Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015 Home Stretch

Happy holidays everyone. Here's the card that went out to many. I can't afford to send a card to everyone I know so posting it here is one way to spread some holiday cheer. Serge has been very patient with me this year with the decorating and holiday music. The tree was up before Halloween and although he wouldn't let me listen to the music in October, it has been on pretty much always since the beginning of November.

It's been so cozy this year and look at how adorable he is. I haven't had a tree up for several years because I always seem not to be home for the holidays. This year we aren't heading west until the 29th though. Also, this is the first holiday in a few years that I am REALLY enjoying. The people that caused us so much grief are still at it, campaigning mutual friends to unfriend us and telling vicious lies. At this point it's so ridiculous I feel sorry for them. We have moved on, but some people just can't let go of their resentment it seems. 

In early November, camper friend Charles drove up to celebrate his birthday. We tripped around town playing tourist and we went to Regine Cafe, definitely my favorite breakfast place in Montreal. Their plates are so interesting and creative. In the picture above I had sauteed mushrooms, cheese on baguette and Scottish eggs which I had never heard of but would definitely eat again. 

I thought he would be too late for fall color but our walk through the forest up to Levi tower was magical as the ground was piled with leaves and the sun streaking through made it seem like a fairyland. I thought the tower was used in some military capacity as the whole area was a fort to guard against an American attack but it's not. It was built in the 1930's as a water tower. 

Did you know we have a surf spot here in Montreal on the mighty St Lawrence River? We spoke with the surfers and learned that the permanent wave is different every year and they surf it until chunks of ice appear in the river. They must still be doing it today as we are still devoid of any white stuff this year. (Which I am VERY happy about. God love El Nino.)

I went to my usual place to get more long underwear this year and everything was changed and the only kind they had was superhero. I feel like such a kid wearing them. Today I'm Batman, tomorrow I'm Superman etc. It's fun.

Then it was honey-bunny's birthday the big four-nine. I got him that watch which I just knew he would love and he does! Of course one of the first things he did was look for it on-line and that's how I found out I could have had it for $75 less. Doh!

There I am! The week after, I flew out to San Francisco to visit my brother. The first night we went out and I drank too much and I got smacked and smacked someone and was thrown out of the bar (a first!) and then I don't remember much but discovered the next day I did something bad but I had drunk so much I don't remember doing it. Sigh. I can't fathom my brain when things like that happen. Thankfully it's very rare. It made for a less than ideal visit. Luckily a couple weeks later, he came out to visit us and we had a great time. 

See Serge and my brother? Oh how we ate and drank. We discovered this place and had an appetizer platter where we discovered that we LOVE sweetbreads. Then just as we were leaving the owner came and bought us shots. Wow, that never happens here. Definitely will be going back there. 

We went back to Ma Poule Mouillé to have their one poutine on the menu. SO amazingly good with Portugese grilled chicken and chorizo in addition to the regular ingredients. It's a Portugese chicken restaurant with many different plates but over half the people in there were eating this. And why not, at $7 it's the best buy in town. 

He was even game to go to Dan's holiday party. It was potluck and we brought a tourtière from this awesome butcher shop at Jean Talon market and Serge made mini hotdogs wrapped with bacon. When I heard he was doing this I thought the queens are going to turn their nose up at it, I mean really. Of course it was the first plate emptied on the buffet table. Shows what I know.

Inside our holiday card I put a collage of pics with all the people we hung out with during the year. At the beginning of 2015 I had said it was going to be the best year yet with big changes and that didn`t pan out per se. But when I look at this and see all the amazing things we did and all the wonderful friends and family we have, I am just so grateful and it really has been a great year. Here`s to an even better 2016. Happy holidays again everyone, MWAH!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Autumn social butterflies

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted. Dang Facebook sucking all my social time. Of course if we are friends on there, there won't be much new for you here unless you like my more expository writing on the blog. As you will see, we have been quite social in real life too.

A couple weeks after Camp Camp, we went out to Granby to stay the weekend with our friends. It's only an hour drive but since we like to drink with them, we stay there or they stay here. We brought George with us.

