Friday, September 26, 2008


This morning, we left the house around 9am and went to the EcoMuseum off chemin Ste-Marie in Ste-Anne de Bellevue. It's near McGills MacDonald college experimental farming/agriculture facility and the Morgan Arboretum, a place to visit another time.

You can take a virtual tour of the Ecomuseum here. Most of the animals at the ecomuseum are animals that for whatever reason cannot be returned to the wild. So this is a sanctuary for them. The only thing we didn't end up seeing, were butterflies in the butterfly garden. Perhaps because it was a grey day, and we didn't see any turtles at the turtle pond.

The picture is a Lynx at the Ecomuseum. He looked so bored, and blaze and fed up with life. Poor thing. Perhaps hadn't had his breakfast yet. We got to most of the exibits just before the personal feeding them. So we got to see them in food anticipation mode.

Around town

This week, despite feeling in the dumps because of my knee, I decided that since it was my last week vacation I ought to do something.

Thursday I decided we were going to go to Old Montreal. I hadn't brought Samer there yet, and no visit of Montreal is complete without a tour in Old Montreal. The oldest buildings date back from first colonization in the 1600's. Montreal's oldest building, the Sulpician Seminary build in 1684. It has a clock that was added in 1701, that is the oldest functioning such clock in all of North America. We took the commuter train from our suburb to downtown Montreal with my eldest at 2ish, she was heading for class. For $4.50 it takes 20-30 minutes from my house to get downtown. Handy if you work downtown, and you can get a monthly pass.

We got off at Central Station at Place Bonaventure. From there, we walked along St Antoine to McGill and starting going lower towards old Montreal. We went through Square Victoria. We turned on Notre Dame going east, so he could see the Notre Dame Basilica, next to the old Semenary, as well as Place d'Armes. We continued on Notre Dame for a while and then took St Paul - Montreal's oldest street, and covered in cobblestones like in the past, and went to Place Jacques Cartier, so he could see Montreal's City Hall. I forgot to take him behind the city hall, where you can see remains of the fortifications that were build around old Montreal in ancient days.

We had lunch at a place called 'Le Fripon" in Place Jacques Cartier. I had amazing mussels with fries, and Samer had sausages with fries. This restaurant had a mix of French, Italian, German and English cuisine, and a terasse directly on Place Jacques Cartier. The food was excellent as well as the service. It's a little more expensive then I normally like.. but decent for Old Montreal in a tourist area :)

After lunch we headed towards Marche Bonsecours, built around the 1850's and originally served as Montreal's city hall. Next to the market is the Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours, the oldest standing church in Montreal, built in 1655, now housing the Margerite Bourgeoys museum. Also aroudn the corner is a quaint hotel/restaurant housed in a 17th century building.

At this point we went on de la Commune, to the waterfront, and walked around the old port. First from the distance we could see Pont Jacques-Cartier, behind it La Ronde, and the remains of the Expo '67 of Man and it's world. You can see the clock tower on the waterfront, built to commemorate those who fought in WWI. We walked along the clock tower pier and then just along the waterfront. The other 2 piers were closed off to pedestrians. It's offseason. During the peak summer months the piers are all open. It's one of my favorite places to go in-line skating.

We walked along de la commune till we got back to McGill street and walked back to Square Victoria, where we sat for a while, watching people rushing home from work and a bunch of skateboarding kids. I figured we didn't want to take the commuter train before 7pm because I didn't want to stand on the train with my bitchy knee.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cooking up a storm

The past 2 days I've done nothing but cook. Though I hate cooking I get the urge to cook every once in a while.

Yesterday I started off by making some vegetable stock, to use as a soup base for the soups I wanted to make. Then I made some fruit & nut taboule and Arabian spinach with cheese. We had that for dinner last night. For the carnivores in my house I also made some chuck roast cooked with potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Apparently that turned out great, according to the same above mentioned carnivores. I always find it difficult to cook something and not taste it. I hadn't made chuck roast probably in close to 20 years.

