December 28, 2008

Ski day





One of the reasons we moved to Canada was to have the opportunity to get up and ski on any given day in the winter -- something we have not been able to do in other places we have lived (sorry, Illinois and southern Wisconsin skiing doesn't quite qualify). There are literally dozens of great ski areas 1-2 hours door to door from our house. Yesterday we ventured to Mont Sutton, quite by accident as we were heading to another area and there was light rain so we decided to go someplace closer in case the conditions were not good. It turned out to be a great choice. 

However, it's important to remember that parents should not teach their kids how to ski or do long division. Since we missed the ski lessons we decided to take Louis up on our own -- Danielle is a good skier already! We ended up on a lift taking us to all intermediate runs, not a wise choice. After several falls, we took off Louis' skis and had him walk/slide down the hill. It was an excruciating hour or more. With his low muscle tone, skiing is not the easiest activity for Louis. After lunch and an adult beverage, Kish ventured to the real beginner's hill for a few runs with Louis while Danielle and Paul took in some real runs. After again, a painful half hour or so Louis finally got up and charged down the hill in time to catch up with Paul and Danielle for a couple of beginner hill runs. Kish wanted to make sure he knew how to fall safely when he needed, and we accomplished that! We have to admire his spirit...the first part of the day was less than ideal and would have shattered just any kid's drive. But instead of giving up, he was eager to get back up on skis and try again. And Danielle was a patient big sister too -- eventually taking Louis into the lodge for a soda so Kish and Paul could get in a couple of runs on their own. 

We've been fortunate to ski at great destinations and both agreed that Quebec skiing is ideal for us right now. Louis will start a Special Olympics program in January so we'll be off skiing every Sunday for eight weeks. Canada really promotes winter sports, especially for kids. All 4th and 5th graders like Louis can order a coupon book full of free lift tickets for resorts all over Canada. And again, having been to ski areas all over the U.S., we have never seen little kids ski like this before -- they are really amazing. 

It should be a fun winter, despite mom and dad's very sore muscles today. Danielle is off to Chicago for a couple of days to visit friends and the three of us are more than happy to watch football all day!

December 26, 2008

It's Boxing Day in Canada


It's another holiday in Canada -- Boxing Day. While it has nothing to do with boxing, it is  is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and countries in the Commonwealth of Nations with a mainly Christian population. In South Africa, this public holiday is now known as the Day of Goodwill. It is based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society. In past centuries it was the custom for the wealthy to give gifts to employees or people in a lower social class, most especially to household servants and other service personnel. The Pisani's don't have any household servants, except the kids, so we will be spending the day organizing our basement and avoiding the stores. Contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a "shopping holiday" associated with after-Christmas sales -- which is what it is in Canada.

December 25, 2008

Joyeux Noel!






Merry Christmas from Canada! It's been a mellow, yet nice day for the Canadian Pisani family. Santa brought everyone snow shoes (except Duke) so Paul, Kish and Duke took a stroll in an area park to try them out while Danielle and Louis stayed home to try out Rockband. Aerosmith they are not. But there's still hope. After strange weather it was a beautiful sunny day and Duke was in his element jumping through snow banks. If you have not tried snow shoes - they are very fun. We're looking forward to discovering new areas.

We're happy to report that the present-opening ceremony at least started at 7:30 am when it was already light out. In his earlier days, Louis was not much of a sleeper and there were plenty of Christmas mornings where we started when it was dark outside and finished when it was still dark -- Uncle John can appreciate that!

Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate. "Tis the season to be jolly."

December 24, 2008

The best gifts....Part 2

This morning shortly after Uncle Dan left, Paul checked the mail to find a large envelope for Louis. His 5th grade teacher at Kendall Elementary in Naperville -- Mrs. Prorok -- had coordinated having the kids in his old class write holiday letters to Louis. He immediately took his stash of letters to the basement and did not want to be disturbed. We couldn't have asked for a better gift -- Thank you Mrs. Prorok and all the great kids in your class. Really, it means to world to Louis -- and to us. The best gifts are the thoughtful ones.



The best gifts....Part 1




















































The best gifts are not always wrapped under the tree with a gift receipt. Paul's brother Dan visited us over the weekend and it was the best gift for our family. The kids loved having Uncle Dan around and Louis logged lots of Wii hockey and football. There's nothing like an Uncle and one with patience enough to take the kids sledding, play board games or as mentioned, spend countless hours playing Wii....often times having to endure Louis' rules.

And as if time with Uncle Dan was not enough - we got to watch Marquette beat North Carolina and the Bears beat Green Bay (in OT) on Monday night. A perfect evening.

On Sunday we all attended our first Montreal Canadians hockey game which was great fun. Although, Dan thought the crowd was a little more subdued than the Blackhawks fans. I think it's safe to say that the Pisani family was not subdued -- especially during the US national anthem.

December 19, 2008

Proud of the Blackhawks


Thanks to Theresa Caracci (hockey mom and wife) in Naperville for sending this great story. We're proud to hang our Blackhawks flag out front -- despite the flack we get from the neighbors and the mailman! They are good sports, really, just very serious about hockey as this story details. The GM of the Blackhawks is from Quebec....

