Friday, August 31, 2012

Cruise Catastrophe

A friend of mine just returned from a much-anticipated Western Caribbean cruise. It was the same one I took a couple years ago and raved about. We loved everything about our cruise and had a marvelous time. But Sam was not so lucky.

She got caught in the Hurricane Isaac fiasco. The top two decks of the cruise ship were closed. They had 50mph winds and rain. They couldn't dock at one of their ports of call and couldn't even disembark at Tampa, where they'd left from. Instead, they had to circle around Florida in the choppy waves of the sea and dock at Port Canaveral. Then they took a three-hour bus ride to Tampa and got caught in Republican Convention traffic.

It was a disaster. Needless to say, Sam and her husband never want to cruise again. I don't think I'd want to either, if that had been my introduction to cruising. Luckily, it wasn't. I'll be cruising again someday. :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Places We Laid Our Heads in Canada

Our trip to Canada was more logistically diverse than many of my trips. We moved around a lot and stayed in a variety of places: a mystery hotel, a haunted hostel, a huge hotel, and a bed & breakfast. Each had its advantages and disadvantages. I’ll share a recap here of things I wish I’d considered.

1. Travelocity Top Secret Hotel – Holiday Inn, Grand Island, NY
An inviting lobby definitely sets the tone for me when I stay at a hotel.

We didn’t know what we were getting with this hotel. I booked it blindly through Travelocity’s Top Secret Deals. All I knew was that it was rated a 3-star hotel and was within the Buffalo/Niagara Falls vicinity. Since we were only staying overnight, I wasn’t too concerned with whether we’d like the place or not. As it turns out, it was a very nice hotel and we were sorry that we didn’t have more time to check out all the amenities that the hotel had to offer.

What Worked: The price and the hotel rooms were great. I’d do it again.

Something to Consider: The hotel was located out-of-the-way on an island. If we ever go back, I’d choose the hotel again, but would definitely allow myself more time there.

2. HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel
As far as hostels go, the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel was comfortable and clean. And it’s definitely a novel place to stay.

This was actually our main destination for the Canada trip. As amateur ghost hunters, my husband and I couldn’t resist staying in a haunted jail, and it had been years since I’d stayed at a hostel. The place was both kitschy and authentic. It was definitely a unique place to stay and was more private than I’d imagined. The location was great; we walked everywhere in Ottawa. And the Crime and Punishment Tour we took of the jail filled in the background story.

What Worked: We had a unique experience and learned the history of the jail and the hauntings. Plus, the hostel is centrally located, so you can walk everywhere.

Something to Consider: It’s an old jail, so there is no air conditioning. Fans in each cell helped. The bunk beds were creaky and not that comfortable, but okay for a night or two.

3. Delta Chelsea Hotel – Toronto
A nice view is always a perk.

The Delta Chelsea is the largest hotel in Canada and was a bustling hub-bub. The rooms were very nice and again, there were all kinds of amenities we just didn’t have time to take advantage of. The hotel is in the perfect location; close to Yonge-Dundas and accessible to all the vibrant activity of the city.

What Worked: Great location and nice rooms.

Something to Consider: The hotel is Canada’s largest, so be prepared for lots of people and noise. The rooms were quiet, but if you’re looking for a quiet getaway, this may not be the place.

4. A Hundred Church Bed & Breakfast – Stratford, Ontario
B&B’s are a smart choice for the Stratford Theatre crowd.

There are several B&B’s to choose from in Stratford. Our host, Tim, was very nice and our arts & crafts room was very pretty. We had the luxury of a private bathroom, which many B&B’s didn’t offer. What’s nice about staying in a B&B in Stratford is that you’re close to the center of town and can walk and shop and attend the theater without having to drive and pay to park. The closest hotels/motels are just out of town, so you wouldn’t have this luxury unless you chose to stay in one of the many B&B’s.

What Worked: Central location that allowed us to walk. A cozy room and nice conversation with our housemates over breakfast. And since we were all in town to attend the theatre, we could compare notes and share reviews of the plays we saw.

