Monday, July 14, 2014

New York City, Philadelphia and blogging

Over the past few months, my Sweetheart and I's travels have taken us to both New York City and Philadelphia. It was my first time visiting Philadelphia and it was okay, but New was my third visit to the city and I love it just as much as my last two visits there. I've always said to everyone I know that NYC is Montreal on steroids and even though I had not been to New York in twelve years, I knew as soon as I got there that my statement about it was as true as ever. I found my old friend cleaner, more vibrant and safer than ever and I was so happy to see the extent to which the city has come back to life since 9-11. Here are a few pictures from both trips, all but the last four are from New York City.


I'm really having a wonderful Summer so far, it's my first free one since I was sixteen years old and it's also my first one since I was nineteen where I have not had to wear a uniform, which I am having great fun with. I've been able to buy and wear shorts outside of the hour for the first time in years and have revamped my Summer wardrobe, since everything I owned for the Summer revolved around the dress code at work, meaning nothing above the knee, no tank tops or anything too low cut and it had to match the uniform shirt which was teal. I've really enjoyed shopping and Sweetheart has really enjoyed seeing my new outfits. I also feel that I've been able to really enjoy the Summer weather for the first time in ages, since for the last two years I worked full time I had a shift from noon to 8:00 P.M., which made it very difficult for me to spend any time outside in the daylight. I've been enjoying our patio table, our BBQ and reading books outside, I've been able to stroll in the city and plant flowers and go out for ice cream and I've also been able to go on vacation with Sweetheart and his family and laze around on the beach tanning and making sand castles with our nieces and visit my grandmother in South Carolina. This has all been doing me so much good I cannot even put it into words. I feel as if I'm coming back to life slowly after everything I went through last year. It's all still there just below the surface, everything is still healing, but at least I can handle the pain a bit more easily now and when I laugh, I really laugh and it is full of life. I'm still working on healing and getting my bearings and figuring out my new life and I'm also still trying to figure out what to do with this blog. It came about as a way for me to occupy myself in the lonely days when Sweetheart was living and working in Toronto, but since he has been back so much has changed. I would eventually, I believe like to be able to share about what I went through when we discovered how ill my father was with depression and when he passed away and how that affected me. It would help me and others if I could tell his story, but for now I don't feel quite able to do that yet. I don't know how long it will take me to be able to write about it, but what might help me do that is to start another blog entirely devoted to that story and put it together piece by piece before making it public. I also feel that I should tell my father's family before I put anything out there since the availability of the story could affect them and we do not all see my father's depression and its causes in the same way. I'll be sure to let you all know, though, when any of this pans out...if any of you still actually read here that is. I know I've not been a very good blogger for the past year, but I do the best I can :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Up, down and all around

Hi folks,

Things have been crazy for the past few months with family stuff, work stuff, house stuff and some travelling thrown in for good measure. Somewhere in there I got myself a new camera lens and had some fun with it in both Montreal and Quebec City:

Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal

A close-up of Notre-Dame Basilica's Façade

Architectural details on a building on the Place d'Armes in Old Montreal

Qébec City's Porte St-Jean

It's a really fin, versatile lens which does some great closeups but can also give me a pretty good wide range. It fills in a gap in my ability to shoot up close which I often sorely missed, especially on occasions when I wanted to photograph flowers or wildlife...or both at once.

I wanted very much to bring it with me when I finally went to Haiti with my Sweetheart for a week in the middle of April (we got home Tuesday of last week), but it was too big and too heavy to come along, so I stuck with my wide-angle lens since I knew the only place I would be taking my big camera out would be on our two beach days. 

