December 27, 2010

the Daily Duke 12.27

Duke gets ready for a ski day.

Ready for football...and skiing

We're enjoying some time in the Eastern Townships of Quebec skiing and hanging out. Louis was dressed appropriately for skiing and of couse tonight's Saints game.

December 25, 2010

December 23, 2010

Random photo 12.23

Danielle has been playing with mom's camera. While cleaning out the memory card I discovered this...another random photo. It explains what the weather is like around here...snow, defrost, snow again. is out for 2010

December 23rd seems late for getting out of school...but then again, the kids don't go back until January 10. I love that school is finished for more racing to the train at 6:40 am, no more packing lunches, no more homework, no more notes, no more "hurry up!" (ask us on January 4th if we're still thinking this way.)

I really love Danielle's spirit. On the last day of the semester her school has Winter Games...a sort of competition between the three houses...Edgar, Cramp and something else which I can't remember. Girls got together to paint these overalls to show their house spirit. Thankfully, as mentioned several times before, Danielle is one of the house officials of Edgar with a house color of green. The girls in "Cramp" have a house color of red. What the? Seriously? Who would assign the House of Cramp the color RED. We got lucky there. Otherwise, Danielle could be walking down the streets of Montreal with the word Cramp painted in red going down her ass. YIKES. (This is probably a good time to remind you that the school mascot is a Beaver).

As we all know, this is the time of year to bring teachers gifts. We don't do it so much for Danielle's school any longer. We still do for Louis' teachers though....for many, many reasons. Call it hazard pay. However, Danielle mentioned that on her last day it was not uncommon for the girls to bring in wine for teachers and head of school! Can you imagine this happening in our old town of Naperville? Things are mighty different here in Montreal. Not that there's anything wrong with it!

December 14, 2010

the Daily Duke 12.14

I was trying to capture a cool photo of the sunset in the background with the light of the snow and all...but the dog was in the way. He spends most of his winter days perched on this sofa thinking he's a cat. The squirrels, who torment him eight months a year, are being tormented by him as he's thinking, "suckers, I'm warm, I have a sofa and I have all the food I need for the winter."

December 12, 2010

Les Football

We're with you in spirit, Chicago. Weather and all. We have the delightful opportunity to watch today's Patriots/Bears game in English and French.

December 11, 2010

the Daily Duke 12.11

If you could hear what I hear....these two are sawing some logs! You'll notice the perfectly fine dog bed next to the sofa. Why bother?

December 10, 2010

Truly a holiday concert

Danielle's school had a holiday concert last night. Just a holiday concert...not a Christmas concert, Hanukkah concert, Kwanzaa concert or a La Posada concert. Traditional holiday songs were celebrated at this holiday concert and it was beautiful.

It's strange to hear the controversy in the US with people getting upset when the word Christmas is eliminated from celebrations, parades and cards and replaced with the word Holidays  instead. Here in Canada, we don't see it as much of an issue. In fact, we celebrate the fact that our kids are being exposed to so many traditions and no one seems to freak out if Jesus isn't mentioned...the same way they don't freak out if He is mentioned. The whole argument is diluted anyway with Santa and the commercialization of Christmas, I mean the holidays.

The school rented part of St. Joseph's oratory which is a beautiful building. So, this concert was held in a Catholic building when a large percentage of her school is Jewish. I didn't hear about any complaints. It was so nice to hear songs about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or Christmas in Mexico. They sang about Jesus and they sang about Santa...oh and winter too. It was a great way to get into the spirit of the season. The concert was for the entire school which means kindergarten through grade 11. No one complained about the religious undertones and I truly enjoyed the Hanukkah songs. But my absolute favorite had to be Feliz Navidad.

While Danielle's music department may not be what it was in her old school district, I have to say, it was so impressive. Well done.

December 9, 2010

At times it's frustrating

We've written about how much we do like living here in Montreal. Like any place, there are issues we wish we did not have. Take for example, taxes. You'll never hear us complain about US taxes ever again. Trust us...even without the recent tax cuts in the doesn't compare.

The one thing that does frustrate us on a daily basis is the language issue. We're open to learning French, we really are. Paul carries a dictionary with him in the car and looks up words when passing by a billboard, hopefully not while driving. He listens to French TV and then leaves the closed caption on so the next person grabbing the remote has to remember the menu features. He and Louis even watch The Simpsons (Les Simpsons) in French. Danielle is doing an excellent job with her French, earning the highest mark on a recent exam in her class (she's in the lowest level of French, but nonetheless, it's a class with girls who are from Quebec and have been around French their entire lives, not just the last two years.) Kish...she's still on Bordeaux. And Pinot Noir.

