Saturday, July 31, 2010

A shopping meander through Little Italy...

Fiat or Alfa?

The Jean Talon Market in Montreal's Little Italy is a wonder. I mean, take the Trenton Farmers Market in NJ (which used to be a favorite of mine) and multiply quantity and quality and variety by a hundred, and you get the idea. Check out that fried smelts lunch! I tell you, I've never seen such wondrous variety of every food you can imagine this side of the pond outside of NYC... everything and anything your little heart desires. Makes Whole Foods look like a convenience store.

Note ashtray

six kindsa beans!

Eating for four! Somethin's gotta give!

Caught this lovely little city front yard jardin of cosmos on the way back home from the Marche (that's pronounced, as you probably know, marshay but I don't have the accents thing handy here). Isn't it lovely? what esprit! What whimsy against all the concrete! Montrealers are a hearty, optimistic lot.

And the barbeque last night chez Ramelle et Richard (Happy Birthday, Richard!) in a just to die for 1860 funky little artists' house southeast of here, very french! was completely ooh- ah charming, with a gorgeous enclosed, vine covered yard out back. Great food spread (I brought a caramelized beet salad I whipped up with gorgeous beets and leetle figs I found at the marche and fresh herbs, etc. Everyone seemed to like it, recipe on request) and, seriously, a truly interesting et tres sympa group of creative types: professors, writers (Tess, I was sorry to not talk with you more!) documentary film makers, a gourmandise (hey, Dave!), etc. A precious 6 month old baby who was my last extended conversation of the evening. Talk about a guy you wanna take home from a party! Sweet Ronan. Mum's Irish of course! I played with his teeny, fat little feet for a good fifteen minutes. A very tolerant young man to indulge me so. Takes you back to your precious days as a mum of leetle ones. Loved the mum as well. Truly, everyone there just charming and warm and kind and jolly. Thanks, Fran, for taking me along! Walking alone here at night is a revelation. Safe for the most part and Wow Friday night on St. Laurent was lively. I loved it.

Think the rest of the weekend I'll indulge a little in the things I can't find anywhere stateside. Pastries, (Fran sez the Bostok at Gascogne is a must have) excellent cafe au laid, the amazing Quiet of the 'hood Outremont on weekends. It empties out like Paris in August on the weekends as the middle class plus (who can afford weekend places cause they have free healthcare) hie off to the country.

I find myself on Saturday and Sunday mornings here walking the dog in this leafy hood and humming Joni's My Secret Place. Been awhile since that one spiraled through my head. Oddly, I find bits of Joni tunes running through my head all the time here. (She's from Saskachewan. ) I blame Mel for starting that with the Song from Sharon email. Now it's all Joni all the Time Radio playing in my audial brain. Oh well, could be worse, eh? Could be ... well, fill in the blank.

Hasta la pasta..

Speaking of which, Dave informs me the best restau in Montreal is DNA. I read their menu (do yourself a favor, click on link and check it out just to get your salivaries going) on line, and he's probably right.

ps... don't think I've gone all soft in the head or fallen into some food induced coma... there;s plenty of sociopolitical commentary lurking in the crenellations and on my desktop just waiting for the moment something really pisses me off. then I'll drag all those links up, have my say, and likely piss a few folks off again. So enjoy the "mellow" while it lasts. But just for fun, here's a proposal from a couple days ago that got people excited: If we paid kindergarten teachers over $300,000 a year, would we be getting our money's worth?

pps... IF you're reading this and yo haven't signed in above as a follower yet, please do so. It keeps me goin. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

click pics to

more stained glass, tennis courts, fall fleur

A woman asked me what I was doing as I stood taking a photo of her stained glass windows, so I told her with a smile, complimenting their beauty. She shrugged as though I were a fool, saying, "They're everywhere! So what?" (My mental response? Not where I come from, lady.)

A complete waste of a day trying to download photos from blackberry to computer (failure) and to get wifi on my blackberry to work only to call my service provider and discover they don't guarantee that using wifi for media, calls, etc. when you 're out of the US won't cost you anyway, in addition to the ten bucks monthly fee they charge for that domestically. They said they'd call me back and didn't. flippin gawpers...

Nice evening yesterday wandering the streets of Outremont after supper of polish beet soup and stuffed cabbage with Fran at the polish deli on St. Viateur, excellent beet soup. I miss having my garden full of beets for sure and this was a real treat. (Friday a trip to the Italian 'hood open market is in the works, then a barbeque party which sounds like fun.) The beet soup followed my fab hair appointment with Magali, Coiffure Mile-End at 23 St. Viateur, who Francoise recommended and wow is she ever talented and tres gentille. I was a new woman the entire rest of the day into this morning... until the flippin gawpers...

All kinds of stuff in the news, none of it good. The World is 'leaking' like a sieve I am completely unsurprised to report. Looks like Facebook is gonna have a major meltdown sooner or later as their files get hacked into and all your personal info goes viral. Saw that one comin, didn't we? Then there's the Wikileaks War Scandal. No surprises there, just shameful coverups as per usual. IAWTYT (pronounced EE-Yah-TIT, kinda like 'yo mama'): the acronym for It's Always Worse Than You Think. The poor, noble Wikileaks website has been so overloaded with hits for days I STILL can't get it to load. And what else.... oh yeah, here's an interesting chart I found. In case you were forgetting how we got into this economic morass we're in and what the prognosis is if we keep up these continued illegal occupations of foreign countries and Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.

The Times is putting us on notice: the Vitamin D has leaked out of our lives. They're right of course; Adelle would concur. Have your D level tested lately along with your cholesterol levels? Course not, unless you have health insurance and a decent GP. And what are those odds for the average Jane? So eschew the sunscreen, except on the face, and at least two or three times a week, head outside for a good 10 to 20 minutes in the midday (10 a.m.t o 3 p.m.) sun, plenty of skin exposed and soak it up. A nice walk with shorts and a short sleeved shirt will do it. Or expose more if you can can away with it. The list of diseases you'll avoid by doing so (in addition to healthy habits) is mindbending. Take a supplement as well. It doesn't have to be expensive. A few bucks, five, ten at most. It's a good thing, as Martha sez.

Speaking of rich TV personalities: Oprah is way too fullaherself. She talks too much and doesn't let her guests have their say unless they're headed to some overloaded emotional morass she thinks will make good, weepy press. She used to be kinda ok. Now, she's got that thang. Complete lack of humility, the faux humble thang. I can't believe with all her money and success she's still so insecure, got to go on and on bout how she 'intentions' this and 'feels' that while her guests kinda sit there wondering when it's their turn. Lady needs to shake off all those Leboutins and get what Agatha Christie would call a pair of sensible shoes and take a long walk without a camera followin her. (I'm not a fan but I like to check her out from time to time cause I want my novel on her show someday, like Kaye Gibbons' was.)

REminder: if you haven't put Word of the Day link on your homepage, it's a great way to start the brain cells up every day and you help make the world a better place. So do it today! It's free! What have you got to lose? So much to gain.
A few more sites on privacy protections and finding people in general for free. Sorry, I got those links backwards. You can figure it out. Yes, I know. My heart's just not in it today. Sorry.

Looking up a quote you recall a line of can really break your mental stride, in a good and necessary way. Poetry really forces you to slow down, take care with what you're thinking. A good thing, to ratchet up your awareness level of what's on your own mind. Mindless as we are most of the time. What a way to live! It's something to think about.

I've been thinking a lot about the word "homeless" lately. People ask me where I live. I tell them, "nowhere, everywhere, anywhere, I don't really know now". So I say "I'm homeless" just to see how they respond to that. And around here the usual response has been a sort of cautious humor. Homeless is such a shameful word in the States. It connotes all kinds of failure and disgrace. In France they call the homeless the sans abri -- 'without shelter' (but my mind goes to arbre, which is tree, as in 'no tree to be under' – I am very suggestible in French) which is a gentler, more compassionate term. It implies a harsh world (from which one needs 'shelter') that has somehow failed the sans abri, not they who fail to find shelter. But in America to be homeless is to have failed as a citizen consumer, as a home improving Lowe's devotee (having been one, I can say this), and that's about all there is to it. Ergo you've failed as a patriot. Plenty of war vets are homeless I read. Wonder if that POV includes them despite their service.

So wonder if indeed I am homeless, at least by Robert Frost's definition who said in the gorgeous poem The Death of the Hired Man,

'Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.'

I'm not completely sure I really have any place
like that in my life, and that's pretty amazing
after decades, three quarters of my life in fact ,
spent providing such a place for others.

Maybe that's what I'm going to find out.

courage, mon enfant! as my momma would say ... if she spoke French.

...I bet she speaks French in heaven...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday afternoon stroll... encore

(This area is stained glass central! Click to enlarge photos.)

Another Sunday Meander though the areas around Outremont, again across Avenue du Parc to Toi, Moi et Cafe for dejeuner and what is probably the best cafe au laid by far in the entire city of Montreal. The owner is a torrefacteur, which I think means coffee bean buyer/ roaster/ connoisseur. And he/she certainly knows their beans. They sell something like 50 varieties of beans and roasts, and, if you read French, the placemat will give you a real education on which beans one consumes at what time of day, how best to grind them and brew them for that particular bean and time of day, and anything else your little heart desires to learn about the subject of coffee. And not a hint of snobbery about it either. They just really like their coffee. So I came home with three types of beans, one for breakfast (made just for cafe au laid their way, dark roast made in an espresso pot), one for lunch (coarser grind in a bodum plonger maker) and one for after dinner (taken straight out of the espresso pot it's brewed in).

After my yummy brunch of eggs Mont Moisson (or something), composed of the most perfect little balls (how DO they do that??) of perfectly poached egg atop lightly sauteed thin ham on well toasted (not soggy) English Muffs, then sparingly napped with a lovely light hollandaise, some fresh fruit, including a smattering of blueberries (cute), some sweet baked beans, and leetle home fries, fresh OJ, and cafe au Laid (there IS none better I've ever had anywhere here), I waddled over to Patisserie Le Gascogne (something of a mecca for me now – I go there to pray on Sunday) across the street and stocked up on my little Sunday "fromage" (the dacquoise/butter creme miracle that looks like a round of cheese, but isn't), a nice little breakfast pastry with raspberry inside that looks like a miniature coffee cake, some imported french ham for my dinner crepe (eating a LOT of ham here, it's all so good!), and some teeny tomato and boccerincini al pesto to add to my salad.

Happy, happy, joy, joy... Nothing makes me feel more optimistic about life than just knowing this stuff is there for me to enjoy. All I have to do is pick something out, open my wallet, and march on home smiling for all I'm worth.

Life IS good...

I saw a show on TV here about a pizza place in Little Italy (La Bottega) only blocks from here about making pizza (the real de Napoli kind, super thin, all homemade ingredients, incl. sauce) with semolina flour to give the crust crunch. Want to check that out this, my last, week. I got tired of spending 8 bucks for a crepe so made a batch yesterday, fish crepe for dinner (darling little filets of sole – fresh sole? when's the last time I saw that for sale? and for two bucks?) with creme fraiche and braised celery. What could be simpler? and so good!

Carrying on, I decided to head up Parc, the long way home to see what's on this unexplored section of the street and lo! A used book store! Si charmante! A table with books I like outside, in English no less! Hmmmm...... must go inside!

third story stairway to heaven...

A multitude of goodies at Le Gascogne. It's like an art museum for food! I bought that
french ham! Covet those petits fours...

And who should I meet but Gilles La Croix and Jean Marc Ste. Marie, the proprietors of Le Septieme Sablier –the seventh hourglass. And this is why I love the French language: sable is the word for sand, ergo a sablier is not a 'sander' but something that uses/sifts sand? (Like sands though the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Who said that?) What poetry!! Located at 5372 Avenue du Parc, H2VIG4, Montreal. A fabulous and utterly charming English/ French used bookshop, very reasonable prices, in an impeccably kept, extremely well organized and full of light basement space on Rue du Parc between Fairmount and St. Viateur. These are two of the most jovial, adventurous, kind, positive energy and complimentary fellas I've met in years. I would move here just to have coffee with them regularly. I bought some Steinbeck, some Robertson Davies, and Jean Marc gave me (the price of it was more than both other books combined!) a rare english translation of a famous Quebecois playwright whose name escapes me. Two people excited about life, generous to a fault, and just the most delightful fellas, these two were the last stop on my Sunday meander today. When you're through reading what you buy they insist you bring it back and trade for something else if you like.

