Tuesday, July 31, 2007

'kay, I wanna know...

...if that counter (down on the left) that I sold my soul for isn't lying, and some 6,303 whatever people have actually looked at this blog (and I have serious, serious doubts as to the accuracy of that counter, cute though it may be with its darling kitty-cats), then how come I don't get more comments? Crazy Aunt Purl gets comments! She is AWASH in comments! I only want 10% of her comments! Is that so much to ask? (I would like her book deal as well, if THAT'S not too much too ask. I'm not divorced or drunk, but I AM covered in cat hair a lot of the time!)

Heck, I bet Stephen "Helmethead" Harper gets more comments on his blog than I do, and he really IS boring. And does STEVIE bring you BABY RACCOONS? Cute cats? Artistic shots of nostrils and feet? Amusing-if-bitter commentary on the roadways of Quebec? I THINK NOT! NOT NOT NOT!

What do I have to do to get more comments? Drink more? Talk about drinking more? Dance on a table with a lampshade on my head?

Okay, okay, OKAY. I 'm gonna go drink a beer now (Kilkenny Cream Ale. My paternal grandmother was born in Kilkenny.) Beer is good when the temperature outside registers a bazillion degrees with 5, 461% humidity. Since I can get drunk on two beers (one if my stomach is reeeeally empty), this one small beer a major step towards attracting a larger audience. That is, if you want me to write about drunkeness. Which I suspect you don't. So I'm back to square one. Where's that lampshade?


Vieux Quebec

For those of you who haven't been to Quebec City, and for those of you who want to relive some memories....

Nope, not Europe. Canada!

Never have I seen such beautiful windowboxes of flowers. They are everywhere!

Le lapin sauté, or "The Jumping Rabbit." And yes, they serve rabbit.

Ever so cute!

Two calèches by the old city's gate.

The guard at the Citadelle. Nothing like wool and bearskin when it's 30 degrees celsius outside!

Another old, gorgeous building. It's like stepping back into the 1600s.

A guard at the entrance to the Citadelle, which is a working armed forces base, and home to Canada's famous "Van Doos" (from "vingt-deux, meaning "22" in French). The Royal 22e Régiment is the largest regiment in our army, and its soldiers are francophones.

This guard has a job I most certainly would not want, particularly in the heat of summer, but kudos to him (her?) for not passing out!

From the Citadelle: a mix of old and new!

We ate lunch here at Le cochon dingue ("The Crazy Pig"). My, I do adore good frites with homemade mayonnaise! That's French fries and mayo to the rest of you, but here they transcend the ordinary. Drooool.

A view from the Governor General's second residence at the Citadelle (the official one is Rideau Hall in Ottawa.) That is the historic Château Frontenac left of centre.

And another shot of the Château Frontenac.

Quebec City is beautiful (and crowded with tourists) in summer, but it's GREAT in winter. I love the Quebec Winter Carnaval!

Okay, back to work, everybody.

Also not birds

They're baaaaaaa-ack!

Mama Raccoon is on the right. She's bigger and more "gingery."

Call me crazy (shaddap), but I was always under the impression that raccoons were rather more NOCTURNAL than diurnal. Silly me.

Sorry it's a bit blurry. Amazing how many raccoons you can fit in a relatively small place, isn't it?

Uh, you're not a bird either

This is a birdfeeder. Do either of these creatures look like birds to you?

Uh no, that's because they are NOT birds!!! Graziella Groundhog has breached the perimeter, but she can't figure out how to get her carcass up into the feeder. My heart bleeds baby, my heart bleeds. But she is very good at eating the weeds in our pathetic excuse for a lawn!

Meanwhile, here is another shot of the ever-handsome Buddy, quite possibly the best-looking (furry) boy in Cape Breton:

And in other news, until recently I thought we just had eastern cottontails in our garden, but I realized that is not the case. We also have snowshoe hares! This cute little creature is not particularly afraid of me, but man, can he run when he has to!

"Got carrots?"

Classic Haiku

Back in around 1991, my hubster (then boyfriend) and I entered some haiku contest at McGill University. I can't remember the rules but it had something to do with fruits and veg. So I wrote two haikus and we submitted them, lying by claiming that Gordon had written one (my soul is forever stained with that sin.)

Of course, "Gordon's" haiku WON the contest and was even on the local evening news! His prize was a bag of rice presented to him by a McGill mascot, a rather crazed martlet.

I think it's time for a wider audience to enjoy our, I mean, MY haikus. So I present to you some of my best haiku work:

Tofu tornado
White bean curd does the rumba!
Soy snowflakes fall fast

The mighty kumquat
Fruit freedom fighter flees fridge
I step on it. OOPS!

Thank you. Thank you very much!

These classic haikus are copyrighted by me for all eternity, so don't be stealing them and entering them in a contest so that you can win a bag of rice!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Quebec City, where couples are kissing on every corner

We are here in Quebec City for a couple of days. Crazy with tourists, but beautiful as always. It's such a cool place with such a fascinating history. I love walking the narrow streets and admiring the truly old, immaculately-kept buildings. This is the city in Canada that most reminds me of Europe. I once played a Navy band gig here during winter Carnaval, and tragically lost a contact lens on the military bus.

