Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Unique Saturday

Lent began this week, and last year you might remember I learned about the tradition of Pancake Day, instead of Mardi Gras they have Pancake Day up here. Today I learned about another Lenten tradition, a Swiss tradition called Fastnacht. It is a little more like Mardi Gras and less like Pancake Day, but....they celebrate it after Lent begins. Does that make any sense? I have copied a few explanations about the origins for you so you can feel smarter after you read today's post. I can thank me later.

The origins
Carnival marks the end of the protestant fasting season. It takes place six weeks before Easter, a week after carnival in most catholic regions. This is due to a reform of the papal calendar in the 16th century, which protestant Basel duly ignored. Other than that, all religious holidays in Basel are on the same date as everywhere else!

Alternatively, the name ‘Fastnacht’ literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the eve of the fasting season. The festival is celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday, or the last Tuesday before Lent.

This Carnival is a big deal in Basel, Switzerland and some of the Swiss folks here decided to carry on the tradition. I'm glad they don't start at the traditional time of 4 a.m. like they do in Basel! They started at the still unreasonable time of 7 a.m. with Morgestraich (morning march) played by the Canadysli Guggemusig. This is a brass band dressed in wild robes, masks, wigs and beads, playing painted instruments with varying degrees of skill. My friend's son is in the band so that is how we got invited, and what else were we going to be doing at 7 in the morning on a freezing cold Saturday?

So our Saturday morning started in a German pub listening to a brass band wearing Mardi Gras garb and drinking beer (well, TJ drank beer) and eating onion pie, burnt flour soup (isn't that just a roux?)and various baked goods. Again, no pie or soup for me but the pastries were good.

The band played several sets and one time everyone went outside, into the
-10C or 15F, butt freezing cold C or F, street and followed the band around the block in a parade, full with police escort. It was probably all of 9 a.m. by now, why am I here again?

Back inside to warm up and let the serious beer drinking start. We did go to the HUGE bakery next door and shopped. What an awesome place, it was full of breads, bagels, homemade pretzels, pies, pastries....on and on! We loaded up on some good stuff and went back to the pub.

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Our friend took some pictures of the band and the parade which I will post when he gets them to me. They should be mildly entertaining!

I guess we should take a long nap now and enjoy the rest of our Saturday. Mardi Gras North, the same but different.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lisa and Valerie's Excellent Adventure

My friend Valerie, of broken arm fame, was here for the week. She wanted to experience some winter and I always enjoy company so it worked out well for both of us. Now the last time she came to visit it was 3 weeks after we moved here and the visit was not ideal, one of us ended up in the emergency room. Our vow this time was to avoid any hospitals! We succeeded!


Since Valerie really did not get to see much except an hour at the ski hill and the road between our house and the hospital last time I felt obliged to show her ALL the sights. We started on Monday, it was bright and sunny so we drove straight to downtown Toronto for lunch. I wanted her to see the city on a nice day and in winter they are few and far between so carpe diem! We had a lovely lunch at Dinni in Yorkville and walked around a bit before heading back to Mississauga. We ate at home that night and relaxed.

I was working Tues., Wed. and Thurs. at noon each day so our mornings were spent at the house being quiet, working on our computers and just getting ready for the day. On Tuesday after my meeting we had a late lunch and went to see the Shopaholic movie. Mixed reviews. Two thumbs down from Valerie, she could not wait for it to be over and I was mildly entertained but will admit it was poorly developed and shallow, still liked the clothes! That night we stayed home again. We are so fun!

Wednesday was a gross day as far as weather. It was gray and rainy. We visited with Linda for a bit and then went back downtown for an early dinner and then to the theater to see the Sound of Music. Great dinner and great play. The set design was absolutely first class, the star of the show!

Thursday was Niagara Falls day. Always a fun thing to do. When we left here it was sunny with clouds, the closer we got to Niagara the worse the weather got. It was a white out at some points, foggy, windy and freezing. Perfect weather to sight see....outside! When we drove up to the falls all we could see was fog.....I know the falls are there somewhere, they are right over there Valerie, really they are, you just can't see them. We drove all this way for this?! Then Moses parted the fog and we could see. It was amazing how it cleared up and the sun broke through and there they were, Niagara Falls in all their splendor. It was still cold and windy but at least we saw the falls. Niagara-on-the-lake was dead so we went to one winery and headed back home. We had a great dinner with my friend, Janet, and talked the evening away.

On Friday, (how did it get to be Friday so fast anyway?) we headed to Caledon Ski Club. We were determined to undo the bad luck from last year. We had nice weather, a beautiful drive and yes, a great day skiing. I have posted a video and a few pictures for you to enjoy. The good thing about Caledon is that you spend minimal time on the lifts and no time waiting for the lift, most of your time is spent skiing! We skied every run at least twice and many more than twice. It was a good day. We ended the day eating Greek food with TJ who was back home from his business travels.

Valerie brought me a real treat from Texas....6 cans of Rotel tomatoes. A key ingredient to any good southern dish and nowhere to be found in Canada. Ahhhh! We also spent many hours working on a treat for our book club. I hope they like it, we had fun making it. Can't reveal what "it" is until Tuesday. Don't want to ruin the surprise.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day 2009 vs. Valentine's Day 2008

In Times Square with Rick and Patti

Central Park

If how one day in a year is spent determines how the rest of the year will be then this year should be a better year than last year. TJ reminded me today, on our way home from New York City that this year's Valentine's Day. was much better than last year's. I agree wholeheartedly.

