What's in my head

This is the home of your average girl in her early 30s making her way in the big city...Not really. I have thoughts. Now I have somewhere to put them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Vancouver revisited

I can blog, but can't post photos from Vancouver North Vancouver. If I could, ya'll would have gotten to see just how pretty winter is in the mountains (there is actually a bit of snow on the ground in the coastal areas, not just in the mountains. Apparently it caused commuter chaos yesterday).

Oh well, something for you to look forward to.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wedding bells

I'm off to Vancouver (again!) tomorrow because my brother is getting married. Not this brother, but rather my little brother.

This is David:

He's 23 now (and 22 days) and he's actually not that little - he's 6'2" - but it is still weird that some time after 3 p.m. P.S.T. on Dec. 3 he will be a married man!

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he and Shelly have only been dating since February or maybe it's because in the last 7 years he's had more jobs than me, my mother and my older brother Brian put together so committment isn't really his thing or maybe it's because they've only been planning it for two months (No! It is not a shotgun wedding). Whatever it is, saying David is getting married Saturday is weird.

Nevertheless, I wish them a lifetime of happiness. Congratulations you two!

I must go pack now because me, the quintessential planning girl, is nowhere near ready to go yet and we have to be out the door by 9:30 tomorrow morning. I'm not looking forward to another trip to the airport. I don't want to go away again. I would never make a good flight attendant...

"Gimme a 'P'!"

"Gimme a 'R', Gimme an 'E', Gimme a 'V', Gimme an 'A', Gimme a 'C',
Gimme 'I', Gimme 'D'
"What's it spell? PREVACID!!!"

Apparently cheerleaders make good salespeople, specifically pharmaceutical sales reps.

From the New York Times:

Some industry critics view wholesomely sexy drug representatives as a variation on the seductive inducements like dinners, golf outings and speaking fees that pharmaceutical companies have dangled to sway doctors to their brands...

"They don't ask what the major is." Proven cheerleading skills suffice. "Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm - they learn those things, and they can get people to do what they want."

Approximately two dozen Kentucky cheerleaders, mostly women but a few men, have become drug reps in recent years.

They even have Miss Florida USA.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

How thoughtful

As read on the back of my box of Skittles gum (bought in London).

Enjoyment tip: Gum can accidentially lodge in the throat. Take care when eating, and with the very young.

We don't get warnings like that on our candy...must be because of all the English AND French writing.

And, FYI, the gum isn't bad. It takes just like Skittles candy, but instead of dissolving into sugary nothingness it turns into tasteless, hard to chew, funny coloured gum. OK, maybe it is bad. The colours of the gum are a little different than the candy, see.

I could totally arrange candy for ads...

Wonderland just got better

Found this out (obviously, see previous post) Wednesday after watching This is Wonderland on CBC. The song in the new opening credits is Soft Revolution, one of my favourites by the wonderful Canadian band the Stars.

Good Canadian entertainment all around.

(New opening, except for the song, isn't so good...)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This is good TV

I enjoy the CBC for many reasons, but for one most of all:
This is Wonderland.

The wonderful court room dramedy returns for its third season tonight at 8 p.m. It is funny, quirky, well written, smart and Canadian! It is unique in the best possible way. You should watch it.

Don't believe me? Vinay Menon was also gushing about it in today's Star.


Hello, my name is Danielle and I'm a chocolate addict.

I bought some milk chocolate chipits in advance of some holiday baking.
I opened the bag late last week.
They are now gone...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Welcome to my office

The world is my office. Well, maybe not the whole world...

Images from a morning in my (work) life.

(No, there isn't a body in there).

(No, she wasn't in there).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The orange is growing on me

Despite what I said in the summer, I gave in and now wear the orange shirt.

I played hard to get for a while - accepting the compliments from my crew leaders when they suggested I become a crew leader. I was happy just to make my bi-weekly Saturday visit to the Habitat for Humanity build site and NOT BE IN CHARGE. To NOT BE RESPONSIBLE for my actions, let alone those of eight or so other people. I mean, people are actually expected to live in these homes and I write for a living. I should not be responsible for giving instructions on how to use a drill, saw or any other tool besides say a pen or a pencil.

