Tag Archives: travel

Seven Quick Takes – Pi Day

Seven Quick Takes Friday

    1. It’s Pi Day. Given that’s it’s also a Lenten Friday and that I’ve given up sweets, I may be cooking up a lentil pie for dinner.
      pi day
    2. We’re heading to Sweden in June to visit Zouheir’s oldest brother, Jean-Louis, and his family. Happily, our sons are joining us on this trip which will coincide with Midsummer there, apparently one of the more festive periods in that country. Much to my chagrin, I’ve never been before, despite my late mother-in-law’s many invitations.  Here’s a shot of the lads Swedish cousins (shamelessly lifted from George’s Facebook page.)

      Swedish Mansourati cousins.
      Swedish Mansourati cousins. (Mike, George, Jessica, Rita)
    3. Dorothy Palmer and I are heading to 221b Con the first weekend of April in Atlanta! She’s a huge Sherlock Holmes fanatic and experienced improv-er and is leading an event:
      SherlockImprov – A live-action combination of cosplay and improv, where everyone gets the chance to create on-the-spot drama by jumping into the roles of Holmes and Watson and their crew. No theater or improv experience is necessary, just a willingness to enjoy the new story we create together.
      221b con
    4. Zouheir and I saw Metamorphosis at the Royal Alex last weekend. Brought to Toronto by Mirvish, this dramatization of the Kafka novel is a marvel, and left my head spinning and a little water welling up in my eyes. One of the finest pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time. It’s finished it’s run, but if you ever get a chance….
    5. Our first-born started his first job post-graduation in December, and yesterday he headed to University of Waterloo to interview co-op students. He’s with a small start-up and is getting the full range of work experience. I believe he was “nacho boy” at the beginning (responsible for bringing food to their Friday afternoon review sessions.) He’s coming up in the world! Only a few months ago he was getting coaching on how to handle the other side of the interview table.
    6. For those of you who do family history research, Mocavo is having a free access weekend. Check it out…you never know what you’ll find!
    7. A couple of Kickstarters have drawn my attention this week. First is Neil Young’s Pono music player that provides high quality audio, equivalent to vinyl but digital. I first heard of it when I read his memoir Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream, and the Kickstarter was launched earlier this week at SXSW. I have a whole blog post in my head about why I’m not listening to much recorded music these days which will be for a later date, but I’m seriously thinking of getting in on this project, especially after I watched the video at the top of the Kickstarter project page.

      The other Kickstarter is for the restoration of St. Francis in Rome. From the project page: When St. Francis used to come to Rome between 1209 and 1223 to meet the Pope Innocenzo III, his house was a small “Cell” where he lived and assisted lepers. After eight centuries this place now requires substantial restoration work in order to preserve its priceless spiritual value and its ancient works of art.

      I kicked in some support for this project and I hope that they’re able to meet their objective.

As always, more Quick Takes, many with a Catholic flair, can be found on Fridays at Conversion Diary!

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Seven Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. Michael and his father headed off to Montreal last evening, with the SUV stuffed to the roof with his gear. He’s sharing an apartment with a second year music student that he met at a TSYO party, and today will be spent moving in his boxes and then shopping at Ikea to pick up some furniture and other necessities. He’s benefitting from his grandmother’s move and is the recipient of some kitchen tools and other things that either came from her apartment. He’s pretty excited about this new stage in his life. He’ll be back next weekend for one last private gig with the Weston Silver Band and then we probably won’t see him until Thanksgiving.
  2. I’d really like to get a Little Free Library to install at our place. We’re on a corner lot and have lots of space out front, as well as lots of books we’d be happy to share. I’m considering whether I want to build one from scratch, purchase an unfinished one to stain and decorate myself. The second option is probably more realistic though, so I’m going to look in to it this weekend.

