Tag Archives: travel

Seven Quick Takes Friday


Haven’t done this for a while, but here we go:

  1. I’m in Guelph for a workshop on Scottish Genealogy with Dr Bruce Durie, Course Director of Genealogical Studies at Strathclyde University.  He’s visiting the Scottish Studies department at the University of Guelph and I’m looking forward to getting some tips on researching the Morren branch of my family tree.
  2. I”m staying at a rather low-end hotel close to the university campus and didn’t sleep all that well last night.  The air conditioning system is extremely noisy and the room is rather poorly furnished with lumpy pillows and a tiny bathroom.  Don’t get me started on the vile in-room coffee. I don’t know why I even bother brewing it. There is breakfast offered in the lobby but I am seriously considering just skipping that and hopping across the street to Cora
  3. Ancestry.ca just announced some new records:  The Canada School Directories. I found a Goddard ancestor in the Annual Register and Business Directory of the Sons of England Benevolent Society for the Dominion of Canada which is a terrific find because I knew very little about him. There also appears to be some old case law in Ontario from the late 1800s with the name Goddard which I will be following up on.
  4. I’m looking forward to our trip to England in a couple of weeks. We’ll be staying at the Queen’s International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle for the first four days and then will travel in Kent. I still need to book some accomodation for those last four days so must get on that this weekend.
  5. We’ve also booked travel to Stockholm at the end of July, for just the two of us. It will be the anniversary of Zouheir’s mother’s death in August and there will be a mass said for her. All of her children will be there and we’re planning a two-night cruise to Helsinki together which should be lots of fun and a great way to be together with everyone freed up from cooking and hosting:  a very suitable way to celebrate this remarkable woman. It will be my first visit to Sweden and I am very much looking forward to seeing Stockholm, as well as visiting with my wonderful in-laws.
  6. My boys are doing well. Alex’s second year at Queen’s is drawing to a close, with classes ending in a week and then exams start on the 15th of April. He’ll be working as a Section Head at Crestwood Valley Day Camp in July and August and is hoping to do some French study in France in May and/or June if he can find a place to study and get credit. Michael is hanging in for the rest of Grade 10, still busy with Music and working hard to focus on his other schoolwork as well. He’s got a gig with the Jazz.fm Youth Big Band this Sunday at The Rex (Noon) and concerts with Hannaford coming up as well. He’ll also be playing in a masterclass with Patrick Sheridan. He’s looking forward to two weeks at Interprovincial Music Camp in August: one week of Jazz (bass trombone) and one week of Band/Orchestra (tuba).
  7. One of the perks of being an opera subscriber is the occasional freebie. Earlier this season, on the evening of the municipal elections (and presumably low ticket sales due to the high anxiety around that election), I got comped two box-seat tickets for Death in Venice which was a terrific show, in all it’s depressing glory. Next Monday, we’ve got invites to a working rehearsal of La Cenerentola (Cinderella).  This is not one of the operas in our subscription package, so I’m excited to be able to catch a freebie, even if in it’s un-final form.

Check out some other quick takes at Conversion Diary.

In like a lion?


Crikey! It’s March already.

I’ve been felled by an evil cold…yesterday was pretty much a write-off except for urgenices like dog-walking, dropping man-child’s forgotten lunch off at school, paying bills, and cobbling together dinner. Not feeling much better today, but must get some groceries and clean the horrendously vile kitchen that Michael neglected to do last evening.

Being sick did allow me to finish off a book for the end of the Winter Reading Challenge over at Goodreads, and I finished up with 600 out of a possible 975 points.  I must say that people who make it to the full 975 points must either (1) read all day, (2) read a lot of easy books, or (3) skim/cheat.  Or maybe they just don’t do anything else.  But it’s fun and I’m looking forward to the Spring Challenge that starts today. My current reading list is here, although not all the tasks have been defined yet. I’m starting with Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice (audio) and Lorna Goodison’s book of short stories By Love Possessed. I’m going to try to manage my hold list at the library to permit some time to read books that I own (and can then get rid of) as we’re getting into double-stacked bookshelves and I’d really like to clear a bunch out.  I use BookCrossing to get rid of a lot of books, and am releasing one today.

