Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer in Montreal: Week Two

This is the 2nd in what will be a five-part series of posts from our summer in Montreal.  If you want to see the first post click here: Summer in Montreal: Week One.

This morning we woke to a clear blue sky and lots of sun. In the last 30 minutes clouds have rolled in and we are expecting thunderstorms. That pretty much sums up the changeable weather of the last week. Mostly sunny with a day or two of sometimes rain.  We had one day of Florida weather: really hot, humid, ending in a thunderstorm. But mostly it's been in the 70s and low 80s. Perfect weather for walking. And that's what we do a lot of...walk.

Favorite Walks of the Week. On our one day of hot and humid Florida weather we took to the "Underground City."  Underneath downtown Montreal is a rabbit warren of climate-controlled passageways that connect office buildings, metro stations, food courts, the main train station, shopping malls, and public spaces.  In the winter, this Underground City is well used to escape the frigid winter winds.  In the summer, it isn't as busy...but we find it a great place to still get in an explore while not sweating like we were home in Florida. 
Jerry in the Underground City

On a milder day, we walked along a portion of the Lachine Canal from Old Montreal to the up and coming (former working class neighborhood) Griffintown. 


Stadning at Lock 2 on the Lachine Canal looking back towards the Old Port of Montreal

The Story of the Lachine Canal. Montreal sits on the St. Lawrence River which drains the Great Lakes (Lake Ontario) and flows northeast to the Atlantic Ocean. 




Before the Lachine canal (built in the mid 1800s) the great Lachine Rapids was a major hazard to boats on the river. It was simply impossible for large boats to get through safely on a regular basis. 




 So in the mid 1800s, industrious Montrealers dug an 11-mile long canal from the Port in Old Montreal to Lachine (a former fur trading town.)  Over the next century the canal (and it's lock system) was enlarged and improved a number of times.




By the 1920s Montreal was the 5th largest inland port in the world and was the largest grain shipping port in the world.  All that wheat grown across the heartland of Canada was shipped by train to ports along the St Lawrence. It was put on canal barges in Lachine and taken down the canal to Montreal where it was loaded onto large ships for transport to cities all over the world. 

The building that our apartment is in was built around 1850 arond the time the Lachine Canal opened and Montreal was rapidly growing as a port city. The building would have had shops on the first floor to serve the shipping trade and warehousing on the upper floors. This engraving is of Montreal in 1889. Our building is in the center directly facing on the port. 


Ships got bigger and eventually the Lachine Canal was too narrow and the locks too short and shallow for the big "lakers" that hauled grain and other goods to and from the Great Lakes. So in the 1950, the St Lawrence Seaway (built on the other side of the river from MOntreal) was built.  The Lachine Canal closed and decayed over a number of decades.  In the late 1990s/early 2000, an effort was made to restore a portion of the locks and canal to be used for pleasure boaters.  It was very successful and once again, the Lachine Canal lives. (Along with a walking and biking path that runs the entire length of the canal).

We Love Montreal's Nature Parks. Our two favorite parks in Montreal are the Parc-des-Rapides (which sits on on of the many "legs" of the Lachine Rapids) and the Parc Bois-des-i'lle-Bizard. We visited both last week.  The Parc-des-Rapides was filled with blooming day lilies, red-winged black birds, terns fishing along the shore, herons and egrets standing amidst the reeds, and a wonderful cool breeze coming in off the river. 


Look closely and you can see a tern hovering and fishing over the rapids. 
At Parc Bois Bizard we love the long boardwalk across the wetlands filled with painted turtles, frogs, ducks, herons, rails, swallows, dragonflies, little fish, and egrets. Sometimes we'll spy a beaver dam but not this visit. 



After Walking Comes the Eating. All the walking built up an appetite.  This week's highlights were Montreal's famous smoked meat, fresh oysters and mussels, crepes, pie, and, of course, more ice cream. 

Montreal is famous for their style of smoked meat (like what we call pastrami south of the border).  The most famous spot is Schwartz's on St Laurent which we've been to many times. But this time of year (festival season) the lines out front are huge. All. Day. Long. So we slipped across the street to Le Main which has really good smoked meat sandwiches as well (and no line). 

(For a great discussion of the "war between the meats" or "what the heck is the difference between smoke meats and pastrami" check out this great blog post by Ben Jay on SeriousEats.com What's the Difference Between Smoked Meat and Pastrami?)



I love Oysters, Jerry loves mussels.  So Maestro SVP on St Laurent is the perfect ticket for us.  They will usually have about 20 different types of oysters on offer (most from the Canadian maritimes and a few from the U.S. Northeast and Canada's British Columbia.)  On Mondays, they have "all you can eat" mussels and "happy hour" Beausoleil oysters for a great price.  So that's where we headed last Monday. I tried 9 different kinds of oysters. All were great, but I once again confirmed that I'm a Northwest Oyster gal at heart...the Kuushi and Valentine oysters from British Columbia were spectacular! Yum!





And let's not forget the sweets. We made a pilgrimage to Bilboquet 
ice cream shop in the Outremont neighborhood of Montreal. FANTASTIC caramel and dark chocolate scoops.  But they didn't have strawberry that day to taste test.  Will just have to return. Darn! 



And then there was pie.  You knew I'd have to eventually get around to pie, didn't you? My favorite pie place in Montreal is Rustique Pie Kitchen in the St-Henri neigborhood. The specialize in "tiny" pies (although they offer full size pies, cookies, bar cookies, and meringues as well).  I had the meringue citron (lemon meringue), cerises (cherry), and banana split pies.  Delish!



Murals, Murals, Murals.  We've taken to getting on a bus and taking it about 2 to 3 miles away from our flat and then getting off and walking back home. Trying different routes or revisiting old favorites. What they all have in common are murals.  Big ones, little ones.  Old ones, new ones.  "Official" ones and really great graffiti. Here are some of this weeks finds: 









A Little Shopping. We continue our search for cool bookstores. Will update on the next blog.  This week we found THE COOLEST STORE for pencil, pen, and paper junkies like me.  It's called Papeterie Nota Bene on Avenue du Parc.  We found it on one of our walks after dinner.  It is one of the coolest, retro paper stores ever.  I was practically hyperventilating over the pencil, pencil sharpener, and eraser offerings (yes, I'm a bit of nerd.) Of course they had the collection of quality pens and fountain pens, but the collection of hundreds of different notebooks of all sizes, types, and colors left me almost speechless.  And don't get me going on the brightly colored portable typewriters...yes you heard me...TYPEWRITERS. Love. This. Store. 





Old and New.  Montreal is a living, breathing, modern City built on the bedrock of over almost 375 years of history.  Next year will be the City's 375th birthday and the City has got projects going everywhere to be ready to celebrate (so NEXT year's blogposts will be full of all that fun!) But it is the mix of old and new that we like so much on our walks. 

The Old Walls. In the early days of Montreal (375 years ago), the original city/fort had a wooden blockade built around it for protection.  Later that wooden wall was replaced by a stone wall that enclosed a much larger town.  It got taller and bigger as the town grew into City. Eventually the City grew far past the old walls and was no longer needed.  So the walls were torn down or built on. There are only two places you can see remnants of the wall. One is underground at the nearby Pointe -a- Calliere Museum and the other is in the grassy park of Champ-de-Mars. This photo shows what would have been the foundations of the stone walls in the early 1700s.





(side note: when they were renovating our building and enlarging the subterranean area for more parking spaces, they came across the remains of the early wall.  So we sit right on top of where the wall once was) 

More recently there was a major new hospital built not too far from us.  It was a much needed hospital associated with the University of Montreal.  There was an old church that had been vacant for many years. The Eglise St Saveur was originally built in 1865. It was demolished for the hospital construction but the portion of the church that had served as the entranced (topped by a steeple) was carefully "deconstructed" and then rebuilt on the corner of Rue St Denis and Viger. 


Whew...what a great week. Tomorrow we're off to the Eastern Townships (a rural, lake-filled countryside between Montreal and Vermont).  We're going to spend a couple of days at Lake Wassiwippi...or is that Wissiwappi?... Will come back with photos of Quebec countryside for next week's blog. 

A Bientot!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summer in Montreal: Week One

Rue St Paul in Old Montreal 

As much as we love our home in St Pete, the heat of a Florida summer can be a bit overwhelming. So every year around the end of June, we fly north to our apartment in Montreal to escape the excessive heat and humidity. We call ourselves "reverse snowbirds." This year we're up for 6 weeks.  We have all sorts of plans most of which involve long walks and eating. We're checking out all the English Language bookstores, trying to find the best falafel, taste-testing ice cream for the best strawberry, visiting farmers markets, and exploring neighborhoods on foot. We also plan to spend 3 days in the Eastern Townships (an area between Montreal and the Vermont/NH/Maine border) in a small hotel on a lake. 

So how's it gone so far? RELAXING and delicious! First, it's a delight to be in weather that is an average 10 to 20 degrees cooler than at home.  Weather has been mostly sunny with one day of humid weather and a couple days of rain. I love to sit in my reading chair and look out my window to watch the changing sky above the St Lawrence. And I REALLY love, love, love being able to have the windows open with no screens.  The occasional fly comes in for a visit...but NO MOSQUITOS!!!

So...our favorites from our first week. 

In Search of Falafels.  We've hit three falafel places. Two we really liked. One we didn't.  Falafel Avenue on Robert Bourassa Street near McGill University was a brightly lit spot that offered four different kinds of falafel either as a plate or sandwich. They were fresh, not greasy, and quite tasty. Sumac Restaurant is our favorite so far. It's in Little Burgundy around the corner from Atwater Market. The falafel was fantastic and the pita was plump and fresh.  What set this spot apart from the pack so far was the variety of salads and side dishes. The next time I'll try the shish tawouk which looked equally as yummy. The third spot we tried was a small storefront in Old Montreal on rue Notre Dame near St Denis.  The falafels were like little hockey pucks. I forgot the name of the place as I'd like to forget that lunch all together. 

Falafel Plate at Sumac Restaurant 

Books and Books. We're primarily looking for used bookshops but have found that English bookstores tend to be a hybrid in Montreal. With the demise of the Chapters bookstore chain, all the English bookshops are independents and by necessity serve a wide variety of needs. Our favorite so far was the first we visited,  The Word Bookstore on rue Milton just off the McGill U campus.  It was a small used bookstore with fantastic values and wide selection although it's oriented primarily to literature and philosophy. The shop has operated in it's small two story building for 41 years. I laughed when a went to the desk to buy our treasures.  The desk looked as it must have looked on opening day 41 years ago. Crammed with books, a pen and paper ledger, a rotary dial phone, no computer, no credit card reader. Needless to say, it's a cash-only store. We bought 7 books for 17 dollars.  We were almost giddy with our carryall stuffed with new books to read. 

The Word Bookstore

A few days later we stopped at the Argo Bookshop on St-Catherine. The shop is about the size of a shoe box.  But we found a few treasures there as well.  The store sells new and "old" new (meaning discounted older printings) books. There is a comfy chair in the middle of the small box room perfect for browsing. They had a great shelf of travel related books, mainly memoirs, which I really liked. Jerry found a Dennis Lehane book he hadn't read yet. 

