pretty neat. I love that I can travel downtown to downtown in less time than it takes to drive.

video

There are huge windows in the train and free Wifi so the hours passed easily. I also had a chance to study for my upcoming travel agent exam. I managed to get through all the materials so now I just have to do a few exercises and review. The big day is next Thursday. I really hope I pass it the first time. Then I will be able to offer family and friends the better deals that I will have access to. My friend Annick has been bugging me to do this as she has and every time I check with her before clicking the "buy" button for flights, cruises etc, she has been able to get me a better price. Now I'll be able to do that for family and friends too.


As soon as I arrived, I met up with my old students from many years ago. Layla on the left was a little girl last time I saw her and now she's all grown up. We had a delightful dinner together and then I took the streetcar to my cousin's house.


The streetcars are so cool and they have many lines criss-crossing the city in addition to the subway. The day pass was great as you have unlimited hop-on and hop-offs so it was easy to get around town.


We took a 20 kilometer bike ride into the city the opening day of the Pan-American games. There were all kinds of things going on in the city and by the time we reached the harbourfront, we were famished. I wasn't able to respect our "fit for life" diet while there except for only fruit in the morning. I figured the next best thing is to eat vegetarian the other meals so I had the panini with avocado and goat cheese. One of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten.


Dang that tower is big. This is still several kilometers away. The harbourfront was buzzing with activity with all the boats, people, zip-line, and airport just across the straight on the islands. I had never really explored this part of town and it was quite the place just to people-watch.


The next day we went back into town and my cousin took us to a place she knew called Grand Electric. Toronto is years ahead of us on the Mexican cuisine, as there are many to choose from, unlike here. That first taco in front is a "crispy cauliflower" taco that my cousin said I had to try. It was really good but I have no idea how they made the cauliflower light and crispy like that. I also had a pork belly taco. Yum.


My beautiful cousin, Cindi, was great. See, I had forgotten to bring my blood pressure meds with me so she plied me with Omega-3 and Curcumin to subsitute. My pressure wasn't bad when I got home so maybe she is onto something there. The city has these urban spaces set up so you can relax downtown and there is always a food cart nearby if one wants to grab a bite.


They had a bunch of concerts and activities set up for the Pan-Am games. I got the official pin and everything. They had the Franco festival going on too where I turned them on to Beaver Tails (I only eat one per year) as they had never had one. I love the uniquely Canadian things like that. As Cindi noted, it's like fry-bread, something you find in New Mexico. I had the maple and they had what I usually get, the nutella and banana.


I mentioned that I would like to have tapas so we went to Kensington Market to get some. I love that part of town as it reminds me of Venice, California. Very student/hippie oriented with tons of little places selling all sorts of things. That is a shishito pepper people! I have never been able to find them here and it is one of my favorite tapas dishes in Spain. Just fried in a little oil with salt and pepper. Delicious. It was very authentic and we enjoyed lots of Sangria, chorizo, octopus, olives, and more.


We can't close out without a pic of my men now, can we? George likes to sit on the top of the sofa and look out the window and if he sees a person walking their dog, he dashes out back to howl at them. It is so cute. 

So there you have it, all caught up now. I am soooooooooooooo frickin' excited about our upcoming cruise in less than two weeks. Going to Alaska for my 50th birthday and I booked a helicopter ride to a glacier, both things I've never done before so it should be memorable (the price certainly was). Bonus, my brother and his girlfriend are coming with us and he has never done a cruise. I hope he is as impressed as I was the first time. But he is difficult to impress. Fingers crossed. Thanks for stopping by y'all, until next time. MWAH!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Road Trip 2015


We departed last Friday for our annual road trip to see friends. Upon departure our tenant who agreed to water our flowers and pick up our mail snapped this shot for us. Because we have had such bad luck with car trouble on previous road trips, we decided to rent a car for this one, a Hundai Elantra and it was just great with amazing gas mileage. Seriously, it cost $25 to drive to Boston. Such a deal.


