Beachcombing interlude

I traveled to San Luis Obispo last week to participate in a career fair at Cal Poly. There I met two of my previously-unknown-to-me co-workers, who quickly became my new best friends. The career fair was a blast, and the morning flew by! The event ended at 1:30 pm and our flights weren’t scheduled to leave until after 8 that night. I had a rental car, they had ideas of things to see, so off we went to exploring.

IMG_2831We drove about 20 minutes north on 101 to Morro Bay. Morro, Spanish for the crown, is part of the Morro Rock State Preserve, one of the California State Parks. This 22-23 million year old rock is one of Nine Sisters of rocks that extends from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo hills. We drove onto the causeway connects it with the shore, which make it a tied island, and parked on the south side of the rock. Ha, rock! It’s pretty big for a rock. So, what’s the big deal about this rock? Turns out, it’s a volcanic plug formed when magma from a volcano solidifies in the pipe or neck and the surrounding sediment is eroded away. Essentially, I was standing next to the remains of an extinct volcano. Cool!

IMG_2835It was peaceful, and for a while we watched otters doing their otter things out in the bay. They were quite active and entertained us for quite a while. Once they settled down on their backs to float around for a while, we began exploring the area. We took the path for a while, and then braved the boulders and climbed down to the beach. I am happy to report, none of use twisted ankles or broke anything near and dear to our hearts.


It was late in the afternoon and we could see the marine layer inching its way inland. I became chilled and hiked back to the car for my jacket while my buddies searched for sand

On the South-West face of the rock we found caves, on was large enough for a mountain lion. I was curious what critters might inhabit the various spaces. Not curious enough to climb the rock to investigate, which is not allowed.

IMG_2831We wandered over to the north side of the rock and watched the surfers catch waves and wipe out, undaunted by the cold (aided by wet suites).

While I enjoyed people watching, the was quite a bit of activity on this side, I preferred the other, quieter side.

After watching the surfers for a while, we decided to get a bite to eat. We headed to Marisol at the Cliffs in Pismo Beach. Even though it was chilly by then, we opted to sit on the terrace where I enjoyed a glass of wine, coconut shrimp and fried calamari with sauce that was d’bomb! I enjoyed good conversation with my new friends, good wine, and good food – for what more could a girl ask?

View from Marisol’s terrace

Sated and hydrated, we had a couple more hours to kill before we needed to head to the airport. What to do? Apparently, the Farmer’s Market on Thursday nights is the place to see and be seen.

Before long, it was time to make our way to the airport, where we said our good-bys and made plans to keep in touch.

You oughta be in pictures

One of the cool perks of my new job is the fun activities in which they encourage us to participate. Last week they chartered a bus to take us up to LA where we took part in the Sony Pictures Studio tour. After enjoying the sights, we were served lunch in the VIP area of the Plaza lobby. It was so much fun!

While waiting for the tour to begin, we wandered the lobby and explored the various displays of movie memorabilia.
GodzillaOff in the corner, I found a reptilian-looking fellow (nobody puts Baby Godzilla in a corner!). While I thought he looked pretty cool, lots of details went into his creation, he wasn’t all that massive. Perhaps Godzilla, like many of Hollywood’s stars, was required to diet? Maybe his next feature film will be titled “Godzilla, Hungry and Grumpy.” It could happen. Bolyn

I loved the costumes on display, I especially loved the fabric choices and exquisite details of the dresses and tunic from the movie The Other Boleyn Girl.


After watching a short film on the history of Sony Pictures Studio, we began the walking tour of the lot. The first thing we notice after passing through the gates is a massive rainbow. Now, it would be really cool if the rainbow sculpture had been used in the production of The Wizard of Oz, but it wasn’t. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty impressive.

Weighing in at 100,000 pounds of steel, “Rainbow” is a multi-colored arc 188-feet across and 94-feet high, created by American sculptor Tony Tasset, and greets visitors beyond the Madison Street entrance.


Apparently, Sony Pictures Studio wanted to build a couple of office buildings and a parking lot, and in exchange for these new additions to the studio lot, Sony partially funded the project via the 1% for Art requirement.

While the images of Dorothy clicking ruby slippers, flying monkeys, and munchkins might come to most people’s minds, I was thinking more along the lines of hey, it’s the end of the rainbow, where’s the pot of gold?  Alas, no matter how hard I willed it, no pots (of gold or anything else) materialized.

TicketBoothA short walk past Rainbow led us to our first glimpse of buildings used in a variety of films. For example, we saw the ticket booth were Frank Sinatra buys movie tickets in the musical Anchors Aweigh. While I was never a Sinatra fan, I adored Gene Kelly, and this film is one of my childhood favorites, and not just because Jerry Mouse made an appearance. The animation segment featuring Jerry took two months and $100,000 to produce because someone noticed that although Kelly’s reflection shone on the floor during his dancing, Jerry’s did not; therefore, Hanna/Barbara productions spent a couple of months revising the animation.


There are many different kinds of studios on the lot. We passed by the Foley studios, the place responsible for supplying noises for a film, like the swishing of clothing and the tapping of footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass. I always thought that would be a fun job. Can you imagine the kind of stress related to finding the right sounds? For example, what sound might the breaking of bones make, or the tip-toeing of animated elephants? I imagine a Foley technician listens to the sounds in the world differently than the rest of us.

Stage6Some buildings had a shabby mystique to them while others were adorned with the Art Deco touches reflecting the era in which they were built.

No matter what they looked like on the outside, all the buildings had me wondering what was going on inside, and if maybe there might be a celebrity beyond the closed doors.

IMG_2728Of particular note among the various building on the lot is the Barbara Streisand Sound Stage. The stage was originally located at the MGM shooting stage until the late 1920s. One of the first film scores recorded there was The Wizard of Oz in 1939. The studio remains unchanged over the years because of the exceptional sound it produces; no one knows why the building has the incredible acoustics is does, and nobody wants to do anything, like paint the walls, in fear that such a change will alter the magnificent sound the room produces. I must confess the space wasn’t particularly spectacular, yet there was something fantastical about knowing you were standing in the same place as John Williams, who did the soundtracks for movies such as Jaws and Star Wars, Michel Jackson, and (of course) Barbara herself had performed. The artists who contribute to musical scores are gifted sight musicians. Get this: Many of the movies they work on are so hushed-up, the artists don’t even know the title! The players see the score for the first time about a 1/2 hour before they begin performing – that’s just amazing! Usually, the movie score is complete in one run-through and is finished in 2-4 hours, depending on the film.

