Christmas in Montreal

December 30, 2007 at 5:22 pm | Posted in canada, food, life | 3 Comments

The most wonderful time of the year. Well, it was pretty darn good. We had family over for Thanksgiving (Part 1, Part 2), so this holiday was fairly low key, just the two of us. We got presents for each other, and we got presents from generous relatives. I’m a little upset since some of our presents for them haven’t gone out yet due to shipping delays. One package’s tracking information shows as having arrived at Syracuse on 12/20 on its way here, and it just stopped there. The company offered to send a new one, but I would think they’d rather find out where the old one went to?! Anyway, that’s a different story.

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home hanging out and playing games. Jenny got me a model kit with three different Starship Enterprises! That will be fun.

The following two days were spent in Montreal! That was a nice trip. Highlights include a nice basic room at Auberge le jardin d’Antoine (complete with a nice last-minute-online-booking discount!), fantastic crepes across the street at Cafe Croissant De Lune, stupendous vegetarian Vietnamese food at Chu Chai (well, Chuch, actually), dessert at Juliette & Chocolat, visits to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Écomusée du fier monde, and last but not least, the discovery of Cafe Pi! They sell fair trade coffee and organic desserts, and they have a lot of chess sets available. Two people were playing when we went in. I’m rather rusty with my chess personally. But the idea is still great. I got a shirt and a mug! Oh, and Jenny got a fancy arty tea cup at a boutique named ARTHÉ. She adores it, and it’s so her.

It was a good trip. If you want to go to a foreign country where they speak a different language, it’s a pretty easy introduction. French is the first language spoken there, but in the big city of Montreal, just about everyone is bilingual except for the English-only speakers. Everyone starts speaking French, but after it’s evident you don’t speak French, they automatically switch to English. Having said that, I’m told it’s generally appreciated if you make some effort. I do the minimum of, when someone starts speaking to me in French, I look vaguely apologetic and say, “Je ne parle pas français,” (I don’t speak French) and if they can speak English, they do. I also say oui, s’il vous plaît, merci, … yeah, that’s about it. But I’m told a little effort smooths the wheels, and we had no problems. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I’m much more relaxed about going to Montreal. I do plan on learning a little more French. And I think it would be fun to understand a bit more French than I let on; maybe I can catch someone talking about me behind my back in front of me.


December 25, 2007 at 7:37 pm | Posted in life | 4 Comments

The holiday of Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice. The days have been getting shorter and the nights longer, and the noontime sun dips lower into the southern sky. But at solstice, that descent stops, and before the days start getting longer there is a pause; for a couple of days the length of night holds still before shortening. It is this pause, this stillness, that we mark with celebration.

Yes, the return of the light is exciting, and the prospect of the oncoming spring fills us with hope, but the pause has equal importance. It is a time when we can stop to appreciate what we have and plan for the coming year. The word solstice comes from the roots sol, meaning sun, and stice, meaning stand still.

This year I continued my efforts to connect to the local pagan community by volunteering to participate in the production of the 7th annual winter solstice celebration sponsored by a local drumming group, “Let’s Drum.” Though at first there were no parts to play, I was eventually able to fill in for someone who couldn’t make it. It felt good to participate, to assist in the production and be part of the ritual.

It was a very nice Yule ritual. There were over 30 people in attendance. We rehearsed the night before, and the rite was on Friday. We were lucky to have a very gifted musician (and a wonderful spirit) assisting us. I’m not going to describe it with a play-by-play; there were consecrations of elements, invocations of directions and god and goddess, raising of energy, a meditation on darkness, and a spiral dance. And there was wonderful energy.

I have been taking my efforts to meet the local pagans very gradually. This is mostly because I am very busy with work these days, but also because I have been so far removed from pagan practice for recent years. Even though it has been 20 years since I started on this path (more than half my life!), I have considered keeping my ears out for a Wicca 101 class in the area. I don’t feel that I need such a thing in order to pay proper attention to my own spirituality, but it might be a nice reminder of things I haven’t thought of in many years, a chance to meet new people, and fill in gaps in my knowledge. I already know I do well in a class type structure.

In summary, the celebration was wonderful. I haven’t felt that way in a long time, and it was very good for me. I need more of it. I must nourish myself spiritually; that side of me has been starving, and I didn’t realize it.


December 21, 2007 at 9:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The semester is over.  Holidays are here.  Sometimes busy, sometimes napping.

Makes me want to tell General Mills to go Bake Off

December 10, 2007 at 10:05 am | Posted in food, local | 7 Comments

The Potsdam Food Co-op, who has been running its Holiday Bake Off for 10 years to benefit a local food bank, the Potsdam Neighborhood Center, has to change the name. Apparently, Pillsbury owns the word “Bake-Off,” and threatened legal action if they didn’t stop using the term immediately. In fact, Pillsbury didn’t even contact the co-op, they did it through the local community paper, North Country This Week. And they did it only a week before this year’s event, after deadlines for advertising submissions had passed, even though they knew about the co-op’s use of the term for a year. Registered trademark or not, that’s rude.