Something to Consider: I didn’t think about this when I made our reservation, but I’d booked other activities for us in the morning that conflicted with breakfast time. Our host fed us earlier than the other guests, but I felt bad. Next time I think of staying in a B&B, I’ll pay closer attention to our itinerary to see whether it really works for us to stay there instead of a hotel where we’re on our own for meals.

Overall, we had wonderful accommodations at every place we stayed during our Canadian adventure. But if I had to choose one place as my favorite, I’d probably pick the Delta Chelsea. If I travel Toronto again, that’s where I’ll stay.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gone Fishin'

I am swamped. If I could, I'd hang a sign on my door/blog:  Gone Fishin'.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A New Age Bracket

I guess if I were going to buy a cemetery plot,
it would have to be along the lines of this one in Paris.
Today is my birthday. I usually don't draw attention to it, but this one is a significant one and the zingers started coming almost as soon as I woke up. Mostly from my brother.

He sent me an email with a low whistle that I could somehow hear through the email, followed by disbelief that I could be so old. Then he went on to tell me what time the Early Bird dinners start.

I read that and teased him back and the phone rang. It was a telemarketer trying to sell me a cemetery plot. I thought it must be some kind of joke, but wasn't sure who was behind the prank. My brother? My husband? My mother? My son?

Turns out it was none of them. It was a legitimate call!

When I accused my brother, he said the caller got it wrong. It should have been the Red Hat Society calling me with an offer for discount dentures...

It's not even dinnertime yet.

Like Rodney Dangerfield, I get no respect. But I did get presents, so we're good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gellin' with Jellyfish

No time to write today. Instead, just enjoy the serenity of these jellyfish.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Returning to Haiti

Children at one of the orphanages we visited.

I recently ran into a woman I'd met in Haiti in 2008. She was surprised I remembered her, but I wasn't. Going to Haiti on a mission trip was life-changing. I think I remember everyone I met there. It was an experience I'll never forget.

At the time, I thought I'd like to return someday and bring my daughter with me. There were two young teenagers on our trip and I could tell that their lives would never be the same after going there. In fact, I think one will likely be a missionary, at least for part of her life. I wanted to bring my daughter, too, so she could see how other people live, and see how lucky we are in America and how much we take for granted. She's not a selfish girl at all, but she is perhaps a little sheltered. I want her to experience more than life at home. I wanted to take her to Haiti.

But now the subject has actually come up. Now my husband and I are actually considering making the same trip down there that I did years ago. And now that it's a possibility, I'm not sure about taking her after all.

So I decided the best course of action would be to make a Pro/Con list.

1. It would be a wonderful, life-altering experience.
2. She would love helping out in the orphanages and would be a big help.
3. Going as a family would be incredible. We could make sure she's safe, and we would always share in this experience.

1. Some parts of the trip are dangerous, as any trip to an impoverished nation is.
2. Some parts of the trip might scare her; seeing people hurt or begging might upset her too much.
3. The vaccinations, mosquitos, and potential for disease are real concerns.
4. The bus trips and sitting on the back of a tap-tap is almost a deterrent for me, let alone her. It's dangerous.
5. Selfishly, I don't know if I want to spend my vacation time volunteering this year.

But the biggest consideration is that she's not sure she wants to go. She would, and would willingly help out without complaining, but maybe we need to wait another year or two. In fact, I'm not sure I've quite recovered from the 2008 trip. I may need another year or two myself.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Today She's 12

My beautiful little girl is twelve today. I thought I'd feel sentimental with her entering junior high this week, but think I've used up most of my sentimentality on other things lately. Instead, I feel mystified by her. She's so complex, and different than I was. I watch her and am fascinated.

She's a girly girl who loves fashion and clothes. Her friends mean the world to her. She thinks she's awesome and is having trouble with a school assignment that asks her what she would change about herself; she says nothing. She wants to be a pro soccer player when she grows up and practices every day in the backyard. She cries about change and doesn't want to grow up. She likes math. She plays the trumpet. She idolizes Selena Gomez. She still snuggles with me on the couch.

I love everything about her. If I were her age right now, I'd definitely want her for a friend.

