Sunday, November 30, 2008

december, joulukuu, thekiemurios, mi na nollag, etc

Where ever you are...happy december! Marie and I returned safely from our trip to Quebec City this past week. As you can see we had a little bit of snow - in fact when we went up to the ski hills they were making snow, but not enough to stop us from getting around. We picked up some wine at a local winery, Vignoble Domaine Royanois, known for being one of the most northerly vineyards in North America, visited the Basilica twice, Montmorency Falls and went into Quebec City. There were few tourists around, but once the Winter Carnival and skiing begins in earnest there will be crowds everywhere..When we left yesterday we took route 138, travelling along the St Lawrence River all the way to Montreal where we met up with Phil for a beer at his latest favourite spot, a microbrewery-bar near centretown. He and Fer are happy, having found an apartment nearby! Before we left for Ottawa`we stopped off at the Olympic Stadium and took in the big dog show there - the Salon National des Animaux de Compagnie. Every type of dog imaginable there but nothing yet to compare to Muffy...So we now are back in Ottawa and getting ready for a snowy month, or so they are forecasting. We will be here till the 20th when we drive down to Plattsburgh, NY to catch a plane to Florida for Christmas. We will probably plan a trip to the property again in February, then again in early spring...This week the Ottawa`School of Art is having it's annual Christmas Art Show and I have put in three pieces, Canadian landscapes in triptych form. I have a few other works in progress and will put them up on the blog soon. Come back and check them out! Meanwhile have a good week and ...go Habs go! gws

Sunday, November 23, 2008

St Anne de Beaupre

Hello from the banks of the chilly St Lawrence River! After a very cold night at our property on the mountain - which was covered in at least six inches of snow - Marie and I arrived safely at our other Quebec retreat beneath the ski hills of St Anne, 22 miles northeast of Quebec City, and three hours from our cabin. Although it is cold and blustery there is no snow, even on the ski hills behind us, and warmer rainy weather is predicted for the coming week we will be here. This morning we visited the famous Sanctuary and, as we did three years ago, marvelled at the beautiful interior - paintings, mosaics and statuary everywhere. Before we leave the area we want to return and take some photographs. As we expected the town here is fairly quiet, although it has a population of 3500 it seems most residents are enjoying a respite from the throngs of visitors to the shrine that arrive every year - a million people each summer and fall! Our little condo has a fireplace and a nice view of the river on one side and the mountains on the other but without the snow and foliage everything is brown and rather bleak. We will be going into the city next week and, later find a day to cross over to Isle d`Òrleans and explore. For now we will relax and chill, literally. Today is Grey Cup day - Calgary vs Montreal - so will maybe take in the game later. Stay in touch with our wanderings! Till later, gws

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quebec City

As promised I made some more photo mosaics, incorporating our Greek holiday pictures into one. Here are the finished photos. Don't forget to click on the picture to see the smaller images it is made up of!

Tomorrow Marie and I are driving up to Quebec City, a distance of about 500 kms from Ottawa. We'll go through Montreal, drop off some mail for Phil, then head to the property first. We'll stay there Friday night, then head north. For those of you who have never been to Quebec City I suggest you make plans soon to visit. There is not much time left to get in on the major parties of the year as you all know by now that 2008 is the 400th anniversary (founded in 1608, making it the oldest city in Canada). It certainly has one of the most beautiful natural settings in North America, sitting on a cliff above a narrow point in the St. Lawrence River - reminds me of a French provincial town. The only fortified city in North America, Vieux-Québec (Old Québec), is small and dense, yet it is steeped in centuries of history and French tradition, so get ready to do some exploring. When we go Marie and I like to explore the 17th-century and 18th-century buildings and churches, stroll around the ramparts that once protected the city, check out some of the old book and second-hand shops, then try out some of the fabulous cuisine. Forget about any diets you might be on! One feature of the city is a steep and precipitous rock which separates the Upper Town and Lower Town, against which were built the city's more than 25 escaliers (staircases) - these are neat and walking up and down these you'll know if you're in shape or not! Old Quebec City was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, shortly after my first visit - I met the HMCS Iroquois there when I was posted from Masset. I think she was there for a refit if I'm not mistaken. Those were the days when the Nordiques were still around...Quebec City is a safe place as well - for what it's worth it reported the lowest crime rate of any large metropolitan area every year from 1991 to 2006, and last year it was the only major city in Canada without a murder. I have been there in the summer three times now and loved it, yet winters can be pretty fun there as well, according to Marie. The annual Winter Carnival allows Quebecois to show their irrepressible joie de vivre as they freeze. Everywhere you see ice sculptures of Bonhomme, the logo of the winter festivities. They even build a hotel of blocks of ice (The Ice Hotel). It's made of 400 tons of ice and 12,000 tons of snow, but we won't be there to see it as they don't start on it till mid-December. year! I'll let you know how our week went and will have lots of pictures to post. Don't forget Don and Lyn we have a date at Le Cafe du Monde next summer. Till then have a great weekend! Salut! gws

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ramblings From the Week That Was