However, each and every day there is some article in the paper or issue on the news about someone who is pissed annoyed about lack of French here or there. Someone actually complained that our social service group, The American Women's Club of Montreal did not have French on the website. I dare someone to complain about this blog...I would say...just cut and paste and throw it in Google Translate and I really don't care if it's grammatically correct in French. The Quebecois French sucks is not the same as France French and some would say it's like trashy French with a bunch of made-up words.

The irony is that the more the language issue is pushed and pushed in such a dictatorial way, the more it's a turn off of sorts. Sadly, most of the hard-core Quebecois people really don't get the importance of English in today's global society. It's as if they just want to keep people here in Quebec. Some would argue that's exactly what they are doing.

The following article in today's paper is just one of many. It took six months to get our Hydro (electric) and cable bill in English...I hope we don't go back to that.

There are times we want to scream "We're not in Europe, this is freaking CANADA!" Hmmm...better look that up in Google Translate.

Safety board limits English information

Orders from language watchdog. Employers

contacting CSST must do so in French, but policy 

exempts individuals

The provincial workplace health and safety board no longer offers information in English to the province's employers, the result of recommendations by the Office quebecois de la langue francaise.
The Commission de la sante et de la securite du travail du Quebec, known as the CSST, deleted its "Press 9 for English" option on its automated telephone answering service April 26 after the OQLF -known by some as Quebec's French language enforcers -urged it and 165 other public agencies to comply more strictly with Quebec's language law.

Callers can still obtain information and converse in English about employee rights, but Quebec employers must communicate only in French with the CSST.

Asked yesterday by an English-speaking caller if anyone could answer a question in English about employers' obligations, a CSST attendant replied, in English: "Are you from Quebec?"

Told the caller was from Montreal, the person switched to French and said: "I am required by the French Language Charter to conduct all communications with you in French, unless you are from outside Quebec."

The CSST "was being a good corporate citizen, just respecting the law," board spokesperson Pierre Turgeon said.

Many of the CSST's 4,000 employees speak English, but only to members of the public who identify themselves as workers, not bosses, he added.

The CSST is finally applying a 2002 government policy, OQLF spokesperson Martin Bergeron said. Communication between public agencies and the public -not necessarily employers -is being reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with a goal of making French the default language on phone answering systems and websites, he noted.
The OQLF reviewed 166 government agencies last winter and found 80 per cent of them had increased French and reduced English in their phone answering systems and websites. That's up from 50 per cent two years ago, Bergeron said. The agencies reviewed include Hydro-Quebec, the Quebec health insurance board and the automobile insurance board, which all still have extensive English sections on their websites.

Bergeron would not say if changes are coming, for instance, to Hydro's English billing service or the availability of English forms from government agencies. "Those agencies have no obligation to serve people in English," he said.


the Daily Duke 12.9

This is what Duke is feeling about American politics right now. I agree. It's exhausting.

December 7, 2010

Random photo 12.7

I love this photo of Danielle taken today in the snow. It captures her spirit, more specifically her "I had a snow day today and my brother did not" spirit. It actually worked out nice today since she was able to accompany mom to an American Women's Club of Montreal event where she is a junior member. It was a lovely event where we collected a bunch of toys for an organizations, had a fun ornament exchange and a cookie exchange. Mom is getting a bit of a buzz off the rum balls this evening.

the Daily Duke 12.7

We finally had a nice dump...of snow that is...not to be confused with Wikileaks or anything. Duke is one happy dog, although, speaking of leaks, it's been, shall we say, entertaining in the deep snow.

December 5, 2010

the Daily Duke 12.5

Duke is not being helpful when it comes to these Christmas decorations.

December 4, 2010

Random photo 12.4

While our friends and family "down south" are enjoying nice December snow, we're not. It just started snowing and I must say, the saddest, smallest flakes ever. Bring it on (we like snow).

The American representing Quebec wins in America

Danielle spent American Thanksgiving weekend in New York representing Quebec in the 52nd Annual New York Thanksgiving 7s Rugby Tournament. They played on a cloudless day on Randall's Island in the Hudson River. They were one of 131 teams entered in 10 categories and her U19 team WON.

    December 2, 2010

    Do you think this country likes hockey?

    Turns out Sidney Crosby is more of a newsmaker than Justin Bieber (thank God) in Canada. Just in case we need a reminder of how much this country digs hockey, Crosby was just named newsmaker of the year by MACLEANS magazine...this is the equivalent of TIME Magazine's Person of the Year, or whatever. I guess shooting the winning goal at the Olympics will do that for you. 

    December 1, 2010

    Random photo 12.1

    This was the view from our kitchen window a couple of days ago when it snowed. That snow has now been replaced by millimetres and millimetres of never-ending cold rain. We prefer snow, merci very much.