It's funny though, I didn't really think that at my age we would be making REALLY good friends anymore, you know, the kind you can call up anytime for any reason? Well we can! I met Annick when she was my student. We became friends and we have all just gotten closer and closer. Annick is the one who got me into doing the travel agent business so now we work together too. I got my first commission check this week. Imagine making money for doing something FUN. I get such a kick when someone asks me to check on travel prices. And extra, extra fun if I find it cheaper than the public travel search engines. I'd say I find it cheaper 90% of the time. And I just tell people where to buy it if I can't get it cheaper. I'm a good egg that way.

We can talk about ANYTHING with them. And as you can see, we hide very little. We went over to Annick's uncle's house (remember last year at the domaine?) and there was a crew there taping a wedding for a series on tv. We weren't allowed to take pictures of any of that though.

As I said. Ahem. This may have been after a few drinky-drinks. Can't wait til our next visit together!

Our friends from Halifax came out for several days and we enjoyed eating several delicious meals with them. They also like to drink and although I worry about my consumption, John can drink me under the table and then I don't worry so much. I didn't take very many pictures of their visit. My bad. I like to take pictures because then I can remember events better, what with my swiss cheese brain.

A week later we had our Moularian potluck. This is our annual get together and although it was a rainy night, Jacynthe had put a tarp up over the table in the back yard so we could sit outside. Missing this year was Sophie, but we all got together another time when she came into town. The Moularian reference is because we all used to work at the now defunct restaurant La Moulerie, which was a mussels and fries place. Although we took "nice" pictures, we always do  a make a face one too. This one cracked me up. Also, thanks to Anny who renewed Serge and my wedding vows with the most foul mouthed ceremony it was hilarious. I have video of Anny's foul mouth by I am not allowed to post it on the internet.

Here we all are again when Sophie came into town from Turkey. Jacynthe had left for Spain so it was just 6 of us again. This was at a place that had oyster happy hour - a buck an oyster. So Serge and I gave it a go again. (We have been trying to like oysters for years now.) And this time was the charm! We ordered plate after plate. So now we are oyster eaters. For us it was an acquired taste now firmly in the yum category.

It was a celebratory evening. Serge and I were celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary and it was also Marie-André's and Sophie's birthday. So champagne was had along with the oysters. The beer here was after the champagne. Yes, alcohol probably figures too highly in our lives. I had been four days as a non-smoker at this point. (I quit smoking October 5th)

Once I had a week of non-smoking under my belt, I decided to reward myself. My friend Sue had put a recipe up on Facebook called Maple Caramel Bacon Crack. It had four ingredients - pillsbury crescent rolls, maple syrup, brown sugar and bacon. It was SO unbelievably delicious that Serge and I ate the whole thing in one afternoon and evening. And there was a full pound of bacon in it. Now how will I top that when I have a month of non-smoking under my belt?

It may seem like our lives are all sunshine and roses, but it isn't always. In the last few months two large diagonal cracks opened up in our walls in the office and the closet. The cracks went all the way through to the neighbors'. We have one common wall. We pow-wowed with the neighbor and decided to fill in the crack and patch it up. When the guy opened it up we discovered that it had cracked and been repaired before. Since our building is on 50 feet of clay, shifting and settling is common. Hopefully it will stay stable for a while. Just love those thousand dollar bills that come out of nowhere, not.

I didn't get a three day weekend for Thanksgiving because I had to work all day that Saturday. I wanted to go hiking at the place we couldn't get into last year because we arrived too late and there was absolutely no place to park. We almost didn't make it in time this year either. But we made it and had a lovely walk around the lake and through the forest.

The colors were quite spectacular and I finally found the setting on the camera that let me capture them. If I used this setting with our faces in it, our faces were too red, so really just good for colorful nature shots.

The area is known for all the apple orchards and as we were walking back to the car, one of them had a sign mentioning the patio and bar out back. We walked back to have a look and WOW, look at that amazing view over the Richelieu valley. It wasn't quite noon yet but we just had to sit and have a glass of hard cider and admire it. Then we walked to the crepe place we like and had crepes with sparkling hard cider. Pretty much a perfect day. Easy to be thankful when that happens.

A week later, Serge's cousin came to town and we met up at our favorite watering hole La Distillerie. Had those amazing burning margaritas again. It was a short visit but fun that we got to go out.

After Alaska, Serge and I started doing the fit for life diet, suspended it for Camp Camp and then continued. I got to my lowest weight as an adult, 159 and feel great. Since quitting smoking the pounds are slowly creeping back, but what should I expect when I am eating maple caramel bacon crack. Very happy with all the positive changes I'm making. I LOVE being a non-smoker again.

