Last weekend basically all we did was packing, which was both hard to pull off with the kids and very boring for them. Luckily on Sunday morning the mom of one of LP's daycare friend called asking if he wanted to come over and play? Best timing ever.
On the way there, I repeated the rules: no quarelling, be polite and listen, don't wait too long if you need to use the bathroom... When M picked him up before dinner he was really happy, and my husband reported back that "everything went well".
Later, when I put him to bed (usually our best, sweetest bonding moment of the day), he said: "I was good, mom. We didn't fight."
"There was just a leetle accident, but it was OK."
"Well D got hurt, and he cried, but then he calmed down, and he was fine."
(Eyes open wide) "But you didn't hurt him did you? What happened?"
"It's OK, it's just that we were playing and he pretended to be a vampire and he scared me so he got hurt because I was trying to fend him off".
"..." (A bit horrified)
"But don't worry! He was still able to open his eye".
PS Notice his very careful, non-incriminating choice of words all the way.
PPS Test post, written from my phone while lying in bed at 5:30 AM, with the new Blogger app. Not so bad.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Last weekend basically all we did was packing, which was both hard to pull off with the kids and very boring for them. Luckily on Sunday morning the mom of one of LP's daycare friend called asking if he wanted to come over and play? Best timing ever.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
It's been around 25 degrees C (78) and sunny every day for nearly a week. Yesterday when we left work it was 27! June weather. Even when the Canada goose first appeared on March 8 (the earliest we've ever seen them), we never could have imagined this.
This is not "ahead", this is rather "unheard of", literally. It's never happened, far from it, ever since they've begun recording stats in the middle of the 19th century. This year is according to all the experts, "one for the books" (link in French).
Sometimes, winter catches us somewhat by surprise, in the sense that a first snowfall can happen early and suddenly (and unpleasantly). But summer taking us by surprise? Just never happened, period. Within a couple of days, the kids went from wearing winter coats with woolen hats and mittens to shorts and t-shirts. I just don't know how to dress F: LP still has things from last year that fit, but not her obviously -she wore 6-12 months clothing, while she wears a size 18-24 months now. She doesn't have wellies for daycare, or a summer hat, or... anything for that matter (and as you can imagine shopping is not a priority right now). Even I had to open my packed box of summer clothing, incredulous that last week I wore boots, while today I'm wearing open-toe pumps.
The streets here downtown are full of such unusual sights for March: bare legs and bare shoulders, flip-flops, hundreds of bikes, people eating and lingering outdoors. No snow whatsoever, while some years this time is very much still winter-like. And usually, all of it happens very gradually over many weeks, with every little milestone fully savored: first ditching the winter coat for a lighter one, then ditching the scarf, then wearing shoes, then not requiring a coat at all, then finally getting into summer mode, including barbecueing and eating outdoors, sleeping with the windows open, etc. Now everyone is a little confused about it happening at all once.
This is all so increasibly pleasant, and so... weird. Seemingly echoing my post from last week, I read the following tweet from a local food critic yesterday: "This weather is just like most fish you buy: so good, but knowing what we know, also hard to appreciate."
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Yesterday M went to the new house. He wanted to drop off some of the wood flooring (this
may sound weird but apparently it needs to adjust to the house’s natural
humidity level for several days before being installed) and was meeting with a painter who wanted to see the premises before providing an estimate. The
children and I didn’t go: the car was full to the brink already, and someone
called about our second fridge selling ad, asking if they could come and pick
it up an hour later, so I needed to rush home to empty and clean it.
When he came back, he looked really serene, despite his tiredness. I was in F’s room, preparing her clothes for the night and the next day, while the kids goofed around like they love to do together. “How was it?,” I asked. His eyes were sparkling. He told me that now, it was completely empty (the owners moved out some time ago, but when we went back last month there were still some things left here and there), making it look so big, and making it suddenly much easier to see it as ours, to see ourselves there. “It’s great, so great. And so full of light,” he gushed. While he waited for the painter to arrive with our agent, they realized that “duh, they had not even gone to see the view”. So they went to sit outside on the deck. And it was… amazing, he said. When the painter arrived, the first thing he remarked was “That’s quite a backyard you got there!!!”, and they all laughed, because the golf course is not ours obviously, but it still creates this wonderful impression of… space. Of calm. Of peacefulness. Of mellowness. Of being close to nature, too. Things we both had growing up and had always hoped we could give to our kids, as well.