    November 30, 2010

    American Thanksgiving with Canadians, the NFL and CFL

    We celebrated American Thanksgiving a few days late by inviting our Canadian friends the Murphy's over to watch the Bears play the Eagles in American football followed by dinner and then the Grey Cup, which is the Canadian football version of the Superbowl. It was a great day with the Bears winning, Packers and Vikings losing and the Montreal Alouettes winning the Grey Cup. 

    We had an entertaining time with our friends who always make us laugh. It was a great way to wrap up American Thanksgiving weekend. Now to get ready for Christmas. Not.

    We have to remind our friend Dean that this is not Quebec Chainsaw Massacre

    Duke assumes his usual position in the kitchen

    Table setting by Kish and Louis, photo by Danielle

    We introduced our Canadian friends to the Pisani way of choosing American wine....we select by the label. This wine also reminds us of our sister-in-law Margie who always served it for holidays...

    Two boys hungry for turkey after playing hockey in the basement

    Watching the Grey Cup after of those gatherings where it was okay to unbutton pants and get comfortable

    the Daily Duke 11.29

    Dogs can get turkey hangovers too.

    November 28, 2010

    And this is a border

    There's actually a line in the sand right here...or more appropriately a line in the snow. This is a U.S. border. A small one. No real issues here, no "don't touch my junk" or pat downs. Just a small border crossing between Quebec and Vermont in a quaint town called Troy. We had a meeting at Owl's Head in the Eastern Townships, about two hours away, where Louis will start his Special Olympics skiing in a few weeks. We decided to take a quick drive across the border to check it out since we were so close and had never gone through this crossing. (We like to judge the crossings). Of course we didn't bring back Grey Goose and Patron anything. Really.

    the Daily Duke 11.28

    We had our first somewhat significant snow fall yesterday morning. On the first snowfall Duke usually runs out as usual in the morning, stops in his tracks and is all "wwwaaaaiiiitttt a minute, what the?" Actually he loves the snow. It usually means he starts leaving his impression on a different plant. The start of winter also means the beginning of oh so many gifts he will leave behind from now until the thaw in March. See, around here, once it starts snowing, it just accumulates, accumulates and accumulates. The snow and other things.

    November 26, 2010

    The American representing America

    Danielle left this morning on her way to New York City (actually they are staying in New Jersey). She's part of the Quebec Rugby team and will play in a 7's tournament on Saturday in the City. We reflected on how strange it is to have this American kid, representing Quebec, playing in America. This is her second time representing Quebec in rugby. She loves the game and is certain to have a nice time visiting NYC for the first time.

    When we woke up this morning Montreal was recovering from a bit of a freezing rain storm. Since we're not quite ready for winter and can't find our winter provisions, Louis did some improvising getting the car ready to take Danielle to meet her team.

    the Daily Duke 11.26

    Duke can't stand it when he knows someone is getting ready to leave.

    November 25, 2010


    It's an ordinary day in Canada. Just another Thursday. Danielle is at school, but Louis is home since it's a teacher work day in his district. Paul assumed we were having Thanksgiving dinner and at 7 am pulled a 23 pound bird out of the freezer, this morning. That bird is now back in the freezer and exchanged for a smaller, easy to defrost in a few hours, turkey breast that we will have tonight. Louis is more excited about the New Orleans/Cowboys match up this afternoon and Duke is happy to have most of us home.

    A few things we are thankful for today....

    • Everyone is healthy
    • Google translate
    • The ice maker Paul got for father's day
    • We live in a great city, great country
    • Teachers who are doing the best they can for a boy with an extenstive I.E.P.
    • Acceptable healthcare
    • The Bears are having a decent season
    • Our needy, but loyal dog Duke
    • Finding Special Olympics in Quebec
    • Our new friends in Canada and our old friends too
    • The firewood delivery that arrived as our last log was burning this afternoon
    • The boy who helped unload the firewood while his sister went to school on American Thanksgiving

    November 24, 2010

    Canadian sense of humor, or humour?

    CBC This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Randy Quaid Video | The News is

    We've said it before...Canadian TV is the best. If it's not making news in the US, Actor Randy Quaid is trying to seek refuge in Canada. This clip from the show This Hour has 22 Minutes is the best.

    November 23, 2010

    Sort of thinking about Thanksgiving

    We know there's lots of hoopla in the U.S. getting ready for Thanksgiving...airport security, snow storms, fresh or frozen, the typical holiday conversations. It's not a holiday (or holiday week) here in Canada. Our Thanksgiving was in October. Danielle has school on Thursday and Louis happens to have a teacher's ped day that day so he will be home. Everything is open and it's business as usual. It will be our third American Thanksgiving in Canada. How time flies.

