Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gazette Headlines that say "Canada"

How to bike (safely) in winter

Minimum prices for bar drinks considered
(to curb binge drinking)

Search for 8th BC Snowmobiler resumes on Tuesday

It's time to re-ice the backyard ice rink

Montreal's Iciest Sidewalks

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hot Chocolate and Ice Cider: Heaven in a cup.

When we were here earlier in the month we had the yummiest hot chocolate at the Telus Winter Bar at the Old Port Saturday night fete. The bartender mixed Pinnacle Ice Cider (made from apples) with the hot chocolate...it was divine. Tonight, at home. We mixed an apple liquor (a little stronger than the Ice Cider)...about one shot, with a large cup of hot chocolate....heaven in a cup. The fire is on...the cup is empty...it is time for a nap.

Maison Indian Curry

Maison Indian Curry: 996 Jean Talon West, Montreal.. http://www.maisonindiancurry.com/

We ate lunch today at Maison Indian Curry. A small place near the busy corner of Jean Talon West and L'Acadie. We got the last 3 seats (lucky because we were starving BEFORE we walked in and smelled the wonderful food). Had excellent vegetable korma, chicken vindaloo, palau rice, naan bread, and mango chutney. We've eatern here once before and really enjoyed that meal also. Fed three of us for 29 dollars Canadian (about 24 US). Delicious.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Ships are In!

We arrived in Old Montreal about 5:30 (after a very easy 9 hour drive including potty stops, Subway sandwich stop, and a quickie run into a Costco for chicken and bread). It is mild here...above freezing. There is evidence of recent snow, slush, and ice but not much (at least in the city). It is VERY windy however. It got REALLY windy north of Saratoga, NY. We had to play dodge'em carts with the Costco Shopping carts in the parking lot...we had to figure out where we could park with cars blocking the wind (and the carts flying across the parking lot). We have the fireplace on and are reading and blogging. Think this will be an early night. Tomorrow...we play!

The "winter ships" are docked in Old Montreal. They are always gone in the summer and when we were here in early December that weren't back in port...it looked so forlorn. I was happy to see them. We look out our windows at them and they provide color and interest in the gray and white days of winter. They are Great Lake bulk carriers designed to carry large loads while still being able to navigate through the locks in the St. Lawrence Seaway. They carry loads to and from the Great Lakes...hence their nickname...Lakers.

(photos courtesy of industry websites)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Diane's Book, Greenwich, CT

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the afternoon in Greenwich Ct while Jerry had business meetings. It was a brisk, sunny, cold day. I drove down to see Long Island Sound, had a latte at the Starbucks while reading a good book, browsed a toy shop and then discovered Diane's Books. Diane's is a lovely, well stocked, charming rabbit warren of an independent book store. Stuffed to the gills with books everywhere, well lit, great selection, and a helpful staff. They call themselves a "family bookstore" with "the largest selection of family books" in the country. Check out their website: www.dianesbooks.com. They are located at 8A Grigg Street. I found a couple of surprises that will make perfect Christmas gifts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back to La Cabana del Tio

In St. Pete/Clearwater area again working on house plans and construction stuff. On our way back from a meeting in Dunedin we stopped at my absolute FAVORITE mexican restaurant (which i've blogged about before...but they deserve another mention). I had carnitas tacos with freshly made corn tortillas and a "sencillo" sope...with beans, lettuce and mexican white cheese. And a coca cola from central american (made with cane sugar not corn syrup....they taste like Cokes USED to taste like).

I'm staying at the Marriott Courtyard in St. Petersburg. Its located at 300 4th Street North in an old historic building that at one time housed the Pennsylvania Hotel. For more information: http://www.stpete.org/Pennsylvania.htm. The current incarnation as a hotel is convenient, clean, quiet with excellent staff (very friendly and helpful). There is a small bar that is open from 5:30 to ?. And they have a very reasonably priced breakfast buffet with made to order eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage, grits, oatmeal, cereal, fruits, breads, and potatos...coffee and juice (for 8.95). They have a hotel van that will take you anywhere in the downtown you want to go (and pick you back up).

Monday, December 8, 2008


This morning we woke to a brilliant blue sky and steam coming off the water in the port. Steam? hmmm. Just how cold is it? I took a look at the weather report on my blackberry and it said -2. Jerry said, "that isn't too bad...that's only about 30 degrees (farenheit)". I said, no, it is -2 FARENHEIT...in other words -20 celsius! Yowza. And it was windy...so windchill was -15.

Yesterday was snowing (and warmer...around 28) we got about an inch or so. Very pretty. We went to Les Bouchees Gourmand for brunch...one of the best brunches ever...and certainly the best value ever. Cafe au lait, a fruit plate with cottage cheese and confits, a plate of beet salad and carrot salad...excellent. A simple green salad. Toasty bread and preserves. Foie Gras with a carrot confit which was fantabulous. Then an omelette with onions and gruyere cheese which was more like a mini souffle in a pan. And THEN a banana omelet with crunchy almond bits and a drizzle of chocolate. It was just heaven.

