Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Forest In The Fall

Looking up into the tree tops and the sky while hiking Jack's Trail.

The forest was particularly pretty on Saturday. We borrowed the hiking partner's dog and went for a 3 hour wander in the woods.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Walk In The Woods

On the weekend, we went for a walk in the woods. The vine maples had become a lovely yellow. It looked as if someone had turned on the lights under the canopy of fir trees. I wouldn't be surprised if those maple leaves lit up the forest at night.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Stawamus Chief

We hiked up to the second peak of the Stawamus Chief yesterday. It was 11 kilometres of gruelling uphill hiking, hanging on to chains and climbing ladders. A few sections were extremely technical for me, but I made it to the top relatively unscathed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Elfin Lakes

On Sunday, we hiked 22 kilometres up to the Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park. Lots of snow, fabulous vistas and such a sense of accomplishment!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Merciless Onslaught

Merciless Onslaught performs for their fans at Pub 340. Will is on the far right.

One of the best compliments I ever received about my children happened several years ago when someone said to me, "Nancy, I have never seen children from the same family be so different from each other. All three of your kids are such individuals." "Thank you," I replied. "That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."

I have raised individuals. The eldest is brainy and beautiful with a penchant for Edwardian literature. The second daughter is striking and dramatic with a love of all things theatrical. The youngest is a heavy metal musician who is living his dream.

The whole fam damily, plus friends, turned out on Saturday night to support Will in his musical endeavours. His band, Merciless Onslaught, performed at Pub 340 to a big crowd of metal heads.

As a parent it is wonderful to witness your child doing something he loves and be good at it too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Lake of Rainbows

On Sunday, September 27th, three intrepid souls hiked 8 kilometres up a 10% grade to Rainbow Lake. After a taking a few photos and eating a quick lunch, they hiked 8 kilometres back down again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old Catholic Church

Saint Raphael's Old Catholic Church at 715 East 51st Avenue (at Fraser Street) in Vancouver.

Gifts come in many shapes and sizes. They come in different packaging. Some gifts you aren't expecting. Like the gift I received last Sunday. This gift came through the very sad and sudden passing of one of Joe's uncles.

At his uncle's funeral a few weeks ago, the priest extended an invitation to the mourners to join him at his church the following Sunday. Molly attended that mass with her grandparents, aunts and uncles. She called me the next night saying, "Mom! You and Dad have to come with me to St. Raphael's Church one day. I think you will really like it."

So this morning saw me at mass at the Old Catholic Church with Molly and Paige. I instantly fell in love with the building. It was the same size as the neighbouring houses, painted blue and white. I fell more in love with it when I walked inside. Talk about visual interest! Silk flowers, paintings, stained glass, icons, and crucifixes adorned the sanctuary from floor to ceiling. The pews would hold 50 people on a good day.

Molly warned Paige and I that there would be a lot of kneeling. There was. And the singing was joyful and surprisingly loud from such a small group of parishioners. The bishop (who lives next door) gave a heartfelt homily that was full of hope and goodness. No fire and brimstone to be heard anywhere. I felt so warm and welcomed. But my favourite part of the service happened after the congregation said 'The Lord's Prayer' in English and then people took their turn reciting the prayer in their native tongue. It sounded lovely. It made me wish I could speak another language.

As the church bells rang after mass, the bishops and priests led the procession outside where they greeted each person as they exited the church. The bishop, who hails from Quebec, gave everyone a kiss on each cheek. Molly and Paige introduced themselves as sisters and the bishop asked with a twinkle in his eye, "From the same father?" They replied, "Here's our mother. You'll have to ask her about that." I just laughed and said, "Yes, they look very different, but I can assure you they share the same father."

When the priests were told about our connection to the church through Joe's uncle's funeral, they invited the girls and I to take photos with them. We told them we'd be back. The next time with Joe in tow.

If you'd like to learn more about the 'Old Catholic Church' in general and Saint Raphael's in particular, click here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Snow In Summer

The view from my living room window this morning.