First stop was to see our friends in Worcester, pronounced "Wooster" for those non-east coast people. They bought a house just a week before and were still unpacking but I feel more comfortable in a chaotic, messy setting than I do in a "perfect" house. They have four animals too, including this amazing cat, Eros. I just love him and more than once sat down on the couch only to discover he was hiding under the blanket keeping warm. He is such a snuggler too, hands down my favorite cat I've ever met.


Our friends had a little barbecue and we played ladder golf and ate some of the best brochettes I've ever had. We enjoyed hanging out with Veronique and her husband and loved Susan's visit who regaled us with stories. Oh how we laughed all night long.


I forget the name of the product but you throw it in the fire and the fire becomes technicolor, not for mere minutes but for nearly an hour! It made the fire mesmerizing. Jello shots and magical brownies added to the fascination by the fire.



The next day we headed into Boston to see my first baseball game in 20 years. We had lunch at the Yard House and went into the park.


Was it not a picture perfect day? I really love attending baseball games, it's too bad Montreal lost the Expos years ago. We had two dozen CampCampers there with us so it was fun to mingle and get excited about this year's Camp in August. Another funny thing - there were no "no smoking" signs anywhere, so Serge and I smoked a bunch of cigarettes. Then when we left we noticed the sign at the entrance, "Fenway Park is a completely smoke free facility". Could have fooled us. No one said a word to us about it.


As it was Memorial Day weekend, the flags of the fallen were all over Boston Commons. We strolled around and had some amazing cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcakes. Mine was chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. Divine.


Next stop on the road trip we met Michael in New York City. First night out for drinks and although I didn't get a picture of us with Michael, I did get one of the cute bartenders. As it was Memorial Day, there were free hamburgers and hotdogs with our martinis.


The next day was great fun. First I decided to have a New York bagel since there is such a rivalry between Montreal and NYC on the matter. I thought it was no contest, Montreal's are infinitely better. Then we headed to the new TKTS outlet in Brooklyn to buy theater tickets for the evening. After that we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan and over to Century 21, our favorite shopping place in New York. We loaded up with $300 of stuff that would easily have been $800 up here.


We had planned to go eat Singapore noodles at the place we discovered last year, but alas, we could not find it. So we scarfed down a burger (Serge's bison, mine vegetarian) and went to see Kinky Boots. Great show! And the bonus was that Cyndi Lauper showed up on stage at the end to accept a $150000 check for her True Colors fund.


Then it was time to head down to Delaware to visit our friends Mark and Joe. It was a bitch getting out of NYC as traffic was terrible, but then it was smooth sailing all the way down.


They had some neat stained glass pieces. I took a picture of this as I would like to try to make it at Camp Camp this year. We also got to meet their new dog Walter who was as cute as can be.


Mark took us down to Rehoboth Beach to stroll the boardwalk. I loved the ice cream menu at this place. Hugh Jass Flavor and Booger and The Girl with the Dragon Cashews were my favorite names. Alas, I chose boring old Black Cherry Vanilla because, well, I'm a waspy white dude.


That evening we attended the Rehoboth Idol competition and met Joel who seems to be an Adam Levine (is that his name?) wannabe. We also met several other people. I seem to be able to talk to just about anybody these days or maybe people just gravitate toward me. Whatever it is, I like it.


The next day was a bit hazy as we stayed up past one the night before. I never do that. We took it easy, went out to breakfast, strolled the beach, toured the town and relaxed before going out to happy hour at this really good Japanese place with half priced drinks and appetizers. We stuffed ourselves silly and without us knowing Joe (who left before this picture was taken) picked up the check. Wow, we had only just met him. What a nice man!


The next day Serge let me be a little kid and we went to Great Adventure in New Jersey, the largest theme park in the world. We tried to get on Kinga Ka, the tallest, fastest roller coaster in North America but it broke down while we were in line so we headed over to Superman. We were behind this guy and his girlfriend in line. OMG he was just perfection. Be still our hearts. So I slyly snapped a few pics.


The food and beverage prices were exorbitant. Here we split a bacon, cheddar, ranch fries which I dubbed American Poutine and each had a beer. $27 bucks. Earlier we had two small diet cokes for $10. Outrageous. Plus absolutely no drinking fountains whatsoever. There oughta be a law!


