Friday, December 31, 2010

Drug Estacy might help those with social issues..

Interesting article about E. I suppose it might be helpful for those people who are autistic or even in the autism spectrum [Like people with ADD/ADHD, and dyslexia] who have issues with socializing.

I mean can it be worse then the drugs that are currently given to people with ADHD? 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Justin Bieber and the Ground Zero Mosque

Even though I'm Canadian until a few months ago I didn't know what a Justin Bieber was. I don't have teen daughters and I don't listen to much radio.  The first I heard about him was at my hair dressers. Anyone who knows me, knows I go there infrequently at best, so that in itself is amusing.

So the first thing I heard about him was that it seemed 7-13 year old boys were getting their hair cut like him. Though most wouldn't admit it was a Bieber cut they were getting.  Of course over time I've heard more comments and jokes about him, not enough to have an opinion, but enough to know he's a teen heart throb and all the jokes that come from it. 

Today I was giggling myself silly when I realized that some web site made a hoax about Bieber having commented about the ground zero mosque in Teen Beat Magazine. [Anyone who read teenbeat magazine would know they would never ask about something like this, but I digress....]

So some hard core anti-ground zero mosque activist [Which is neither a Mosque nor on the ground zero site, but a Muslim community center several blocks away... but I'm digressing again] is now boycotting Justin Bieber along with his children. I'm still laughing. There's now hundreds of people boycotting Justin Bieber over this.

As for Mosques, they are sprouting up like mushrooms throughout north America. So long as Canada stays secular, I'm all for freedom of religion and Muslims have a right to a place to worship

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

City Homicide, Last season already?

I've fallen in love with an Aussie show.  City Homicide is as good as anything produced in the US. My eldest and I love the Aussie slang and the way the show has developed. 

I was reading commentary from an Aussie newspaper saying that no one needs more cops shows and that there is nothing new in this show. I thought it was interesting and fresh. Perhaps because it was the first Aussie show I've seen? Season 4 which has just ended is the last full season I'm told. Next year there will be a mini-series and then the show will be put out to pasture.  

Daughter says best line ever "You been rooting senior sergeant's wife mate?"

Personally I love watching cop shows from other countries, since their rules of law and the way their police works is different then what I know in Canada. I'm used to US shows, but I've also had pleasure to watch Law & Order UK and Paris enquĂȘtes criminelles. I enjoyed both because even though episodes are based on US ones, I get to see a different perspective

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

UAE acting like spoilt child over Canadian landing rights.

I remember when I traveled to Dubai in February and December 2007, that I just needed to show my Canadian passport and I would get a 30 day VISA no questions asked. 

Starting January 2nd, this will no longer be the case. You will need a VISA before arriving in the UAE and it will cost $250 for 30 days. More expensive then visa's to most countries. Considering that the UAE isn't a common travel spot for Canadians, it won't affect us all that much. Especially since the crash last year, people are no longer looking for jobs in that part of the world. 

I mean the UAE has been lobbying the Canadian government for more  landing rights for UAE airlines flying to Canada. I know Canada limits landing rights to keep Air Canada somewhat afloat.  I guess the UAE figured that since we aren't giving them more landing rights, we should pay to enter their country.  Personally I think Canada should reduce whatever landing rights they have at this point. 

One of the comments from a Globe and Mail reader basically said that it was no great loss to Canadians. That any country that treats it's women as property, where kissing in public can get you tossed in jail and where being gay can assure your death isn't somewhere most Canadians want to be.  Admittedly this is stereotyped and overall my experience in the UAE was better then that.... but in some ways it's not too far off. 

Since I doubt Samer would ever want to go to UAE again, it's not a big deal for us. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ikea here we come

We went to Ikea this morning, so I could pick up a drawer unit on casters to put my art materials in. I spent part of the afternoon putting it together. I always enjoy putting together Ikea furniture.  

The only down side to Ikea is that I've never seen this store with few clients, it's always packed. Sadly the more packed a store is the most likely I'm going to forget to buy half of the stuff they have because I get too frazzled over the noise and commotion of all the people.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Trip to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan

I finally blogged about our trip in late September/Early October to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Lebanon was mostly so that Samer could see friends and Family, Syria was because I insisted, and Jordan we both wanted to see.

I fell in love with Jordan, the desert and the Bedouins and want to go back to Petra for at least a week!

Anyways I put all 20 days, check out my new posts in the archives for September and for October.

My Art Gallery

I enjoy drawing with pastels. Mostly I like to draw sunrises, sunsets, northern lights, flowers, pastoral settings, churches, animals and veiled women.

You can find my Art Gallery here.

Oh and I finally fixed the bug in the blog style sheet I am using, that wasn't there when I started using "thisaway rose". Took long enough but now the date isn't overlapping the arrows.

It's now almost 2pm on Boxing day and I have not gotten up from bed. It's yet another cloudy day [It was sunny briefly this morning] and I'm sick of cloudy days. It just makes me want to sleep. I want SUN!!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

This time of the year sucks

I've hated the commercialism of Christmas for years but this year it hit particularly hard. People become so aggressive in the pursuit of that perfect gift for uncle Joe that everything pales in comparison.

I was at Costco [Bad example since people always seem to be aggressive at Costco] last Saturday to pick up Perrier, Lara bars and Pita bread. Everything else was optional. It was hard to find parking on their lot, I had to circle 3 times and I was parked about as far away as you can imagine. Of course the store was also equally as full. Trying to navigate was as frustrating as watching paint dry. I was following a shelf re-stocker and he was moving slow, didn't have a choice with the size of palette he was navigating. A guy appeared behind me and within 15 seconds started berating the clerk about "Not having all day to go down the aisle" etc...

From late November to mid january, you can't go even in a grocery store never mind a retail store without that Christmas frenzy. Everyone is overworked, underpaid and overstressed in making that perfect christmas.