In the middle of a grueling six game road trip where a very young hockey team is away from home, the third game of the trip ends late on a cold Canadian Saturday night. This is the only break on the trip and the three days between games allow them the only break to get back home in their own beds for a couple of days before going back on the road. A scheduled commercial flight waits for them at Toronto's International Airport for the short flight home; they could be home by midnight. This plane departs on schedule, but without a single member of the hockey team. Back in the locker room a vote is taken after the game was complete, and a unanimous decision is made by this young team to skip this flight and stay one more day. They make arrangements to check back in the hotel and on a frozen Sunday morning charter two buses that have no heat and begin a journey two hours straight north into a sparsely inhabited Canada , but where hockey is its passion. They arrive at their destination to the surprise of the teams general manager who is there attending his fathers wake.

After a few emotional hours, this team boards the buses and heads back for a two-hour trip back to Toronto. On the way they ask the drivers to stop in a tiny Canadian town because they are hungry. To the shock of the patrons and workers at this small hockey town McDonald's, a professional team walks out of two rickety buses and into the restaurant, which just happens to have pictures of two members of this team on its wall. The patrons know every single one of these players by sight being Fanatic fans of hockey in these parts. One can only imagine their amazement of the locals seeing and the entire professional hockey team sit down and have a meal in their tiny little town
in the middle of a hockey season. After a while they board the buses and catch their same flight 24 hours later, giving one day to their general manager.

Have I made this up, is this an excerpt from some fictional book? No.

This a true story of the Blackhawks last Saturday night and they decided to attend Dale Tallon's fathers funeral. It’s amazing that such a good story can be found nowhere on the internet, and not even mentioned in the Chicago papers. Had one of the Blackhawks got into a fight and punched some drunken loser in a Toronto bar it would be plastered all over papers and the television. This being said, its hard to imagine any professional football, basketball or baseball team doing this, but the members of the Blackhawks claim any "hockey" team would have done this. This is one reason I continue to be a big hockey fan, and another reason I am excited about this Chicago team. I thought I would share as this story appears to have gone unnoticed.

GO BLACKHAWKS!!!!

As a side note...I did a Google search and could not find this story anywhere. The Blackhawks play the Canadians in Montreal on March 31! 

December 16, 2008

Yum....






Suzanne, our neighbor across the street has been telling me about the fabulous food markets in the area. There's everything from the Kosher store, Portuguese fish market, the Italian market and more. Today she took another newbie (and American) and myself to the Lebanese market. Holy Cow (or lamb).  It was the most amazing market ever -- if you're into anything Greek and Lebanese. There's a special huge section just for olives, spices and nuts. Pitas hot from the oven. Yum! It was incredible -- and I might add much more economical than the standard grocery stores. Suzanne then took us to an even larger indoor market with a specialty cheese shop, bakeries, sushi, sausage, wine -- you name it. It sort of reminded me of Pikes Place market in Seattle. I learned about the Montreal Bagel -- supposedly the best in North America. I know, everyone says they have the best bagel. It's sort of like how every city claims to have the biggest St. Patrick's parade -- but I'm telling you -- these bagels are something. They are hand formed, dipped in water laced with honey, rolled in seeds and then baked in a fire stove. I'm thinking the Pisani family will be frequent visitors to these new establishments.

Our next field trip is to Little Italy to discover the Italian markets!

December 13, 2008

When the US has a cold....


Danielle heard a saying from school recently..."When the US has a cold, Canada sneezes." We're seeing that more and more each day as Canada is just weeks or months behind the US as far as the economic crisis. Trust us, financially Canada is not sugar coated (or maple syrupy) either. Daily we pass by businesses that have closed. Although, just driving by the mall a while ago it looked packed.

Canadians are concerned about the financial issues in the US since so much of Canada's business industry is reliant on the US. The TransCanadian Hwy (I-40) is lined with Hewlett Packard, Apple, Microsoft, Easton and several pharmaceutical company offices.

Regarding the auto industry specifically -- Danielle and Kish went to the movies recently and before the film started there were commercials for cars we have never seen or heard about. They were from Toyota (we think) and they were all eco-friendly, electric or using some vegetable for fuel (we don't recall all the details). But what has been interesting is seeing how much more progressive Canadians seem to be in fuel-efficiency, likely because taxes on gas are so high and they are used to spending a lot. The point is that large Gas-capades and SUVs are few and far between. You're more likely to see a Subaru Outback or a Volvo Cross Country on the road -- with snow tires of course.

As we all await word about what will happen in Detroit, this editorial appeared in the Montreal Gazette today.

No easy answers to the auto-industry crisis
DECEMBER 13, 2008

Is Congress fiddling while Detroit burns? Or are U.S. lawmakers just being prudent with $15 billion of taxpayers' money?

Late Thursday the planned bailout of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford was derailed by Senate Republicans - or by truculent union leaders, take your choice - and now President George W. Bush is reported considering using for the purpose $15 billion from the $700 billion Congress authorized previously for a whole range of bailout projects, without many strings attached.

In Canada, the federal and Ontario governments are standing, chequebooks open, waiting to see how the U.S. drama plays out. The specific danger for Canada is that once Uncle Sam gets his thumb on the scales in this fully integrated continental industry, U.S. jobs will be given primacy over Canadian ones. Congressional good will toward Canada isn't worth a rusty Edsel in times like these.

More broadly, the whole auto bailout issue remains controversial. True, $15 billion is under-the-sofa-cushions small change by the standard that has become normal in this abnormal season of "bailouts" and "stimuli" around the world. But what if governments prop up the Big Three - as they were once known - and in three or four months they come back, with their hands out again?