StageWhile we weren’t allowed to go into any of the stages, there were several with doors wide open where we could get a glimpse of the interior. We passed by one large studio where the set builders were enjoying a lunch break.

Of particular note were stages 15, 27, and 30.

Stage 15 is the second largest studio in the world and was home to movies such as A day at the Races, Air Force One, Rocky, and Stuart Little, among others.

Stage 27 was once transformed into Munchkin land, the Emerald City, and the Witch’s Castle, although the yellow brick road, (painted plywood) has long since been lost in the annals of time. (Where exactly are the “annals of time” located, anyway?) Other memorable sets include the Spaceship Interstellar, and the Sistine Chapel.

Stage 30 was once owned by Esther Williams, which had her swimming pool and underwater tanks, and now this stage is where many water-themed movies are filmed (think Jaws and Hook).

There are many other things to share, for example, the Ghost Busters cars and their “storefront,” Stages for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy (which are interesting, even though I don’t watch the shows). There are oodles of other tidbits and behind-the-scenes lore to explore. Instead of me blathering on, the next time you find yourself in LA, I urge you to take a studio tour or two. It won’t spoil movie magic, and it is most definitely educational, informative, and tons of fun!

Accidental photographer

I’m not an accomplished photographer. I have taken photos I like, but I’d be the first to admit I’d never win a prize for my compositions. I’m always especially pleased when photos I’ve taken come out, well, better than my usual. A few weeks ago, I found myself in San Francisco with extra time to explore the city. I’ve been there so may times I wasn’t interested in going to the usual tourist attractions. I was thrilled when my friend, whom I was visiting, suggested we explore Civic Centre. Someplace I’ve driven by but hadn’t yet had an opportunity to explore.

CivicCenter0City hall, built in 1915, is a beautiful example of classical American Architecture. The ornate dome is one of the tallest in the U.S. Brides love the venue; nearly 2,000 weddings take place in City Hall each year. Get this, in 1954 Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married there. The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake severely damaged the building, which San Francisco voters spent $300 million to restore. To protect against future earthquakes, a genius base isolator system was installed below each support pillar. Wicked cool engineering makes it so, in the event of an earthquake, the entire building, which is separated from the ground, can sway up to 27 inches in any direction.

CivicCenterCorinthianInside there are dramatic vignettes. I’m not sure why it’s called Classical American Architecture, maybe because the outside looks kinda Federalist and the inside is bedecked in what looks to me more like Neo-Classic. I’m neither an expert or aficionado when it comes to architecture; regardless, it’s still a beautiful building, inside and out.


(In case you haven’t guessed, I’m quite proud of the Corinthian column photo.)

Across the plaza sits the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, where I had had the pleasure of visiting a couple of years ago. The permanent collections are exquisite and well worth another visit.


I was particularly enchanted with the exquisitely crafted dragons. What’s not to love about mythical creatures who continue to capture the imagination of millions of people all over the world?

I’m glad I had an opportunity to look around the Asian Art Museum once more; otherwise I would have missed this guy. (Another photo I truly like.)

Quintessentially Québecois: Thursday

Previous: Quintessentially Québecois: Wednesday
From the beginning: Quintessentially Québecois: Sunday

Our morning began with scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee. There’s something decadent about that first sip of coffee in the morning when you’re on vacation, wouldn’t you agree? We puttered around a bit before gathering our things and heading out to spend a day in Montréal.

Along the way, I spied a cute shop I had seen before and into which I had wanted to poke around. I batted my eyes at the driver, who promptly executed a U-turn, and into the driveway we sped (well, ambled, really). The first item I spied at the Boutique Aux Mirabelles was a wonderful metal framed conversation chair. I have always adored them! We sat and conversed for a moment before moseying inside where housewares, furnishing, and home decor beckoned. My favorite item was an ornate, white key upon which one hangs their keys. I don’t know why, but I have this thing for old-fashioned keys. I have a drawer with several, why? Dunno. I digress…

By the time we reached Montréal, my tummy was rumbling. Fortunately, my host knew the city well and took us to Soupesoup, a charming soup and salad place. Caroline Dumas, the founder of Soupesoup, created a comforting, warm place featuring soups, salads, sandwiches, casseroles, and desserts, prepared with care and using local, seasonal produce.
After lunch, we wandered in and out of several of the art galleries sprinkled throughout Old Montréal. We learned quite a bit about talented local artists whose works we took pleasure in viewing.

Between art galleries and our next event, We had just enough time to absorb a bit of history, so we bee-lined to Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, where we explored the Aztecs, People of the Sun exhibit. They were a fascinating if horrifyingly blood-thirsty people. Aside from sacrificing humans to ensure that the sun would indeed rise each morning, the Aztecs produced some pretty amazing art. Carvings, jewelry, statuary, vases, were all fairly intricate considering the rough or crude tools with which they used to create offerings to their gods. Suffice it to say that I’m extraordinarily glad to be living in the present day as opposed living in a time when human sacrifice (or worse, no indoor plumbing!), reigned supreme.

Next on our agenda was relaxing massages. Upon arrival, I was offered ice water with a sprig of mint and a lime slice. How is it that something so simple as fresh herbs and citrus can make one feel special? Is it the pleasant infusion of flavors or is it the time and attention to this small detail? From the warm welcome to the scented candles and soft music, to the goodbye hugs, this was a most memorable massage. How decadent an experience it was to realize that all I needed to do was relax and enjoy a talented masseur’s exquisite touch. The truth is, I was so relaxed I fell asleep for a bit during the massage. I hope I didn’t snore, or talk in my sleep, or drool.

We slipped off the massage table and into the Noodle Factory in Chinatown. The place is small, but the food was flavorful and plentiful. Our meal was delicious, yet paying for it was a bit of comedy routine. They didn’t accept cards and I didn’t have cash. Oops! Fortunately, less than a quarter of a block away was a bank with several ATMs. Saved! I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of technology, especially when it’s close and convenient.