Then everything changed. About a month ago I decided to stop my teasing and step up to the plate (well, really I just wanted to volunteer, but the Saturday shifts fill up so quickly I couldn't go until December! Crew leaders can volunteer whenever they want so I said I finally felt comfortable enough to accept the invitation to wear the orange shirt - volunteer's wear white). They happily signed me up (they're regretting it now).

I was supposed to be eased into the position by being an apprentice first, but the alternate plan of giving the new girl eight of the 18 volunteers who showed up (when there were FOUR other crew leaders) worked just fine too. Also, deciding to put the people who are moving into the house on her crew? Great idea. No extra pressure. NOT. AT. ALL. Luckily, I was only in charge of painting. This turned out to be quite enjoyable because all I did was go from floor to floor painting a wall here, some trim there and saying things like, "that looks great. Keep up the good work and don't forget to take a break, remember there are cookies in the trailer." (Volunteer work is all about the free food). And at the end of the day? I handed off my brushes for someone else to clean.

I was back the next Saturday ready to give orders, do a little work and feel good for helping others. (The head volunteer lady got a little over zealous when I said I'm be a crew leader so she signed me up for four things in two weeks). This time I was only given a crew of five. We were assigned the task of vapour sealing the headers and walls in the basement. Sounded easy enough, although I'd never done it before. The regret of promoting me was evident as the site superintendent took me around telling me what we needed to do and what tools/materials it would require, to which I responded with looks of confusion and said things like, "what is that?" and "How do we do that?" for apparently really simple things that everyone should know.

My crew was great though and one of them had done this job before so he became my helper. We made great progress and were ready to begin room with no windows - or lights - after lunch (I could have moved ahead to get things set up there, but when the site superintendent took me down there he used words like, "mice" and "spiders" so I felt it really was a job that should be delegated to my helper...). I returned from lunch to find my crew photographing my helper who was tac taped to the wall! (Picture it: a six foot something, 225 plus guy stuck to the wall with a big red X of tape). Even though it was pretty funny I couldn't laugh. I had to remain all boss like so I said, "when you get down it better not rip the plastic." (I could so be a teacher). It didn't rip and at the end of the day I pretended I didn't hear them say they were going to write their names on the beams.

I don't go back until Dec. 10 and I am a little nervous about what I'll be in charge of next (maybe there'll be more walls to paint by then...)

Although no future habitat homeowners will never read this, I just want to send this message out into the universe.

I am sorry.

They should have never let me put on the orange shirt. I know not what I am doing, but my intentions are good.

Friday, November 18, 2005

First snow

With the cold this week came the dread of winter:
the wind, the ice, the cold toes,
the never able to get quite warm enough.

But, today came the feel of something new or familiar.
Like an old friend returning.
And for just one day it is welcome.

Monet, my love of

This is Claude Monet, the famous impressionist painter.
Welcome to my obsession, Internet.

This is one of several paintings Monet did of the Rouen Cathedral, this one is called La Cathedrale de Rouen, le portail, temps gris (or Rouen Cathedral, Portal, Overcast Weather -- not very original, I know).

This is one of his 'prettier' paintings. It's called Le Jardin de Monet, les iris (or The Artist's Garden, Irises), 1900. It lives in Paris at the Musee d'Orsay . It isn't one of my favourite, but it's pretty. For as long as I'd been planning my trip to London and Paris, I'd planned to go to Giverny to The Garden. His Garden. And I made it (because I am nothing, if not a planner). See, here I am. IN. MONET'S. GARDEN. (Yippee! I was almost as giddy as a school girl who finds herself in the bedroom of an aging rockstar, only I didn't do anything dirty).

Thinking about it now I wish I'd swiped a flower, but of course I didn't because I am afraid of the French police (well, most police really. But I was afraid the French ones would have the guns like the soldiers...). Anyway, I needed to see Monet's house. I needed to see what he saw and what he painted because he is my favourite painter. Of. All. Time. Sure Picasso and Renoir and Degas are good too, but when I look at a Monet I feel a sense of calm (weird, I know. Sad even...?).

I felt that way in his garden too. Seeing the flowers, the lily pads and the Japanese bridge (look, it's me on the Japanese bridge! You can NOT go to Monet's house and garden and NOT have a picture taken of yourself on the bridge).