The third store we stopped at was S.W. Welch Books on St-Viateur West (just about a block from St-Viateur Bagels). This used bookstore was a little lacking on travel books but had a really good children's books section, an interesting couple of shelves on Canadiana, quite a large mystery and sci-fi collection, good literature offerings, and a great cart of "dollar" books...where Jerry found his next purchase. 

Tasting Ice Cream Thank heavens for Lactaid! My summer goal is to hit all the "must-go" ice cream shops in Montreal and maybe discover a few not yet on the map. We picked a flavor to comparison test across the board when possible. We decided on strawberry as this is strawberry season in Quebec. It there was ever a time to produce really good strawberry ice cream, this would be the time. Our fall back flavors in absence of fraise/strawberry is maple or chocolate. 

My favorite so far is La Diperie although it isn't comparable to the rest as it's style is an incredibly thick and creamy soft serve vanilla that is then dipped into one of many dipping sauces and then covered in your choice of topping(s).  The dark chocolate dipping sauce is really thick and doesn't melt too fast. I like it with crushed almonds and caramel sauce swirl on it. It's heaven. 

Ripples Ice Cream Shop on St-Laurent

We've also tried Ripples on St Laurent (across from Schwartz's smoked meat). Very good strawberry and excellent maple nut. Delices Erables on rue St Paul in Old Montreal had a decent but not stellar strawberry.  They used to have fantastic selection of gelato.  Their offerings are now more limited and more traditional ice cream than gelato style. A new spot on Place d'Armes is Xavier Artisan which offers coffee, soups/salads, pastries, and ice cream. It's a comfortable airy space and they had a good strawberry ice cream on a really nicely crispy cone. 

Good Eats.  We've eaten at home quite a bit with fresh produce, cheeses, and pates from Atwater Market and Jean Talon Market.  We also stopped by Schwartz's and picked up some smoke meat to go (as the line outside was probably an hour long) and Coco Rico's for Portuguese Rotisserie Chicken. 

Chinatown (which is really Asiatown now) is about 1/2 mile from our apartment. We really like the tiny Nouilles de Lan Zhou restaurant where they make the long delicious noodles in a storefront window and serve them in a delicious been broth with lots of vegies. Yum. 

Braised Beef Noodles at Lan Zhou in Chinatown

The MUVBOX Homard is a short walk from our apartment along the waterfront in Old Montreal.  They serve excellent lobster roll (or lobster salad roll is you are a pursuit because there IS celery in the roll) and clam chowder. Muvbox is located in a converted shipping container near Locks 1 and 2 of the Lachine Canal.  If you can't make it to Cape Cod for a lobster roll, this is a pretty excellent second choice.

Yesterday it rained all day.  We slept in and read in bed much of the day.  But finally hunger (and the need to stretch our legs) got the better of us. So we pulled out our McGill University and Cirque du Soleil umbrellas and wandered off down rue St Paul.  We were not the only people who thought sitting in a cozy restaurant on a rainy day was a good idea.  But we managed to find a quiet corner table at Les Pyrenees and enjoyed a fabulous late afternoon lunch/dinner. Jerry had mussels and I had the fish soup. DELICIOUS.  This is one of our favorite local restaurant.  They have a really excellent selection of Catalan inspired dishes.  There are a number of vegetarian items that we've tried in the past, but mainly we seem to gravitate towards the fish selections. 

FUN! Most years in late spring/early summer, the Cirque du Soleil raises their Gran Chapeau (Big Top) on one of the quays in the Old Port of Montreal.  Whenever the Cirque produces a new show, it premiers here.  Like this year.  We had the good fortune to see "Luzia" a magical show inspired by the folklore and music of Mexico. 

The Magic of Luzia

Shops.  We found a great shop, Swell Fellow on rue Notre Dame which has a great selection of  neckties, bowties, cufflinks, and purses. Some are conservative, some quite quirky, all are very well made.  Neckties are made at a sewing station in the front window and designed by one of the owners. (Reminds me of the cigar stores in Tampa where you can watch someone roll cigars in the front windows)  Almost made me wish that Jerry and Jason were wearing ties these days. 

Handmade neckties at Swell Fellow in Old Montreal 

Cats. As always, we miss our little furpals when we travel.  Fortunately in Montreal there is a cat cafe where we can get our feline fix. Cafe Chat l'Heureaux on rue Duluth is a wonderful spot to grab a bit to eat, drink a cup of coffee, read a book and play with KITTIES!  The Cafe is run in cooperation with a cat rescue organization and besides the "resident" senior cats they socialize kittens and young cats for adoption. There were four very energetic kittens the afternoon we visited. It was so much fun. 



Walking. So far we've walked all around Old Montreal, along much of Boul St Laurent, down St Catherine, on St-Viateur and Parc.  We wandered through the high energy of the Place d'Artes during the Jazz Festival and though the Gay Village during MTLenArt. We've got ourselves a Metro/STM pass, so we take the subway or a bus to distant spot and then walk back to our apartment picking different streets. St Laurent is one of our favorite streets partially for the great group of murals that are found along the route.  The street is also home to an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. 

After 13 years of coming to Montreal we finally walked around the Mont Royal Park . The park was designed by Olmsted (of Central Park fame) and is a fix of natural areas/trails and large landscaped parkland.  It was a delight.  And we walked to the Kondiaronk Belvedere (overlook) which looks out over downtown Montreal. Frankly, I'm not sure how we never knew about this spot until a few months ago. It was a beautiful day and the belvedere was filled with happy people. 

