Tuesday, July 26, 2011


* There's our favorite pooch. Notice the blurry tail. That's cuz he wags it when you approach him. He's been pretty mellow lately due to the heat wave we had. He's much livelier in the colder months.

* Serge gave me a haircut after he boasted about having cut his own. He just number twoed himself (possible ew there) and it came out fine. For me, he number twoed the back and sides and left the top alone.

* When we got back from vacation, the tenant who was watching Georgie had bad news. Apparently his unemployment checks had been stopped and he has legal assistance in order to get them back. So he won't be able to pay rent for 4 to 6 months. Ugh. He has agreed to leave and we asked him to paint his apartment in lieu of rent. It doesn't cover all of what he owes, but after three years, we can give him a couple weeks free I reckon.

* It took us one day to find a new tenant 13 days before the apartment was to become vacant. It's an Australian couple here on work visas. Perfect.

* Ooh, ooh, ooh the big exciting news of the week is that we got approved for the "unmortgage" at ING. I was worried about the appraisal, but it came in higher than the city's estimate so we were golden. The loan to value ratio is low enough that we don't have to prove income either. The best part? Our monthly payment is going down by $350. Yippee!

* This is my favorite thing that I purchased on vacation. You all know what a map geek I am, right? This book has all the subway systems in it from all over the world with a little history about each one. I love it.

* Serge and I have officially lived longer in this residence since we moved out of our parents' house as teenagers. Almost five years. The previous longest was 4 and a half years in Long Beach, California.

* I caught Serge being a bad boy. Hot dogs on hamburger buns. Would you believe this was his breakfast choice? Yeah me neither, that's why I grabbed the camera.

* When I dragged Serge out Sunday to shop for our friend's 50th birthday present, we passed by some young people downtown and the two guys were holding hands. This isn't out of the usual if you're in the gay part of the city, but this was in the touristy area. Loved it.

* I am very sad about Jack Layton.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What we did this morning

The alarm went off at 3:45. We had to be at the rendezvous point at 5am and it was a 45 minute drive from Montreal. Even though I was super tender and sweet waking Serge, he was a monster. It made me laugh. (which probably didn't help with his surliness)

It was touted as the largest hot air balloon in North America. I have no idea if that's true (probably not) but with the pilot, we were 13 in that basket. All participants are asked to help with the setup and breakdown. It took about 30 minutes before we were ready to take off.

Our balloon really was huge. Look how small the girl looks in the background inside the balloon. The guy told us it held 315,000 cubic feet of hot air. (insert joke here)

He took us real high at the beginning and then we stayed pretty low the rest of the time. He even grazed the cornfields a couple of times. The wind was carrying us at 47 kilometers per hour.

The nice passenger took this for us. I love the morning light. We saw deer frolicking (actually they were probably more like freaking out) below as we passed over vast fields and clumps of forest. There's very little wind though because you are part of the wind moving at the same speed as it is.

After about 45 minutes it was time to find a nice field to land in. We all took our crouched landing positions and the basket touched down and got drag-bounced another 20 yards or so before stopping. The nice farmer whose field we landed in let us look around his dairy farm while we sipped the complimentary champagne. I felt sorry for the cows in prison there.

This shot is not really possible while you're riding. So I took a picture of the side of the truck that transported all the equipment. That IS the balloon we rode and the basket so we must have looked similar as we crossed the freeway.

There's a bunch more pictures on Facebook here.

And I took a little video while we were up there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Here's part of the 9 bedroom house we stayed in last week with the family. This is the top level which served as the common area while all the bedrooms were located on the two levels below. The house, built on a hillside, overlooked beautiful lake Tahoe straddling the California Nevada border. We were on the Nevada side.

It was a short drive down to the beach and the weather was perfect every day we were there. There was still lots of snow up on the mountains. This is not what one expects in the middle of July but it makes for lovely photography.

