Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat - The Snack-Sized Posting

This being late in the evening on Hallowe'en, I fully admit that I've had a little bit more sugar than I probably should have, so today's posting is going to be a whole bunch of "Snack-Sized" topics. Are you ready? Here we go...

1) Christopher and I went out to dinner tonight with friends. Went to a great place in Minneapolis called Blackbird. I think all four of us had great meals--none of us had any complaints. And we had some wine called "Basket Case" which was a really nice syrah.

2) Our new roof looks great. I promise to talk more about the process which got us the new roof in the next couple of days.

3) In the past 60 hours we have made 2 pans of bars and a chocolate pound cake. I made the two kinds of bars (to take to a meeting--although there are a few left), Christopher made the amazing chocolate cake (for a friend's birthday--we sent the leftovers home with him). It's truly that time of year--time when we find ourselves baking every time we turn around. Luckily, Christopher can take things to work so we don't have all of those calories in the house.

4) The flowers with the fresh "branches" aren't looking all that great. But we've placed them in a south-facing window to get as much sun as possible. And we're keeping fingers crossed, but not placing any bets.

5) Now that Hallowe'en is almost completely over, we just have to deal with the Election and then we can hope that the ghouls and goblins will go away.

So... Happy Hallowe'ekend. I hope you've all gotten your fill of snack-sized candy goodness. I'll work on something a little more substantial for next time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Bloomin' Update

Having received three comments on my last posting "A Bloomin' Dilemma"--each of which suggested that I take the chance and put the branching roses into fertilized water--I have done that this morning.

After all, that's more comments than I've gotten on any one posting, so far, so who am I to say no?

I'll keep you posted on whether or not they survive...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Bloomin' Dilemma

Warning: The following questions are not necessarily rhetorical.

What do you do when flowers start to sprout? No. We're not talking tulips in spring--those I know what to do with.

Remember the great yellow roses that Christopher brought me on the 17th? Well... When he came home on Monday the flowers were still looking really good, except for one strange thing...

Three of the stems have sprouted new leaves. And not just new leaves, but new "branches" of leaves. They're coming out kind of pale, then turning the reddish-green of growing roses. And I have no idea what to do.

Part of me wants to put those stems into a highly fertilized water and see if they'll take root. Part of me (this would be the practical side) says that I should just throw them out and be done with them.

Thoughts? Ideas?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Quick Gripe

We are now one week from The Election. 

Today our household received 4 pieces of mail. Total. And every single one of them was a political ad.

Today our household received 5 phonecalls. Total. One was Christopher calling home. One was a friend of mine. Three were political (and, as we've discussed, none of us are protected from those by the Do Not Call list).

I heard, recently, someone's response to the question "How do you think the American public will feel on November 4th?" The answer: "Relieved." 

When the surprised interviewer followed up with other people, it turned out that this was an overwhelmingly bipartisan answer. And, from what I can gather from friends and family and pundits across the land, that's pretty much how everyone feels about it. We all want to get to the 4th, go out and vote, and celebrate on the 5th when no political ads are on TV.

** REMINDER ** By the way, don't forget to go out and vote next Tuesday. After all, if we don't all go out and vote, then we'll have sat through the torturous process leading up to this election for no reason. I don't know about you, but I, for one, am not going to get beaten up for all these months without taking the chance to have my say.

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's a Dirty Job. (Nope, no "but...")

You know how, sometimes, there are little tasks around the house which you think will take just a moment or two, then they end up taking four hours (or at least 15 minutes)?

I'm not talking about something simple but time-consuming (like installing a new toilet fill valve) or even something slightly complicated which turns out to be a four-hour project (like changing out a garage door opener). I'm talking about something really really simple, which should be a 5-second deal: Emptying the vacuum cleaner.

You see, I was taking some time this morning to do the "weekend" chores--which I had put off until today since Christopher gets back tonight. I had already dusted and swept and thrown the sheets in the wash when I pulled out the vacuum. I had noticed the last time that I was using it that, sometimes, on the "pull-back" it would leave a little smudge of dust on the carpet. No biggie, but annoying on cream colored carpets. I figured I'd flip the vacuum over, wipe it down, and be done. (Of course you all know that this wasn't that easy...)

When I flipped the vacuum onto its back, I noticed that there was, in fact, some "impacted" dirt and carpet fiber-looking stuff around the area where the brushes rotate. I reached in to wipe that out, figuring it was like the random lint that sticks to the edge of the dryer (and always seems to stick to dress shirts when you pull them out). My finger slid along the plastic, and then sank. Hmmm... I had either just punctured the plastic or this was going to make a mess. 

About 15 minutes later, having used a handy car key to dig into some of the crevices and having begun to sneeze volcanically, I declared myself done. The vacuum was still a little dusty, but there was no longer any obvious build-up. Of course there wasn't--it was now in a six-inch mound in front of me on the cream-colored carpet. See... That's where the little jobs get you--they make you forget to take appropriate precautions. (You know... like when the supposedly-empty toilet floods the bathroom floor while you're swapping out fill valves...)

I scooped up as much of the matted dust/fiber wad as I could and hauled it to the trash, being careful not to sneeze along the way. Then I went back and looked at the mess I was leaving behind and decided that he who made the mess should also have to clean it up. So I flipped the vacuum upright, turned it on, and POOF! clean floor. 

I know... That shouldn't have been a big thrill for me. After all, the point of cleaning out all of that back-up was for the vacuum to clean better. But, still... after the issues with the garage door opener, it was nice to have something come out the way I had intended. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whiney Windy Day

I am so glad that I had yesterday's posting to look at while the world was changing outside my windows today.

I was sitting on the couch at about 10 this morning and looked up to see what looked a little like a blizzard. Now don't get me wrong--after all, I grew up in South Dakota and live in Minnesota--I know what I blizzard looks like, but here's what I saw: snow going sideways in the wind making it hard to see all of the colors in the trees across the street. 

I really loved the weather last Monday. Yesterday was glorious--possibly because we knew that today was coming. And the forecast is for warmer weather later this week, so all I really have to do is survive the wind roaring around the house for a few more hours and then things should be looking up.

** Meteorological sidenote ** According to local weather guy Sven Sundgaard (remember, this is Minnesota--where else would you have a weather guy with that name?), the winds are so high that the gusts are within 5 miles per hour of being tropical storm force. Yeah. No wonder it seems like the house is rocking from time to time. ** End meteorological sidenote **

But right now all I can think of is that even if we make it to 60 degrees later this week we probably won't see 70 until sometime next April. And the next time that it seems like there's a blizzard outside my window, it will probably BE a blizzard outside my window. 

Brrr... Anyone have a warm weather retreat that needs to be house-sat for a few months?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Perfect Fall Day

There is snow in tomorrow's forecast, which I have to say does NOT make me happy. But today was beautiful. 

I took the time this afternoon to get out of the house and go for a long walk. Yes, I know that my allergies are going to hate me for it, but the colors of the leaves and the crispness of the air was worth the itchy eyes and sneezing that I've been dealing with since I got back inside. I stood under a bright yellow tree and soaked in the filtered sunshine. I walked along the sidewalk kicking up the crunching leaves. I even did something that I haven't done in ages--I picked up some of the leaves to bring home with me. 

Over the next couple of weekends outdoor time will be for work as we batten down the hatches for the coming months. We'll be changing all of the screens to storm windows. We'll be raking up the dried leaves. I'll start crossing my fingers that all of our bulbs will come up in the spring. 

And tomorrow when it's chilly and drizzly and threatening to snow I'll stay inside and do some baking. But today... today was for being outside to revel in all that fall has to offer. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

Raucous Friday Night... Or Something...

Maybe it's because the weather is turning cooler. Maybe it's because Christopher is out of town and he's usually my partner in crime. Maybe it's because I had lunch at about 3pm and so by the time 7 rolled around it seemed like it was 10.  Whatever the reason, I'm totally in the "it's time to hibernate" mood. 

On the other hand, since I'm not actually ready for bed, I turned on the TV with no hopes of finding anything all that exciting or worthy of devoting an hour of my time. And with the election less than two weeks away, it had to be something good enough to be worth sitting through all of the political ads.

I started the evening on CBS with Melinda and Jim on "Ghost Whisperer," which I have to admit that I really enjoy. I just usually forget that it's on, so I tape it and watch it sometime later on--which is why I had forgotten that it was on tonight. Jennifer Love Hewitt spent the hour chatting with ghosts while wearing gorgeous clothes. David Conrad looking stunning while being appropriately supportive. In the end it made me happy. 

The 8 o'clock hour put me into new territory, though. I had seen the stars of "Crusoe" on one of the morning shows, so I decided to try it. Turns out it's kind of a cool show for Fridays on NBC. The stars, while attractive enough, aren't total beefcake and are, thus, fairly believable. I didn't see the pilot movie, so I'm not sure how they introduced everything, but this episode was pretty fun. Kind of a TV-sized version of an "Indiana Jones" tale, but with more plot and less flash. Definitely worth trying again.

We're now halfway through the third hour of primetime and I'm watching "Starter Wife" on USA. It stars Debra Messing as a Hollywood ex-wife who is trying to scrabble her way back up to the top after being dumped by her jerk of a husband (at the very beginning of the miniseries, which was a precursor to the current series). She has a great supporting cast and the show is witty, smart and just enough off-kilter to keep the flow going throughout the episode. And, since it's on USA, you can catch multiple repeats throughout the week, or online if you ever forget when it's first-run.

So... let's see... with Christopher out of town, I've enjoyed some spirits, checked out some man-to-man action, and settled in for some good serial gossip. I almost feel a little guilty. Almost.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yellow Flowers

Have you seen the movie "Enchanted"?

It's the mostly live-action Disney flick about a princess who comes out of the cartoon world and finds herself in New York. From there, she does all of the princess things while waiting for her Prince to save her. You know... She gets the local fauna (ie rats and pigeons and cockroaches) to help her with household chores. She makes a new dress out of two-dimensional curtain cut-outs. And she leads a huge spontaneous song-and-dance production number through Central Park. 

That scene in Central Park is what made me love the movie. It's the kind of scene which--much to Christopher's chagrin--is the kind of thing I would love to have happen in my life. I completely love the thought of a spontaneous musical production number happening in my life. And it could be big like the "Seventy-Six Trombones" moment in "Music Man" or small like watching the three couples head out into the streets of New York singing "On the Town" in... well... "On the Town."

** sidenote ** I apologize to all of my friends and family who are reading this and going "Yep. That's Robert. Tell us something new." And I will--just give me a moment. ** end sidenote **

So... Heading back in the general direction of my point...

The great big Central Park production number in "Enchanted" comes about when the Princess (played by Amy Adams) begins singing a song called "That's How You Know." She starts singing along with a steel drum band, adds in some flirtatious octogenarians and ends with a slough of bridal couples. (Her host in NYC--played by Patrick Dempsey--voices the audience's concern for reality, asking passers-by if they've ever heard the song before, since it seems brand new to him. Ah, yes... The ever popular "How does everyone know all of the steps in an impromptu dance?" question.) I challenge anyone to see the movie and not be happy by the end of the song.

Of course, about now you're asking what the heck this has to do with anything, least of all the title of this post. It's simple. The song asks how you know someone loves you. One of the ways that is suggested is: Does he bring you yellow flowers when the sky is grey?

I don't know if you remember reading what I said a few days ago about the house being full of flowers, but there is a vase filled with yellow roses in the bedroom, which Christopher brought home last Friday night. In Minneapolis this has been a really cloudy week. Today the weather felt more like early winter than late fall. But every morning when I wake up the flowers are there--bright and yellow and all sorts of cheerful. And... well... You get the idea. 

(All together now... "Awww...")

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Paint? Not Paint?

Having spent a bunch of time over the past 3 days working with white paint, I have found myself playing a strange game with myself. I call it "Paint or Not Paint?" Why don't you all play along? Just give your answers to each of the following scenarios, then check against the answers at the bottom:

1) Let's start with my fingernails. I went out shopping and running a few errands mid-day, and noticed that I apparently had done something to my thumbnail and caused a little bit of bleeding. (Ouch.) While that nail was a little extra red, the others on my right hand all looked like I had just gotten a really bad set of French tips. 
a) Paint
b) Not Paint

2) Since much of the painting was done while contorting around shelves, I fully admit that I was bumping up against a lot of the edges of the closet. I glanced in the mirror and notice a swath of my chin whiskers was covered in white--but I didn't remember face-planting at any time.
a) Paint
b) Not Paint

3) Before having my mole removed, I was informed by the dermatologist that my coloring probably shouldn't be overexposed to sun. Of course, he also said "Well, we can tell you're not a sun worshiper. That's good." Which seemed to be his way of saying that I'm one of the most pale people he's seen, lately. (Wow. Even in this part of the world where I'm surrounded by Scandinavians. That's just sad.) So that whiter-than-usual color on my forearm is...
a) Paint
b) Not Paint

4) When I finished painting today and got changed, I glanced in the mirror. Having leaned in and out of the doorway, I had whacked up against the frame more times than I cared to imagine. Which means that the strand of white in the hair above my temple was...
a) Paint
b) Not Paint

And now for the answers:

1 - a) Paint. Yup. And since it's an enamel paint, I'm bound to look really poorly manicured for a while.

2 - b) Not Paint. Over the past few months, much of my goatee has gone grey. Isn't that fun?

3 - a) Paint. Okay. That one was a little tricky, since you can't see it. Happily, even I am not as pale as the bright white low luster alkyd enamel.

4 - b) Not Paint. But that doesn't mean that you'll be able to find the hair in question tomorrow.