Charmants messieurs!!
Jean Marc insisted I throw caution to the wind, take whatever resources I have, and live in France "for as long as it takes", "you must be the American in Paris, of course!" This is true for many an artist, I'm sure he'd agree. He insisted my full name (he pronounced it right!) would be all any literary agent needed to sell the novel. You gotta love folks who are still full of that much life at the age of 55 plus. He complimented the humor in my eyes (insisted he also saw the "tears", nice); he seemed to like the cut of my jib and of my politics (I said little but he caught on quickly, a well informed man), and told me Montreal likes opinionated women. "We do not tie our women down!" or something to that effect. He said my french had a "soft spoken quality" to it that was nice. HA! I wanted to kiss him! I told him no one had ever before referred to anything about me as soft spoken. He said I lived in the wrong place, then; that people did not understand me. That both France and Montreal would be glad to have a woman like me. He said the women in France all have a little of that "Simone de Beauvoir thing" going. Nice! Sure made me feel less like a freak, that's for sure. I have certainly felt the freak at times around "friends" who, while admiring my smarts, whisper little entre nous, like "Yeah, but you can't take her anywhere" and think it's funny... that somehow such pointy little pinpricks won't wend their way back to my ears, and sting mightily when they do.

I felt happy and quite blessed when I left the shop with the books under my arm. they are right, life is for living, not trying to make plans all of which will, in the end, land you in some variation of one nursing home or another. What's it matter which one you're in if you can't remember who the hell you are anyway? I instantly loved the both of them and spent nearly an hour talking American writers and French politics. (They had TWO copies of Kaye Gibbons' Charms for an Easy Life! One of my all time fave books, and often not easy to find. I told them "this is a gem!" and they loved that. Heaven there really....Need more of this kind of what my college pal Herbie used to call "Positive Assistance Vibrations" on a daily basis. I plan to find it too.

Jean Marc et Gilles! Je vous adore! Je me souviens...

A plus tard..

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Brevity is the soul of wit..." Hamlet

Lady Nancy Astor (above and on rt) and joyriding pals... cruisin for burgers and guys?

Ever feel like you're just at your "wit's end"? Well just pull up to the tank here and refill your tired repartee by spending a few moments with my favorite quotable wit, Lady Nancy Astor. An American, who married a rich guy but didn't let that stop her, she became the first woman to hold a seat in the British House of Commons. FAmous for her wit, she once said (and don't I wish I'd heard this before I said yes, dammit. I might have thought twice.):

"I married beneath me. All women do."

Bullseye! God, that just cracks me up every time. Her hubby musta been a guy with a sense of humor. I'll check and let you know.

My other fave quote is Dorothy Parker's:

"If all the women at the Yale prom were laid end to end,
I wouldn't be a bit surprised."

Such deftness of speech is to be envied. Quick as a shell game. Women of wit and intelligence. Without appearing to be doing anything but having fun, they both managed to make major contributions to the societies they lived in. Heavy lifting, as it were, of very different kinds. Though they never would have described what they did as 'heavy lifting' as they weren't complainers and would have considered describing their efforts thusly as self important claptrap.

Here's some of what Lady Astor, who, when she awoke during her last illness to find her family standing around her bed asked, "Am I dying or is it my birthday?" , has to say to us from the grave. Spend a few delicious seconds with each one...

"Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity."

I refuse to admit I'm more than fifty-two, even if that does make my sons illegitimate.."

"The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything -- or nothing."

"The only thing I like about rich people is their money."

"One reason I don't drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time."

AND last but not least...

My vigor, vitality, and cheek repel me. I am the kind of woman I would run from."

[Boy, I hear

[Here's one from her pal, Winston Churchill, with whom she shared this clever exchange:

“Lady Nancy Astor: Winston, if you were my husband, I'd poison your tea.
Churchill: Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink it.”