According to the calendar, there are 2 more weeks of summer left. The autumnal equinox isn't even due until September 22nd. And yet this is what greeted me when I opened the living room blinds this morning. SNOW ON THE TANTALUS RANGE! I don't mind when it rains in the summer. But seriously. Snow? As the kids would say "WTF?"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This Is Where I Live

The intrepid hikers tackle Crumpit Woods on a rainy day.

We had planned to hike the Joffre Lakes trail today. To get to the trail head on the Duffy Lake Road, one must drive 2 hours north of here. The hike itself takes about 4-6 hours meandering around three lakes with the Metier Glacier as a backdrop. I was reallllly looking forward to it!

But alas, the weather did not cooperate. At 7:00am the rain was slanting sideways, the trees were bent over and no one in our hiking group was keen to drive 2 hours in the rain to hike 4 hours in the rain, then drive another 2 hours home in the rain.

So we adapted our plans. We met at our place at 8:00am, had several cups of Joe's famous coffee with toast and jam (thanks Colleen) and then hiked 2 hours in and about Crumpit Woods. After baking in the sun and heat all summer, it was surprisingly lovely to be in a wet forest again. To make ourselves feel better about not experiencing the Joffre Lakes, we made up a list of the positive things about hiking on the local trails....
  • our carbon footprint was smaller because we didn't have to drive very far.
  • the fern fronds and vine maple leaves looked beautiful glistening in the rain.
  • the air smelled wonderful.
  • the fungi we saw was fluorescent orange.
  • once we were finished the hike, it wouldn't take us long to get back to our cozy homes for a hot bath and a nap.
We are going to take a look at the long range weather forecasts and pick the next dry Sunday for another attempt at hiking around the Joffre Lakes.

I must acknowledge Sue Shalanski for single-handedly getting me interested in hiking. Sue is a physiotherapist here in town and is currently organizing a '100 Day Wellness Challenge' starting on September 23rd. If you are interested in finding out more about it, please click here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The End of Summer....

Photo taken of a corner on my back deck.

Last night after we finished eating supper, I was sitting at the dining room table looking at the view out of our new sliding patio door. This little vignette caught my eye so I grabbed my camera and took a picture of it.

The black-eyed susans are a tell-tale sign that summer is on its way out. School starts on Monday and if that doesn't scream 'summer is over', what does?

I have had a MARVELOUS summer. But I'm still sad to see it go.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Uplifting Experience

Before the fun began at Carmelle's Lingerie Boutique.'s a really fun thing to do with your BFF. Go bra shopping. Trust me. You'll have a blast. Mind you, it's best to go to a lingerie shop with a certified bra-fitter. She will measure you perfectly and find the bras that will not only make you look great, but feel FANTASTIC!

Such was my day yesterday when I went with the BFF and her sister to Carmelle's Lingerie Boutique. After we were measured for the correct fit (even that made us laugh out loud) Carmelle brought us bra after bra to try on. We pranced around the shop half-naked proudly modelling our bras for each others approval. Such silliness! Such laughter!

Several photos were taken, but were all too risque and incriminating to post here. (Or anywhere for that matter.)

All three of us came out of Carmelle's Lingerie Boutique smiling and carrying bright pink bags full of our purchases.

If you need a lift, either physically or emotionally, bra shopping with your girlfriends is where it's at.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This Is Where I Live

The view of Howe Sound from the rock quarry high above Britannia Beach.

Ever since moving to 'Sea-to-Sky Country' sixteen years ago, I have driven my kids nuts by always forcing (I mean encouraging) them to look up at the natural beauty that surrounded us. "This is where we live!" I'd exclaim. "MOM," they'd groan. "WE KNOW!" Well, I didn't think they did know, so I was like a dog with a bone constantly pointing out amazing views and vistas. I got so insufferable that my two daughters moved to Vancouver and haven't looked at a tree since.

That feeling of awe came over me this morning after I hiked straight up 'The Britannia Grind' and came out at the rock quarry high above Britannia Beach. The hike to the quarry was pretty much vertical on a dry, dusty forest floor. I even felt like I had vertigo a few times. But the panorama view over Howe Sound was the reward for such an arduous walk.