How lucky I am instead to be her mother. I've had the privilege of watching her blossom for the past twelve years into a beautiful young lady. I secretly admire her. Well, actually, it's not such a secret. She's absolutely beautiful, and today she is twelve.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Invitation

I just got the invitation to my son's wedding. I knew it was coming, but experienced a rush of emotion just the same. My heart felt flooded with joy as his life and childhood flashed through my mind. I saw his name with Chelsea's and felt elated, soothed, happy, and overjoyed. He's found the woman he wants to share his life with. They're beautiful together. They're happy. Chelsea and Mac. Mac and Chelsea. They're getting married. I got my invitation. My son is getting married. I can't wait until the wedding to cry.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Have No Shame; I'm Shaming My Dog

I don't know if anyone else saw this on CNN today, but they were flashing pictures of pooches featured on Tumblr's Canine Shaming site. You have to check it out:

After I spent the morning laughing, I immediately started thinking of signs my dog Chipsy could wear. Poor little pup. I'm almost sorry I'm embarassing him this way. But he doesn't know I'm doing it. Or maybe he does. He wouldn't willingly pose for these, so the pictures didn't turn out so well. It's like he knew what I was doing. He is smart...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Call 9-1-1: My Children Don't Know How to Use a Phone

I'll bet neither one of my kids
has stepped inside a phone booth.
My children know how to do all kinds of things electronically, but basic phone skills are not part of their repertoire. I guess it's a sign of the times.

I told my son to look up a phone number. He didn't know how to. Seriously. He was 17-years-old and had no clue how to use a phone book. He didn't know there was a difference between white and yellow pages and didn't know what either were for. It scared me. How could he not know something so simple?

But a few days ago I learned that my daughter didn't know how to use a phone book, either. I had to teach her, wondering the whole time whether her friends would even be listed. I've come to realize that not many people have land lines these days.

Lo and behold, her friends' parents were listed and she made a few phone calls. But when she dialed one number and a man answered, she stammered, held the phone out to me, and then hung up on him.

"That wasn't her."

"I know, but you have to ask to speak to her. Don't just hang up. Say 'Is Faith there?"

My children have made it through most of their youth without ever knowing how to use a phone book. That says something, I think. I can only conclude that telephone skills are becoming obsolete, unless you're planning to be a telemarketer. And even then, they don't seem to know who they're calling or what number.

The whole realization made me want to run to the closet and get out my old record player, rotary dial phone, typewriter, 110-camera with attachable flashbar, and every other item from my childhood that has become so obsolete that using it would stump my children.

Or maybe I should keep all this information to myself so that I can claim to know more than they do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chinatown Street Art

I've been to the Chinatown sections of a few cities now. I have to say, none compare to San Francisco's. But the Chinatown section of Toronto offered something we hadn't noticed in other cities: street art. And lots of it.

Here are a few pictures they we especially admired. Enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

10 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

Today I'm turning Daily Snapshot inward. I'm revealing "10 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me" unless you're my husband or my mother. Then you probably do.

1. I hate having my picture taken, which is why there are so few of me on my blog. I HATE having my picture taken.

2. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Helen Keller and taught myself Braille. Yes, I know this sounds odd. I might even be writing a book about it (wink, wink).

3. Doctors told me I couldn't have children. I have two -- which is part of the reason why I never listen to doctors.

4. If I could go anywhere in the world, I would cleverly choose an around-the-world trip.

5. I asked my (now-)husband out on a date one morning because I thought I was having a good hair day and decided to swing by the bakery where he worked. I'm glad the mirror was kind to me that morning.

6. I pay my children to brush my hair.

7. I still have my old Archie comic books from the '70's.

8. The first thing I ever published was "How to Make Gumwrapper Chains" in Child Life magazine.

9. I rarely re-read books. The only exception is Where the Red Fern Grows. I read that 13 times in a row when I was eleven-years-old.

10. I'm a Justin Bieber fan.

Feel free to share something about yourself. It's kinda fun. :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

19th Amendment

These statues honoring the suffragettes in Ottawa hold a document proclaiming, "Women Are Persons."