So... How did you do? And was the quiz as exciting for you as it was for me? 

Wow. I think I need a day away from the fumes...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Zen du Jour

People often ask me why I enjoy painting. And they're not asking me why I like the artistic side of painting (as in on canvases and such--which I do enjoy), but they're asking me about why I like painting walls. And halfway through my work today I realized it's because of the Zen of it all.

You see, somewhere in the middle of painting, I find myself both incredibly focused on painting and also able to let my mind go wandering off wherever it decides it might want to go. So while I was figuring out just how ambidextrous I could be (after all, when you're painting around shelves in a closet, that's a good skill to work on), I was also daydreaming about travel... and music... and Christopher... and dinner--definitely dinner. (Not to say that Christopher wasn't a large part of my thoughts today, but he would be one of the first to tell you that I start planning dinner when I get up the morning, if not before going to bed the night before.)

I ran down the list of foods that I really don't eat when Christopher is around. Some of them are off the menu because I kind of outgrew them (Kraft Mac&Cheese is on this list, even though it's still great comfort food). Some I've dropped because if I make them for Christopher he'll never eat them (that list includes anything with mushrooms--he's allergic--or canned tuna/chicken--he's averse to the smell). And some of them are a combo of both (eating at Taco Bell is tops on that list--although I sometimes sneak off for it. And doesn't everyone crave bad Mexican food from time to time?). Of course, since I was working around major paint fumes today (and the house really reeks tonight), I also considered ordering in. 

So I painted shelves and pondered food and painted and pondered. I had spent the morning running errands, so this put me into the late afternoon. Cleaning up after myself and setting up the fans to pull the fumes out of the house, as well as trying to get the paint to dry a little faster, I still hadn't landed on a dinner choice. 

I wrapped my brush and pad in a plastic bag to throw them into the freezer (since I'll be using them again tomorrow, this will keep them usable without having to clean them), and walked into the kitchen thinking maybe ordering in was the best choice. And then I opened the freezer and realized there wasn't enough room for the bag. Since finishing this paint job tomorrow is my goal, I knew what this meant...

I really hope the pizza which gave up its freezer space and moved to the oven will make the painting worthwhile.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Skinny on Skin

File under: More interesting than  Frozen Fish Fight.

I'm sitting here with a painted toe. Not a painted toenail, mind you, just a partially painted toe. 

You see, I've been painting the inside of a closet today (long story), and after showering and scrubbing all of the paint off of my hands and out of my hair, I dried off only to find that I still have a couple of swaths of white on my left foot. I don't really know how it is that you can get paint (well... at least water-based latex paint) all over yourself and actually have it all come off without really any work.

Which made me start thinking about skin in general. (Fair warning--I may make a few comments that could get a little "ewww," but at least there won't be pictures.)

I had a mole clipped off of my shoulder a couple of weeks ago. And I've had a great first-hand (or is it first-shoulder?) view of the whole healing process. At first it was pretty boring. Then, about 8 days in, I had my first surprise: instead of it getting pink and the hole closing up, I woke up one morning to find it kind of creamy white, and a little... well... moist. That freaked me out a little, so I called the doctor's office and was reassured that as long it stayed a "natural" color, I was fine. So I put the bandage back on and went back to my day.

And over the past few days I've been thinking about the whole "skin is the human body's largest organ" thing. How cool is it that you can get a fairly large chunk of your skin taken out and yet it grows back? I mean, if someone puts a dime-sized hole in your lung, you get a collapsed lung. A dime-sized hole in your stomach and you have to deal with ulcers. But a dime-sized hole in your skin? You just put a bandage on it and wait for it to heal.

As of this morning, when I was preparing to drive Christopher to the airport (he's headed out of town for a week to kind of chaperone a friend who is on a business trip), I noticed that my dime-sized hole was beginning to turn a very nice skin-toned pink. My hope is that by the time he's home next Monday I'll just have a dime-sized scar--no hole and no bandage.

Oh. And I'm hoping to be completely non-paint-covered by then, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Getting the "Fast Busy"

I know... That sounds really risque, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, it's what happened when--after trying to get online for about 45 minutes yesterday afternoon--I finally phoned our Internet provider. I tried the regular contact number, figuring that I could at least get an automated message telling me their was an outage. Then I tried the service number, where without even getting through to the automated system, I knew there was a problem. How? Well... You know it's bad when you don't get the regular busy signal (you know... the one that goes bhuuuuumm...bhuuuuumm...bhuuuuumm), and instead get the fast busy (bzzz.bzzz.bzzz). 

I had a moment of panic while hearing bzzz.bzzz.bzzz, since typically that would mean that a phone number had been disconnected. But then the reality of internet service kicked in and I figured they were just swamped with calls. So I went out to run errands--I guess that's a 21st century version of the "fight or flight" instinct.

Unfortunately, when I got home I still couldn't get online. I gave it a little while ("fleeing" to prepare for dinner), then finally decided to try the service number one more time. This time I got the ever-popular multi-layered automated system, which eventually led me to a voice explaining that "Due to the recent outages, subscribers may need to powercycle their routers and any other connection devices." 

Okay. I had no clue what that meant, although I was happy to know that there had been an outage and that I hadn't been going crazy. (Nor had they gone out of business and shut down their phonelines.) Not sure what "powercycling" meant, I went into the office and unplugged each of the connectors, then plugged them back in and held my breath (which was easier than doing the procedure with my fingers crossed).

Long story short (oh. sorry... too late for that?), as of late yesterday afternoon our internet service was back online. Unfortunately, with people coming for dinner, I didn't have time to post anything. So, with that in mind, here's a real quickie to thank you for reading all this way:

Our house is filled with flowers. We have two orchids in bloom at the moment. One is a white phalaenopsis which has 6 blooms, the other is a smaller orchid which is in midst of producing a profusion of purple flowers. On top of that, I had gone out and picked up yellow spray roses and mum daisies in a deep orangey-rust color to have on the table at dinner. And I had some left over, so I did another vase for one of the living room side tables. Then, when Christopher came home, he had a dozen yellow roses in hand (so I'd have something to make me happy while he's gone next week! Everyone go "Awwww..." I'll wait.), which are currently in a tall vase in the bedroom. Even though he doesn't leave until Monday morning, the roses did, in fact, make me very happy this morning when I woke up and saw the bright yellow in the room. 

Happy Saturday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday Was Delayed

Or... more correctly... Thursday happened, but I got delayed and I didn't post anything. So here it is Friday morning (at least where I am it's still morning), and I find myself with just a few quick points I'd like to mention:

1) Thanks to those of you who have made comments on here. I never realized how much blogging would feel like throwing scraps of paper into the wind. And while some of you have contacted me "off-line" to comment on my blog, there's something more... well... conversational (in a very 21st Century kind of way) about blog comments. 

2) Just for the record: bundles of roofing shingles and paving stones (thankfully NOT in bundles) are both very heavy. I think I may have done something none-life-threatening to my back because of them. (More later on that, I suspect.)