    Tonight we went into the city to a bookstore near McGill University to hear the hilarious author David Sedaris do a reading and book signing. The store was packed and it was hard to even see Sedaris. Fortunately, we did hear him as he read from his journal. Most of it went over Louis' head, thankfully. I waited to try and get my books signed when Paul and the kids went down the street to a diner. It was a great chance to chat with some of the people in line, most of them students at McGill. Two of them were American "girls" from the Boston area who chose to come to McGill over U.S. schools. As we've written in this blog before, McGill is a bargain, even for Americans. These girls are paying 26K a year for tuition and room and board, helping make their decision easy. They love Montreal and are happy with their decision. And they love David Sedaris.

    One of my favorite essays is "Jesus Shaves" (google it and you can read it or listen on This American Life). I read it long before we moved to French-speaking Quebec and reading it again brings it to a whole new level. It's a very entertaining narrative about his French class while he was in Paris. It's a funny essay detailing the way things can get lost in translation, especially when it comes to religion and holidays. So funny! Check it out.

    During the question and answer period one person asked Sedaris what he was doing for Thanksgiving. He's American,  from a very entertaining household, but now lives most of the time in Paris when he's not on the road. He paused for a moment after the question was asked, trying to remember what day it was since he had no idea where he was going to be on Thursday. He admitted that he hasn't really celebrated that holiday in years. I can see how that could happen. It is easy to get into the routine of whatever country you live in, even if it is only an hour or so from the border. Of course Sedaris had to elaborate about how he hates to travel during the holidays anyway because of all the airport issues and and amateur travelers. He did recall though how he has to go to Utah this weekend and of course everyone there has "like 8 kids" so travel will be a real pain in the ass.

    So, for this week anyway, we're thankful not to be in any airports.

    November 22, 2010

    A beautiful city

    Montreal truly is a beautiful city. This photo was taken while sitting in traffic on the Champlain bridge...a bridge across the the Saint Lawrence River. Montreal is an island, so the only way to get to "the island" is obviously by bridge. The "Pont" Champlain is the busiest bridge in Canada. It's also, shall I say, aged.

    Regardless of the age and condition (I say this to myself each and every time I cross the bridge), it is a magical drive to see the city...especially at night. It's a really cool place to live, rickety bridges and all.

    November 16, 2010

    Annoying gas

    The title should read annoying gas prices. Imagine driving by a station yesterday and thinking "gee, what a bargain, gas is $1.08/litre, I should fill up." Then you don't, drive by a gas station the next morning and see this. And there's little explanation.

    We're patient people (sometimes). We like Quebec and Canada. But geez...the price of gas is ANNOYING. It can fluctuate 10-20 cents per LITRE over night. If there are almost four litres of gas to a can do the math. We often joke about how price spikes like this would not be tolerated. 

    Needless to say, when we do travel to the states, we think gas is a bargain.

    November 13, 2010

    the Daily Duke 11.13

    Duke wasn't about to miss out on all the fall clean up fun today. When else is his family outside for five hours finding balls and all sorts of things for him to play with? Now, if he could learn how to rake and bag leaves, he would really earn his kibble. 

    It's beginning to look a lot like winter

    The weather today was certainly not winter-like, but the signs of winter are here. Literally. These driveway markers are multiplying like Republican house seats. Different snow plow companies get permits for driveway plowing and once you have paid the bill, up front, they put these markers at the bottom of the driveway so employess know which driveways to plow after a storm....up to several times a day.  It seems like a luxury for us as we tend to be more "do-it-yourselfers" but, with the amount of snow we can get, it's worth every Canadian penny.

    Speaking of "do-it-yourselfers"....Paul insists on cleaning the gutters himself, along with help from the kids. Me? I look up and thank God we have good healthcare coverage.

    November 10, 2010

    It's Veterans' Week in Canada -- yes a week. I'm so impressed with how Canada honors veterans. This video has been airing on Canadian Television for about a month. It stops me in my tracks each time I hear the opening music.

    November 7, 2010

    The parade I saw on accident

    Danielle wanted to go watch a rugby game today (now, that's a statement I wouldn't have said two years ago). I opted to drop her off and grab some coffee in the quaint town of St. Anne de Bellevue near John Abbott college where the game was being held. I was enjoying my coffee and paper when I heard a band and saw the parade, not knowing it was being held in honor of Veterans' week. Sometimes the best plan is to have no plans, and it was touching to watch the modest parade and all the veterans and families at the brief celebration. Plus, it was a beautiful fall day in Montreal. The photos need little explanation...

    The high school band was from Royal West Academy in the city of Montreal. While the duct tape on this
     tuba -- a very well used tuba by the looks of it -- seemingly did the trick, it kind of pissed me off.
    The school needs a tuba, please.
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