Today, I made yellow split pea soup with zucchini, and tomato, onion & lentil soup, both which used the vegetable stock from yesterday. I also made ratatouille. Mostly a medley of eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes. Everything turned out really good. I'm starting to think though, that I need to get a freezer, because there's just not enough room.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Paranoid Parents

It amazes me. Parents realizing their precious little snowflakes suffer from obesity now signing them up at Kiddie Gyms. I used to get comments when my daughters were younger for letting them play outside. Something much healthier then having them cooped in the house with a game playstation or computer all day.

The first house we bought had a nice fenced in yard with a 5ft gate on one side and 6 ft gate on the other side. I naively thought that it would keep my daughters, then aged 21 months and close to 3, in the yard. The first day I let them go in the back yard, I found them both on the front lawn not much later. So I watched. The baby managed to climb the 5ft gate to end up in the front yard, and the 3 year old, climbed the 6ft gate. I realized that the gate climbing in itself was dangerous. Their clothes could get stuck on the gate. I sat down my 2 toddlers and had a talk with them. I told them that I would leave the gates opened, but if I so much as caught any part of them off our property, in particular in the street they would never play outside again.

I didn't think it would work, but it worked well. They stayed off the street, and the area where they could play got to include the next door neighbor's property. They had 3 children around the same age as my 2 daughters and all 5 children could play in both yards. I'd watch them in my yard, the neighbor when they were in their yard.

I put them both in preschool starting at age 3. Basically it was 2 hours a day 4 days a week. The preschool was about a 15 minute walk away, and I'd walk them to the preschool regardless of the weather. My daughters got so used to walking even in the -20 weather, that we'd get home from the pre-school and they would want to stay outside and play, regardless how cold it got. I'd have to tell them no, when it was less then -15, because little ones don't move enough and don't realize when their hands/feet start to freeze, even if they were well dressed for the temperature.

Sadly we didn't stay in that house for more then 2-3 years, their dad and I split up, and I moved to a low-rent housing complex. I was warned by everyone I knew that it was the WORST place in all of our area of Montreal. That it had a high rate of crime. I was thinking, well duh, you put 3,000 people in a tiny area, and you will get more problems then if you spread them out.

I got an appartment in a building that was on the edge of the Bois de Liesse. I figured at least my kids would be able to play on the edge of the forest, and in the few park areas designed for the multitude of children living in the area. One of those parks had monkey bars that were 2 meters high. I remember driving home from work on day and seeing a very small child sitting on top of the monkey bars. My first reaction was "What kind of parent leaves a child that small climb up that high". Then it hit me. It was my baby, Isabelle, the one who is always climbing, that was sitting on top of the monkey bars. I decided NOT to stop the car. Because I thought if I yelled out her name, it might startle her and she might fall off. I reminded myself that I taught her how to climb, because she was a climber before she started to walk before age 1, and that despite her clumbsiness, she was also good at climbing.

As for the forest, I told the girls, they could play in the forest so long as they can still see the buildings of our complex. I figured it was healthier and safer to play in the woods, then in the street. The most dangerous animals in that stretch of woods in Montreal are red foxes and owls. And generally children make too much noise, tend to scare the away. My daughters actually have wonderful memories of living in the low-rent housing complex. In their words "There was parks, the woods and tons of children, always someone to play with".

Of course they weren't allowed outside after dark, and alternatively in the winter, not after 6pm [since it's dark at 4:30] and if it was dark they had to stay within earshot. I'm sure it was great for Izzy living there, as between the ages of 5-10 if I was looking for her, the most likely place to find her was up a tree. Izzy was a lot like having a son. She was fearless and it still amazes her dad and I to this day that she made it to 16 without breaking anything. Of course we're not sure she did break something at 16, but she had a cast on her thumb and wrist for 6 weeks, doctors never were able to say if it was a cracked bone, a broken bone, or just ligaments & muscles so strained and swelled that they couldn't tell if something was broken.