Then it was off to visit Costcos. Two...one we call the "english one" in Pointe Claire and one we call the "french one" in Laval. (There are 12 Costcos in the metropolitan Montreal area...all within 30 miles of one another.) Did some christmas shopping and sampled cheeses, chocolates, and such. It was snowing by the time we left Laval and getting quite cold.

Dinner was early (at 5) and we really weren't hungry yet...but we had reservations at Au Pied du Cuchon on rue Duluth so we definitely didn't miss it. I had the meat loaf topped with foie gras and a side of mashed potatoes, jerry had the bison steak frites, jeff had the (I forget the name) pork, sausage, and potato stew, peg had the tomatoe tartlet (or was that totlet?). excellent glasses by the wine. no dessert...we were just too full.

great day...several pounds heavier!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Winter Saturday Evening in Old Montreal

Peg and Jeff flew in from Ohio late this afternoon. We had dinner at 3 Brasseurs on Rue St. Paul in Old Montreal. Good hamburgers, a quebequois Flamm (like a REALLY thin crust pizza), and a chevre chaud salad. Enjoyed their beer...I had a beer "cocktail"...called the Brit...a dark beer with a shot of Irish Whiskey in it...yummy! (Why it's called the Brit and not The Irish is, I suspect, best left uninvestigated).

After dinner we decided to stroll down to see the Ice Rink in the Old Port. It sits right on the edge of the quays on the St. Lawrence. One part is an artificial ice rink that is open all winter and the other part is a huge "circle trail" which becomes a rink once its cold enough to freeze the water thick enough. Not cold enough yet...

We heard music and saw bright colored lights. Little did we know that there was a party going on...sponsored by Telus. There was an Ice Bar (but not made of real ice...just everything white within a white senu-transparent white tent with windows) which served all sorts of things including hot chocolate with a delicious apple liquer in it...double yum. We went outside to listen to a Quebequois band for a bit. Then the lights dimmed and everyone huddled over by the ice rink. It was FIREWORKS....a spectacular display of fireworks synchronized to music...the theme Moon Dust. It was incredibly beautiful. There we were standing amidst winter trees, hats and gloves, spiked hot chocolate, faces lifted to the sky....mesmerized. What a dreamy evening. Jeff thought they were the best fireworks he had ever seen. Courtesy of the City of Fireworks!

Then to top it off as we left we saw these small bonfires (inside grill boxes for lack of better description). They were handing out sticks and marshmellows...and yes, we roasted a marshmellow to go. Fantastic.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

To Font or not to Font

Is the large size better for viewing. I was thinking maybe the print is too small. Just testing. Okay and then there is font type -
There is arial...maybe too bold? Courier...boring! Good old Georgia on my mind...hmmm. maybe. luckia....I've never heard of lucida looks alot like arial? Good old new york Times...oh that would be Times Roman. TRebuchet...isn't that like a big slingshot? Verdana...sounds like a flower...seems kind of fat. What the heck is this? That previous sentence says...what the heck is this? in "webdings" font. A font for code breakers? Okay...lets see what they look like on the page.....

Where is the snow?

It was supposed to snow...we have seen 3 flakes. A bit of rain. And sun. Sun! We get sun at home. I want snow! Lots of it. Well not so much I can't get to the airport and pick up Peg and Jeff when they fly in on Saturday. But enough to have to put my boots on! Where is it?

Les Bouchees Gourmand

Once upon a time a nice Quebecquois couple owned a chocolate/pastry shop on Rue St. Paul in Old Montreal in a 200 year old building. This couple made beautiful yummy chocolates, the best apple turnovers, tarte taitin, and hot chocolate for miles (and that is saying something in Montreal). On top of that, they couldn't be nicer people...gracious, sweet, and giving (a lot like their chocolates). Then the roof froze, ice jammed the gutters, untimely and unwanted waterfalls sprouted within their store. For reasons not understood the owner wouldn't or couldn't fix the problem and leaks and hi humidity continued into the spring making it impossible to get the chocolate to set properly (it's one thing to be cold and have wet feet, its another thing altogether to be unable to make your chocolates properly). So they sadly hung the closed sign on the door for the last time and left the adorable (but leaky) 200 year building. After 6 long months (seemed long for those of us deprived of their simple yet elegant creations) they have reopened (sound of bugles and crowds cheering) on Rue St. Bernard in the Outremont area of Montreal. Hallelujah! We visited yesterday and feasted on their potage Parisien (leek and potato soup), thick creamy hot chocolate, and the best, flakiest and perhaps biggest sweet apple turnover ever!!! All is right with the world again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Vietnam and Cambodia - tying up the loose end

We've been home almost a month now from our sojourn to SE Asia. With this entry my blogging of our adventure will be complete although I've got lots more work to do on my photo blog on Flickr. But this is fun work. Keeping it all fresh in mind! So this entry is all the loose ends I forgot to post about...a potpourri of bits and pieces of a fine holiday!