They had this ride called Safari Adventure which intrigued me. Little did I know it was over an hour long and we got to see a TON of wild animals in a Jurassic Park style army vehicle with a guide. We saw lions, tigers, bears, zebras (a first for me) and lots of other things.


I think my favorite was the anteater. Such a bizarre creature. Apparently they are quite aggressive so you couldn't touch him. Evolution is such an amazing creator.


After that we finally did get to go on Kinga Ka. It was the most terrifying ride I've ever been on and I will NEVER do it again. 0-128 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, shoot straight up a fifty story (456 feet) tower and then back down again. 28 seconds total. The whole time my brain was in "I am going to die" mode. There is a fine line between thrill and terror and this ride crossed it. Here, some fool took a video on the ride over on Youtube. Watch it here.

Yesterday we drove home but stopped in at Breen Acres and had lunch with the boys. Forgot to take pictures but it was great. The hours pass so quickly and we had to get back on the road to get home. Sorry I don't have a Georgie pic as Serge is at his mom's as I type picking him up. I hope you enjoyed our little recap. Until next time peeps, Mwah!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Springing into Summer

We just had a rockin' little thunderstorm blow through. God I love spring. Although we seemed to jump from winter to summer with little in between temperatures, the thunderstorms are a definite sign that winter is gone for good. They say not to plant your garden until after this weekend (Victoria Day up here) but we have been safe for a while now. I repotted my jasmine, correction, as I was beginning the repotting process, Serge took over and completed the job. He really wanted it to stand up straight which I don't really care about. This is a thing between us. If I want to get something done, I will begin it and if Serge senses any half-assedness about it, he takes over. Sometimes I half-ass it on purpose, ha!



Last time I posted we were waiting for our friends' first visit to Montreal. We decided to throw a big gay game night and dang we all had a ball. We played Hollywood Game Night and then a big long round of Celebrity. It was really fun seeing our French friends speaking English. Since we always speak French together I was actually quite impressed with their level of communication skills.


Of course we had to tour around town playing tourist. It was still winter at the end of March so we were still pretty bundled up. Our friends just loved shopping. They loved going in every store and bought something in almost every place. We failed in our attempt at getting poutine squeaked in on this visit so that will be something for next time.


English words do not have the same weight up here, obviously.


We did, however, get to turn them on to a sugar shack. One of the best ones around and it was totally packed. I was a little worried our vegetarian friend would not have enough to eat, but he did and he even had "Christ's ears" which are fried pork rinds. I figured he would since these are very popular in Latin America as well and he's from Costa Rica.


We had dinner at a friend's new apartment which has incredible views overlooking the city. The balcony railings are too low though. It really would be easy for a tall guy like me to trip and fall over it. 12 stories is probably not survivable.


A few weeks ago, we made a little weekend trip to Quebec City. First time I've been there in many years. We got to have our first meal on an outdoor terrace of the year. Since it's Quebec City and very touristy, this little spread set us back $60. Two beers, two French onion soups and a calamari. Can we say highway robbery? Worth it though.


Serge and I played tourist and then attended a party at our friend's place. It was filled with 40 and 50 somethings and boy did we party hard. I haven't danced that much in a LONG time and it was just wonderful. Here is Serge spoiling our vacation pictures again.


Georgie is 100% healed and you would never know he couldn't move a few months ago. He even does that uncontrollable running crazy thing that dogs do when they get over-excited. It scares me because I don't want him to hurt himself again, but I also want him to be able to be a dog.


So amazing driving around with the top down again. So much to look forward to this year. Coming up next we have our annual road trip. We will be visiting friends near Boston, Brooklyn and Lewes, Delaware this year. Then for my 50th birthday we are doing a cruise to Alaska. I think on my birthday I will spring for the helicopter ride to the glacier since those are two things I have never experienced before. Pricey but you only turn 50 once right? Plus my brother and his girlfriend are going and it will be my brother's first cruise. Then at the end of August it's Camp Camp. Our new friends we made in Key West signed up so squeeeeee! And our ex best friends cancelled so double squeeeee! I knew it was going to be a great year and so far so good. Thanks for stopping by friends, revel in spring with me. Mwah!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Snippets


* Although he looks sad as usual, he is all recovered from his kennel stay. The month long med regime did wonders and now you`d never know anything was wrong with him. Yay!