People also glamourize how great being together in family is. Well that might be true for a small segment of the population, but most of us are fooling ourselves into thinking that our family is great. I mean I cannot remember one Christmas when I was a kid where the adults in my family weren't fighting and if I tried to say something I'd be told "shut up and mind your own business" or "Shut up and eat". Meanwhile the adults weren't eating and having a 3 hour fighting discussion that would leave lasting impression until the next Christmas. ... Because of course these same adults didn't see each other any other time then Christmas.

After all the hype, for me Christmas is just a huge disappointment. Even without expectations, it's almost always a disappointment. My happier Christmases have been spent abroad traveling or as a teen sometimes in a ski camp...

Personally if I find someone sucks all year I don't see why I should be nice at Christmas. As it goes, I try to be nice to those who are deserving all year round, not just once a year as a huge show in front of company.

Christmas sucks!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Enough is Enough

You know how it is? Every year there's always a person that shows up at your gathering who can't eat or drink anything you've bought or prepared It's frustrating. First thing this person does is question every item of food or drink as if it's been sprinkled with poison, or alternatively looks at any food placed for guests with great suspicion.

Even if this person is very gracious, they might not accept anything other then water of your hospitality. This can feel pretty insulting.

Normally I try pretty hard to make allowances, I mean it's not like you can expect a diabetic to eat something that will make them sick, but this year, after all the other cooking I just can't find it in me to be accommodating and find something to make for the bitchy vegetarian that comes to all my dinners. Let her eat salad or eat the same food like everyone else.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Avalanche Snow Removal is no more....

I blogged last January about avalanche snow removal.... I had been sufficiently satisfied with the price/service that I renewed my contract this year.

Well this morning when I looked out the window, I realized my blue avalanche posts had been replaced by Yellow SylJack posts. As well since that day, it has been a Syljack truck removing my snow.

Was Avalanche bought by Syljack? Were they the same company all along ? Who knows? The only thing I wonder is.. will I get the same price as this year next year for my snow removal?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

In Memory of December 6th, 1989

December 6th in Montreal always brings mixed feelings. Most of us still remember the Polytechnique massacre. I wrote on December 6 1990 this poem in memory of those who died.... Everyone remembers where they were. I was home with my 2 babies, watching television, while sewing, and my first reaction seeing the late breaking news on TV was "Oh another crazy in the US" until I realized the 'crazy' was in Montreal. Since my hubby then worked for a firm comprised mostly of engineers, we realized we knew people who knew the victims. Including Barbara Daignault, the cousin of our good friend Thierry.

In Memoriam of December 6th, 1989

You are gone forever but not forgotten
The memory of your tragedy lives on
It is a pity that you were attacked and killed
For just fulfilling your potential

There is a malaise in society
That was created long before you came to be
It will not go away so easily
Perhaps your death will make the problem clearer

There were those who looked on in disbelief
Those who were confused and deeply hurt
How can someone decide the fate of others
Is there no justice for the living?

The work of a madman for sure
But there is a madperson in all of us
Some say that he was just a marginal exception
But how can we learn to trust others again

Perhaps this incident will make people think
Of all the injustices committed towards women
Perhaps the next time she cries injustice
Society will believe she her complaint.

The answer does lie within each one of us
To forgive him who focused his personal anger on women
To help others learn to love and help themselves
And make this world equal for both men and women.

In your memory: Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau,
Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Havierncik, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay,Sonia Pelletier, Michele Richard, Annie St..Arneault, Annie Turcotte.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Day 20: We fly back to Montreal

So this was my 5th time leaving Beirut, 4rth time from the airport. Leaving doesn't seem to affect me that much. It's arriving. It does not matter whether we arrive by air or land, once I my feet touch the ground in this particular part of the world I get overwhelmed by emotion. I mentioned it to my therapist, who was born in Israel and he was surprised. He said he feels the same thing and he'd always assumed it was because it was his home land.

I love landing in Montreal after being away. The longer I've been away the more I long to land in Montreal but I've never been overwhelmed by emotion landing in Montreal. The energies just don't bring that out of me. But Beirut does. And by my therapists comments I bet if I landed in Tel Aviv I'd feel very similarly.

The flight home was uneventful. I remember not sleeping and not finding much interesting stuff to watch since I'd watched it all on the flight out. Bill was waiting for us at the airport and thankfully I had 2 more days of vacation :)

It was an awesome trip. My mom in law was a wonderful hostess, and Souad was an awesome guide. Without her we woulnd't have been able to visit as much.

We still have more to visit, there is Tripoli in the north. I passed through it but did not see much of it. There's also Beit a dein in the Shouf and the Khalil Gibran Khalil Museum in Bcharre [and if we go back there, we should of course see the Cedars again and maybe other monasteries, I love religious buildings!] And there are other places too I'm sure as while Lebanon might be smaller then Cape Breton, each hamlet is unique in it's composition, be it because of the variety of mixture of religions and people, be it the passion of the land, but there is something new to explore everywhere you go.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Day 19: Beach in Sour & last day in Beirut

Souad took us to the beach in Sour early in the morning. It was nice, the water was great. I got to swim in the Mediterranean sea from Lebanon for the first time. I just left myself float in the waves for over an hour. I loved the water temperature.

After the beach we had lunch at a restaurant in Sour, I believe it was the RestHouse, right on the waterfront. I remember the food being really good.

We went back to Beirut and we were supposed to go see the outside of an old Synagogue but then I think all sorts of last minute visitors arrived. I tuned out for a while and took a long nap. This served me well when I didn't sleep at all while waiting to leave for the airport.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Day 18: Lunch at Amto's Dinner at Khalo's in Beirut

Samer Sandra and I went to Myriam's around 11:30 AM. When we arrived, Abu Samer's wife and her sister were there with her 2 children and Samer's half siblings. I got to meet my sister in law Layal - 10 years old and my brother in law Paulo, not quite 1 year old. I have family pictures which includes all 4 Beyhum siblings. Pretty cute ones of the sisters, cute ones of the brothers.