To Market, To Market. When we returned to Hanoi for the last time at the end of our trip there had been torrential rains for weeks and there considerable flooding along the Red River and within Hanoi itself. The rain had abated for a few days so we didn't have too much trouble on the main route but we saw many, many flooded fields of rice that had been just ready for harvest. Apparently farmers had been harvesting what they could in the rain in the hopes of salvaging some of the crops. What we saw were people selling ears of corn in heaps along the road into Hanoi. We hadn't seen that before. Again...an early harvest with no market for so much corn. Many, many women sitting in a drizzle with stacks of corn on plastic tarps.

Eggs Anyone? We saw all sorts of things carried on a motorcycle throughout Vietnam...cases of beer, panes of glass, several children, whole pigs freshly slaughtered. But one of the most amazing things we saw was the guy on the outskirts of Hanoi with dozens and dozens and dozens of eggs in baskets strapped and stacked onto , from and around his motorcycle. Between his legs, above his head, on the front where the head lights was. That would be one messy omelet if he took a wrong turn!!!

Evening Lanterns in Hoi An. I forgot to mention the lanterns that hang everywhere throughout downtown old Hoi An. They are strung across streets, patios, from doors. In the evening it is delightful to stroll amongst the soft light that the lanterns emit.

Aussies in Hoi An. I think one small Austrialian City decided to take a holiday in Vietnam. Aussies everywhere.

Boat Ride on River in Hoi An. We took a boat ride from Hoi An out to the mouth of the river with views of the Cham Island. It took about 2 hours and we saw many fishing boats, fishing nets strung from posts in the water (used with lights for night time fishing), coconut palm plantations, cattle on the shore, more fishing boats, a few egrets, and ferry boats (people and bikes not cars) and more fishing boats. We watched a fellow toss the local weighted fishing nets used from the long pirogue like boats. The only negative thing about the trip was that the guy tried to insist that the price was more when we got back...we weren't buying it...we paid what we agreed on and left it at that. Curious.

More on our evening cyclo ride in Hoi An. The night that we took the cyclo out to the residential areas around Hoi An was delightful. Perfect temperature...not too humid. We drove past new 2 story houses going up along the river that sat next to simple one or two room homes with fishing nets hanging outside. We passed women and men working on mending the nets and children playing with a jump rope (hi, hi, hi, hi, hi,!). We laughed at a young dog wrestling with an obliging kitten on the porch of a small home and at another dog that was being shooed out of a garden by a set of nasty geese. We drove through an area of rice paddies in the failing light and came upon the rear end of a water buffalo who was not too happy with sharing the road with cyclos and cycles...he kept trying to run back off the road into the field...his owner had his handsful. Men sat fishing at the edge of small, still ponds. And karaoke bars waiting for the later in the night crowds. We saw two young men loading a block of ice onto a small fishing boat using a makeshift wooden slide that stretched across the sidewalk (they had to move it so we could get through). A small crowd gathered around the floating gas pump haggling over baskets of fish? produce? not sure. The locals evening in Hoi An...it was nice to get a glimpse of it.

Hoi An Hotel :

Pros: a very roomy clean room, comfortable bed, good hot water, safe, good air conditioning, great pool, pleasant staff, good location, a very good value...we paid only $60 per night. Cons: the tub was SO huge, the water so slow, and the plug so antiquated that you could forget filling up the tub for a bath. The lights in the room were a little dim...but not too bad. If you want to be able to have your windows open...you'd be better off above the 1st floor.

Where are the birds? and other ruminations on Vietnam

So where were the birds? Virtually no pigeons...who doesn't have pigeons? Few sparrows. Few egrets, herons (with all those rice fields?). Only an occasional gull or two. We saw a few hawks in Halong Bay but virtually no place else. Very few places had morning chirps outside the window. I was happy that I wasn't lugging around a bird book through Vietnam. So here is my theory. In hard times people eat everything and anything and Vietnam has had a lot of hard time. So they eat pigeons and other feral birds, they eat rodents and small critters. So any kind of bird dependent on small critters for food either starve or move to better territory. Other birds dependent on the picking and leavings of people...are fair game and in close proximity. And then you add the ecological devastation of decades of war and defoliation practices...its a wonder there are any birds whatsoever!

Honda: definition: any motorcycle or scooter. Honda has become the "kleenex" or "xerox" of Vietnam. Any msall motorcyle or scooter can be referred to generically as a Honda whether it is one or not (Honda's by the way are about 3 or 4 times as expensive as Chinese made cycles)

The $68,000 Camrys: Cars are very expensive in Vietnam. Partly due to economics and partly due to political design. It is correctly perceived that the road and circulation system is not ready for an onslaught of automobiles...it's barely surviving the millions of motorbikes/scooters that have popped up like bunnies with the increased prosperity of the last decade. So import duties are very high...up to 250%. So a Toyota Camry shipped from the US costs $68.000. I'm still trying to calculate what the Porshce Cayenne I saw in Saigon would cost...I calcuate about $240,000.

Water Buffaloes don't eat rice, cattle do. One of the reasons you see so many more water buffalo's pulling equipment in the field. When they are on break they don't eat the product!

Motorbike Washing Parties. When someone is finally able to save up enough money to buy a motorbike, they will have a party where they invite friends for the "first wash". Who is bringing the Bia (Bia is the Vietnamese word for Beer....Bia Hoi...is locally produced beer...consistently good and cheap).