I mean sure I put Sam in little league baseball at 8 and Izzy in little league soccer [football for people outside north america] at 7, and they both took swimming lessons from the time they were babies. I figured most kids like playing in water, the earlier they learn how to swim and pool safety, the safer it is for them. Izzy also played basketball at school and in a league for a year. Both also played for their school volleyball team. And of course both got into Rugby at the end of high school and played in college as well as in a league. I've taught them to to ice skate as toddlers, and how to ride a bicycle. They also know how to in-line skate since it was something we could do together, as mom is less athletic then both daughters. I'm happy that they are athletic enough to handle team sports, unlike me who did best at individual sports.

But they got to play outside, get familiar with their environment use their creativity, and stay in shape. It drove me nuts that others labeled me as a bad parent, because I didn't control what they did 24/7 Kids need time to be just kids. To not have anyone telling them what to do, and to be able to just lie in the grass and watch the clouds in the sky.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I have developed bursitis in my right knee. A side-effect of gardening. Thankfully the people I've told haven't made stupid jokes about "ah spent a lot of time on your knees? " [with the implication of doing so to service a male]. Of course other professions include washing floors and being a nun.

I've seen 2 doctors so far and been put on Naproxen [similar to Aleve sold in the US], and I've had it aspirated and been given a cortisone shot. My knee is still swelled up like a golf ball. It's still painful when I move, and anytime I lift anything remotely heavy [meaning more then 5 lbs or 2 kilos] it swells up more.

It's ruined my vacation. I was planning on taking Samer around the maritimes. We'd drive up the North shore of the St Lawrence, via Trois Riviere, up to Quebec City and continue up to Riviere-du-loup before heading towards New Brunswick and the bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides. Then from there, taking hte confederation bridge, canada's longest bridge, to PEI, spending a day or 2 around PEI, since it's very scenic with it's red earth. Next we were going to take the Cariboo-Woods Island ferry from PEI to Pictou Nova Scotia.

Once in Nova Scotia I hadn't decided if I we were going to sight see along Cape Breton Island before going to Halifax, or after. It made sense if we were in Pictou to go around Cape Breton first and then go to Halifax. But I hadn't decided. I mean I just want to see the coastal area's which are generally scenic. Cape Breton is supposed to be mountanous and I know Samer likes the mountains.

But my knee cannot handle a minimum of 20 hours driving each way... and due to the incredible slowness of the SAAQ, Samer still doesn't have a Quebec drivers license, and he can no longer use his Dubai one. So he can't legally drive, and it's really not worth the risk of getting stopped. The penalty for driving without a license is I believe 2 years where you are prohibited from having a drivers license plus a $500 fine. Of course if you are prohibited from having a license, it makes it more expensive to insure you when you do get it back and get a car.

It upsets me. This is the third year I want to go to Halifax and it doesn't happen. I will look at several day trips assuming my knee does get better then it is now. I'm sitting icing the damn knee. It's like all those falls I took on this knee throughout my youth has finally come back and bitten me in the ass...

Oh well.. time to check out what alternatives there is for at least some visiting during vacation.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Love at first fight

Here is Celes, my daughters 6 month old female kitten and Jethro, my not quite 3 month old Maine Coon kitten.

They are having a friendly wrestling match on top of the new cat condo/tree that I got to keep them entertained.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just one more little fellow joins our brood

Today we drove to Newbliss, Ontario. It's about 3 hours drive from Montreal taking Highway 401 up to Brockville, then road 29. It wasn't raining, but it was 'spitting' part of hte way, and very gray most of the day. We drove up there to pick up a polydactil Maine Coon kitten.

Yeah I said there was too many cats in the house, but I've wanted a Maine Coon for so long. We decided to call him Jethro. A name that suits him well. He's so incredibly adorable, and apparently his dad was a 20lb cat. So he's going to be a big cat :) That's him sitting on the dashboard of my car while we were parked in Brockville on the picture.

I realized since we had to get out at the Brockville exit that we couldn't be far from the St Lawrence, so after picking up the kitten, we stopped at the Harvey's in Brockville for a bite to eat, then I kept driving towards the St Lawrence. We went to the waterfront and then I decided to drive back on the road that followed the waterfront, from Brockville up till past Cornwall before we got back on the 401. I figured Samer would enjoy the scenic ride.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Racial profiling, stereotyping, and labeling

I grew up in what the news has been reporting as Montreal's North end. In fact it's called Montreal-North - but technically it's a north-east chunk of Montreal. I went to school right around the block from Henri-Bourassa park. It's also right around the corner from where I had my ballet lessons.

