Saturday, July 26, 2008

Something's Not Right

On Thursday, I decided not to call my friend to confirm that she would be bringing Big Girl home from theater camp, because she had been doing it for seven straight days and I didn't want to be an annoying pest.

When they were about 10 minutes late, I was starting to worry.

When they were 20 minutes late, I called her cell phone.

She was picking up her younger daughter from school and taking her to the pediatrician. She had called her husband to ask him to call the theater camp and tell them to send her older daughter to Extended Care, but she had forgotten about my daughter.

I quickly hung up and ran out the door to get my Big Girl. When I got there, both girls were there waiting, and had long been the only children left. I told the two adults who were waiting with them what had happened, and they said they had not gotten a call about Friend's Daughter.

The Extended Care children had already gone over to the theater to help with the work being done over there, so everyone agreed it would be better for Friend's Daughter to come home with me.

When I got home with both girls, I called both Friend (left a message) and Friend's Husband to tell them where their oldest child was.

After a couple of hours, Friend's Husband came to pick up Friend's Daughter.

I've written about this dispassionately, but at the time, I was full of emotion. Seething might cover it. I tried not to let the girls see it.

Mostly I was mad at myself, because I should know better than to trust this particular friend. She flakes out on me more than she comes through, lately. There's always some drama going on. The Hubby was so angry when he got home and heard the story. Then he said, "something is not quite right with her lately. Do you think she is okay?"

I really have no idea - I never see her anymore. When I have her kids over, hoping she'll stay for a little while for a chat, it turns out to be her husband who shows up, drops them off, and says "I'll be back in a few hours."

The two families went out for pizza together last night, so the kids could spend some time together before we leave for our month in Oregon. I felt that the adults needed a normal dinner together at this time, so I didn't have the kind of serious discussion with her that I think we need to have at some point. But one interesting thing happened: she said that she found out from her sister that her mom was worried that something was wrong with her because she had slept a lot during her recent visit to her mom's house. At that point, her husband said that her mom had said the same thing to him. She thought it was funny, because she has two kids so of course she's tired. The Hubby and I shared glances, though.

Oh, and she did apologize about forgetting my daughter, including during that first phone call. But she didn't seem to realize what a big deal it might be to me that my daughter was waiting around there, forgotten. NOT. OKAY. Her kids may be used to that sort of thing, but I don't do that to mine. Now I am kicking myself again about not calling before pick-up time to confirm! It was the first day that I didn't make that phone call, of course.

Tonight is the theater camp performance. Big Girl has to wear her hair in rollers all day, so I'm about to go set them. We're all packing and getting ready for our trip today, then will go see the show tonight.

Our plan is to leave in the morning...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Project Runway's green experiment

Last night on Project Runway, they gave the designers a challenge of designing a cocktail dress to be made out of "green" fabric (environmentally responsible, not the color green).

I think the color green might have been more interesting.

It would have been really great to see the designers shopping for eco-fabrics, then turn them into high fashion. That would have shown us all that eco-fabrics will fill the bill just fine!

Unfortunately, the producers decided to throw another twist in there, and have the models do the fabric shopping.

As you can imagine, the models didn't have the same eye for colors and textures. The designers' reactions to the fabrics they brought back were not enthusiastic. In fact, they complained a lot about the fabrics, and several models bought the same fabrics, resulting in kind of a boring palette in the runway show.

So that means that the eco-fabric challenge was the one episode where the designers bitched about the fabrics, when it would have been great to get excited about eco-fabrics!


So. Pictures from the Bravo website and comments from my idle brain:

This one was my favorite, I think. I didn't think I would like it as "Suede" (yes, this designer calls himself "Suede." Must gag now.) was making it - it looked like a mess. But he pulled it off and it's pretty and arty. He made the bodice out of intricately placed thin strips of fabric. And he was named the winner! The prize this time was that would sell the winning design. I have no idea how they are going to produce this garment. It seems very difficult to make.

Oh, by the way, FIVE models bought this champagne silk (I think) for their designers!

