19 December 2011

Gil's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

In the absence of a real tree decorate your dashboard...
... and window dressings

Quite possibly the most tragic Christmas Tree in the world: 

Although, decorating it was somewhat like I imagine bedazzling to be. The candle was a gift from Brad's work Christmas dinner and smells like a Christmas tree, handy when your tree is foam and card and rhinestones.

18 December 2011

When in Washington...

In Washington (the DC variety) we checked out all the attractions one is supposed to check out when visiting "the nation's capitol".  

The reflecting pools didn't impress me all that much, this is why

I'm not exactly a space fan, but Brad is and we spent some time out the National Air and Space Museum (this may have been payback for those art galleries in New York). though it is growing on me, however after seeing the various actual space craft housed at the museum, I'm perplexed that anyone ever felt they were safe to travel in. Oh, and the Lunar Exploration Module looks almost exactly like a primary school cardboard box project. 

The good thing about this, is that if we ever have kids, and they build a space craft, so long as there is some gold cellophane or paper, and black cardboard involved, we won't have to lie to them when telling them how realistic it looks .  

Thanksgiving happened to fall whilst we were in Washington and in a moment of enthusiasm/insanity, I decided to honour the occasion, and roast turkey in Gil's lasagne dish sized gas oven, which I have since discovered also has an extremely hard time maintaining a constant temperature, (I also contemplated making cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries but Brad stepped in before the concept got much past contemplation). This roasting idea will be all the more amusing to anyone who knows about my previous attempts to cook a Sunday roast.  In case you missed this episode of my life, I couldn't cook a roast to save myself despite asking for advice from nearly every person I know, and failed on all attempts until giving up.  
Ingredients.  Did you really think I'd try cooking a whole turkey?  And before you ask about the cauliflower, if all else failed I've never screwed up cauliflower with cheese sauce.
Turkey under it's "foil tent" that the packet suggested covering it with, apparently the magic red button will pop up when it's done.  And yes the smallest piece I could find was dinner plate sized, far more than enough for two.
*Bing, done*  

I am pleased to report that there is still hope for Gil and I as a roast cooking duo and despite a few small timing issues, Thanksgiving dinner was a success.

17 December 2011

Seven things to make a city a success

(also known as Assorted Bits of Our Visit to New York)

1. A place to park your house within walking distance to public transport taking you to all the places you want to go in under 30 minutes is a must.  Surprisingly, there is actually a campground in New York, well actually a "car park" with power and water connections in Jersey City but who's being picky?

2. If you plan on doing anywhere near as much walking as we did, a good pair of shoes is almost as essential as a good spot to sleep.  Although a pair of flats may look a darn sight better than the other two pairs of shoes you own, they will not cut it.  Trust me, I know (Brad probably doesn't, but would seeing him in a pair of ballet flats be good for anyone?).  After our first day, I was feeling ever pebble, and may as well have been a barefoot cripple – oddly, it didn't occur to me to buy another pair of shoes.

3. Check out the tourist attractions, even if they seem a little cheesy you might be surprised and actually like them.  

In New York, one of these is a trip to the top of the Rockefeller Center (thanks for the recommendation Carrie), and as we visited in late afternoon, got the privilege of seeing the city go from daylight to dusk.  As this wasn't planned I didn't have my tripod, and set my camera up on top of a pillar to accommodate the reduced light.  A short time later, another person joined me on my pillar to do exactly the same thing.  I've got nothing against a spot of pillar sharing, but things started to get a little weird not long after.  On multiple occasions it seemed he was spending more time looking at my camera screen than his own, and his arm kept snuggling up next to mine as he tried to get exactly the same angle and framing as I was ... to the point where I had to get a small, gentle elbow out to eliminate the potential untimely demise of my camera.  When I swapped to delayed shutter release, his shutter release cable came out two seconds later, when I had enough photos and left, he came too, then realised we were getting in the elevator.  I probably should be flattered, but why does a person with a way better camera kit than mine need to copy my photos?
4. Ice hockey is awesome (and possibly addictive), dress warmly.  If attending a sporting event, abandon any intentions of barracking for the visiting team. You'll be in the extreme minority and it probably won't go down well with the locals.

5. Drag your husband around every room of every significant art gallery, he might get a bit bored, but rest assured when he's had enough he'll head outside to find a snack.  He may also surprise himself and like some of it too.