While outside he also met the teenage son of our future neighbours, who introduced himself and told him that “they were so happy and excited about our arrival”. (I also met a very nice lady from down the street when I enrolled LP in school; her daughter, whose name is also F, will be in his class).
I dropped what I was doing and jumped to throw myself into his arms. We stayed this way for a whole minute, hugging, smiling. We are finally here. After seven years of “compromise” and eight months of waiting, we are embarking in this together. And it’s so wonderful.
We have the first one of our three notary appointments tomorrow morning (first, signing the new mortgage, then selling on Monday, then finally buying and getting the house’s keys next Friday), and I suppose all will be pretty much a blur for the next few weeks. So I’ll check in whenever possible, but posting will probably be sporadic, at best. Our house is such a mess right now, and there are so many things to do and to take care of, that I think I’m done mourning it. I’m just ready for everything to begin.
Monday, March 19, 2012
When I get outside at the end of the day, walking towards the place where M picks me up, it always strikes me: so many people on the street are smoking. I guess this is the "smoking hour", the time to unwind with a post-work cigarette or something.
I know that Quebecers have some sort of a reputation for all being smokers. Like in that post, for instance (which, by the way, probably due to the fact that I'm a racist-terrorist-humorless-asshole-fu**er-who-has-to-be-bribed-to-stay-within-this-country, I find slightly offensive, and not so much funny). But looking it up, I couldn't really find any evidence of this being true. So these stats should not be taken as exact science, because they do not all come from the same source, so they could be from different years or have different assessment criteria, etc., but here it is, anyway: 20% of Americans smoke, 17% of Canadians do. Between the provinces, Quebec is at 19%, pretty much average, sandwiched between BC (14%), and Saskatchewan/Manitoba/Nova Scotia (21%). From what I read there is one unique and sad twist in our smoking style though: women here smoke much more than basically everywhere else in the world. It's true, when reading about it I found it odd that they said much more men than women were smokers -it's not like that at all, here. Anyway, to conclude the trivia bit, my own intuition seemed to be more exact: Europeans, on the other hand, tend to smoke more and have more relaxed attitudes about it. The UK and Italy are at 22%, Germany at 27%, France at 30%, and Greece at a staggering 45%! But wait: over two-thirds of the male population in the Asia/Pacific region smoke!
Smokers took a different interest for me since last week, when I learned that one of the largest class action lawsuits against tobacco manufacturers to ever come to trial was going to take place here. It has been in the works since 1997, and the cigarette makers have done everything they could to prevent it from happening, but here we are. This is big: $27 billion in damages could potentially be awarded, and very prominent witnesses are set to testify, for instance Jeffrey Wigand, the former tobbaco executive turned pundit whose story was made into the Hollywood blockbuster The Insider, as well as Robert Proctor, who penned the essay The Golden Holocaust.
Smoking kind of bloggles my mind (full disclosure: I'm the daughter of a pulmonologist). I mean I don't want to ostracize or vilify smokers personally -I've dated smokers, I've had roomates who smoked, etc. But to tell you the truth I don't really want them to smoke anywhere near me or my kids, you know, either. I get the principle of addiction, I get how hard it is to stop. But from some kind of an anthropological perspective, I just find it so... bizarre. I always wonder how someone from another era would view these groups of people all standing outside, for a good part of the year usually underdressed and shivering, who have to stop whatever they're doing to go puff on an improbable lighted tube. Which makes them permanently stink, yellows their teeth and their fingers, wrinkles their face prematurely, makes them basically bleed money, and... has at least a 50% chance of eventually killing them, after going through (my father's words) "horrible abjection and atrocious, unbearable pain".
What is the point of this? Why? I guess I just don't understand. It may have once been cool and glamorous, but frankly nowadays I can't think of anything more uncool and off-putting. There's no specialness, no status associated with it anymore, just the plainly nasty, highly non-sensical side. Even the representative of the plaintiffs conceded: "It's very painful to be a smoker in this society, nowadays."
I'm so ambivalent: I want anti-smoking laws to be even more strict, but I want people who smoke to receive as much help as possible to stop. I don't want smokers to feel like they're so bad, but I don't want them to get away with self-justifying excuses, either, like I hear so often: "I'm usually so responsible but it's my only vice, everyone needs a flaw, I'm perfectly healthy anyway, at least this way I don't gain weight, it doesn't affect my kids, we all need to die of something, my grandfather smoked all his life and lived to be 90/never smoked and had a fatal heart attack at 42, can I be allowed to live a little?, if I stopped I would lose my social circle", etc.