After dinner, we wandered around McGill University; which, (according to Wikipedia), counts among its alumni 12 Nobel laureates and 138 Rhodes Scholars, three astronauts, two Canadian prime ministers, 13 justices of the Canadian Supreme Court, four foreign leaders, 28 foreign ambassadors, nine Academy Award winners, three Pulitzer Prize winners, and 28 Olympic medalists. But wait, there’s more! William Shatner was not only an alumni; he has a building named after him. How cool is that – walking the same grounds on which the future Captain Kirk once strolled.

IMG_0704We meandered from one end of the campus down a central street to an amazing bookstore. While it’s true I now read more ebooks than the paper variety, I still love bookstores, and I love the way books feel in my hands. I found myself drawn to the cooking section where I discovered several volumes featuring fantastic ideas for preparing vegetables. I wasn’t hungry, and yet the recipes and the accompanying photographs were mouthwatering. I’m not sure how long we stayed, as I completely lost track of time.

The sun had begun to set as we made our way back to the car. What did I want to do next, return to the house, pack, and prepare for my journey home, or sit on a roof-top terrace, sipping wine and enjoying a spectacular view? Be responsible or squeeze enjoyment into every possible moment? Inconvenience my host by keeping him out late and making him get up at the crack of dawn to take me to the airport, or disappoint him by passing on a greatly anticipated pleasure? I took the easy way out and made my host decide, and off to the Terrasse Place d’Armes we went.

Upbeat music and a refreshing breeze greeted us as we stepped out onto the rooftop bar. The clientele was mostly young professionals getting a jump start on their weekend frivolities. Most everyone was dressed in business attire, making one gentleman, who stormed onto the scene is a small blue v-necked t-shirt stretched taught over a well-defined, muscular chest, followed by a small statured young man dressed in dingy white shirt and jeans, seem completely out of place. They were a curious pair who came in, cased the joint, and left immediately. I can only suppose he didn’t find whomever he was seeking. We spent a while people watching, admiring the view, and chatting about everything and nothing, when I noticed I had reached the bottom of my glass. The drive back home went swiftly, and I was packed and setting my alarm not long after arriving.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the week flew by! As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help wishing for just one more day.

Quintessentially Québecois: Wednesday

Previous: Quintessentially Québecois: Tuesday
From the beginning: Quintessentially Québecois: Sunday

Wednesday we took a ferry across the river and walked around Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. There are many independently owned ferries dotting the Richelieu River shoreline.


The capitan encouraged us to exit the car to better enjoy the view.  A fellow traveler asked me if I wanted him to take my photo. Well, I guessed he said that from his actions, as he was speaking in French.

IMG_0684The village is charming, and we lucked out because there was a fiber artist working in one of the shops in which we had wandered.  It looked like she was weaving, but she explained that she was braiding. We learned fingerbraiding or finger weaving a Ceinture fléchée, a traditional French-Canadian “arrow sash.” From Wikipedia:

In Quebec, this wool sash was used by men to tie jackets around their waists to prevent the cold from creeping in.


Our docent spent quite a while chatting with us about the history of  Ceinture fléchée. She spoke only French, and I was glad my host was a willing and deft translator.

Her fingers swiftly worked the fibers and the design unfolding did, indeed, have an arrowesque design. Apparently, French Canadian traders learned finger weaving from the Native Americans.

Okay, so I must confess that for a moment there, I really wanted to learn how to make one of the beautiful creations. My fingers itched to figure out how she was fingerbraiding, yet somehow I managed to refrain from indulging my desire to buy yarn, dash back to the house, and then begin to make my very own L’Assomption sash. Somehow, I kept myself in check.

Debeur_BistroDeLaRive-600Wandering lovely villages is thirsty work. We wandered into the Bistro bar de la Rive to rest our tired feet and quench our dry throats. Wow, that was poetic, wasn’t it? Truth is, I was enchanted with the idea of sitting on a terrace with a scenic view of the river and sipping something a tad bit stronger than lemonade or tea.

BistroSaintLaurantRiver_kHappily, Bistro bar de la Rive made real my picturesque fantasy. I would like to relate how I spent time leisurely sipping my amber ale. Nope, I sucked my beer down like there was no tomorrow. I can’t say I was in any way bothered by this because before I reached the bottom of my glass, it began to sprinkle. We moved from our spot to one better sheltered from the elements, where we could watch the scenery change from realism to impressionism. The warm, rainy interlude lasted until we were ready to mosey.

By the time we returned home, I was well and truly tired. Maybe it was jet lag, who knows? Happily, I was able to vege on the couch while my host made dinner.

Ever have one of the meals where the sauce is so amazing, you want to smother it all over you body? How does bell peppers, onions, tofu, and coconut milk go from ordinary to abso-freakin’-lutely amazing? Clearly, there was wizardry at play. Ask me if I had seconds. G’ahead, ask. Yes, yes I did.

Next: Quintessentially Québecois: Thursday

Quintessentially Québecois: Tuesday

Previous: Quintessentially Québecois: Monday
From the beginning: Quintessentially Québecois: Sunday

IMG_0672I awoke to the sound of rain. It was early, and as I was on vacation, I decided to roll over and return to sleep. I woke up several hours later, remaining in bed to read a little while. When I heard other members of the house stirring, notably the cat meowing to come in for breakfast, I made my way out to the kitchen.

We ate oatmeal for breakfast, garnished with slivered almonds and dried apricots (delicious!). It’s a relatively simple addition, yet my taste buds were doing the happy dance.

The morning was filled with assorted tasks and a gaming session, we played Fireboy and Watergirl.  The game’s theme music reminded me of a game I knew my kids had played. Upon my return, I asked my son what other game had a similar soundtrack. “Mom, we used to play Fireboy and Watergirl.” Oh, so that’s why the music sounded so familiar!

PorchIn the early afternoon, we walked to the village market, which is a few blocks away. Part way into our walk, a motorist gestured and gleefully pantomimed something to us, which we couldn’t interpret. We scratched our heads and shrugged our shoulders, momentarily perplexed. Shortly after, we felt a whisper of mist. No big deal, what’s a little mist? A few steps more, and the mist turned to rain. Should we turn around and go back home? As we were at the halfway point, we decided to take our chances. What’s a little rain? Seconds after deciding to forge ahead, we were walking through a torrential downpour. Thankfully, it was a relatively warm rain, not quite as warm as a shower, although for a moment there I thought if I had brought soap… We took refuge on a neighbors porch until the storm passed. Huddled in the corner, the only dry spot, we laughed and marveled at the intensity of the storm.