Below: his house. (I was in his bedroom and his massive kitchen) It was really very lovely and full of Japanese art because that's what he liked.
More pretty garden.

I thought I was obsessed.
This town of Giverny loves its Monet. Apparently after he set up shop there a bunch of American painters who really liked him -- groupies or mentees to his mentor -- decided to live there too in these quaint little stone cottages that are still there on the narrow French country road (or at least that's how I'm telling it...). It is very beautiful, peaceful and French.

At the end of His street there is this at the Giverny church.

Don't worry. No need to click on it. I took a close up, which now seems like I took my obsession a tad too far.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Paris Day 6 (aka I wanna go home)

Sunday, Oct. 23

There are no pictures because we didn't do anything except travel to the airport.

This only thing of note that happened on my last day was despite how much I enjoyed Paris I wanted to go home. We took the metro to where you transfer to the REF (GO equivalent) train to go to Charles de Gaulle airport. The only problem was we couldn't find where to buy the train tickets. After asking a few people (and about 15 minutes) we finally found it, but by this point I was so frustrated I just wanted to be back at home.

Because of the ticket confusion we arrived at the airport just two hours before our flight. Then we had to take a bus to our gate and then when we finally found the Air Canada counter there was a HUGE line (poor service, no matter which country it is operating in. Gotta love our national airline...). We checked in a mere 35 minutes before our flight was to take off (and still had security and the bathroom to visit). We made it through in time (I even had a chance to use my change to buy a pack of Lion chocolate bars in the duty free shop. Lion=Mr. Big, but I didn't know that.) In fact we stood around waiting to board our place, but first a trip on another bus to get to our plane. We boarded it using one of those rolling staircases (I'd only used one of those in Charlottetown and its airport is the size of a one floor elementary school). We took off late and made it home safely on time, surprisingly.

I'd been planning on taking this trip for two and a half years. It was worth the wait. I had a GREAT time.

Next up it's back to Vancouver for little brother's wedding!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Paris Day 5 (aka scary story and the crazy weather)

Saturday, Oct. 22

Today was the day I'd been waiting for, I'd decided to go - all by myself - to Giverny to visit Claude Monet's House and Gardens. This trip involved taking the metro to the train, the train to Vernon (45 minutes away from Paris), and a bus to Giverny. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, with me, nothing is simple. I got to the train station at 10 a.m., the next train to Vernon wasn't until noon. This gave me time to wonder things like: Maybe it wasn't open this late in the year, I mean it is gardens and it is the end of October. And I don't want to spend all that time and 25 euros to go there if it's closed. (Plus, I was still sick and much worse). My solution? Wander the neighbourhood around the train station looking for a place with internet so I could find out for sure. I began my hunt for a hotel, because someone there could tell me where to find the internet.

This is when my scariest Paris moment happened. It wasn't that scary, but it was my scariest. I'm within sight of the hotel door when a man approaches me and starts talking to me, in French (duh!) and I'm not quite sure what he wants but I get the impression he's hitting on me. "Je ne comprends pas," I respond (maybe it wouldn't worked better if I'd said it in ENGLISH). This doesn't deter him. He tells me his name, asks mine (still in French) and reaches for my arm. The whole time I'd still been walking so as he reaches I open the hotel door and am safe. He keeps walking along the street. The experience was made scarier by the fact that I was in a not that touristy part of town with narrow streets and not a lot is open at 10 a.m. on a Saturday in Paris. (A girl on my tour has a much better scary story - she was propositioned at a phone booth across the street from our hotel in the ghetto 'burbs. He did offer 100 euros so at least he didn't think she was a cheap hooker...)

(Hmmm, that took a while to tell) To make a long story short: the hotel guy told me the closest internet place was 'sketchy' (he didn't say that, but it's what he meant), I went there anyway but it was closed. Decided to go to Giverny and hope for the best, bought three pain au chocolat to eat during the day (so yummy and the only reasonably priced item I purchased in Paris), waited for my train, took the train (not the picturesque journey I was hoping for, but now I've seen some of France's industrial neighbourhoods), got to Vernon, got on the bus and arrived at Monet's house and garden - the highlight of my trip. Here are some pics and a weather play by play.

beautiful and sunny

starting to cloud over

Following this it beings to lightly rain and then pour, which I take as my cue to tour the house. It continues to pour so I browse the gift shop and right after I purchase my post cards it stops. I venture back out into the garden to take more photos.

after the downpour

The warmest, sunniest it has been my whole trip.