Travel plans are shaping up for the spring. Michael is going on a Rome-Sicily trip with his Latin teacher and a bunch of classics students over March Break so we’ve got a few things to do to get that organized, including getting his cellphone unlocked so that he can buy a SIM card over there. Z and I are heading to England in April and I need to do some work on the paper we’re writing and book some accomodation for the time we’re there after the conference. I’m thinking that, given the short amount of time we’ll have, we’ll skip London altogether and try to visit Kent, Canterbury, plus a night in Ashford hear where some of my ancestors are buried. Once again, we find ourselves travelling over the Easter weekend so we’ll need to take in to account that things may be closed.

Carry on!

A little quiz for those wondering if camping is for you….

Are you ready to go camping?

by Mir on July 21, 2010 in Haven’t been hit by lightning yet!

Yesterday turned out to be one of those days where we look around at the end of it and say, “… and let us never speak of it again.” Nothing horrible, really, just not a good day in terms of patience and kindness to your fellow family members. It turns out that sometimes absence DOES make the heart grow fonder, especially if you’re talking about escaping a small box by taking a walk for a while. So.

Accordingly, then, rather than regaling you with more tales of our exploits, I thought there’s been so much general interest in camping that I might help some of the on-the-fence amongst you decide if camping is right for your family. You know, because I’m an expert. Or I play one on the Internet. Or something. I forget.

Really, there are just a few key things you need to ask yourself if you’re considering taking your family camping. And—as usual—I’m here to help. Don’t be scared.

Do you enjoy sleeping under the stars, and by “under the stars” I mean “with nothing but nylon separating you from the wild, in extreme temperatures, and possibly being eaten by bears?”

If the answer is yes, you’re probably ready to go camping in a tent. Also, I think you’re nuts, but whatever.

If the answer is no, don’t worry! Camping may still be right for you! Keep going….

I’ve shared this on Twitter and Facebook, so apologies to those of you who’ve already read it, but it’s just too funny. Click on the link to read the whole thing!

I camped when I was, oh, under 40. This just confirmed what I already knew…Zou is welcome to take the boys camping anytime. On his own.

What to read in Paris?

Every time I travel, I spend an inordinate amount of time choosing books to take with me.  Normally, I read books from the library but don’t like to travel with them, so I choose things from my home library.  A few years ago, I cleared out all fiction that I had already read and would not likely want to read again, so pickings are good.  As with our recent trip to Italy, I plan to read these books and release them “into the wild” as BookCrossers call it.

  1. I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for “One Book, One Twitter” (1b1t) and I’m almost through, so it’s going with me on the plane.  I also downloaded an audiobook of Anansi Boys by Gaiman onto my iPhone.
  2. Two Inspector Banks’ novels (Peter Robinson):  Final Account and Innocent Graves.  I’m reading these in order, and got through two in Italy, so two more in Paris seems about right.
  3. Madame Bovary by Flaubert.  I was looking for something that might feel right to read in France and I guess this hits it.

I’ve also downloaded some of Rick Steve’s excellent tour guide apps and podcasts for my iPhone. Plus a free etour of the Louvre.  I’m going to hunt for one for Versailles as it’s a must see for the boys. (Z and I were there when we were young and childless.)  I also found a couple of short audiobooks at the library website, one on the French Revolution and the other a look at some of the artwork in the Louvre.  With boys aged 15 and 18, we hope to do some sighseeing as well as family visits while we’re there….when the lads were small, our trips to France tended to focus on family and child activities, so this feels different.

Bills are paid, hair is coloured, dog is booked into the kennel, laundry is in progress, and we have until 5 pm tomorrow to get packed.  Including one emergency orthodontist appointment tomorrow afternoon for Michael and his final exam (French) in the morning.

Au revoir!

Monday Miscellany – last sprint before we leave.