After Abu Samer's family left, Sonia came to join us and we all had a large Lebanese meal. Including delicious veggie side dishes.

We left we were so stuffed we could roll out :P We went back to Sonia's for a few hours and had dinner at his uncle Girard's. I got to see what used to be his grand mothers' apartment, and where the war had hit the building. Everyone was so stuffed unfortunately we barely ate Nouna's cooking which smelled awesome. I didn't get to taste the meat dishes, but everything smelt great.

We got so stuffed that day. Unreal. :)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Day 17: Arrival of Sandra and Robert

We stayed in Beirut and Samer's sister Sandra arrived from Abu Dhabi. Sonia went to the airport to pick her up with a friend. Later in the afternoon, Samer's khalo's Robert arrived from Paris. They both came without spouses, Lee had a contract that kept him in the Emirates and May is a teacher so travel in October is not ideal for her.

We had a nice dinner later in the day, which was attended by Bshara and his friend Rolland, a German who liked Beirut and a particular Beirut resident so much that he found worked and stayed. :) Souad, Tala, Gerard and Nouna also came for dinner.

Good food, lots of family and friends.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Day 16: Cooking in Beirut & Shopping on Hamra

We decided to stay home and cook for incoming relatives. I had decided to make Irish Stew and Ratatouille and Samer made his rosemary chicken. The first challenge was that we were out of water, it made things interesting. It sucked I couldn't bathe before getting started and of course could not clean the kitchen after cooking. The 2nd challenge is that the rotating electrical outages. When the truck with the water arrived, it took another 2 hours before we had water to bathe because the electricity was out and the water could not be pumped to the container on the roof.

Around dinner time I had managed to shower and I went shopping on Hamra Street with Sonia. We also went for a hot beverage at a Cafe on Hamra street.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 15: The Chouf and Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve

We went with Souad to Joumana's family's home in the Mountains of the Chouf. The view from Joumana's home is breath taking. Mountains and valleys. From there we drove to the Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve and with a guide, toured the part of the reserve that is accessible to tourists. I found the Cedars here to be somewhat different from the Cedars in Bcharre. The guide told me it was impossible because all Lebanese Cedars are the same. This might be an official line, but I know enough about gardening to know that while the Cedars from both locations are very similar, they have a distinct feel to them and difference.

The oldest Cedars here, can be also up to 3500 or even 4000 years old. Rumour has it that the roots of some of the biggest Cedars go from the mountains and reach the sea. It's probably what keeps Lebanon from falling into the sea.

The nice thing about the Cedars of the Al-Shouf reserve is you can see they are taking good care of them. The forest is not just Cedar but also contains old Oaks and other conifers and feels really vibrant. I didn't get the feel of trees screaming here, but of trees in peace.

After our visit in the forest we had a meal at a typical mountain restaurant I'm told. I believe we stopped at the Barouk Palace Hotel, and ate at their River Restaurant. The food was very good, and I loved the fact it was along side the Barouk river and just so neat.

We dropped Joumana back home, stopped in to say goodbye to her family, and meet one of her friends. Then drove back to Beirut, it was dark and with picked up Eliane and Alain. We spent evening at Sonia's sharing stories and laughing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 14: Wadi Kadisha & Cedars of Bcharre

We set off for the mountains with Eliane, Alain, Tony & Nicole. We went with 2 cars. We went to the around the Kadisha valley, Historians believe that the Kadisha Valley has had monastic communities continuously since the earliest years of Christianity. First we drove   up a steep mountain gorge.  My original google search concluded it was  the Melchite Catholic the Monastery of St. John of Chouweir or Deir et-Tabcheh... But I was mistaken. It is instead the Monastery Saint Anthony of Qozhaya that we visited.  The Monastery has a museum which displays the first Arabic printing press, along with other interesting artifactsIt also shows caves where early Christians used to pray.

We had lunch in Edhen. This restaurant had poutine on the menu. Samer tried it out and the thing looked disgusting and nothing like a Quebecois poutine. The server was such a space cadet and they didn't have half of the items on their menu.

Finally around 2pm we were in Bcharre, and we went to one of Lebanon's two Cedar reserves, the Arz el Rab reserve. Some of the Cedars in this reservation are 3500 years old. It blows the mind. The sad part is that some of those trees have half been cut down recently for firewood, because people were so cold. In the reserve there is a small Maronite chapel who's name I cannot find, but it is quite pretty.

After exiting the Cedar reserve, we walked along the road where there are plenty of souvenir merchants. One of the souvenir shops, the guy talked to us, asking where we were from. Samer said he was Lebanese, and I said I was a Canadian. He thought it was cute and took a keychain made from cedar and burned our names into it with 2010 and Bcharre as a souvenir of our trip. We ended buying a wooden Cedar box for me from him as well.

We got back to Beirut it was dark.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 13: Visiting friends in Beirut

Early in the day we went to Eliane's place near the bank of Byblos. We spent a few hours grilling Alain since it was the first time we meet Eliane's husband :) Of course while we were visiting their place was grand central station, one person would leave, another would arrive :P

In the afternoon we wandered over to LAU to see Leila after doing some shopping. Samer went to help Leila backing up her computer onto a USB drive.

Later that evening we took a cab to Susu's place. I was very lucky I got a private exhibition of Susu's paintings. Unfortunately shortly after arriving there, my stomach got all bent out of shape and we went back to Sonia's.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 12: Baalbek

We spent the day going to Baalbeck with Susu to visit the archeological site. The temple of Bacchus here is impressive. I felt compelled to walk it's perimeter while touching the walls. The entire site is impressive. What I found funny was that there was graffiti etched in the stone of the walls of the temple of bacchus from the 1850s. And we think modern man has invented everything!

While we were there we ran into 2 doctors from New Zealand traveling the silk road.

