Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Big Sister!

Me and my big sister!
  My sister and I know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. She is that little bit of my childhood that can never be lost. I love you Lyn!  gws

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Renovations

    No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow and this past week, with an improvement in the weather, I decided it was time get on with some overdue renovations to the duplex., As Phil is presently updating his bathroom I took the opportunity to open up the old exhaust fan hole in our bathroom and reopen a hole in the roof to allow venting from both upstairs and downstairs. At the same time I had the roofers install new shingles on the cornice overlooking the front of the building. The old shingles were completely shot, shedding pieces constantly onto the balcony and filling up the gutter and the yard below. We now have to run the electrical and install the fans, a job which involves climbing up again on the roof to connect the flexible vent pipe.


Putting down the asphalt around the wooden vent frame
Another view of our roof with skylight over bathroom
vent hole in my bathroom, one foot below roof

Phil`s bathroom roof, vent at left

New cornice above my balcony
   This past weekend I had the carpenter who did some dri-walling for me in the dining room come over to help me put in two new steel doors at the rear of the duplex, one leading out to my back balcony and the other going out to Phil's deck and backyard. As this old building is no longer square we had a few problems getting the doorframes level but after two days we succeeded and the change in the rear entranceway is amazing. Phil installed a Weiser powerbolt deadbolt and he and Fer love the added security and light which he now has in the stairwell. But pictures tell the story so without further ado....


Before - upstairs back door

Before - downstairs back door

After - downstairs back door!

After - upstairs back door!

Just a matter of putting on some trim, in and out, and we are ready for summer bbq-ing! Next projects are to finish the bathrooms, repoint the brick in the front and do some minor brick work in the back. But right now the garden is calling me and I have some flowers to plant!... Merci pour votre visite - à bientôt!  gws

Sunday, April 3, 2011


   For those who didn't realize it Canada makes more than 80 percent of the world's maple syrup, the vast majority (75%) of this coming from here in Quebec! Don`t tell that to anyone from Ontario or Vermont - for sure they have their own maple syrup industry but it is tiny compared to what is produced here in La Belle Province. Everywhere you look you can see forests of maple trees - like in our own backyard on the mountain - which usually have the high sugar content necessary for maple syrup. The varities you will most likely see here are the sugar maple which is the most commonly tapped species, then the black maple, the red maple and the silver maple. And now that the spring thaw has arrived all the maple syrup producers are going full out tapping their trees. As the sap is only sweet enough to make maple syrup a few weeks a year you can imagine the run on the sugar shacks scattered all over the province! The sap needs frosty nights and warm sunny days in order to flow so production that started in March is now in full swing. The past few weeks have been perfect and yesterday was a gem of a day, chilly overnight that turned into a warm sunny day.
    So, to take advantage of this beautiful weekend, Marie and I, and Phil and Fer bundled into his car Saturday and headed out to Mont Saint-Gregoire, about 45 minutes east of Montreal to partake in a very Canadian tradition - the annual visit to the "cabane à sucre" (sugar shack)! Fernanda had never seen a real maple syrup operation before and I thought it would be the ideal thing for her to do.

Our table, just before we attacked it!
    We had made reservations at the beautiful log reception hall and stuffed ourselves on thick pea soup, homemade baked beans, meat pies (tourtieres), maple-cured ham, oreilles de crisse (fried strips of salt pork fat), omelettes, fresh rolls, cider, milk, sausages, eggs, salad, beets, homemade pickles, tomato, fried potatoes, pancakes and maple sugar pie. The more we ate the more the goodies kept coming! Barely able to move we walked very slowly over to the sap house where the maple syrup was being boiled down and somehow found the room for some some maple taffy on snow! In one of the sap houses they pour hot, super-concentrated syrup on a bed of fresh snow and as it cools you scoop it up with wooden sticks. Yummmm! Afterwards we did a wagon tour of the surrounding woods and apple orchard, stopping to pick up some more treats and a bottle of ice cider.

Marie hogging the bottle of maple syrup!
   I think Fernanda was very happy she came and discovered another bit of Candiana she can tell her friends and family about in Mexico. We had brought Phil to a sugar shack in Ontario when he was much younger but the big attraction to him now is, of course, the food! If he decides to explore that part of the region just east of the city there are numerous local artisans all within an hour or so on what is called the Circuit du Goût - boulangeries, farms, chocolateries, wineries and cideries. And this time of the year you don't need to go too far to find a sugar shack.

Le Shack

Fernanda on Rue Cesar!

Inside the sap house rolling taffy

Phil and Fer inside the sap house
Fresh apples

The owners of this outfit were still tapping the trees in the traditional way - hanging tin buckets on the maples trees, the clear white liquid dripping and slowly filling up the bucket. There is at least one bucket and sometimes more on every tree as it takes about 40 litres to produce one litre of the delicious syrup. We got there before the crowds thankfully and, as there is no ritual in Quebec quite so genuine and endemic as the sugar shack experience, it was wise to come early! gws