Sunny Day at Mont Royal Park on the Kondiaronk Belvedere


Thursday, May 5, 2016

For The Love of Pie (Judging the 2013 National Pie Championships)

When he entered the large, brightly lit room, Rob Ward stopped a moment to savor the heady scent of butter, apple, almonds, citrus, chocolate and cinnamon. Along the walls of the room were over 300 pies lined up like beads on a jeweled necklace.  With a broad smile he nodded hello to fellow pie lovers as he threaded his way through 19 tables to table number six, where he would sit for the better part of three hours tasting over a dozen cherry pies.  For the seventh year in a row, Ward would judge, along with 100 others, the amateur division of the American Pie Council’s National Pie Championship in Orlando, Fla.
Over two decades, the National Pie Championships has grown from a series of small regional pie competitions to a single large national event held every April.  At the 2013 event,  pies were judged in five divisions: commercial, independent/retail bakers, amateur bakers, professional chefs, and junior chefs.  Competitors and judges came from over 40 states.  Nearly 1,000 pies were judged by 200 volunteer judges over three days of competition. Gift baskets were awarded to the winners of various pie categories and the Best of Show winner in each division received a cash prize.
It is not difficult to understand what brings bakers to the competition. They love to create an original recipe they hope is worthy of recognition and prize money.  Most competitors enter pies in many different categories and return every year hoping for fame within the pie community. Winning pie recipes are published on the American Pie Council’s website. A new cookbook, America’s Best Pies, edited by Linda Hoskins the executive director of the APC contains 200 of the best recipes from past competitions. 
But what brings people like Rob Ward back year after year to judge those pies? There are no prizes or accolades for the judges. They pay for their own transportation and lodging. No one writes stories about them in the local paper. They give up a weekend to sit inside a windowless, air- conditioned convention center eating pie until their loose-fitting clothes aren’t so loose fitting anymore. So why do they do it? The answer is simple. It is their passion for pie.
Ward recently retired to Sarasota, an easy two-hour drive to Orlando. But for the first six years he judged at the National Pie Championships, he would close his lucrative orthodontic practice in Illinois for several days. He would fly at his own expense to Orlando from Chicago and judge pies for three days. He said his wife would often ask him why he wanted to make the effort to judge for free and without recognition.   He said his answer was always, “Because I can”.  He loves the camaraderie of the judges, seeing good friends year after year, and tasting many different pies.
His favorite pie is cherry, preferably a double crust, the category he judged at this year’s championship. But his earliest memory of pie was his grandmother’s apple pie.  He would sit on a well-worn stool in her kitchen in a small house in upstate New York. “I was around eight or nine watching her work her magic … I still have that stool.”
His enthusiasm for the pie championship was so great that one year he took the idea home with him.  He and his wife lived on a close-knit cul-de-sac north of Chicago. He hosted a friendly neighborhood pie competition where everyone brought their favorite pie, whether they baked it or bought it.  With Johnny Cash’s song Pie in the Sky playing in the background they sampled pies, Ward “judged” each pie, and everyone got a prize. It was the talk of the neighborhood for years.
Across the table from Ward sat a trim, talkative woman who has driven from nearby Jupiter  for a half dozen years to judge the amateur division. A red, white, and, blue “I Love Pie” sticker stood out on her bright red jacket.  She is an avid baker who bakes pies, cakes, cookies, and breads almost every day. When her tablemates asked how she keeps so trim and fit, she replied “I give away most of what I bake, to the local fire and police stations and my neighbors.” She just loves to bake, especially pies. There were at least several people at her table who expressed the desire to be one of her neighbors.
Like several other judges around the table, she was disappointed there weren’t more classic, double-crusted cherry pies in the competition. She considers herself a purist.  If it says it is a cherry pie, it should have lots of cherries. Her opinion of the cherry cream pie that got high marks from several other judges? Not enough cherries, too much cream cheese, she marked it down for that.  But with six judges with different tastes and opinions, the pie still won third place.  The winner? Mamma Mia’s Cherry Pie.  It had lots of cherries and no cream cheese.
Judging at the pie championship requires more than just the love of pie.  It also requires organization, attention to detail, and confidence.   There were six judges at a table with each table judging an entire category of pie.  There were typically 12 to 25 pies in a category. A score sheet was filled out by each judge giving points for appearance, overall taste, balance of taste, mouth feel, crust quality, creativity, after-taste, and more.  During the tasting process for each piece, no communication between judges was allowed.  But in between pie slices, conversation was often lively and varied.  “Didn’t you think it tasted like lavender soap?” “What was that spice? Whatever it was, there was too much of it.” “What was that golden cherry? It was perfect.”
Judging attracts pie lovers of all ages. A frail, silver-haired woman with a whisper of a voice has judged at the pie championships for so long she couldn’t remember how many years, at least 11.  She spoke of a sweet potato pie from her childhood in the backwoods of Louisiana during the 1940s. Her delicately, weathered hand tapped on the small round pin on her lapel that announced, pie judge. The family’s housekeeper would make the pie.  She said, “I never saw her use a recipe and I have never been able to make that pie”. The closest she has come was from a recipe she found in a southern cookbook from 1764.
Sitting at the raisin pie table, Judy Hynes proudly wore her American Pie Council Pie Police t-shirt. She drives an hour from DeBary, Fla, all three days of the competition. In addition to judging, she volunteers at the American Pie Festival in Celebration, Fla, that runs concurrently with the National Pie Championship.  The most demanding job? “The pie slicing tent at Celebration, hardest job ever.”  
 Her earliest memory of pie is her mother’s peach pie.  She prides herself on her lemon meringue and chocolate pies. In past competitions, she has entered pies for judging, but never won. But, her days as a competitor will soon be over. Her son is marrying into pie royalty.  This summer he will marry the daughter of Rich and Linda Hoskins the founders of the American Pie Council and the National Pie Championships.  When asked whether there will be cake or pie at her son’s wedding reception, she said, “That is so funny. Pie of course!”