About five photos after this the digital card was full so there are no pics of Vernon, but if there were they would show it began to rain again (surprise, surprise). Back in Paris, just after I'd exited the train station it starts to pour harder than I've seen in a really long time. I have an umbrella, but in just two minutes I am soaked. Luckily I wore dress pants that day and they're polyester, which dries almost immediately (yeah for synthetic fabrics). After seeking refuge in a kind of promenade mall it stops raining just 20 minutes later. I hate Parisian weather.

I ate at McDonalds (hadn't done that since I saw "Supersize Me" 13 months ago, but was running low on cash and sick making me want comfort food), visited a grocery store where I resisted the urge to buy coloured toliet paper and headed back to the hotel for the last time.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Paris Day 4 (aka Look at all the pretty art...and guns)

Friday Oct. 21

I woke up sick. I must have caught a cold because I am The Girl With No Immune System. But I had places to go, museums to see so I sucked it up, filled up on my usual breakfast of croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice, a sad looking piece of fruit and hot chocolate (it was the only way to have milk), and then Cecilia and I boarded the metro to get to the City. We soon parted as today we had decided to go it alone all day. Aren't I independent?

My first stop? The Musee du Louvre.

Now incase you haven't heard it's a little big (800m big) and I didn't have that much time in Paris so I hit the highlights and was outta there. Highlights including this one.
And of course the Mona Lisa. I think it was one of the copies though because there were only two security guards and one of them didn't seem to care how close you got to the glass case. I didn't take a photo because you're not supposed to and I'm a good girl (that and I really only went to see it because how could I go to Paris and the Louvre and not see it?). It was smaller than I imagined.

In addition to all the sculptures and paintings (some of which that were soooo weird - for example a whole wall of people with knives through their head done in the 16th century...nope, no pictures of them either), the Louvre is also home to Napoleon's apartment(s?). That's me in Napoleon's apartment (I know it's fuzzy). Aren't I clever?

This is the dinning room. Nice, huh?

As I exited the mammoth museum I noticed it was sunny outside and having clued in to how unpredictable Parisian weather can be I changed my plans and decided to walk around and photograph the Jardin des Tuileries now instead of after museum #2.

(I know there are no flowers in that photo, but the garden did have some. The best one though is me doing the whole arm-out-taking-a-picture-of-myself thing and I don't like the way I look in my shades).

Next I walked across the river in search of a reasonably priced lunch. (That's the Louvre).

After wandering for a bit, I stumbled into the university district and thought I could find something yummy here. I was right (...as I often am). I got a baguette from a patissiere, it had tuna, hard boiled egg and tomato on the most yummy of breads (though I wondered: have French people heard of whole wheat...?). Eating also helped make me feel less icky.

Then it was time for the museum I'd been waiting for: the Musee d'Orsay with the Impressionist paintings! Like this one (Whistler's Mother by Turner oops, don't even know if that's an artist, it's really by someone named McNeill).

And these. (I had to limit myself or I would have taken a picture of Every. Single. Monet. More of my obsession will be revealed later).

The museum itself was pretty nice. It used to be a train station. But you probably guessed that.

It has a terrace along one side. (Can you find Sacre Coeur?...How can you not...?)

No, this isn't some snotty French furniture store. This is an exhibit (display?) in the modern section.

The one in the middle, "Talk to the hand."
There was also a sculpture/statute of a polar bear. I checked, it wasn't Canadian. (No photo).

Next it was on to the Arc de Triomphe. It's a monument to commemorate the wars France won or something (I wasn't listening to the tour guide when we drove past it and there were no English brochures left.)

The only thing between me and the top was an admission price (paid for with my included one-day museum pass hence the "M" is for museum theme of the day - there is a quasi war museum at the top) and something like 240 of these little stairs.