This trip, we have our "little brother" with us (see Big Brothers Big Sisters link on sidebar). He is not little (taller than me and nearly 17). He IS from BC and this is his first trip east of Alberta. He is doing an excellent job of trying out his high school French. The waitresses LOOOOOVE him! Too cute.

Anyway, we were in Montreal yesterday and after quite a lot of driving around here and there (and thinking, "Oh yeah, now I remember why driving in Montreal gives me heart palpitations), we have decided that we live in the armpit of Quebec (the Outaouais.) Not because the Outaouais isn't beautiful too, because it is, but because all the tax dollars we fork over aren't used to improve OUR roads or OUR health care, but are obviously being spent on improving the roads around Montreal and Quebec City!!! While we repeatedly damage our car's suspension on potholes the size of comet craters, and drive down allegedly MAJOR roads that lack apparent centre lines (must have run out of yellow paint), the roads in OTHER parts of Quebec are paved with gold (okay, I exaggerate a bit) and free of devastating "nest of chicks", which is how you translate the French expression for potholes!

What gives, Premier Jean Charest and loser cohorts who never bothered to answer the last bitchy letter I wrote to the provincial government (what, you couldn't get a minion to send me a form letter? I am bilingue, you know!) What about the Outaouais, so lovely, yet so neglected by the Department of Public Works (uh yeah, "works", riiiiiiight.) I DARE Charest to take a spin down Avenue Buckingham in his presidential limo or whatever it is he gets chauffeured around in (Batmobile?) as meanwhile yet another piece of metal is ripped from the undercarriage of our poor Mazda! Why can't the Outaouais have streets as smooth as a bebe's bottom like those around Quebec City (I can't get the damn accents to work on this stupid laptop; apologies to my Francophone friends who see the erreurs!) Allo? Are you listening to me? Alloooooo? Spread a little expensive deodorant (metaphorically speaking) on the Armpit of Quebec (perhaps Le Mitchum or maybe Le Speedstick) and save us all some cash at mechanic's! Oh hell, I'm moving to Ontario in some six weeks, so is it really worth me whining?

ANYWAY! I do love Quebec, despite its many quirks. For starters, it's Cheese Heaven. This morning at breakfast I had some Brie that was so good, I was tempted to steal the entire wheel and put it in my purse for later.

Next, it's Bakery Heaven. And Meat Heaven. And Patisserie Heaven. Oh, why pick nits? It's simply FOOD HEAVEN. Except nobody in Quebec has a fargin' clue about how to make a decent cuppa of tea, but nevermind, neither do Torontonians. Which is why I travel with my little plug-in kettle, chipped mug, and box of Yorkshire Gold teabags. Well, that and the fact that I'm eccentric. Or nuts. Or something. (Shaddap out there, I know what you're saying!)

Okay, I need to go to bed so I can be fresh as a daisy for tomorrow's schedule of touring the old city and stuffing our faces. Gelato is on the list.

And COME ON, Quebec government. Spend some money on the roads of the poor, forgotten Outaouais. I know you have ovepasses on the verge of collapsing all over the province (sad but true), but my car is SUFFERING, suffering I tell you!

Some whine with that fromage?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pizza J uly 13.07

Yesterday's offering: bacon, caramelized onions, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and herbs from the garden: basil, oregano, thyme and parsley!

Mmmmm... pizza!

The Raccoon Force is expanding!

When Mama Raccoon (one of the six raccoons we've seen frequenting the yard) isn't stuffing her face with gourmet bird seed...

... she's looking after her FOUR ADORABLE BABIES!!!

They are probably about two months old and painfully adorable, and they have already developed a refined palate. Only gourmet birdseed mix will do for this quartet of cuties!

It was hard to get a decent picture of them for various reasons, including the fact that I was shooting our our bedroom window and they wouldn't all come around to the right side of the birdfeeder pole! But you can still see how fluffy and ADORABLE they are. But...

Mama would NOT let them up into the birdfeeder. One baby made it all the way up the pole, whereupon Mama growled and baby slid back down the pole faster than you can say "gourmet birdseed mix."

However, this is how Mama gets up the pole...

She is amazingly agile.

Last night Mama and babies were outside the window again, and she was telling them not to climb the pole (grunting and growling.) I got our crappy flashlight out and saw five pair of eyes shining back at me.

And here is our newest resident:

Graziella Groundhog!

Well, for all I know it's a he, and his name is Greg, but anyway. Very cute. She sits in the long grass at the edge of our septic field, surveying her domain, then comes out to eat leafy weeds. If she starts eating my tomatoes, I'm getting out the .22. KIDDING!! I don't own a gun and anyone who knows me knows I can barely kill a mosquito.

