December 03, 2012


Recently, I was listening to Jian Ghomeshi discussing Oxford American Dictionary's words of the year.  One of these words - nomophobia - (extreme fear and anxiety caused by being without one's mobile phone) made me laugh.

I suffer from the opposite affliction.  I'd like to know what the word is for extreme fear and anxiety caused by one's cell phone ringing.

Quite a few years ago, I purchased a cell phone at a yard sale for $12. 

I know, I am such a gearhead.  I pay $11.30 per month for a pay as you go plan.  I use the phone very infrequently and I certainly don't use it while I am dining out.  I also don't use it in the bathroom at the Dutch Club in front of the sink while others are waiting to wash their hands.

As it turns out, the ringing of cell phones, as opposed to say, the ringing of the giant bell of the Salvation Army kettle-person, is a nonissue.  After reading Ian Gillespie's column Drowning in Social Media, I learned that the darn kids these days are text-obsessed.  Texting is where it's at, my friends.  A high school student at Sir Wilfred Laurier organized a social media blackout to remind students how "distracting it [social media] can be and how it can lead to cybercruelty".  Of the 1100 students at Sir Wilfred Laurier, a meagre 35 individuals chose to participate in the blackout.  I am guessing that these 35 people did this as a favour to the organizer.  

I am not concerned with cybercruelty.  There will always be mean kids and whether they engage in cyberbullying or harrass their victims in person is not my point.  What I take issue with is that kids are permitted to use their phones while they are in class, supposedly learning.  Have teachers lost their minds? Has society collectively forgotten its manners?

My husband, a secondary school teacher, tells me that it is nearly impossible to monitor phone usage.  Texting is rampant and kids are good at being surreptitious.  I told him that he should make everyone drop their phones into a big box at the front of the room when they came in.  If he catches someone in the textzone, he should confiscate the phone immediately.  What's to think about?

When I was in high school, we passed notes, furtively and selectively.  If you couldn't find someone at lunch, you got up off your keister (which probably was a lot firmer and fitter than they are these days) and roamed the hallways to look for them.  Parents and children made plans for pick ups and drop offs in the morning.  If plans changed during the school day, the secretary was called.  

It seems to me that there is something wrong with the current picture and that there is an easy solution:


But wait, not everyone agrees with this.  Some parents have paid hard dollars (or hard plastic!) for their children to have phones.  This means that the parents are entitled to know where their kids are (at school, duh!) and want to be able to contact them at all times.

I know a certain VP who can't practice what she preaches.   She roams the hallways of the school, phone in hand, texting constantly, while "connecting" with the kids.  I guess she thinks that she is multi-tasking.

Wake up teachers; wake up school boards.   We have a society of stressed out, hard-wired, overscheduled kids.  Time to turn off and tune back in to the classroom.

November 12, 2012

Hooked Rugs and Diamond Logs

I started hooking a rug in July of 2009 - more than 3 years ago!  I love hooked rugs and after seeing a retrospective of Emily Carr's work at the AGO (2007), I fell in love with this:

Oh Emily, such inspiration!  And all from old blankets! Emily didn't have a lot of money and she supplemented her meagre income by hooking rugs.

If it was good enough for Emily, it's good enough for me!  I thought that I too would take up rug hooking.  I loved the idea of using old clothes and upcycling them.   I enrolled in a rug hooking workshop in Paris, Ontario and this is what I made.  Let me back up a minute.  We were supposed to make a heart. I couldn't bear it.  It was a big, flat heart and I knew that I would go insane working on something so dull.  The instructor had a Charles Rennie Mackintosh book and I flipped through that, looking for inspiration.  I found this:

It is Ochre, Black and White - a watercolour by CRM (c.1922 -23) that was eventually used as inspiration for a textile. I liked the undulating waves and thought that it looked very modern. 

This is what I produced, using the above print as inspiration.  Here it is, framed "gallery style".  The thick black wooden frame was made by my husband and the piece measures 12" by 12" (not including the frame).

No offence Mr. Mackintosh, but I like my version better.  Hooking this was a nightmare. I was using a tiny cut (the cut is the width of the strip of wool that you're using).  I think this was a three.  It took me forever and I vowed that I would NEVER use a thin cut again.

Here is the rug that I started three years ago:

It is made of new and vintage wool, blankets, scarves, skirts, sweaters and suits. I hand dyed a lot of the wool using food colouring, Easter egg dyes and koolaid.  I cut most of the wool strips by hand because I like the rough-hewn look.  The strips of wool are quite a bit thicker which means that it hooks up a bit faster.

Well guess what? I still love hooked rugs, but I HATE rug hooking.  It is BORING beyond belief.  The rug below has taken up permanent residence on its frame in my living room.

It is not finished, but I kind of like how it looks on the frame on top of my antique treadle sewing machine base.  I may never finish it!

I guess you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with quilting.  Well, check this out:

I have been working on these blocks for a few days and I am happy with how they're turning out.  I realized that the diamonds remind me of my rug.  This is one project that I might actually finish!