I just wish my kids had been with me to experience it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Travelling and the Garden

A thicket of weeds under my John Cabot rose bush.

I am slowly coming to the realization that travelling and gardening don't mix. Unless one is retired, I am at a loss as to how both can be done well.

I have been abroad the past three summers out of four and I am totally overwhelmed by the depth, breadth and thickness of the weeds in my flowerbeds! I cannot keep up.

And the last thing I want to do with my jet-lagged body is get on my hands and knees to pull weeds the day after my plane touches down. Or even four days later.

I must admit my passion for gardening a big piece of property is waning. When we moved to this house 16 years ago, the yard was a blank canvas. With Joe's muscle power, I created large garden beds full of trees, shrubs and flowers both in the front and back of the house.

It took me a few years to do it, but I was (and still am) pleased with the result. I do love to sit under my gazebo and gaze out at my creation on a summer afternoon. Or snooze in the hammock under a tree. Or pick a bouquet of flowers to bring in the house or give to friends. That part I love. The toil/sweat/back-breaking labour part? Uh, no. I have definitely lost the lovin' feelin' for that.

So my plan is to down-size my garden this fall. I'm going to dig most everything up and push back the beds to a more manageable size. I'll have fewer flowers and a bigger lawn, but that's okay. It's easier to mow the grass than it is to pull weeds.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Going Home

Waiting for the shuttle van to pick us up and take us to the airport.

I don't know what it is about going home after I've been travelling. I just never want to do it. Don't get me wrong. I love the home I've created with Joe for ourselves and our children. There's no other place I'd rather be. Except when I'm travelling.

I guess it's because I have no worries when I'm away. No responsibilities. I don't have to work. I can just play and play and play. And learn new things. And see new sights. And appreciate new ways of doing things.

Our flight home from Paris didn't leave until 8:30pm on Monday night. I thought, "This is GREAT! It's like having another whole day!" Joe asked me how I'd like to spend the time. I thought about it a moment and said, "Let's go to Luxembourg Gardens. That is my favourite place in this city."

I wish I could report that our last day in Paris was spent romantically walking hand in hand through the streets, taking one last look at that marvelous city.

Uh, nope.....

We walked to the gardens and I immediately fell quiet. I looked around at the flower beds, fountains, trees, and statues, and all I felt was sorry for myself. I could feel a lump growing in my throat. Tears were burning at the backs of my eyes. Pathetic, I know.

We sat on a pair of the metal green chairs that dot the garden. I looked around at the other visitors with their maps and guide books clutched in their hands and felt jealous of them. I looked down at my feet and said to Joe, "Let's go."

So back we walked to our apartment. Actually, I didn't walk. It was more like a trudge. I laid down on the couch with my book while Joe took on the task of strategically packing the suitcases with our clothes and his loot. I put myself out of my misery by falling asleep.

The shuttle van picked us up at 5:00pm, our flight home was uneventful, and we drove into our driveway at 12:30am Pacific Time. We hauled our gear in the house and promptly went to bed.


But I'm okay now. I've talked to all of our kids, looked at my 1,496 photos eleventy-million times, have fielded calls from friends asking about our trip. I know how blessed I am to have a husband who will take me on surprise trips like these. I am grateful for every minute I spent in Paris this summer.

Lucky me......

Monday, August 17, 2009

"We'll Always Have Paris"

Sunset on the Seine. (Self-portrait taken on the Pont des Arts.)

When we were signing the apartment papers at the end of July with the rental agent, he asked us how long we were staying in Paris. When we told him, he said, "Is there enough to do in Paris for three weeks?"

My stomach did a little lurch when he said that. What if 3 weeks was too much time in one place? What if we got bored? What if there wasn't enough to do?

Well, I am here to tell you that I could stay in Paris for 3 years, never mind 3 weeks. We were on the move the entire time and there are still things on our 'to do' list. We ate, we drank, we walked. We soaked up the art, the architecture, the music, the fashion, the history. We laughed, we were moved to tears, we met new people, saw old friends.

We'll always have Paris.