Hello everyone and thanks for your patience! It's been a week since I updated this blog but fear not...I am back! It was a busy seven days, starting out with the return of our car off lease. After our accident in 2004 (driving back from Montreal in a snow storm following a visit with Marie's parents) we had to replace our very reliable but slightly dented Dodge Intrepid
with something as big and as safe. Translated: something that can withstand the impact of a tree. As we had a little Hyundai Accent at the time (which Phil loved more than us I think) we decided to go with another Hyundai and chose their biggest model, the XG350, which had a 5-star crash safety rating and side airbags, something we were looking for after our crash
And now, four years later and 80,000 km on the odometer, it was time to return it and be a one-car family again. Here in our condo we only have one parking space so that now goes to the Dakota! No doubt we'll see the old car around town now and then and think of all the trips we took in it...Last week Muffy had her three-month visit from her favourite groomer and lost at least 2 lbs of poodle hair and now shivers and shakes at the slightest breeze! It's time again to bring out her winter coat and booties as snow flurries and freezing temperatures have become the norm now we are just past the middle of the month...We have been preparing as well for our upcoming trip to Quebec City this weekend. We will be staying at the Club Vacances Toutes Saisons
just outside the city in Beaupre, near the St Anne ski hills and the famous Basilica overlooking the St Lawrence river. We were there a few years ago and enjoyed the "between seasons" quiet and solitude. A trip into Quebec City is planned and perhaps a visit to the Isle d'Orleans, before returning home on the 28th. Then, of course we have to start thinking about our upcoming trip to Florida but that will come soon enough and before I know it will be posting pictures here!... This week I also tried to do something I have been wanting to do for years - make a photo mosaic. I found a very simple program I downloaded for free and after a few hours of experimenting came up with some fairly interesting pieces. I chose photographs from our trip to Greece this past spring as I had 500 or so pictures on file and the mosaic should be themed around the original template. The more variety of pictures (colours, shapes, tones, etc)imbedded in the mosaic creates a more realistic image, as you can see. After tweaking a few different parameters you can produce a real work of art! My first successful one is of a scene I shot in Athens at the market and I incorporated 10,000 individual photographs into the final mosaic. Of course as I only had 500 pictures to work from most of them had to be duplicated at least 10 times. Still I think it turned out well. Click on the picture then use your zoom feature to see the tiny photos the mosaic is composed of! Here is the original photograph - I will have some more for you to look at next time. If anyone has any questions about this program let me know. Before I forget I have to thank Andrea Denzler at for the great software! There is always something new and fascinating to discover in the world of computers and it is a real challenge for me just to stay on top of all the ongoing developments. Thankfully Phil tends to let us in on the latest trends...Well I hope everything is fine in your little corners of the world and thanks for stopping by! Stay safe, love one another and have a great week! gws

Monday, November 10, 2008


Ahhh Montreal! Get around the traffic and road construction - La ville est orange fluo! - and you will find a vibrant and exciting world class city! Marie and I spent this past weekend there with the kids and, as we always do, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We met Phil and Fernanda for a very authentic and delicious dinner at her Mexican restautant Tamales on Prince Arthur Street - colourful and very authentic with paintings by Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo adorning the walls. Later that night we all went downtown to The House of Jazz (Maison du Jazz), taking the Metro's to an evening of live entertainment - a jazz combo and Tina Turner look-alike singer! You'll see from the pix we all had a great time. I really had to add the one of the three nerds on their laptops at Chad's place - I just wish life had an Undo function! Sunday morning we headed down to Vieux-Montréal and it's cobble stone streets for brunch at Chez Suzette, a Crêperie par excellance! For those of you who have never been to Montreal wait no more. You'll never have a dull moment here! The restaurants are world class, the architecture amazing and the people friendly. But a word of advise - leave your car at home! Have a happy and safe week! gws

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Peace...and Hope

Good morning! Another unseasonably warm day here in the Nation's capital but whose complaining? It's nice to see shorts and sandals in November and everyone is smiling for a change...Seems the universe is unfolding as it should, or at least in this tiny corner - across the river Quebecers will be going to the polls next month (5th time in 6 years) but here in hockey-mad Ottawa talk is of the Sens winning a game finally (though they are still in last place behind their sworn enemies the Maple Lumps). The city was awash in students yesterday demonstrating against tuition fee hikes but it was all very peaceful and Canadian-like - perhaps the lovely weather had something to do with it. Oh, I hear there is a new man at the helm south of us. Hope he can live up to the expectations the US public has burdened him with. In my lifetime the States have come along way (from racial segregation to a dream of MLK's that has finally come true) and surely this is what they need to show the world they can once again be a great nation. Peace. gws

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Donkeys, Elephants, & ...Roosters

Here is a little story as the US goes to the polls tomorrow. After two years of campaigning I am relieved it will be all over and we and the rest of the world can get on with our lives! Turn up your volume and enjoy!... John was in the fertilized egg business. He had several hundred young layers(hens), called 'pullets',and ten roosters to fertilize the eggs. He kept records and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced. This took a lot of time,so he bought some tiny bells and attached them to his roosters. Each bell had a different tone so he could tell from a distance which rooster was performing. Now he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells. John's favorite rooster,old Butch,was a very fine specimen,but this morning he noticed old Butch's bell hadn't rung at all! When he went to investigate he saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets,bells-a-ringing. To John's amazement,old Butch had his bell in his beak so it couldn't ring. He'd sneak up on a pullet,do his job and walk on to the next one. John was so proud of old Butch that he entered him in the local County Fair and he became an overnight sensation among the judges. The result was the judges not only awarded old Butch the No Bell Piece Prize, but they also awarded him the Pulletsurprise as well. Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making. Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most highly coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the populace and screwing them when they weren't paying attention. Vote carefully this year my American friends. The bells are not always audible. gws