I missed an important anniversary date in history yesterday. August 18th marked the 92nd anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. This seems like a date we should remember. I'm commiting it to memory now.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Big Pig Gig

"Gaga for Cincinnati"
This Lady Gaga creation is wearing heels, fishnet
stockings, and yes - bacon.

The World Choir Games came to Cincinnati this summer, and a resurgence in revitalizing downtown Cincinnati went into full swing. Tours were created; parks were cleaned up; and the Big Pig Gig that originally occurred in 2000 was revamped. Local artists and sponsors teamed up to create new piggy works of art, resulting in nearly 100 pigs on display around town.

Artworks of Cincinnati hosted free walking tours that highlighted some of these pigs. I took the tour AND a million pictures. Some of my favorites are here.

Go see them before they leave in September. Who knows when Cincinnati will bring out the pigs again?

My favorite. I thought it very clever
that this piggy bank was covered with pennies.
My husband's favorite.
He says it reminds him of the movie "Hugo."

Clever ears. There was so much artistry on all the pigs.               
This pig is covered in stamps from every
country that participated in the
World Choir Games.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Got Some Old Used Cars Laying Around?

Just in case you don't know what to do with those old cars cluttering up your yard (or street), consider turning your car into a planter, like this one on the streets of Toronto.

It looks like they removed the engine and opened up the trunk to turn this junker into a work of art. There was all kinds of street art in the Kensington Market and Chinatown areas, but this was the only piece that was actually on the streets.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Grown Up. Old.

When I was a kid, it used to frustrate me that adults were so boring. All they wanted to do was sit around and talk. They wouldn't run, or play, or do anything fun and I vowed that I wouldn't be like that. I would still run when I was a grown-up.

I don't. And I don't even remotely want to.

But now it's worse. We have plans to go to a small amusement park tonight where we can ride all the rides we want for free. Guess what? I don't want to ride a single one. Somewhere along the way in these 40-odd years, I've lost my enthusiasm for rollercoasters and spinning. All I really want to do is sit with the other adults and talk.

I've become the boring grown-up that I vowed I'd never be and I don't even care. Sitting around and talking sounds like a lot more fun to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

No Rush

My daughter starts junior high school next week. She nervously confided that she doesn't want to grow up. She loves being a kid.

I soothed her, and told her not to worry. But secretly, I don't want her to grow up, either.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bucket List

Mayan ruins in Tulum

Oh, yeah. I keep forgetting that the end of the world is coming. I feel like I should be crossing things off my bucket list, but I never got around to making one. Honestly, I don't know what I'd put on it, which makes me seem sad and boring.

Bucket lists always seem like they should be big and grandiose. I should be pining to jump out of a plane, or off a cliff, or plan to swim with sharks or something. My life can't possibly be complete without these monumental moments, can it?

It seems like it is. But I do truly want to have a bucket list.

So, here's my start:

Julie's Bucket List
1. Make a bucket list.
2. ?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Grandmother of Birthday Weeks

Both of my grandmothers turn 93 this week.
It’s hard enough to believe that I have one grandparent alive, let alone two, considering my own age. Up until my grandfather’s passing last year, it was three. I hope this indicates longevity for me. It seems I come from a strong gene pool.
But birth dates aside, my two grandmothers  are quite different.
My maternal grandmother is in general good health, but suffers from dementia. It’s been hard to watch her memory fade, and her once sharp, analytical mind deteriorate. Once a librarian, she was an avid reader who instilled a love of reading in all of her daughters. She doesn’t read anymore. She can’t remember what she’s read and doesn’t even try to fake it anymore. Nor does she do the crossword puzzles that used to clutter many surfaces of her apartment. She still remembers all of us, and we are fortunate to enjoy her company. She had no idea she was turning 93 today, and doesn’t quite believe it’s true no matter how many people tell her. She says she feels 43, and guessed she might be 73. If I feel that young when I’m her age, it will be a blessing.
My paternal grandmother enjoys excellent health and is still sharp as a tack. She lives on her own in Florida and belongs to an art club and singing group and is very active in her community. I hope that I am as able to enjoy my life and hobbies as she is, if I’m lucky enough to be 93. What am I saying, I’m lucky to be able to enjoy them NOW!
As I celebrate their birthdays this week, I think it’s only natural to compare myself to them both and wonder what I’ll be like at that age. The idea of losing any mental cognition scares me to death, but could be my reality. Or, maybe I’ll be one of the few who can live independently and actively well into my old age.
In reality, I am not much like either one of my grandmothers, and can’t quite envision what my life might be like fifty years from now. I know I won’t take for granted that I have another fifty years; I tend to want to make the most of my life right now, in case my future isn’t quite so far-reaching. I'm not sure they felt this same carpe diem when they were my age. It might be more a sign of the times.
Though I’m not like either one of them, I could be a nice blend. In an ideal distant future, I’ll still enjoy all my hobbies, and read as much as I can. And if I’m really, really lucky, when I’m that old, I’ll feel like I’m 43.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mosaika: The New Pelicans