We leave for home this evening. I'm hoping to get to my beloved 'Luxembourg Gardens' one more time this afternoon before we have to bid adieu to this amazing city.

I can hardly wait to come back.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gallows Humour

A plaque commemorating Oscar Wilde at L'Hotel, 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts.

On one of our many walks around Paris, we came across the hotel where Oscar Wilde died. Wilde was a broken man when he died in a scuzzy hotel over 100 years ago. (The hotel is very up-scale now.)

On his death bed he remarked, "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."

Door Fetish

The door to Gertrude Stein's apartment building where she lived from 1903-1938 at 27 Rue des Fleurus.

I think I may be developing a door fetish over here in Paris. I cannot stop taking pictures of them! And there are thousands of incredible doors in this city. I can't seem to walk down one single, solitary street without taking at least one photo of a door.

Pillars Of The Earth

The Gothic ceiling of St. Eustache Church near Les Halles. It took 100 years to build from 1532 to 1632.

Ever since reading Ken Follett's 'Pillars of the Earth', I have been fascinated with the architecture of medieval churches and cathedrals. Especially the ceilings and roofs. How they built these structures in the Middle Ages is quite beyond me. It boggles my mind.

I Heart Paris #5

Boulangerie Poilane on Rue du Cherche-Midi is one of the most famous Parisian bakeries.

More reasons to love Paris....
  • Boulangeries that sell their big, heavy, rustic loaves of bread by the kilogram.

Overheard In The Street

Cobblestones on Rue Bernard-Palissy; a street unchanged since the 1600s.

This morning Joe and I were walking to Saint Sulpice church to attend the 10:30am mass. We were keeping our voices low because many of the apartment windows were wide open and it was early Sunday morning. We passed a man chaining up his bike and he said to us as we passed, "Why are you whispering? Don't be ashamed because you don't speak French."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The French Think Of Everything

When we were at Le Bon Marche Grand Epicerie last week, we saw this roll of what I thought was paper towel. It was bubble gum pink. And cost 12 euros. "Hmmmm," I thought. "I know things are very expensive in Paris, but that doesn't sound quite right."

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it wasn't paper towel at all! It was a roll of 100% cotton serviettes. Complete with perforations between the napkins! How adorable is that?

Of course we just HAD to buy a roll of it.

And how would you like that served sir?

"Raw, please. Very raw." How else?

Apparently, not a silly question. An alternative on the menu includes tartare slightly cooked on each side. Who would do that to steak tartare? You might as well ask for ketchup.

Take the sauce, a mixture of raw egg (of course), capers, cornichons, onion, dijon, salt, pepper and a variety of other bit players, and incorporate the sauce into the raw steak mixture, to your liking. Eat, and pray the restaurant serves a lot of steak tartare.

Our lunch guests eat here frequently so could vouch for the quality of the food. It's 8 hours later and I am not suffering any ill effects. However, I wouldn't try this in Canada.

Now, on to fugu in Tokyo. What's a little crippling salmonella when you can stare down neurotoxins in improperly prepared sushi.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Safety Last

Joe is standing in front of a knee-high wooden barricade that runs the length of the bluffs at Gold Beach in Normandy. Beyond the narrow patch of grass there is a very steep 400 foot drop to the ocean. The family beside Joe are returning from standing at the edge of the grass and were even leaning over to see how far down the sand was. Safety last!

In Canada, we are extremely safety conscious. We have tall barricades, and helmet laws, and signage, and caged overpass walkways, and battery-operated flameless candles. Compared to North American standards, France is one big accident waiting to happen.

Our family jokes that one of France's mottos should be "Safety Last"!

Here are a few 'safety last' things I've seen lately....