    Little Free Library, ready to finish.
    Little Free Library, ready to finish.
  3. I am really interested in checking out hot yoga. There is a highly recommended group of studios, Moksha Yoga, that has a location near me, and Alex is game to go with me (he’s already tried hot yoga elsewhere) so I’m hoping to get to a class in the next few days.
  4. I am putting together a website for a colleague and want to learn how to make WordPress templates. Can anyone recommend some good resources for this? I’ve used WordPress for some time and am familiar with basic html.
  5. TIFF is fast approaching and they’ve been announcing films for a few weeks now. I need to start planning what I want to see, at least making a list with my secret rating system, so that when the schedule comes out (Aug 20), I can start building my calendar. I’m not a premiere/red-carpet gal (although I’m not averse to spotting celebs.) It’s a tough life, eh? I’ve purchased a total of 30 tickets for this years fest, and hope to take some arm-candy to a few, so I’ll probably see between 20 and 25.
  6. I’m heading up to Ottawa to see my mother for a few days next week. I’ll run some errands for her and get her out for a few walks while the weather is good. (Yes, I know you’re reading this, Mom, so get ready!) I also hope to see my friend Kath and visit her rescue equines, a lovely horse River (who I’ve met before) and her pony Lord D’Appleby (with whom I’ve only chatted on Facebook.)
  7. I’ve got a mountain of ironing to attend to today. (I know, who irons?) We’ve switched to cloth napkins for meals (I buy whatever nice cotton ones I can find at Value Village for a mix and match look.) I’ve been simply hand smoothing and folding them but they really need a quick press. Same with tea towels. And then there are the cotton shirts. With Michael gone, my ironing pile has dramatically shrunk though, and I’ve got the TV there where I can catch up on all the recorded goodness, so it’s really not that painful a chore. Plus, I have this most excellent ironing machine. So it’s all fine.

    Awesome Rowenta Steam Iron.
    Awesome Rowenta Steam Iron.

Making a travel diary

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve purchased an online class to learn how to make funky diaries/journals/commonplace books. In particular, I’m excited about our upcoming trip to Istanbul in mid-August and want to have this done by then.

Pattern (eventually inserted between front and back covers) will produce journal approx 6″x9″ with a front flap.

Mary Ann Moss blogs and teaches at Dispatches from LA, her online schoolhouse/kitchen table/photo studio and her images are simply inspiring. I made myself finish up a framing project that I’d started some time ago so that I could proceed with this with a clear conscience. Unfortunately, in a major purge, I got rid of much of my fabric stash, so took a trip to Value Village and picked up a red and gold sari, some red an gold moiré fabric, and a piece of upholstery fabric with a paisley pattern. I have a bag full of leather scraps from another project.

It’s very much a scrappy, plan-as-you-go project. Here I’m laying out some scraps on my inside and outside covers to see how it’ll look.

The next few steps will involve rough appliqué, sewing the inside and outside covers together, and ironing. Then more appliqué!
I’ll post again when I have my cover done.

Seven Quick Takes Friday


  1. It’s been a tough week. I surrendered our dog, Wilson, to Toronto Animal Services yesterday after a biting incident earlier this summer. He’s a terrier mix, with a lot of Jack Russell in him, and he charged and bit a letter carrier after he got off-leash. It was a horrible accident (although the bite was a minor injury), but I realized that his behaviour was too unpredictable for us to manage. Every visitor to our house was a stress. We have no yard at our current home, unlike when we adopted him in Georgia, and even with 3-4 walks a day, we were unable to provide him with sufficient opportunities to burn off energy. I’ve been weepy all week, and broke down at the shelter when I took him in. My greatest hope is that they can find a home for him where he will be able to be the dog that he is. I can’t really say any more.
  2. I got my hair cut after my trip to Animal Services yesterday. It felt kind of like mourning, but at the same time a fresh start. It’s shoulder length and layered a bit. And I feel so silly writing about it now.
  3. Last night, we attended the Season Opener for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a wonderful program including Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, and a commission from Toronto Composer Larysa Kezmenko called Behold the Night, based on a Midsummer’s Night Dream. The second half was William Walton’s Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario featuring actor Christopher Plummer (who also arranged this work) reciting parts of the play from memory. Walton scored Larurence Olivier’s film Henry V, from which this work is derived. It was spectacular, and great finish to what had been a very sad day. The evening was capped by the TSO’s after party featuring the Heavyweights Brass Band in the lobby of Roy Thomson Hall.
  4. Z and I head to Orlando on Sunday where he is attending a conference and I will take five days to relax in the sun. I was able to score a very cheap flight and there’s no upcharge for me to stay at the (very nice) hotel hosting the conference.
  5. Michael auditioned for and was accepted into the Hannaford Youth Band and Jazz.fm Youth Big Band, both of which he played in last year. These ensembles are wonderful ways for him to get experience performing repertoire on both the tube (Hannaford) and bass trombone (Jazz.fm) and I’m pleased that he’ll be playing with them again this year.
  6. While we were downtown yesterday, we picked up tickets for Noel Coward’s Private Lives, now in previews at the Royal Alexandra. Starring Paul Gross and Kim Cattrall, it’s been getting a lot of positive buzz. Mirvish is also bringing War Horse to Toronto in the new year and I’m looking forward to that as well. 
  7. Friends from our parish were featured on the front page of the Star this week. John and Kathleen Rudolph are both professional musicians.  John is Principal Percussionist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Kathleen teaches flute at the Glenn Gould School and University of Western Ontario. Kathleen and I are altos in the parish choir, and Kathleen often fills in on the organ. Their daughter, Theresa, was just hired by the TSO, their first parent-child pair. The piece in The Star is lovely and worth a read.

More Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.

Books on the road


As many of you know, I’m a huge library fan and make use of the wonderful Toronto Public Library’s excellent hold system for most of my reading needs.  I don’t, however, like to take library books with me when I travel, and an upcoming ten-day jaunt to Stockholm has me starting to think about what I’ll take with me.

I scanned my Summer Reading Challenge reading list for potential candidates…books that either I own or can buy used, and that would be enjoyable to read while travelling.  I already have a few on my Kindle:

  1. A Connecticul Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (I’m about a third of the way in to this).
  2. Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
  3. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (I don’t currently have this assigned to a Challenge Task)

Other books that I had on hold at the library that I thought would be suitable are:

  1. Ann of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I decided to reread this during the recent Royal Visit, which included a stop at Green Gables in PEI.
  2. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson.  It’s the next up (for me) in the Inspector Banks series.
  3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry in Values by Robert Pirsig.  I read this long ago as a teen, but it’s the group read for the challenge and I’d love to give it another read.

I managed to find these at The Handy Book Exchange, my local used bookstore just around the corner on Avenue Road.  (They’re dog friendly which means I can pop in for a look when I’m walking Wilson, and they give him treats while I’m there.)  I’ll take off the library holds on these three and plan to leave them in Sweden with a BookCrossing sticker once I’ve finished them.

There are also a few books that I own that I’ll consider taking with me:

  1. Trader by Charles de Lint.  I’ve never read any of his work before, and I picked this up some time ago at Value Village. I’m becoming more open to the fantasy genre so we’ll see how this goes.
  2. Open Secrets by Alice Munroe.  Another one that I read some time ago and would like to re-read, and then give away.

Six paperbacks and a Kindle?  Maybe that’s excessive.  Maybe I’ll have already devoured one or more of these before I go.  Either way, I feel prepared!