I can't remember what town we stopped in on the way back from Baalback but we had dinner there at this nice restaurant. We got back to Beirut after dark.

Many nights during this trip Susu and I would end up in Sonia's room talking for hours. Especially me, I got to be very verbose. It was interesting, I got to know both Sonia and Souad so much better on this trip. It was an interesting form of bonding. All 3 of us suffer from some form of ADD/ADHD and in some ways are very similar. All of us have unique challenges because of our neurological disorder and we each deal with it in a different way.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 11: Jbeil & Byblos

While I'd been to Jbeil and Byblos in 2007 it was at night, and I thought it might be nice to see it again. Souad took us and we first visited the Crusader Castle, that I had only previously seen at a distance. We also went to the souk and to the Wax Museum. We had lunch at Pepe's. The fish was pretty good. We stopped at a Cafe where Susu and Samer had some desert and we saw cats begging. It was pretty entertaining.

We were hoping to see Eliane and Alain but family obligations kept them away.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 10: Three countries in 12 hours

We left Wadi Rum at 8am after running into husband & wife from the Canadian Praries, who currently live in a ex-pat 'English community' in Aqaba. Of all the places to meet, in a desert camp in Wadi Rum.

We got to Amman around noon time and had lunch at a small Falafel joint where our driver often takes his family for a meal. This was some of the best falafel I've tasted and it was dirt cheap. Not more then a couple of canadian dollars and we had 20 falafels and a huge plate of hummus of course with pita and drinks. Our Syrian driver picked us up here and we drove to Syrian border, then drove straight across Syria, to the Lebanese border. This time we were at the Masnaa border and it went better! We came through the mountains and through some stiff fog around Mount Lebanon, which Samer loved.

We were in Beirut by dark. What a trip! Was the first time I'd been in 3 different countries in 12 hours! It could have been different countries if we had been able to enter Israel! Oh well!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 9: Wadi Rum

We didn't have anything planned till noon and in retrospect I should have asked to go back to Petra for the morning... but it just occurred to me, months later when transcribing the travel notes!

I spent some of the time taking pictures of the view, and of the paintings by a local artist of Petra found on the various floors of the hotel. Samer actually spent some time sun tanning and swimming in their pool. I wasn't in the mood for swimming.

We left at noon and went back for the last time to the Sandstone restaurant. We drove to Wadi Rum and took a 4x4 ride in the desert. Our truck was a toyota with 2 rows of seats and a back wagon. Samer and our driver sat in back and I sat with the Bedouin up front so I wouldn't be sick! The Bedouin asked where we were from and I said Canada. He said he liked Canadian tourists. Apparently we're nice and friendly. He dislikes the French, Germans and Italians because they are disrespectful and not appreciative.

The desert in Wadi Rum is surprisingly beautiful. It's not endless rolling sand dunes like in Dubai. This was just the beginning of the rainy season so it was the end of the dry season and there were these long white flowers in bloom and all sorts of small brush in the desert. Other then all the rock structures of sandstone, that look like they were carved from the sea. This area of Jordan was part of the Silk road and apparently the movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed there.

We stayed at Al Zawaideh Desert Camp. While the accommodations were not particularly traditional it was fun. We had a small tent to ourselves. The food was awesome, there was enough food I could eat as a veggie. I even got to sample the Bedouin tea without sugar and it was quite good. I have to google how to make some of it :)

It was interesting, the food [especially lamb and chicken] was cooked in pans that were buried under the sand, just by the heat of the sun. I thought it was a really neat idea.

In the Jordanian desert is where I first experienced smoking a Shisha. I have to admit it was fun. I'm not sure I'll ever do it again, but I definitely enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 8: Dead Sea & Petra or Camels, Horses and Donkey's Oh My!

We left Amman for the dead sea at 8am. We got there at 9am before the first tour bus. Heck I had to ask them to open the women's bathrooms, they were still locked!!! It was awesome floating in the dead sea. We stayed close to an hour, just floating and enjoying the feeling. I couldn't bring myself to put mud all over myself though.

After we drove till about 1pm and made it to Petra. On the way we stopped so we could buy some local apples and sample them. They were great. It seemed like a mix between a granny smith and a red delicious. I didnt find much difference in taste between their green and red apples. However much like any fresh fruit recently picked off a tree, as opposed to a fruit that is picked before it is ripe for travel, it was sweet and delicious tasting.

We had lunch at the Sandstone restaurant in Petra which caters to vegetarians - like myself and our driver as it turns out. Around 3pm we got to Petra, and then rushed to get to the top - the monastery. We didn't get there till around 5:30 pm. It's impressive. Once up there I sat on a bench while Samer went up some more to a look out from where you can see the valley and Petra and the whole site. I figured my knee needed resting. While I was there I heard a cat's meow, so I responded. This yellow tabby male came out of nowhere, and jumped on my lap. I petted him and talked to him some, and he promptly fell asleep on my lap. I had to pry him off when Samer came back and we decided to go back down and try to see as much as possible before the sun sets.

The road leading to the Monastery from the entrance is about 4-5 km and there is 800 steps to get to the top. We didn't stop to take too many photo's walking up, and walking down towards the end it was too dark. Spending 5 hours at Petra was not nearly enough. I want to go back. We just barely covered the beginning. I want to see it all.
I didn't get to see enough of the Treasury. All of this of course many people have seen in the Indiana Jones movie.

We had dinner around 8pm at the Sandstone restaurant. Not a bad idea. Although the Panorama hotel in Petra had a spectacular view of the town in the valley and felt much more like a hotel in Jordan, I didn't want to risk that it didn't have the right type of food.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 7: Amman, Jebel Nebo & Madaba

We left Damascus around 8:30 AM and we were at the border of Jordan roughly around noon. I was so frazzled by the border crossing and changing cabs that somehow I left my passport in the Syrian cab. When we got to the travel agent's office with our Jordanian driver, I get asked if I left my passport on the bus. I think he is joking until I cannot find my passport. The Syrian driver, an honest man, called to tell our Jordanian driver that he found my passport and arranged to meet up with us on his way out of Amman to return my passport.

