Monday, February 23, 2015

Montréal: À la Prochaine

I needed to go back to Montréal by myself.  

I needed to go back by myself to reconnect to a city that I love deeply.

I needed to go back to the place where I started my adult life.  

A place that pushed me and stretched me to the point of anxiety.  

A place where those anxieties were overcome.

A place where I flourished, despite the odds. 


I had forgotten all that I had accomplished.  

I had written it off and put it behind me.

I had forgotten how I learned to navigate the city all by myself.

I had forgotten how many places I explored. 

I had forgotten how I had felt like an outsider from the French Québécois and yet felt invited to be myself.  

I had forgotten how I tried so many new things, despite feeling insecure.  

I had forgotten how much joy I found in the parks, the mountain and the architecture.


On this trip, I had grand aspirations to explore Mile-End, view art galleries, maybe purchase some art, do some clothes shopping, sit in a cafe, eat wonderful meals, etc...

Instead, what I found is that instead of interacting with the city, I simply needed first to open back up the doors to myself and the memories that I have with the city.

It is a start, a beginning of many visits to Montréal.


Although I had planned to be alone, I drove from Toronto with a friend and dropped her off in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue which is an older village on the very western-most point of the island of Montréal.  There was much snow on the road and I almost skidded into a parking lot snowbank, as I was going too fast for the conditions.  With that as a warning, I proceeded on the 2.5 hour drive towards Sherbrooke with caution.

The sun was starting to set, which cast marvellous light and shadows across the mountains and snow-covered fields.  Snow blew across the mostly empty highway like tiger stripes, creating a serene and enchanted drive through the Eastern Townships.

After getting a bit lost and almost turning into oncoming traffic (yikes!) I finally made it to my friend's house.  Much wine and cheese was consumed and we caught up over many hours and many glasses of wine.  And I subsequently purged.  When was the last time that I did that?

After a good sleep-in, I felt not exactly like a million bucks, but cleansed in a strange way.

I drove back to Montréal and went straight to Jean-Talon market and parked the car.

So started my walk through Mile-End to view a few art galleries.

Having had a later start than scheduled and feeling quite hungry, my priority was food.  Not deviating too much from plan, I walked from Jean-Talon and St. Denis across to St. Laurent and down to Rue Saint Viateur and dined at the vegetarian cafe Le Cagibi.  (Ahem, Julia -- how much did I think of you!!!)

After perusing some galleries and admiring the neighbourhood, I retrieved the car and met my friend back at the hotel.  We braved the winter weather and found our way to a typical Old Montréal restaurant for dinner.  It was a lovely meal and a relaxing evening.

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and drove back to Toronto.  


Montréal is a wonderful city for the senses.  It is a place where the arts can flourish and are appreciated.  That includes the art of wine, food, fashion, architecture as well as the fine and performing arts.  

It is this appreciation that I want to tap more into.  The sensuousness of French culture is something that demands my attention.  

And so, Montréalà la prochaine!


Jenn & her lovely house in Sherbrooke.

Drive back to MTL

Bathroom stall graffiti at Jean-Talon market.
Why does even the graffiti seem more refined?

Yes, there was accordion music at the entrance.


Winter in Montreal.

I love the steeples that pop up throughout the city.


Mile-End underpass

Le Cagibi

Snow pile behind art gallery.

Typical apartments with lovely wrought iron staircases.

Winter festival at Place des Arts

That's a zip-line---what a great winter activity.

Notre-Dame Basillica 
Hotel window.

Outside the Hotel Window #1


And finally/finalement, despite the focus on myself and Montréal, I miss Henry like crazy.  Here's a video from last week, to make me smile, and perhaps you too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In the Heart of Winter

It's Pancake Day / Shrove Tuesday / Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras.

Due to a city water pipe freezing and bursting near St. John's, the organized Pancake Supper was cancelled. 

I had previously been talking up Pancake Day, so I presented Henry with an alternative:  make pancakes at home or go to a diner and eat professional pancakes.

Make them at home, he said.


"I can do this." I think to myself.  I've made pancakes many times before.

Somehow along the way, it turned into making cat-face pancakes, with a raccoon pancake that Henry's stuffed raccoons could eat out of the garbage can.


"I can do this."  I think to myself.

I checked the ingredients for my Best Ever Light and Fluffy Pancake recipe.  I checked google images for the easiest way to make a cat face.  The results blew my mind.  What people get up to...

Anyway, I was sure to pick up the ingredients and some chocolate syrup and whipped cream on my way to pick up Henry today.

Oops--how did the Bailey's get in there?

While I made the pancakes and fussed about, Henry played video games on my phone, being too tired to help.  Ok, no problem.

Ta da!

Elisabeth:  Here you go Henry!  What do you think?

Henry:  Good.

So we sat down to eat and I'm feeling pleased as punch.  Henry unprompted says the pancakes are "great!  really great!"

That is until, the overwhelming flavour of baking powder kicked-in.  Despite the chocolate syrup, maple syrup and whipped cream, there was an overwhelming bitter after-taste of baking powder.  


How did this happen?  I had followed the recipe to a T.  But...I guess the recipe just sucked.  

So neither of us finished the pancakes, which is much better for the waistline.

I think the raccoons enjoyed it the most...

And the last few days IN PICTURES:

Was told the night before that Henry
needed to bring "100 of Something" to school.
So we cut up origami into 100 triangles.

Cantaloupe smile.