I saw the event reported as a problem in Montreal's Haitian neighborhood. I wonder how long someone has to reside in a country before his ethnic background no longer becomes an issue?

When I was a child in the early 60's living in Montreal-North, I had neighbors from Haitian background. How long is it before they are considered Canadians or Quebequers? Forty years? Fifty years? Montreal-North when I was a kid, was a mix of French, Italian and Haitian backgrounds. I doubt it's character has changed all that much.

When are law enforcement officers going to stop stereotyping people by a quick glance? Just because you're not white and French speaking doesn't mean you're up to no good.

You know to this day, I have never been stopped by police for no reason when I am alone in my car or with my daughters. Of course I'm alabaster white, all year round and I speak "de Joual" perfectly.

However while I was dating this half-Mohawk feller, we got stopped at least 3 or 4 times for 'verification'. They would ask my bf for his papers because he had long hair and looked very native. Usually upon reading his name [a very pure-laine name I might add - you know like Tremblay or Duplessis] on his driver's license, they would let us go. But sometimes it was tense.

He's not the only person I've been subjected to verifications with....

As for the riot, it's sad that whenever enough people accumulate with emotion, it turns into a riot with looting and violence. Usually it's over winning or losing the Stanley cup... but I suppose any excuse to cause violence and unrest for some groups is a good thing.

It's sad when the people who are paid to protect us end up harming us. Or in this case an 18 year old boy. There are laws in most suburbs of Montreal that prohibits being in parks between 11pm and 6am. Or something to that effect. However during the hot summer months when school is out, where do the teens hang out? Traditionally in parks... The younger kids use parks in the daytime, the older kids in the evening. If we aren't providing safe places for our teens to be able to hang out then we are failing as a society.

Often those good kids who fall through the cracks are from single parent homes, who have to take jobs in the evening or night, to pay bills. Leaves teens with no adult supervision We need youth centers where they can go hang out, and stay out of parks, streets, trouble and avoid getting shot at in general.

Stereotyping of people based on race, religion & nationality should stop. Just because you live in a 'poorer' neighborhood doesn't mean that you adhere to lower moral standards either. Same applies for having a different religion or no religion. Just because you follow the teachings of prophet XYZ doesn't mean that you practice what you preach. So spare me your speeches your moral righteousness, and indignation.

Montreal is a great city to live in and I love it's multi-cultural aspects. I love the fact you can find someone from just about any nationality in Montreal. I would really hate it if it got so ghettoized, that you couldn't do that anymore.

Let's hope that something good comes out of this... though it will never bring back Freddy, may he rest in peace.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Attention Whores, all of them, I tell ya!

What is wrong with those people? Their idea of a fun week-end is protesting funerals. I mean are their lives so boring and lacking of excitement that they plan trips to protest funerals...

The big problem I have with fundamentalist Christians is that they don't follow the word of Christ. No where does Jesus ever say to picket funerals. Jesus carried a message of love and tolerance. Something the people from the Westboro Baptist Church should perhaps consider.

What did Tim McClean ever do to them? He was some poor sap at the wrong place that the wrong time who got killed and beheaded in a greyhound bus by some crazy dude. And somehow this bears picketing? Oh right! Because we Canadians are a bunch of immoral people.

With some people it comes down to one thing, they hate anyone who aren't them. If you aren't with them, then you obviously are against them. Their view of the world is so narrow minded that it doesn't include having the choice of your own opinions.

Personally I like The adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Highly entertaining film. Any man who feels uncomfortable with this movie, isn't the type of man to hang out with me. In fact my girlfriend and I like watching this movie with the men in our lives to ensure that we didn't chose close-minded jerks. :)

Perhaps we should all send the Westboro Baptists copies of this movie :)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pleasantly Surprised

I own a Craftsman 6.75 horsepower self-propelling lawn-mower. Despite it's quirks, I've gotten fond of the old beast and it does the job. In June of 2007 while I was galavanting in Cyprus, it seems the lawn mower had a mishap and the 'control bar' of the lawn mower, some piece of plastic that you keep depressed while mowing lawn that serves as a dead man's clutch, cracked.