My plan is to turn the blocks lengthwise, like this:

Fifteen more to go!

Update.  September 2013.  The diamond quilt did not turn out as I planned.  It's hideous.  It has become the dog's blanket.  

November 08, 2012

The Rules of My Nature

Yes, I know the title of this post is obnoxious but I am rootin'-tootin' proud!

Canada Writes has partnered up with Canada Council for the Arts and The Massey Lectures to present the writing series Close Encounters with Science.  The series is inspired by The 2012 Massey Lectures.

Here's a description from the Canada Writes website: "This year's lecturer is physicist Neil Turok.  We're fascinated by his insights on how science and technology affect everything around us, from the environment to our innermost thoughts".

Science and I are not friends.  We're like neighbours at war (some of you might find this analogy funny).  There is a tall fence between us that shall never be riven.

I decided to try to write something about science, even if it killed me.  After all, good writing makes all the difference.  If something is well-written, the topic is irrelevant.

Here is my entry:

The Rules of My Nature

In the eighth grade, I discovered that subjects and predicates moved me and that grammar was my forte. I was an idiot savant.

My father prided himself on his mathematical prowess. That I was clueless beyond simple calculations was proof that I took after my mother. I believed his words; they became part of me. Implicit in his censure was that mathematics and its evil twin – science - were for men and not for teenaged girls.

Mr. Tronko, my ninth grade chemistry teacher, was more interested in belittling students than in teaching them. On the day I wore a handsewn blouse with a rhinestone bracelet and capris, he paused and considered my appearance. He waited for silence and delivered his judgment:

“Who do you think you are? Elizabeth Taylor?”

My cheeks were beetroots. I wanted to smash in his face with a bunsen burner.

Things didn't improve. Mr. Haq, my biology teacher, was a screamer. He told me that I wouldn't go far. That I was a stupid girl and that I shouldn't return. I was relieved.

When I entered university and realized that I needed a science credit, I pored over the course offerings: Geology (Rocks for Jocks), Astronomy (Moons for Goons), Chemistry and Physics. It was like selecting my preferred method of execution.

I consulted friends. We concluded that Geology was dull, Astronomy was math-heavy and I may as well splash myself in the face with acid if I were to take Chemistry. The Physics instructor was rumoured to be funny. I signed up.

The word “physics” filled me with shame. In Grade Thirteen, I was leery of the teacher, an ancient crone who couldn't smile. It was focal length that did me in. There was one equation that I was sure of: length implied numbers, numbers meant mathematics, mathematics equalled failure. I withdrew.

On the first day of Conceptual Physics for Non-Scientists, the Professor pulled a banana out of his pocket. Bananas make me gag but in my worldview, they are benign. He plunged the banana into liquid nitrogen and it froze rapidly. He smashed it on the counter and it splintered into shards. I was intrigued. He lured me in with the promise of more experiments and no math beyond simple multiplication.

His name was Whippey and he was quick and snappy in body and mind. I was reminded of Beaker from the Muppets. Demonstrations with balls, coins, feathers, balloons and other simple objects ensued. Was this Physics or Magic 101? Confident in my newfound knowledge, I waxed on about force, friction and inertia. I knew that I was hooked when I explained to my then-boyfriend that Bernoulli's Principle was behind the pesky shower curtain glued to his leg during a hot shower. Who did I think I was – Copernicus?

Physics is about understanding the rules of nature. My nature tells me that I will never be a mathematician, but conceptually, I will always be a Physicist.

Click on my Physics textbook to access the Canada Writes website.

Read my Story! 

November 04, 2012

Son of a Stitch

My nine year old son is currently sitting at my sewing machine...

wait for it...


Here's the proof:

Did he really just ask me whether he can make his own "five block" quilt?  Am I raising a pionerd?
Should I start a sweat shop on Bruce Street?  These are the questions I have.

My children were actually just fighting over the machine - for once it's not the computer or the telly.  I am so happy that they are interested in sewing that I don't even care that they're fighting.

My husband just asked the kids if they wanted to watch a movie.  Actual response from Nathaniel:  "No, you guys watch Legend, I'll just sew".  I cracked up.

I think I know why he's interested.  Today, I finished up my "Elvis is Everything" quilt for my son's kindergarten teacher, the vivacious and sparkly Mme. Dona.  Don't tell her that we used to call her Mme. Donut (she looks nothing like a donut, she is just fun! I am fondly remembering my grade ten math teacher right now, aka Clayface).  Mme Dona is an Elvis junky.  She had an Elvis impersonator at her retirement party and she was also "lei-ed" (her words - don't get the wrong idea!) by an Elvis impersonator on an Elvis cruise to Hawaii.

Nathaniel saw the finished quilt and was inspired.  Well, I think he was inspired.

I think this quilt is a bit on the crazy side - just like Elvophiles.  No disrespect intended.