And I most definitely want the tobacco manufacturers to pay, but at the same time I'm not sure how I feel about smokers, who, if the plaintiffs win, could receive thousands of dollars for their addiction. Yes, cigarettes are highly addictive, the industry was most likely crass and dishonest and everyone would be WAY better off without them. But (unless you've been smoking since the 60s) all of this is very well known now. So I'm having a hard time seeing smokers as victims (especially since I know plenty of people who successfully stopped, so it's hard but certainly not impossible!), and seeing them somewhat forgoing their responsibility...
I don't mean to be a smoke shamer here, after all really, it's none of my business, and I hope my tone doesn't come across as superior or condescending ('coz that would be the most hypocrite thing ever). Plus the villain here is obviously not the individual smoker. But also, I think these things should be sayable, no? I don't have to go on and on about how disgusting I think it is, but can it still be said how bad it is for you, even if this could make smokers unhappy? Yes I know that they know it already. But the fact is in my overall experience, I've still seen a lot more excuse-makers in some degree of denial or another than overzealous, rageful, "discriminatory" anti-smokers...
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Here it is!
(In all honesty I think a teacher helped him draw the actual house).
As you can see, M is "cutting a tree, which has grown too long". F is "playing outside on the grass". I am, quite evidently, "upstairs, making LP's bed". And he "has come downstairs to drink some water".
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I see a striking difference in the winters from when I first moved here in 1994 to the ones we now have. The trend really seems to have accelerated in the last few years, too. I mean, despite a normal human tendency to proclaim thruth from unverified/partial facts, something is very clearly happening. We keep breaking record upon record, reaching new, up until recently unconceivable milestones. We keep having milder and milder winters, while other places never used to cold and snow might have to settle with them happening more frequently. Even if i'm not a winter person at all, I have this uneasiness in my throat when asking: what if the scientists were wrong about the timeline of all of this?
Monday, March 12, 2012
When the Conservative party formed the federal government in 2006, of course I was afraid. But even with a weak opposition, they were still leading with a minority government, so the natural order of things kept them in check. Even so, one can only realize that Canada's once stellar reputation on an international level has been decreasing ever since.
In May last year, after an especially divided general election, the party finally got its majority. It felt like a really bad hangover, but it was true. And we would only have to brace for the next four years.
Canada is changing, and clearly not for the better. Things that would have been unimaginable here, in this country that once (arguably) boasted itself to be "the best in the world", now keep happening one after another. One stepback after another.
From the government forcing Radio-Canada (the French-language public television) to censor access to a (labelled as "risqué") TV show online, even if no single viewer had complained.
To the fast-tracking of a law abolishing a gun-control registry, despite very vocal and widespread opposition about this making no sense.
To passing a bill that basically destroys royalties for electronic media, among many moves arrongantly signaling that artists and culture in general are among the least important of the government's priorities...
To repeated actions and attempts to sabotage the Kyoto protocol, thus completely reversing an established reputation for Canada as a leader on environmental issues.
To setting up a very opaque and complicated way of obtening information about the gouvernment -apparently the press is also considered as something of very little importance, as an enemy to be wary of.
To this -a terrifying lockdown on federal scientists who virtually cannot express themselves and make their findings public anymore... When was the last time you've seen such a prestigious and credible magazine (Nature in this case) having to publicly scold a First-World, democratic government??? Because yeah, we all know that hiding information about global warming and its effects will actually prevent those from happening and especially prevent the people from learning about them!!!???!!!
Not to mention the latest scandal, in which the opposition found out that someone/something masterminded a quite widespread, gimmicky, but somewhat clumsy strategy of "fake phone calls" during the last elections, in which voters were instructed on phony new voting polls, or harassed by someone who was supposedly from the party that presented the biggest threat to the Tory candidate... Over 31,000 official complaints have even been made to that effect (from citizens in 77 different ridings), which is about 30,000 more than average...
And the worst thing is all of this still don't really shake the general public out of its apathy.
What will come next? Who is this country representing, nowadays? I'm asking, but actually I REALLY don't want to find out.
I am extremely worried and deeply ashamed to be part of this country right now!!!
Credit: Three Eyes Worm
Friday, March 9, 2012
I have a rather personal appeal to you today.
My husband is enrolled in this charity cycling event, which will take him from Montreal to his hometown of Quebec city in July. That's a 300 km ride. He's been training really hard at home at night (and soon, outside, on actual roads!) and I'm really proud of him. Now to the fundraising part.