Parliament by day

When I was a kid, we took a family vacation to Florida. We spent a couple days at the beach, playing in the sand and surf, not realizing that we were unaware of what my mother was doing.

When we got home, we watched the home videos she took. There we saw pelicans perched on posts in the water. Pelicans flying toward shore. Pelicans landing on water. Pelicans flapping their wings in front of the sunset. Pelicans, pelicans, pelicans. She'd been a woman obsessed.

In Canada, I traded pelicans for parliament.

At least half of my pictures from Ottawa are pictures of the Parliament building. I have pictures during the daytime; pictures during the changing of the guards; pictures on Day 1 and more on Day 2; and lots of pictures of the Parliament building at night. That's when they do Mosaika -- a narrated laser-light show that tells the story of Canada's history. They do it every night at 10pm July-September and it's completely free. Thousands of people gather on the lawn and ooh and aah over the spectacle of it. I'm not sure everyone took minute-by-minute pictures like I did. But I think everyone enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, my camera didn't cooperate as fully as I would have liked. But here's a taste of what we saw. It was fantastic, and ended up being my favorite part of the trip.

Parliament by night (blurry, but beautiful)

Trust me, this is just a sampling. It was GORGEOUS!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Reminder to Self: See More Theater

My husband and I spent part of our trip to Canada at the Stratford Shaespeare Festival. We saw "Elektra" and it was sensational. We wished we had purchase tickets for multiple shows in the 14-show repertoire, but didn't realize that that's what people do there. In fact, we met four theater students at our B&B who were in town that week to see 10 shows.

Which made us think: we don't go to the theater enough.

When we first started dating, we had season tickets to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. It was our clever way of ensuring that we would continue seeing each other. Then we had a baby, and theater exited left.

But now that our daughter is older and we've remembered how much we love it, we've vowed to see more shows in our own hometown. I think perhaps we'll start with the Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine and branch out from there. With all the theatre in Cincinnati (and yes - there's a lot), we'll have no lack of shows to see.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Outlining Should be a Four-Letter Word

(No picture. I don't have any of a woman whining.)

Sigh... I find myself in a writerly dilemma. I've had a resurgence in writing inspiration and motivation, but don't have enough time to get all my thoughts down on paper. I sneak away and write bits & spurts whenever I have the chance. I'm piecing them together and thinking of all the other things I want to write. My interest in freelancing has resumed again, too. Which brings me to my dilemma.

I love writing, and don't mind the sales aspect that goes hand-in-hand with freelancing, but I must admit, when an editor asks me to do something mundane -- like provide an outline -- I almost want to reply with a "never mind." That's what has happened now. I sent a query and the editor may be interested, but wants to see an outline first.

Have I mentioned how much I hate outlining?

I immediately turned to my writing group partners. They, unlike me, love outlining and revising and editing. Me? Not so much. I just want to write down my thoughts and move on. I'm sure that in part, it's laziness, but it's also that IhaveamillionotherthingsIwanttowriteanddon'twanttospendanymoretimeonthethingsI'vealreadywritten. I wanted to say that all in one breath. That's how writing feels to me; like a breath I've exhaled before starting the next one.

As ridiculous as this sounds, I almost did email the editor, respectfully declining. I would have been much happier just writing the article on spec. She could take it or leave it, whatever. Just don't put me through the agony of creating an outline!