So the boy was into the quilt and now he wants to create his own masterpiece.

Sew on, lad, sew on!

October 30, 2012

Pop Crazy!

I love colour; it makes me happy.  My living room, office and tv room are painted different shades of green and chartreuse, my bathrooms are both blue, my bedroom is pale turquoise, my son's room is cornflower and my daughter's is pepto-bismol pink.  I selected the fabrics, furnishing and accents in all of these rooms to further activate the walls, making the colours seem even more intense.  I can't get enough colour.

Last Christmas, I made a quilt for my son's twin bed.  It is mainly blue rectangles punctuated by solid white.  I also made sure to include a wild card - a lone green patch - and some floral patterns and pink, just cuz.  I made a scrappy binding and backed the quilt with a warm brown solid and some more green.

My daughter was upset when she realized that there wasn't a quilt for her.  I explained that I had started working on her quilt but it would take me more time to assemble.  Furthermore, ladies across Canada were sewing just for her!

In July of 2011, I joined a Flickr group called Unscripted.  It is a quilting bee and the first one that I've ever participated in.  The group is comprised of twelve quilters across Canada who wanted to try out some improvisational quilting.  Each of us was assigned a month.  During my month, I had to select a block that I wanted the other members to sew and select and cut fabric for it.  The fabric would be mailed out with instructions and the other members of the bee would sew a block and then mail back the finished piece.

After sewing the block below for August, I knew that I wanted some hot colours in Gwen's quilt.  The "red" in the block is actually more on the orange side than it appears.

I told the bee members that I was inspired by the quilts of Denyse Schmidt and Malka Dubrawsky, two designers with a very modern aesthetic.  I cut and mailed out stacks of pink, orange and purple fabric to the ladies in my quilting bee.  I also added in some white to break up all that saturated colour.  I asked them to be creative and to sew the fabric together in any size or shape. I also asked them to add in some complementary fabric from their stash.  Yes, all good quilters have a stash.

The ladies did not disappoint.  As the blocks started to trickle in, I was ecstatic!  You can see below that I received many different styles of blocks - all unique.

My plan was to arrange the finished blocks to my liking and break them up with light grey and smaller blocks that I had sewn.  I had purchased a huge, high quality cotton flat sheet at the Sears Outlet last year for $12.  It was very soft (high thread count) and I knew it would complement the pink, orange and purple.

Here's a picture of the quilt, before I began to attach the binding.

As I write this, I am taking a break from hand-sewing the binding to the back of the quilt.  I have one side left and I am hoping to get it finished today.

3 hours later, I've finished sewing on the binding.  Here it is right before I pop it in the washer.

And here is the final product, fresh from the dryer!  I love it!

Here is some information about my quilt:

Pop Crazy was quilted by Christine Montgomery at Quitty Prickly .  Unscripted (my Bee Girls) contributed with some of the pieces, which I later cut up and resewed or worked into larger sections.  
Dimensions are:  78 x 72.  Machine pieced, handsewn binding.

October 29, 2012

The Kids Drove Me Mad; The Wine and Chocolate Kept Me Sane. Houses Exchanged, Part 2.

I really should be planning my daughter's 7th birthday party, which is in 4 days - eeek!  I haven't made up the invites nor have I finished sewing her birthday quilt which I began last February.  I also have to update my resume and write a cover letter; try to unload our washing machine (pun intended) on Kijiji and perform additional mindless and menial tasks.  Recently a friend asked when I was going to finish up the house exchange post and I realized that I have been neglecting my blog.  So here it goes, le plus rapidement possible.

Let's see... where did I leave off? Oh yes, August of 2012.   We were about to brave some wicked French traffic...

After taking the RER to the airport hotel, we claimed our cute black Peugeot from the underground parking.  Thank goodness for the Frenchies' GPS - we would have been up caca creek without it.  Jetlag; crazed French drivers, chaotic roundabouts, demons wrestling in the backseat, hysteria in the front, all compounded by our fervent desire to arrive alive made for a somewhat dicey journey to Guer.

An obscene toll of 28 euros and 5 hours of erratic driving later, we were driving into the village.  We were immediately charmed by the landscape - lots of lush, green farmer's fields, ancient stone houses and pops of bright flora everywhere.  It was the tail end of the hydrangea display but I did manage to snap a few pictures.

We were very eager to get to our home away from home and when we turned the car into a charming laneway and saw what we thought was the Frenchies abode, I was thrilled.

Richard got out of the vehicle and tried to open the large iron gate.  Nothing happened.  I consulted our papers.
Hmmn... there's nothing about a keypad.

Richard began to punch in random numbers.  I rolled my eyes:  Like this is gonna work, rockstar.

Then he shook the gate a bit.  This would have been funny if we weren't so tired.  Oddly enough, the gate opened and a woman appeared.  Richard said what I can only assume to be something along the lines of "we're here!" but the woman looked startled and then confused.  I got out of the car to help because RB's French is comparable to my German.  Eventually, after some namedropping, the woman deduced that we wanted a maison and she pointed down the laneway.  Ha ha ha, we all laughed.  It was a bit socially awkward and I'm not entirely sure that the woman thought we were sane.