3) Why do some people use strings of peppers as decoration? I strung up some cayenne peppers and they're hanging in the window over our kitchen sink. It's a practical thing, though, and as soon as they're dry, they're going away. 

4) Have you checked out any of the blogs and websites I have listed down the left column? I plan to comment more on them in the near future, but feel free to check them out in the meantime.

Alright. Time for me to get a few daytime things done. I'm not sure why some things are "daytime" or "weekday" things (like grocery shopping or doing laundry or even "work") and some are "nighttime" or "weekend" things (like watching TV or writing social emails or curling up with a good book), but for some reason that's how my brain has my to-do list sorted. So I'm off to grocery shop. I'll try to be social with you folks a little later on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trains... Why Not Trains?

Check it out--two posts from me in one day!

I was driving around today doing a few errands, and while driving along University Avenue in St. Paul, I saw two 20-somethings walking down the street. The Twin Cities are fairly well known for having a greater-than-average number of people who actually use the sidewalks, but the relevant stretch of University is pretty much industrial, so this couple caught my eye. 

As I pulled away from the stoplight, I noticed that the young woman was pulling a big, wheeled suitcase (not to be confused with a "Big Wheel" suitcase, although that would also have caught my attention), while the young man was walking along playing a guitar. I know... you'd think that the guitar-carrying would have caught my eye first, but I was driving so things not on the road were taking a backseat to things actually on the road.

So I was driving along and processing the Fellini-esque scene and it dawned on me about half a block later that they were probably heading to the Amtrak station, which they were heading in the general direction of. Which got me thinking...

Why aren't there more passenger trains in the States? Freight trains criss-cross the country, but passenger trains are few and far between. Want to know how few or how far between? Check out the Amtrak route maps. Sure... If you live on the East Coast you can find decent trips (as long as you're going from one big city to another, at least). And if you're okay with transferring back and forth to buses, you can do fairly well travelling in California and all the way up to Vancouver. But here in the middle of the country, you really can't go anywhere by train. (Of the two routes listed in Minnesota, one is actually a bus route.)

I guess I got spoiled when I lived in France between college and grad school. Over there it's so much easier to take the train than a car or even a plane. And I remember trips where people sat in the areas between the coaches and talked or played guitar and shared food and drinks. (Yes, I know it sounds like I'm talking about a movie, but I swear it actually happened on a trip I took with some friends!)

Even better, European trains go into even the smallest of towns, which means that even in the farthest reaches of Europe and Great Britain you can get within a few miles of where you're going. (They may not always be on time, but that's a different story.) On the other hand, if I wanted to go to visit my parents in South Dakota, the closest I could get by train is... well... St. Paul, which is actually about 20 minutes farther away from them than I am when I'm at home.

So... yeah... I miss train travel, and--in a related, but completely unrealistic way--I also miss food and real silverware on flights. 

Technological Update

I wanted to let you all know that Christopher did some magic to the phone last night (I honestly don't know what he did--I just heard a lot of beeping coming from the other room), and it stopped flashing after that time.

Oh... And the turntable isn't buzzing anymore, either.

And life is good.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Technological Issues

This has been a strange day of technological issues. 

1) My turntable (yes, I still have one of those--as well as a whole bunch of vinyl albums to use on it) was making some kind of buzzing sound earlier. And I know what you're thinking, but--no--it wasn't turned on. Which, you know, is a little weird. (In case you're wondering, it has since stopped.)

2) I realized that my slow cooker (the one I wrote about yesterday) is, in fact, a Crock Pot branded machine. I knew that it was a "Smart Pot" by Rival, but I realized today when putting it away that it is the Smart Pot version of the Crock Pot by Rival. So the whole situation of me dancing around calling it a Crock Pot yesterday was totally unnecessary. Yeah. I know that it's not really a "technological issue," but it's an issue I had within the past 24 hours and it has to do with something that does use technology. 

3) Our telephone started to flash today. It was after I had answered yet another call for a random political group. The weird thing is that the phone says that we have a Voicemail message. Why is that weird? Because we don't have voicemail--we have an answering machine. The answering machine is empty (and not flashing), but the phone (the same phone which I answered each time it rang today, never giving it a chance to leave a message of any kind) is flashing away saying that we have voicemail. And although I have to admit that I'm a little curious about what the message is, I would probably be able to ignore it if it wasn't for the flashing yellow alert light on both of the handsets--which there is no way to make go away. Yeah. That's just annoying.

So now I'm seriously contemplating simply picking up a book and ignoring anything with a plug. (Well, except for a light to read by, since I'm not a Luddite.) 

I'll be checking back in with the turntable later to make sure it's still quiet. And I'll be sure to call my Crock Pot a Crock Pot next time. But I think I'm going to let Christopher try to figure out the issue with the phone, because that one has me a little freaked out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What a Crock (Pot)

File under: Better luck next time...

This weekend was unseasonably warm. I had suggested to Christopher that we do a pot roast over the weekend, and luckily we had checked the forecast before turning on the oven. So we left the roast in the fridge to thaw and decided to cook it today. You see, in wonderful Minnesota style, we went from almost 80 degrees yesterday, to around 70 this morning, and then to the upper 50s by dinner time today. It was a rainy Monday, as well, so it seemed to be the perfect day to warm up the house with a pot roast.

I received a slow cooker (technically it's not a Crock Pot, which is a brand name like Kleenex) as a gift a while ago, and although I've used it for appetizers and such in the past, I hadn't ever done the full-on slow cooking deal. So I prepped some carrots and onions and potatoes, salted and peppered the roast, tossed it all in the pot with just a little liquid and left it to its own devices. 

About an hour in, the house started to smell of onion and garlic (sorry... forgot to mention that I threw in a couple of cloves of garlic), and I knew that I had remembered to turn it on. (Long story...)

The meat thermometer told me the roast was up to rare at about the 3-hour mark. At about the 4-hour point, it was pushing well-done. But the recipe said it was supposed to stay in for 5 to 6 hours--until the meat was tender. So I left it alone to "crock" away, but cautiously turned the heat down from High to Low.

Dinner was set for around 7, so I pulled out the roast about 15 minutes early to rest. I cut the roast and served up the not-quite-mushy carrots, onions and potatoes on top. Unfortunately, the roast had gotten a bit dry, so the juice that came with the veggies was sorely needed. 

Dinner was not a total flop, though. We lit candles on the table, poured some wine and put in a couple of John Barrowman CDs. It wasn't quite as festive as last Monday (no martinis!), but it was nice to have something a little special at the beginning of the work week.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Night TV (hurrah!)

Don't worry. I'm not going to spend tonight's blog once again complaining about TV. Somehow or other, Sunday night has actually become my favorite night to settle in front of the TV.