6. If a city is known for it's theatre scene, you should try and take in a performance. Because we don't plan anything more than five minutes in advance we hadn't pre-booked tickets.  Rumour has it that cheap tickets can be purchased on the day but as we found out, this is not always true for the most popular shows.  Brad was keen to see The Book of Mormon - The Musical but I wasn't so sure as it's written by the Southpark guys and most of the time their humour is a bit much for me. Given past experience with Brad and musicals, I knew going to see something in which he was interested was best for the happiness of all.  It's also won a bunch of Tony awards, so it can't be bad right?  On Monday, we found out it didn't show on Mondays.  On Tuesday we found out the cheapest available ticket was nearly $500 (ahem, the budget for being retired for a year doesn't stretch quite that far).  On Wednesday, we found out a lottery for the front row and a few seats in the boxes is held 2 hours before the show, we participated but didn't win.  On Thursday, we had dinner planned with friends, but were passing the theatre at lottery time, so thought we'd try again and to our complete surprise Brad's name got drawn.  Total cost for two front row centre seats:  $48, and the show was thoroughly enjoyable, although at times I didn't know whether to laugh or cringe.  

7. As much as we love each other's company (that's why we're married right?) sometimes the company of friends is nice and so we were delighted that a few were in town at the same time as us.  Checking out the night life is also significantly more entertaining with others however may lead to:
  • Frequenting bars entered via a pawn shop at the front, a well dressed lady kicking and screaming as she was literally carried out by bouncers, and a bar serving free champagne in the very opulent ladies bathroom. Conveniently they also had a comfy lounge in said bathroom for chatting whilst enjoying said champagne.  
  • Whiskey shots (don't typo that with the nearest vowel on the keyboard) followed by pickle juice may sound oh so wrong, but are oh so right. 
  • Bourbon from teacups, beer from coffee mugs and boys drinking pina coladas from pineapples.
  • A girl (and therefore the entire rest of the subway carriage) detailing to us her pick up routine – apparently you need to fake a trip.
  • And this grin from Brad when the beer he had ordered arrived in a full size champagne bottle and was served in a wine glass.
A special thank you to Carrie, the owner
of this photo, for letting us borrow it.

We also completed our international bagel-off in New York and the winner is New York's H&H Bagels for their perfectly flavoured dense and yeasty creations. The winning bagels were made all the yeastier (sweeter just doesn't work in our bagel book) by the epic adventure that was getting there. After walking the length of the High Line Trail then wandering Central Park with Carrie, finding the nearest location had closed (only after we got there) and multiple accidental (and lengthy) detours, the three of us arrived at the bakery which would shortly thereafter be pronounced the winner. Okay, in writing that doesn't sound quite so epic, but trust my tired feet, it was. One might argue the circumstances leading up to trying our first H&H bagel may have given an unfair advantage, BUT we took a some home for further testing and breakfast for the next few days did not disappoint.
In case you are wondering, H&H happens to be the bagel shop Seinfeld's Kramer was on strike from for 10 years. We also visited the soup man, he wasn't on duty, but the soup was great – take out came with bread, a spoon and napkins (all useful and generally expected) a Lindt ball (unexpected, but yum) and a banana (um, okay then).

True to previous form, this has been written well after the fact, I've given up on my good intentions. From here on in, all intentions shall be bad, very bad.  

23 November 2011

A little catching up

So after my amazing multiple post day at LAX, I've taken over a month off.  Snow is predicted for our current location at any given moment, so we've settled ourselves for a day inside activities including blog updating. 

For anyone who missed it, we went home for a few weeks mistakenly under the impression that it would be a relaxing holiday from our holiday, we'd sort out our photos and finally share more than five, rest, catch up with friends and family etc.  Here's what really happened, not necessarily in order of occurance:  Ate way too much good food, drank too often/much, got looked after by our parents (love you all), watched some good friends get married, visited work (feel free to hurt me, but I realised I really do miss the office), discovered a lot of our friends are pregnant (yikes), celebrated our nephew's first birthday, caught up with not as many friends as we'd hoped and, perhaps most impressively, avoided jet lag on the flight there.  

On returning to Boston, we discovered that autumn had come and gone (apparently the leaf colour wasn't good this year so we didn't miss too much) and winter had arrived.  On our first night back in Gil, we put a second thermometer outside to verify the first's allegation that it was -5 degree Celsius.  This was further verified when Gil's water hose froze over a short time later.  Armed with this information and a lack of suitably warm clothing, we started our southward journey and after a few days visiting with my aunt and uncle, Gil was back on the road again and New York bound.  Okay, so maybe New York isn't exactly the first place that springs to mind in association with southward bound journeys, but there are some places you must visit whilst in the US.   