  • The long, ground floor corridor between our apartment building and the carriage doors to the street is quite dark. Even in the daytime. There are a couple of light switches that turn on some dim lights, but they are in very inconvenient places. Hence my groping of the walls to feel my way along so that I don't trip. Again.
  • No one wears a helmet while riding their bikes. The other day I saw a father (no helmet) riding a bike with his baby (no helmet) in a seat on the back. AND THE DAD RAN A RED LIGHT IN BUSY TRAFFIC! That one took my breath away.
  • Cars do stop when the crossing light turns green for pedestrians. But please pay attention. The drivers will take advantage of your inattentiveness and drive through the cross-walk if you are looking the other way.
  • I swear the hot water in this apartment is only 1 or 2 degrees below the boiling point. You only have to turn the tap to the cold setting to get really hot water.
  • The sink tap in the bathroom is plumbed backwards. (Hot is cold; and vice versa.) I keep forgetting this fact and have almost scalded my tongue a few times while brushing my teeth!

Les Bouquinistes

'Les Bouquinistes' (used book sellers) are a Parisian fixture along the Seine. They have been in operation since the 1500s. As I walk past their stalls each day, I gaze longingly at their wares because I am a used book FREAK!

Man, I wish I could read French......


Waiting for the Vivaldi concert to begin at La Sainte-Chapelle. Joe got us front row seats.

Not only is Paris noted for its art, history, fashion, architecture and food. There is music EVERYWHERE in this city. Posters advertising all manner of concerts are plastered on walls of the streets and the metro. Buskers play in the streets and the metro. Whatever genre of music you love, it is here in Paris.

On Wednesday night, Joe took me to a jazz club in 'Le Marais', a funky district of Paris. The venue was about 10 square metres with low ceilings and brick walls. Over 100 people were squished into this tiny room. Thank God the indoor smoking ban was implemented 2 years ago! The musicians were fabulous. We could only stay for 2 sets though, and had to leave at 12:30am or else the metro would have been shut down and we would have had a lonnnnnng walk home. It was a highly entertaining evening.

The next night was my choice. I chose a classical concert at La Sainte-Chapelle. I chose it for two reasons. One: I love Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'. Two: I love Sainte-Chapelle. And any music played in the sanctuary of that cathedral is alright by me.

Sainte-Chapelle is a triumph of Gothic church architecture and its stained glass windows are second to none. To think it was built in 1248 for King Louis IX (the only French king who is now a saint) in only 5 years is incredible. To put it in perspective, Notre Dame took 200 years to build.

What a setting for the musicians to play their violins, harpsichord, cello and bass! Again, another highly enjoyable evening.

Paris.....I love you.

I Heart Paris #4

The heated towel rack in our apartment.

More reasons to love Paris....

  • The heated towel racks. So that when you wrap the warm bath towel around yourself after getting out of the shower it feels cozy on your wet skin.
  • In the larger grocery stores there is an employee who sits at a desk in the middle of the produce area whose job it is to weigh your fruits and vegetables for you.
  • You can buy the freshest fruits and vegetables from a vendor deep in the bowels of the metro. We bought some of the tastiest strawberries from such a place yesterday.

Two Metro Stories

Story #1

Even though the metro trains come and go every few minutes, people still hurry if they enter the platform area and see the train sitting there. This was the situation I found myself in last week.

We were walking down the stairs to the metro platform when Joe said, "Hurry! Our train is here and it's about to leave!" So I hurried. I ran down the stairs and got into a car just as the doors were closing. "Whew! That was close!" I said to myself. And since I had just squeezed my buttocks through the doors milliseconds before they closed, I wasn't yet holding on to any pole.

The train lurched, I stumbled forward, and as I went to catch myself I inadvertently hit a young man's face with the back of my hand. Not a hard hit, mind you. But my hand definitely grazed his cheek. I whispered in my best French accent, "Pardon, monsieur. Pardon!" And then in English, "I am SO sorry!"

His facial expression did not change, but I could read the horrification in his eyes since I had a very good view from 1 inch away.

I straightened myself up and walked to a seat.

Shit happens.

Story #2

This morning Joe and I were taking the metro to a street market on Rue Monge. When we're not walking we take the metro EVERYWHERE. At least twice, if not three times a day. We like to sit in the flip-down seats near the doors as it allows us easy entrance (well, except for the incident described in story #1) and exit.