Here is the story in North Country This Week. NPR picked up the story, too.

Fire Art

December 8, 2007 at 10:39 am | Posted in art, festivals, memories | 1 Comment

Years ago, I went to Glendale Glitter and Glow, a block party like festival in Glendale, Arizona. (The next one is in January; here is where you can get info on it.) I went in 2004 when Flam Chen, Tucson’s pyrotechnic theater troupe performed there. (Here’s a promotional video for Flam Chen.)

It was fun, but seeing Flam Chen perform was absolutely amazing. Adjectives that come to mind are mystical, magickal, otherworldly, entrancing. On the one hand, the inherent danger of what they do with fire and the technical proficiency required to do it are impressive. But even though the awareness of that never goes away, their handling of the fire is not the point, it is their medium. They are not there to dazzle you with their abilities of handling fire, their purpose is art. And their performance is mesmerizing.

I will not see Flam Chen for a while, living in the North Country as I now do, but I am on the lookout for anyone performing with poi in the area.

I have also become aware of a group based in San Francisco called Flaming Lotus Girls. Their brand of fire art is not based in performance, but in sculpture. Their media for creating their sculptures is metal and fire, and some of their art is interactive to a degree. I have not seen them in person; I became aware of them through an old school friend Lee, who made a bold life-changing move from New Jersey to San Francisco about 5 years ago. He obviously fell in with the right sort of “wrong crowd,” and has made the most of it. Rock on, Lee!

FLG has had their art featured at Burning Man and around the world. They now have an impressive two year calendar, the proceeds of which go to improving their current project, Serpent Mother (video), and continuing its world tour. I really want a calendar. I’ll probably get one after the holidays.

Thanksgiving: part 2

December 1, 2007 at 2:35 pm | Posted in food, house, life | 5 Comments

After the second shift of Thanksgiving dinner, Mike wanted to take a look at things. For those who don’t know him, I have to tell you he can fix anything. Anything that moves, and anything that doesn’t move, he can fix it. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, electronic devices, mechanical devices, all parts of a house from the foundation to the structure to the electrical, and yes, the plumbing!

So we went down in the basement, and in about ten seconds, he figured out where the clog was. Apparently somebody put a reducer (from 1 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ pipe) on a horizontal section. Also, there was black PVC mixed with white PVC. I don’t know why that last one is bad, but Mike was sure of it. Furthermore, there was a section wrapped in duct tape. The removal of said duct tape revealed that the pipe had been cut, and never reattached! Apparently this clog has happened before, so we took advantage of the cut and made a makeshift snake with a wire hanger. Soon afterward, the washing of dinner dishes commenced.

By this time, it was time for dessert. The pies were a big hit, as were the liqueurs. Especially the coffee liqueur! Apparently I didn’t ruin it as I feared; it’s darn tasty! Imagine what it will be like when I don’t screw up the recipe. During dessert, Mike made a shopping list. He had a goal that such a clog would never happen again. After planning the plumbing coup, we watched the Mad About You Thanksgiving episode. The rest of the night was spent with Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, turkey sandwiches, and homemade hooch.

The next morning, Mike tackled the plumbing. To make a long story short, we went to the hardware store and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon in the basement. Well, to be honest, I switched between helping him and working in the kitchen. Max helped also, probably more than I did. All of the pipe from the sink to the copper leading into the sewer output pipe is new, and now the horizontal section runs slightly downhill. I felt bad though, because they had to rush off right after he finished. We packed a few turkey sandwiches for them for the road. Next time, I swear, we’re going to spend time just hanging out.

After the plumbing angel of mercy and his posse left, we hung out with Jenny’s family. We all played rummy and Apples To Apples, which is a fantastic game if you’ve never played it. More Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, more pie, more liqueur. Yum.

The rest of the guests left early the next morning, and Jenny & I cleaned up. I spent most of the day clearing out the garage, making room for the car and getting rid of the piled up cardboard recycling. We can get the car in, but one of the springs is busted. I’ve known about it for a while, and I was going to get Mike’s advice on it while he was here, but the plumbing issues screwed that up. I found where the local hardware store stocks replacement springs, and I might try to do that one of these weekends. If we can get the garage door working, I want to get an automatic garage door opener. I’m find with shoveling the driveway, but not having to clean off the car every time we want to use it would be lovely!

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing. Now I’m swamped with work because of it. (*heavy sigh*)

So, this Thanksgiving was the best Thanksgiving involving a clogged drain we could have hoped for. 🙂 Come on by this holiday season. We still have egg liqueur and coffee liqueur, and it’s still yummy!

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