The underlying problem is not arrogant executives or bad decisions, but excess capacity. It's hard to imagine auto sales rebounding strongly in calendar 2009 and GM and Chrysler, and to a lesser extent Ford, will continue to struggle with fixed costs and sluggish sales. Short-term bailouts can at best give a little time for some kind of drastic action.

Nor is the prospect of a "car czar" very appealing: The last time a state controlled what cars got made, the result was the Lada. With oil prices down, consumers could well be clamouring, say two years from now, for big boxy SUVs once again. What if nobody wants to buy the politically correct little "green" sedans Congress and bureaucrats could mandate as part of a bailout?

Nor are the problems limited to two or three companies. Parts makers, tool-and-die shops, and other employers are part of the industry, too. If even one of the Big Three goes down, ripple-effect bankruptcies, or at least layoffs, will swamp the sector. Remember, though, that most of that capacity would be needed again before long, as the industry reorganizes. North Americans still buy a lot of vehicles, even in a bad year.

Plainly something will have to give in the auto industry. The companies that emerge from this inferno, once the economy begins to revive, will be more efficient than the Detroit Three today. But will they be the same companies? And should that decision really be up to Congress? Those are the questions we will see answered before long.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

December 12, 2008

Slow down...





You know that Simon & Garfunkel tune, Feeling Groovy/59th Street Bridge song? "Slow down, you move too fast..." Now you'll be humming it all day. This tune was in my head while driving today to get the snow tires on the car. I must have had Simon & Garfunkel on my mind because I was also singing "Slip Sliding Away..." As you can see from the photos -- snow plows are not plentiful. Really. For friends and family in the Midwest -- don't complain about the roads again! By the way, the photo of Duke is because he has not made the blog in a while.

The slow down idea has a different meaning these days. As we’ve mentioned, everything takes longer in Canada. For the most part, people are extremely friendly and service people take the time to talk. Today at the “garage” where the tires were installed, the mechanic named Steve, took the time out to come in and talk to me (Kish). Fortunately, I wasn’t paying him by the hour. This garage was a combination gas station and coffee house. I learned all about the auto industry in Canada, the mark up on parts, how mechanics in dealerships are unionized and can’t be fired and they all do jobs on the side for cash. He was at this garage on this day because he was helping out the owner, whose name is Louis. Louis kept calling me Madam. We're glad we found this garage. Earlier in the week we called Canadian Tire -- the Home Depot/Wal-Mart/Ikea/Car part mega-store in Canada and were told we would need to drop the car off and they would call when it was finished – and it could be days -- for the tire installation.  We decided to call a “mom and pop” place. We're glad we did and now they have a new, loyal customer. Plus they schedule appointments! It was supposed to take an hour but took a bit longer. Anyway...Steve the mechanic is from Quebec and after high school decided to travel in the states. He ended up meeting some girls from Arkansas, attending some college sporting events which he loved and his friends convinced him to apply to college. He did, and his parents didn’t know until his acceptance letter arrived. He attended University of Arkansas on full scholarship and studied engineering. We had an interesting chat about college kids in the US. In Canada they can drink at 18 – years ago it was 17. So for him it was no big deal. He noted the enormous amount of binge drinking and in his case he was in the Bible Belt and it was very hidden – and common there. He couldn’t understand what the big deal was about drinking because after all he had been having a few drinks with his parents since he was 17. Coming from Canada, where they have good beer, he couldn't understand what the fuss was about with watered down American beer. He also thought it was strange that these kids somehow had shotguns in their dorm rooms and yet they couldn’t have beer? Obviously the two don’t mix and that wasn’t his point. His point was that the rules on having guns seemed more lenient than alcohol and for a Canadian – that’s odd. Guns aren’t real popular here. Incidentally most movies we’ve noticed are Rated G (even if they may be PG-13 in the states) unless they have anything to do with guns and violence. Something like Wedding Crashers would be G even though there was a gun scene because it was based on comedy, not an act of violence.

Another “slow down” moment. Last weekend I had to travel to Tucson to meet my brothers and go through our Dad’s belongings. My flight went through Atlanta and I was looking forward to a four-hour peaceful, nighttime flight from Atlanta to Tucson. I really wanted to finish my book and mind my own business. But, I had the opportunity to sit next to Li Lin, a 20-something year old college grad from China. He was in the states working for Caterpillar and traveling with the executives for two weeks – Tucson and Los Angeles being the last stops. He was very excited to sit for the four hours and practice his English. I was patient, because after all, we are living with another language and I know how necessary it is to practice. He asked great questions about the US – how my family has been affected by the financial crisis, how much we spend on a car, the wage of a writer, if I like Chinese food, what books I read, etc. I’m telling you – we covered a lot of ground. He wanted to read the first few pages of my book (Twilight – dumb book in my opinion) wanting to know more about the author (she’s lucky I told him). I learned a lot about China from this young executive. I learned that only wealthy people in China have cars because they are so expensive and that he is amazed that most families in the US have two or more cars. I learned that he had to read most of the same literature books I had read in school, if not more. The Chinese really love American TV and at the same time the government is afraid the kids are losing their native culture because of the American influences. Let’s just say it was a four-hour conversation and it was a real test of the new Slow Down mantra, but it was worth it. What I did find funny was he was telling me that he wanted to shop in the US and bring American things home but “they are all made in China.”

I have since received an email from Li Lin and he wanted to know if we had a blog! He loved Tucson and the open spaces – something he is not used to in China.