Sweetheart heading into the water at Cocoyer

The boat we shared with some friends to get to Bananier 

More of Cocoyer

Our trip to Haiti was something else...or at least it was for me. I won't try to gloss it over, Haiti is a Third World Country. You do not go there for a comfy, cozy vacation, what you hear about from people who go to Labadee on a cruise is a science-fiction version of Haiti. Most people who go to Labadee probably don't even realise they are in Haiti, which is not surprising. There is little to no infrastructure in Haiti, there is no garbage collection anywhere, there is very little running water, most of the time there is no electricity either unless you are fortunate enough to have either a battery or a generator and those are serious luxuries. The food is delicious though and totally, totally organic. You will not get travellers' diarrhea off it I can promise you that. The beaches are heavenly as well and, for all intents and purposes, deserted because the vast majority of Haitians do not know how to swim and stay away from the water. Also as I stated above, vacationers are non-existent. Anyone going into Haiti is either visiting family or going there to work with the UN or an aid organisation, like my Sweetheart and I was there to see the work he has been doing and understand what he goes through when he's there. It's not easy, not easy at all especially when you go for the first time like me and you have never seen generalized poverty and a country left to fend for itself by its government. It was a truly eye-opening experience and believe when I tell you that we are incredibly blessed to live in a place where everything is basically handed to us on a silver platter. Medical care, food, clean water, electricity, we've got it all here whereas in a place like Haiti, you have to fight for it all...except maybe food. No one in Haiti is ever going to starve to death there because food is abundant (mangoes, bananas and tons of other exotic fruits, seafood, fish, goat, chicken, beef, root vegetables, beans...they  all grow or wander freely all over the place), but the rest of it is a struggle and I never felt more thankful for all the things we take for granted here than when I walked off the plane in Montreal...including, believe it or not, cool Canadian Springtime air. Because, even though it was the least of my worries, no air conditioning or even a fan for a week in a tropical climate for a born and raised Montrealer will make you grateful for cool air believe it or not :) I know, I couldn't believe it either!

So that's my latest travelling adventure! I'm now in the midst of a house adventure: the gutting and renovating of our basement which is actually going far more smoothly that I ever expected it would! It should be done in the next week and a half or so and then we'll just have to deal with the dust fallout for the next few months lol

Friday, February 21, 2014

What I've been up to

Hello everyone,

I've just played catch up with my blog roll after working on my choir's blog. I signed out of there and ended up here! It was not part of my plan to blog today as I have some work to do (bills to pay, a kitchen to clean, a fish tank water change to do, hunting around for a new alarm company, etc), but apparently I was meant to give you guys an update!

As you can see, I've been quite busy since the last time I came by here and so have you all, but I was glad to see that you've all been doing quite well as am I! Sweetheart and I have traveled a bit, we were in South Carolina for the last week of November and the beginning of December visiting my grandparents, which was lovely as you can see:

                                          Cotton plants at Boone Hall Plantation near Charleston, SC

                                          Oak trees covered with Spanish Moss at Boone Hall Plantation

                                          Japanese Maple tree leaves in a pond at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, SC

The weather was quite nice mild (for us Canucks) while we were there and we love spending time with my Grandparents, Sweetheart especially liked talking with my Grandfather as he never really knew either of his grandfather. One of them passed away before Sweetheart was born and the other when he was so little that Sweetheart barely even remembers him.

Since then, we have been very busy with work and planning Sweetheart's move to my place in June or maybe even sooner. We need to find someone we know and trust to lease his condo to and organize my ample storage space (my things are in there helter skelter right now, which is what happens when you have ample storage space) to make room for his things as well. We've also been working on the house a bit, we have changed two light fixtures, one in the entrance staircase and one in the dining room. We've also picked out the new bathroom sink and mirror for the downstairs bathroom and have fixed on what we want to do with the rest of basement as we are going to have it redone. We've also done some work at Sweetheart's condo, we put some moldings in along the floors and replaced the light fixture in the bathroom. We then ended up unexpectedly changing his old bathroom sink when the bottom, quite literally, rusted out of it. Funny as it may seem, we actually kind of miss the old squeaky taps that used to be in there.

In other news, we're also trying to plan some more travel time. We may go to Las Vegas in a few weeks as Sweetheart has always wanted to go there, then in the Spring we are planning on going to Poland to visit Sweetheart's Grandmother as she is turning 90 this March and is getting a bit frail. Sweetheart would really like her to meet me. After Poland, we are going to go to Paris for about a week before coming home, which will be an absolute dream come true for me since I have always, always wanted to go there. I'll probably end up crying when I get there, because that's just me and then Sweetheart won't mind at all being there for the 10th time because it will have made me so happy :)

On the work front, I was in the office for full weeks for most of December after we got back from South Carolina and since the New Year I've been going in once a week, but I'm about to end up on full weeks again until mid-March because the Feast of St-Joseph is coming up and that's always been my busiest time. I've also been doing some work for Sweetheart's engineering firm, which is a nice change from my usual job!

Aside from working part-time and taking care of the house, I've also taken up downhill skiing and am loving it! I've been once a week every week since the beginning of January except for this week since I have a bunch of appointments, got called in to work yesterday and it is raining cats and dogs today. Being outside and getting tons of fresh air once a week in really wonderful and has made a huge difference in how I feel about winter! It is a season that is quite easy to enjoy when you rely on the snow and the cold for a sport you enjoy!