My writing partners came to the rescue. They didn't write the outline for me (which I would have greatly appreciated. Maybe they'll get the hint next time.) But they did offer suggestions and let me know I was on the right track.

So, outline completed. I sent it off to the editor. We'll see what she says. It almost doesn't matter. I'm already off onto the next thing.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

We Went to Jail. Directly to Jail.

Our cell.

That's where we stayed in Ottawa -- in jail. A haunted one, no less. The Old Carleton County Gaol, which is now the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel. We stayed in cell #8.

Outfitted with twin bunk beds, a desk, a storage locker, and a fan (Hallelujah!), we had it much better than the prisoners ever did. In fact, our small cell was actually three combined. Back when it was an actual prison, the cell was basically only as large as a lice-ridden cot.

To get our bearings and learn more about accommodations for the next few nights, we took a Crime and Punishment Tour of the jail. Here we learned about the horrendous conditions of this "model prison" which housed prisoners as young as 7-years-old from 1862 until it finally closed in 1972. 1972! It's almost unimaginable.

Suicide screens filled the gaps from floor to floor so that no one could throw themselves (or a guard) over the staircase. Our tour guide also pointed out the holes in the backs of the stairs, which served their own purpose. The holes allowed the guards to see the shoes of anyone going up or down the stairs, which was telling, since prisoners and guards wore different shoes.

We were taken up to Death Row: three small cells that were separated from a 4th cell. The prisoner facing execution was kept in the 4th cell until he was walked in front of the other three on his very short path to the noose and trapdoor at the end of the hall. The guards would announce, "Dead man walking," while the crowd outside waited. Then a bag was placed over the prisoner's head, the noose placed around his neck, and then the executioner stepped on a pedal, releasing the trap door where the prisoner dropped to his death. You can still see the trapdoor of the gallows in the hostel's courtyard.

Only three men were executed there; all proclaiming their innocence until the end, and all having very little evidence against them. So it would be no wonder that their ghosts (and others) are rumored to wander the halls of the hostel.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jackson Family Values

Methinks the Jacksons are not that popular in Canada, eh? Most of the flyers we saw on light poles had been marked up in some way.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Swine Flu From Pigs?

I wonder if these two were passing along the disease??

I know this sounds ridiculous, but I never really associated swine flu with pigs. I always thought of swine flu as just the most recent in a line of exotic flu names that someone traced back to some pig, somewhere. But, as it turns out, you can actually catch swine flu from pigs! As 14 people have so far in state and county fairs in Ohio. Yikes!

We went to our local county fair (as you may remember I blogged about a couple weeks ago), and walked past every single pig there. Now, nine cases of swine flu have been linked back to the pigs at the Butler County Fair.

Reading that immediately made me want to check my temperature. What if I caught it? I'm not sick in the slightest, but it seems so bizarre that people are getting swine flu from the pigs at the fair that I almost want to claim I did, too. As though I missed out on something by not getting it.

But alas, I'm healthy. All I got from the fair was a stream of sweat down my back and giveaway plastic cups from local politicians, whom some might also call swine.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Microphones, please. The Commentators are speaking.

Lately, most talk around the water cooler, lunch table, and phone conversations revolves around the Olympic games. We’ve all suddenly become experts and commentators.

“Her splash was too big.”

“She bounced. They’re going to deduct for that.”

As if we know anything about the finer points of gymnastics, water polo, synchronized swimming, or dressage.

Of course, we all piped in, too, with our predictions as to whether this really was Michael Phelps’ last Olympic competition. We debated whether Oscar Pitorius should be allowed to compete in both the regular and Paralympic games. We talked about Jordyn Wieber’s unfair exclusion from the all-around gymnastics competition (I think you know where I stood on that debate) and constantly changing judging criteria in gymnastics that is sure to change again before the next games.

Basically, we talk about little else. We were all Olympics, all the time.

But we’re not the only ones. Apparently, the world is talking, tweeting and blasting comments about the games, NBC, and the athletes. Gabby Douglas is being criticized for her hair style. Carmelita Jeter is accused of being both a cheater and (secretly) a man. The Chinese are accused of somehow rigging swimming events. The U.S. Men’s Basketball team should have held back when they started slaughtering  the Nigerian team and won by 83 points.