After which we drove to Mount Nebo. It was probably later then expected because we lost 2 hours dealing with my damn passport. Mount Nebo is about 50km away from the border of Israel. The view is stunning. Sadly we arrived at the beginning of the rainy season and it happened to be windy and stormy that day, so the visibility was poor. We could see from the top of Mount Nebo the Dead sea - to which I exclaimed "That's it? That's a SEA? It's the size of a small lake!!!". That Canadian bias after seeing some of the great lakes!

We saw some amazing Mosaics at Mt Nebo and then some more at St George's Greek Orthodox church in Madaba. We got back to Amman it was dark and stayed at the Ramada Inn. If you want to sample life in the place you are staying, don't stay at the Ramada Inn. Apples from the US, when Jordan produces amazing local apples. Just as an example. There is nothing typically Jordanian on their restaurant menu other then hummus.. which isn't a meal. I had a meltdown in Amman. Especially after seeing the menu.

Samer took a cab around Amman and brought back some Falafel, hummus, and other local food which helped a great deal.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 6: Old Damascus

We had breakfast in Abu Kamal restaurant looking over a roundabout bustling with activity. We walked towards the souk and shopped a bit in the Damascus souk. We found some interesting souvenirs in one store, but none of our cards would work. The shop keeper walked us to a local bank machine where after trying all cards, I managed to get a cash advance on my Mastercard. At one end of the souk is the entrance to the Umayed Mosque. We had to get an entrance ticket for me and rent a brown hooded abaya before we could enter.

Shafi took us around the Mosque and toured us around. What to say about this Mosque other then impressive and beautiful and awesome. I could have spent more time absorbing it all but when you travel with others you have to be mindful of others :) We did get to see Saladin's burial place.

After our visit of the Mosque, we found Sonia at a cafe in a small street of old Damascus. I had a cold beverage and did a bit more shopping. It was interesting walking through the narrow roads and we went to this restaurant housed in a beautiful old home. I originally wrote it was Beit Jabri but I was wrong. According to a photo I have it is the Al Shami House Restaurant. The food was good but the place was just incredible. After we continued walking around the old Damascus, stopping in a couple of hotels that Sonia wanted to scout for future trips.

By the time we took a cab back to the hotel it was dark. Sonia and Shafi left for Beirut, while we took a long walk around the area around our hotel. We ended up on a street filled with shops so we did some window shopping until Samer couldn't deal with all the people anymore, then went to get fries again at the falafel and fry shop.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 5: Damascus

We got to Damascus it was dark. We didn't have too much of a hard time finding our Hotel, but we were not housed in the main part of the hotel but in an adjacent building a few buildings down. This seemed more like long term apartment then short term hotel room. The first room we were shown apparently stank and looked disgusting.

They were deciding how they felt about the second room and really I found nothing wrong. It wasn't any worse then any cheap motel I've been at. The rooms were clean and bug free. There was bathroom with functional shower and functional AC. We weren't planning on doing much but sleep in the rooms, so why stress it? Originally the idea was that the two men would share a room and the two women would share a room, so it was a suite with 2 bedrooms with each a single bed.

However apparently things have relaxed in Syria and no one asked us if we were married when we were alone in the suite the 2nd night. It didn't matter. My paranoia meant that we had a Lebanese paper that shows family status and is an acceptable proof for such cases. However Samer realized later that in his passport, our marital status is shown but in in English. Either way we were covered and we were never asked.

We went for a walk and found a place that made great french fries with amazing seasoning a couple of streets over. It was right next to a men's coffee house. As best as I can call it. Large room which much have room to seat up to about 2000 people. Men play cards, play chess, or checkers, eat, drink non alcoholic drinks, smoke shisha, watch sports and socialize. This coffee house appeared to be near capacity.

Day 5: Homs

This morning we left really early by cab from Beirut with Sonia and Shafi and drove north towards Tripoli, and to the border of Syria. via the Arida crossing. What chaos! In the end Samer had to pay Syrian official [Or lebanese official?] $10 because he had a Canadian wife! Past the crossing the drive to Homs was uneventful.

I guess the thing that struck me once we got into Syria is that it's poorer then the poorest parts of Lebanon that I've seen. Either that or the Syrians aren't as industrious ? Not sure. When I was told my mom in law was from Homs and the jokes that abounded around it I had visualized a small village. But apparently the city of Homs is now a large urban center and is home to over 1 million people. It's the third most important city in Syria , and mostly inhabited by Sunni Muslims.

Along with Sonia's good friend Nabila, we visited Homs' traditional Souk, as well as the "The Church of the Lady of the Girdle" where Sonia's mom used to worship. The story goes that this church has a girdle worn by the Virgin Mary. Currently this church, built over two older churches, is an active Syrian Orthodox worship center.

Nabila, a childhood friend of Sonia's treated us to Syrian hospitality. We were served a large meal. When Nabila found out I was vegetarian, she had made a bean dish especially for me. Although the smell of the bean dish was foul, the dish itself was quite delicious. After the meal, her husband drove us to the bus station and insisted on getting us tickets for the luxury coach to Damascus and wouldn't hear about us paying anything.

Oh and before we went to the bus station, he took us to the childhood home where Sonia had lived as a child. I took several photo's of Sonia and Samer in front of the building which still stands and looks very much as Sonia remembered it.

One thing that struck me about Nabila is she reminded me of my friend Diane, not because they looked that much alike but because her skin, both on her hands and face and her facial features appear like those of someone with Scleroderma.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 4: Saida and Sour

Today we went into the South of Lebanon, first we drove out of Beirut in the direction of Saida [Sidon]. The town is along the Mediterranean and has an interesting crusader Castle which we stopped to visit. We also visited the souk which had no sellers because it was Saturday but had a stamp exposition in collaboration with the Turkish government that was open and free to visit.