Then last weekend our friends Mark and Joe drove up from Delaware for their first visit to Montreal. Mark and I met by blogging and we have been to their place twice near Rehoboth Beach. I just love to initiate people to the pleasures that Montreal has to offer, like this watering hole called The Lab. Such interesting cocktails they make there and all in the theme of a speak-easy during Prohibition.

And we had to take them to La Banquise for poutine. The twenty minute wait in the rain was totally worth it. Serge got his with smoked meat and corn dog slices in it. He had the regular size. I made the mistake of ordering the large with smoked meat. So delicious but my digestive system got mad at me for a couple days. Worth it still. I will not have another until my brother visits in December.

We took the metro and bus all over town and I showed them all around old Montreal, the Olympic park, Marche Jean Talon where they scored the amazing maple creme cookies and even a drive out of town to Mont Tremblant.

When we got there, we were disappointed to learn that the chairlift was closed. Apparently it is only closed between Thanksgiving and the first skiable snowfall. Probably a three week window. Stupid. However, they had the beaver tail place in the village! I was quite happy to turn our friends on to one. We shared it so although I only permit myself one per year, I didn't feel too guilty. Plus they chose the flavor and it is now my new favorite. Nutella, peanut butter and Reese's Pieces. Heaven.

A good time was had by all. We may even plan a week long getaway to Mexico with them this winter. Serge thought I was a freak when I put up the Christmas tree the day after they left. Instant good mood for me. It is a bit early since tomorrow is Halloween but as many of you know we take a picture for our holiday card. Since I am going to visit my brother for US Thanksgiving weekend in San Francisco, I need to have them all done and addressed by then. Postage is far cheaper if I mail them from there to my US peeps. Plus I get two months of Christmas music! This shot didn't make the cut but I like it anyway.

So now you are all caught up as am I. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy autumn.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

My second year at Camp Camp

After a one year hiatus from Camp Camp, we went back this year and I had an even better time than the last time we went. So much water has passed under the bridge since then so my mindset was certainly in a better place. I turned off the electronic devices and went off the grid for the whole time. It is so relaxing to detach from technology.

On the way down, an hour outside of town, our car started making a terrible noise so we pulled over and called CAA to get a tow. Luckily some good friends live around there and she helped us choose a garage and arranged a rental car for us. So after a two hour delay, we were on our way. First stop was a Day's Inn in Camden New Hampshire about an hour and a half from camp. Boy did we earn our beers that night.

The next day was a whirlwind, got to camp at 8:30 to do an airport run (I worked as a driver at Camp this year) and then I cleaned a couple cabins and I got to greet campers and show them to their cabins upon arrival. The first night everyone eats with their rainbow group. What a nice surprise to find Kevin, one of our new friends we met in Key West to be in my rainbow group which, if you haven't guessed, was yellow this year. I think the cue for this shot was "resting bitch face" but maybe Kevin didn't hear it, lol.

I managed to swim across the lake and back once at 7am for the morning swim. I hadn't been swimming since the last time we went to camp so of course I was crippled the next day from using atrophied muscles for the swim. The water temp was great though and it is so peaceful in the morning with the loons cooing.

I didn't get any pictures the first night because a cute guy was flirting with me for a long time and it took me a while to slip in the fact that I was married. But he asked me to dance anyway and we do-see-doed for a while. Serge hung out at the smoking table. The next day I gave him a campogram thanking him for the fun chat and dance and he responded by saying he was leaving that day but to keep in touch. It was hard not to take it personally but apparently camp wasn't really a good fit for him. That night was the Game of Shows where we had a very campy series of popular game shows. Didn't get picked to play, pooh. But it was a barrel of laughs.

The next day I participated in the morning swim by kayaking alongside the swimmers. The food coming out of the kitchen seemed like a notch up from our previous camp. They even served us lobster rolls for lunch once. Yum!

Our cute friend James was there with us in addition to our Key West friends. It was actually through James that I found out about Camp Camp. He worked a lot more than I did so I didn't really see him much except at meal times. It was great catching up with friends we made at the first camp camp and further solidifying those relationships while building other new friendships with new acquaintances. Everyone was just so pleasant and loving.