13 October 2011

Apologies to my vegetarian friends

In New Brunswick, Brad and I went out for lunch.  At lunch I met Lobster #1:
(for the record the bib was not actually used other than as a prop for this photo)

Several days later in Prince Edward Island, I was feeling a bit blue, Brad decided an introduction to Lobster #2 might cheer me up (he was right): 

In Maine, I concluded another introduction was essential:

My relationship with Lobster #3 is a little uncomfortable - I saw him live and not so orange, before collecting him 30 minutes later cooked and neatly bagged, then nursed him tenderly in my lap until we arrived at our sleeping spot for the night, and dinner was served.

There is a distinct possibility that I have a lobster addiction. I've always been a crayfish fan (just ask my mum) but lobsters are tastier.  Did I mention, there's just something I find EXCEPTIONALLY rewarding and enjoyable about having to work to get my food out of it's casing. Brad is contemplating sleeping in a locked sleeping bag from now on...

Sadly we're homeward bound, so if you see me trembling, vomiting, or exhibiting other drug withdrawal type symptoms in the next few weeks don't worry, it's just the lobster.

And a final note, in case you've ever wondered lobster will not cure the common cold, trust me,  I tried it with Lobster #3.

Some days it might help if I was a man...

It has been proven that any travel based research I conduct must be done under the strictest supervision - in my last attempt at travel coordinator, I found a fantastic campground just outside of Montreal, Brad "peer reviewed" my work and noticed "for men only" prominently located on the website ... which I had perused for at least five minutes and concluded was perfect for a night.  However, Brad is either extremely forgetful, or very forgiving and left preparing for our time in Nova Scotia up to me on the basis I spent a year on exchange there during school, so knew all about it.  Ahem.  I did successfully manage to arrange visits and social activities with friends and families I'd stayed with and warmth with which we were welcomed made us feel special and a bit like we'd "come home"

We'd like say thanks (in no particular order) to Maryann, Paul, Carolyn, Dave, Dave, Rosalyn, Patrick, Larry and Lucille for your heart warming hospitality, conversation, yummy home cooked dinners and covering up my shortcomings with sightseeing help. Also to Crystal who makes extremely delicious and beautiful cupcakes (check out http://gateauxrose.blogspot.com/) for drinks and laughs and a sugary treat.  You all made our time in truly Nova Scotia special, and we hope to see you all again.  Apologies too, to anyone whose ear I talked off - after five months of mostly just Brad for conversation I probably got a bit excited! 

For the record, we did visit some of Nova Scotia's stunning coastal areas (so perhaps I'm not a complete failure).

To my amazement, three of four pets from when I was here last were still about, since our departure sadly, Tucker the Bedlington Terrier has passed on - I know he'll be missed, he was one special dog. 

12 October 2011

My husband needs to read Anne of Green Gables. Or would that be weird?

For anyone who doesn't know I grew up without television.  No this wasn't some alternative child raising technique of my parents, we simply lived in the middle of nowhere and didn't have television reception.  At least that's what my parents told us.  Now that I think about it, maybe this was an alternate parenting method and my life up to 13 was a lie....

In any case this meant, amongst other things, I read books.  A lot of books.  Including L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.  I must confess at this point I have only read Anne of Green Gables and none of Montgomery's other books (though I'd probably quite like them), despite the full set of Anne books being in my childhood home.  I will also confess these books belonged to my older sister and I have a sneaking suspicion she was keen to keep my grubby little hands away from them.

So when we visited Prince Edward Island, a visit to the Green Gables Heritage site was a must for me.  The house and grounds were the inspiration for the books, though having visited them, I find it even harder to believe, Anne was never a real person. 

A few examples of our conversations that morning.
Brad:  Why are we walking through this forest?
Me:  They're the Haunted Woods!
... a short time later
Brad:  Where are we walking now?
Me:  We're walking down Lover's Lane.
Brad:  Why?

I felt any explanation would be futile.  There are other similar historic sites on PEI, but I don't think Brad would have coped.  

I'd now like to talk about our visit to the Castle Air Museum in California.  I admit I was a little bored, but believe I successfully showed (pretend) interest as Brad read aloud from the guide about various planes.  I also diligently took photos of him in a selection of poses with various planes.
(there are 20 other photos just like this one)
There have also been visits to two dinosaur museums (though Brad claims I enjoyed these ... more than he did).  Oh and did I mention the Googleplex?

This entry is dedicated to Susannah, for this:

(By the way, Susannah writes a very entertaining blog Three Key Points)

03 October 2011

Je ne comprends pas?