After which we drove to Sour, to a nice villa owned by Souad's uncle where we spent the day's hottest hours. The house has a large outdoor living area near a pool on beautifully kept grounds. Other then a jack hammer who serenaded us for the first hour, there is such peace in the gardens, that you forget you're just 2 hours away [when there is traffic] from the chaos of Beirut.

This was my first experience main with Lebanese hospitality. [That is outside of Samer's family] We were treated to a feast, of which 6 of the 8 dishes I could actually eat. Several were fish dishes and I was made aware that the fish had been bought early the same morning from the fisherman, before it made it to the market. The food was just awesome.

We then went to visit the Al-bass archeological site in Sour [Tyr]. The site is impressive. I also saw probably the biggest aloe vera plant. Compared to my small plants at home!

We got back to Beirut it was dark.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 3: Beirut - Visiting Samer's Amto

Today, Saturday along with Sonia, Souad and Samer, we went to visit Samer's Amto. In arabic it means a paternal aunt. This is his dad's youngest sister, and also Samer's favorite aunt. I liked her because she is blunt and direct. I always like that in people. She has two teen age daughters, both pretty spunky.

The conversation took an interesting twist and we ended up discussing open relationships and the fact that 1 person can rarely be someone else everything. Not the conversation I would have expected but I can see his aunt and I see eye to eye :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 2: Visit downtown Beirut

We took a walk from my mom in law's house in West Beirut to Martyrs Square and the big blue Mosque that is also the resting place of Hariri. The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, is modern, finished in 2007 and also the first Mosque I had the pleasure to visit.

We met Samer's friend Joumana in front of the Mosque, and continued visiting walking past the Roman ruins and going to Place de L'Etoile. After which we went back to West Beirut since Samer wanted to say Hi to Brenda, the Missionary from his childhood, who just happened to be in Beirut at the same time as us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 1 : Arrival in Beirut

We landed in Beirut around 2pm local time and it was a change from both Montreal and Paris with 12C or less, whereas it was 32C in Beirut. Of course it goes without say that it was with 80% humidity. Sonia picked us up at the airport with Karim.

I was pretty jet lagged so my recollection of the day is fuzzy at best. I know we saw Samer's friend/teacher/ex-boss Leila. His uncle Gerard and wife Nouna also stopped by for a visit and I'm sure Souad came over to hang out as well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 0 : We leave for Beirut, Lebanon

We left for the airport at 2pm. After waiting 30 minutes to be processed at the check out counter we found out 2 of our bags were too heavy for the current international standards for Air France. So we had to buy an extra carry-on and put all the heavier stuff in it. Despite this we were still too heavy but the 2nd person we got at the checkout counter was much nicer and she avoided us the surcharge for an extra heavier bag.

It was a big Boeing 777 from Air France reasonably new, so it had personal entertainment at each station. I ended up watching Sex & the City 2 and some new doors documentary [not as good as the movie based on book "No one gets out of here Alive" in my opinion]. Also got to watch an episode of NCIS and an episode of CSI. THat kept me from stressing too much over the turbulance. THe food was nothing special and their sauce was sugared. YUCK. Thankfully their fruit was fresh.

I hate Charles de Gaules airport. We arrive in this massive plane and had to walk down the stairs ourselves onto the tarmac and then onto a bus with our carry-on. Then we got to the terminal where the first thing that happens is a security check. Because in that space between being scanned in Canada and boarding the place SO MUCH CAN HAPPEN!!!

They were so disorganized. THe thing beeped for absolutely no reason. I mean I Had gone through the first time without it beeping but they forced me to go back to take my camera out. Because somehow being asked if I had a laptop should have made me realize that if I had a camera and anything else electronic I was supposed to take it out of my carry-on. Then I walked through again and this time it beeped and I was patted down. After all that once they asked for my boarding pass, they re-scanned my purse. The irony of it all is after all those security checks I had both a lighter and matches in my purse... which both made it back to Montreal on the way back too.

And with all the stresses I didn't manage to sleep a wink the whole way to Beirut from Montreal.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Great Chart

I think I saw this posted on Facebook by one of my friends. I thought it was great.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Craigleith and Wassaga Beach Provincial Parks.

I recently had opportunity to go camping in Ontario, on the shores of the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, at Craigleith Provincial Park. It was beautiful. Sadly spending 2 nights was not nearly enough, we will have to go back at some point.

What brought me there, was that I was going to see my eldest daughter graduate from her Navy boot camp on June 24th, at CFB Borden. It's far enough from Montreal, that we had to spend the night and I checked out the area and figured it might be nice to camp on the edge of Lake Huron. It was and we were about 1 hour away from Borden where we stayed. I was very pleased that I got to see my daughter march and graduate.

We also went to Wasaga Beach Provincial park to check out the beach since at the campground, the waterfront was all in shale, and not a place recommended for swimming. We were at Wasaga Beach when the tornado struck Midland, Ontario on June 23rd. We even saw some funnel looking clouds at the distance...

On a different topic when we arrived in Wasaga Beach provincial park we were given a variety pack of Larabars and they are great. Big thanks to Park Ontario for that! I can actually eat them and not get a spike in sugar. Many flavours very yummy. Well the only one I cannot eat is the one with cocoa in it and the boys tell me that the coconut gives it a weird taste but I digress... I was thrilled to find that the Loblaws in Kirkland carries Larabars. They also carry them at Health tree but in individual bars only.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Kalisse Mon Pied!!!

The first time my eldest daughter swore, she was between 12-18 months. It was several days after being exposed to someone who stubbed his toe at the pool and exclaimed "Kalisse, mon pied!" She waited judicially until she bumped her foot into something accidentally several days later to use the same phrase. It took me so off guard I exploded in laughter. Needless to say, she said it often in the following months I suppose in hopes of getting me to laugh.