I'd love to say it was for something highbrow like Masterpiece Theater or 60 Minutes, but I'd be lying. My favorite things to do on a Sunday night are to kick back with The Amazing Race and Brothers & Sisters

I'm not, generally, a reality show contest watcher. I've never enjoyed Survivor or any of the weight loss shows. I do watch the occasional Dancing With the Stars, but mainly to see the people on it--not for the competition itself. (And we all know that I spend a ton of time watching HGTV, TLC and the Food Network--but I don't watch the competition shows on those.) On the other hand, I had the current season of Amazing Race marked on my calendar as an event back in July. And Christopher and I have been together long enough that he knows that it's going to have to be something serious to get me away from my television when Phil and the gang are on.

Why does that show have my attention? Because along with the fact that it's a full-on soap opera, winning and losing are entirely based on a team's stupidity. Sure, there's the physical aspect of it, but more often than not it's the smart and/or savvy team that comes out ahead in the end. No one gets voted off. Alliances tend to truly be mutually helpful. Good guys may not always come in first, but they certainly get better air time. Oh--and the scenery is gorgeous! If I were about 20 years younger, I'd be all over applying for the show. Okay... maybe 20 years younger and in much better shape than I have ever been in in my life... 

As for my other favorite Sunday night event, Brothers & Sisters... well... I don't know that I would want the characters as my friends--although they could always be counted on to bring good wine to dinner. And I don't consider their family dynamic to be anything like my own family. (Thank God!) But I am drawn to them because the characters are so well written: each with flaws, but with plenty of shine still left on their armor. 

I also love that one of the eponymous brothers is gay and married to his partner. (The show is set in California, so that's possible.) And, yet, somehow, the writers haven't made them stereotypes. Instead, Kevin (the middle brother) and Scotty (his husband) are both just as multi-faceted as the rest of the family. In fact, they might arguably have the most stable marriage on the show, complete with arguments and disagreements and the occasional nights on the couch. 

** sidenote ** Even in this day and age, I can't think of any other show on Network TV with a healthy gay couple. Can you? ** end sidenote **

Now if only we could get the folks from Brothers & Sisters to go on The Amazing Race, I think my life would be complete. Well... maybe not, but I do think it would make for some spectacular viewing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday Night TV

Whatever happened to Saturday Night TV?

I remember when I was a kid and every Saturday night we'd watch The Muppet Show, and then later on we'd come aboard The Love Boat, after which we'd head straight out to Fantasy Island. It may have been a kitschy evening, but it was an evening of new television shows--none of which anyone could say was remotely "reality."

Tonight, after a fairly busy week, Christopher and I are spending the evening in, and we've spent the past two hours scrolling through the channels in a desperate search for something to watch. We spent some time watching home makeover shows on TLC, but then decided that we wanted something a little less angst-full.

We passed some Disney movies, NASCAR, college football and the baseball playoffs. But we really wanted something with a little bite and--if possible--just a little bit of a plot. There are a couple of movies on that would have been good, if we had caught them at the beginning, but who wants to watch a thriller like Rebecca after missing the first 30 minutes? 

So we're watching DVDs and playing on our computers. Yeah. We really know how to live it up on a Saturday night, don't we?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Beware... It's Not November, Yet

I just hung up the phone from the fourth call in 24 hours which was from some version of a political party.

We've had two calls from the McCain team, one from the Obama camp, and one (which actually tried to beep in while I was on a long-distance call) from the National Abortion Rights Action League--I'm not certain but I'm guessing they would have been pushing for Obama, too. The really annoying thing about this? None of them are regulated by the National Do Not Call Registry. 

Why is that? Because... and I quote: 
Political solicitations are not covered by the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) at all, since they are not included in its definition of "telemarketing." Charities are not covered by the requirements of the national registry.

So here we are, three and a half weeks prior to the elections, being bombarded during every commercial break on TV, being lectured at every time the radio is on, being flashed each time we look at a newspaper or billboard. And now the onslaught of phonecalls has begun. Is it just me or is anyone else ready for them to all just disappear? And no matter what we do, at least one of these callers who is being so annoying is going to be around for the next four years. Bleh.

At least at the end of October when Hallowe'en rolls around, the people who want things from you simply knock on the door and say "trick or treat" and then go away.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Moving Day. (aka "oooOOOooo... eeeeeee")

Don't worry. My address isn't changing any time soon. Today was moving day for my friend Libby--the same person whose almost-last-night in town was celebrated on Martini Monday.

I spent the first half of today helping her get through the movers coming in and then clearing out some of the trash and all that last-day-in-the-apartment stuff. We probably spent about 6 hours together, including a trip to Goodwill and a stop for Snack Wraps at McDonald's. And then we said our good-byes so that she could finish packing her clothes and get ready to fly out to California this evening. 

It was surreal being on the non-moving side of Libby's move. I've been the one making the big moves most of my adult life. After college I spent a year teaching in Paris, and at the end of that time I had to leave everyone I had met on the far side of the Atlantic. After Grad School (in Ohio), I was the first of my group to leave town. After 11 years in Baltimore, I packed up to move back to the Midwest. Each time I was the one with all of the boxes who was saying good-bye to all that was familiar. Today was the first time I've been watching someone else go through it. 

It's hard for me to feel too sad watching Libby leave. I'm going to miss her a lot, but I know that she's got a huge new adventure ahead of her. After all, moving is just as much about finding new things ahead as it is about leaving things behind. Libby will be starting a whole new life--in a new town, with new possibilities. I've had the chance to do that before and I know that it's terrifying and exhilarating--sometimes both at once, and sometimes separately (unfortunately "terrifying" seems to hover around in the air at bedtime)--but also something that leads to growth and massive amounts of self-knowledge.

You see, it seems more than ever that these days distance isn't really relevant to a friendship--there are people I live a mile from whom I see less than people who are halfway across the country. I have always been a firm believer in phonecalls and letters (and, more recently, emails) as a way to keep in touch. And, above all, I know that the people who are meant to stay in your life do just that.

So it was with excitement mixed with wistfulness--and maybe a little faint background wanderlust--that I waved good-bye to Libby as I drove away today. Here's hoping she and her boxes meet up again soon. (I know... you were expecting me to say something about being sure we'd see each other again. But since that's a given, I figured it wasn't worth mentioning.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Spring Planning

I think I saw the sun come out about 20 minutes before it went down today. We need the rain, so it's not a bad thing that we had a rainy day, but there was simply something in the cool rain that smelled of fall. I realized that with some trepidation while standing in the kitchen this afternoon.

If you've been paying attention, you know that I'm already preparing for cooler weather. I mean... If you're going to the Arboretum to see "the color," it's usually not to see how green it all is, right? And I will happily admit that I am kind of split-personality about fall. 