Everyone’s got an opinion. Everyone’s a sports commentator now. I, among them.

It’s easy to sit in our living rooms and become armchair judges on things we know little about. I think it’s only natural as we get caught up in the thrill of victory and agony of defeat of the Olympians on stage. At our best, we are avid fans cheering on our teams. At our worst, we are gossipmongers detracting from the games. But the bottom line is, we’re engaged in watching these incredible athletes and feel vested in their performances. I love watching the Olympics and enjoy learning the back stories of so many of the athletes. I try to ignore the mud-slinging, but take it for what it is: more commentary on the 30th Olympiad games; a little piece of history.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Obama Cookies

There's only one place to get Obama cookies: Moulin de Provence in Ottawa, Canada.

The cookies are named for the President, who stopped in unexpectedly in 2009 to buy cookies for his daughters. Sales of the maple-leaf-shaped sugar cookies surged from and average of 200 cookies/day to 2000.

I'm not sure how much sales have dwindled since then, if at all. We had to stand in line to get our Obama cookies at the Byward Market. I know the bakery sells other things, but none of us seemed able to resist these Presidential treats.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I love this sculpture in Ottawa, titled Maman. If you look closely, you can make out Maman's sac of eggs in the bottom picture.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Watching the changing of the guard at Parliament Hill in Ottawa made me think of my son. He served on the Honor Guard in the Air Force last summer and loved all the pomp and precision of it. As I watched them, I thought of him.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

People on Glass Floors...

...Shouldn't drag their wives.

My husband and I went up to the observation deck of the CN Tower. Now, I'm afraid of heights, but I was okay on the ledge, looking out past a screen to the city below. In fact, it was very relaxing and the city was beautiful!

Inside, there is a glass floor that you can walk across. If you look down, you can see just how far 118 stories is. My legs were going to water just watching other people. It was a madhouse there. Everyone was laying on the glass floor, taking selfie pictures of themselves with the drop as backdrop. My husband shouldered his way onto the glass platform and goaded me to come out there, too.  Finally, I couldn't resist just *seeing* what it would be like and unpressed myself from the wall to sit on the edge of the glass. I was going to keep my legs on the stable floor 'just in case.' In fact, I didn't even have to look down. I'd just take the picture and look later.

But then, my husband, who I vowed to love, honor, and trust -- grabbed me under the arms and dragged me out to the middle of the floor where it was all glass.

I scrambled and screamed and clawed my way back to the solid floor. Then he had the nerve to say I should come back out because I didn't get my picture taken. As if!

The glass floor supports the weight of 14 hippos. But I'm not testing that theory. Instead, I'm dreaming up my revenge... he'd better watch his step someplace else.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Must. Stop. Eating. Poutine.

How could we not love a food served in small cardboard boxes?

I never in a million years dreamed that I would like poutine. I'm not a big potato person. I used to be. I craved them insanely when I was pregnant with my son and think I got my lifetime fill of them then. So when we saw poutine on some travel/cooking show, I shrugged. I could skip it. But my husband couldn't wait to try it once we got to Canada. So we did.

We walked down to Smoke's Poutinerie that had been recommended by other people. I ordered a small traditional. My husband wisely asked the counter girl what she recommended and ordered the Triple Pork.

What is poutine? you ask. It's french fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds. That's the basic. All the rest of the toppings are gravy extra.

It was out of this world!!!

The Triple Pork was far better than the Traditional platter. It had bacon, ham, and sausage. The cheese curds in both are delicious. They're like mozzarella balls, but with flavor.

After Smoke's, we saw Guinness poutine on the menu at a pub and thought we'd share a batch over a beer. It was not nearly as good as Smoke's. (No, Smoke's is not paying me to say this.)

Not satisfied with the appetizer plate of Guinness poutine we had, we went in search of more food and ended up at -- Smoke's. This time we got Country Style with mushrooms, onions and chicken.

So, in 24 hours, we had four servings of poutine.

Must. Stop. Eating. Poutine.