OGS Annual Conference: My Top Ten

Hamilton Spectator Photo

  1. A British Home Child Special Interest Group (SIG) was chartered by the executive. I attended the organizational meeting and am excited about this new group as one of my great-grandfathers was a British Home Child.
  2. Numerous references to what was referred to by one speaker as “environmental genealogy”, that is, what society was like around our ancestors. I plan to try to enhance my research with more of this kind of information.
  3. Dave Obee pointed to the Federation of Eastern European History Societies (FEEFHS) maps collection. These will be a great help in researching the history and geography around my paternal ancestors in Russia/Ukraine.
  4. The records in parish chests (in England) are being digitized in great numbers and more and more are coming online. The parish chest was typically a heavy wooden lockable chest that contained all the documents central to the running of a Church of England parish. These would include records of baptisms, marriages, deaths; the manorial survey; records of the poor law administration, other ecclesiatical records. These can be very helpful in adding to the information included in your family history.
  5. While Attestation Papers for those who served in WWI are available online at Library and Archives Canada, they will also provide complete WWI military files for a fee. I have a great-uncle who served and hope to arrange to get a copy of his file next time I’m in Ottawa.
  6. I attended a very interesting talk on emigration of Scots given by Ruth Blair and I am searching for leads on my maternal great-grandmother who came as a single woman in 1899 and married my great-grandfather shortly thereafter. I have not been able to find a passenger listing for her trip to Canada and I got some new resources for that search.
  7. At the end of the conference, a big announcement regarding the partnership between the Ontario Genealogical Society and The National Institute for Genealogical Studies was announced.  Details regarding the new benefits accruing to memebers and the two organizations will be announced over the next few months, but free registration in the course Social Media for the Wise Genealogist was offered to all OGS members! Also, OGS branches will be able to make use of the NIGS Live Meeting technology for branch meetings and other activities.
  8. Dave Obee‘s talk More Than Just Names and Dates provided some solid rationale for “environmental genealogy” as mentioned in 2 above. His background as a journalist demonstrated the power of enhancing our genealogical research with context, stories, and an enhanced understanding of the forces that influenced our ancestors lives. He suggested some excellent resources for this kind of research and this has prompted me to seroiusly consider setting up a wiki or some other kind of online presence to capture and communicate my family history.
  9. The Market Place at the conference is an excellent source of new information, books, maps, software and other things. I picked up an autographed copy of Brenda Dougall Merriman’s Genealogy in Ontario:  Searching the Records (Fourth Edition) and a used copy of The Little Immigrants:  The Orphans Who Came to Canada by Kenneth Bagnall, one of the earlier books (1980) about Home Children.
  10. Life Gems Personal Histories was also at the Market Place. Christine Cowley has put together a book and workbook to help capture stories and memories to pass on to the people you love, to ensure that these aren’t lost. From her website:

“I am intrigued to think how little most of us talk about ourselves with the people closest to us,” says Cowley. “I finally realized that what people need is a really simple and fun way to do that.”

With busy lives it’s hard to find time to chat or write down family stories, and revelations or deeply felt emotions are often never shared. Some things are just too hard to say. The result is that great stories and sentiments are lost.

“As individuals we are the only ones who can talk about who we are, what we think and why we do or did things a particular way,” says Cowley. “I was always told that my grandmother Eva, who died when my father was a child, had a similar personality to mine. Maybe that was another way for my parents to say, ‘She doesn’t get it from me!’ but given the unconventional life my grandmother chose, I feel proud to have her genes. What I wouldn’t give to have just a few lines she might have written about herself.” 

I picked up a copy of the book/workbook set and look forward to using it myself and possibly with some family members. 

I’ll be back.

I have photos and stories to post from our travels, but I seem to have been struck by some stomach thing.  It started yesterday midday and has really wiped me out. Don’t know if it was plane germs, or something I ate.  Should say “we” ate because my dear one also started feeling under the weather this morning.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of Folkestone where we stayed from Wednesday thru Saturday, a lovely seaside town.


<Map source: The Property Purveyor>

The clock tower used to be a church but was destroyed in WW2, as per the plaque.  A memorial on the waterfront says that during WW1, 7 million men marched through the city on their way to war. (Don’t forget to click on the small pics to enlarge.)


Monday Miscellany – there’s no place like home.


We arrived home from England to a relatively quick hop through the airport, pleasant weather, and a hot Easter meal courtesy of my sister-in-law. Michael had stayed with them while we were away and so when we went to pick him up, we were ushered in to a lovely meal and our beautiful son, niece, and nephew.

I have a lot to blog about the trip, but I may go in reverse chronological order.  We spent our last 24 hours in London, ensconced in the Hilton London Metrople near Paddington Station.  The area is something of a “little Beirut” as my Beiruti husband called it.  Edgeware Road is lined with Middle Eastern restaurants, cafes, cellphone unlockers, groceries, shisha joints, and travel agencies.  The hotel concierge recommended a couple of restaurants and we had a lovely lunch at Al Araz, and I made use of their free wifi to catch up on some email.  