I sat down on one of the seats and just as I was in the middle of crossing my legs (with only one foot on the floor), the train lurched and I toppled into the aisle. With great grace and agility I was able to prevent a full pratfall and easily regained my upright position. As I started to laugh, I looked around at the Parisian faces and saw that they were not amused. The man closest to me was disgusted by my antics. I'm sure he thought, "For the love of God woman, have some dignity and stay in your seat!"

It just made me laugh harder.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

No Singing

Some birthday euros (thanks Chrissy!) were burning a hole in my pocket, so once again Joe and I hit the flea market. I have bought old French signs from the Paris flea markets in the past, so I purchased another one to add to my growing collection.

At first I thought this sign said something about not being able to sing in public. I had the vendor tell me what it said. It says and I quote: "This building site is off-limits to the public."

I like my translation better.

Chronicles of Narnia

When we are in our apartment, life is a very mundane affair. We cook, we eat, we do the dishes, we sleep.

But after we walk downstairs and go through the dark courtyard, something happens to me when I push on those huge, heavy carriage doors. When I step out onto Rue du Bac there is a feeling in my chest that I can't describe. But I'll try. The feeling is big and happy and excited and full of wonder. I think, "This is how the Penvensie children must have felt when they entered Narnia through the back of the wardrobe!"

I'm sure my mouth hangs open every time I enter onto the street. I am so grateful to be here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Late Lunch

A bowl of pho at Dong Huong restaurant in Belleville

The monsieur and I were at a low ebb the other day. We slept in, dawdled during breakfast, showered, read our books, washed the dishes and I think Joe may even have taken a morning nap. We FINALLY got our act together and headed out the door to go and have lunch.

Our destination was Belleville for some Vietnamese food. As we were walking up onto the street from the metro, Joe laughed as he looked at his watch. He said, "You won't believe this, but it's 5 o'clock!"

I love late lunches.

Musee Rodin

The statue of 'Le Penseur' (The Thinker) in the Rodin Museum gardens.

The best thing about the Rodin Museum, besides the amazing sculptures, is that most of it is outside in a garden in the middle of the city. This is one of Joe's favourite stops on the art history trail. It only costs 1 euro to enter the gardens, and many Parisians take advantage of this incredible deal.

Musee D'Orsay

Of all the art museums I've been to in my life, I must say the Musee D'Orsay is my absolute favourite. Its home is the old Gare D'Orsay train station and is full of French art of the 1800s. It houses the best collection of Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gauguin. If you like Impressionism, go to this museum. If you don't like Impressionism, go to this museum.

I'd take the Orsay over the Louvre any day.

Window Licking

It seems that every window display of every shop on every street in Paris is a work of art. I could wander the streets for years just window shopping. The French term for this pastime is faire du leche-vitrines which literally translated means 'window licking'.

American and Canadian Foods

The other day, Joe and I went to Le Bon Marche Grand Epicerie. The Bon Marche is Paris' oldest department store. It opened in 1852 and was the first large-scale store to offer fixed prices. No more bargaining. They have one department store for clothing, perfume and furniture; and another separate Bon Marche (Le Grand Epicerie) devoted entirely to food. Can you guess which one Joe dragged me into?

This food store was like no other I've ever seen. It was high class and HUGE! Every foodstuff known to man was for sale. Fresh fish, fowl, meats of every description. Fruits and veg. Prepared foods. Frozen foods. Condiments. A deli section. A dairy section. A bakery. A butcher. We were agog with the quality and selection of the food. And the prices!

But the section that stopped us dead in our tracks was the 'Etats-Unis et Canada' aisle. There in front of us stood shelf upon shelf of Lay's potato chips, Duncan Hines cake mixes, M&Ms, Jack Daniels barbecue sauce, Paul Newman's salad dressings, French's mustard (now there's a joke), canned pumpkin pie filling, and many other North American foods.

It was embarrassing, really. "Is this the kind of food we're known for in the world?" I asked Joe. "I guess it is," he replied.

So if you find yourself in Paris with a craving for 'marshmallow fluff', you'll know exactly where to go. Le Bon Marche Grand Epicerie on Rue de Sevres. Tell them Nancy sent you.