I have been a bad blogger, but it’s been a little frantic around here as we have one boy in exams, one man in high work stress, and one trip to Paris (this Thursday) to prep for.  The trip doesn’t really feel real, I was remarking to Z last night.  We were in Rome barely three months ago, and Paris was booked very quickly due to my mother-in-law’s health issues.  Because we will want to spend a lot of time with her, we’re not doing our usual planning for day-trips and excursions.  We’re just heading over there with our bags and our prayers.  Alex and I will return after eight days as he starts his summer camp job later this month.  Michael will stay on with his father for another week and do some touring, likely St. Malo/Mont St. Michel and then the chateaux de la Loire.  One of his cousins may join them, and a convertible Golf has been offered up, do it should be a fun road trip for the guys.

Last week was busy.  We saw the Eagles with Dixie Chicks Tuesday night and it was a great concert. I was surprised to see Natalie Maines with a very short haircut.  They did some of their hits, some less familiar music, and a cover of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister”.  The Eagles played a long set, packed with hits and a very 70s vibe to the staging/video.  We were in a corporate box, so quite far from the stage in the Rogers Centre, but it was a great show that had everyone in the house singing along.

On Friday, I headed to Stratford with some gals from the choir to see The Tempest.  We had a picnic by the lake with napping swans and ducks around our feet, saw the show and then dined at The Church before heading back to Toronto.  It was the first public performance of the Tempest, which has it’s media opening in a couple of weeks, and it was a stunner.  Apart from a few sound issues (we had trouble hearing some of the actors when their backs were to us), it was stacked with talent and was received with an instantaneous ovation.  It was lovely getting to know these ladies a little better, and it was a farewell to one of the long-standing members of the alto section who is moving to Stittsville.

The Parish choir is winding down for the year….two more Sundays of singing (of which I’ll miss next week while we’re away) and then we close for the summer.  So we’ve been pulling out some familiar music.  This Sunday, we sang Brahms’ Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren (pdf) and John Sheppard’s sublime The Lord’s Supper (pdf).


I’ve joined another choir for the summer and we rehearse on Monday nights.  I’ll miss the next two rehearsals, one while I’m in Paris.  On June 28th I have tickets to the National Theatre’s live broadcast of the play London Assurance which I purchased months ago, before I joined the choir.

Before we leave, I need to finish up one of my genealogy courses, complete a CWL newsletter for our parish bulletin, get the house in order, pay some bills and do all the laundry before we pack.  I’ve done all the newspaper cancellation/dog boarding stuff so it’s really the last minute things that are on my mind now.  Plus supervise study time for Michael.  He writes his last exam on Thursday morning, and we leave that evening.

I may not be back before we leave, but I’ll try to post some photos while we’re away.

Gorgeous reno of Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa


On Friday afternoon, I dropped by the museum to check out the newly renovated space. The original tower (that didn’t last very long) has been replaced with a gorgeous glass space. Interiors have (apparently) been returned to original colours.

Very nice integration of new with old, say, compared with the ROM, ahem.


I had the pleasure of accompanying Z to Stratford for the Day on Monday.  He was speaking at a conference and I was quite content to spend the day by myself until he could join me for dinner.  


In the morning, I wandered around the main streets.  Many of the shops were closed on Monday, so that was a bit of a disappointment, but I was still able to enjoy the sights of this beautiful city, like the Perth County Courthouse (above).  

I had lunch at Bentley’s on Ontario Street, fish and chips and a pint, and then headed down to the area around the Avon Theatre.  I dropped into a Coffee Culture and had a cup of coffee and a piece of apple tarte,


I had a ticket for Peter Pan, which turned out to be marvellous!  I was seated next to a couple whose daughter Laura Condlln plays Mrs. Darling (and a mermaid) in the production and they were clearly very proud!  I love the story, and the acting was superb.  Michael Therriault was fabulous as Peter, and had an uncanny resemblance, both in appearance and in behaviour, to my brother-in-law!  Also notable was Tom McCamus who plays Captain Hook as well as the narrator/playwright J.M Barrie.

When the play was over, I drove out to the conference centre to pick up Z and we returned to the market square near the Avon Theatre to have dinner at Othello’s, another pub.  When we first walked in, the decor was not very impressive, but the food turned out to be excellent. We shared a crisp, fresh, salad with goat cheese and some somosas to start. I had a lamb burger with goat cheese and peppers and Z had veal roulade with fresh vegetables. We tried the local Waterloo Dark, which was very nice.