Here's Nathaniel standing in the laneway, followed by a photo of our French hideaway.

The house was pale stucco, very modern in appearance, and nicely situated on a very private lot with lots of flowers and a biggish yard with pear, apple and plum trees.  Without going into too much detail, the kitchen was well-appointed with all the usual appliances, the rooms were spacious, they had two bathrooms (toilets only) and two washrooms (tub and shower).

The Frenchies were very thoughtful folk: they had left us a bag of juicy oranges to use in their juicer;  two bottles of wine and local cider and a note wishing us a pleasant stay.  Also on the table were loads of travel pamphlets and leaflets, a binder with house info (who to call, insurance stuff, garbage day, phone numbers etc).  We signed their guestbook and were surprised to learn that they had participated in four previous exchanges (a different part of France, Spain, Germany and another European destination that I can't recall).

The house was tidy and very comfortable; I was completely at ease. Their decor was upscale Ikea with lots of pottery, bright walls and modern art (they had an abstract mural painted on one cinder block wall which I thought was very cool). The kids liked the the French version of "Craftmatic" beds, which were motorized.  I could get used to those beds; it made reading before lights out, very cozy.  I could also get used to their "femme de manage", who came in once a week, on Thursdays.  No wonder the blasted house was so clean!

I didn't take any pictures of the interior of the house so here are a few pictures of the local landscape:  Guer's trails, farmer's fields, the beach at Carnac, the menhirs, and the next door neighbour's horse.


Biking through the French countryside

on the bike trail, the small Marian shrine, a copy of the grotto of Lourdes

gorgeous countryside on a perfect summer's afternoon

beautiful vista on the bikepath

cairn at Locmariaquer
menhirs at Carnac, dating to around 4500 BC

The festival of the Madonna of the Bikers, which organizers promote as the largest motorcycle “pilgrimage” in France

I have never seen so many motorcycles in my life!

the neighbour's horse

Looking back at these pictures, I realize that I miss our days in Guer:  fresh pain au chocolat, cheap and plentiful wine and cheese, baguettes fresh from the oven for 80 cents and the venerable religieuse: a tower of custard filled pastry that defines gustatory pleasure.  I miss the amazing boulanger that was a minute's stroll from our backyard, the hydrangeas and rhododendrons, the stone cottages, the easy living.  These are the things that I am missing.  Richard is missing the myriad "roundabouts", which are so much more fun, efficient and stylish (if roadways can be stylish!) than stoplights.  We do have one here in London near Trafalgar Road and we rode through it recently on the way to my inlaw's.  I patted Richard's arm to console him.

What I am not missing:  my children fighting in the backseat of the Frenchies' car!

To sum up: I would definitely do another exchange.  When we returned home, our house looked and smelled exactly like it was supposed to, which was a relief.  My houseplants (two orchids, a jade plant, a desert rose and a Chinese money plant) were all very thirsty, but still alive,  so that was good.  The Frenchies left the house in pretty good shape, except for the mirror in the upstairs bathroom, which was splattered with toothbrush detritus and zit juice.  I did have one truly horrifying moment, which occurred the day we arrived home.  When I opened the microwave to reheat my coffee (sadly, an oft-repeated activity during a typical day), I realized that there was something still inside.  The something was three zombified half cobs of corn, writhing with maggots and tiny flies!  Truly repulsive.  I slammed the door and retreated and of course, called the hubs to deal with the mess.  This aside, there were no major problems.

So I suppose, my only problem now is to decide where we should go next and find someone who is ready and willing to swap!

Here is a video that my husband made with some highlights of our trip. I love it!!

September 18, 2012

Houses Exchanged! Part 1

Preface:  A family of four from London, Ontario participates in their first house swap.   Homes and vehicles are exchanged; fun ensues!

The Bad Beginning
August 2012

After a nine hour drive to Montreal, we happily checked in to a Holiday Inn Express.  Our flight was due to leave the next day at 11:30 pm.  Poor Gwen had been ill for several days (and yes, it was the dastardly type of illness that requires a pot) and Nathaniel had just started to grouse about a sore tummy.  Always nice to get the flu the day before a transatlantic flight.  Although Gwen was on the mend and wanted to hang out in the hotel pool, Nathaniel wouldn't or couldn't leave the bed.  He even missed out on St. Hubert (delicious roasted chicken, Quebec style), which I had been wanting to sample since I heard about it on CBC's C'est la Vie.

After a painful night in an overchilled hotel room, listening to Nathaniel moan and groan, we got up and sorted ourselves and our luggage out.  We hung out at the hotel for the day - Gwen swam and Nathaniel stayed in bed for the morning.  After lunch, we drove down to the waterfront (Lake St. Louis), ate some DQ ice cream, walked along the pier, beachcombed and watched the kids chase geese.

