Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter Walk

Canadian Passtime by susanvg
Canadian Passtime, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photos: January 27, 2013

A city walk takes me through a park. Ice skaters, oblivious to the cold, enjoy the outdoor rink. Once these rinks were found in many parks. We had one near my former house. The neighbourhood had an arrangement with the city with those living nearby shovelling to clear it after a snow storm. But the city stopped putting up the boards to enclose the rink, and it was no more.

Fort de la Montagne

Our walk took us past the towers of Fort de la Montagne, all that remains of a fort that was built in the 1600s in the early days of Montreal. This was part of a mission founded by the Sulpicians to convert the native peoples. You can learn more here.

Sitting in the Snow

I was dressed in layers to keep out the cold. This couple, bathed in the light from the low sun, their feet in the snow, were oblivious to the frigid air.  I like to walk with a destination in mind.

Stopping for Tea

Stopping for tea made the walk even more delightful.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Squash by susanvg
Squash, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photos: January 25, 2013

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love to go to the market. Each season lures me there for different reasons. Walking through the fruit and vegetable stalls in winter, I feel the pull of growth happening somewhere. It is amazing the variety of produce that finds its way to our shelves. No more the canned vegetable of my childhood!


Colours, textures grab the eye. We live in a place of abundance. I have my favourite stops: the organic butcher, the butcher who raises his own lambs, the sausage maker, the bakery, the cheese shop... And at each stop there is conversation.


And before all that - a coffee with or without a croissant or other delight to set me up for my shopping.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Brrrrr by susanvg
Brrrrr, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Yesterday morning the mercury dipped quite low. But this is Canada. Today was slightly better, but the wind helped make it feel colder than it was.  I know people who live in warmer climates who are cold in winter. While I don't love walking in this weather, we do have the possibility of keeping warm.

First of all our houses are insulated, heated and we have double windows. The fact that we do not feel cold all day helps to mitigate the outside cold. Layers are key. Long ago I learned that fashion doesn't matter when it gets cold. As a high school student I went out with knee socks and a tunic which stopped just above my knees. It didn't matter that my coat was long and my boots were high, it was COLD!

Warm Coat

Now I wear long underwear when needed and a couple of layers on top. Add a warm coat, scarf, hat and mittens (not gloves) and I are well insulated. If the wind is bad, I'll add windproof pants. We all develop strategies of how to wear it all, with scarves up over the mouth, a hood up and techniques for turning so you can properly see the traffic and not just the inside of your hood.

Good Boots

Next comes warm boots. If the feet and head are warm everything else seems to feel warmer. So for those who think we suffer in the cold, I know that the dampness in London can sometimes feel worse. And the lower the temperatures here, the more it is likely to be sunny. And that always puts a smile on my face - adding inner warmth.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Stirfry by susanvg
Stirfry, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I think we are always full of great intentions in January - healthy eating, healthy lifestyle in general. My feeling is it is always a work in progress. These stir fried vegetables were destined to be served with lentils and rice.

But as the temperature plummets, my thoughts go to those substantial meals that warm from within - soups and stews. My proxy Scottish grandmother would have said the food that "sticks to your ribs." Unfortunately they often stick to my hips and other places. So I try to find warmth in herbal tea.

Emergency Vehicles

Emergency Vehicles by susanvg
Emergency Vehicles, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photo: January 20, 2013

Public Safety vehicles were out the other night. It was a blustery evening and in another part of the city a crane was toppled by the wind. Perhaps there was concern about the construction site near us. Whatever it was, they blocked off our street.

I just liked their multi-coloured lights. And the fact that they left fairly quickly afterwards - I guess there was no serious emergency.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Walking on a Snowy Evening

Winter Evening

A hush fell on the city as a gentle snow masked sounds. Bright white muffs embraced the branches while snow flakes danced in the air.

Snow on the Branches

We walked through snowy magic. The trees wore their winter finery.

Snowy Night

Bushes were decorated with snowy pompoms.


The city was transformed.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Looking Out Looking In

Looking Out Looking In

I love to go to Old Montreal - the old stone buildings, the cobblestone streets. I have gone to many concerts in Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours. Last night I got to be part of a concert. I got an inside view of Les Boréades, who invited the Société de Flûte à Bec de Montréal to join them. Fifteen members of the society rehearsed once a month and took part in the concert, playing the opening numbers of each half of the programme. We shared backstage with the professionals and watched as they prepared for the concert.

In Preparation

Last minute review, adding a few bowing marks, thinking about the intention of the music - all to make Bach speak eloquently through their instrumental voices.

We played - looking out at the audience and then joined them to enjoy the wonderful concert by the professionals. There is a vast difference in our playing (I have not spent years practising endlessly and living and breathing music) but our shared passion for music, for that one night had us share a stage. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Attracting Customers

Attracting CustomersPhotos: January 11, 2013

It always amazes me what businesses do to attract customers. I can't even tell you why these rhinos were there, nor what kind of establishment they were representing, but they certainly called for attention.