On the one hand, I love the cooler weather. I love being able to wear long-sleeved shirts and get out sweaters and jackets that I haven't seen in months. I really enjoy Sunday afternoons hunkered down watching football. And don't even get me started on the food--this is the time of year when grilled chicken and steak give way to rich slowly-roasted cuts of meat with warm aromas filling the house. I bake a lot heavier sweets this time of year, going through cinnamon and nutmeg even more quickly than I go through lemon in the summer. (Oh. Wait. I said I wasn't going to get started on the food. Sorry.) I'm not a fan of Hallowe'en, but I love Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas--most of which takes place during what is, technically, fall.

On the other hand, fall leads to winter. After the brilliant colors of the fall leaves, the trees go bare and the world goes to shades of grey until spring. Fresh fruits and vegetables essentially disappear (I know that grocery stores would dispute that claim, but the veggies just aren't the same during the winter months). And winter in Minnesota can be dark for so many hours of the day that I find myself wanting to hibernate. Because that dark grey period is all just one season away, it makes it hard for me to get excited about fall. 

So, what did I do today? I spent this rainy drizzly wet day shopping for tulip bulbs. 

It was incredibly relaxing and stress-relieving. I stood there among the pictures promising red and yellow and purple and white blooms, daydreaming of the time when green shoots will be coming up through the last of the snow. I know that that is a good 4 or 5 months away, but I also know that looking ahead to those tulips is what will make the intervening months worthwhile. Well... that and the food. (Have I mentioned the mulled cider and the fudge and the chili and the apple bars and...?)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Martini Mondays

Christopher and I just got home from Martini Monday at The Times Bar & Cafe in Minneapolis. We don't usually go out on Monday nights. We go for dinner on the occasional Tuesdays or Wednesdays because you can often get half-price wine, but simply going out for drinks on a Monday is pretty rare. We had a good reason, though--a good friend of ours is moving to San Francisco later this week, and this was our last chance to go to see Erin Schwab perform.

We've gone to see Erin Schwab when she's been at Jitters (which is in the basement of The Times) on Friday nights, but hadn't gone to see her on a Monday. On the Friday nights, the place is usually packed. Whenever we've had more than just a couple of people we've made reservations for a table. Jitters is loud and there's way too much going on, but Erin (I'm thinking first names are okay for this...) is great with Jay Fuchs and Chris Micek backing her up. Very high energy, kind of campy and frequently a tad raunchy. There's a full "martini" menu, and it's always lots of fun.

Every Friday, Erin talks about how much fun Martini Mondays are, with Martini Punchcards (buy 5 get 1 free--not necessarily all in one night) and all with just herself and Jay on the keyboard. But when we walked in we were pretty surprised: instead of a packed house with no seating, there were only a few people, and plenty of seats. Erin commented that she thought she lost some of her target audience to Kathy Griffin being in concert tonight, but we were more than happy to have her mostly to ourselves. (Most of the evening there were about 15 people paying attention.)

I had emailed to say that we were bringing a big fan for her last Erin night before she moves, and when Erin started her show she immediately sussed out which group we were. From that point on, it seemed like the evening revolved around our table. She asked for--and performed--all of our requests. She came over and chatted during her break. And when we were leaving, she wished us well and then led the whole crowd in a quick chorus of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" as we walked past the window.

We're looking forward to going back to Jitters again, and of course now we have our Martini Punchcards to fill in, but I suspect none of our evenings will match tonight's personalized attention. Very cool. 

If you're in the Twin Cities on a Friday or Monday, I highly recommend stopping by to see her perform. When you make a request, feel free to tell her I sent you. (She won't know who you're talking about, but if enough people do it, it would be kinda freaky and fun...)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ups and Downs of a New Garage Door Opener

It works! No... wait... it really doesn't. But... it did. I swear.

Yesterday morning, while starting to do fall yard work, I hit the button to open the garage door. It went about a quarter of the way up and then just stopped. I hit the button again, but there was nothing. It was a chain-driven mechanism, so I thought maybe it had slipped its gear (like a bike), but no such luck. Which led to Christopher and me doing some quick research on garage door openers and then stopping at the hardware store to pick one up on the way to a concert by the Valley Chamber Chorale in Stillwater last night. 

I brought the instructions in with me last night and used them as my bedtime reading. It all seemed easy enough--once I got beyond the idea of having to do some basic wiring while holding heavy objects suspended 6 or 7 feet off the floor. Luckily, since we already had an automatic garage door opener, I didn't have to mount as much hardware as I might have otherwise.

I started around 9:15 this morning, and had done pretty well until I had to try to affix the wires to the ceiling. The staples were fussy about getting pounded into the ceiling, but Christopher came out to offer his support (and his larger hammer) and we got those taken care of. So there I was, about 4 hours later, with a fully-mounted garage door opener. 

Finally, I had gotten to the point where I could plug it in and try it out. 

The motion sensor turned on the lights. The auto-reverse worked. I played with the up and down distance, and followed up with the "force" adjustments. It was doing great. I was all set to go inside the house and declare success, but decided to try it one more time. Yeah. You know where this is going. About 2:15 I gave up for the day, having spent about 45 minutes with the door only going up about halfway--probably caused by me trying to adjust the Up and Down positions without the door slamming into the concrete.

For the record, I don't think this is my fault. We discovered that we have a broken spring on one side of the door, which probably explains why the door seems to be overly heavy (4 springs--2 on each side--are supposed to keep the door balanced). It might also explain why the whole door was going so slowly up and seeming to slam down, even though this opener has a stronger motor than the one that has been in the garage for years.

Long story short-ish: Tomorrow we have someone coming by to check out the door. We might be replacing 2 springs. Or all 4 springs. Or the entire door. I gotta admit that I'd be okay with any of that, as long as the opener eventually works. My handyman ego is pretty fragile.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Canada Trip, Part 5

Quebec/Montreal, September 19th

After that amazing dinner at Restaurant L'Initiale, the rest of our trip to Quebec was very nice, but not quite as spectacular. We got up on Friday morning, enjoyed the nifty air-jet tub, and went downstairs for breakfast. 

Have I mentioned the breakfasts at the Auberge Saint-Pierre? There is a small breakfast room with an open kitchen and a menu of pretty nifty foods. From plain toast to full-on breakfast to--my favorite on our last morning--a modified Egg McMuffin, they served it all. I'd say it was with a smile, but the "waiter" was a little too brusque for that cliche.

We checked out of the hotel, our car was brought up by the Valet parking guys, and we were on our way. And, luckily, after only two or three tight turns, we were back onto "normal-sized" streets and roads as we made our way north of Quebec to the Parc de la chute Montmorency (Montmorency Falls Park).

We'd heard alot about the falls, because they are actually taller than Niagara Falls (about 85 meters), but not as wide. Arriving at the visitor center, we debated whether to take the cable car up or down.
The stairs didn't look that bad, so we opted to walk up them and take the cable car down (we also figured it might be less painful on our knees than walking down the stairs). I'd love to say we jogged up the stairs with no problems but... well... there's about 450 stairs. We stopped at each landing for photos--okay... and to catch our breath--because the views were really stunning.