We took the Heavenly Valley gondola up the mountain and had some amazing views out over the lake. We ate like pigs over the two week holiday (it's vacation after all) and came back four pounds plumper. This is why you're not seeing the bathing suit shots. The coats we brought for San Francisco came in handy in Tahoe as well. It was in the 30's overnight and crisp low seventy highs during the day. But when you went up high, the temps were more like in the 50's.

Inside every gondola, shenanigans had been played with the no smoking stickers. We thought it was rather clever, as did the shananiganers, evidently.

The streams were all raging due to the unusually deep snow pack that accumulated over the winter. The rocks were literally bleeding water. We spent the days visiting the various attractions, many of them natural, and lots of hiking too. Evenings, all the family members (24!) gathered back at the house for a communal meal and activities. My cousin and I organized this whole thing, so I led each evening's meeting and activity. It bordered on work, but it was fun nonetheless.
I just really liked this shot. This is overlooking Emerald Bay where we hiked down and looked around the "castle" that had been built there. It was more like a big house than a castle, but made for a nice hike. There was also a lovely waterfall nearby. (There always seemed to be a lovely waterfall nearby everywhere we went.)

Another shot I really liked. You know, for a $70 camera, sometimes it can capture some really great pictures. We were lucky too in that it behaved. There was no stupid on/off button not working nonsense during the whole trip. 

Back at the house, more shenanigans. There was the equivalent of toilet papering rooms, and at least one auntie was gotten with the saran wrap on the toilet seat gag. Pee splatter does not make the auntie happy. Snicker. The best gag was the last day. I'll get to that in a moment.

It was really great spending time outdoors in one of the most beautiful places in America. (I still think Havasupai is the number one spot, however.) There's no pics of the casinos, but since you're in Nevada, there they were. I was thrilled to win $90 on a slot on my first foray in, and bummed to lose it on my second time through. Easy come, easy go, but at least I broke even.

We had our traditional mask wearing. You may remember that from two and four years ago. It's always a different mix of family members who participate. 

The last day, we went on an amazing hike that really kicked my butt. I'm still feeling it in my legs today. But the reward was immense. We could see dozens of lakes and waterfalls from the top of Maggies peak. The trail was practically straight up though and we had to traverse some treacherous snow patches as well. 

See? I got bit by several mosquitoes but learned of a neat way to lessen the impact. I'm a mosquito magnet as well as being more reactive to their bite. They can bother me for a week. Well, I learned that if you moisten a bit of tobacco and then put that on with a bandaid over it, it will suck all the muck out and you'll stop itching. It works! Who knew I'd cotton to tobacco again?

I had to screen shot this one from Facebook since we haven't been sent the originals yet. We had family picture day on  the beach. I'm at the very end of the line there. There were a couple toddlers, a pre teen and a teenager on the trip. The rest were adults from their 20's to their 80's. I think we all had a wonderful time. The pre-teen and teenager were pulling lots of pranks so we adults saved one last one for them on the last day. See, they had to do the dishes on the last day so we had time to set it up. Bears had been spotted by family members during the week and we could tell that this had spooked them. So....

Serge got the starring role. It's amazing what you can do with a few condiments and some refried beans. Bear attack! We all feigned horror and calling 911 as Serge groaned and shivered on the ground. It took a good fifteen seconds before the teenager finally shouted, "It's ketchup!" Boy was he sore after that. We all had the last laugh and let that be a lesson to him.

There was all kinds of other stuff that happened, like the talent show night (we sang, cringe), the egg toss, poker games and shanghai. The looking at old movies, the guess the baby picture (with cheaters!) and wonderful dinners every night. (Each sub-clan prepared dinner for the whole house one night.) Now I've been charged with planning the next one in two years - a cruise! That's going to be fun, I just know it.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bye bye San Francisco

This is the kind of thing that passes for art these days. At least that's what I think considering it was in the Museum of Modern Art.  Of course Serge and I immediately wanted one for our bathroom. We had one when we lived in the loft and really liked it. Girls are turned off by them though we learned while living there.

Here is another piece of "art". We thought it looked like a chair that had been sat in by someone with dynamitized farts. Serge posed with that in mind. We spent a couple hours there and then we went over to meet the parents at their hotel. Mom joined us for a walk after lunch and we went down to City Hall, near our hotel.