What, you may ask, was so important to acquire at the market? Strawberries! Yes, we willing to brave the elements, and become soaked in the process, to buy ripe, ruby red strawberries. Truthfully, when we started out, the sky was clear.

Evidently, we survived the storm; else I wouldn’t be writing this post. It is a treasured moment, one that brings a smile to my lips whenever I recall it.

Did I spend time wandering around the market? Yes, of course! I walked up and down the aisles, looking for regional delicacies. The walk back was uneventful. However, there was a huge puddle I kinda wanted to splash and stomp around in, like a kid trying out a new pair of galoshes. I mean, what the heck, I was already soaked through, why not? I refrained, barely.

We spent the afternoon talking, brainstorming, and taking copious notes on the ideas our conversations had sparked. Generating ideas is hungry work, and there were strawberries calling our names. We topped the strawberries with yogurt mixed with honey, almonds, and dark chocolate. Okay, it was more of a dessert than a late afternoon snack. I’m positive there’s an adage out there about eating dessert first, isn’t there? So, we were simply following Ernestine Ulmer’s advice!

After our dessert-like snack, my host treated me to a Tarot reading. He’s quite talented! If you’ve spent any time poking around my blog, you may have noticed I have long nails. I mention this because I had a difficult time picking up the cards I had selected from the cards fanned out on the table. At the beginning of the reading I slid a few cards to the table edge and then turned them over. However, had I continued with this method, I would have mussed the evolving spread of cards. I resorted to pointing to the cards I wanted, and my host/Tarot card reader turned and then placed them for me. I must confess, for the few moments spent selecting cards I kinda enjoyed being the girly, damsel in distress, and I couldn’t have asked for a more courtly knight in shining armor. (I will detail the reading in a follow-on post. Stay tuned!)

Time flew. Before long, my host was making dinner.  We enjoyed pork loin cutlets with sweet potatoes and zucchini, which my host had artfully arranged on our plates. Sadly, I didn’t remember to photograph our meal. I wonder if my host/chef, would recreate our meals, and then send me photos. Too much to ask? Indeed. Sigh.

We touched on many topics during dinner. The wine paired with our meal loosened my tongue, as if I need much prodding, and I geeked out over interactive eBook ideas. I’m guessing I didn’t bore anyone too much with my plunge into nerdiness, as I didn’t notice glazed eyes, excessive fidgeting, or snoring emitting from slacked jaws, (the usual reaction I get when I geek out, so I generally refrain).

During dinner, we very lightly and very briefly touched on religion. Dane Cook’s Atheist Sneeze popped into my head, and I thought it might be a fun thing to watch. We did, and it was. We talked a moment about comedy writing, timing, and how well written and performed Atheist Sneeze is. Of course, we couldn’t stop at just one routine! We spent about an hour viewing some of his other YouTube offering, none of which I had seen before.

Alas and alack, the hour was late and the bed beckoned. As I crawled into bed, I noticed a complete lack of tension. Apparently, I had successfully left all my worries behind. Ahhh, so this is what it feels like to be stress free.

Quintessentially Québecois: Monday

Previous: Quintessentially Québecois: Sunday

I had forgotten to turn off my alarm for the week, and we were rudely awakened at 6 am. I jumped out of bed and quickly disabled the setting for the rest of the week before returning to bed for another couple of hours. Isn’t sleeping in one of the pleasures in which one on vacation indulges?

For breakfast, we had orange juice, Quinoa pancakes, and coffee. Our repast was delicious. There’s something particularly authentic about having Canadian maple syrup while in Canada. After washing up the dishes, we took a walk in the village.

On the banks of the river, we saw a muskrat. He was so cute!!!! The song Muskrat Love kept playing in my head, the version sung by America.

In a small park local fiber artists had yarn bombed a tree. What fun! There were even small, cleverly crocheted birds decorating the branches. I loved knowing my fellow fiber enthusiasts were close at hand.


We spent the afternoon enjoying a bird watching boat tour. We saw a bald eagle in flight, he was quite majestic! We saw an immature one in flight, too. Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to snap photos of either bird.

IMG_0637The tour guide spoke mostly in French. Happily, my hosts effortlessly translated for me.

The couple sharing our boat were definitely bird enthusiasts. They graciously lent us their binoculars whenever there were birds of interest to view. IMG_0642We watch a bird eating a fish up in a tree for a bit. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny with a cooling breeze.

I had made the mistake of not bringing sunscreen with me. I was burned to a crisp by the end of our tour.

I had the pleasure of visiting Cégep de Sorel-Tracy. The campus is lovely, and I enjoyed wandering the empty halls, not unlike a specter of lessons past. I resisted the urge to do something remarkably silly. If there had been an open lecture room, perhaps I would have drawn on the whiteboards. Maybe I would have written “Help! I’m being held prisoner behind this whiteboard!” backward. Then again, I’d be writing in English, backward, how amusing would that be? Alas and alack, the rooms were all locked.

We stopped at a grocery story on the way back to the house. I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of wandering around grocery stores, especially in far away places. I like to see what’s similar, what’s different, look at the various brands, examine the different types of packaging and labeling. I was tickled to have had lots of time to indulge my rather odd predilection.

IMG_0660That night we dined on duck a l’orange, served with whole wheat couscous, roasted turnips, and asparagus.

Seriously yummy!

I helped make the turnips (yay, me!). Here’s what I remember of the recipe:

Cubed, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and a pinch of sugar. Roasted in the oven until tender.

I have no idea what other spices might have been used, or the oven temperature. Hmmm, maybe I’ll need to take another journey to further research these mysteries.

Next: Quintessentially Québecois: Tuesday

Quintessentially Québecois: Sunday

This year I flew to Québec for my annual migration in June, the week before my 50th birthday. I took an 11:30 am flight instead of my usual 7 am departure time. I liked not getting up at the butt-crack of dawn, yet I felt I was imposing on my host for arriving so close to midnight. The flight was easy, only slightly delayed because of an electrical storm. It took a while for the baggage to make it onto the conveyor belt, something about not wanting the crew to be electrocuted while they were unloading everyone’s belongings. Safety and all that, n’est-ce pas?