See? The second-place finisher was made out of the same stuff! It's too tight through the chest, but it is really elegant and pretty. I like this one. I think I like this model the best - she definitely makes things look good. Her skin is a gorgeous tone!

Now, this design was one of the "safe" ones. They have the runway show, where the models all come out wearing the designs, one by one, and the judges assign a numerical score. Then the scores are tallied and the top three and bottom three are asked to stay on stage to talk about their designs. All of the others are "safe" and we don't hear anything about those. It's too bad (although the show would be too long, I do realize), because sometimes you really want to hear the judges' opinions. Take this one, for example. I think the blue fabric that the model chose doesn't really grab you, and that's why this dress flew under the radar. The shape and neckline are nice, I think. It would be better if it were an inch or so shorter.

This was another "safe" one. This one is nuts. I'm sorry, I just think it is UG-LY. Good grief, there is too much going on here! He even gave her peacock-feather earrings. It's a hot mess.

This one was in the bottom two. Three designers got this brown fabric, and all had some trouble with it. Both of the bottom two designs had this brown fabric. The judges said there was too much going on with this dress. Hello? Did you see the peacock blue one I put just above? How can you even go there with the brown one and let that peacock thing go right on by?

This was the design that they auf'd. I was very sorry to see this designer go. I didn't know which of the bottom two they would get rid of... I'm still undecided if they made the right choice. What do you think?

Young at heart

Yesterday we went to Summer Sounds at the Hollywood Bowl again, where Middle Girl and The Boy made African paper dolls in the fine arts workshop. Middle Girl gave hers a purse, and The Boy said he was making Daddy, so I'm not sure they really got the cultural component!

The performance featured a group playing marimbas from Zimbabwe, with the usual beloved "Captain Dave" storyline. My favorite part was when the ship sailed behind a set piece of a waterfall, and then a little puppet ship with little puppets of Captain Dave, the Professor, and Harpoona appeared and went OOOOVVEERR the waterfall! So cute.

They then arrived in "Zimbabwe," and the musicians and dancers appeared. As I was enjoying the music (the kind of music that makes you want to dance, whether you like it or not), I noticed one of the musicians. He looked very familiar! The more I looked at him, the more I was convinced it was a guy I had done "Godspell" with.

After the show, I was able to talk to him, and I was right! He had played Jesus in the "Godspell" production I did six years ago. I keep running across Blasts from the Past this summer. It was fun to catch up with him.

Today my evil friend Eileen gave me two packages of Swedish Fish "for the LONG drive to Oregon." Ack! Those will last a dismayingly short amount of time! I tend to gobble up Swedish Fish like I'm some sort of Finnish Shark. No, I have no idea what I'm talking about. Huh?

Silly me, I'm giddy that she gave me this present, because it shows that she remembered that I love them. Any time a friend shows me a little bit of attention, I go all gooey. Somebody likes me!

How old am I? Ten?

At least some part of me is!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

This one will be shorter, I promise

Today, I sang at Mass

then I taught a session about protecting children from sexual abuse (church volunteers are required to attend this training)

then two families came over to our house for swimming, playing, dinner, dessert, playing (6 adults, 8 kids; tri-tip, chicken sausages, salads, watermelon, grapes, ice cream sandwiches; the three moms get together frequently but we wanted to get the husbands together - do you ever do that? try to jump-start your husband's social life?)

then Hubby put the kids to bed while I went to rehearsal (Oh how I love singing Pretenders songs)


So last night I saw something funny on SNL. Christopher Walken was the host, and he is fun to watch because he's so strange! It bugs me how he stares at the TelePrompTer the whole time, though. But in one sketch, he made me cry with laughter. I can't embed it, but click here to go watch the strangeness!
People love to bash SNL and say "it's not funny anymore," but they have always said that. The truth is, it's hit and miss and it always has been. The hits are worth the misses for me! And, Panic!AtTheDisco was the musical guest. I like how they dress. Very dandy.


Friday night, there was a big party in the backyard next door (they have teenagers and young adults). The one that my daughters' window is practically on top of. (I have nice grammar at 11:40 pm) There was a live band and there was rapping involved. You could hear it LOUD AND CLEAR in the girls' room. So, we put the girls on a mattress on the floor of The Boy's room, which is on the opposite corner and away from the noise. All of the kids were very excited. Hours later, when the band was done and the party noise was just a hubbub of conversation, the younger two children were still awake and each saying the other "won't let me fall asleep." We put everyone back in their own bed. So, that was fun.


And, continuing the walk backward in time, Project Runway debuted its new season this week!!! Hooray and Hallelujah. I have loved this show since I first caught it in the middle of the night nursing a few-days-old Boy. That was Season I. Jay McCarroll! Austin Scarlett! Austin was the guest judge on this week's Season V premiere. He is such a dear. Talk about a dandy dresser!


Well, it was a little bit shorter...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Where have you BEAN all summer?

Note: I actually started this post two days ago and am just getting a chance to finish it now!

Why, hello there. Helloooooo? Hello? It sounds very echo-y in here. No one around for miles. Well, then no one will mind if I just talk to myself a bit.

So, self, whatcha been up to this summer?

Well, self, I went on a trip to Quebec with my husband, and since then I've been home with the kids doing not much at all. Except, doing so much that I've been too busy to visit this here blogger homepage.

We are ALL OVER this summer thing, yo. We are doin' it up right!
SO RIGHT that I haven't had a chance to write anything. (I have been reading blogs, though. Love to read 'em while I eat my cereal.)


Grandma visited (and we took off for Quebec).

Then my Mother-in-Law visited (and we swam in the pool and sat in the sun every day). Oh, and Hubby and I went to see Iron Man! A movie! In a movie theater! Whoop, whoop!

My brother and his wife moved to the LA area. A very different part of the LA area than mine, but it's much closer than Massachusetts! We have seen then about once a week so far. It remains to be seen how much we'll manage to get together as time goes on, but we are all so excited to have a family member within 400 miles, hurrah!

Middle Girl lost her second tooth! It was really wiggly for a pretty long time, and when it finally came out we saw that the big tooth didn't come in directly underneath. It came in behind the baby tooth. So, a)no wonder it had trouble pushing the baby tooth out, and b)oh dear; this girl's going to need some dental work someday...

We've been doing lots of swimming! With kids ages 3, 5, and 8, that definitely means I'm in the pool with them, hence the difficulty finding time to sit at the computer. Middle Girl and The Boy are coming along with their swimming. Middle Girl started out the summer by staying on the big step, then started swimming around wearing a floaty vest, and now is working on her dog paddle with no flotation device! The Boy started out the summer by staying on the big step, and now he's using the Turtle Floaty to JUMP IN and motor all over the pool! He extends his legs behind him and kicks those little-boy feet, kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick, and looks like a little motorboat! It is so adorable. Big Girl's goal right now is to figure out how to retrieve toys off the bottom of the pool. She's still working on it!

Along with all the swimming, we've had lots of friends over to play and swim with us! I've been providing lunch for lots of our buddies, and sometimes dinner as well. We even had a visit from our friends from Sydney!

We also have been playing with the kids next door. If both families are at home, the kids are probably playing. It's great living next to them!

We went over to the beach to visit some friends and had a really fun day. The kids loved playing in the sand and running from the waves! We have not done this with them before, but I think we will try to do it more often now that we have people to visit over there.

Big Girl has been going to the theater camp she begged and begged us to let her attend. It is 5 days a week, 9 am - 3 pm, and they have finished the second of the three weeks. They are putting together a review of scenes and songs from "Hairspray," and we'll go see the production next Saturday night. She is thoroughly enjoying it, although she had a few days of frustration last week over the assignments of solos. But we had a good talk about it, and things are looking up. At the end of the first week, she was given the part of "businessman" in one of the numbers. Breathlessly, she told us "I get to wear a suit and a hat and carry an old-fashioned briefcase! I'm so excited I get to be a businessman because it's really playing a different person from who I am!" She told everyone we saw that weekend or talked to on the phone. It was SO CUTE! It's fun for her to be able to do this with her best friend E., since they don't go to the same school and don't usually get to spend this much time together.