At around 6:30pm, we left the van in the hotel parking lot for the Frenchies and took the shuttle to the airport.  We waited around for five hours: people-watching, eating, reading and trying to comfort Nathaniel.  The worst of his sickness had passed but he was still weak and lethargic.  Poor kid.

I won't lie; it was a hellish flight.  I detest flying at the best of times (unreasonable and unfounded fear of fatal crash), but when it's a red-eye with exhausted children, and one of them is unwell, it is unbearable. The kids were crabby because it was WAY past their bedtime, I was crabby because it was WAY past my bedtime, the plane was packed and we were ready for the journey to be over before we even left the ground.   The children slept ON Richard and I for the duration of the flight.  This was not pleasant or relaxing.  The in-flight movie was something starring a Latino midget and The Rock.  Also unpleasant, was Nathaniel vomiting orange juice (you've got to be kidding me) as the plane touched down on French soil.  Quelle horreur!  I did not make eye contact with the other passengers, who, I am sure, were completely disgusted by me and my barfing progeny. What an inauspicious beginning to our trip!

We stumbled off the plane, made our way into the airport terminal, retrieved our luggage (all miraculously there!) and took the navette (free airport shuttle service) to the Radisson.  Time for a glorious three hour nap.  zzzzzzzzz.

I was awakened by a ringing telephone.  It was Aquaduck!

Aside:  Anne's surname is Acouedic and the first time I tried to pronounce it, it came out "Aquaduck".  The Aquaduck was a bar (now defunct) in Welland, Ontario that I used to frequent as a teenager.  It is where I drank cheap and disgusting Bavarian wine cooler, caroused with my peeps and was hit on by my drunken high school English teacher.  Ahhhh... those were the days (it is hard to type sarcasm).

Anyhow, Anne's name stuck.

I roused RB and the kiddies, who did NOT want to leave their beds.  Everyone was grouchy, but I forced them to march down the hall with me to the Frenchies' room.

The warm, smiley and charming Frenchies, while complete strangers to us and the English language,  couldn't have been more gracious.  We yammered on in French, and I practiced mon Franglais.  RB and the kids were pretty quiet so it was up to me to do most of the communicating.  I relied on smiling and manic gestures to fill in any gaps in communication.  We chatted for twenty minutes or so and RB accompanied Serge down to the parking garage for an introduction to their car.  He returned with the car and house keys (yes!) and we bid the Frenchies adieu, bon voyage, yada yada yada, with a promise to see them in three weeks.

So far, so good.  Our agenda: to enjoy Paris for four nights and then make our way to Guer.  We put most of our luggage in the trunk of the car and left it in the underground parking. Paris has excellent public transportation; there was no practical reason for us to travel by car through La Ville Lumière, although watching RB navigate the traffic circle in front of the Arc De T would have been comical.

We boarded the navette back to CDG and bought four Paris Visite passes.  These offer unlimited train, bus and Métro travel for a set number of days (5 for us) in up to five different zones. These were very expensive, but worth every centime.  We used them constantly.  I think we would have seen less of the city had we not purchased them.

I had made arrangements to rent a Paris apartment (in the 2nd arrondissement) through a lodgings website and I was a bit worried because I hadn't corresponded with Jonathan, the owner of the apartment, for several days.  I was beginning to rethink our rather loosey-goosey rendezvous between the hours of 11am and 1pm on August 5.

Adding to my concern was the fact that I had paypaled J $150 as a deposit.  Let me explain. The apartment looked great online, but we were the first people to rent it.  Red flag.  Before committing to J and his very desirable apt, I asked him why he had no testimonials.  His response was that it was his first time listing it:  "only friends and family have stayed before".  He seemed nice enough on the phone, so I took the plunge and paid up.  What did I have to lose?

A month later, we were on our way to Paris, Plan de Poche Transilien in hand, and about to try to find our petit piece of Paris.  This little map was a lifesaver!

Finding our apartment was easy peasy with this baby.  We took the RER (Réseau Express Regionale) commuter train from CDG to the chaotic Métro hub of Paris Nord, and then hopped on the fourth line.  We exited two stops later, at Réaumur- Sébastopol.  Our building was about two hundred feet away.

Our Métro stop.  
RB entered the four digit door code and we were relieved when the tall wooden door actually opened!   We carried our luggage up the five-story wooden, spiral staircase, which I loved, and found the door to our flat.  I had no key and no clue.  Knocking was futile; the apartment was empty.

We did have a bit of a problem getting in because my cell doesn't work in France. I solved this problem by banging on the neighbour's door and begging to use his phone.  Artur (Arthur?) had pas de problems with me and my dumbassedness and gladly handed over the phone.