On Friday the 13th, Henry had a PA Day so I took the day off of work.  We played in the apartment all morning long until it was time to head into the city for lunch and a movie.

One of Toronto's oldest diners.  I went here as a child.
Henry ordered the safari chicken nuggets,
which come shaped like gorillas, elephants and zebras.
He wouldn't eat them because he likes the animals too much.
What do you say?
"Go on!  Eat your friends, they're good for you!"
Finally!  He enjoyed the movie thoroughly.

Along for the ride.

It's a bit hard to see, but we started putting up glow-stars on Henry's ceiling.
The kit came with constellation stencils.  This one is Leo.
Henry loved it, so must go out and buy more stars and planets.

He's starting to request sleeping in his own bed.
And his wish came true that Luther joined him. 

Saturday was Valentine's Day.  He was uninterested in the chocolate hearts that I had bought.  And instead was focused on his friend coming over for the first play date at the apartment.  He helped me to vacuum, tidy his toys, take out the trash and decorate valentine's cupcakes.  All in all the playdate was a great success.

Sledding with his friend on Valentine's Day.  

Luther sitting above the playdate fray.   

Unwinding at the end of the day with kinetic sand!
Sunday was church.  And I failed to check the weather before we walked up the street to church.  Minus 37 C with the windchill.  ARGH!  I had to carry the poor freezing boy for the last 5 minutes.  Thankfully someone gave us a ride home.  

And then we had a 5th birthday party to go to at a house off of the TTC grid.  So Henry enjoyed 2 taxi rides.

And finally, Henry's 1st report card.  I'm not going to play down how proud I am of him.  

And the next couple of weeks' schedule is abnormal.  I have Henry until Friday morning and then will not have him all but one day next week.  In that time I will be taking a short trip to Montreal and will attend the annual sales conference for work (in Toronto this year, not The Bahamas unfortunately.)

So, who knows when the next blog will come.

à bientôt

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Absence in the Present

I'm starting to see myself and my life in a new light.  

Lately when I look in the mirror, whether it be applying mascara or holding tree pose in hot yoga, I see someone lighter, more fluid.  I see someone not yet familiar, but the reflection leaves me feeling elated.  I have a chance to be.  To discover.

And yet in this time of realignment and discovery, it is still easy to find tears under the surface.  The tears are not for old wounds or loneliness.  The tears are for Henry.  

I miss him badly when I come back to my apartment and his toys are on the floor.  But there's no mischievous little blond-haired rug-rat jumping on the bed or sliding across the floor on a blanket.  

There's no one to pour juice for, cook for, fuss over, clean-up after.  I miss the hugs and the cuddles and the stories.  

And I struggle with not having daily continuity in his life.  It is a struggle to find a way to get this four-year-old to open up about his day at school, the friends he's making, the kids that are not so nice and how that makes him feel.  Which activities he most enjoys, what he played outside in the snow.

If I haven't seen him for two days, catching up on the rich minutia of a day is near-impossible.  And so there are gaps. 

Gaps for me, but not for Henry  For him, he is learning that he controls some aspects of his life apart from his parents and is quickly learning to test the boundaries of storytelling vs. lying.

All this to say, I don't worry about Henry and his development.  He seems confident, happy, energetic, imaginative and is well-behaved for the most part.  It's just a matter of adjusting to this different sort of parenting challenge. 

A big part of this challenge is to fully accept reality, to embrace the advantages as well as the disadvantages.  Living simply is a key factor in being able to achieve this.  That, and not being afraid to feel the absences, as they are the perfect motivation for staying focused on building the future.  

And changing tack, here is the last week IN PICTURES:

Cooking in circles.

Henry's tracing work from daycare.

End of a long day.

Child's pose.

OMG!  Road Trip!

To visit oldest bro for his 40th.


"Pin the Pilot in the Cockpit" was fun entertainment.

Sink cat.
Starting Friday, I'll have Henry for a 3-day weekend followed by a day off on Monday.  Then he's back with me for Pancake Tuesday.  Then Lent starts.  

Quite accidentally, March is billed to be austerity month.  No extracurricular activities for Elisabeth.  No surprises for Henry.  Food is to be streamlined...oats and soup...maybe I'll just wear black...the possibilities are endless...stay tuned... 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Walking Along, Singing a Song...

"You'll Never Walk Alone"
from Carousel
Lyrics:  Oscar Hammerstein II
Music:  Richard Rodgers

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Finding a Rhythm

Trying to build a rhythm to the days, weeks and months.  

Like weaving a pattern into a cloth, when there are new colours to introduce after focusing so long on the periphery, the momentum is interrupted.  One must stop, think and re-tool.

I'm finding that I always try to do too much, and so I am working on training myself to do less.  And by doing less, I find I actually get more done and more sleep.  

For this reason, March has been designated a calendar detox month.  I am making no plans and must resist the pressure to, just meet up with that person, just go to this event, just go out and see this new thing.  I must feel what it is to sit still more.  Sleep more.  Read more.  And whatever else comes of it.


Uncle Mark & Henry:  reunited

Luther has moved into his cat house, finally.

Surprise for Henry:  Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game.  

Weekend with Henry!

Watching a real sneaky snacky squirrel.

Making cookies.

Freshly squeezed orange juice.  Easy and delicious.  Henry disagrees.

Playing in the snow post-church.

Paw Patrol with friends.  Henry loves singing the theme song.

Post-sledding hot chocolate.  Henry's very inclusive.

Weekend with Henry--the tail end...

Winding down with Connect 4.

à bientôt