Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Quebecois Food

We left for Canada, and maple syrup was on our grocery list. We returned, and we still need syrup. How did that happen? Especially when I was so surprised at it?

Syrup is served with freakin' everything there. You can get it with sweet or savory crepes, in beverages, on your burger, as a dipping sauce for fries ... . These people love their syrup. I was surprised at the taste, because I've never liked maple syrup before - it has a bitter aftertaste. But none of the fresh syrup I had in Quebec was like that. So I ate a lot of it.

Apple and swiss crepe, and a mushroom/egg/asparagus crepe, at Casse-Crepe Breton. Possibly our favorite place on the whole trip.

Mushroom and parmesan poutine with cheese curds

This was dinner for us several nights. The brie was much more creamy in the middle.
I didn't like it at first because it was so different, but now ...

Le Croquembouche was a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Raspberry brioche, croissant, chocolate raspberry mousse cake, and a maple tart.

Le Billig, another creperie.

Crepes Suzette, to go with my sauvignon blanc. Spousal Unit had chocolate banana crepes.

The oldest grocery store in North America, J. A. Moisan. This is half of the spice room.

They sell syrup in cones at the Marchee du Vieux-Port. It's very sweet.

Most restaurants ask if you want your coffee in a cup or a bowl!
This is a bowl of Viennois, half espresso and half hot chocolate.

A caribou - hot port wine and (you guessed it) syrup. A lot like mulled wine!

Inside L'Oncle Antoine. It was originally a house, built in the 1600s.

Our last meal of the trip was at Chez Victor. I had a tofu burger - a slab of grilled tofu, with mozz and pears sauteed in wine. Spousal Unit had an elk burger. Dipping sauces were mayo with syrup and rosemary, and mayo with curry powder.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sights of Quebec

We saw a lot more stuff than I'll mention here, because I don't want to bore you all with crappy pictures and long histories. So these are the really cool pictures.

Chateau Frontenac, above our heads. There's been a building there since the 1600s, but it
burned down multiple times. (Like most buildings in Quebec.)


This chapel is part of the Musee de l'Amerique Francophone. Gorgeous (and burned down several times in the past.)


Skyline at night, from across the river.

The Haitian exhibit in the Musee de la Civilisation was very intense. Art focused a lot on the 2010 earthquake and other recent disasters, so it was very death-focused. They refer to the earthquake as "that thing" because it was too terrible to be named.

Also at this museum: an extensive First Nations exhibit. Pas de deux is part of their lifestyle; it refers to hunting and means there is no distinction between humans and animals (literally, there are not two).

Murals under a highway bridge. There was art everywhere in the city.
Montmorency Falls, bigger than Niagara. It was a gorgeous day, and I walked through snow up to my knees to stand in the remains of a fort that General Wolfe built before beating the French in a 22-minute battle.

The falls are in the background. I laughed.


J said this building looks like the one from Ghostbusters. I'm glad we didn't have any supernatural experiences, though I do want to go back for the Ghost Tour: guides in period costume point out, at night, where people died throughout the city.

To the left is the Hotel Clarendon, oldest hotel in the city.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vacating

Our farewell sunset

I write this from the airport in Toronto, which is far nicer than any airport I've ever been to (based solely on the lounge, with its uniform tan chairs divided into small cubicles in a meager yet still existent attempt at privacy). For the first time, I actually stepped down off an airplane and onto the tarmac before walking into the building, and it's a bit like I've stepped into a movie. (Except young traveling ladies in Hollywood movies most certainly do not belch like sailors after having ginger ale. They get cute hiccups instead.)

Spousal Unit and I are headed to Quebec City for a delayed honeymoon - after getting married, we visited Door County, but this is the first real vacation we've taken together, and so it is the honeymoon we've been meaning to take. Tonight we'll go to see A Midsummer Night's Dream in French, with a live orchestra, and we'll pay slightly less for tickets by virtue of being young, at least by Canadian standards. I'm okay with that.

There's an old nunnery/hospital turned museum, and a castle, and a waterfall, and two dozen walks to take, and while we want to do all of it, the theatre is the only thing we've distinctly planned for the trip. We will recreate as desired, when desired. After our early-morning flight, I'm excited to take a couple of naps.

I'm eager for the afternoon for multiple reasons, one being that I submitted a story for a writing contest and will learn today whether I've placed. I'm looking forward to (one way or another) no longer being nervous about an empty inbox on top of trying to be too polite. (I've never been to Canada before, and I'd rather overdo it.) Writing helps the nerves.

So far, Canada's pretty adorable. Their airline mascot is a raccoon.

For some reason, raccoons think Ps and Rs are tasty.

They gave me a glass on the plane. Like a real one. Made of glass. And as we were whisked through the customs people continued their conversation as though I was the most innocuous person on the planet. Us Americans are used to being treated like the walking dead at our own airports, eager to nom some brains. I appreciate that despite my country of origin (and the dubious online search history that a writer must live with), we only have to deal with that on one side of the border.