* I sort of broke my new year's resolution. I say sort of because I was asleep when it happened. I had read about the phenomenon of sleeptexting but was horrified to discover that I had done it. I marvel at my subconscious and the text that started out, "I am not a bad person." In a perfect world my texts are blocked but there is no way for me to know for sure. I deleted all contact info so it can't happen again.


* We did our annual ski visit. We just love our local mountain a 20-minute drive away. Plus you can pay by the hour. We did two hours and it was just perfect. Afterword we got treated to free smores and beer. Plus the place was totally empty, never had to wait in line for the ski lifts.

* Started playing Trivia Crack. Sometimes I get a bunch of answers in a row but other times, like when the sports category comes up, I can't even get one. Who cares what number is on who's jersey? Sheesh.

* My class is kicking my butt once again. I was supposed to start a second class tomorrow but I decided last week to drop it. I know when I was young I worked and went to school full time. At my age I can't even imagine it.


* We put our building back on the market. We are trying to sell this time without an agent. We have been bombarded by agents calling to get the listing. Ugh. We are hoping that this third time is the charm. If it isn't it's not a big deal but if it sells, we may live my dream of travelling around South America for a year learning Spanish.

* Getting ready for a visit from friends who have never been to Montreal this weekend. We are excited to play tour guide and take them for their first ever Sugar Shack. I remember my first time so I hope we have picked a good place for them. It's here.

* Serge and I got on the waiting list for a family doctor finally. I was prioritized more highly than Serge because of my hypertension. My estimated wait time is 6 months to a year. His is at least 2 years. There are flaws in the universal healthcare system.

* As some of you know, I failed on the quitting smoking. I have just been rushing myself and wasn't quite ready yet. One thing I have learned over the last couple years is that you can't rush emotional processes, but that they are indeed finite. I will definitely quit smoking before next winter.

* Speaking of winter, it is snowing once again outside my window. It is so amazing the difference in how I feel seeing the first snow of the season versus the last snow. I'm hoping that this is it, but we usually get at least one snow event in April, sigh.

* We are sad HBO cancelled Looking. It was a great show and even though it was hard for me to watch at times, I wish it would continue. At least Californication and Nurse Jackie are coming back next month.

* Okay that's all I've got today. Thanks for stopping by and I'll give Georgie a smooch for you.


Thursday, March 05, 2015

Cuba Cuba!

Hey there gang. What a crazy winter it's been up here. Although the biggest snow storms hit South of us, we ended up with the coldest February ever recorded in Montreal. This city has been around for 400 years and yes I know records don't actually go back that far. Luckily for us, we got to escape for a week right in the middle of the worst of it. Because I have a 3 week break in February from the college and my private contract times are set up just a week or two in advance, I saw a week of unscheduledness and decided to see what last minute vacations could be had.


Serge was out at happy hour when I found it. A week in Cuba everything included for $715 CAD!!! Well Serge and I have an agreement that we do not push the buy button unless we are both wanting to so I had to wait until he got home to say, "Can we can we can we can we pleeeeeeaaaase?" And sure enough he was game. We arrived late at night, checked in and woke up to this lovely view over the Caribbean sea. 


We stayed at the Bellevue Palma Real which turned out to be the perfect location in Varadero. We could walk out of our hotel to the hotel's beach or to restaurants, bars and shopping. The temperature was just perfect in the upper 70's.


Of course we had everything we needed at the resort so we hung around there a lot too. We had read a lot of terrible reviews about this place and were very pleasantly surprised by the room, grounds, service and even the food. (Cuba is notorious for lousy food options.)


We booked an excursion for the third day, an all day outing which included playing with dolphins, snorkeling, fantastic lunch and open bar all day. The price? $120 per person but I don't know what happened as my credit card was never charged. Wheeeee!


This was probably the best meal we had all week. Serge's mom and her boyfriend decided to join us when they learned how cheap it was. Shrimp, lobster, fish sticks, veggies, rice and bread. Open bar. And a band played great tunes all the while.

video


Unfortunately for us, it turned out to be the coldest day there. So a light jacket was required. None of us snorkelled because of that. And I turned out to be the only one game to play with the dolphins.