After dinner, we headed out to the Festival Theatre to see Kiss Me, Kate.  It was lots of fun….a little broad for my tastes, but our seats were excellent and it was a very enjoyable evening of entertainment.  Z particularly enjoyed Chilina Kennedy in her role as Lois Lane and we both loved the Too Darn Hot and Brush up Your Shakespeare numbers.


We headed out of town after the show, stopping at Tim Hortons to pick up some (horrific) coffee.  We arrived home around 12:30 exhausted but having enjoyed ourselves immensely!  It was our first time in Stratford and we certainly plan to return this summer, and in the future.

Seven Quick Takes Friday



For the past week, I have been trying the so-called “no-poo” method of hair management.  This involves ditching shampoo and using a baking soda paste to “wash” and some apple cider (or other) vinegar as a rinse/conditioner.  I have to say, it’s working remarkably well!  I don’t have before and after pics, but my hair is much smoother and less frizzy than normal.  I can also go an extra day (or two) between washes, which is a good thing with my coarse mop.  The second time I did it, I forgot to get some vinegar so I just skipped that step and it was still fine!  I’m using my regular styling products plus a new tool….


Ever since I’ve started growing my hair out, I have bemoaned the fact that I can’t get it to lie flat like my stylist can, with just a hair dryer and a round brush.  I can’t seem to put the hair tight enough to dry it flat, and let’s just forget about the back side of my head.  I had been contemplating getting a flat iron for some time, and I picked one up at Winners earlier this week.  Can I just say that I lurve it.  Seriously.  I am not a hair freak in any way, nor do I pay very much attention to my appearance in general, but this little (zebra-striped) baby is fabulous!  I’m probably frying my hair or something, but it gets it nice and straight and kind of soft.  I’m a convert.

While we’re on the subject of hair, I am considering letting my grey grow out.  I estimate that I’m over 50% grey, at least at the front.  After perusing Going Gray Looking Great and requesting the book at the library, I’m going to talk to my stylist and see if she can do some magic with a combination of low-lights and highlights to let my grey come in without looking like a skunk.

Okay, enough about my hair.  (And I said that I didn’t really care about it….)  The Declutter Club started on Monday with an online chat for an hour, which was great.  There were over a dozen of us online, plus some who couldn’t make it.  I’ve been working hard on getting my living room bookshelves into shape, purging books, listing some to sell, giving some away, and generally sorting through all kinds of papers and junk that I had stuffed in various places.  Next week, I will start working on a large former TV cabinet that I’m now using for linen and candle storage.  I want to get this unit out of my house, so I’ve got to find a home for all the stuff inside it.


The print editions of the National Post and The Star reported that Target is considering coming to Canada in the next 3-5 years.  Target, along with Trader Joes, were the big losses when we left the US 2-1/2 years ago.    Oh, and real barbeque.  Heavenly days!

Alex is coming home from Queen’s for the weekend.  Apparently, a lot of people are going skiing this weekend and he’ll find it hard to study.  Yes, you read that right.  We’ll see how much studying gets done at home.  And I need to remind him to turn off his file-sharing software on his computer….luckily for us Bell caps internet overusage at $30 per month.  We could have been hit by an extra $300 last month for whatever it is that he does.

I requested and received reservations for two papal masses when we’re in Rome over Easter.  We’ll be able to attend the Holy Thursday mass at St. John Lateran (cool VR tour) and the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s.  Those letters are my favorite faxes of all time!  Now I need to book a tour of the Vatican Museum.

One week in to 2010.

Today was kinda my new years day.  My mother-in-law left yesterday and it was very emotional.  Z had been sick with what seemed to be the flu for three days and so I ended up helping her get ready to leave and taking her to the airport.  She had been here for a month, and it was a lovely visit, though somewhat tiring for this introvert who needs a lot of quiet time.