Sunday, March 6, 2016

75 Things to know about the Birthday Boy!

75 things (more or less) to know about the Birthday Boy
compiled by Annette and Jason

My husband, Jerry, turns 75 tomorrow.  He's still a youthful and vibrant man who is a fabulous and interesting companion, makes us think and laugh, and always makes me feel special and loved.  In honor of his birthday, our son Jason and I came up with this list of 75 things (more or less) that we love about him. Do you have any to add?



He is a deep thinker.He loves books, most kinds. One of his favorite things to do is sit in his leather recliner in our lounge and get lost in book. He reads “real” books, kindle, and listens to books via Audible. Any way he can get a book is good with him. He never goes anywhere without a book (which is easier now that he can load them onto his phone).

Recently he has been into good mystery and detective books.

Some of his favorite books are: Econometrics by Wonnacott and Wonnacott; The Lion’s Paw by Robb White; The Flashman Papers series by Geroge MacDonald Frasier; Glory Road by Robert Heinlein; and the Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

He is curious about the world and how it works. He learns new things all the time through books and learning courses. He’s a big fan of the Great Courses series and loves that he can get them on Audible now.

He loves cats especially big ginger cats.

His favorite cat of all time (and we have had great cats) was Orange Roughy who we got as a kitten right after we were married.

He likes dogs (if they are cat-like).

He loves to cook and does it often (thank heavens.)

He likes to make me steamed stone crab when it’s in season and silver dollar pancakes for special breakfasts.

He likes to shop and loves bargains. We say it’s his hunter-gatherer instinct. 
He finds all sorts of deals on Living Social and Amazon deals

He really really REALLY loves Costco and has visited Costcos wherever he has traveled (including 5 in the U.K., one in Mexico, and almost everyone around the Montreal area).

He likes soft sheets with cool patterns (like the ones with zebra stripes).

He loves opera and classical music.

His favorite operas include La Traviata, La Boheme, and Carmen.

He took me to my first opera which was Don Giovanni.

He’s always been a huge fan of Hank Williams (senior not junior) and Bill Monroe.

He’s loves Carole King (especially the Tapestry album), Buddy Holly, and for something different Janis Joplin.

Some of his favorite country songs are Brad Paisley’s “Ticks”, Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train”, Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’”and Dierks Bentley’s “Free and Easy”.  Also on his play list are the Doors “Stairway to Heaven” and “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin.

He loves to laugh.

Some of his favorite comedians are Jeff Foxworthy, Asiz Ansari, Ron White, and Bill Engwall.

Two of his favorite TV shows were Home Improvement with Tim Allen and Married With Children.

One of his favorite funny movies is “Airplane.”

He LOVES Netflix.  He has binged watched all episodes of Futurama.

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio where it snowed too much for his mother.

He was raised from a young age in Florida and remembers swimming in the canals in Miami when alligators were scarce but water moccasins weren’t.

He was the middle child. 

He graduated from Miami-Edison High School by the skin of his teeth. His love of educational institutions and what he could learn there didn’t blossom until after the Navy.

He served in the Navy right out of high school (best way to get out of Miami) working with jets at a Navy base in Georgia. Thankfully he mustered out just as the Berlin Wall went up and Vietnam ramped up. He loathed every minute of his time in the Navy, but feels eternally grateful for what he learned from the experience and the advice he got from a mentor there (go to California and go to college.) 

He asked Annette out on their first date in November of 1983 after chatting at an UC Irvine alumni cocktail party on a boat in Newport Harbor in Newport Beach. 

During his years in academia he wrote and co-wrote many articles which appeared in many prestigious academic journals.  A few of them are still cited every now and then.

After teaching investments in finance at Ohio State, York University in Toronto, and U.C. Irvine he joined a small mathematically oriented hedge fund.  It was only one of a handful in existence at that time. A decade later he joined the pension fund investment group at Weyerhaeuser which took us north to Washington State.

He loves, loves, loves the sun. Which is why we live in Florida and not Washington State.  

He does not miss the snow.  Which is one reason we don’t live in Pennsylvania anymore

He loves yellow flowers especially sunflowers, yellow roses, apricot colored bougainvillea, and yellow/orange hibiscus or daylilies.

He adores bamboo.  Our whole backyard would be bamboo if he had his way.

He loves the annual spring flower and garden sale at UCF arboretum. We go every year.

He was never much of a baseball fan. Baseball was always the passion of his brother and mother. But when I became a Rays fan he supported me.  And now he keeps up with the team all season long.  We have season tickets to which he brings his book J.

He loves cities. His favorite city to visit in North America is Montreal.  His favorite city to live is St Petersburg, FL.

Jerry has lived in Cleveland, OH; Sanford and Miami, FL;  Covina, Long Beach, West Hollywood, CA; Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach, CA; Columbus, OH; Toronto, Canada; Maple Valley and Issaquah, WA; Villanova, PA; and, St Pete, FL.

His favorite family vacation ever was when we camped in Baja on the Sea of Cortez with Jason, who was one-year old, and my mom. We kayaked and fished and napped in the shade.

He loves Chinese food.

He introduced me to sushi when we were first dating at a restaurant called, Genkai, in Corona del Mar.  Jason continues the sushi loving tradition inherited from his dad.

He was afraid he’d pass out during my labor with Jason so we had a “backup” birth coach just in case.  But instead, even though I had a c-section, he was so enthralled he just snapped photos the whole time…of the whole thing! 

He loves rain-shower shower heads, a deep bathtub with a slant back, and hot tubs.

He loves red convertible sports cars. He has owned his 1982 Porsche 911 since it was brand new. He’s known Rosie longer than he’s known Annette! He bought Annette a convertible Firebird in 2003. He loves driving with the top down on the convertible on a cool, clear March evening in Florida.