There might be more from me while we're out and about. If not, think of me gaping at buildings older than the Declaration like some culture-shocked tourist. The image probably won't be far from reality.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Letter to the Former Owners

Dear Former House Owners,

I'd like to thank you for the following items you so kindly decided to bequeath to us, for whatever reason.
  • Patio table with six chairs
  • Fire pit
  • Seven-foot metal windmill that makes me hear this in my head
  • Framed photo of the backyard in summer, to taunt us in this false spring
  • Moon-shaped hanging candle holder
  • Several children's art projects behind the closet door, as well as a Buzz Lightyear poster
  • Child's skis and ski poles, abandoned on a top shelf in basement storage
  • Hot pink Victoria's Secret robe, made with the tears of Sri Lankan children
  • Random chunks of asphalt in the yard
  • A furnace fan that will not shut up
  • What I assume is at least eight years worth of dust
I have to admit, it's weird to think about these things as though you left them to us on purpose. It's also awkward to think of you leaving them accidentally--or for any reason. Here's how I imagine some of your conversations going.


Left on Purpose
"Honey, wouldn't it be nice to leave a few things for the first-time homeowners? Like the patio set?"

"Sure! Let's throw in those rocks scattered in the front yard, too! It'll be a fun surprise once they get a lawnmower."


Left Due to Time Constraints
"We don't have time to pack any more stuff! Let's go!"

"What about this first art project Jimmy ever did?"

"LEAVE IT WE MUST FLEE!"


Left Due to Lack of Caring
"That fan's annoying. Should we get it fixed before we leave?"

"No."

"Okay."


Left Due to Zombie Invasion
"WAAAAH!"

"Grrr."


Despite the fact that we've named the house Montressor, I'm hoping we don't find your remains in the basement due to the last circumstance. That would make this whole thing even more awkward. Please be alive.

Sincerely,
With a nose full of your dust (thanks a lot),
Allison

Monday, March 31, 2014

Peace in the Valley


Every day, the sun sets.

Right now, I can think of a dozen poems and a dozen poets right for the occasion. But I have no words of my own. It's one of those times when I'm glad for other writers in the world - people who've been there before me, to give voice to feelings I can't articulate. Their efforts are a soothing balm in difficult times, though they can't heal on their own.

I could go on. I could consider the cyclical nature of life, delve into memory, pound out words with a soft fury that I don't understand. But the most peaceful thing right now is in knowing that the sun will set today, just like it has for millennia past. Not everything has changed.

But enough has.

***

I wrote the above a week ago, the day my grandma passed away. In some ways, it's still unreal. In others, I'm both relieved for her and devastated for everyone who loved her. Since then, I've been to her visitation and funeral and seen first hand all the lives she influenced. I've learned that all you can say to a parent who loses a parent is I love you, over and over; sorry strikes the wrong chord, falls flat for daughter to say to mother, for so deep a hurt. I've considered both terrible futures and beautiful memories. I've learned that sixty six years of marriage is not enough.

Since then, I've bought a house with a garden and seen a chickadee in the backyard. I've started planning how many birdfeeders to get and where to put them, so that my yard will have the busy flutter of Grandma's. With an incredible amount of family help and love, the kitchen has been assembled, and I plan to buy a can of Spam so that when I make Grandma's Sally Ann cookies, I can cut them into the proper shape. (They taste different otherwise.)

Since then, life has blurred around the edges and my brain hasn't focused well. But I was still able to write, to make little connections: her harmonies that influenced my own musical taste, her alternating fashionable and practical clothing styles that subconsciously affected mine, and even (as my cousin pointed out) the source of my slightly crooked pinky fingers.

So much of her is part of me. Maybe that's why this feels like less of a goodbye. It doesn't make it easy, but it does add an element of peace.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Same Coin, Two Sides

Today, it is beautiful out.

The sun shines on the side of the building, and I can imagine the warmth of the brick. I imagine from my desk the feel of heat radiating outward, warming my perpetually cold hands. I imagine sitting in my new house a week from now, with that same sun shining on me in the tea room as I curl up in a blanket, surrounded  by boxes.

I imagine the bitter wind that comes wrapped in spring sunshine, a package deal. Its bite surprises, vicious in the face of such warmth. After the cold of months past, it is bare by comparison, but I keep my winter coat handy for a few more days. How is it possible, this comfort and this chill that makes me curl up on myself? How do they coexist so readily, so constantly, so wordlessly?

I try to envision that balance in myself, to embody yin and yang. It must be there already, because what can exist without both? But I've turned a blind eye to evidence in the past. I've been known to ignore fact and contemplate my own fictions--enhance the negative, orphan the positive.

It's not that the balance isn't there. It's that they could be peaceful together, and I feel at odds with the contrast. I make it more difficult than it needs to be when really, it requires no work at all.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Focusing on the Good

Over the weekend, I completed a whirlwind of important tasks. I visited my grandparents. I packed. I baked. I worried. I drank and spilled lots of tea and coffee. I drank lots of something that was not tea with my immediate family and cousins I've not seen in far too long. Important things, I tell you.

I also got to see both of my nephews, which really shows the difference two months can make at a young age.

Wee Axel

Mr. Wyatt (Photo by Brooke)

And I wrote. I'm now on page 133. I'll overshoot page 140 easily by end of the month, presuming I don't have to spend a crazy amount of time on the packing, which is going well. Tonight will feature vegetarian reubens, some angry saints, and pizza crust made in anticipation of moving day.

Today is okay. Tomorrow will be okay too.
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