Here I am waiting for the fun to begin. Serge took a bunch of little videos of us petting the dolphins, getting kissed by the dolphin and even picking a dolphin up out of the water. The trainer said that the dolphin was embarrassed since one of us was touching his genitals. Hardy har har.


After lunch, Serge and I walked along the beach and tried to get another airborne shot. We have been trying to get one for a couple years now and we finally did it. I have hurt myself so many times trying but this time when I landed on my knees it was sand so I didn't hurt myself too, too badly. The trick is having the camera very close to the ground and of course pushing the button at the exact right moment. Yay Serge!



These were littered all over the beach that day. Serge said if you stepped on them, they would pop and sure enough that's what happened. It reminded me of bubble wrap. Later I found out that these were Portugese Man-O-War jellyfish and highly dangerous if you touch them. I probably wouldn't have been popping them if I had known.


Finally it was time to go back to Varadero and the sky cleared up making it a bit warmer. Needless to say, we were pretty sloshed by the time we got back to the hotel. I had to confirm with the others if I had tipped when we left the boat as I have no recollection of it. Apparently I did $10.


We tipped the maids every day with toiletries. Toiletries are scarce and much appreciated as tips. Each day we left soap, toothpaste, toothbrush and shampoo. Each day, the maid left us a thank you note and towel animals. We had seen complaints about not having toilet paper in the room or not having good towels. Well you just know those people didn't tip. After the first day, we always had an extra roll of toilet paper and the big bath towels.


I must say Cuba sure has some splendid beaches and I just kept marvelling at the turquoise waters.


One happy circumstance was getting to hang out with Dany and Martin. We met Dany during our first Cuba trip and have met up a few times since then. When we discovered we would be at the same town at the same time, we set up a couple party times. Once at their hotel and once at ours.


We got to know a lot of the staff because we were consistent tippers. This is Ulyses and he was just great. All the bar staff were great, but the customers? Not so much. We observed so many people who didn't tip. I couldn't believe my eyes as people ordered drink after drink and didn't leave a tip. Ulyses said he thought it was about a 50% tip rate. He said that at the high end resort where he used to work, the rate was more like 20%, confirming my belief that those with money are always the cheapest human beings. Time and again I have observed this. Anyway, the last couple days I donned myself the tip police and started confronting people.


I kept trying to get my beautiful boy to film while I confronted people but he was too shy. I had fun doing it. As the cheapos left the bar with their drinks without tipping, I'd say with a big smile, "Hey, where are you guys from?" The answer was always a Canadian city, Toronto, Saskatoon, Guelph etc. "How long have you been here?" "Are you having a good time?" And then I'd say, "So I noticed that you didn't leave the bartender a tip, did you think the service was bad?" All the while grinning. The people stammered and not one person could come up with a reasonable argument against tipping. I'd ask, "Do you not tip the bartender in Toronto?"  They would assure me they did tip in their city. "Then why wouldn't you tip here? These are not our slaves. Don't worry about it, I'll leave a tip for you." And I did. We were famous with the staff, and I enjoyed shaming these entitled twits. I told Ulyses on the last day that we would be back and he said, "Next time, be nice with the people." I laughed and said, "I will if they tip you guys." It was probably my favorite thing about the vacation.


Finally it was time to go back to the icebox. We made friends and hung out with these two beautiful ladies. They dubbed us their honorary dads which made me feel old, but I guess I need to own my age. All in all a wonderful getaway.


When we brought Georgie home from the kennel, something wasn't right. He got worse and worse until he wouldn't get up and walk. After a visit to the vet and x-ray, it seems likely he has a herniated disc that hasn't ruptured. If it ruptures, there will be paralysis so he has been very drugged out the last two weeks but he is finally showing signs of improvement. There was a lot of crying thinking we might have to put him down. Luckily that seems less and less likely now.


I've been hanging out on the floor with him a lot. The vet said never to let him jump on the furniture again. It will be a tall order once he's fully recovered but we must. I just love the little guy so much.

Lots of other stuff going on as well, but I'll try to catch you up on those things on my next post. Thanks for swinging by! Smooch!