The message for us has been to slow down. People here like to chat and learn about others. Whether it’s the cable installation guy who drove and got our pizza for lunch and ate with us, or the refrigerator repairman who was at the house for over two hours talking about government, hockey, you name it. The fridge was under warranty and we were not paying for the time by the way. When the electrician comes to fix some wiring and is paid by the hour, I'm not saying a word. 

While it’s sometimes frustrating that things take a long time – like three weeks for the chimney sweep service to arrive – we’re thinking it’s because they don’t rush. It’s very 9-5 (or 10-4 at the bank) and sometimes that’s not too bad. Unless you are in a hurry. 

December 10, 2008

Political trail

It’s official. The states we live in are linked to corrupt politicians. While in Louisiana we endured David Duke and Edwin Edwards, and obviously the legacy of Huey Long. Now, the news in Illinois has made the front pages of the Montreal newspapers. We were only in Kansas for two years and we were sleep deprived -- we don't recall if there was anything interesting going on there.

We’re still learning about Canadian politics. Trust us, some of the parliament meetings in Ottawa may be confused for a
Saturday Night Live skit or the Bears and the Vikings sharing a locker room. Lots of drama and they really do yell  -- like Mike Ditka could yell on the sidelines. What’s different in Canada is that there are dozens of registered parties – although the Liberal and Conservative groups seem to steal a lot of the spotlight. Elections can be called whenever they seem to want a change of voting power and the government can just be shut down if the Prime Minister wants. For a sampling of the different parties, visit http://www.synapse.net/radio/can-pol.htm

As with everything in Canada, Quebec is different -- including politics.  There’s a group called Parti Quebecois and they ended up with 51 seats of the 125-seat legislature on Monday – the second election in Canada since October when we arrived. It was an impressive election for PQ and the party seems to be gathering steam again. The PQ platform is that they want to push forward with their sovereignty project – basically they want to separate from the rest of Canada in order to preserve their French language and become a country of their own, free from the English speaking federal government and the rest of Canada. They oppose the current government and want to attain independent statehood. Where we live, a part of Montreal called the “West Island,” English is very prominent, although everything by law has to be in English and French. If the PQ get their way, everything would be run in French. Thanks to Rosetta Stone and a long commute, Paul is picking up the language, Danielle is learning in school and Kish is signed up for a class in January. Louis gets annoyed, although he is picking up words here and there and knows more than he lets on. However, we’re finding out that Quebec French is still different from France French. As long as we can communicate with the cable guy, refrigerator repairman and the bakery, we’ll be fine.

And yet another political issue, as mentioned in a previous entry, snow tires are mandatory in Quebec after December 15. We received a significant amount of snow and ice yesterday and driving was hazardous and the plows were few and far between. We’ve decided the snow tire law buys the government more time before they send out the trucks – even on the interstate. We’re assuming it has nothing to do with corrupt politicians.


December 1, 2008

Canada Coincidences

It’s ironic that we live in Canada because we have always had positive vibes about this country and the people. While we’ve had a few logistical challenges since moving here, most of the people we have met have been more than helpful.

As a kid, Kish traveled to the northwest part of Canada and always enjoyed it for the scenery and the “pretty money.” We honeymooned in Calgary/Lake Louise starting New Year’s Eve/Day in January 1991. A few years later we took a memorable trip to Alaska via Vancouver. A year or so after moving to Kansas City in 1996, we met a wonderful family from Montreal – the Lobo/Maheu family. In essence, we’ve switched places. They are the Canadians in the US and we are now the Americans in Canada. We spent a lot of time with Neile and Suzanne talking about politics, culture and school. Neile and Suzanne have a beautiful daughter Caroline – who was in kindergarten when we met her and is now in high school – with special needs. This was the first time as parents we were around a child with special needs and we watched with admiration everything that Neile and Suzanne did on a daily basis to advocate and plan for their daughter. Little did we know that we would find ourselves in similar shoes a year later.

Then we get to Naperville and have Canadian neighbors, The Moore’s, who have since moved back to Canada. A few years later we met Tim and Brooke Karbonik -- Tim is from Canada and spent several years of his childhood in Montreal. And as it turns out, a childhood friend of Tim’s has a niece who attends Danielle’s school in the same grade. What a small world as there are only 40 girls in the 9th grade. Coincidence?

So here we are in Montreal. Our kids have common French names and we continue to scratch our heads at the coincidences we think of from time to time. Oh -- and of course – we can’t forget the fact that Duke is a Canadian Field Labrador.

Another strange occurance – on Thanksgiving Day I wanted to make an apple and the best pie ever is one Suzanne shared with me while in Kansas City. I had to email her on Thanksgiving because I could not find one of the several copies I have gathered throughout the years. Later Thanksgiving night, long after we enjoyed the pie, I was unpacking a box, and the original handwritten copy from Suzanne fell out of a non-cookbook book. Coincidence? (I’m thrilled to have the recipe in Suzanne’s handwriting – with computers and Google searches I feel like we don’t have handwritten recipes any more).

We always find it a coincidence that this symbolic American pie comes from our Canadian friend. We made it for Thanksgiving and Suzanne gave us the permission to share this recipe. Really, it’s amazing and worth a try….

Suzanne’s “All-American” Apple Pie
7 apples (tart apples work best)
3 tbs sugar
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs cornstarch, sifted
1 tbs lemon rind
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs butter
1 beaten egg

Peel and core the apples. Slice them but leave them chunky. Add the sugars, cinnamon, sifted cornstarch, lemon rind and lemon juice. Mix and put in a crust. Dot the butter on the top of the apples and add the second pastry. Brush egg on top and make slices so the steam can vent. Cook at 400 for 40-45 minutes. Check often after 30 minutes.