That's all for now, but I have added a link to my Twitter account at the top of the page so you can follow me on there and have an easier time of keeping up with me, all of my Instagram pictures end up on there!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Looking forward

Hello everyone,

I know, I know, I've been away for a long time. I haven't posted in months and have made myself scarce on your blogs and I do apologize, but I was hit with a burn out at the end of August and have only really begun to feel like myself again for the pas two and a half weeks or so. I was taken off guard by the burn out as after my vacation in late June, I felt like I was ready to take on the world, but when I look back I can see now that my body was giving me some warning signs that everything wasn't quite right even after going back to work after my surgery in early June. Anyhow, I was hit pretty hard and was off work from lunch time August 22nd until this Tuesday. Burn outs are, as my doctor and psychologist both told me, not bad things. They are a sign something in our lives in unbalanced and in order to get well, we need to get that balance back. It took me the better part of the two months I was off work, quite a bit of lost sleep and a few tears to realize that what I really need right now is more time for myself so I can do things I enjoy and have not been able to do for some time, like cook and travel and visit museums and go out and take pictures. I also want to do other things professionally. I loved my job for the longest time and still enjoy it to some extent, I think I always will, but I have been giving tours at the same place for eleven years and have been working in the office for six and half of those years. I have the opportunity to work with my Sweetheart in his engineering firm, which to me seems absolutely fascinating. He is a civil engineer as I have mentioned before and often goes out of town on inspections and I would love to go with him. The only way I could realistically achieve this and have more time for myself was to quit my full time position and go back to work exclusively on call. It took a lot of courage, but two weeks ago I called up my boss and explained my situation to him and he was very understanding and appreciative of my honesty. I think most of the people I work with understand my decision and are even happy for me, but of few of them seem rather confused. I worked incredibly hard and had to be incredibly patient in order to get a permanent position at the Oratory and only got it in 2010. Before that I was working at the same job I have full time but for a much lower salary, which I was quite admired for. All I can say to really explain my decision is that my father dying flipped my entire world upside down and has made me see things quite differently. My father died much, much sooner than he should have and if he had not suffered from such crippling depression, I know he would have loved to have done so much more to enjoy life than he did. He would have traveled, and cooked, and played hockey, and cycled with my Sweetheart and I, and gone fishing with my grandfather and gone to Montreal Canadiens games with my brother and come to my choral concerts, and gone skiing with my brother and I and so many other things. Depression took all of that away from him though and I know that that upset him greatly. He wanted to get well, but he couldn't. I am well though and I have a unique opportunity to be able to do all the things I want to do but have not been able to, so I want to do them and not just for myself, but for my father as well and I want to think of him while I do the things I love and I want to think of him smiling at me as I do them.

On that note, here a few pictures of the things I enjoyed while I was off work, because one thing that both my doctor and my psychologist told me to do was to not sit around at home feeling sorry for myself. They told me to go out and do things I enjoyed and so I did. In September I went to see the international flora sculpture competition at one of my favorite places in Montreal, the Botanical Gardens. I took over 100 pictures and am still working them and will try and get some more pictures up when I have the chance.

I also went for another little road trip to Quebec City with my Sweetheart, that's him on the right taking a picture of the Château Frontenac. We had an amazing time and he won two contracts for his engineering firm while we were there. We also went for a drive around Île d'Orléans and went to a fabulous black current producer there called Cassis Monna et Filles. Go visit your website and go visit them if you are ever in the Quebec City area, they are totally worth the detour as is Île d'Orléans, it is a lovely little island with beautiful scenery. It's actually one of the places I want to go back and visit to take pictures, because we didn't have the time to take any while we were there!

And here, finally, a few of the long promised pictures of my house!

This is the front entrance on Halloween night with the pumpkins my Sweetheart and I carved. We had candy for ninety kids, but only ended up getting eight at our door! The weather was awful though, so we're going to try our luck again next year.

This is my library, it's been a favorite with everyone who has come to visit me so far.

This is my totally awesome eat-in kitchen. I have enjoyed many happy hours cooking in here so far and I actually enjoy washing the granite counters and island. The wall on the left has another counter and has storage all around it. I have so much storage in the kitchen that some of it is empty and every time I buy dishes or something else for the kitchen my Sweetheart teases me and says 'But are you sure you have room to put that away?' The door at the back leads out onto the rear balcony and fire escape. 