At the top we hiked around so that we could cross the suspension bridge over the falls, then made our way to the cable car. It was a pretty enough ride, but I have to say that the trek up the stairs gave us much better views. Something to be said for hard work, I guess.

We arrived back in Montreal in the mid-afternoon and settled back into our room. We did some packing for our trip home the next day, and then picked up my aunt so we could go to dinner at the residence next door. La Bonne Adresse restaurant is actually shared by the people who live in the residence, as well as the general public. Marie had booked our reservation about a month earlier, having seen a flyer stating that a performer would be there performing songs by French singer Gilbert Becaud. 

La Bonne Adresse is pretty unassuming. The decor looks--except for the fact that it has a bar--like the dining hall in a dormitory. But the winelist was decent, the Carrot, Orange and Ginger soup was surprisingly flavorful, and the Prime Rib was almost perfectly done. We spent the evening talking, reminiscing and listening to the singer. We even sang along with the rest of the crowd a few times before walking back across the joined parking lots and settled in for our final night.

Montreal/Burlington, September 20th

Our last morning in Montreal was more mundane than it probably should have been. Marie decided that we should go out for breakfast (although neither Marie nor I actually eat breakfast on a regular basis), after which we dropped Marie off at Les Halles for some shopping and headed south after waving one last good-bye.

Well... we meant to head south. I'm not sure which direction we actually headed for a while. Since I had only printed out directions from Burlington to Montreal--and not from Montreal to Burlington--we missed a turn. But it only took us a few miles to realize it, so thanks to Christopher's luck in choosing which unknown turn to take, we still made it through Customs (with only one car ahead of us!) and down to Burlington with plenty of time to spare. 

By the way... Burlington, Vermont--at least for people mainly heading to the airport--is an oddly-arranged town. We seemed to keep driving back and forth on parallel lines. We eventually found a bookstore (Christopher had finished his book in Montreal) and a pizza place (our flight wasn't until 4:30, and there wouldn't be a chance for dinner until 9 or 10 at night), then headed for the airport and we were homeward bound.

**sidenote** If you want to buy Maple Sugar Candy, we found that you really need to buy it at the kitschy gift shops in the touristy areas of Montreal and Quebec. We honestly couldn't find any anywhere else--not in the grocery stores, and not even along the road in the little shops selling fruits and vegetables and local honey. Which is why no one in either of our families got Maple Sugar Candy upon our arrival home. **end sidenote**

Amazingly enough, our flights were right on time. (If you know us, you know why that's so exciting.) With the help of one of Christopher's sisters, we were home from the airport in no time, unpacking mementos and maps and that incredible menu from L'Initiale and doing our best to settle back into the day-to-day life. Overall, we seem to be doing okay at moving toward our old normalcy. 

Well... maybe a new normalcy. After all, the other night when we had a friend over to look at photos we served a soft brie and a tarragon chicken salad over crackers instead of just chips and salsa. And Christopher tried a brand new yeast-dough-based sweet puff pastry today, while I'm prepped to make Marie's amazing Chewy Bars tomorrow. Obviously this trip--and the glow of Marie's hospitality--is going to be staying with us for a while.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fall Grilling

Dateline: Minneapolis - October 3rd, 9:30pm

This has been a really great day. Not only did I finally get most of my photos from my last trip(s) organized (yes... I know I still owe you a couple of days' worth of blogs on those), but today was one of Christopher's Fridays off, so we got to spend the day together.

I know... I know... HE is the one with the day off, so I should have still been working on my job search and all, but according to all of the forecasts it was going to be a gorgeous day, so we planned for a trip to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, followed by an afternoon of lazing about and the possibly-final grill-out of the season. We were not disappointed.

We got to the Arboretum around 10:30 or so and spent the next two hours walking and driving around. The sky was a glorious blue overhead, perfectly setting off the yellows, reds and fading greens of the trees. We spent a lot of time doing what it seems most people do at the Arboretum--window shopping for our own yard and garden. In case you're wondering, we're finding ourselves more and more drawn to ornamental grasses and dahlias at the moment. But who knows what we'll end up with when spring rolls around.

Honestly, our next planned event for the day was dinner, which I had offered to cook for Christopher, since his work week was... well... less than stellar. We had steaks on the grill, seasoned with Szechuan peppercorns and topped with blue cheese. We had roasted thinly-sliced potatoes with garlic, pepper and a little olive oil. And we balanced it all with one of those "Light" Caesar salads that you can buy in bags at the grocery store. We dined with Rossini's La Cenerentola playing in the background and Scrabble being played in the foreground. And, because it may have been the final grilling of the season, we broke out the marshmallows and roasted (and/or flambeed) them to our hearts' content.

Oh. And my lost set of keys arrived in the mail from Virginia.

I ask you: How much better can an early fall day get?

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Having finally figured out how to get photos into this blog in my last post, I wanted to try to fill in a few blanks from last month. I'd love to say that I'm going to add photos to every post, but since it requires me to get film developed--which isn't always a speedy process--I can't guarantee anything.

For now, I'm very happy to say that I have just finished adding photos to two September posts: "Roaring Back Into The Past" and "Once More... With Feeling." 

I think that the car pictures in "Roaring" will help you understand the appeal of that 1967 Camaro. I don't know that the photos will offer any explanation for my life in the theater in "Once More..." but I hope you like them, anyway.

I hope, some day, to have the ability to post photos in a more timely fashion. No guarantees.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Canada Trip, Part 4 - Restaurant L'Initiale

Upon much reflection, I've come to the conclusion that the amazing evening Christopher and I spent at L'Initiale in Quebec City may lose something in the translation. After all, we had booked it with out hotel at least a month before going there, and we had had all that time to go back and forth to their website ( to build up the anticipation. But having said that, it could have very easily been a huge letdown. Our odds were probably better than even that L'Initiale would fall flat and we'd be walking out half an hour after our arrival thinking we needed to go find a croissant. Luckily for us (and for you, I hope) that was not the

We had decided to have an aperitif before dinner. The Auberge St. Pierre had a passable bar, but it was almost 7pm and we didn't want to be rushed to get to L'Initiale by 7:30. We opted to walk the 1 1/2 blocks to the restaurant and take our chances that we could have a drink before dinner. As we walked up, we checked the windows. One side of the building had people sitting at linen-covered tables. On the other street, their was one couple at an uncovered table in a slightly darker room. We guessed this second room was a bar, and plunged in.

**As I describe the restaurant, I again refer you to L'Initiale's website so that you can look around a little at what we would have seen.** 

We walked through the front doors, entering into a curved foyer. (On their landing page is the "welcome desk" which greets you on the other side.) We were greeted by two women. Both tall and slender, dressed impeccably in black and shades of grey. The older of the two had round dark-rimmed glasses (think chic Harry Potter) and long grey/blonde hair pulled into a long sleek ponytail, and seemed to take the lead. The two women welcomed us, and Christopher explained (in French) that we had a 7:30 reservation but were wondering if we could have a drink in advance. The woman with the glasses didn't hesitate--she simply said (in French) "You are Mr. Christopher? Of course. Please come in."