Bon appetite!

P.S. We think the pie is even better the next day, if it lasts that long.


November 27, 2008

Joyeaux jour d'Action de Grace!



Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US! Or Joyeaux jour d'Action de Grace! (there are some accents missing). Hard to believe, but it’s business as usual in Canada as it’s not a holiday here. The Pisani family will make it a holiday! Danielle is staying home from school as she posed a good argument about how the kids from different countries in her school take off special holidays. As of now, Louis amazingly is still asleep and will stay home from school as well. However, the TV is not allowed to come on until later this afternoon! Who wants to watch the Detroit Lions anyway? We’ll hold out for next game. Duke will spend the day in front of the oven and Paul and Kish will unload another box or two.

On this day of thanks we know how much we have to be thankful for. While it’s been a wild ride this year, in the big scheme of what is going on in the world, we are truly giving thanks.

So Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US. And to the Flynn family in Elmhust hosting the Turkey Trot after party (and we do mean party- nothing like people in bathrobes starting Thanksgiving festivities early) – know that the Pisani’s are with you in spirit and we will have a Molson in your honour after a stroll around the neighborhood. And for our old neighbors in Harmony Grove, sorry you won’t be entertained with Paul’s turkey frying show in the driveway. Kish suggested Paul not try that this holiday season – first there’s no telling where are supplies are and second, the Blackhawks flag out front still has people turning their heads.

Have a great day!

November 26, 2008

Detained

In 10 years of school, Danielle has never been sent to the principal's office or received a detention -- until now. You'll never believe what she had to do to get this punishment -- forget her dress shoes. Yup! She wore her snow boots to school and realized when she got there she didn't have her school shoes. So instead of trying to cover it up, she asked an administrator if it would be okay if she borrowed a classmate's extra shoes (which she had arranged already). And the administrator said she could borrow them, but she will still get detention because they are not her shoes. Has she not learned from her parents? We would have borrowed the shoes and not said a word. 

So are we mad? No. First, she did a much better job at the situation then her parents would have at that age. And, she knew to take the consequences herself, instead of calling Kish to drive into the city in rush hour to deliver the shoes, just to avoid detention. 

A bit harsh? Perhaps. But it's not likely Danielle will forget her shoes again and it really is a life lesson. Plus it's just detention and we're assuming nothing like The Breakfast Club.

November 25, 2008

More legit each day....



For our fellow Warriors, you can see we are spreading the Marquette spirit throughout Quebec. 

So long Illinois plates and hello to an official Quebec car. Getting a registration and license plate was no easy task. Just getting the car here was a trip. Then in order to get the license, it had to have a major inspection. This inspection included making sure any recalls have been met, that the car is paid off and any necessary repairs are made in order for it to be safe and insurable. It's the law in Quebec that headlights have to be on all the time. So, that had to be retrofitted since US cars don't always have this feature. Fortunately, or unfortunately, most US cars come with the metric system feature so speed confusion should not be an issue. Kish is aware that the road signs that say 100 speed limit do mean KPH not MPH. Darn. While it took a lot of time to complete everything, we do understand the importance of it all, really we do.

Next step is snow tires. Yes, after December 15 they are mandatory here and not following the rule comes with a hefty fine. We hear it's a good thing, but our theory is that someone in the government must have a good share of Canadian Tire.

And speaking of snow, we're having the first measurable snow fall today -- 4-5 cm.



November 24, 2008

Calgary wins





Calgary defeated Montreal, 24-14 in a loud and exciting Grey Cup on Sunday at Olympic Stadium. Paul and Danielle saw things they don't typically see at a game in the US. 

November 23, 2008





Paul and Danielle are at the Grey Cup this Sunday night. The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League's Super Bowl. Believe it or not, it's older than the Super Bowl. Many of the players are from US schools. It's strange watching the game (on the Canadian version of ESPN) as everything is in French and English -- including the introductions. For sports fans, there's more information at www.cflgreycup.ca.

What's new for the Pisani family is hearing the Canadian National Anthem at sporting events. We love Wikipedia -- here's some information about the Anthem --

Oh Canada is the national anthem of Canada. The song was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the 1880 St. Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was a setting of a patriotic poem composed by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The text was originally only in French.

An English translation of the lyric did not appear until 1906, and it was two more years before Robert Stanley Weir penned an English version, which is not a translation of the French. Weir's words have been revised twice, taking their present form in 1980, but the French lyrics remain unaltered. "O Canada" was not officially Canada's national anthem until 1980, when it was signed into law on July 1 as part of that year's Canada Day celebrations.

English
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

French
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

We'll post photos from the game tomorrow!

November 22, 2008

Things we've learned in Canada so far

We decided to write about a few things we've learned in Canada so far...

1. The Montreal Gazette is a fantastic newspaper. Can you find an article in the Chicago Tribune detailing 50 ways to make rabbit? It really is a good paper.

2. A big bathroom really isn’t necessary. Kish and Paul are doing fine with one sink. The kids too. We don’t spend that much time in the bathroom, hopefully.

3. Same goes with closet space. Our new home was built in the ‘70s. Enough said.

4. Molson Dry is 8.5%.

5. Going into the bank is a good thing. No drive thru here. Tellers know your name. Especially if you are there to report fraud on your debit card. "Happens all the time." Fortunately, funds are replaced in a couple of days.