I have also tamed a chipmunk to eat out of my hand. Well, there's more than one chipmunk doing this, but the tamest has a bald spot on the middle of his head, a short tail and a split ear. He's a survivor! I named him "Jim" after my Dad, who loved feeding squirrels and chipmunks. Jim comes a-running when I go out and call "Nuts! Nuts!" No doubt the neighbours think I merely walking around describing myself. "Nuts! Nuts!" Oh yes, I am.

Thus ends today's nature update.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Eight random things about me

I got tagged by Dephal, so here are eight random things about me.

1) I once got 100% on a high school English exam.
2) I am good at training chipmunks, squirrels and certain wild birds to eat from my hand.
3) My maternal grandfather, who was English, fought in WWI and WWII. His name was Albert Francis Sawyer. He was in the cavalry in WWI, and in WWII he worked on something secret in the "Home Office", some project called The Mulberry or something like that. He was once inspected by Winston Churchill and I have a framed photo of that event on my wall.
4) I secretly dream of being a drummer in a rock band, which is pretty amusing for someone who has a Bachelor of Music earned while playing classical music on clarinet and who now only plays piano.
5) I met my husband in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve. We were both musicians. He played tenor saxophone. I liked him in his dress blues. I love a man in uniform.
6) I used to be really good at hanging those old pop can tabs from my eyelashes, until they switched to the current tab design.
7) I am now such a pacifist, for lack of a better term, that I can't imagine being in the military. I have changed a lot since quitting the Navy in 1993. Nonetheless, I had a great time in the Naval Reserve and was very proud when I wore my uniform.
8) I speak French, studied German and Latin in high school, and took two years of Irish Gaelic in university. My wedding band has a Gaelic inscription inside it.
9) I have had a deep and abiding love of all animals since I was very tiny. I have a home movie of me being butted by a goat at a petting zoo when I was three. I laughed, got up, and went back to the goats.

Oops. That was nine. Oh yeah, I read really fast and am not always good at following instructions! :)

Pizza - Friday July 6!

FETA (by popular request!), some mozzarella, green olives, orange peppers, thinly-sliced red onions, and some red pepper pesto.

I need to work on making the crust look prettier! :)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Raccoon vs. squirrel... we all know who wins!

It's a hot day, and a certain squirrel is lying belly-down in the birdfeeder, stuffing gourmet BIRD seed (you'll note I don't buy SQUIRREL seed!) into his capacious maw. It's a hot day (93F with a humidex of 107F), and Mr. Squirrel is enjoying his rather relaxed meal when who should appear but....

...ANOTHER NON-Bird, here to enjoy the BIRD seed. Yes, it is one of the FOUR resident raccoons who visit daily and nightly and sometimes hourly to sample the delights of my gourmet BIRD seed.

And Miz Raccoon ain't gonna be stopped by no stinking squirrel. But Squizzy remains blissfully unaware, no doubt dreaming of bigger and better peanuts, oblivious to the masked invader creeping up behind him:

But soon enough, reality hits Squizzy square in the furry behind. It's time to leave. If raccoons can pull chickens through wire fencing (think of a colander. Or a cheese grater!) they can no doubt dispatch a rodent in short order (although I doubt squirrel tastes better than my gourmet BIRD seed.)

Squizzy seems a tad bewildered by what has just happened: "Hey! Hey! I was enjoying that!" Miz Raccoon replies, "Piss off or I will make an appetizer of thee!"

The animal pair briefly notice the camerawoman with the long lens...

... but shortly thereafter, Squizzy threw in the towel and left the spoils to the one with the greater digestive capacity and the sharper teeth.

This little story is in honour of the red squirrel who Saturday made the foolish, foolish, FOOLISH decision to enter the cage of the ORANGE OBLIVION:

Saturday morning, Gordon went out to fetch Julius, aka The Orange Oblivion. Poor Gordon not only found a cat in the kitty palace, but also the rear half of a red squirrel, festively decorating the bottom of the cage. The Orange Oblivion had quite the smug smile on his face for the rest of the day.

Squirrels have been tormenting The Orange Oblivion for months. They love to run back and forth mere inches from the cage door, practically waggling their tongues. At last, The Orange Oblivion has exacted his bloody revenge. Believe me, I don't condone this hunting behaviour! Half the reason we got this cage (from The Cat's Den) was to prevent the massacre of small birds and rodents. But if they are going to take it upon themselves to ENTER the DEN OF DEATH, well....


Friday pizza

Every Friday night, I make pizza from scratch. This all started last year because there is no pizzeria anywhere near us! It has turned out be a good thing. I am now taking suggestions for toppings! My friend Maren came up with this one: proscuitto, zucchini, caramelized onions and mozzarella. (Plus I threw in a few orange cherry tomatoes.) For "sauce" I just brushed the crust with olive oil infused with chopped garlic.

Some of the pizzas are simpler than this. It depends on (a) my motivation level and (b) what's in the fridge! I use the pizza dough recipe from the Canadian Living Cookbook, with some whole wheat and/or six-grain flour to replace the white.