Middle Girl and The Boy are still attending their preschool's summer school, Tuesday and Thursday mornings. This is The Boy's first session of preschool, and he is so proud of himself! He tells people, "I go to school now." And extra bonus is that his favorite friend S. is in the class with him and they have a ball together.

You may wonder what I'm doing with my time now that I actually have a few hours when all three kids are at their summer activities. Well, I'll tell you: it's very exciting. I got some fillings at the dentist and went to Home Depot for some errands. Wah. Hoo. I'm also trying to finally work on our finished basement and have made some progress. But like most projects of this nature, it gets more messy before it starts looking good. It's quite messy right now. (It's going from "place full of the boxes still unpacked from the move (Nov. 2006)" to "guest room/office.")

Middle Girl and The Boy and I have also been busy during the time when Big Girl's at camp. In addition to the playdates, we've gone to the zoo, the aquarium, and the Hollywood Bowl. The aquarium was strange for me, since I used to work there six years ago. Many things are the same, several things are new, and the people I used to work with have moved on to other institutions. It's weird to go back to your old stomping grounds and feel like the place doesn't know you anymore. OH! and there was this one volunteer who was making me a bit crazy with his misinformation. He told Middle Girl that "blue whales eat little fish named krill." "That's right, honey," I said, "they eat tiny shrimp called krill." Then later, that same volunteer was at the bat ray touch tank speaking on the microphone and said "Do you know what we call animals that breathe air? We call them mammals." (Cough) (Hack) (Cough) Oh, brother. So birds, reptiles, insects, etc. are all mammals, then, genius?

Summer Sounds at the Hollywood Bowl is probably our favorite activity each summer. This is my eighth year in a row! It's a musical performance for kids, and you can also buy a ticket to do an art project related to the theme for that day. Unsurprisingly, since it is the Hollywood Bowl after all, the talent is top-notch. Back when I started attending with Big Girl, you could show up and buy tickets for that day's performance. Each year, it became more and more popular, and for the past few years it has sold out in April a day or two after tickets went on sale. This year, they changed it so that weeks 1-2 are the same, 3-4 are the same, and 5-6 are the same. Good News, there are lots more tickets available; Bad News, only three shows to go see instead of six. Oh well. Middle Girl, The Boy and I had a lot of fun at the first show, which featured Incan musicians and dancers from Peru, and at the art workshop we made small mosaics after looking at Peruvian examples for inspiration. Next week, Zimbabwe!

One night, the kids went over to TK's house for a sleepover! The Hubby and I got to enjoy dinner out together, then we went to pick up The Boy and bring him home to sleep in his own bed. I think that night was a treat for everyone!

In addition to all of the summer-special activities, the girls have continued their gymnastics class and Big Girl has been taking private violin lessons. She is progressing nicely! She is working on rhythms that mix eighth notes with quarter notes.


So what's coming up?

Big Girl finishes her theatre camp and we'll all attend the performance, and Middle Girl and The Boy have their last week of summer preschool (a full T & Th, with Water Day and BBQ Party).

I have rehearsals with my band for my August 3 Music in the Park gig (the wedding that hired me as a soloist for Mass was today, so that's over).

We're going to the zoo for dinner and World Music Night next week.

More friends coming over!

And then, at the end of this next week, we leave for Oregon. Every summer, the kids and I spend a month at my parents' house. We'll see lots of family, including a new baby cousin/nephew who will be born on Wednesday. The main item on the Oregon agenda is Quality Time with Family. I'll wait until we get there to figure out the specific activities...

But I've got one week to get us all packed for the visit and the car trip up there (and figure out what to sell to earn some gas $$$?)! I've already done most of the Back-to-School shopping - there are only a couple errands left, so we'll be ready to get home and start school one week later!

(Oh, BTW, I'm flying home for my August 3 gig. I will leave the kids at Mom's and be home alone with Hubby for two days before I fly back up there! LOVE IT!)