6. Patience is a virtue. Everything takes longer. It’s not always a bad thing.

7. Quebec is way different from the rest of Canada.

8. Invisible Fence works great for a Labrador unless there’s a squirrel on the other side of the “border” taunting him.

9. Kids need an hour for lunch. Louis has a full hour for lunch and recess – in addition to another recess in the morning. Kids need to run around and have a break. Adults do too.

10. Uniforms are a good thing. All schools should have them. It eliminates all the drama-for girls anyway.

11. Socialized medicine is not a bad thing. While we have not had a catastrophic experience, fortunately, just the savings in medicine is making an impact on our monthly expenses.

12. Canadians like French wine.

13. It’s not uncommon to have wine with lunch.

14. Kids in Canada take public transportation without hesitation – even if the school is 15 minutes away.

15. Did we mention the wine?

16. Daycare in Quebec is on average $7 a day – the government supplements the rest.

17. Canadians are just as passionate about politics. They can call elections whenever they want. And kids have another day off school too because they are poling places. We will experience two elections in two months.

18. Fast food is not as readily available.

19. There's something special in the coffee. Not sure what it is..but it's addicting and stimulating. 

20. All of that said, there is still a reason why people want to live in the US.

November 19, 2008

The Amazing Fieldtrip


Kish has gone on a few field trips, but this first one in Montreal was amazing. Louis' class has been studying the environment and followed the classroom studies with the trip to the Biosphere -- an environmental museum in Montreal. When you have a chance, check out the website -- www.biosphere.ec.gc.ca

We learned so much about the Fieuve Saint-Laurent (the river running through Montreal) and its connection with the Great Lakes. We learned that you could take a boat from Chicago to Montreal and even out to the Atlantic if you wanted. Don't laugh if you're from around the Great Lakes and already knew this valuable piece of information. Kish grew up in Arizona and can tell you all about the Battle of O.K. Corral, rattlesnakes, desert topography and how to survive in the desert for days without water and getting liquid from cactus. But, studying the Great Lakes wasn't a big part of the curriculum. 

A large part of the day was spent talking about the abuse of the environment. As mentioned in previous posts, Canada seems to be much more environmentally aware than the majority of the US. Kish's brother Paul in Bend, Oregon has been on top of it for years and builds houses using recycled materials and is really up on the subject of re-using old stuff. We thought of him when we looked at some of the items local people are making from recycled products -- they were so cool they are posted in a slide show below. There's a big Green Christmas campaign and lots of great information about having an friendly Christmas on the website as well. We also learned how much water it takes to make a pair of jeans, a quarter pounder hamburger and more.

It was great to spend the day with 5th graders and Louis' new teachers. The kids in Montreal are the same as Naperville. We were fortunate to hear the entire loud version of "99 bottles of beer on the wall" on the bus ride home. That's 99 bottles of recyclable bottles of beer in Montreal -- they come with a 5-cent deposit so there's no throwing them away in the garbage -- to end up in a landfill.


November 18, 2008

Canada or Canadian?


Special thanks to my sister-in-law Stephanie for sharing this important information from her father, Steve Pero. It's not the CANADIAN Goose as we have been calling them as they flew by the hundreds over Naperville house at 5 am each November leaving presents in the back yard. It's CANADA Goose. Here's the information from Wikipedia --

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a goose belonging to the genus Branta native to North America. It is sometimes called Canadian Goose, although that is not considered to be strictly correct according to the American Ornithological Union and the Audubon Society.[2][3] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation for Canada Goose dates back to 1772.

Just some helpful trivia. Thanks Steve! If you really enjoy Canada geese, there's a website all about them -- lovecanadageese.com

By the way, besides being excellent at trivia, Steve is a pediatric dentist and a glass blower. He makes the most beautiful glass ornaments, glass hearts and other unique pieces you may see in our home someday.

November 17, 2008

No, Danielle doesn't go to Hogwarts

While the uniform might resemble something from a Harry Potter book, Danielle goes to an all girls school named Miss Edgar's and Miss Cramps. And even better -- the mascot is a Beaver. (This is not a joke). We've had a few requests for photos of Danielle in her uniform -- here you go. The lighting is all off, it was very early in the morning. And she learned how to tie a tie on the bus this morning.

Each Monday the girls have to dress in full uniform with the blazer, tie, etc., which we learned the hard way when we arrived her her first day on a Monday in October. Fortunately, there's a uniform store and they let her borrow some items. The other days they wear a white shirt and the kilt. There are other uniform rules like no make up, only natural colored hair, no more than two holes per ear and no colored nail polish. While it sounds militant, it makes preparing for school a lot easier and eliminates a lot of the drama (and we have not had one complaint about the uniform). It's a bit different from her school in Naperville. First off, this school is K-11 and has 450 girls total. Her 9th grade class is 40 girls (compared to 1,200 at Neuqua Valley High School). And some of her classes are in French. We have no idea how she's making it happen, but she is determined and is figuring it out. She gets to have classes in art history and media and has already made a fantastic Public Service Announcement about autism awareness using her computer. When we figure out how to upload it to the blog we will. All high school girls have to go to school with a MacBook and there is little work done on paper, most is all on the computer. It's quite facinating what they are learning. Danielle continues to play the flute and stays after school two days a week for an orchestra group. Each year the group takes a trip in April. Last year they went to Mexico City. This year you'll never believe where they are going -- CHICAGO! As it turns out they alternate an international destination with something drivable and this year it's, well Chicago. Actually she's looking forward to seeing the city through the eyes of her Canadian classmates. Plus we never took her to the Sears tower and she can finally do that.