This is the dining room. The table, chairs, dish cabinet and work of art (copper leaves) on the wall were my father. At my house warming I fit seventeen people around the table. We carted in every chair I had in my house and a few spares people had brought. My father's dining room table had never been used for a meal before (my brother played poker at it with a few friends once or twice), so it was so moving for me to see all my best friends sitting around the table with me having such a wonderful time.

Here is the living room, with Quinn lying on top of the radiator cover. My cats lover the radiator covers ever since I have turned on the heat! The couch and coffee table were my father's as well and the coffee table is actually also hidden storage space as the top slides back so you can store things inside the table. The door in this room leads onto the front balcony and there's a good sized maple tree in front of it which is great for privacy, I'm planning on putting a table and chairs out there next Spring.

And here, finally, is the office! It took me a while to set it up as I had to have a desk made to measure for it since the space it quite small. For months I had the chair, which I bought at an antique shop, but no desk! When the desk finally did arrive, it was quite something getting it home. It was all in one piece in a huge box which barely fit out of the back room of the store. The store owner and I then had to enlist the help of the men who ran the bookshop next door to get it into the back of my car. It fit perfectly (God bless my little red VW hatchback), but then I couldn't see out my back window. I drove all the way home that way and then my Sweetheart and I had to enlist the help of one of my next door neighbors to get the box out of my car. Getting it up the stairs and into the office was the easy part :)

So there you have it. I can't promise that I will post here very often because I am spending a lot of my free time with my Sweetheart and his family now, but I can promise that I will do my best, especially since I think I will have a lot of interesting things to share with you all in the coming months :o) Thanks for sticking around and I hope to pop back in soon!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Québec City

 View of the Petit Champlain district in Québec City

Oh my gosh, it's a new post! Yeah, sorry it's taken me a while, I have become a very occasional blogger as I'm sure you have noticed. Life has been very busy for me since I moved into my new place. Getting my boxes emptied and my place set up was the easiest part, then came the long, drawn out delivery process for my washer and dryer (I spent the first three weeks I was in my new place having to go to Sweetheart's place to do my laundry) and the alarm system and phone woes (it took me three tries to get a cable guy who actually knew how to connect phone by cable system so that my alarm system would work) and getting my heating system checked out to see if it is worthy of the coming Fall and Winter (turns out my furnace is an energy eating dinosaur, so they're coming to replace it next week) and yanking all the weeds out of my sorrowfully neglected front garden (previous owners had landscaping done, but then did nothing to maintain it). Add to all of that the fact that I'm working three evening shifts and two day shifts for the Summer, spending adequate time with Sweetheart and my friends, trying to jog more than once a week and the fact that I have started singing lessons and learning Polish (for the benefit of communicating with Sweetheart's family, they make the effort to try and speak French around me as much as possible, so I figured I could try and speak a bit of Polish as well) and blogging takes a bit of a back seat. I do think about making time to blog a lot, but actually making the time is a bit harder. I'm working on it folks, I swear I am!

Now on another note, I finally have some photos of my visit to Québec City for you! They were all taken in Old Québec, except for the last few which were taken in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, but I'll get to that in a minute. First, a bit of history! Québec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America, it was founded my Samuel De Champlain on July 3rd, 1608, however the first fort built on the site by Jacques Cartier dates all the way back to 1535. He spent one Winter there before heading back to France. He planned to come back and settle the site more permanently, but eventually abandoned the settlement permanently due to ongoing hostilities with the First Peoples in the area and also the harsh conditions in the are in the Winter. You have to be made of stern stuff to deal with Canadian Winters now, so imagine what it was like three hundred odd years ago...Québec City remained under French control until 1763 when the English took over. Despite being the capital of New France and now the Province of Quebec, Québec city in 1763 still had only 8000 inhabitants. That just goes to show you how much interest the French took in colonizing North America. We were good for hunting beavers for their fur hats. That was pretty much it. After the English took over, the population in Québec City and the rest of Canada steadily grew, especially after the War of Independence in the United States when a lot of Loyalists and their families moved North to Canada so they could remain loyal to the British. Québec City is still relatively small however with a population of 516 622 in the immediate city and 765 706 when you include its suburbs. Compare that to the population of Montreal which is 1.65 million in the city and close to 4 million when you include its suburbs and you get an idea of the difference between the two. I had only been to Québec City once in my mid teens before my visit there with Sweetheart in May and I was struck by how much smaller it was than I remembered. It is a lovely place though and full of history. Also, fear not, if you wish to visit Québec City and speak no French, most people who work in shops, restaurants and tourist attractions are bilingual and if you happen to fall on someone who is not, they will be able to find someone who does speak English to help you :)