He chose to donate the money towards research on cancers that specifically target children. You know how important this cause is to us, right? So I'm really proud of him for that, too. Nevertheless, the minimum amount he needs to raise just to be able to show up on that day is pretty steep, and this is a cause that feels really personal to me, so I'm trying to help in any way I can.
Here is his personal page (in French or English), where you can make a (tax-deductible) donation (through either a credit card or Paypal, so I don't believe currencies are an issue). Even if it's just a few dollars (pounds, euros, rubles, zloties, reals, etc.), any support that you could provide would be TREMENDOUSLY appreciated.
And thank you.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
If you don't count the kids' programs, I don't watch much TV these days. It's one of these things that had to give along the way of becoming a working mother of two, like diligent manucures, long baths, and bread making.
The one thing I tuned into this season, though, was Pan Am. I PVRed it and usually watched a few weeks after episodes first aired, but still I haven't missed one, which is no small feat.
Partly, I was initially interested because a Quebecer had a leading role: the beautiful Karine Vanasse, who played (Continental) French stewardess Colette (I believe it was the first time this happened since Caroline Dhavernas in Wonderfalls). But quickly, something else got me hooked. It wasn't that the show was so amazing in itself (I'm the first to admit that it was sometimes cheesy and sometimes over-the-top), but I still thought it had a little something...
How international travelling and flying used to be so glamourous, special, luxurious, out-of-the-ordinary. People dressed up to fly; way up. There were fresh flowers in planes, and full bars, and swanky cocktails in their appropriate glassware. There was space, and comfort, and even rounded banquettes where you could casually walk to if you were tired of staying in your seat. Imagine! I don't know anyone who enjoys flying these days, and sees it as anything else than a quite unpleasant mean of getting somewhere.
How stewardesses really had some kind of an aura, how this job probably was the higher step in the social ladder, back then. I once remembered a woman in her fifties telling me that back when she was young, becoming a stewardess was some kind of an unattainable dream, because it could only happen if you were a certain height, and weight, and had a beautiful face and polished style most girls could not achieve. I was surprised: stewardesses selected on physical attributes like models? When I compared to my then experience of flying and my view of the trade, it had very little allure or prestige. But years later, Pan Am made me understand. These women were the top of the crop: beautiful and stylish, but also educated, and multilingual, and worldly, and smart, and adventurous, and free. They essentially used the job to see the world, and it was something, back then, for a young, single woman to travel extensively. They were making their own money, and shunned pretty much all conventions.
But simultaneously, how even while carving out this cool life, they were subjected to strict rules that both make little sense today and make me realize that we've come a long way, baby. They couldn't be married, and had to resign when they turned the ripe old age of 32. They had to wear a girdle, and regularly stood in line for humiliating weigh-ins. They clearly were considered like objects by some passengers, and were instructed to pretty much put up with it.
And, of course, there's the fashion. Episode after episode brought incredible sixties outfits, part of an era that apparently knew no sartorial faux-pas. People back then knew how to dress, damn it. Where has this amazing style -even in day-to-day life- gone???
The series ended a couple of weeks back, but I've just finished it. And I'm experiencing a little bit of withdrawal (it likely won't come back next season). Now is not the time to get into
Monday, March 5, 2012
So how was it?
I'm still not sure. Did I like it? I liked having been, for sure. It was quite the event, and people from all kinds of spheres have been talking about it ever since, so it's always nice to be able to say that hey, you were there.
But. This was seriously trying for my minglephobe tendencies. I kept repeating myself that I was there for work. I was sent there. My name was on the list. And I did my job: go there, see what's it's all about, taste the food, leaf through the book (it's a self-published, expensive, humongous work of art, so we weren't handed copies), talk to the sous-chef, take notes, grab a few pictures, then write my article.
Here's how it went. I drive an hour outside the city in a snowstorm, to end up in the middle of Nowhere, PQ. I finally arrive, and there are a few TV crews outside, as well as a few interviews in progress alongside the huge Texan barbecue. I see two doors to the sugar shack main building: one employee who saw me arrive goes inside by the middle one, then promptly shuts the door, so I take that as a cue that this isn't where I'm supposed to come in. So I open the other door, and here I am in... the kitchen. There are ten or so cooks and other employees, and he (Martin, the chef, the big guy) is right there, three feet away. There are camera crews and people taking pictures so it's not like I'm the only outsider there, but I am still lost, and confused. I look around, probably very deer-in-the-headlights-ish. After two long minutes, he asks one of his employees to "bring people to the dining room, since some seem to think that here is where it's happening, while it's not". Clearly this is targeted to me -he wasn't annoyed or anything, but still, one strike against me and my awkardness. I enter the dining room. Of course there was a third door, the right one, which I hadn't even seen. I'm right on time but there are still few people, several of whom I recognize (like her, with her three children. We briefly talked on Twitter the week before, so I have an excuse to go introduce myself, especially with the kids and all, and I almost do, but then I chicken out of course).