When I spoke to J, I learned that he wasn't even in Paris!  I'll admit, when he told me this, I felt a bit sick. I think he was in England.  He said that he had been emailing me for the past few days but I hadn't responded.  Whoops! Incommunicado in Paris.  He told me that I had a contract to sign, he wanted 300 euros as a security deposit and that I would have to pay 80 euros for cleaning.  I told him that none of that was on his website and that I would pay for the appartement in full, but would not pay a deposit or pay anything for cleaning.  He didn't seem particularly thrilled with this, but he agreed and said that his Uncle would let us in.  We dumped our luggage in the hall and left it there for 2 hours (I wasn't about to sit with it while we waited for the Oncle and I was certainly wasn't about to tow it around while we explored the neighbourhood).

When we returned to the flat after pigging out on French pastries and shopping at the Monoprix (the grocery across from us; they're all over Paris), Jonathan's uncle was waiting for us.  He gave us the key and departed quickly.  The flat had three bedrooms, two baths with lots of hot water and the kitchen was well-equipped and bright.  There was no tv, which was fine by me.  We later learned that the apartment was usually rented only to models but they don't "work" in August and so it was free for us to rent.  I actually wondered about the model thing when we arrived, because the apartment wi-fi code was "Parismodel" or something silly like that and there were copies of Vogue and other fashion mags on the mantle.  I suppose I was half hoping that Jonathan was some hotty male model, but alas, he was not.

Here are some pictures that I took from our fifth-floor balcony.  One is east-facing and the other west.  These photos were taken at the same time, but it appears as though I took the pictures on different days,  due to the light.

Our building's facade was very similar to this one.  The rotunda-topped edifice houses a grocery at street level.  Shopping has never been so easy!

I loved standing out on the balcony and watching the world go by.

A typical pedestrian thoroughfare in our neighbourhood.  

This place, while unassuming, had the most cheap and delicious sandwiches.  

Part two of the adventure to come.

Update -- it's here!   Part 2

July 15, 2012

House Swap!

Bad joke alert:  I was tempted to call this post "wife swap" because I thought it might get more readers. ;-)

A few years ago, when we were still residing in the Blackfriars neighbourhood, I found a great website for thrifty (aka cheap) travelers.  Here's the "about" blurb from the site:

Home exchangers trade their homes, condominiums or apartments at a time that is convenient to both parties, but these are not the only types of accommodations that one gets to choose from. For example, one exchanger traded his home for a 40-foot yacht. Another couple swapped their villa in Italy for a RV in Oregon because they had always wanted to tour the U.S. in true nomadic style. Often, home exchangers will include their automobiles as part of the package.

A $100 charge to my Mastercard later, I was a home exchanger!  I "staged" the rooms in our house by shoving all the excess junk to one side of the room, out of the camera viewfinder's range and snapped away happily.  The next step was to upload our pictures and write a description of what we wanted in a house exchange and what we had to offer.  I waxed on about the Great Lakes, the city of London, Niagara Falls, beautiful beaches, Toronto, proximity to the U.S. border et cetera.  I posted a picture of the four of us, where Richard and I actually looked good (we were going to a charity do and were looking particularly natty), and I made sure that our home looked as comfortable and welcoming as it could.

We had an offer to exchange homes with some Dutchies the first week that our profile was active.  The Mom was a psychologist and she and her family of five were coming to London so that she could attend a conference at UWO.  Our proximity to the bike path and the school was "perfect for her"! Unfortunately, the dates didn't work for us and we had to decline.  We also received offers from Italy and another from the Netherlands, but neither tickled our fancy.  The fourth family to contact us was from Ireland, in Lucan, and wanted to know if we could come in July.  We said yes, were totally excited and - ugh - had to cancel on them in December because we bought a house and our closing was only a month before we were due to leave for the Emerald Isle.  I didn't want the added expense of a vacation that summer and so we kissed the blarney stone goodbye for that year.

Fast forward two years (May 19, 2012).  Home Exchanging was not even on my radar as I had let my membership expire; however, I was still interested in participating in an exchange and when I received an email offering me a $36 renewal, I jumped.  I deleted our previous listing and updated it to reflect our new home and surroundings.  I only posted pictures of our living room and the exterior of our house because I was of course doing too many things at once and only had a limited amount of time to work on the profile.  The plan was to stage the rest of the rooms in the house and take additional pictures a few days later.

Before I had time to take pictures of the rest of the house and less than three days later,  I found this email in my inbox:


Nous serions intéressés pour échanger notre maison en aout 2012 - entre le 4 aout et le 26 aout 2012 pour une durée de deux ou trois semaines à votre convenance.

Nous habitons en Bretagne, notre situation géographique vous permet d'être au centre de la Bretagne afin d'y apprécier tous ses charmes.

Nous sommes une famille de 4 personnes.

A bientôt.

Anne et Serge
Thomas et Clara

Magnifique!  We were ecstatic.  The dates work for us because RB is a teacher and is home for the summer holidays.  I think we discussed it for about two minutes and I sent an email back to Anne and Serge letting them know that we were interested and that we would be looking into flights.