Square across from Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church in Old Québec 

Mural on the side of a building with Notre-Dames-des-Victoires church in the background

A view of the Chateau Frontenac from a street in the Basse Ville(Lower Town)

The other place Sweetheart and I went to visit while in Québec City was Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine in the town of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, which is about a half-hour drive from Québec City, if even that. It is a shrine dedicated to the mother of the Virgin Mary, Ste. Anne, and is one of three major sites of Catholic Pilgrimage in the province of Québec. Many people have visited the Shrine over hundreds of years and have left miraculously cured from all sorts of ailments. The shrine is absolutely beautiful, inside and out as you can see is well worth a visit whether you are Catholic or not. 

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed this post and I really hope I can make it back here soon with another. I have not forgotten my promise to show you pictures of my new home, just give me a chance to sort through my father's 247 CDs...I alphabetized them all and they are now sitting in neat stacks on my living room floor waiting to be listened to so I can decide which ones I'm going to keep. I made it through the As the other day. Once the floor is clear (I'm aiming to get the sorting done before my housewarming on August 24th), I'll be good for pictures :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Vacation post!

Hi everyone!

Now that I'm pretty much settled into my new place, I have time to pop in to share a few of this year's Prince Edward Island vacation pictures with you! I had a bit of a rough time emotionally at the beginning of my vacation (running away from Fathers' Day by myself didn't work as well as I thought it would...), I enjoyed my vacation in general, which is not hard to do when you are in Prince Edward Island for a week and spoiled weather-wise!

My favorite place this time around was definitely the Greenwich Dunes section of Prince Edward Island National Park, which was right across from my cottage on St.Peter's Bay

     Greenwich Dunes with the freshwater lake that sits inside the dune system
                                          Greenwich beach, just on the other side of the dunes
                                     Greenwich Dunes with the floating boardwalk in the distance
                                                       Sand dunes on Greenwich beach

If you would like to learn more about the Greenwich sand dunes, you can visit the pages dedicated to them on the Prince Edward Island National Park website here . I cannot recommend a visit to this area of PEI National park enough if you are ever on the island, it is a breathtaking place filled with hiking trails. Be warned though, there is only one washroom at the entrance to the park. I assumed there are more at the official entrance to the beach, but that is quite a long walk away once you are on the beach and to get there if you have used the trails to walk to the dunes you are looking at a good half hour. So be sure to used the washroom when you get to the entrance to the trails and ration your water use accordingly if you are like me and you need to go often. I found out about the single bathroom the hard way and have been warning everyone about it since then lol

Another favorite pastime of mine when I'm in Prince Edward Island is to go for drives along the island's scenic heritage roads. These are roads that have existed for over one hundred years and have been kept in their original condition in order to preserve some of the island's original character. They are wonderful to visit, but you do have to be careful not to drive over 20 kilometers per hour on them as they are dusty, narrow and often have ruts in them. I damaged the front right wheel well and bumper on my rental car on the old Princetown-Warburton road on my last full day of vacation and ended up having to be towed back to Charlottetown to get a second rental car after going through a rut at about 15 kilometers per hour. I was on a section of the road that I should not have been on though and that was only made for tractors, so it was my own fault for not paying more attention to the map.

                                                                 Millvale historic road
                                 Princetown-Warburton Road, well worth the insurance deductible :)

And lastly, I was in Prince Edward Island at the height of lupin season, much to my delight! My love affair with lupins began when I was very little and my mother read me the story of The Lupin Lady. My first lupins were brought to me by an elderly lady who owned a cottage by a lake here in Quebec that we used to rent every Summer. She brought them to us when she found out how fascinated I was by them and from that time on we have always had some in our gardens. I bought a small pouch of lupin seeds during my vacation and will be planting them in my garden here in the fall. I'm also contemplating planting a few seeds by my father's grave at the cemetery to see if they will grow. Can you imagine my delight though during my first visit to Prince Edward Island when I was 15 and we came across entire fields of late-blooming lupins? I was beyond thrilled and that is saying something for a blasé teenager!

My lupin fixation was more than satisfied during my week on the Island :) 

I hope you've enjoyed your second little glimpse at Prince Edward Island, I'll be back soon with some pictures from the day I spent with my Sweetheart in Quebec City and also some pictures of my new home once I'm totally done setting up. I still have some pictures and things to hang on the walls and also my dad's CDs to sift through and alphabetize with mine. Once all that is done I will give you a photographic tour :)