In Quebec, high school goes until 11th grade. We're not sure what we'll do if we leave the country before or after that time. After 11th grade the kids go to what is called CEGEP, which is sort of like community college and they get a lot of the basics covered. Then, if they want to continue with higher education they go to "University" -- like McGill, University of British Columbia or several others.  The good news is, that if they choose to go to University, it's about $3,000 per year -- and that's for an excellent education. McGill is on par with Ivy league schools in the states. So, as you can see, taxes are high in Canada, but there are a lot of other things, like college, that are very much supplemented by tax dollars. Anyone with kids in college right now might appreciate a 3K/year tuition bill.

So that's Danielle's school update. It's very different but our thought was, when in Canada, do as the Canadians do. She's the only American girl in her class and is learning a lot about Canada (and the US) from her classmates. 

November 16, 2008

In sports news....

In case you missed it -- the Montreal Alouettes defeated the Edmonton Eskimos yesterday to make it to the Grey Cup. That's the Canadian Football League's version of the Super Bowl. It will take place next Sunday at Olympic Stadium -- and yes, Paul is going.  www.montrealalouettes.com.

Today we'll be watching the Bear/Packers. Once again, we're able to get the Bears game here!

November 14, 2008

Things not seen in the US #1

We're starting something new -- from time to time we'll put items on our blog with things we find in Canada --  not typically seen in the US. Here's our first....

The gas station. Don't be jealous. This price is per litre. That's not a lot of gas. Thankfully, prices are better - when we visited in August the price was around 1,30$. (no typos -- that's how money is written.) It takes some getting used to, much like the metric system. Weren't we told as kids the US would be changing over to metric? That said, it's a beautiful 14 degrees here -- that's C.

November 13, 2008

Kish is re-Schmitzed

If you didn’t know me pre-marriage, my maiden name is Schmitz. It’s a cool last name and all – unless your first name is Kish and you have aspirations of being a television reporter as I did when I was in college. My parents obviously weren’t thinking of that in 1965. Kish Schmitz is a tongue-twisting combination. Add a Molson or two to the scene and well....my name is even more difficult to comprehend. My parents certainly weren't thinking of that.

So almost 18 years ago when we got married, my bags were barely unpacked from our honeymoon and I was off to change my last name to Pisani. Well, Schmitz is BACK.

In Quebec, a woman keeps her maiden name as a legal name. When we closed on our home two weeks ago – I was back to signing everything Schmitz. It was strange after so many years. Although, Schmitz is easier to sign or say when combined with Ana – my real first name. Yes, I know, it’s confusing. And now that we’re meeting new people, I’m back to explaining the origin of “Kish” on a daily basis.

Yesterday I went to submit the paperwork for my Medicare card for health insurance in Canada. I’ll have yet another new legal document with Schmitz. Next week I’m off to tackle the driver’s license. Our marriage license has become just as important as a passport or visa these days.

I used to think that Quebec women were simply progressive with the name change dilemma. Now, I’m realizing that in this province, it’s simply easier not to change names.


November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day in Canada




It's Remembrance Day in Canada -- Veteran's Day in the US. The poppy campaign has been going on for a couple of weeks here. Poppies are everywhere. The recognition starts well before the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. 

Why do we wear poppies on Remembrance Day?
The poppy worn on Remembrance Day is the red-corn poppy, which grows abundantly in Europe, including Flanders Fields.
'In Flanders Fields' is a poem, written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on May 3, 1915, and was written about the small red flowers growing on the battlefields of France amongst the death and blood from the men who died fighting for their country.

This is because the corn poppy was one of the only plants that grew on the battlefield. It thrives in disturbed soil, which was abundant on the battlefield due to intensive shelling. During the few weeks the plant blossomed, the battlefield was coloured blood red, not just from the red flower that grew in great numbers but also from the actual blood of the dead soldiers that lay scattered and untended to on the otherwise barren battlegrounds.
Source: en.wikipedia.org

The poem and the poppy, have now become iconic symbols of both the World Wars, and now plastic versions are sold prior to Remembrance Day to remember those who died.

The poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae

Thanks to our friends and family members who have served in the military.

November 10, 2008

A few of our favorite things...

We've officially been in Montreal for over a month....we're enjoying our time here, but have to admit there are a few things from the states we used to take for granted. At the risk of sounding like Ugly Americans.....
  • Ice – who has a fridge without an ice maker? We do -- the previous owners were European and they’re not big on ice. No one is around here really. Do they sell ice trays anymore?
  • Mexican food – have not found any yet, not even Taco Hell.
  • Giordano’s – we admit, we’re pizza snobs.
  • Right turn on red – it’s illegal on the island of Montreal. U-turns are tough too.
  • ESPN/Sportscenter – we get the Canadian version. We do get WGN though!
  • 6.75-7.5% sales tax – sales tax is high in Montreal – around 13%.
  • Putting cans and bottles in recycling – we have to think twice because we’ve paid a deposit and they have to be returned. It’s a good thing, right?
  • Banking hours – it’s only Monday-Friday 10-4 in Montreal and no such thing as a drive through ATM.
  • A full school week – the kids have yet to have a full week of school! There are a lot of holidays and teacher work days in Canada.
  • Trader Joe’s – no explanation necessary.
  • English - now we sound like Ugly Americans. We're learning French though. That said, most everything is in French and fortunately, most everyone speaks English and is bi-lingual. We're the ones with the obstacle.
And Danielle's vote for what she misses...a cell phone. Believe it or not, although we own a home, pay taxes, etc. in Canada, we have not established any Canadian credit and have not been able to get a cell phone for Danielle. Our new Canadian credit card arrived last week and she can finally get a phone. So, since she has the DAY OFF school today, we're off to get her phone. Actually, with a long commute to school and other activities it is more of a necessity around here.