This year I had the distinct pleasure of being picked up at the airport instead of catching a cab. Don’t get me wrong, cab rides can be quite enjoyable. Yet, there was something extra special having someone waiting for my arrival, and the hour-long drive to our destination was sprinkled with witty repartee, laughter, and comfortable silences. While I was staying in Saint-Ours, I would like to point out that I did not see any bears, sainted or otherwise.

We arrived at what was to be my home for the week, and I was quickly settled into bed — it was well past midnight when we pulled into the driveway. There was one small flaw in all the plans and preparations I had made for my trip: I forgot to disable the work alarm on my phone. Yup, you guessed it: my wake up tune warbled at 6 am, arrgh! I quickly silenced it, and then promptly turned over and went back to sleep.

Next: Quintessentially Québecois: Monday

Adventure Time Kitty: Homeward Bound

I march to the ticket counter with my bags in tow, slightly conflicted. I had enjoyed my week in Montréal, and I secretly wished I could vacation there for another week, or maybe a month – heck, I fantasized about moving there. Yet my heart, rather those who fill my heart with great joy, are waiting for me in San Diego. Yes, my son and two daughters were eager for my return. How do I know? Simple: The increased number of texts and phone calls. Oh, and the following phrase typed or recited with each call or text: “When are you coming home?”

Images of their faces and remembrance of fun times we’ve had together danced through my head as I placed my bag, heavy with souvenirs for my family, on the scale where it is weighed, tagged, and then disappeared. I don’t give it a second thought. I have faith that it will be at the correct airport at the correct time.

I go through the motions every traveler must when flying. Shortly before boarding the plane, the announcement that we must forfeit our carry-on bags, as the flight was overbooked, squawked over the loudspeakers. Whatever, I think as I let the attendant tag my bag and whisk it behind the counter. I still have my shoulder bag with all the necessary accoutrements for air travel:

  • 20140823_114211Apple
  • Ear buds
  • Hazelnut butter sammy on sprouted grain bread (seriously yummy!)
  • iPad
  • Knitting (which I totally ignored because I made a stupid mistake and I don’t know how to fix it. Humph!)
  • Smart phone
  • Trail mix
  • Water

You know, the essentials.

I board the plane and settle into my seat. The first segment, from Montréal to Toronto, was short, however, the flight was about 10 minutes late landing. No big deal, flights are frequently late. The customs gig was a bit confusing. My bag checked at the gate was on the conveyor belt, but my bag checked at the ticket counter wasn’t. It took me a while to realize that the ticket-checked bag would be waiting for me upstairs, in US customs. Well, that’s different, as before my bag was waiting for me to take it to Canadian customs. No worries. I followed the signs to asile 7. I found customs and waited there for my name to appear on the marquee. It never showed up. I stuff down my panic, as it was moments away from the time to begin boarding my San Diego flight.

I explained my plight to a staff member, who directed me to the ticket counter. Adam, the guy at the ticket counter, did everything he possibly could aside from flagging down the plane I was supposed to be on and carrying me on board. Alas, I missed my flight. There were several moments there when I entertained the idea of bursting into tears. A good cry is cleansing, n’est pas? I didn’t, yay, me! Adam worked his magic, to include hunting down my bag, arranging for a complementary hotel room, and making sure I understood all the special instructions he gave me.

I thanked Adam for delaying his dinner break, and for making sure to at least book me on a flight that got me to the West coast – specifically, San Francisco. Yes, it arrived at around midnight and yes, I couldn’t catch a flight to first LA and then to San Diego until after 6 am the next morning, yet just knowing that I was traveling in the direction toward my ultimate destination made me feel better. The fact that this flight, too, was over booked, and that they ran out of meals before getting to me, didn’t faze me. After all, I had brought sustenance with me. I was good to go.

I made it to San Francisco, where the airline couldn’t locate my bag, find a hotel in which I could spend the night, or locate the flight Adam had booked me on (it was cancelled, go figure). However, they did give me a $15 meal voucher. I know, I know, I might have pitched a fit, but how could I, when several of the airline personnel worked diligently to solve all my travel problems? Plus, they were nice, and laughed at my silly jokes.

While there are several eating establishments to choose from, they were all closed. Except for Subway, my least favorite, yet only choice. Truth be told, food at an airport Subways in the middle of the night when you’re pretty darn hungry is this side of outstanding. After eating, I found a place to curl up on the floor and catch a few zzz’s. There are two important things to know about sleeping on the floor at an airport: It’s cold and hard. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that I napped, because when I awoke, it was closer to check-in time.

After boarding the plane to LA and situating myself in my chair, I promptly fell asleep. I awoke upon touch down, no matter how skilled the pilot, there’s that jarring thud when the wheels hit the pavement, and asked my fellow passenger if I had snored. He claimed that I didn’t, bless him. I had visions of myself sawing wood, and drooling out of the corner of my mouth. Glad to know that didn’t happen.

I was happy to be in an airport where the eating establishments were open. I had enough time to score a latte and something that passed for breakfast before boarding the plane to my final destination. Prop plains are small, but the personality of our flight attendant was enormous. She was a riot and I had a good time bantering with her.

I saw my hubby and my youngest daughter (she’s so cute!) waiting for me at the baggage carousel. I swept my daughter into a ginormous hug and smothered her with kisses. She was a good sport about letting me maul her for a whole 22 seconds before pushing me away. Okay, okay, I’ll behave. (At least she held my hand.) The good news is that I arrived in one piece with my sanity (mostly) intact. The bad news is, my bag didn’t. We made a lost bag claim, and then my entourage took me home.

It took a couple of days, but my bag did arrive, and I was able to (finally) bestow upon my family members their gifts from abroad.

Next time I go somewhere, I’m going to present proper offerings to the gods of travel. You know, just to hedge my bets.

Adventure Time Kitty: Thursday in Montréal

Previous: Wednesday in Montréal

Thursday came too fast. I wanted the week to crawl by; alas, time marched on without a nod toward my wishes. It was definitely a morning for coffee at Second Cup, my new favorite coffee place. I struck up a conversation with a fellow coffee aficionado, and we spent the morning chatting and laughing. I learned that he reads Tarot cards, and that he just so happened to have his deck with him. Hey, opportunity knocked, so I accepted his invitation for a reading.