I didn't say it this morning but I probably should have. I stormed out of my house and kicked my rubber tub, filled with weeds I plucked from my garden on Saturday. I was obviously wearing the wrong pair of shoes... [Though really nice shoes] as I sprained my foot.

Because I was angry.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Do women in Niqabs toss their shoes too?

While I grew up in the 60's and 70's in a liberal Quebec society, I fully respect that others do not want to dress as liberal as I do. I would never remove the right to anyone to dress the way they please, and this applies just as much to women who wear face veils.

However I strongly feel that in a secular society there is no place for allowing one segment of society the right that others do not have based on religion or cultural practices. I cannot enter a bank wearing a full-face reflective motorcycle helmet without making security guards nervous and without being asked to remove the helmet, so why should they be allowed that right?

I mean ultimately the only right women who choose to cover their faces lose with Bill 94, is to get served by public servants where a need for identification is required as well as being allowed to work with the public dressed as such.

We have a relaxed dress code at work, and I can pretty much wear what I want. If I showed up with my face completely covered I'm sure security would ask me to uncover my face to make sure I'm the person I claim to be.

I know for a fact if I went to Saudi Arabia and did not dress appropriately as a female I'd be tossed in jail without much thought by anyone. Why then do some people expect that they can come here and we will change our society just for them. There are very few countries in the world that are as accommodating as Canada, but there is a limit.

Also it makes me wonder. As it goes, I'm pretty happy to be a Canadian, and a Quebecois and so while I love to travel and hope to keep traveling during my yearly vacations, I would never dream of leaving my country for elsewhere forever. If others have left their country it had to be because things were bad. So then why go somewhere else and expect them to behave like they were home, which they left because it was bad??? I just don't get that.

Quebec seems to have learned it's lesson with the Catholic Church controlling the population well into the 1950's, and hopefully we will keep our society secular. This does not mean there is no room for religion. Just the rules of the state should be based on common sense and not outdated cultural practices. Women have been an integral part of Canadian society. We worked hard to be equal members and hope that newcomers will not erode the freedom we worked so hard to achieve.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bell can throttle my rear end.

I'm about this close to telling bell where to take their lan line and shove it. I'm so sick of having my internet connection throttled. If they think because they throttle my line that I will cancel my contract with ACANAC and go back to them I've got news for them. I'll cancel my Bell phone line LONG BEFORE my ISP.

It just sucks that I don't have many if any options for lan line where I live other then Bell that can give me DSL. Voice over IP isn't an option. It's something else Bell throttles. I really hope that the CRTC eventually realizes that Bell's bad practices suck for everyone.

I mean Bell's throttling is so bad that sometimes when I change IP's I can't connect again. I'd get better internet surfing with DIAL-UP. It's stupid seriously. It's just making me more anti-Bell. The phone line is the last thing of Bell's I have and soon it will be gone. I know for sure when I move I'm never going to Bell EVER AGAIN. Canada's allowing Bell to be the only phone carrier for years has made them very cocky. Anyone who's a monopoly can be an ass and this is never good for the common man.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Catholic Church should clean house

I was born into a French Canadian Catholic family and by age 6 I'd chosen to not be a Catholic because I really didn't like how hypocritical Catholic adults could be. I mean the bible tells us to do onto others as we would like others to do onto us. However I saw more of a "Do as I say and not as I do". I also saw too much 'sinning' done on a regular basis, and it was all good so long as you confess to your sins and atone for them. Then start all over again the next week.

Obviously not everyone in the Catholic church is a serial sinning hypocrite, but there were enough who were to turn me off the Catholic religion by age 6. I'm just as turned off now by the statements made by the Vatican in regards to 'gossip' about sexual abuse by priests.

Just because everything was done hush hush and no one talked about it back then does not make it any less bad. Anyone who was sexual abused, raped or molested, whether as a child or an adult, knows that it leaves PERMANENT SCARS and some unfortunately identify with their abuser and perpetuate the circle by abusing others around them. Trying to tell someone who was abused or molested that it never happened keeps the deep seating guilt and shame alive and spoils their lives. Haven't they suffered enough? Can't those who abused at least take responsibility for their actions?

What the Vatican and Catholic church SHOULD be doing is cleaning house. ANY PRIEST who has been accused of molesting children should be retired from being a priest. If this had been done years ago as they were found AND NOT RELOCATED TO other places so they could continue to ruin lives, they wouldn't be trying so hard right now to pretend it never happened. Also trying to sweep what happened under the carpet is asinine. The people who were abused need an apology and not be told "This is vicious gossip". Usually when there is smoke there is fire. Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. Benedict should step down for his cover ups of abuse in the past

And what about the residential schools in Canada for Native Americans, who were taken as children from their family and beaten/molested/abused into becoming little white people clones. Beaten for talking their language or being native? The reason we have so many problems on our reservations have more to do with the CHRISTIAN priests abusing Native people then any other intervention the white men did.

Personally I think Jesus would be horrified with all that has transpired and wouldn't want to be associated at all with the Catholic church. How can a priest who has abused little boys think he can be a SPIRITUAL LEADERS for others? I would think one should show by example ....

As for my current beliefs, it's summed up in one phrase "And it harm none, do what thou wilt". Meaning that the first rule is to not HARM anyone or anything, including pets & other animals, the environment, mother earth and of course ourselves. Jesus would have no problem with my beliefs, even if I'm not a "Christian".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cooking marathon.

Today was my monthly cook day or cook week-end. First I put in my presto pressure cooker a 'stewing hen' I bought a few weeks back and put in the freezer. I cooked it, tomorrow I will de-bone it. After which I will make soup with the bones and the remaining juices. With the meat I make Chicken a la King, and Rosemary Chicken with navy beans. And I will keep some for the soup as well. Not sure if I will make chicken soup or chicken/vegetable soup.