Last year on Feb. 14 I was in the hospital waiting for surgery, my husband in Newfoundland and my good friend, Valerie, at the foot of my bed. I had not eaten or had anything to drink for over a day and felt pretty miserable, except for the excellent pain meds I was on.

This year on Feb. 14 I was in New York City with TJ and our friends Rick and Patti. We started the day with a nice breakfast and a walk in Central Park. We strolled through the Plaza Hotel, beautiful chandeliers and flower arrangements. We met for lunch and then saw the matinee of Billy Elliot on Broadway! An excellent show, such talent! After the show we went down to Greenwich Village, had a pre dinner drink and then a lovely dinner at the Cornelia St. Cafe. Ohhhh, the dinner. YUM! Glad we managed to walk our 14,000 steps that day, according to Patti's pedometer. I'll take that day over last year any time! It is good to have perspective sometimes, isn't it?

New York- lots of people, so much to see, so much to do, always something going on. The city that never sleeps. We had sunny skies and enjoyed just being outside and soaking up the city. As TJ said, if this is any indication of how the rest of the year will go, then it is going to be a great year. Let's hope he is right.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Creative Sweating

So I've been thinking about this topic for much too long and trying to figure out how to write it down. I'll try to make it relevant and witty at the same time. It is one of those things that make you go, huh?

Sweating....up the winter. How do you do it? Anyone who knows me, knows that it does not take much for me to break into a good sweat. Hot flashes do not count either. I'm talking about the sweat that comes with running or with working out or walking in the heat. It seems like you have to be a little more creative to sweat when you live up here.

Since I really can't/shouldn't run anymore and don't belong to a gym anymore either, I have to be creative to work up a good sweat. Here are a few ways I've managed a good northern sweat this winter.

First would be the seemingly never ending chore of shoveling snow off the driveway. Since my husband, aka male snow shoveler, is never home when it dumps on us, it has been my pleasure to shovel the driveway this winter. I really don't mind this chore because I actually work up a good sweat by the end of the job. It is a good morning workout and aside from my aching shoulder I think it is good exercise.

Second would be hiking in the snow. TJ has decided that when we can, we should put our boots on and trudge through the woods after it snows. Another reasonably good workout, especially after a lot of snow. Think StairMaster. And I have found that regardless of the temperature, you can work up a sweat.

Third, and my favorite by yoga. The first time I went into the room I said to the girl, "no way I could work out in here, I'd pass out!". How wrong I was. I absolutely love hot yoga. You can't believe how good it feels to be able to exercise and sweat buckets! Yes, literally I soak at least one towel (I'm not the only one either) and it reminds me of how I would sweat during a run in Houston. I actually feel like I worked out. I guess it could be wrong to equate the amount I sweat to how good of a workout I just had, but I do.
Crow Pose

I'm sure I look just like this...well, I can do it!

I never thought I would have to try to sweat. I could sweat by walking out the door and going to the mailbox most times in Houston. Shoot, I could sweat just sitting still or going to my sister, Tamara's house (kept at a constant balmy temp. of HOT). Anyway, I find it rather amusing and amazing that I now have to try to work up a good sweat. What is happening?
Enjoy the day!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Playing Outside

This weekend provided us with an opportunity to get ouside and play. Well....walk a lot. We are in training for next weekend in NYC with our friends Rick and Patty. The weekend temps were well above the freezing mark and I am afraid all they will do is tease us that it is going to be spring but we are not going to believe it.
On Saturday in honor of the record breaking warmth, TJ and I went downtown and walked with thousands of other fools who think the weather is nice. We had a great lunch and then passed by the outdoor skating rink at Phillips Square and then walked all the way up to Bloor and Yorkville. We browsed around for a while and then walked back to the car and then walked to St. Lawrence Market. We bought some yummy food to cook for dinner and then headed home. I figure we did about 2.5 hours of walking. Training.
Today was a little cooler but still nice so we took the dogs for an hour walk.
It was so funny, everyone we passed said , "nice day!" and all I could think about was , "yes it is, for Toronto in Feb." If we were in Houston or Baton Rouge everyone would be inside next to a fire complaining about how COLD it is outside. All in your perspective.
One unpleasant part of the warm days is the melting snow in the backyard. It has revealed much frozen dog poop. So after our hours of walking TJ got to go in the backyard and do poop patrol. JOY. The piles of snow outside are no longer white, they are brown and yucky. Under all that white stuff is months of sludge and slime. The beauty of it all.
Looking forward to a great weekend in the Big Apple. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Few Random Thoughts

First, it is COLD. Yes, it is really cold outside and I even admit it. Yesterday I finally had that wind in the face bracing cold experience. I can't say I've had it here yet, until yesterday. I think it was the wind and the
-20C temp. Today was a little better, not as much wind and it was sunny, but still very cold.

Second, the southern girl in me came out yesterday at work. I said "y'all" in a meeting and had to laugh at myself. I apologized to everyone and their response was, "don't worry about it, we like it." Whew! It was just such a natural word coming out of my mouth. I get different responses when I tell people where I am from, they go from"you don't have an accent" to " where are you from? Not here, that's for sure." Most of the time people know I'm from the states but they can't figure out where, they don't automatically guess I am from the south. I think that may be a good thing, I have tried not to have the big southern drawl, but I can put it on if I want to!

Third, we had a great Super Bowl party on Sunday and a fun random Thursday night out dinner. A real impromptu dinner out with friends, who ran into other friends who joined us and it turned out to be a fun dinner. Life is good.
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