I know that there are all sorts of taboos surrounding Tarot cards. But really, it’s just an interesting way to examine where you are in a particular point in time. After I shuffled the subset of major arcana cards, he spread them out and had me select seven and place them in a particular order. We ended up with the following layout:


G: The Lover

E: Emperor, F: Chariot

B: Judgement, D: The Devil, C: Temperance

A: Justice


Order: Card Position Description
A: Justice How people see you Someone who takes care of business, who can run things, sometimes too harshly (the sword).
B: Judgement One of your qualities The capacity to judge in the right way, without wickedness but without indulgence
C: Temperance One of your defects
Giving too much energy to take care of people, trying to be the mom of everyone
D: The Devil The Happy Medium (the advantages you can take from both B and C) Knowing when it is time for you to become “selfish” (to take care of yourself by allowing you earthly pleasures)
E: Emperor & F: Chariot The Straight and Narrow (where D might lead you) Domination, conquest, coming back home with confidence and strength
G: The Lover Your Secret Weapon (your emotional center of gravity) Love! Embracing people in true and honest caring

The one thing that struck me about the Devil and the Lover cards, is that they look as if they have minions. When I think of minions, I think minionof the movie Despicable Me. Heck, yeah, I totally dig those little dudes! They’re so cute.

I think that the spread was informative, and the reader’s interpretation was insightful and interesting. I can’t help but want to sum it all up and glean a greater meaning, but that’s just wasn’t in the cards (that was punny). Instead, I took a look at how others see me, and as long I as come across as fair and non-judgmental, then I am satisfied that I’m where I need to be at this point in my life.

My new, Tarot reading, coffee drinking buddy and I parted ways with a promise to keep in touch. Want to know something cool? We truly are keeping in touch. We’ve tossed several emails back and forth between us. It’s nice when you make a new friend during vacation, and they become an integrated part of your real life.

Despite my two soy lattes, my stomach was in great need of sustenance. I could have made breakfast, but I chose to hustle everyone out of bed and out into the general direction of food and shopping. Indeed, shopping day was upon us! I needed gifts to bring back to my munchkins and my hubby.

There’s this trick I learned when I visited Hawaii many years ago. My island host taught me to shop for souvenirs at Longs drug store, because the prices were 1/3 less maplesyrupthan the tourist stops. There isn’t a Longs in Montreal, (aren’t the out of business?) but there were drug stores of similar caliber, which did indeed carry things like Maple Syrup.  Just for the fun of it, I did a price check at a nearby pharmacy, and compared that price to the local market, a touristy place, and the airport. You can guess that the airport was astronomical. Roughly, it was 6$ at the pharmacy, 8-9$ at the store and the tourist place, and 16$ at the airport — for the same size bottle! Looks like the trick my island host taught me for buying souvenirs works in other parts of the world, too. After the Price Is Right experiment, we walked a few blocks to Cacao 70. Oh, yet another place where the 20140821_135614hot chocolate is decedent. I loved the look and feel of the place. I ordered a fruit, yogurt, and granola bowl.

I was expecting something appetizing, yet I was served a mast20140821_141251erpiece.

They drizzled chocolate on top! Seriously yummy. From the tart yogurt mixed with sweet honey, to the fresh sweet-tart berries and just ripe bananas, to the crunch of the granola, each bite evoked a new taste and texture sensation.

After enjoying a healthy and satisfying breakfast, it was off to the mall. Yup, I wanted to go malling – I had gifts for kids to buy. There’s no way I could go home empty handed.

I had such fun in the t-shirt shop. The owner, a sweet man of Asian descent, helped me find the styles I liked in the sizes I needed. He had a great laugh and made sure I was well taken care of.

I don’t know exactly why, but I was jonesing to look around in Canadian Tire. So we did. It’s kinda, maybe, sorta like Sears, but not exactly. There’s only so much shopping one can do before [this] one gets shopped out. Time to head back home and do that packing thing.

In no time, I was packed and ready for tomorrow’s trip back to San Diego. If it were’t for the magnetic pull of my family, I could easily have stayed in vacation bliss for a decade. Maybe longer.

NextHomeward Bound

Adventure Time Kitty: Wednesday in Montréal

Previous: Tuesday in Montréal

Something happened to me. Some strange, metamorphosis occurred changing me from a goal oriented, type A personality, to a slug. Not just an ordinary slug, a lie-a-bed slug. I could have jumped out of bed and traipsed all over the city getting into all sorts of mischief, yet I chose not to.

Now I could have just snuggled into the rather comfy bed and stayed there; however, then I would have run the risk of missing the amazing ham and cheese crepes my host was making. I don’t know about you, but homemade crepes, with melted cheese oozing and bubbling is not something I’m about to turn my back on.

I may have been driven from my cozy nest with the need to satisfy my hunger, but that in no way meant that I was going to get dressed. Nope. Nuh huh. I stayed in my jamies. Shocking, I know. Further, I decided that, as it was so late in the day, we might as well just pull out a deck of cards and make it a game day. Not just any card games, mind you, oh, no!

It was most definitely time to commune with my inner geeky game girl and play Magic the Gathering. We played a round, and I got spanked. I don’t mind losing, but that wasn’t just losing, that was humiliating. Seeing the cards that I was up against, I needed to fortify my arsenal! I wanted spells! Not just any spells, oh, no – I wanted spells that would neutralize creatures and wreck havoc on my opponent’s life force. Sadly, I’m not skilled enough to figure out how to find what I’m looking for or how to integrate these coveted spell cards into my deck. Happily, my host did. So, off to the comic book store (that also sold MTG cards) we did go.

The gent behind the counter was rockin’ a sweet fedora. When I mentioned that I thought he looked stylish in said chapeau, the older lady behind the counter took another look at him. She and I decided that yes, he is handsome and winsome. I purchased my selections and we marched right back home again so that I could try and avenge my honor.

We bought some pretty trippy cards, but I ended up not using them. Something about the walk to the store combined with chatting and flirting with the staff infused my card sharp skill with cosmic mojo. Seriously, I whipped the pants off my opponents the next two rounds! Yeah, I was feeling pretty sassy. Or was that hunger I was feeling? Perhaps quite a bit of both. Time to brave the cold, cruel world and forage for our dinner.

We moseyed to the Korean BBQ place within walking distance – wow, I think I could get used to being within walking distance to everything – where we bellied up to a table, and I promptly ordered a beer. Well, ya gotta start somewhere, right?

We dined at Seoul Chako Montreal. They served all of our requests ikorean2n small bowls, which we then cooked at the inset grill at our table. Totally cool!korean1

I know, I have this fascina- tion with diminutive things. You can imagine the field day I had in a restaurant that served me fresh foods in small, cute dishes. It’s like playing in my own doll house. Anyway, the fresh veggies, marinated meats, and steamed rice were delicious. We enjoyed cooking at our table, sharing tasty tidbits, and chatting amiably. If you haven’t had a chance to sample Korean BBQ, I highly recommend that you do.

juliette-and-chocolatesAfter dinner (we closed the place) we took a slow stroll to Juliette & Chocolat, where we topped off the evening with a sweet treat. There is nothing like thick, rich, and creamy hot chocolate. Until I tasted the amazing beverage that was served to me, I didn’t know what hot chocolate was.

I ordered the Mangaro 65% – Madagascar, which the menu indicated was cultivated on a former mango plantation, tastes of mango. Hints of gingerbread and citrus fruits.

Oh, myy! Yes, this! This! A thousand times this! Why or why isn’t there a Juliette & Chocolat close to where I live?!? It’s just wrong to introduce me to the garden of chocolate Eden and not let me stay there forever! Fine, just fine! I’ll make another annual migration to Montréal and have hot chocolate every day!

Next: Thursday in Montréal

Adventure Time Kitty: Tuesday in Montréal

Previous: Monday in Montréal

I rose early and made coffee using the French press I brought with me. I suppose that I could have ventured out and tried a different café, but the luxury of staying in my jamies while sipping coffee in bed won out over getting dressed. What can I say? The house was quiet, its other occupants still held tightly in Morpheus’s embrace.

I could have delved into a novel. I might have surfed the net or posted to one of the various social networking sites in which I lurk. But no, I went for more mindless entertainment: variations on a theme of tower defender. Yeah, leveled up defending my onion against monsters who wanted to take a bit out of her. Then I defended my fortresses against ogres and other meanies. At some point, I moseyed into the kitchen for more coffee and something that passed for breakfast. Geeking out over a video game while sipping freshly pressed coffee… I’m such a nerd. Get this, I got others sucked into my monster madness as they awoke.

For the duration of this visit I had the great pleasure of being Hobbitesque, in that I got to have second breakfast. Of course there was a mango involved! This time, my host had the pleasure of doing the cool mango trick. After eating, It didn’t take long to clean up, dress, and then gambol out the door into the waiting world. I thought that we walked from one end of Rue Sainte-Catherine to the other, but when I searched our route on Google maps, it’s clear that there was much left to explore.

Rue Sainte-Catherine is the primary commercial artery of Downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It crosses the central business district from west to east, beginning at the corner of Claremont Avenue and de Maisonneuve Boulevard in the city of Westmount, traversing the borough of Ville-Marie, and ending on Notre-Dame Street just east of Viau Street in the borough of Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

I thoroughly enjoyed stumbling across unexpected architectural treasures tucked in between more modern buildings. I don’t think too many people thought that I was crazy for stopping in the middle of foot traffic to snap photos. While visually exploring Christ Church I mentioned to my buddies that it looked Gothic. The discussion ensued that it couldn’t be Gothic because of the era in which it was constructed. Of course I had to search the interwebs to discover the secrets of it’s style. Huh, looks like I’m not all that off.  >insert smug smile here<

The prese20140819_182711nt [Christ Church] cathedral, an Neo-gothic structure, was designed by architect Frank Wills (1822–1856), who also designed Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Before construction began, Willis died, and Montreal architect, Thomas Seaton Scott (1826–1895) was commissioned to carry out his design.[4] The structure was completed in 1859 and consecrated in 1867.[

We walked to the location of where the Place des Arts and Orchestre Symphonique du Montréal call home. I was there during fashion week, and we got to watch the crew doing the technical tests on the enormous screen at the end of an equally large cat walk. Now, why stand around watching when you can do so dining alfresco? What’s better than center stage? How about Taverne F! Talk about friendly-trendy, this small place packed a lot of personality. But, will it pass the taste test?

What better way to try a place than to share what’s ordered? We scored the octopus and the burger (laced with foie gras, aka cocaine – sooo yummy!). I’ve only ever eaten octopus a la sushi. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was a bit surprised to see a tentacle with suckers still intact. It was served in the cutest little cast iron skillet, accompanied with slivered onions and Portuguese olives.

20140819_190132“Would you like to try the octopus?” My host inquired. Moment of truth, do I try it or do I decline? I can’t be the only one at the table to turn down this delicacy, now can I? Besides, it was in a cute little skillet! I think I expected it to be chewy, the octopus was in fact tender and skillfully seasoned. I’m not big on olives, so I avoided those and went for the onions instead.

We listened to the crew of FDM (I can’t remember what that stands for) as they played popular selections over their sound systems, or the organist played 20140819_192101selections from his repertoire. (Really, a friggin’ pipe organ was brought out and tuned for this event!)

It was just a snack, really. Just enough to fortify us for the walk back and to tide us over until dinner. I saw several more building I wanted to snap photos of, but it was just dark enough that the images were grainy and not worthy of posting.  We walked back via René Lévesque Boulevard. Many modern behemoths lined the street. I noticed the images of the beautiful, old buildings reflected in the glass of these technological giants; as if in silent testimony that we cannot go forward without acknowledging our past.


St. James the Apostle was first opened for worship in May 1864. It is a Gothic Revival church built of grey limestone. Originally, it stood on open land and was given the nickname of St. Crickets in the Fields. This name arose when a British army regiment was garrisoned in Montreal at the time, owing to the American Civil War, and the officers took to playing cricket beside the newly built church.

Next: Wednesday in Montréal

Adventure Time Kitty: Monday in Montréal

Previous: Sunday in Montréal

I awoke bright and early. Well, it was 9 am in Montréal where I was staying, but 6 am West coast time, where I live. I both slept in and woke early. How’s that for Second Cuptime management? My hosts were still fast asleep – where does that phrase come from? Is it possible to be “slow asleep?” Isn’t that truly more accurate, as your breathing and pulse slows down considerable while sleeping?

