Thursday Thoughts

Parlez vous Francais?
Bill is a faithful reader of my blog, and occasionally (and helpfully) points out grammatical or spelling mistakes, for which I’m always grateful. While reading yesterday’s post about our experiences in Montreal last week, he pointed out that I had perhaps misspelled the name of the beautiful and colorful cookies we got at the patisserie. I called them macarons. He suggested it should be macaroons. Being dedicated to good spelling and grammar, or at least efforts towards that end, I am confirming that I spelled the word correctly. Macarons are meringue-like cookies made basically from sugar, almonds, and egg whites. They are generally brightly colored and have a filling. Macaroons, on the other hand, are more cake-like and almost always include coconut. They originated in Italy. What I purchased were macarons so light that they almost floated by themselves. Yum.

macaroon tree

You will recall that my grandson Alastair won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair in the butter carving competition recently. I was somewhat puzzled as to how on earth he came to compete, and received my answer yesterday. It seems all of the four siblings put their names in the box from which the competitors were drawn, and he was one of the lucky ones chosen. There were several competitions, and he was in the third round. He therefore, being Alastair, had plenty of time to think about it and make plans in case he was one of the lucky draws. His mother told me it was quite funny to watch. He competed against three girls about his age, whose unfortunate artistic style of choice was to approach the butter like Play Doh and smush it into shape. This, of course, resulted in melted butter from which very little design could emerge. Alastair, on the other hand, looked, according to his mother, like Michelangelo, carefully sculpting one thing, backing up to see his work, approaching it from the other side. He is quoted as saying, “I saw the car in the butter and carved until I set it free.” Oh wait. That might have been Michelangelo who said something like that…..


Bad Things Happen in Threes
The day before we left on our Vermont vacation, we noticed that the roof of our covered front porch has a great crack and appears to be buckling. Bill also noticed that one of the sprinkler heads in our back yard was leaking. In trying to fix the sprinkler head, he accidentally cut a line that allows us to have internet. It was not a good day. We turned off our water, and committed to handling the other two problems when we returned. And when I say we, I of course mean Bill. Since we returned on Sunday, he has fixed the cable wire, determined that the sprinkler system is working again, and placed a phone call to a roofing company to look at our porch. The roofing company, by the way, laughed at Bill’s request for urgency when it comes to getting someone out to look at it. “Because of the hail storm, roofers are busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest,” Bill said. I love my husband.

Waitin’ All Day For Sunday Night
I heard that they have written a new song for Carrie Underwood to sing for Sunday Night Football on NBC. I’m kind of sad because I find the old tune catchy, and it makes me happy. But I reckon I will learn to like the new tune. I haven’t heard it yet. I’m glad that Carrie Underwood is still the performer. As for me, I’m ready for some football, and mostly ready to be done with preseason.


A Taste of France

Bill and I had planned to go to Montreal last year when we visited our family in Vermont, but weren’t able to do so because we were inept in the whole renewing-our-passports thing and they didn’t arrive in time. This time we happily held them in our grimy little fists to hand to the border guards as we passed from Vermont into Canada.

The most notable thing was that you could immediately tell that you were in a different country. And I’m not just talking about being greeted by the border guards, who didn’t seem terribly concerned about us. The landscape changes almost immediately from the woods of Vermont to farmlands of Quebec. I seriously would have thought I was in Nebraska except for the fact that the architecture was also quite unique.

Juliette & ChocolatKnowing us as well as they do, the first thing that Heather and Lauren did was to take us to a chocolate shop, featuring all manner of things chocolate. Bill and Joseph thought they had died and gone to heaven for sure. In fact, they both ordered the same thing – a chocolate lava cake with a side of, yes, chocolate.

And the second thing they did was take us to an outdoor market, probably the most beautiful market I have ever seen, even in Europe. While there were shops featuring seafood and meat and patisseries and boulangeries, it was the vegetable market that amazed me the most…..

vegetable market montreal

micah joseph nana market (2)

This photo is notable in large part because it’s about the only one taken this trip of Micah in which he doesn’t have his tongue out or is making some sort of face. He’s 4, donchaknow.

Being me, one of the things I most wanted to do while visiting Montreal was to experience local food. Lauren, who grew up in Vermont and has spent a fair amount of time in Montreal, told me that there were a few food things for which Montreal was known – mussels, smoked meat sandwiches, and poutine. Poutine? I had never heard of it.

So on Friday night we went to a restaurant appropriately called Poutineville, featuring all sorts of options for poutine. Poutine is basically a dish consisting of French fries covered in cheese, some sort of meat, and some sort of gravy. I had the house specialty, which was French fries smothered in a red wine gravy, cheese curds, and braised beef…..


We arose early the next morning and went to yet another market, where we quickly spotted a beautiful pastry shop. Lauren and I agreed to wait in line while the rest found a place to sit. The shop was extremely busy, and Lauren and I stood in line for probably 15 pastries montrealor 20 minutes before we realized we should have grabbed a number. Have you ever seen the movie Beetlejuice? You remember the scene where Beetlejuice grabs the number – something like 1,032,587 – and looks at the screen and sees they’re on number 6? We were Beetlejuice. Nevertheless, time passed quite quickly once we grabbed our number and in short order we all were eating croissants so fresh, warm and crumbly that it brought tears to my eyes. And, yes, also a second visit to the patisserie and another 20 minutes in line. I also bought some of the beautiful macarons for which the French are famous. They deserve their fame as they are light and delicious, as well as so very pretty…..

macaroon tree


Our final Montreal food treat was a visit to a brasserie at which we got our mussels. Well, actually, Bill shockingly ordered a steak, but Heather and Lauren and I each ordered a different kind of mussel dish and shared. I’m not sure when I’ve ever tasted anything so very good. And also beautiful…..

Lauren Heather Kris mussels

Montreal musselsI will admit that perhaps the highlight of our brief trip to Montreal was what probably would rank among the top three tourist attractions – a city tour on an amphibian bus. Yes, my friends, we toured Montreal from the bus, which then drove into the St. Lawrence River from which we were awarded with another view of Montreal. Joseph, Micah, and Nana all had eyes the size of quarters as we drove into the water. It was a grand treat.

amphibian bus

And we had a wonderful visit of Montreal, without a doubt. I loved hearing the beautiful French language spoken by the people around me and experiencing the feeling of being in Paris, and yet, wasn’t. I am motivated to return, and to add Quebec City to my itinerary. In the meantime, I’ll get my fix by reading the Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny.