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The House

Eight years ago we said we would never buy another house.

Two years ago we bought another house. So much for that.

The good news is we didn’t make the same mistakes as last time: we didn’t buy a house too big to manage. Instead we bought a tiny house, almost TARDIS like in its proportions. We also didn’t go back to the burbs, we’re still close enough to downtown to have a nearby Metro station and it only takes me 30 minutes to get to work.

The bad news is we bought it while we still had 9 months left  on our apartment lease, and were unable to find anyone to sub-let it. We’re still recovering from paying rent and a mortgage for that time.  We live, we learn. It did mean we could take our time moving though.

It’s nice to be back in a house again. No more landlords to deal with, none of the constraints of apartment living. We have front and back yards, a deck, a place to barbecue, a nice kitchen and enough space for a family of three. The boy can play his drums with impunity and I can turn the TV up whenever I want.

We’ll never rent again…

Biking again

After my bike was stolen at the start of the biking season, I decided the best thing to do would be to buy a cheap and crappy looking bike that nobody would want to steal. It’s sad that I have to choose that option but I didn’t see any other way.

So, while on vacation I walked down to Recycle Bicycle and asked them to sell me a cheap bike. I came out with a Raleigh “Tarantula” which, although boasting a very cool name, looks like crap. Perfect. The brakes needed a little adjusting (the back one is still almost useless without some help from the front) and the seat was loose but other than that the ride is good.

I started riding to work again last week, and I’m loving it. I get to work faster than if I take public transport and the ride to work is about 80% downhill. Of course that means the ride home is mostly uphill which kills me but at least I can collapse in a sweaty heap on the sofa when I get home.

There are things I had forgotten about cycling though:

  • Having long laces on your shoes is a bad thing.
  • Having flappy trouser legs is too.
  • Bike seats are never comfortable.
  • Taxi drivers will do all they can to knock you off the road.
  • I still don’t understand bike gears.
  • Stopping at red lights is always optional (yes, I’m an evil lawbreaker and I just don’t care.)
  • Did I mention it’s faster (and cheaper) than public transport?

The Weekend of Surprises

On Friday night we snuck over to P and J’s while P took J out to “get a movie” so that we could give J a surprise birthday party. As she was coming up the stairs she said something like “sometimes when I come up these stairs it sounds like there are voices coming from our apartment”. Well this time there were. We spent the evening eating, drinking and watching Aidan show off for his audience.

On Sunday we invited P and J over for “tea” with J and K. They were ushered into an empty living room with six tea cups waiting on the coffee table. What they didn’t know was that 20+ of their friends and family were waiting in the parking lot to surprise them with a baby shower. I went off to “make the tea” and came back with the crowd. We spent the afternoon eating, drinking, and watching P and J open a mountain of baby gifts.

On Sunday night we heard a rhythmic “plink plink” on the baby monitor and went to investigate. We discovered water dripping from Aidan’s ceiling about two feet from his crib. That wasn’t such a nice surprise.

The Big Move

On Thursday we were still casually packing stuff in a fairly calm and organised manner. On Friday we realised that moving day was fast approaching and things got a little more panicky. On Saturday we were running around throwing stuff in boxes and making a couple of trips to the new place to free up space (and reclaim some boxes for repacking). By Sunday we were packing like maniacs, throwing anything into whatever box we could find with no more thought to organisation or labelling.

On Monday the movers arrived. We were still packing. We made some piles of stuff “we would take care of” and told them to take the rest. They were loaded up in 3 hours and unloaded at the other end just as quickly. We went back to the house to finish packing.  Another trip with three cars and we still didn’t have everything out.

Tuesday, Jen went and cleaned and picked up more stuff. Richard filled his truck once more. There were still the plants left.

Wednesday, Jen got the plants, the house was finally empty. Not as clean as we would’ve liked but at least it was empty.

Now we have an apartment full of boxes, filled with stuff that we have no idea what we’re going to do with. Half the boxes are either unlabelled or labelled wrongly. I think we’ll be unpacking for a while…

But we have a useable living room and kitchen and a place to sleep, so life is good. Walking to work is a joy (walking home again, not so much) and being able to walk to the supermarket is equally joyous.

We’re never moving again (just like we said three years ago).

Train free

This morning I took my last train ride to work. This evening I will take my last train ride home from work.

On Monday we quit being suburbanites and return to being city dwellers. We are moving to the NDG/Westmount area where I will get more exercise (if I stick to my pledge to walk to and from work every day whatever the weather), I will get more sleep (Aidan permitting), we will have more money (if we don’t spend it all on gadgetry and home decor) and we will have more of a life (once again, Aidan permitting).

I will miss doing the crosswords on the train every day (and throwing away the NYT crossword in disgust on Thursdays and Fridays). I will miss the overheard conversations of spotty teenagers. I will miss our back garden (yard if you insist). I will miss my workshop basement. I will miss Homestyle Bakery.

I will not miss tax bills, heating bills, home maintenance or getting up at 6am every morning.

The Backlash

When I heard the description of yesterday’s gunman, I knew the guy was a walking cliche. I knew he would classify himself as goth (even though CBC insisted on calling him punk); I knew he would listen to Marilyn Manson, watch Quentin Tarantino and play Postal. I guessed the media would find his blog on MySpace or VampireFreaks. I guessed he was 18 or 19.

He turned out to be 25, acting like an angst-ridden goth teen. He did indeed have a blog on VampireFreaks, which was still up until about 6:30 this morning. On it he had pictures of himself in his black trench coat, wielding his gun and knife. His last blog post was yesterday at 10:30, when he told us he was drinking whiskey. His blog contained a dozen or more quizzes, polls and surveys all demonstrating how suicidal, depressed and generally fucked up he was. One survey question asked “How do you want to die?”; his answer was “In a hail of gunfire”.