He loves unusual ties but is glad he doesn’t have to wear them anymore.

He watches Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with Annette. Yes, officially, we’re old farts.

He likes playing dominoes, a game he learned from his mother, Violet.  We play at dinner most nights.

He loves citrus trees and is happy he finally got a “cocktail citrus tree” for our yard (a tree with five different citrus fruits grafted onto it).

Jason loves when Jerry tells certain stories about when Jason was little, like the “YOU TELL ME” story and the time Jason dropped his juice bottle out the window of the car on the way home from Montessori day-care (he was about 2 ½)

Jerry has been super supportive of Jason and his creative endeavors, which Jason says he really REALLY appreciates

Jason also appreciates his dad’s sometimes oddball sense of humor. Like the time Jerry pretended to drive off from a park service bathroom as Jason walked out (we think Jason was about 7ish?) and Jason thought we really had forgotten him!

His favorite color is orange.

Just like Mario Batali, Jerry likes wearing crocs. He has them in all colors. And yes, he has them in orange.

He has a thing about tote bags.  All kinds.  Big, little, fabric, plastic. He collects them from all over.

He also collects knives (mostly pocket knives), salt and pepper shakers,  and t-shirts from places we’ve traveled (yes, he has a lot of t-shirts.)

The only instrument he ever played was the accordion when he was young. He doesn’t have good memories of it!  His favorite phrase regarding the accordion is “Use an accordion, go to jail.”  Despite being Romanian he was never a oom-pa-pa band lover.

He absolutely adores stuffed cabbage and dill pickles with a hint of garlic like his mom used to make.

His favorite Mexican foods are chilequiles, carne asada, chile rellenos, and carnitas.
His favorite pie is banana cream.

He drinks his coffee black.

He starts every morning with a double espresso while reading Flipboard in bed with Annette.

Every June you will find Jerry with Annette and their good friends Peg and Jeff at the four-day CMA Music Fest in Nashville. This year will be their 10th year at the festival

He loves the idea of growing tomatoes, but we haven’t been very successful at it since moving to Florida.

One of his favorite activities is going to a really good farmer’s market. Two of his favorites are Marche Jean Talon in Montreal and the Wagon Wheel in Pinellas her in Florida

Jerry is still friends with two men, Leo and Jerry, he met in undergraduate school in the early 1960s.

Jerry loves roseate spoonbills and sandhill cranes.

He really likes turtles, all kinds. He has a special fondness for the red-eared sliders that sun themselves on the “turtle dock” near our house on Coffee Pot Bayou.

He thinks manatees are wonderful and appreciates they sometime come up the canal near our house.

He loves giving presents.

He loves trying out new technology even when the difference between a sim card and a micro SD card slips by him.

He’s the only person in the family to have drunk the kool-aid and get an iphone. And since he now has more apps than God, he’ll never switch.

He has the most email addresses of anyone either Annette or Jason has ever known.

He works hard at eating well and staying fit (which Jason says is “inspirational given his age”).

His favorite place to take a walk is Sawgrass Lake Park a few miles from our home.

He loves to travel and see new places even if that is just the next county over. 

He loves to drive and discover new routes to familiar places.  Let’s hope that in 10 years on his 85th, he is still discovering new routes to familiar places.

Happy Birthday Jerry!






Monday, January 20, 2014

Gin Rummy on the Gulf of Mexico


Gin Rummy on the Gulf of Mexico
Headed home over a sea prairie
the Gulf of Mexico
playing gin two miles above the ocean floor.
A lonely container ship passes in a southbound lane
I think it would wave if it could.
Sea air cools, clouds stack up on the northern horizon,
thunder rumbles in the distance like
Tuesday morning’s garbage truck.
Tomorrow? Cats, mail, a week of newspapers,
a long list of things to do.
Today?  More gin rummy with a view.
I’m winning 18 games to 12.
 
 
Day 7 on Norwegian Dawn in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Party on the Docks


 
Party on the Docks (Cozumel)
Two liners bob nose to tail, tail to nose.
Main street on the quay hums with
reggae and carib beats, bouncing off
steel hulls, tropical cacophony.
Line dancers, stilt walkers, crew
clap, cheer, sing, stomp, dance
welcoming the last of the days
travelers, back to the ship.
We hang over the balcony
snapping photos, waving
wishing we hadn’t come back so early
missing the party below
but then, there was that delicious afternoon nap.
 
Cozumel on Norwegian Dawn, Day 6

Rainy Season in Belize


Rainy Season in Belize
The rainy season clings to the land of George Price
hollows and fields drown,
stilted houses, shacks really, teeter alongside
water laden groves of papaya, banana, coconut
roads which may have once seen asphalt, or not,
harbor muddy ruts
making for slow going for the train of tour buses
come to tread the steps of Altun Ha.
Mayans, once a million strong, where now 300,000 abide
Conquered the rainy season once
Only to be undone by the dry.
 
Altun Ha out of Belize City, day trip from Norwegian Dawn.

First Sunrise


 
 
First Sunrise
Dimpled gunmetal gray seas
thin line of molten orange
slices gray from gray.
A single cloud, heavily laden, 
reaches down, spills over
to feed the sea.


On board the Norwegian Dawn. Day Two.

Leave Taking



Leave taking
The horn sounded. We slipped silently from the dock
like a wraith moving in mist. 
Terns, gulls, pelicans flew alongside
diving for fish churned up in our wake.
Gangs of sea ducks raced low across glassy waters
in vees and doubleyous
faster than the ship
faster than anything
zipping quick across the bow, fearless.
The sun began its setting in magenta clouds.
We glided under glistening arches of the Skyway
hazy in pink, rose, orange.
A dolphin played peek-a-boo off the port bow.
Just one, shy, not interested in having its photo taken
next to such a huge thing.
 
 
day one of seven day cruise on Norwegian Dawn

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Costa Maya?