Disguises for Sale

This store sold a whole variety of things, from wigs and masks to exotic gloves and hosiery. I'm not sure who their customer base is, but I don't think I was their demographic! Though a couple of those bird heads might be fun... It 's always interesting to wander in a part of town I'm not usually in. There are always new things to photograph.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Medieval Music


On Friday evening we went to a concert of medieval music by Eya (musicians Liette Remon and Femke Bergsma). The instrument you see above is a vielle or fiddle. Some were played like this one and others were played in the position of a violin. Notice that the bow is very curved (like an archery bow). Many early bows had that shape. This is the ancestor of the modern violin.

Vielles and Rebec

A variety of instruments were played during the concert. Here you can see a recorder, a rebec and two vielles. What a delightful evening with instrumental pieces and songs from the 15th century. The concert took place in a hair salon: Jardin d'art et de coiffure. The salon holds concert every 6 weeks or so. Always nice to hear music in unusual places.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013



If you need to have parking meters, I prefer this kind. You can top up the meter when it gets low. The city has installed newer ones in most places. There are pay stations which you have to locate and punch in the number of your parking spot. The advantages are that you can use a credit card so you don't always have to be sure to have change. And now there is an app so you can pay from a distance, but the new meters don't add to the money that is there. Each "addition" is actually starting the meter afresh. With these old meters, you can sometimes park on someone else's money if they left before their meter expired. It feels like a little gift from an unknown friend!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Museum

Grand StaircasePhotos: January 6, 2013

There was a wonderful exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts: Once Upon a Time.... Impressionism It featured French paintings from the Clark Museum I was at the Clark some 20 years ago but it was a treat to see these paintings again. Impressionist artists are among my favourites. I had been to the exhibit once with my daughter. That time we took a tour.  This time my son was with us too and we lingered over the paintings - not easy with the crowds the exhibit had attracted.

A favourite moment for me was listening to a father explain the painting techniques to his (approximately) 5 year old daughter. I wished I could follow him around. His explanations were wonderful.

The exhibit featured highlights from one couple's collection for their private homes. There were magnificent portraits, but it is the outdoor scenes that really speak to me. Such a treat to spend an afternoon en famille enjoying great art.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Île-de-la-Visitation Nature Park

Tracks on the Frozen River

I like exploring Montreal's big parks. This time it was Parc-nature de l'Île-de-la-Visitation. We started out on snowshoes, but no off the path snowshoeing was allowed, so we switched to just walking. The park hugs the shore of Rivière des Prairies on the north side of the island of Montreal. I love the city parks that make you feel far from the city.

Parc-nature de l'Île-de-la-Visitation

The sun was low on the horizon, casting its golden light. The snow crunched beneath our feet. It felt good to be out in the winter air.

Long Shadows

It's so easy in winter to hibernate. But when I get out walking, the sun puts a smile on my face and the wintry air refreshes.

January 5, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013


 Photo: January 3, 2013

Stalks of grain grow out of the frosty hill on my window. Jack Frost's paint brush has been busy during the night. This painting was caught for others to see. How frustrated Jack must get seeing his work erased by the sun's rays. He will have to come back again to show off more of his handiwork.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Magic Glasses

Crazy Glasses
Photos: January 2, 2013

Some years ago a friend brought me one pair of these glasses. When you look at lights through them, each light takes on the shape the glasses make - in the case of the first pair I received, the 6 pointed star. I loved them and found where to purchase more. I got ones with a four point star, snowflakes, an angel...) On a whim, I took them out and looked at my new view at night with the glasses

Looking Through the Glasses

This photograph doesn't quite do it justice (no tripod, through a window...) but you can get the idea. The most fun came when cars drove by. The headlights took on the star shape which then moved along the street. These glasses now sit on my window ledge.  I love to surprise guests with the way they transform my night-time view. And yes - I, too, enjoy the sense of whimsy they bring to me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The New Year Blooms

Photos: January 1, 2013

 The new year comes at the coldest part of the year here. Outside the temperatures are plummeting. It seems a funny time to start a year, though maybe it is a good time for reflection. The longer nights leave less time for outdoor sports and more time indoors. Now, more than ever, I need my indoor garden to remind me of growth possibilities. While outdoors, the landscape has turned white, inside I treasure the plants and flowers.
New Orchid

Winter is a time for dormancy - though that does not mean that growth stops. Plants and animals need that time to recharge and I think we do too. Electricity has permitted us to forget about living to the light of the sun, but I do believe the dark evenings remind our bodies to rest more so our minds can spend more time in thought. How else can we nourish our souls to make the year blossom!?


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Walking into the next year

Westmount City Hall
 Photos: December 31, 2012

After a meal at a restaurant we walked back to our new home. It was much milder than the last couple of nights, so it was easier to take the gloves off to hold my camera. New Year's Eve - a time for reflection - looking back to look forward. Set new goals. I like to think of goals rather than resolutions. A resolution broken feels like a failure. Goals are different. They are meant to be set, revisited and revised. They feel more fluid than a resolution. A goal should come with strategies - how will I try to attain that goal? And when one strategy doesn't work, try another.

No Place to Sit

New Year's Eve - we walk over the border into the next year - into new possibilities. I wish all my blogging friends good health, happiness and time for reflection. It is up to each of us to make the moments special and to chart our own courses.