The next day we got a gang together to drive to Bay Haven, this awesome lobster place a ten minute drive away. See those plates of lobster and sides? $19.99 for two big lobsters. I didn't feel like fussing with the thing so I had lobster stew which was chock full of meat and a lobster roll, also chock full. The bill for Serge and I including two beers each was $60. That meal would have been North of $200 up here. Such a deal.

My days were filled with activities, making stained glass, making a ring in the jewelry class and rehearsing for our number at the talent-no talent show. I never did make it to the adventure course or tye-dye and was only able to attend one writing workshop. There were a dozen other activities available as well, you just can't do everything in a week. In the letter I wrote to myself I said to leave one activity period unscheduled per day. I felt kind of rushed all week. Finally on the last day, I was able to swim in the swimming area of the lake and romp around with the floats.

The next day was the event everyone waits for, Tea Dance. Lots of people get dressed up in costume and there is a red carpet entrance for those that do. We did a roman theme with our friends.

There were a lot of great, elaborate costumes but I think I liked these guys the best. They did a great Richard Simmons and assistant routine. So funny.

The last day was the talent no talent show. I participated in the broadway dance class where we basically had five hours to memorize a routine. It was totally out of my comfort zone but the teacher was so nice and cute and it turned out to be really fun, and a great workout.

Then it was the last day. I probably took more pictures this day than any. Here you see after the "color wars" where people throw colored powder at each other. I didn't participate but definitely want to next time.

Here are our cabin mates. We all got along swimmingly. I spoke a bit at the closing circle and then cried like a baby (again) doing the walk of angels. I really didn't think I would, but once I closed my eyes, the water works began.

The Camp Camp Dance Dance was the last event. It was fun but I had to leave early as I had an early airport run as driver. We both just had the best time and are counting the days until next year.

We have had such a great summer but poor Georgie has missed us. He howled with gratitude when mother in law brought him back this time. His health has been great (like his appetite) so that is good. Thanks for stopping by. Mwah!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fabulous 50 in Alaska

I can't believe I have been blogging for over ten years. Although I certainly post far left often than I did at the beginning, it's great to be able to go back and remember where and when we did what. I couldn't remember what I did for my 40th birthday so I checked the blog and saw that we really didn't do much except go out for drinks and dinner. I wanted to make 50 memorable so we decided to go to Alaska.

We booked an Alaskan cruise that left out of Vancouver. I didn't want to risk missing the boat by flying in the same day, so we flew in the night before and stayed at this delightful little hotel. It was rainy and gloomy in the morning.

We took the Skytrain down to the port to meet the ship.

We were among the first batch of people to board the ship. We had purchased the Signature Drink Package for this trip which entitled us to 15 drinks a day of our choice. As usual, we had a champagne toast to kick off the cruise.

By the afternoon the rain had stopped and the sun came out just in time for the deck party sail away. We knew we wouldn't be able to drink 15 drinks the first day, but the next day was an "at sea" day so we thought we could manage that.

The second day was formal night so we suited up. This was our 8th cruise in 10 years. I seriously don't know how we afford it. Although we thought we could do 15 drinks, we were thwarted again.

This bar team really made our vacation special. The reason we couldn't do the 15 drinks is because of them. They routinely poured doubles and triples for us and we learned to only go to this bar. We tipped them handsomely at the end.

First stop was Ketchikan. We didn't plan any excursions for this town and it took us a couple hours to walk around. We bought some smoked salmon and walked down the street eating it. Fishy, oily goodness.

These signs were all over and creeping me out. Before we got back on the ship, we stopped at  a little bar for a beer and free wi-fi. It took us about 15 minutes before we realized there were ashtrays on the bar and that people were smoking! I didn't know that existed anywhere in the states, but Alaska is still a bit wild west.

This became our favorite beer on the ship.

The next day we landed in Juneau. It was my 50th birthday and we had bought a helicopter ride and glacier walk excursion to celebrate. I was quite disappointed when they cancelled our morning departure due to inclement weather on the glacier. We hoped to join the afternoon departure.

With a couple of hours to kill, we walked around town, found an internet cafe and went back onto the ship for lunch. The grey drizzly weather persisted and we were convinced the afternoon departure would be cancelled.

Birthday lunch was hot dogs and fries! We had been doing the fit for life diet before the cruise and lost several pounds. By the time we finished this trip we had gained it all back and then some. This pic pretty much explains why.