Costa Maya?

White floating cities cluster
giants at the end of a dock
beaten by wind
baptized by waves.
Streams of sunhats with legs
braid to shore dancing
to Ricky Martin,  Gloria Estefan
like happy lemmings on holiday.
Everything is for sale
one hundred types of Tequila,
diamonds in all colors, superhero statues,
because nothing says Mexico
like Thor and the Justice League,
maracas, bracelets “whit” your name,
watches, skimpy sundresses with parrots
wooden dolphins and plaster toucans
duffles with NFL logos, tshirts
with Mayan temples
gold chains, antibiotics, and retin-A.
Raucous dancing, whistles
blast out from Senor Frogs.
Customers drink fancy rum drinks
from foot and a half long plastic palms
happy to be out of the rain, 
wishing for sun.
Brass studded mariachis
sing Guantanamera next to 
the giant polychrome jaguar head
in front of a sea of faces 
obscured by point and shoots.
Feathered dancers with painted faces
stand  in front of the arched entrance
next to the bathrooms
trilling songs of their ancestors,
in theory.
Frigate birds, terns, pelicans hover over
dolphin pools hoping to outsmart
their not so fortunate captive cousins
for fish treats, while
waiting for the white wedding cakes
to cast off
leaving them the beach and sea.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best of the Bests for 2013

     Before 2014 gets going with a whoosh and a bang, I want to to reflect on the many traveling "bests" we enjoyed this year whether it was far afield in Montreal, along the Mississippi River, in a wintry New York City or closer to home in St Pete. Jerry and I know how fortunate we are to have the time, good health, and resources to travel the way we do and we make the most of it. But isn't just places or meals or sunset views that bring us happiness. Our travels are filled with opportunities to meet people, moments to reflect on history and culture, time to enjoy the bounty of nature, and space for reflection. It is the richness of experience that calls us to travel. 


     Here are a few "snapshots" of what we loved in our travels this past year.

Best Breakfast: We love a good breakfast to start the day whether at home or traveling. These three spots tied for honors in 2013: 
      Voula's Offshore Cafe, Seattle, WA
      Beauty's Lunchonette (since 1972), Montreal, QC
      Slim Goodies, New Orleans, LA

Best Birthday Celebration: Celebrating Canada Day (July 1) with thousands of Canadians in the Old Port of Montreal, complete with cake, bagpipers, and the swearing in of new Canadian citizens.

Best Scenic Drive: Highway 1 on the Oregon Coast on a misty day.

Best Animal Kiss: Giraffe at San Diego Safari Park (they have reeaally long tongues)

Best Oddball Museum: The Seattle Pinball Museum. For just $13 we played for hours on 50 well-maintained machines dating from the late 50s to present day. 

Best Farmers Market: Hands down:  Marche Jean Talon in Montreal. Jerry's favorite farmers market anywhere in the world. It's our first "pilgrimage" stop every time we arrive in Montreal. 

Best Pie Shop: Rustique Pie Kitchen in St. Henri neighborhood of Montreal. Delicious mini pies and all sorts of other goodies. My favorite? lemon meringue...no...apple...wait...the pecan...maybe the s'more pie? 

Best Donuts: A tie between The Donut Den in Nashville and Randy's Donuts in Inglewood (right near  LAX airport). Both places have the fantastic maple donuts. Randy's rocks the french cruellers. Although Tim Horton's in Quebec has the fantastic french cruellers, too.  Does anyone still wonder why I'm not a size 8?

Best Foodie Adventure: A May weekend in Montreal with my mid-twenties son and his friend Louise. We ate and walked and ate some more. Restaurants? Au Pied de Cochon, Garde Manger, Toque!, Beauty's Luncheonette, the Creperie at Marche Jean Talon, and Rustique Pies.

Best Winter Meal: Any meal at Hearth in New York is a great meal, but our meal with our son on a cold day in the middle of winter was spectacular. Hearty food, delicate gnocchi, great service, and long talks over wine. Perfection. 

Best Oysters: For west coast oysters: Taylor Shellfish Farms Melrose Market in Seattle. For east coast oysters: Maestro S.V.P in Montreal. 

Best Opportunity to Eat Lots of Pie: Judging at the National Pie Championships in Orlando. Nothing quite like sharing a weekend with a couple hundred pie-loving judges and 400 contestants from all over the U.S. 

Best Way to Work off some of that Pie: Three afternoon/evenings at Walk Disney World: EPCOT, The Magic Kingdom, and the Animal Kingdom.

Best Ride on Public Transit: The Charles Street Trolley in New Orleans on a warm summer night.  Close second? Sausalito ferry on a sunny day (love that view of the Golden Gate bridge).

Best Meal in San Francisco: Spruce.  The meal was excellent, inventive without being unnecessarily over the top. Fresh, quality ingredients. And, a young man who we've known since he was 8 works in the kitchen. It was really something to look through the viewing window to see him do his stuff. It was just yesterday we were fishing on Lake Bonaparte and roasting marshmallows over a campfire. 

Best Bookstore: Elliot Bay Books on 10th Avenue in Seattle (Capitol Hill). I could move in and stay.

Best Bookstore Celebrating It's 80th Birthday: Haslam's New and Used Books, St Petersburg, FL. An integral part of the St Pete community for 80 years, they threw a great party! 

Best Luxury Hotel: The Hermitage in Nashville. Jerry's favorite anywhere, any year. An oasis in the middle of the wonderful madness of Nashville during the CMA Music Fest every June. Love the "cookie hour" in late afternoon.