Brad has decided to learn French ... from our GPS.  For two reasons, I can only see this ending badly 
  1. he'll only ever learn street names; and 
  2. the GPS has quite possibly the worst French pronunciation ever.  Montreal is pronounced as three distinct words Mon, Tree, All, with the emphasis on Tree. Um, ok.  On the topic of the GPS, after missing several turns Brad confessed he's started tuning the GPS out.  
I talk at least as much as the GPS, but probably about less important things....

Parts of Montreal that might be interesting to read about (at least in our opinion)
  • Dinner with Claude, a former colleague (boss actually) of Brad's - good company, Creole food and a few bottles of wine.  Brad got to talk boffin, something he's hardly had opportunity for in 4 months.  I got to learn a lot more about what Brad actually does, I'm not being sarcastic, the boffining actually interesting.

  • A bike ride along Lachine Canal which didn't end in me crashing spectacularly.  Ok, on one occasion I did try to get on the bike, and ended up on the ground on the opposite side, but it doesn't count as I was stationary at the time, and I only got one normal size bruise.

  • Friday night with Aisling and Matt - great company, lots of laughs, beer and gin (not together of course), more good food, an Aising tour, a Kid Koala book launch, more beer and gin, all finished off with a yummy late night supper and Brad attempting a nap in a strangers lap on the train trip home.  
  • Breakfast crepes at John Talon market with Aisling and Matt, and the acquisition of beautiful organic and/or locally grown produce (Mum and Dad, I've found the second place winner in the tastiest tomato competition).
  • The commencement of bagel testing.  To give you some background, apparently you're either a New York bagel person or a Montreal bagel person and in Montreal, it's either St. Viateur or Fairmount bagels.  We therefore needed to try both.  On experience St. Viateur won, the bagel we shared was still warm from the oven, but Fairmount was the overall winner. Brad, who only eats bagels as a last resort (ie when the bread goes mouldy) has been lamenting that we ate them all ever since.  We shall report on this again when testing resumes in New York.

Despite being in a big city, where we didn't even speak the language (my almost forgotten high school French does NOT count), we felt far less lost in Montreal than we had in Chicago and left feeling like we'd done the city justice, and maybe even wanted to move here.

From Montreal it was on to Quebec city, where we had perfect sightseeing weather for our one day there,  then Riviere-du-Loup in time to see the sun set.

By the time we left Quebec and Brad had perfected one French phrase 'Parlez-vous anglais?', well almost, he's still taking more notice of the GPS's pronounciation, so it comes out as 'parlez-vous engli?' But on nearly all occasions, it has been met with a response of "Yes, of course".

22 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part V

Two of our sisters have expressed disappointment in us for not inviting the drowning campers of our last update inside. I'd like to point out I suggested this and Brad said no for the following reasons:
a) Inviting wet people into Gil would negate his dry interior
b) It was midnight
c) We were in our PJs
d) You shouldn't talk to strangers, especially at midnight in your PJs

* * *

After an uncomplicated border crossing we were back in Canada again and of course checked out Niagara Falls from their side too.

The Canadians definitely got the better view when dividing the place up. 

From here we made our way to Toronto, via the Niagara Escarpment & Twenty Valley wine growing district and stocked up Gil's wine cellar (cough, under table).

In Toronto, Brad left the headlights on again, then set a personal best for restarting Gil by himself. Brad: 2, AAA: 2 (I think he may have been purposely trying to level the score). After a few days wandering around Toronto, we continued our way beside the St. Lawrence River via some beautiful old towns, and so many stunning old houses I was ready to move into (Brad say's no, so fear not if you are expecting me back in the office next year). 
In Bloomfield we had a frozen confection for lunch again, this time at Slicker's Ice cream which boasts true to life flavours, such as apple pie – three actual home made apple pies are mixed into the ice cream. Slightly further down the road we stopped for afternoon tea in Picton, at a gourmet hot dog shop, Buddha Dog. I'm not sure about you, but I don't normally associate Buddha and hot dogs, but whatever the reason they're on to a good thing with their miniature – so we got to try a selection – hot dogs. Very yummy indeed. The Picton County Fair was on the following day, so we spent a night in the beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park (wish we'd had more time to spend here).

Whilst the fair was quite small, it featured all the required vegetable and "designer" poultry competitions.
Many of the chickens had been entered by one I'll-leave-his-last-name-out-for-privacy, who I estimate to be under 8 as he'd had to correct his name on some of the entry cards. I imagine his farm was quite empty that day – even his brand new baby guinea pigs were on display!