I go into a corner, surely looking plainly scared. The PR lady comes to talk to me for a few minutes. No one seems to have come alone, and everyone seems to know everyone, of course. He comes and goes, doing interviews but otherwise not making any kind of public announcement, and a few times I see him downing shots of vodka(?) straight from the bottle. There are little fritters in cute paper cones, so I go grab one. Everyone marvels at them, I bite into them, and downright hate them -it's fried pork fat, which is just a little too much for me. I introduce myself to an Anglo journalist, who's there for the American magazine Organic Gardening. She's friendly and reassuring, especially when I tell her that's it's my first big assignment. I relax a little. I eat, sip about half of a gin/spruce beer/lime jelly cocktail, chat up a few people, eat, ask questions, eat, study the book for ten good minutes, have tea. I take in the scene (the place is packed by now) and think about the article. I'm feeling better towards the end, even talking to her -nothing short of a local cultural institution- for five minutes (she did wear her tradermark turban but otherwise sported civilian clothes). When I leave, I realize that I've spent two hours there but it rather felt like 10 grueling, especially exhausting ones.
I was unprepared, I guess. I had of course forgotten the camera home, only thinking about it when it was just a tad too late to turn back. Maybe I wouldn't have been able to take decent pictures (I'm still such a novice), but it would have given me more of a purpose, more of a "professional" aura. I mean of course, if you're part of a media launch, you need a camera, even if it looked like very ordinary ones were accepted. Similarly, I couldn't find the little notepad I could have sworn I had in my purse. This surprised me: everyone was taking notes on old-school notepads. Was it really necessary? Probably not, since I remembered all the details fine when I sat
There were a lot of Anglo media: this also surprised me, and it's probably quite unusual (someone from Time Magazine was there, for instance). It made me realized how big he has become. Anthony Bourdain quotes him as his favourite chef ever, and even said the following: "Martin Picard’s particular genius – beyond having the impeccable sense and timing to realize that now, right now, is the perfect time to give the whole world of fine dining the middle finger – is that he knows who he is, what he loves to eat, where he comes from, what’s good, and how best to prepare it so as to most effectively allow others to discover what was good about it all along."
Why the craze? I honestly don't know. I admire him, but to tell you the truth I am also a little bit put-off by his persona and his style of cooking, which can best be described as "neo-rustic". He's a big burly guy, provocative and self-assured, with very masculine/rough references, unrepentedly living for pleasure and sin. He's wearing plaid flannel shirts and going hunting and getting drunk and pulling off bizarre stunts such as drawing the outline of a whole deer on a chalkboard, then cooking all its parts and putting them back together like a puzzle on the image. He cooks with blood, with animal brains. I'm becoming less and less of a meat-eater as I grow older, and all of this makes meat incredibly unappealing to me. But at the same time, he has a point, and I have to admit that if you're going to do meat, you'd have a hard time finding someone who has a better approach. His staff visit all of the farms and only buy where the animals are treated the best. His philosophy is to cook everything, even the very humble parts, to honor and respect the animal that gave its life. His hunting has a certain awareness-raising aspect as well: to demonstrate the whole cycle of eating meat, from killing an animal to preparing it for human consumption, contrary to this general idea now that meat is fleshless, stemming from a styrofoam tray. I do believe that if most people knew where meat came from and how it was raised, they would probably make more conscious choices, so he has to be lauded for that. Two interesting articles in English about him and his phenomenon: from The Globe and Mail, and then from Maisonneuve.
All in all, honestly it didn't go so bad. I am still a little terrified, and I still have this little voice inside my head that keeps saying FRAUD, FRAUD, FRAUD!, but I certainly did not make a fool of myself (even though I'm clearly not a natural to this scene) and even made a few contacts. And I guess I should cut myself a little slack, this being my first time to speak of, and this being "as big as it gets for Montreal", as one Gazette journalist pointed out to me.
One last confession: I don't love maple syrup. But I should have trusted him to do this right. The smoked meat/lobster souffleed omelet was to die for, by the way.