Best Bed & Breakfast (with a talented piano playing owner): J.N. Stone House and Musicale, Natchez, MS. 

Best Lodging with a Twist: The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, MS: A motel made up of  resurrected share cropper cabins and cotton gins on the old Hopson Plantation located in the cradle of Delta blues music.

Best Fruit Stand: Dickey's Peaches in Musella, GA. Late May to early August is peach picking time and they always have fresh peaches for sale. We love to sit and watch the sorting and packing operations while wiping the peach juice from our chins. A third generation tradition in central Georgia.

Best BBQ on the road:   Blackstrap BBQ in Verdun, Montreal. 

Best BBQ close to home: Fred Fleming's on 4th Street North in St Pete, FL

Best Cemetery: Cote des Neiges, Montreal. Beautiful and monumental headstones and crypts that tell stories covering 150 years in the lives (and deaths) of Montrealers. 

Best Botanical Garden Display: Montreal Botanical Gardens with this year's astonishingly imaginative and artful Mosaiculture International Competition and the always delightful Butterflies Go Free Display.

Best Bridge: The art deco  bridge in Florence, Oregon (Hwy 101) 

Best Scenic Drive: Highway 101 in Oregon from Coos Bay to Lincoln City.

Best Piggy Bank: The big bronze pig, Rachel, at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. 

Best Place to Buy Flowers: Pike Place Market in August...dahlias are in full bloom. 

Best Concert:  Thursday Night (first of 4 nights) at the CMA Music Fest in Nashville. (Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band.

Best Concert While Freezing our Fannies Off: Alan Jackson at the Plant City Strawberry Festival (yes it was cold in Florida, in the 40s cold)

Best Snoball: Rootbeer flavored snoball from the guy in the French Market in New Orleans.

Best Snoball outside New Orleans: the Snoball shack in Treasure Island, FL 

Best High Tea: Queen Mary Tea Room in Seattle (ask to sit by the doves)

Best Baseball Game: Any day the Tampa Bay Rays are playing at home at the Tropicana Dome. But especially Opening Day when I got to help unfurl the ginormous American Flag on the field before the game. 

Best Lonely Lighthouse: The lighthouse standing guard over the Louisbourg Harbor in Cape Breton. Just us and a few seagulls and the Atlantic Ocean stretching out to Ireland.

Best Lobster Roll: Thirsty Whale in Bar Harbor, Maine. Had a great game of dominoes in between bites of oh so fresh from the seas lobster.

Best Pilates Session while Traveling: Simply Balanced in Nashville, TN. Our classes there have become a tradition helping to unkink our muscles after boot scootin' at the nightly concerts at the CMA Music Fest. 

Best Cruise: Holland America's autumn cruise from Boston to Montreal through the Canadian Maritimes on the Maasdam.

Best Fireworks: Montreal's Annual International Firework Competition held for two months each summer. Weekly fireworks set to music created by the best talent in the pyrotechnic world. 

Best Temporary Exhibit at a Museum: The Beatles retrospective at the Musee Pointe-a-Calliere in Montreal. 

Best Cat: The gray mouser that hung out on the porch of our sharecropper cabin at Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, MS.

Best Author's Reading: A tie: Jeff Klinkenburg at the Inkwood Bookstore in Tampa and Khalid Housseini at Tampa Theatre.

Best College Campus for Birding:  Eckerd College in St Petersburg, FL. Roseate spoonbills, nesting osprey, white ibis, egrets, and herons. 

Best Bird Sighting of the Year: Sandhill Crane families with little chicks just east of Sarasota, FL. Close second: nesting owls in Fort de Soto Park, St Pete, FL.

Best Koi Pond: Marie Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL

Best Banana Cream Pie (my husband's favorite): Yoder's Amish restaurant in Sarasota, FL (yes there are Amish in Florida too...they drive three wheeled bikes instead of horse drawn buggys.)

Best Cabins at a State Park: Spacious well maintained log cabins (made from cabbage palm trunks) built in the 30s by WPA work crews at Myaaka State Park in Florida (just east of Sarasota).


Best Sunset: The view across the Mississippi River from Natchez Under the Hill, MS. 

Best Place to Spot Gators: Myaaka State Park (especially on Lake Myaaka...take the boat ride).

Best Shelling: Sanibel Island, Fl

Best New Find in Tampa: The Oxford Exchange: bookstore, coffee/tea bar, gift store, and bistro. A place to pause and reflect in comfort.

Best Local Festival/Fair: The Plant City Strawberry Festival in Plant City, FL. I dream all year about their strawberry shortcake, chocolate dipped bacon, and concerts. 

Best Local Market: Mazzarro's Italian Market in St Petersburg. From cannoli to fresh bread, excellent meats to fine cheeses, house made pasta to salame, coffee bar to lunch counter, this is THE place to go.

Best Way to Start a New Year: Watching the first sunset of the year with picnic and champagne on the beach in Pass-a-Grille (St Pete Beach), Florida with our grown son. Watching he and his Dad walk along the surf line deep in conversation is great way to start a New Year.

Best Time with Our Grown Son: Our two week drive from So Cal to Seattle. 

Best Friday Night Date: Shuffleboard with my husband at the St Petersburg Shuffleboard Club celebrating 100 years of operation. (And shuffleboard isn't just for old folks anymore, lots of "younguns" on dates and families with kids...great fun).

Best Family Meal: Christmas Day Dinner at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel in Seattle. 

Best Time with Old Friends: This is a hard pick as we had many fun visits this year. But for sheer volume and amount of laughter, the winner this year would be my 40th high school reunion (El Rancho High School, Pico Rivera, CA).  There is something about discovering that we may have more wrinkles but we don't have less fun.