We spent all of last summer, using electrical tape to tape this plastic piece to the handle so that it would stay on and mow after we'd get the beast started. I wanted to order a new part, but could not for the life of me find the owner's manual, and yet I knew I had 2 of them, one in French and one in English.

I finally stumbled upon the manual about 2 weeks ago, found teh part number and called Sears to order the part. When it arrived, I took one look at it and figured they sent me the wrong part. It looked nothing like the original part, in black plastic. This was black metal. But I tried the part, and low and behold it fits, and being in Metal, it's far more robust. I don't think I'll be changing this part again. I was incredibly surprised that the replacement part was made to last.

I also ordered a filter and a spark plug for the lawn mower. To be replaced next spring when I do the oil change. And since we were calling sears we also ordered new sensors for the garage door opener. Samer examined the garage door opener it and he concluded one of the two sensors was dead. I had gone to the conclusion that it was either the sensors or the wiring to the sensors. He narrowed it down. Here's keeping my fingers crossed that the new sensors will fix the garage door opener.

Samer painted the cement floor in the garage. It makes it look so clean and pretty. Reminds me of that Canadian Tire commercial where the husband just finished organizing his garage and asks his wife to take her shoes off to come in and see what he did with the space. :P

Of course now that the lawn mower is fixed, I have no excuses to avoid cutting the grass. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Together at last!

My husband had an interview on June 4th in Beirut and it went well. At the end of the interview he asked if there was any chance that he might make it to Montreal for our wedding anniversary, June 15th. The employee said he would try, but he was making no promises. Samer got email from Embassy in Damascus on the 11th to pick up his Visa, which he picked up on the 12th, and flew out on Saturday the 14th at like 3am , to arrive here at noon. Talk about tight!

Today is Canada day, and we've been together a bit over 2 weeks. It went so fast. My vacation is over already.

I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Still too many cats

My two older cats, Motley and Furball both had to be euthanized this winter. Furball went first, January 20th, 2008 - it was a head tumour, found in white cats, caused by the sun. He was 12 years old. Then a month later, on February 21st, Motley, my 17 year old female, suffered renal failure.

I found at a pet shelter, a cat called Zeke, about 18months old who has incredibly huge paws. He's got like 10 toes on each front paw, and 5 toes on each back paw. Total mutant, I love it.

Sam ended up adopting a female kitten, barely 2 months old, from a co-worker.

I was thinking about the current cats in the house and their characters....

There's my daughters cat Lynx. He's got too much balls.
There's my cat Pixie. He's just got the right amount of balls or Catspah :P [chutzpah for cats? ]
There's Zeke. He doesn't have enough balls.
There's Celes, my daughter's fearless kitten.

So if I was to walk into the room where all the cats where lounging, and say OUT OUT OUT, in a loud voice, I could visualize:

Zeke, running into the basement screaming "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"
Pixie, walking slowly towards the door saying "yeah yeah... I'm moving"
Lynx, wouldn't budge and say "Make me"
Celes, would be running wilding around the room going "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"

Still 4 cats is too many fucking cats!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ottawa Tulip Festival

I was in Ottawa yesterday and my buddy Chris and I went to see the tulips around Dow Lake. This is one picture I really love. I look forward to having an area in my garden with as many tulips. I can't help but wonder how they manage to keep them without the squirrels digging 'em out. Things that make me go Hmmm....

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Here bunny bunny bunny bunny......

So I go outside earlier this afternoon, and I notice there is a rabbit in the yard, which neither cat had yet noticed. In fact I think this is where Lynx finally spots the rabbit and then tries to run after him. I had chance to walk around and take photo's from several angles, of the two cats and the rabbit. This rabbit has been around for the past months and I affectionately call it bunny-butt.

Jumps-at-door-bells is a weird cat.