When we met the guide for the afternoon departure, we learned that it was a go. Yay! So we took a bus to the heliport and watched a safety video and suited up. We had to wear a life preserver thing in case we went down in water.

It was my first time in a helicopter. They took us up and down the Mendenhall glacier and the pilot pointed out features before landing and meeting the glacier guides. It felt so alien, like we were landing on the moon.

We learned all about the glacier and even drank some ten thousand year old meltwater. Pretty nifty. In fact, probably the niftiest thing I've ever done. So glad we sprang for it. 

I was high all afternoon from that excursion. We reserved dinner in the special dining room where the food is even better but you have to pay extra. I was thrilled to see Ossetra caviar on the menu for an extra $45. I know caviar and I knew the ship wasn't making any money off it so I ordered it. SO GOOD. 

We were so stuffed at the end of the meal, I couldn't even order the souffle I wanted. The staff knew it was my birthday somehow and when we got back to the room, this cake was waiting for me sent by the waiter who had waited on us. Nice touch.

The next day we had an excursion into the Yukon. Although the weather had been gloomy for three days, once we got up and over the pass, the skies cleared nicely and there was stunning beauty everywhere. Pictures cannot do it justice and I kept telling Serge to remember this, remember that, because I know pics don't convey the spectacularity of nature easily. 

It was so beautiful and yet so sparsely populated. This is the area where the Klondike gold rush happened in the late 1800's. We learned a lot about it. 

In fact, the gold rush prompted the construction of this narrow gauge railway which we took for the return trip to port. It was an amazing feat of engineering as we came down the mountain hugging cliffs that dropped off hundreds of feet below. 

Serge didn't really like the train ride because he is afraid of heights. Once we got back down we headed back to the ship instead of walking around the town of Skagway. Just a bunch of tourist shops and we had some drinking to do. We had been gone all day on the excursion. 

The next day we cruised Glacier Bay National Park. There was a park ranger on board narrating for us. We got to see a big chunk calve off of the glacier in the background. I wish it had been sunnier so you could see the blueness of the glaciers. 

The next day was an at sea day again, the last of the cruise. We made good friends on board and took group pictures for souvenirs. Of course we are now all friends on Facebook. I wish my brother had been with us but something terrible happened a week before the cruise and he didn't make it. We never were able to consume the 15 drinks allotted. Well played Holland-America.

For the transfer back to Anchorage from the port of Seward, we stopped at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation center where they rescue injured wildlife or abandoned babies. They try to rehabilitate them and release them back to the wild. We got to see bears, moose and reindeer (which I learned is simply another word for Caribou) which was a nice treat.

We have some camper friends who live in Anchorage so the first night we met up for dinner. It was cool that we learned that like us, they like to share an assortment of appetizers instead of having a main course. We stuffed ourselves silly.

We stayed with our friend Jim who took us on a day trip to Talkeetna. It's hard to see in the pic, but that is Mt. McKinley in the background, tallest mountain in North America. Jim taught us about Geocaching and we had lots of fun finding treasures on the drive up. 

It was a beautiful drive. I just couldn't get over how beautiful it was up there. Also, the days are so long! It was still light out at 11pm. I learned that this is why you don't see the northern lights in the summer - it doesn't really get completely dark. 

The next day Chuck took us out on a couple of hikes. We had bison and caribou burgers for lunch. 

We were lucky enough on the way back to see the bore tide come in. Hard to see but there are surfers riding that wave. It really did fill the bay like a tsunami which is probably why they are also referred to as tidal waves. 

Did I mention how stunningly beautiful it was?

The final full day of our trip we bought a day cruise around Prince William Sound to see the glaciers. The sun was out so we got much better pictures than at Glacier Bay.

See? I was just blown away by the glaciers and their blue color. We also got to see a raft of otters, bald eagles, sea lions and puffins. 

It was simply a magnificent day and I am so glad we decided to do it. I met the forest ranger on board and she told me I should apply to be a guide too. Best job she's ever had. 

Finally it was time to go home. Red-eye flight to Chicago was made very nice since Jim knew the crew working on board. Oh how they plied us with drinks until we fell asleep. Only the second time I have slept on a plane. 

Now we are home sweet home and I would be in a post-vacation funk if it weren't for the fact that we leave for Campcamp next week. Thanks y'all for stopping by.