Doesn't that just make you wonder if men and women aren't really missing something these days when it comes to enjoying each others' company and wit? Everyone takes offense so quickly. Maybe it's the lack of wit, the crudeness, the low life quality of humor. But we have lost something to the telly's homogenization of our personalities. Non?

Mr. Churchill said: (and let's send this along to Mr. Boehner and a few others, shall we?)

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

They left out his "and then pours a drink and thinks about it."

So ... what's in your closet? Here's a fun activity to fill out your summer dance card...

Just for the heckuvit, why not go on a Shopping Diet? It's amazing the difference between how little people will notice you've done this and how much you'll notice a difference of another kind. Try wearing the same 6 things for a month and see what happens. It's a great idea!! I've been doing it for five months pretty much cause I"m traveling, but you can do this at home. Important lessons to be learned by all of us from this.

Check this out. I was looking into low blood sugar ( I know, hard to believe, isn't it?) and found this. Who knew we had (scroll down to this) a sugar craving gene??

[Not I, said the Hen...]

Remember that old dieting adage: A moment on the lips, forever on the hips?

Well, listen up, all you Twitterers and Facebookers to what evidence is showing about whatever you've got showing.. .. Whatever you put out there.. remember, it's f o r e v e r...

later, alligators and cowgirls!

What on earth is that?

I spent the better part of yesterday wandering the streets of Vieux Montreal. Old Montreal isn't a patch on Quebec City, by the way, for historical preservation and historical interest. You have to work too hard to find the good stuff here. And the small museums are pricey. The place that impressed me the most was the Hostellerie du Pierre Calvet, a private and quite pricey but WOW really fabulous place, hostellerie. I was intrigued by the entrance, so wandered in and spoke to the friendly concierge madame. I thought it was a museum. She insisted on calling the owner to show me his sculpture collection housed in the oldest (1725) part of the house (on the corner) and voila! what fun! Click on the link and check out the bedrooms, the history of the place, and all the other rooms. Gorgeous. Do not confuse hostellerie with hostel– a hostellerie is an hotel that serves le diner as well, according to the owner, M. Trottier, a fine sculptor and exceedingly friendly man. This place belonged to his family way back. And such a nice guy! We had fun. I spent more time chatting with him and having him show me his sculptures than anywhere else on my little tour. That's his Jules Verne type contraption up top (I called it une folie, he liked that). Those are coffee beans inside. All sorts of welded on geegaws and whimsy! Clearly a man who knows how to have fun.

A kind woman in the rear of the Notre Dame de Secours offered to take my picture as I was apparently overcome with a sudden attack of narcolepsy; someone please send this photo to Sister Emerentia, if she's still kicking (kids in the ass). A beautiful church, the earliest one here and the 'sailors' church, hence the boat hanging over altar (saw a lot of this kind of thing in coastal France; love the idea. Lift those boats to heaven. boys! Keep em floating!)

The 'help' in cafes and restaus was very kind, polite and knowledgeable. Avoid the Jacques Cartier esplanade. Nothin but commercial stuff. Even the maple syrup there was faux. Better maple products outdoors on a table in front of the Marche Bonsecours (again more tourist nonessentials, and a little art, for sale, but not at the maple syrup table outside, that was good!). Good restaurants I spotted away from Jacques Cartier included: Chez Epicier, Garconniere (champagne and oysters, I know just who'd like that place), Ibiscus (has jazz in summer), and of course the Hostellerie. Nice dinner menu.

If you head down to the waterfront a block down from Rue St. Paul to Rue de la Commune you find Moozoo, which will whip you up a refreshing real fruit drink, no premixes, no crap, to sip as you wander through the park, maybe to the IMAX or the old clock tower. (Too hot for me yesterday, but the fruit drink was yummy.)

I was glad to hop the 129 bus up Cote St Catherine to the Pain Dore and home. A little disappointed in Montreal, which seems to be, the entire place nearly, under major construction, including the arts district west of old town. The colorful government assembly building made an impression though. I think I'll just hang out here in Outremont where it's shady and cool and quiet and the cafe au lait is perty gud.

M. Trottier below and his hostellerie