And now, the reason for the title of this post:

We have beans!

The Boy's bean plant made beans!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Updating the update...


Monday, July 7, 2008


What once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

Status: Need to find some outdoor accent pillows, I'm thinking a red-and-earthy-green stripe

What once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

Status: Need to hang a latticework trellis on the wall on either side of the arbor, plant climbing plants and other plants, and possibly put a concrete bench in the arbor... hmmm...

What once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

Status: DONE!

And, as a final update, Middle Girl ate dessert!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Scenes from a Fourth

We had a very nice Fourth of July in these parts, with both community and family celebrations.

On Thursday, Middle Girl and The Boy had a little parade and sang a few songs for us at their summer school.

On the Fourth of July, our little town has a nice celebration, which includes a Pancake Breakfast in the Fire Station, a parade down our main street, food, games and music in the park, and a fireworks show at night.

This is our second year living here. Last year, we left town on the Fourth but did the Pancake Breakfast before we left.

This year, the girls and I went to watch the parade. They were hot and were not shy to let me know about it (again and again), but we all enjoyed it. It's a small and ragtag little parade, but it fits our town well.

Big Girl dressed up for the occasion, but quickly became too hot and lost the outer layer.

We saw musicians from the high school,

AYSO families and the YMCA girls' basketball league,

the local chapter of Neighbors for Peace and Justice reminded us of our rights,

the volunteers who help the city put on the Clean Air Car Show & Film Festival reminded us to B! Y! O! B! (Bring Your Own Bag!)

The Chamber of Commerce said, "Save Gas, Shop Local!"

The neighborhood preservation group dressed up as historic homes and trees,

town officials got to ride in vintage cars, and residents drove their own interesting vehicles,

The high school spirit squad performed for us,

as did the local square dance club,

and my favorite? The Scottish Pipe & Drum corps!

After the parade, we decided to forego the park and go home for some time in the pool!

We had relatives over, and we all enjoyed a hearty meal of baby back ribs, corn on the cob, and fruit salad.

After dinner, we headed over to the high school stadium, where my band played as the opening act for the fireworks!

It was the kids' first fireworks show, and they loved it! It was a great show, with musical accompaniment that really added to the spirit. I had trouble looking away from the kids' awe-struck faces to watch the fireworks!

Happy Birthday, America! We are so lucky to live here. I have several hopes and wishes for this country as we celebrate our 232nd birthday!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Canada Days (Pt. 3) (The Final Chapter)

We set out on a road trip to Tadoussac, to see if we could get a spot on a whale watch boat.

It was another trip with nervous butterflies in my stomach, because now we were going to go out on the water and look for whales, which is what I did every day for two weeks when I was last here fifteen years ago. This time, I was not so much worried that the trip would live up to my memory, because one 3-hour trip couldn't compare to two weeks of being on the water all day. This time, I was worried about making a fool of myself. Fifteen years ago, I was planning to become a whale researcher. I learned many skills that I thought were just the beginning. But not long after, I made some decisions to go a different direction. I went into education, and then having a family, and now here I was, fifteen years later: a tourist instead of a scientist.

I don't regret the direction I ended up choosing (too much), but I really wanted to still be good at the whale stuff! So I was worried that day about whether I would look like I knew what I was doing as I got in the zodiac, rode the rough waters, and watched for the whales surfacing. I'm a person who chose not to go into whale science (at least so far), but who really could have, not someone who was never cut out for it in the first place; that self-image is important to me.

Despite my anxiety, the drive was pretty. We took in the scenery along the way, and although the morning was cloudy (even on the ferry across the Saguenay fjord into Tadoussac), when we made our way down to the dock the sun was shining. We got spots on a 12-passenger zodiac for a 3-hour whale watch trip and decided to find some lunch before we had to be back at the dock.

The sun was out and it was lovely, and we sat on an outdoor patio and ordered some lunch. I had no appetite, but knew that I needed to eat something and drink some water before I went out on the water for three hours. As I shoo-ed bug after bug away from my face, I made myself eat and drink a little.

