Monday, December 29, 2008

Of Christmas weather and the 99 meme

Well Christmas is over and we finally have a ceiling in the kitchen.... yeah. The weather has been really awful here in the last week. On the 24 there was 20 cm of snow which quickly changed to freezing rain then into rain and more rain. Then last weekend we had freezing rain again on Saturday, that iced everything down which changed to rain and more rain until Sunday. Sunday night there were 60 km hour winds that were gusting up to 90 km an hour in places. In fact the winds were so strong that it blew out the windows in two office buildings, ripped off roofs, caused a brick wall to collapse and 71000 people were without power as a result, luckily we weren't part of that group. Also as a result of the warm weather of +12 to 16 Celsius the snow has melted and rivers are close to overflowing.... and this is only December.

Now on to a lighter vein. This meme has been going around so I decided to give it a try since I am not really feeling inspired tonight. Thanks to Ian, citizen and geewits. BOLD = done it, RED = never and GREEN = haven't done it but intent to.

1. Started your own blog
(Well I'm writing one at the moment so I guess so.)
2. Slept under the stars (Always loved camping and also during my stint in the army)
3. Played in a band (Zero musical ability)
4. Visited Hawaii (Went to Nepal, Ecuador, Ireland, the UK, France, the Dominican Republic but not Hawaii)
5. Watched a meteor shower (Plenty of times the Pleiads are the best)
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/Disney World (Never been and don't intend to.)
8. Climbed a mountain (Does hiking up to the base of Everest count? I have climbed/hiked to the summit of many mountains but nothing that required technical rope work.)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (Can't sing to save my life.)
11. Bungee jumped (Nope and I don't intend to.)
12. Visited Paris (Spent two weeks there a couple of years ago. I'm not really a city person but Paris captured my heart. I loved wandering around the centre of Paris, the Quartier Latin, the Louvre, Notre Dame de Paris.... loved it. )
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (Photography)
15. Adopted a child (Have two of my own plus twin grand daughters...)
16. Had food poisoning (Couldn't stand the smell of food for two weeks...)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (Did it with my students.)
18. Grown your own vegetables (Do I look like a farmer?)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (Oh yes but the painting is much smaller than I thought.)
20. Slept on an overnight train. (I'd like to try a coast to coast trip by train.)
21. Had a pillow fight (Hasn't everyone?)
22. Hitch hiked (Ah the follies of youth.)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (I'm a teacher, we have no vacation days that we can place where we like. So they are not really sick days but mental health days.)
24. Built a snow fort. (And also had mega snowball wars.)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (Yep at Crystal Falls, my but the water was cold. We would jump off the cliffs into the pool below the falls. )
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (One day)
29. Seen a total eclipse (Yes and a couple of partials)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (Many times, I love taking pictures of them.)
31. Hit a home run (I was lousy at baseball as a kid.)
32. Been on a cruise (Nope but I might like to go on an Alaskan cruise...)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (Was there last year with my students but that wasn't the first time.)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (Well I lived in the same place as my first ancestor in New France in 1685 (Québec City) and plan to visit Normandy and Brittany on our next trip to Europe.)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (I am trying to learn Spanish)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. (Money does not happiness make, but yes I have enough to be happy and content.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person (One day soon.)
39. Gone rock climbing (Used to climb up the cliffs in Chicoutimi, no ropes or safety equipment. What can I say, we were young and stupid...)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (As mentioned before, you don't want to hear me sing.)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa (North Africa, Tunisia to be exact.)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (off the coast of PEI)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (And I climbed most of the way by the stairs.)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Mrs. BB and I used to dive when we were younger. We even had a dry suit and the rest of the equipment.)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China (Definately something I'd like to do. I did however hike along Hadian's Wall in England)
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class (Judo when I was a kid.)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen (Yes and it made me realise how lucky I was. There but for the grace of God , goes I.)
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (Wrong gender)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (Many times, tried in November but since I had been to Equator in the lst year they wouldn't take me.)
65. Gone sky diving (Canadian Airborne School, Edmonton Alberta.)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (Will be visiting Dachau with my students as part of a school trip to Europe.)
67. Bounced a check (Don't intent to either)
68. Flown in a helicopter (When I was in the army I was air OP (obsevation post) with my artillery regiment. The Huey would fly so low you could hear the tops of the trees brush against the bottom fo the the helicopter. Great fun.)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial (Everytime we visit Washington with the the students)
71. Eaten Caviar (Uggh)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square (Three or four times)
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London (In 2004 we spent 8 weeks in England)
77. Broken a bone (More than one)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (From cover to cover also the Koran and the Buddhist teachings. Not bad for an atheist.)
86. Visited the White House (from the outside they don't let you near anymore.)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (wrong gender but geewits is right I do have two children BBdaughter and BB son as well as two grand-daughters)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (We won)
98. Owned a cell phone (Still do, doesn't everyone?)
99. Been stung by a bee

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Meme and other news

Well we now have a ceiling in the kitchen, the plastering is done and they should be coming to paint tomorrow... finished at last just in time for Christmas. I haven't bogged in a while because I just didn't have the time or energy. Since I just came back from 10 km of cross country skiing where it was -14 degrees celsius with a nice brisk 30 km/h wind (feels like -24) I am not all that energetic. Having said this I'll borrow from my lil sister and make it easy on myself.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

I'm all thumbs with wrapping paper and tape... the presents invariably look like they were rolled in colourful newspaper, so I much prefer bags. Usually it is Mrs. BB who does the wrapping since she likes to give nicely wrapped parcels and it ain't going to happen with me.

2. Real tree or artificial?

To tell the truth we usually don't have a Christmas tree since Mrs. BB puts up a mega Christmas village. Village? Heck, it's closer to a major metropolitan centre. It takes up at least 75% of the living room. The kids are fascinated by it since everything lights up and many things move around, such as the train and the gondolas for the ski slope.
This year we didn't do the village since our twin grand-kids (Allison and Zoé) are 10 months old and in the crawl everywhere and put everything in the mouth stage of life, so we put up a small artificial tree out of their reach and didn't even think of building the village. It would be about like Godzilla in Tokyo if we had. ;o)
Looks funny but I made a panorama out of three pictures so I could get the whole village in the picture. In the front that you can't see in the picture there are the train and bus stations and the harbour complete with artificial water, fishermen and boats.

3. When do you put up the tree?

Usually Mrs. BB starts construction of the village at the beginning of December. It obviously takes quite a while to put up and take down.

4. When do you take the tree down?

She takes it down in the beginning of January.

5. Do you like eggnog?

Yuck! nuff said.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

It must have been a telescope that I received when I was about 11 years old. I had it for years and loved looking at the sky.

7. Hardest person to buy for?

Me... I love to give presents, but I'll usually just go get the things I need or want when I need them. Drives my kids crazy because anything they could buy me for Christmas I've already gone out and bought.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

Mrs. BB... I just watch her when we go shopping and when she looks at something longingly (often art supplies, she's an artist don't you know) I'll just buy it for her. I usually don't wait for Christmas because I much prefer the instant surprise, the impromptu gift.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

Do they do non-denominational, atheistic nativity scenes?

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

I'll usually give a Christmas card to my close colleagues at school but I don't buy them, I print them myself using my winter photos and special cards for printing in an ink jet printer. I love to give a bit of myself rather than buy generic Christmas cards.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

None that I can think of.

12. Favourite Christmas Movie?

Hmmm, don't really have the time to watch Christmas movies but if I had to pick one it would be "A Christmas Carol" with Alastair Sim as Scrooge in the original Black and White. The scene with the ghost of Christmas Future and the tombstone scared me silly when I watched it as a young kid.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

Usually too late...I hate being in the stores at Christmas... way too many people for my taste.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?


15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?

My moms cooking... Ragout d'boulettes, tourtière, galettes à Laura (a kind of thick cooky/scone. It was a secret recipe of my grandmother), tarte à pichoune (a type of pie with a raisin and molasses filling)

16. Lights on the tree?

Of course there should be lights that way Santa can see in the dark.

17. Favourite Christmas song?

Don't usually do the Christmas song thing, but if I had to give some favourites I'd have to say the old French Canadian Christmas Carols because they remind me of when my father would sing at midnight mass. For example: Adeste Fideles, Ça Berger, Il est né le divin enfant

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

My family lives in Québec and Mrs. BB's family lives in Sherbroke so we usually end up doing the great triangle between Montreal, Québec and Sherbrooke... not always fun when the weather acts up.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?