We headed out to Leicster Square to try to score some theatre tickets for the evening, but neither of our two choices (Wicked or The Children’s Hour) had anything of interest.  The latter was SRO and the former only had very poor seats at a low discount.  So we wandered around, and ended up walking back to our hotel along Oxford Circle, doing a little window shopping among the absolute throngs of people. We picked up fixings for a light dinner (and by light, I mean grapes, plain yogurt, chocolate covered Hobnobs, and apple cider.  We also had the remainder of a bottle of port that we’d purchased in Hailsham.) We both had books we wanted to finish and had a relatively early start the next morning, so we settled in for a lazy last night in England.

Yesterday morning, we hopped on the Heathrow Express train and after checking our bags, retired to the lounge for coffee and a Canadian paper. The flight was uneventful… I watched my first celebratory movie post-Lent (Owning Mahoney, a true story about a Canadian bank fraudster, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and a blonde Minnie Driver) and listened to my audiobook.

More later.  Off to do laundry, grocery shopping, and get started on our taxes.

Travel: Sunday

We got to breakfast by about 8:30, meeting the others. We had decided to go in to a small Catholic Church in Hailsham, St. Wilfrid’s, for Palm Sunday Mass, so we called Andrew, our cab driver from yesterday and had him pick us up at 10. 

St. Wilfrid’s is a small church, the third builton  that site. The present structure was built in 1952 and contains some lovely devotional articles.   The Mass was a usual Palm Sunday/Passion combination with two gospel readings. The congregation was small, but filled the church and the responses were fullsome. The stained glass window above the main entrance is of the martyr St. Margaret Clitherow.


After mass, we walked northwards towards the centre of town and stopped into a Wetherspoons pub (The George Hotel) for lunch. Then we dropped into a Waitrose to pick up a few things and stopped at The Old School House, now Prezzo, for coffee and dessert before calling Andrew to pick us up.


While we were waiting for the cab, I spotted this clever scupture outside Tesco:


Sunday evening was the opening reception for the conference, and then dinner. Zouheir attended the opening session and I retired to read and relax.

Travel: Friday and Saturday

For a variety of reasons, too complex to go in to, our flights were booked under two different reservation codes.  Although we had adjacent seats on our Toronto-to-Heathrow flights at the time of booking, Air Canada changed the equipment to a smaller plane, which ended up separating our seats.  We discovered this late Thursday night as we were checking in online.  Calls to the travel agent and Air Canada couldn’t remedy the sitation, particularly as we learned that the flight was 30 seats overbooked.

We couldn’t get it dealt with Friday morning at the airport, so once we boarded we did some negotiating with the people around us and managed to finagle better seats, although it meant that I had a middle-of-three seat.  David Suzuki and his extended family were also on the flight and had also been split up.  I was originally seated next to his wife.  He had been upgraded to business, and his family were just in front of Zouheir.  His wife helped me in organizing a trade and by the time we took off, everyone was happy (more or less).

While we were late leaving Toronto, we landed in Heathrow on time and made our way to the London Heathrow Marriott where we spent the night before our trip to Hailsham Saturday morning.  At 11 pm, we ordered a light meal in the lobby bar and some featured drink using spiced rum and citrus. We were still on Toronto time, but forced ourselves to sleep so that we’d awaken early and try to get on UK time.

As we were checking out the next morning, we saw an incredibly attractive, multicultural flight crew from Emirates Airlines.


I really liked the women’s uniforms, with the attractive hat and suggestion of a veil. 

We took the hotel shuttle back to Heathrow, the Express train to Paddington Station, the tube to Victoria Station, and then a train to Polegate, the closest station to Herstmonceaux Castle.  We grabbed a taxi driven by a retired advertising guy who used to work in London.  He was very interesting, is used to shuttling students and visitors to the Castle, and talked about the history and geography of the area,  He left us his number after dropping us off at the residence.


After a little rest and recharge, we got a call from the conference organizer, Agnes Herzberg, who suggested we meet for dinner with her, her Joyce Zakos who is helping with the organization, and John Bailar who had already arrived.  There was a wedding going on in the Castle, so we had a light supper and retired for the eveinng after taking a walk in the gardens.