From Picton we headed on to Kingston, hired a little Hobie cat and sailed on Lake Ontario. Finally! The catamaran was no Catnap, with absolutely no risk of capsizing or going at any great pace – Brad even let me be captain for a while – but the water was delightfully warm and the weather perfect for sailing. It reminded us both how much we miss sailing and the close proximity of an algae free beach. If there weather gets above 25 degrees when we're home in a few weeks, you'll find us out with 'Catty' at Safety Beach.

This shall be the final instalment in the Crosscountry(ies) updates and you may now sigh with relief that updates may be a little more interesting going forward (at least that's what I'll keep telling myself), and far more timely (also what I keep telling myself). For the record, by the time I wrote this, we had actually made it all the way across the country, indeed, I wrote about Chicago whilst we were on the east coast of New Brunswick, which if you look at a map, are nowhere near each other. But there's a big world out there to see.....

21 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part IV

After Chicago we skipped our way along Lake Eerie, which is huge. It's still rather novel for us to look at a lake and not be able to see a hint of something on the other side. On numerous occasions we stopped at beaches in the hope of getting a bit of sailing in, and on each were met with signs advising us not to go into the water (or in one case, and I quote “avoid contact with surface scum”) due to unacceptable algae toxin levels. Um OK, that's not a sign I normally see when I go to the beach.

After one such disappointment, we drove on and stopped at a quiet camp ground in Ohio. Brad decided this was an excellent place for a spot of external Gil maintenance (something required some reattaching or sealing or something) and so commenced the task despite it being 35 degrees plus and about 99% humidity. Unfortunately it turned out to be a much bigger task/problem than first realised and required multiple trips to the hardware store (no sausage sizzle out the front, sad face), a few more nights in said camp ground and even assistance from me. Yes, even I can use a screwdriver. On the plus side Brad purchased a drill. The lack of a drill has served as an excuse for not making minor Gil enhancements on many an occasion, not anymore.

At about 11pm of our last night, our third extremely impressive thunderstorm of recent times struck. The lightening here is sheet (rather than the bolt variety we are used to at home) and one continuous flash after another lighting up the whole sky. Even without the thunder which makes Gil move, and me dive under the doona/quilt/duvet in fear (Brad made me admit that) sleep is impossible. The couple across from us were in a tent and out driving somewhere at the time the storm hit. In their absence their fly came off and several poles collapsed. We watched as on their return they moved everything to their car, literally drained water from their tent, dried it with towels and moved to higher ground. In the morning there was evidence of multiple mid-night abandonments and tents discarded in bins, like umbrellas after a wind storm.

The following morning we set on our way again, this time to Cleveland to see some houses where my Granny and Dad had lived. It was a pretty rough neighbourhood and we hadn't felt that unsafe since we were in Casper. After stopping to check out the Cleveland Browns stadium and the air show which was conveniently on, we continued on our way to Niagara Falls which was a surprise to me. One of the joys of Brad being chief travel co-ordinator is I sometimes I only find out where we are going when we get there.

Niagara Falls were suitably impressive. A surprise gust of wind meant we got wet, and as I was wearing my last clean pair of jeans meant I was forced to frequent a laundromat in my track pants (Brad made me admit that to that too). Yes dear readers, I did something I've never done before and wore trackies in public, I hope I can be forgiven.  There are no photos of this event, so here's one of Niagara Falls instead.

20 September 2011

Crosscountry(ies) Road Tripping Part III

In Chicago we cheated on Gil for the first time, and spent a few nights in a hotel, nothing fancy and it was long way out in the 'burbs, but we were garunteed of parking for Gil and there was something novel about having a bed we didn't have to vault into.

Chicago was an awesome city and got us to thinking we might actually quite like proper apartment living in the right place. But I fear we didn't do it justice. Having spent so long in national parks and other assorted bits of wilderness we felt some what lost and couldn't remember how to “do” a city. We wandered around, took a boat trip, took in the architecture, ate (Chicago pizza is weird, we didn't like it at all). I think that's how you do a city right?

Sadly, the Art Institute of Chicago appears deceptively small from the outside, and so we arrived a little late in the day to spend the amount of time we needed and it fully deserved.
Brad  (on sculpture): I'd put that in my backyard.
Brad (coming back after going ahead of me into the next room of a kimono exhibit): Suse, come quick, there's a '70s party kimono. (I must tell you as this point, the kimonos were from 1915 to 1940).My highlight of the day, apart from Brad's comments, was seeing some of Monet's water lillies which I have long admired, without having to jostle for position and close enough to touch (don't worry I didn't) including this one: Water Lilies, 1906

(For the record, Brad is not an uneducated in the world of art, some of it he quite likes, he just says funny things in art galleries)

..... note to self: When in New York, plan to arrive major art galleries at opening time and leave at closing.