The two women ushered us into the bar. It was a cozy little space with just a few tables and a fireplace on the far wall. The entire restaurant was in black, white and shades of taupe, as were the taupe armchairs and black granite table we were seated at. We were offered the drink menu, and before my Kir Quebecois (a blend of a local white wine and a local blueberry liqueur) and Christopher's 10-year-old Glen Morangie Scotch had arrived, we had already had two wonderful surprises: from the kitchen came our first course--an amuse-bouche of breaded and fried halibut balls (think the lightest crabcake you've ever imagined) with homemade curry ketchup; and from our wonderful friend with the glasses came the presentation of "our" menu. It was in discussions of the menu that I decided that this was a woman who would be wonderful to have over for dinner... (Maybe the same night I invite John Barrowman...)

We must have looked like a couple of schoolkids when the menu arrived. It was a one-sheet (legal size, I guess) menu, printed on a heavy ivory stock. It listed all eight of the courses which were still to come, as well as the optional suggested wine pairings--5 different wines, with a price tag of $72 per person (for the wine--the meal was included in the hotel package, remember?). After a few minutes of looking at the menu, we spoke to our friend again, and asked for one substitution (Christopher is allergic, we think, to scallops), and for clarification on the wines. And then, yes, we decided to opt for the extra expense and have the wines. After all, you only go around once, right? At almost exactly 7:30, having finished our drinks and our halibut and been enjoying ourselves immensely, we were asked if we would like to go to our table. **If you go to L'Initiale's website and look at the "The Restaurant" tab, you'll see our table on the right side of the room, next to the second-to-back window** 

It took a while for everything to process for me. To realize that every table was an individual seating for the evening--no table would be used twice. To see that there were about 4 people on the waitstaff who were only there to change plates, glassware and silver, or fill glasses. After all, I hoped that it would live up to what we had made it out to be. But could the meal really live up to those expectations? Would something clunk along the way to ruin the evening? 

We took our menu with us to the table, as suggested, so that we could have it for our reference as the courses went by. 

**It could be mentioned, here, that Canada--and the province of Quebec, especially--is pretty forward-thinking when it comes to same-sex couples. We had arranged our whole package on a "Romantique" deal through the hotel, and no one ever batted an eye when it turned out to be two men. This was especially true at the restaurant where our chairs were on adjacent (not facing) sides of the table, and we were in full view of the room. The wait staff never flinched. The sommelier never gave us any looks. It was great.**

Oh. Yes. The menu...
I don't know how well that shows up on your screen. And, well, I have to admit that possibly it isn't as important as I thought it was at first. Here are the main points: The column on the left is the 8 tasting courses we were still to have; the column on the right included the 5 suggested wines. You'll see that not every course had its own wine (although we were only walking 1.5 blocks home, it's best to stop before you've had too much).

We continued our culinary expedition with a small "salad" of pureed garlic, yellow beets, fine green beans, scallops (Christopher's was substituted with shrimp) and basil. If you can see the menu, you'll notice that it was written kind of half English/half French. Perfect for us, and perfectly done for the life we had been living for the past few days. 

Course 3 (remember, we had the amuse-bouche with our aperitifs) was a "Breast of Pigeon from Bellechasse" with a warm "cochonnaille" with mushroom cream and heartcabbage. 

Course 4 was amazing. The "Braised escalope of duck liver" was two small pieces of the liver stacked atop each other, served with celeriac, horseradish and blueberries and a currant reduction. Alongside all of that was the most amazing little wedge (think a 6-hump Lego on its side) of "rhubarb tartine" topped with four of the tiniest red tomatoes you have ever seen. It was rich and tangy and warm and crisp all at once. And it came with a Gewurztraminer (2003 Sonnenglanz Domaine Bott-Geyl) that was smooth as honey.

Sadly, Course 5 was the last of our "hot" courses. But it was an amazing cut of deer with mushrooms and a warm puree of something called "blette" (which we have yet to decipher.) This course came with wine #3, which was listed on the menu as "Suggestion de Franck." Franck was the sommelier and had been at the table for each wine course. He told us all about each wine, and raved about how happy he was to work in a restaurant that let him pick and choose for his customers.

Moving into the Cheese Courses (yes, more than one), we were presented with almost 3 things in one. Course 6 was a warm, melted spoonful of Le Grand Fouin lovingly served over an almond-hazelnut cracker by the woman with the glasses. (She was with us all evening, checking on us from course to course.)

Course 7 was two cheeses, and Franck came back out with a second wine to go with these. He explained that there simply HAD to be a different wine with each one. We had some Le Cumulus cheese in a leek and pepper oil broth, and also shaved tangy Copeaux de Joyeux Fromagers on a small chilled round of creamed honey with arugula leaves.

Courses 8 and 9 were the dessert courses. An orange biscuit with maple, strawberry and "meadowsweet" ice cream was first. Then there was the two-part Blackcurrent-almond "sphere", with a breton cake and warm plum sauce. 

I think I started smiling around course number 1 and I know I didn't stop until after course 11. 

What? Did I forget to mention the others?

As we were ordering coffee (Christopher) and hot chocolate (me), we were presented with yet another dessert. This was a lovely mousse-y foam on top of a blackberry puree. (I think. That's what it is in my brain, at least.) I must admit that it was nice, but I was completely focused on my hot chocolate. This was possibly my favorite visit from our bespectacled friend. She arrived at the table with my cup filled with frothed milk and a pitcher of steaming chocolate. It was almost hypnotic watching her pour the chocolate into the foam. The aroma was heaven. The taste was divine. This was almost pure cocoa, so dark and rich that it almost needed sugar. Christopher tasted it and we both agreed it was worth waiting to the end of the meal for.

Leaving was, quite frankly, difficult to do. We had been looking forward to this for so long, and had spent the past 4 hours (yes. FOUR hours) having one of the most satisfying meals of our lives. It wasn't just that the food was beyond belief. Or that the restaurant was chic and stylish without being pretentious or stuffy.  Or that we enjoyed each other's company from start to finish. It was also the intangible feeling of having been welcomed into this restaurant. The feeling that they enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them.

As we walked to the door and asked for my jacket (which had been whisked away after we entered the restaurant), Franck greeted us with our final surprise of the night (and what I'll be referring to as Course 11): a small glass of Sherry mixed with Cranberry Juice and something else which neither Christopher nor I can remember. It was sweet, but not cloyingly so. Kind of comforting as we walked out into the chill night air. And I still feel like I should write them a thank-you note for their generous hospitality.

We knew that we were leaving the enchantment of Quebec City in the morning, but the memory of L'Initiale is never going to go away. Sure. We may not remember every wine or every course, but the evening... well... That's going to stay with us forever.