Over the coming days and weeks I expect various factions to focus on gun control, censorship of violent games and movies, and the role of the internet in events like this. I expect VampireFreaks will suffer some serious backlash, with the usual calls to have it shut down. The site has generally stayed under the radar, thanks mostly to the overwhelming popularity of MySpace but now it will be in the spotlight. The goth sub-culture will suffer another blow to its already tarnished reputation.

Throughout all these knee-jerk reactions, soul-searching and public outcry it will be virtually forgotten that this was just one sick individual. Just another Michael Ryan, Thomas Hamilton, Eric Harris, Marc Lepine.

Naked chest

My first attempt at furniture stripping happened a couple of years ago at the condo. We tried to strip a small cupboard which turned out to be painted with some kind of alien substance impervious to all known stripping methods.

chestI’m happy to say that last weekend’s attempt was much more successful. This chest, which we acquired from Jen’s mum, was painted a very nasty brown colour. Thankfully it all came off very easily. A quick sand, a couple of coats of linseed oil and a finish of antique wax, and we now have a pretty good looking chest of drawers.

The sharpest tool in the box

knives A year and a half ago I married Jen. My step-father-in-law makes knives in his spare time, and promised us some kitchen knives as a wedding gift. Last week he delivered on that promise. Not only do they look fantastic, but they’re a joy to use and incredibly sharp. Well worth the wait.

Thanks Richard, and happy Father’s Day, even though you will never read this. Happy Father’s Day to my dad too, and all the other dads out there.

Thanksgiving Gastronomy

We had a slightly unconventional Thanksgiving / anniversary celebration meal here yesterday. Elisabeth, Richard and Loula joined us for:

Curried carrot and peppery Broccoli soups: onion, carrots, chicken stock, curry powder, cooked and whizzed in the food processor; onion, broccoli, chicken stock, salt and lots of pepper, cooked and whizzed in the food processor. Both poured into bowls from opposite sides for an attractive green and orange presentation (very Irish sectarian as Elisabeth pointed out).

Roast stuffed pork loin: Half a pork loin (rib end) rubbed generously with a bashed up mixture of fennel seeds, rosemary and salt and stuffed with a mixture of sliced red onion, ripped sage, sliced garlic, pine-nuts and sourdough bread. Roasted for an hour or so.

Sweet potato cakes: Grated sweet potato, grated onion, egg, flour, salt and pepper, formed into cakes and sauteed.

Asparagus bundles: sandwich an anchovy fillet and a rosemary stalk between six asparagus spears, top with a halved baby tomato and tie together with a slice of pancetta. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

Lemony pudding: cream a 1/4 cup of butter with 1/3 cup of sugar and the grated rind of one lemon. Beat in 2 egg yolks and 7 tablespoons of self-raising flour. Mix in a cup of milk and the juice from the lemon. Beat the egg whites until stiff then fold in to the mixture. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until spongy and golden on top (don’t let it burn like I did…)

Busy Saturday

The garage sale was a mediocre success. We didn’t make enough to retire on but we did get rid of some junk. Tara and Cyler got rid of their big stuff, much to their relief as they weren’t looking forward to schlepping it all home.

After the garage sale (yes I had to wait until it was over) I went to the marche de l’ouest to get what I needed for dinner. Last time I was there it was winter, and the place felt like a bit of a dive, but it’s transformed in the summer into a delightful open air farmer’s market. I picked up some very good corn, a big box of berries and salad stuff before venturing inside to pick up some parmesan and sausage-meat. Sadly nobody there had pine-nuts so I still had to stop at Metro on the way home.

The evening dinner went very well, so here are some recipes:

Avocado and tomato dip: diced avocados, diced seeded tomatoes, juice of a lime, tabasco and seasoning to taste. (probaby could’ve done with some red onion too but I forgot that part)

Fiery limey corn: Corn on the cob with husks. Remove silks and rub the inside with a wedge of lime, cover up with the husks again, throw on the bbq for about 10 minutes, remove husks, sprinkle on a mixture of 1 part cayenne pepper to 4 parts salt to taste.

Tastie taters: boil some spuds, toss them in a mix of mustard, honey, soy sauce and seasoning, thread onto skewers, cook on the bbq until crispy.

Mediterranean sausage burgers: sausage-meat, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, toasted pine-nuts. Mix all that together, season well, make into patties, throw onto the bbq for about 6 or 7 minutes per side until cooked through.

After dinner Tyler and I snuck off to play Magic for an hour or so. He’s picking the game up slowly, but he still has much to learn and I beat him resoundingly.

Montreal

Montreal, my city. I’ve lived here with Jennifer for four and a half years now, and I love the place. Montreal is a modern, cosmopolitan, vibrant and safe city with a long history in North American terms.

When I first moved here we lived downtown, which was a new experience for me, I’d never lived in the centre of a city before. I loved condo living, and I loved being so close to everything, but I guess there will always be a bit of country boy in me. Moving out to the ‘suburbs’, despite my initial resistance, has been just as good as living downtown. We’re not quite as close to everything, but twenty minutes isn’t that long, and the other advantages far outweigh that disadvantage.

We have a wonderful house on a large plot, which we probably couldn’t afford this close to any other large city. Although it is the suburbs, it feels more like living in the country. We are a short walk from Lac St Louis, a short walk from Angell Woods and a short drive from the Morgan Arboretum.

Every day I walk to work from the train station and back again, and I love the sights and sounds of the city around me. In summer Montreal is filled with festivals and a vibrant atmosphere. We’ve enjoyed the Comedy Festival, the Fireworks Festival and of course the Grand Prix.

Montreal rocks!