It is now mid-July and we depart for France in less than two and half weeks - the first of August.  I am exhilarated and cannot believe that we are actually going on this amazing adventure.

We are swapping homes, cars and bicycles.  Coordinating arrivals and departures has been a bit onerous, as my French is pauvre; however, I have managed.  I have been sending emails back and forth to Anne (in French), which is a bit of a nightmare because she only writes in French. Bah!

The plan is to fly in to Paris and to stay overnight at an airport hotel (Radisson).  The Frenchies are spending the night at the same hotel and so we will be able to meet and exchange home and car keys.  The hotel offers a "park and fly" package ($185 Cdn) which we are taking advantage of (free parking for seven days and buffet breakfast in the a.m.).  Anne and her family will fly out of Paris the following morning and we will continue on to the city proper where we will stay for four nights. After our Parisian jaunt, we're off to Guer, in Bretagne.  We are planning to visit the coast, Normandy in particular, and perhaps a sojourn to Belgium.  I haven't been to Belgium before and neither has RB.  I think he wants to go there just for the beer.

You can view our listing here (you might have to register, which is free, to see it):

House Exchange

I don't want to hear any cracks about my decor, people.

Also, please do not ask me why folks want to come to London, Ontario.  Everyone asks me this!  The mind works in strange ways.

Last week, we received an email from a family in Georgia, who reside in a log cabin on a mountain lake.  I told them that we would exchange with them next year.  

Stay tuned for more updates.

June 11, 2012

On Aging (Dis)Gracefully


"Miss Montgomery?"

Daaaamn. It's a telemarketer.  
"Yes.  How can I help you?"

"You sound younger and younger each year, every time I talk to you".  He laughed in a self-congratulatory way that infuriated me.

Oh, he thinks he is sooooo funny. ha hahaha hahahhaa.  Laugh at this, dumbass!

I slammed the phone down.  Yes, I really did slam it because I was talking on my old school rotary phone that my stepfather rewired for me.  I'm not proud of my reaction, but really!  This! On the eve of my discovery of the dreaded senior discount on a receipt.  RB said that the senior discount key is permanently depressed at Cherryhill Mall, which of course made me laugh, but I will be permanently depressed if I start getting the senior discount regularly!

For those of you who are not familiar with Cherryhill Mall, it is populated entirely by seniors.  I used to dislike going there because of the demographic (ooh... evil admission of ageism), but I grew to love the mall's denizens.  When the kiddies were toddlers, they always got lots of attention, candy, money and smiles from the geriatric bunch, who obviously had a lot of time on their hands.

Here's a picture of said senior discount:

I saved $1.26 on "drink" and wax paper.

According to Shopper's website, the magical age is 65; however, I have heard that they will extend it to those individuals who are 55 and over.  I do not look 55!  Do I?  Please tell me if I do.  In my head, I'm still 25!

I remember the young cashier who was helping me. She was about 12 and we were talking about PC banking.  I told her that I put everything on my PC Mastercard because I get free groceries and who doesn't like free groceries?  I was just trying to make polite conversation while rummaging through my disorganized wallet.  She said that she banks with TD because at the end of the year, she receives a percent back (of what she has spent during the year).    I just looked it up on the TD website and it's 1% for every dollar spent.  So if you spend $1000 a month, or $12 000 yearly, you'll get $120 back.  Hmmn... I am going to have to check what I get for my PC. As usual, I am getting sidetracked. Bear with me while I do some googling...

According to PC banking, the stated rate of points acquisition is ten points for every dollar spent on the PC Mastercard.  If you spend $1000 a month, you'll get $120,000 points annually and $120 in free groceries.  So they're basically the same - cash or groceries.  I'll take the groceries because I shop at the PC stores and there isn't a fee to bank with PC. Enough about this boring credit card savings and back to the prepubescent cashier.

I am going to tell myself that I do not look 55 and that the cashier gave me the senior discount because we were talking about money and she wanted to save me some.  I might cry if I thought otherwise.

I can only conclude that it must be my hair.  I showeth the greyeth, therefore, I am senior.  And senior is bad (that's for all you old folks out there, nyuk nyuk).

Because why else would I choose to have grey hair?  Grey hair means old, washed-up, not caring about one's appearance. Letting one's self go.  Saying goodbye to youth and vitality, and self-pride.  I should just start wearing polyester, elastic waistband pants now, right?

My cousin told me not too long ago that I was "too young to have grey hair" (that I didn't colour) and what was I thinking?

"You can have grey hair when you're old" she stated.  She is ten years older than I am and dyes her hair.  We agreed to disagree.

A friend of mine told me that several of her friends who met me at a function (and who do not know me) said that I looked at least ten years older than she did (thanks for that).  And this was supposed to make me feel how? Good?  I think her point was that I was "letting myself go" and that I should buck up and get back to the bottle.   That I am somehow doing RB a disservice.

I guess I frighten some people, with my kinky, crazy grey hairs.