Where was I? Oh, yes, rising early, throwing on clothes, and walking to the closest coffee shop for the magic elixir that brings brains online and gives many of us personalities. I scored a latte and sat on the patio. Bliss.

I probably sat there sipping coffee and people watching for an hour or so. I listened in on conversations spoken in multiple languages, none of which I understood. It was a peaceful yet energizing moment.

I gathered my thoughts and my belongings, and then headed back to the homestead. Meals were a collaborative event, and I had mango duty. I learned a mango trick via The Crazy Russian Hacker, a cool vlog to which my son introduced me. Yeah, peeling a mango using a glass went over big with the peeps. So much so, we scored another mango for Tuesday’s breakfast just so we could experiment. Mango experimentation, is that even legal?

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, we walked to a park. I watched a woman play hide-and-seek with her spaniel, way too cute. The park is situated on an overpass, and over the edge of the wall were cars zooming toward their ultimate destinations. What a study in contrasts as below are the harried drivers and above the playful park dwellers.

Maison Shaughnessy
Maison Shaughnessy 1923, Boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest, Montréal, Quebec, H3H, Canada Formally Recognized: 1974/02/06

Nestled among modern behemoths are beautiful building of days past. Now home of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, this particular gem “reflects the taste for architecture Second popularized in France in the late nineteenth century and very popular at Montreal Empire

I had no idea what “architecture Second” means, so I searched Google and found this tidbit from Wikipedia:

Second Empire is an architectural style, most popular between 1865 and 1880, and so named for the architectural elements in vogue during the era of the Second French Empire. As the Second Empire style evolved from its 17th century Renaissance foundations, it acquired an eclectic mix of earlier European styles, most notably the Baroque often combined with mansard roofs and low, square based domes

On all of our city walks I noticed quite a bit of construction. Montréal will be spectacular once they finish repairing it. Kidding! It is a beautiful city, one I hope to see again.

Next: Tuesday in Montréal

Adventure Time Kitty: Sunday in Montréal

It was an easy journey from San Diego to Toronto, where I cleared customs and security, and then made it to the gate to await the flight to Montréal. Canadian customs is a breeze. There isn’t much to say about everything going smoothly. I was on a celebrity flight, as I shared air space with Sophia Lucia from Dance Moms, some NBA player with whom I am not familiar, and the Toronto Volleyball team. The cab driver did miss the exit, so I got an impromptu sight seeing excursion in a round about way. Other than that, I arrived on my host’s doorstep ready to eat, drink, and be merry.

salmonpasteappeWhat is a trip to Montreal without dining at Kazu? When revisiting a restaurant, there’s always the question of “will it be as good as I remember?”

Kazu continues to delivers on presentation and taste. We began with the Calcium salmon -Paste with tortilla


KazuBarThe interesting layering of flavors are easily scooped up with the tortilla. It’s bad manners to lick the plate, so I didn’t, even though I really wanted to.

We sat at the bar, which is where all the action takes place. It’s like dinner and a show, watching the chefs create visual masterpieces. Next came the pork bones, and then the salmon and tuna salad. The flavors and textures were truly orgasmic. Seriously yummy.


Next came Kobo steak that I think was my favorite. No, it was the appetizer… no, wait, the salad… What can I say? Kazu maintains its position as a go-to spot for dining while visiting Montréal.

A happy and sated Kat made it back to the homestead just in time to snore during watch The Guild, which is way too hilarious and features two from the cast of The Big Bang Theory, Simon Helberg, aka Howard Wolowitz, and Wil Wheaton. I’m not sure how many episodes I saw verses how many I slept through. No worries, I caught up to where everyone else was the next day. There are advantages to being an early riser in a group of night owls.

Next: Monday in Montreal

Riding on the metro

Subway travel may be a ubiquitous form of a daily commute for some, but for me it is an unusual occurrence. Was I looking around the metro station with wide-eyed wonder and grinning like a loon, every indication that I’m a tourist broadcasting to any thief open to receiving such signals? Pretty much, yeah. But instead of getting mugged, many people stopped me to say that I have a beautiful smile. I was thinking about moving there just for the compliments alone. That is until I realized that when it snows it’s measured in yards instead of inches. Yeah, yeah, I know – they measure in meters, but the sentence just didn’t have the same punch using meters and centimeters as it does using yards and inches.

I derailed myself on that subwayBuilding1 of thought. Where was I? Oh, yeah, now I remember. We were on the metro traveling to Vieux-Montréal.

Old Montréal is a major tourist attraction, with some of its buildings dating to the 17th century; it is one of the oldest urban areas in North America.

The day was warm, and there was a cooling breeze that kept us from overheating. There were all sorts of people milling the streets and shops, a kaleidoscope of colors and styles blended with conversations spoken in many different languages. There were sidewalk musicians and 7 (count ’em: 7!) booths to have your caricature drawn. Yet somehow it didn’t feel like a tourist trap.

Building2I might not be able to tell the difference between a Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian style column, but I do take pleasure in looking at beautiful buildings. Old Montréal has many lovely building to admire, from Gothic to Neo Classic, and beyond. Wandering around old cities admiring the architecture and exploring quaint shops is thirsty work. When we spied a Chinese tea shop, we couldn’t resist its lure. The aromas that greeted us were welcoming, and the ambiance embraced us like old friends.

TeaShop1Ming Tao Xuan Tea House was not only visually and aromatically tempting; it was appealing for its education in teas, as well. The menu translates the tea’s name from Chinese to English and details the region in which it’s grown. The menu further TeaShop2describes how the tea is brewed, the flavors steeping produces, and the tea’s medicinal properties. Should I find myself in Montréal again, I will return to Ming Tao Xuan. I enjoyed myself here immeasurably.

For dinner, we selected Jardin Nelson. While it’s known for its beautiful garden rooms, and the plant-scaping was magical, I preferred to sit on the patio where I could people watch. The food was good, and from the dishes that we ordered the calamari and rabbit crêpes were my favorite.

The day was enjoyable, the company witty and charming. The metro ride back was quieter than the morning’s trip, a companionable silence settling between us.