We walked around inside and oohed and aahed at the ornateness of it all. It's bigger than the capital building in Washington DC. After that we cooled our heels a bit and met for dinner later at a wonderful place called RN 74. The folks treated us to a fabulous dinner with some very nice wines from Burgundy. When inquiring about the wines on the list, the server said, "Hang on, I'll get the som for you." First time I've heard that one. Som, short for sommelier.

Yesterday, we used the last ticket in our Citypass book for the Academy of Sciences. This is a place with a planetarium, aquarium and natural history museum. It was crawling with children who pushed and shoved. Doting grandparents would never reprimand such behaviour from their little angels. The exhibits were interesting, but enjoyment was reduced by the rug rats. After that, we took the bus out to the Sutro baths ruins and had a bite and a bloody mary at the Cliff house. Nom.

Then we took a ride over to the cable car museum and rode the cable cars as well. Three times this trip. It's free with the citypass so that was cool. There you see the engine room where all the cables from all the lines come through. It is really interesting technology, especially for the late 1800's when it was developed. It functions much as it did back then.

And then we met up again for a final dinner at Hecho, a japanese mexican fusion place from what I can gather and we enjoyed delicious sushi and that big thing in the middle there was a tuna collar. Yum.  We didn't get out to Fort Point or cross the Golden Gate. We didn't see Tales of the City. But all in all, we had a good time and did it up right. Now this morning we're off to Lake Tahoe to spend a week with the other side of the family. 24 people sharing a big house overlooking the lake. I'll pop in if there's internet. Later~

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dispatch from San Francisco

Hey y'all, sorry but no Georgie pic to start off the post today. I hope he is doing well, and since there's been no news on the matter, I believe we can assume he is. We've been in San Francisco now for three days and have not stopped for a second.  But let's start with the flight out here. I was in the last row of the aircraft and the flight was FULL. About two hours before landing, there was an Asian lady and her daughter in line for the bathroom next to me. I smiled at the lady as her daughter had her head kind of buried into her mom's stomach. She didn't smile back. It didn't take long for me to realize why as a piquant odor reached my nose. The  young girtl had vomited and the mom was cupping much of it in her hands. The rest had tumbled onto the floor and to my horror, splashed upon my sock clad foot. Ugh! The flight attendants covered it with blankets and laid bags of coffee on the floor to camouflage the smell. In all honesty, I felt really bad for the little girl. Sick and embarassed, poor thing.

We arrived July 4th so it was a holiday. The weather was also nice and here in Dolores Park, the place was packed with beer drinking, pot smoking, bbq making people enjoying the day. There is a buck naked man lying face up in this picture. Can you spot him? We hung out with baby bro and bar hopped after getting an awesome burrito in the Mission district. The burrito was the size of a 2-liter coke bottle and I ate the whole thing. You just cannot get that in Montreal. Our hotel is awesomely located with a subway entrance literally steps from the front door. Plus there is a starbucks attached to the lobby and free wi-fi everywhere. I asked for two beds when we checked in and when she checked our reservation, she clucked, "Oh, you booked with Priceline, no two beds with Priceline." And then she made a few clicks on her keyboard and said, "room 557 two beds." So I slipped her a 20. They have rooms here with ONE double bed, so I was grateful. The hotel is from the turn of the (last) century and is very The Shining with wide high ceilinged hallways and ornate carvings all over the place. I dig it.

The next day we went over to the Exploratorium which is just behind the Palace of Fine Arts which is in the photo and a vestige of the Expo in 1915. We've been lucky with sunny days even though you really need a windbreaker as the chilly winds pick up in the afternoon. Serge and I spent 5 hours in the Exploratorium and we were both kids again. I just love that place.

Here's Serge playing with the giant bubble kit. We played with every single exhibit there which is why it took so long to get through it. Being a kid for a day was really fun. I highly recommend it.