My daughter's cat Lynx is a smart and weird cat. In the past half hour he's been jumping at the bells hanging on the back of my front door. I have bells hanging on the back of my main doors because I'm jumpy, and I don't want people to sneak into the house.

I'm not sure the point he wants to make, whether he wants to go back outside on a leash to enjoy the warm weather OR alternatively try to find my daughter. I mean after all she left through the door and the past couple of days she's not giving him much attention, it's the new kitten she's adopted thats getting all the attention. He's now jumped at the bells a dozen times. The best I could get was this photo of him about to jump at the bells. I hope that realizing it will get him nowhere, he will stop. I would be pretty upset if he spent all night jumping at the door.

So his current nickname is now Jumps-at-door-bells.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My husband is in West Beirut...

The physical distance between my hubby and I is hard enough to take, I have not seen him since January 2nd of this year, but now I am also worrying about his safety.

I keep reminding myself that aged, 30, and having spent 28 years living in Beirut, and surviving it all, that he obviously knows how to carry himself. I mean I trusted it enough to land in Beirut 3 times in 2007. To visit Beirut and surroundings when some Lebanese I know in Montreal wouldn't even set foot in Lebanon last summer.

I told people if my karma was to die, it wouldn't matter if I was in Beirut or Montreal. I was correct, the closest to danger I was in was early June, when my husband took me near the waterfront in Beirut at the exact location where an explosion would be 2 days later killing and injuring several people. I'm thinking that was June 13th, 2007. We were in Cyprus by then. I was unphased, my reaction being "Can I see the damage when we get back to Beirut"?

Hopefully things have really calmed down where my husband is. Generally when you are chatting your loved one you don't want to hear "Hold on sweetie, I'm moving to the other room where there is less chance to get hit by a stray bullet"

It's so foreign to my mind that people would just go out in the streets with guns. And yet gangs have guns here too. Thankfully I live in a nice suburb where gang violence is rarely an issue. Thankfully as well, Montreal isn't known for it's murders. On average we get 50 murders a year. About 1 a week. For the size of the city, it's reasonably safe. Also worth mentioning that of those 50 murders, a certain percentage is family violence [generally hubby kills wife, but other combos seen too] or gang settling of accounts. Being the random person getting killed is rare. I think our rate of pedestrians being hit by cars and killed is probably just as high as our murder rate.. :P
Of course you have a better chance of getting your car stolen or broken into :P

Anyways I knew it wasn't easy to marry a Lebanese national, the long process before he's given a Visa, but I didnt' expect the last mile to be this hard... I know it's more a matter of weeks before he gets a VISA, then months.. but it just makes my resolve harder. I never thought I'd be able to handle a long distance relationship, but I guess it really depends with who you are in a relationship. I love my husband more every day. The distance so far has not killed things between us. I can't wait to hold him again. I dream often of the day I will finally be able to pick him up at Pierre Trudeau Airport [and in my mind it's forever going to be Dorval Airport].

The past 4 days have been really stressful. Especially Friday morning. He wasn't online, there was no reassuring email in my mailbox and he didn't reply my text message. I knew it was entirely possible that there was no electricity, or no internet, or cell service so jammed that messages weren't getting through. I got to work I was a bunch of nerves, and finally I checked my cell phone again, and there was message, he was asleep when I SMS'ed him. Everything was ok.

Of course while the internet connection to Beirut has been flaky at best, and MSN messager has also been flaky at best, it's been far worst since the sectarian violence in Beirut. Because of course, everyone, their mother, and their friend in a hijab has been contacting friends and family to tell them they are ok. So the traffic makes it worse. It makes it almost impossible to chat. There is no flow. Convo just dies. Makes it hard to connect emotionally, and it is that connection that keeps Samer and I close, and has for years before we were lovers. Without that connection I feel this incredible yearning and longing and well... makes me grumpy and miserable.

I keep praying things will calm down and he will be able to visit the friends he wants to visit before leaving for Canada. Spending all his time in Beirut a virtual prisoner of his home is probably not what he had in mind when he returned to Beirut.