Keep in mind I had a cold, which was now much worse, and I have asthma even when I'm healthy. I began the trek with a lot of momentum, so much so I really should have taken off a layer or two before embarking on the trek because I think I'd also developed a bit of a fever that combined with the exercise caused a wee bit of sweating. The view at the top was worth it. But, wait for it, it had started raining while I was conquering the stairs so my time at the top was short lived.

I did watch traffic for a bit in the hopes of seeing an accident in Place Charles de Gaulle (supposed to happen every seven minutes on average). Twelve streets converge here and I have no clue who has the right of way. It was better an hour later in rush hour, but I didn't have the strength to ascend the stairs again.

I couldn't go back to the hotel yet though because every day at 6:30 p.m. there is a ceremony to honour French veterans (yes, EVERY DAY). I killed time going to the McDonalds on the Champs Elysees and buying a strawberry (the one place in France chocolate is scarce) milkshake.

This is the memorial for the unknown soldier.

The ceremony started early (while I was killing more time by reading three week old American celebrity magazines in the drugstore - that sold cigars and wine) so I was late and in the back so no decent pictures during the event. Instead I struggled to stay warm (I wish I'd had a scarf - everyone in Paris wears a scarf, regardless of the weather) as the weather had turned cloudy, windy and cool. After I did manage to capture these soliders with their guns.

There were about 40 soliders, all with the big guns, from three different branches of the armed service. I felt safe...sorta.

After it was over I got on the metro and made the long trek back to the 'burbs by myself. I guess I looked like I kinda fit in because someone asked me for the time in French, I couldn't quite remember how to answer her back in French so I showed her my watch. To kill time upon my arrival in the place where everything closes at 8 p.m. I had decided to eat by the hotel. I shouldn't have done this. I ate fast food (hadn't eaten it for nearly a year here, but five days in Paris and I have it twice) from Quick. It seemed to be a Burger King equivalent. It wasn't good.

Next: a train ride to Vernon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Paris Day 3 (aka I like French food - if it's chocolate)

Thursday, Oct. 20

First on our list this morning was a trip to a French perfumery. I shoulda skipped it, but I didn't want to be left out. I stayed away as the other girls oohed and ahhed over the different smells and then joined the guys outside for some fresh air. (perfume gives me an asthma attack)

After that we ditched the group and Cecilia and I headed to Montmarte, which is a little arty area in Paris. It's full of narrow streets and it's at a higher elevation than the rest of the city. Isn't this a cool subway sign?

Look, you can pee right on the street in Paris. For 0.40 euros (maybe it was 0.60).

We walked by the cemetery, but had no time to visit the dead.

We had a mission: to visit this big, beautiful church (re: all the church pictures. I'm not religious. They're just pretty.) From the steps of Sacre Coeur you can get an awesome view of Paris (notice the sky, it was another day of unpredictable Parisian weather).

After the church it was time for lunch. We decided to sample some traditional French fare: crepes. Mine had melted nutella, yummy. We bought them in this area.

After lunch we shopped at the enormous Galeries Lafayette. We split up after the purses and I made it all the way to the roof where you can get some decent views as well. (notice the clouds) I also got to use my French here (in the store, not on the roof).

I mentioned the size of this store, right? There are six floors of shopping in the building I was in and then those buildings on either side of the street are the men's department and another area.

I went to the Champs Elysees after that. The most famous avenue in France.

From which you can see the Arc de Triomphe. I didn't shop. I had to get back to the hotel.

I had to take the metro All. By. Myself. I did it and without any problems. This is the view at the stop where I transferred. Pretty, huh?

And what did I have to get ready for? A trip to the Moulin Rouge. This is the famous French cabaret during the day (taken around the same time as the toilette).

This is it at night. The show was great. I saw the can-can and a woman slithering around in water with two snakes. There were also some funny parts. Dinner was pretty good. I had the fish. The show and dinner were 130 euros, which included half a bottle of wine. I don't remember taking this picture...Must have been after the show (and the wine).

After three and a halfish glasses of wine and some champagne (and a tiny meal), I thought it would be funny to take a picture of Cecilia while she wasn't looking.

We listened to Lady Marmalade in the bus on the way back. I was kinda sad when we got back to the hotel because some of the new friends I had made were leaving the next day for Rome or Amsterdam. But not me, I had two more fabulous days in Paris.