I visited the rest room at the end of our lunch time, since my nervous stomach had moved southward a little (that's me trying to talk about it delicately), and since I also wanted to tie my hair back before going out on the boat. As I looked in the mirror to do my hair, I noticed three drops of blood on my neck. Great, I'm not feeling that great due to nerves, and now I'm bleeding too. Apparently some bug(s) had bitten me during lunch. Super.

We walked down to the dock and suited up in gear similar to what we all wore fifteen years ago:

Looks a little big on me! It felt alright, though.

Our guide told us that the morning's cruise had been very cloudy, and now that the sun was out the visibility should be better. However, the ride would be rougher (very bumpy, like lift you off your seat bumpy). This took me back! We sure bounced around fifteen years ago!

I stepped into the zodiac just fine, and found my seat at the front. Soon we were on our way out of the harbor, and then kicking up to a higher speed to bounce along the waves toward the open river. It only took me a minute to remember how to ride with the boat, and oh, it felt good to be back. I love being on boats; my body quickly relaxed and I felt better than I had all day. Really, it just felt RIGHT.

As soon as we got out of the harbor, we hit the cloud bank (and never saw the sun again that day). The temperature dropped and we were cold! But we did see some minke whales and a small pod of beluga (I estimated 3 adults and 2 juveniles). We had decided to focus on experiencing it rather than photographing it, but we did get a couple of shots.

That last one was in the Saguenay fjord. This whale was circling under the surface, rounding up fish into a clump and then surfacing through them to feed on them. A few times, he came up sideways (minkes like to do that) and we saw his belly and pectoral fin. Fantastic!

We also took in some scenery in the fjord, which I never did fifteen years ago, since our camp and dock was 15 miles away from Tadoussac in Grandes Bergeronnes.

The last portion of our ride was ridiculously cold, with a light rain pelting us in the face. Nonetheless, I faced into the wind and enjoyed the ride. (I am something like a dog hanging his head out a car window when I'm on a boat, I guess, since The Hubby had long ago turned his back to the wind out of sheer discomfort and couldn't believe I was still riding that way!) Also, I really had to pee. When we got off the boat, and got out of our gear, I could hardly walk up the hill to find a restroom. Luckily, we did find one in the Interpretation Center. Seriously, it was painful. Nice.

But soon, I felt much better and we warmed up a little while finding souvenirs for the kids. As an example, the girls got cute T-shirts with drawings of beluga behaviors labeled in French!

It was a good day (except for the bladder issue)! I felt so good out on the water, and was so glad that I still enjoyed it after all these years, and had even retained some of my knowledge of whale behavior. I was happy.

We drove back to Quebec City and had a nice evening walk, and then the next morning headed out of the city, stopping by Ile d'Orleans. The island has been settled since 1535, and is an agricultural center but has retained many of the older farming techniques.

We then went back to Montreal, and hiked up to Parc du Mont-Royal to see the view at Kondiaronk Belvedere and the Chalet du Mont Royal. Hubby and I travel well together, but neither of us knew where we were going as we were hiking, hiking, hiking up, up, up through the trees on a trail in the park, and we sure did bicker at each other. I let off some travel-fatigue steam at him, I'm not proud to say.

We eventually found the Chalet, and saw this sight, which cheered us up fast!

During the rest of our final evening, we walked around a bit in the Underground City, but my body was so tired that it wouldn't let me go on any further. Shower and bed were all it would allow, and then we woke up in the morning to the quiet of St-Jean day. The Hubby went out to that yummy bakery and got me a last cinnamon roll, and then it was off to the airport.

It was a full day of plane travel (which I really don't mind when we're without kids - sitting and reading or doing crosswords for a few hours is actually kind of a gift!), and then we walked in our front door and were greeted by our children running at us and tackling us with hugs. Middle Girl cried with joy ("I'm so happy I'm crying!") and wouldn't let go of me, so I carried her around for a while. Big Girl and The Boy were full of smiles and giggles at seeing their long-lost parents! It was great to see their sweet faces again!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Canada Days (Pt. 2)

As we drove into Québec City, I was strangely quiet, since some part of me was worried that the city wouldn't live up to my cherished memory of it. I had only spent one evening there, fifteen years ago, but I spent it with the new friends with whom I had spent two weeks studying whales in the St. Lawrence river. The whole experience had been mind-blowing, and life-defining, for li'l 20-year-old Barbra, so it would not be a surprise if the City had been viewed through rose-colored glasses that evening. Still, I did cherish that rose-colored memory. Would reality get in the way and muck it up?