Yesterday, we took the tour of Alcatraz. We bought the photo they take of you before you board the ferry. This is a picture of that picture. It's rare we spring for such overpriced ($22 for 2 5x7s) tricks but it was a nice shot and hey, we're on vacation. It was an interesting tour and a bit spooky imagining being confined to such quarters. I think it's my first prison visit.

Of course we HAD to have clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. It's just a must-do here along with the cable cars (check), and Beach Blanket Babylon which we went to see last night. It's difficult to describe this singfest/comedy/hatstravaganza, but if you're ever in town, you should definitely go see it. It's been running for 37 years, and there's a pretty good reason for that. It's good!

After Alcatraz, we took in the Aquarium where we saw som fish and spooky creatures. Then we headed to the Musee Mecanique and played a bunch of old time arcade games, and saw how old we were since many of the machines I hadn't seen since I was a kid.

We had the best dinner last night in North Beach before the show. Crab Cioppino.  What you don't see in the picture is the ladle of seafood in Serge's hand. It was chock full of crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops and squid. If you are into seafood, I highly recommend it instead of the overpriced chains down in Fisherman's  wharf.

So there you have it, we've got a couple days left here and the parental units are coming in  this morning for a visit too. We're off to the museum of modern art this morning and tomorrow I think we're going to the California Academy of Sciences. Plus more exploring and walking. I think we'll  have worn  out a pair of sneakers this trip. If retirement is anything  like this, sign me up. I could really get into vacation mode 100% of the time. We still have a week and a half, so best not to ponder the end.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Let the junket begin

My two boys. I'm gonna miss one of them for the next two weeks because we're taking off for Northern California. Georgie will be staying downstairs with D, a rather long time renter in what is usually a short term studio apartment. He's had some trouble lately coming up with the rent but he's a good guy so win-win. We'll pay him to take care of Georgie and he'll have a little breathing room on the financial side.

I made shrimp and cheese enchiladas the other day. Did you know cold cheese enchiladas are awesome for breakfast? Who knew? I'm looking forward to having some Mexican food in California, in fact, I predict it will be the first meal I consume there. Boy do we have a long list of activities planned in San Fran. Shows, tours, walks, restaurants, museums, you name it. I'm particularly excited about going to Frances, the first michelin starred restaurant I will ever have eaten at.

This is Frank's banana nut bread I made. It's still at my house though. See, yesterday Frank invited us to his place for a BBQ. It was the perfect day for it, hot and sunny. I made the bn bread and wrapped it up (still warm) and put it in a bag with our bathing suits, towels and some drinks. Then as we were heading out the door, I remembered that the address was written on a paper in the office. So Serge headed out with the dog and the bag (so I thought) while I looked for that paper. Found it and headed out the door. When I got in the car, Georgie was in the back seat and I didn't see the bag so I assumed he had put it in the trunk so Georgie wouldn't dig around in the bag. Did I ASK if he had put it in the trunk? No. So we get all the way over there and I say, "Can you open the trunk?" and he says, "What for?" Uh-oh. No bag. He thought I had grabbed it (though I obviously didn't when I got in the car, ahem.) Frank had everything for us anyway, save bathing trunks, so a pleasant time was had anyway. Thanks Frank!

It's rare I catch an error on the national news. I know it's a serious topic, but I laughed out loud anyway. Last night after we went to Frank's BBQ, we headed over to the Jazz Festival, the coolest festival in town. Also prince William and Kate were in town though we didn't see them. It was mobbed downtown (our 15 minute drive over to Frank's took us 50 minutes to come back) but was much easier once we ditched the car and took the subway in. Then we capped off the evening with the fireworks competition display. It was the Czech Republic's night, and it was pretty good, the synchronization was perfect, and we were right up close to the show. Then we walked all the way home sipping from our little bottle of martinis I had prepped. Last stop, ICE CREAM. I don't know, vacation starts tomorrow, but yesterday was the perfect summer day in this city. I loved it!

So I probably won't be on here much for the next couple of weeks. I might try to pop in on Facebook if internet access happens. Later gaters!