For myself I cooked a ratatouille, which I just finished sampling and is absolutely delicious. It's a dish I made just for myself which includes eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onions. Hubby won't touch anything with zucchini and eggplant, and Bill stays well away from the peppers and onions. I'm also making lentil and tomato soup. I used a mixture of split varied lentils instead of just red lentils.

It's nice right nowI have the house to myself. My friend and her kids went to visit her sister in Ottawa and her hubby is currently at work. Samer went with Bill to Bill's brother's to watch some sort of Martial Arts demonstration, and it might also be a poker night with the boys, not sure. So it's me and Jethro right now :) If I could only draw, it would be perfect.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Devastating Fire on St Patty's day

A close long time gf just lost almost all her worldly possessions in a devastating fire. Like many fires, it started in the kitchen with the making of French fries. Thankfully only her husband was home when the blaze started, and he suffered a couple of burns on one forearm and a bit of smoke inhalation. He was taken to Sacre Coeur Hospital as a precaution. While the townhouse will have to be completely rebuilt, thankfully everyone in the family is safe. Two of the pets survived, a cat aptly called "Lucky" and the hamster Fuzzball. Poor lucky ended up with burns on his paws, but is recovering nicely. The hamster, well we all thought he was dead. The firemen told us none of the animals upstairs had survived the fire, but admittedly he never claimed he found the hamster, just the bird and the other cat, Leroy [Jenkins named after the WOW Leroy Jenkins] unfortunately did not make it, smoke inhalation.

The firemen were afraid there would be deaths considering the speed at which the fire spread. My friend [also co-worker] had gone home at lunch time to pick up some Splenda for her tea 30 minutes before and the townhouse was standing. When she received the phone call maybe 20 minutes later, from her landlord about her townhouse having gone up in flames, and by the time she got there, it was all over. There was nothing left. Well almost nothing. We managed to salvage most of the clothes that were on the 2nd floor. We salvaged other items as well including a couple of dressers but it's entire possible it will all have to be thrown out because of smell. But it was important to salvage it because it's all that was left. We salvaged some photo's and the hard drives in her computer that had photos.

Currently she along with her husband, 3 children the cat and hamster are living with me since there was just hubby and I in my big house.

Here are the photos from a firemen' website. The fire made the front page of the west Island Chronicle and Cite Nouvelles. The scary part is the pictures in the newspaper were of the fire still Raging. Those news reporters must scan the 911 frequency because they have a picture of flames. By the time I got there, no more flames were coming out. Just a burnt smell and lots of firemen and first aid.

I've never had anyone close to me go through such an experience and I was impressed with our first response teams. I got there maybe 20-30 minutes after the fire started. There was police, firemen, and first response/ambulance techs there. Within another 20 minutes arrived the red cross team. They provided by friend with $65 voucher for the nearest IGA for food, a $1700 voucher at the nearest Zellers for clothes and footwear for the whole family. They also offered her 2 nights at a nearby hotel, but she felt more comfortable coming to my house, where it's familiar, especially since it was just for 2 nights and she would have to move again after then.

The neighboring townhouse whose wall touches my friends kitchen wall, had to be evacuated for a few days while they repaired their common wall. She was also put up in hotel for 2 days by the red cross.

They also gave her numbers of other aid organizations. I suppose those people who are left destitute and have no family can then also contact sun youth and a few other places for more help. I was still impressed at the speed of the response. It was also really cool that one of the guys in our team decided to take a collection and in a week collected $670. Our company also gave her 4 days paid at 75% [like sick days basically] for the four days she didn't work after the fire. So she's not losing the cumulated time she was cumulating for her trip around the US this summer with her children.

Still it's a traumatizing event. Many people after seeing the pictures cry out of gratefulness it wasn't them.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Avalanche snow removal

I guess I was lucky. I knew when I signed the contract for $60 less then the contractor I was using last year that I might be setting myself up for trouble. If it's too good to be true then there's probably a catch.

I was not particularly impressed with the fact that they came after I finished clearing driveway enough to get car in, the first snow storm of the season around 8:45 PM.

However oddly enough and it may just be sheer coincidence, both times I expected them to have come and they hadn't when I got home, I called, and of course got hung up on by their full mailbox but each time 15 minutes later, the truck would show up to clear my driveway.

I can't say they are as early to show up as Rick does in my neighborhood, but I watched this week-end as Avalanche came as many times to clear my driveway, as Rick's cleared my neighbors.

The main positive thing I can say about Avalanche is that the driver seems to grasp the fact that although I'm in a semi-circle and my single driveway is adjacent my neighbors double driveway, he seems to be able to clear it in a straight line and properly

The contractor I used the past 3 years Rick's, seemed to think because my neighbor and I have adjoining driveways at least on the first car length, that it was ok, just to clear the neighbors and curve at the end of my driveway, so that basically by the time February came along if I didn't clear the snow myself I couldn't get into my driveway unless I went through the neighbors. When I complained about it and I did so twice, I got told that the driver can't tell where the driveway is with all the snow.

1) IT's up to THEM to put their pickets in a fashion as to where they can tell where the driveway is.
2) After being told he coulnd't tell where my driveway was, I put my own picket that is 2 M high and has a reflective top, so that there is no way it can be missed

Well the driver kept missing it What's the point of paying for snow removal if you have to end up shoveling it yourself?

So far I'm reasonably happy with Avalanche. I mean I remember the first year or 2nd year I was with Rick, his service that year was piss poor too Other then the curved driveway I remember getting stuck in my driveway twice because it hadn't been cleared and there was enough snow in it to accumulate under the car and make it so it can't move cause the wheels no longer touch the ground.

THe only thing I'm not too thrilled about, is that it seems Avalanche and SylJack are owned by the same people. Their offices are next door to one another, their trucks are same with same writing. And for the life of me I can never say Syl-Jack, I always say SlyJack. THe dyslexic in me just reads it like that.