She has had some mysterious illness for the past seven months.  She’s lost over 40 pounds, is weak, and has, let’s call them, digestive issues. She has no desire to eat, and everything goes straight through her. She has been through the gamut of tests, but strangely, not assessed for gluten intolerance.  My guess is that that is what she has.  We got her off wheat for the last few days she was here and she said that a lot of her abdominal pain lessened.  But she also trialed Immodium before her flight so that could have helped as well.  Anyway, despite her illness, she cooked like a fiend while she was here, and kept me busy helping her in the kitchen, getting her Turkish soaps on the computer for her, and shopping for more food to cook!  It was a great month, and while she is feeling her mortality, I hope to see her again soon.

When I got home last night, I kind of collapsed on the sofa for a couple of hours and had Alex drive Michael to his tuba lesson.  I dragged myself into bed and continued my reading of The Experimental Man


by David Ewing Duncan (more about that in a future post.)  I spent most of this morning reading the papers, cleaning the kitchen, and booking our trip to Rome over Easter!


Yes, it’s booked and paid for, and  I am so excited I could shout.  Z has been to Rome a number of times;  his uncle was an Archbishop representing his (Syrian Catholic) church at the Vatican in his later years, and Z spent time with him there.  We are going for eight days, over Easter, and will be staying in a hotel halfway between the Vatican and the Piazza del Popolo (left).   Z knows a retired Cardinal who lives at the Vatican and we’re hoping to get to see him while we’re there.

My resolutions are going pretty well.  I’ll post more about them tomorrow, but let’s just say I’m on track, even with the newly added hypertension-related ones (although it’s only been two days of one cup of coffee and no booze!)

Aren’t things supposed to be quieting down now?

The last few days continue to keep me up and active, with nary a moment to lounge on the sofa and work on my book pile.

Alex’s laptop screen got cracked due to some dorm-room hijinks and, although I thought I had bought the “Complete Care Warranty” from Dell, a closer look at my invoice suggests otherwise.  So now he needs to come up with $499 (plus tax) to replace the screen.  On a laptop that cost less than twice that.  Four months ago.  So I spent time with Dell on the phone trying to figure out exactly what warranty I DID buy, and that (of course) the damage wasn’t covered.

My mother-in-law can’t stop cooking.  Our freezer is full.  The fridge is full.  The beer fridge no longer has room for beer.  She’s here for three more days and she’s figuring out how to get “everything done” before she leaves.  I keep buying 500 g of ground beef, 500g of stewing beef, onions, and lemons, and it all keeps getting turned into ziploc-packed goodness that needs to be crammed into our freezer.  I’m feeling bloated from all the bulgur my poor intestines are being subjected to.  I’ve been to Arz more in the past three weeks than in the past year.

Michael is still keeping night owl hours and he goes back to school tomorrow.  Sigh.

We met Alex’s girlfriend yesterday when she dropped over for tea before they headed downtown for lunch.   Lovely, polite, funny.  She is studying architecture at University of Waterloo….they met last summer when they worked at the same day camp for the summer.

Z and I are going to Rome for Easter this spring.  It will be my first time there and I’m completely excited about it.  I just worked my way through the Air Canada Vacations website, booking everything, to end up with some system error when I tried to actually pay for the tickets.  Dang.  The office closed until tomorrow, so I can’t do anything about it now.  It’s just frustrating to sit at the computer and do all the work, checking all the information three times, etc. and then getting kicked out.

Choir was quick and easy today; we only met 45 minutes before mass to go over music.  Our choir-only stuff was a quick read and sounded lovely.  For the offertory, we sang We Three Kings unaccompanied (the SATB version from here).  At communion, we did a lovely arrangement of In the Bleak Midwinter.  It’s such a beautiful hymn….I knew that the text was by Christina Rosetti, but I’d never noticed that the music was by Gustav Holst.

This afternoon, I finally got my blog template updated with a simple new look for the new year.  I’m not done with it yet, but it’s fine for now.  My resolutions are still feeling right and I am definitely enjoying the extra sleep.  The Christmas tree will come down this week, and then the living room can return to it’s natural state, with my desk replacing the tree.  I received a number of books for Christmas, so I want to give some books away, and tidy up my bookshelves while I’m at it.  I also have two books to review for Thomas Nelson…one is sort of “chick-lit” and the other is a book of devotions.  I hope to have these both done in a week.

Until tomorrow!