Dasher, Donder, Cupid, Blitzen, Prancer, Vixen, Dancer, Comet and of course Rudolph (although he is a recent addition to the sleigh, the originals are from the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" published in 1823, Rudolphe makes his appearance in the 1950 song "Rudoph the Red Nosed Reindeer")

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

A star... poor angel with the tip of a Christmas tree stuck where the sun doesn't shine. ;o)

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

We usually follow the French Canadian tradition which is to have a Réveillon after the Christmas midnight mass (we don't do the mass anymore but we still have the reveillon) I remember when I was a kid we were happy since we always got our gifts before the English kids since they would open theirs on Christmas morning and we'd open ours after midnight mass. We'd open our presents and then stuff our faces with mom's great food. We'd end up going to bed at 4 am and sleep til noon.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

The whole ersatz good cheer thing. Christmas has become just a big consummer thing to help the stores make their bottom line before the end of the year.

23. Favourite ornament theme or colour?

At the birth of each of our children we bought an ornament with their name and the year of their first Christmas. We did it again this year with Allison and Zoé so now they also have their ornament in the tree.

24. Favourite for Christmas dinner?

I'll go with my lil sister's description... Mom's "ragout de boulettes". You take chicken broth, make pork meatballs, boil them in the broth. Add flour that you previously browned in the oven to thicken, season with pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg and serve with potatoes (potatoes must be mashed in your bowl after putting in the ragout) and sweet pickled beets. It sounds very bizarre written out like that, but it's delicious. Oh, and tourtière (a meat pie) and desert til it comes out of our ears. My mom bakes so many deserts that it becomes a chore to choose which one you'll take, so we end up taking a bit of everything...;o)

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Like my lil sister, I have pretty much everything that I need. A wonderful wife, two marvellous children, two adorable angelic grand children, a job I love, food on the table, a roof over my head (even if it leaks from time to time). What more could I wish for?
But I do wish that for Christmas others have the same joy, serenity and security that I enjoy. So I'll just repeat that old refrain in the hope that maybe one day it'll come true: Peace on Earth and goodwill amongst men.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

@#$%*&?%$*& week Redux

The @#$%*&?%$*& repairs didn't work, even though I'd put enough roofing pitch to fix the hole in the bow of the Titanic. In the night of Sunday to Monday it was raining, freezing rain and snow. I got up in the the middle of the night to get a glass of water and my two feet were suddenly in cold icy water with some of it dripping down my neck. (Now I know what the people of the Titanic must have felt... darkness and your feet in cold water that isn't supposed to be there. I can seriously say that it wakes you up in a hurry.) Mop and bucket time along with a litany of choice swearing in two languages. (Being bilingual does have its advantages, I just have to learn Spanish and I'll be even more creative.) The next morning I got out the phone book and started at the top of the list and worked my way down until I found someone willing to come and fix the roof. In the meantime the weather had cleared up some, thank god and the guys could get on with the job. They first ripped up the shingles around the vent, thinking like me, that it was causing the problem. As they uncovered the roof they discovered more and more wet areas. The water was not just coming from the vent. It was coming from the joint between the two roofs. We have a mansard roof that comes down onto the roof of the other half of the house. When we had the roof redone the contractor who did it, did not do the joint correctly and so the water was coming down from the other roof and under the shingles of the lower roof. Boy was I pissed off, the repair guy couldn't believe what a shit job had been done, so he ripped up the shingles along the joint all the way to the peak of the roof and redid everything correctly. I also had the vent taken out and the hole repaired, since the vent was really badly placed and couldn't help leaking there. (I'll put in a ventless fan with a carbon filter in the kitchen. ) After having fixed the outside, I called the insurance and they sent over a a damage team to clean up and dry out the mess. They were very efficient but I kind of pitied them since the insulation I have in the attic is loose insulation that is blown into the attic covered with blankets of fibreglass insulation. Let me tell you that when it is wet it turns into a brown sludge and when they took the wet gyprock ceiling down they were up to their knees in the stuff, some of it wet and some dry, what a mess. They cleaned everything up and covered up the hole with plastic until the insurance gives the OK for them to repair the damage... So that was the beginning of my week, I hope that yours was better...