The uneasy feeling in my stomach disappeared when we walked through the door of our room at L'Auberge Saint-Pierre and I saw that we would be spending three days here:

And this was the view out our windows:

I opened the windows and leaned my head out over the street, looking at the river, at the town of Levis on the other side, and at the buildings on our street, these lovely streets of Lower Town in Old Quebec. Breathing in deeply, I felt a relaxation, and then an energy flow through me. I was feeling so revitalized, so exhilarated!

Hand in hand, my Hubby and I headed out for a walk. Down the stony streets of Rue St-Pierre, turning onto Côte de la Montagne and then across at Rue Notre-Dame, which immediately greeted us with this mural:

I snapped photo after photo as we walked on, through Place Royal, up Rue Sous-Le-Fort, and wound our way through Quartier Petit-Champlain.

I ran down toward the waterfront, Hubby laughing from behind me at my exuberance, and shot more photos looking back toward the old city, gasping at the sight of Upper Town perched atop the hill above Lower Town.

Even the public bathrooms are beautiful.

I needn't have worried; not only was the city as beautiful as I had remembered, it was more beautiful. I love to visit places where I feel transported - to another culture or to another time. Québec City does both! I can imagine what life was like in the 1700's as take in the scenery, and the town has 400 years of culture - descended from the French, but long ago transformed into something unique to this region alone.

That first evening of our arrival in Québec City, we stayed in Lower Town. We ate at Lapin Sauté on Rue du Petit-Champlain, and enjoyed our French fare of white sausage with apples, potatoes, and fennel and perfectly cooked duck confit. For dessert, can you believe this: maple syrup crème brûlée. Unbelievable...I can still taste it if I close my eyes and remember.

After dinner, we explored Place 400e at Vieux Port, the headquarters of the celebration for Québec City's 400th Anniversary (1608-2008), which is taking place all this summer. We talked with one of the young people handing out pins in honor of opening night of "The Image Mill" (Le Moulin à images). It is an enormous projection of images related to the city and its history, projected onto a row of grain silos across the water.

The next day, we walked all over. Up the hill and all over Upper Town, through the city wall at Porte St-Louis, past the Assemblée nationale and down Grande Allée (where we passed the most beautiful McDonald's I've ever seen), by the Armory that burned and collapsed this April, up the hill overlooking the Plains of Abraham, down the Terrasse Dufferin and through the shops of the Château Frontenac.

That afternoon, we were back at Quartier Petit-Champlain sharing a maple cone (maple-vanilla soft serve with maple-caramel swirl and maple sugar candy perched on top!). The evening saw us enjoying another French dinner, this time near our hotel in the Rue St-Paul area, after which we took the Funiculaire up the hill and enjoyed nighttime walks down the Terrasse Dufferin (watching the lightning upriver) and through the Rue de Buade area. There are street performances all over town, and we saw several large and small performances organized by museums and the 400e celebration. We don't know French, but we enjoyed the spirit!

I'll save the details of our next day for next time, but our last evening in Quebec found us on the Funiculaire to Upper Town once again, exploring the Rue St-Jean area, enjoying a street-side drink in a pub, spying on another (large) street performance at Place d'Youville, admiring the theatre (Le Capitole de Québec) where Les Misérables would be opening (shortly after we left - yes again), and saying goodbye to this town again, this place that I now loved even more than I had before! In my eyes, its beauty is unmatched, and this time I got to share it with my Hubby!


In the final chapter, we embark on some road trips (will bickering ensue?), and the old nervous worrying returns. How will Barbra handle it? Will there be bloodshed?