At this point I no longer give a shit about my hair.  I look in the mirror and most days I think I look pretty good, grey hair and all.  I don't have a lot of time to spend on my appearance, or rather, I don't want to spend a lot of time on my appearance.

Why are we so obsessed with looking young?  If every woman I knew didn't dye her hair, I wouldn't have this bloody problem! I don't know any men who dye their hair!

The reality is that we are all marching towards our deaths. Why deny the obvious?  Come on, ladies!  Let yourselves go!  It's very liberating and you just might get the senior discount!

May 23, 2012

Deerly Departed

Nathaniel and I were driving home from gymnastics recently and as we passed by Woodland Cemetery, we were astonished to see two deer sitting on their haunches next to the crematorium.  Can you see the deer in this picture?

Or this one:  ?

No you can't.  Because there aren't any.
Sorry for that little trick; I couldn't resist.  The next picture will be of a deer, I promise.


Nathaniel was adamant that the deer were plastic statues (the same ilk as the dreaded pink flamingo).  Woodland is one of London's oldest (1879) cemeteries.   There is NO WAY that they permit people to "decorate" with plastic lawn ornaments! So I did what any mother worth her salt would do:  I slammed on my brakes, pulled a "u-eeeee" and drove back to the gates to check.

As we drove inside, Nathaniel complained:  "I don't wanna go in. I'll think of death".

The kid has a death phobia.

I said, "death is part of life.  Look how beautiful it is in here!"

I also gave him the "when I was your age..." line and told him about the countless enjoyable days that I spent roaming the Woodlawn Cemetery in Welland with my paternal Grandmother, who views the cemetery as kin of the park - both are perfectly acceptable places to bring small children.  I told Nathaniel about the pet and children's cemetery and how I liked to pore over the gravestones, reading the inscriptions and scrutinizing the porcelain photos of the dearly departed.

Silence from the back seat.

We crawled along the road toward the crematorium and sure enough, those statues were bona fide deer.  They were sitting with their legs tucked beneath them in the grass and were chewing their cud contentedly.  I was sure that they would sprint away, but they actually ignored us.  Aren't deer supposed to be skittish?  Was it beneath them to even glance in our direction?

I was amazed and awestruck as I always am in the presence of the sublime, but unbeknownst to me, the best was yet to come.

We bid adieu to the deer and prepared to leave.  You have to take a rather long and circuitous route to exit the huge cemetery and as we drove down the shady lane, I admired the many ancient headstones, statuary and grave markers - the beauty of which was lost on the 8-year-old.  I stopped the van in front of the venerable Pixley Mausoleum, which is monolithic and glorious.  Its massive door is flanked by lions, also real (heh heh), and so I HAD to stop and take a closer look:

picture by David Caloren, a librarian friend of mine (
Nathaniel refused to budge from the van:  "I'm cweeped out, Mum".  And so, I put the van in park and walked to the mausoleum ALONE (cue horror music).  I was admiring the front door, which was sadly but not surprisingly locked, when I heard Nathaniel yell:  "LOOK!"

He startled me, as I thought he was still inside the van, and so I jumped.   As I turned to see what had excited him, he was pointing directly at me. Realizing that the object of his attention was behind me, I whipped my head around and saw a buck standing less than TWENTY FEET from me!  I instinctively began backing away slowly because I didn't want it to charge me.  Don't laugh! I have been in a passenger in the front seat of a van that was twice charged by the same huge moose and it is no laughing matter. (I'll save that story for another time).

Back to the buck.  The deer did something unspeakable. It turned its back on me, so that I had an upfront and personal view of its anus, and both pissed and shat. I kid you not.  Nathaniel and I, being mature individuals, laughed like maniacs.

After finishing its business, it limped away.  It was obviously injured and we were sad for it.  Poor thing.

As we continued our drive through the cemetery, we next came upon eight deer sitting in a semicircle chewing their cud.  It was a deer party: a true stag and doe!  Again, the deer just sat there, munching away.  I think that one or two got up and deigned to look at us, but they didn't approach and neither did we.  It was a very special moment for Nathaniel and I to share.

At this point, we decided that we had to "hightail it" home to get a camera!  As we approached the Veterans' Area, we had to stop the van because there were two deer crossing the road directly in front of our van.  There were also many deer to the right and left and as I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw one standing in the road behind me.  We were surrounded!  We counted 22 deer.  Unbelievable!  I felt like we were in African Lion Safari, except it was London Deer Safari.

Should you wish to go visit the deer yourselves, I can tell you that it is miraculous to behold these beautiful creatures.  I have been three times this month between the hours of 7:30 and 8:15 in the evening and I have seen them every time.  Woodland is on Springbank Drive.


This buck is "in velvet", so named because of the fuzzy antlers which begin to grow in May.  Bucks shed their antlers December through March.

You can see the nubbins of new antlers on this buck too:

I liked the robin sitting atop this headstone, "gazing" into the trees.  

Now go visit!  You'll love it.