November 8, 2008

It's Hockey night in Canada

We may be upsetting the neighbors, but the Blackhawks flag is up regardless. We'll let you know if we get egged or maple syruped. However, Canadians are peaceful people..except when it comes to hockey. Check out the Molson video to the left from YouTube.

November 5, 2008

We're here....


Our house arrived on Monday. The irony it was harder to get a car and dog across the border. We're up to our ears in boxes and it will take some time to get situated, but it's good to have a consistent address and phone. (Change of address cards will be going out this week). 

In other news...we're glad the election is over. It has been extremely interesting to watch/hear everything from this side of the border. Canadians are just as interested in the US election. The Cable Guy was here all day getting us set up just in time for the coverage...and hockey updates of course. 

November 1, 2008

It's in the game

We don't have beds or furniture and we're living in a hotel for the weekend...but we have sports. Louis started basketball today and it was good to see him smile and back in the game. Before Paul realized it, he was the coach because "he looked like a coach." (He was wearing an LSU shirt so that must qualify him). We're not even certain if all the kids spoke English, but they understood each other regardless. The team is called "The Maverick's" which made Kish cringe -- since the word has taken on a whole new meaning this political season. Sports kids are the same regardless of where they live. It was as if he was playing in Naperville again -- these kids could play!

Danielle has been in water polo for the last couple of weeks, before we even owned a home in Canada. It's a big commitment with practice four days a week and tournaments on some weekends. Like hockey, pool time is at a premium and she's in the pool some nights until 10 pm. Water polo is much more popular in Canada and she's getting a different type of training. Because it's such a big commitment, she's taking a break from competitive swimming and will instead start on her school team next week. High School swimming is not as intense as it is in Naperville anyway. 

It's Hockey Night in Canada and we can watch just about any game in French or English. There's still College Football though.

October 31, 2008

Moving day....not!

Canadians are actually very prompt people, when it's not a holiday, weekend or lunch hour. That said, our delay in moving is due to a scheduling conflict with the US movers and our household items remain someplace in New York. While we would like to get things unloaded on Sunday, we can't because customs is closed. Yes, you have to go through customs with a semi-full of everything you own and basically swear you didn't just buy a plasma TV, appliance, etc. the day before you moved -- because of course they want to collect the taxes those items if you do some shopping.

So today (Friday) we need to move out of our rental home and into a hotel and wait for our truck on Monday. (Duke will be going to a "dog camp" in the country for the weekend since we couldn't find a hotel to take an 85 pound lab). Hopefully the TV will be unloaded and hooked up before Tuesday night so we can watch the election returns from north of the border. It should be interesting. Canadians are just as tired of the coverage as the US at this point. 

The weather here seems to be cooperating for Halloween after a blast of cold air this week, which made us realize winter is on the way. The sudden change prompted a trip to Wal-mart for some hats and mits (as they call mittens) since Kish thought the moving truck would have already arrived.  The kids will trick or treat at our new, freshly painted, empty home tonight. 

October 27, 2008

Got Skype?


Do you Skype? We had a Skype session this evening with Uncle Dan and Uncle Jim. You'll notice Uncle Jim wore a coat and tie for the call and Paul is wearing Canadian plaid. Skype is really cool and thanks Dan for introducing us to this handy means of international(and domestic) communication.  The link is on the left. Danielle was on her computer at school today and didn't know she was logged on and got a Skype call in the middle of French class from Uncle Dan. Oops!

October 26, 2008

Au revoir Naperville



Our house in Naperville is officially empty. Kish was there the last four days for the packing and loading process....it was a walk down memory lane. Paul held down the fort in Montreal getting the new house ready. 

Our family spent nine years and 11 months on Freeland Circle. It's the home where Danielle lost her first tooth and Louis took his first steps. We made great friends in Naperville. Thanks to everyone who helped out in the move offering a bed to sleep in, a meal or a cocktail. Our neighbor Scott turned out to be the handyman for the weekend and while we have been away. And our other neighbor Ellen, who moved with her family 11 times, knew to come over with her gloves on and started cleaning, knowing Kish shouldn't be by herself for the last few hours in the house. She offered great advise on moving with a teenager and knew enough to suggest at the last minute to get the basketball hoop in the truck knowing it will be great for Louis to have his hoop from Naperville as one of the first things to be placed at the new house. Just before leaving the house for the last time, Paul received a call from Kish which he appropriately called a "Kumbaya moment." 

The Sox Flag was the last thing on the truck and will be the first thing off -- the flag pole is ready in Beaconsfield/Montreal. It's not baseball season (for a Sox fan), but until we can find the Blackhawks and Bears flags, this will do.


October 22, 2008

Canadian and American politics



It's political season.  We're all trying to understand how Canada works, and the differences south of the border. We can still vote in the US and will sending in absentee ballots. Thanks to Wikipedia -- here's a brief explanation of how Canada works. This is good information for kids learning about governments. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_and_American_politics_compared
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