January 27, 2011

In training

We are in the thick of ski season -- in more ways than one. We actually enjoy the snow...mainly because the ski conditions are great and well, we like it. Ask us again in mid-March though. Ski season for us means Special Olympics training. Each and every weekend we are skiing in the Eastern Townships of Quebec getting ready for upcoming competitions. Louis will compete in the Quebec Provincial games in February...and...in March he will compete in the Quebec WINTER games. The Winter games is a gathering of all the winter sports. They will have an opening and closing ceremony, an athlete's village and more. The athletes all sleep in the "village" which is actually a school gymnasium with cots. What fun (for Louis). Paul, who is now an officially sanctioned Special Olympics coach will be in the village as well. Kish and Danielle will stay in the local motel.

We are wrapping up selling raffle tickets to benefit Quebec Special Olympics. The $5 tickets makes you eligible to win a bunch of great prizes...including a trip for two to Greece and a weekend in Quebec City. If you are interested in purchasing tickets, email us. We have a limited number left. Thanks so much to everyone who has purchased tickets. We sold a lot and the proceeds will benefit Quebec Special Olympics and our ski team.

Enjoy the snow or the sunshine wherever you are.

the daily Duke 1.27

Duke really doesn't understand what all the fuss is about with the snowy weather. He's okay with it and thinks it's kind of cool...and he means that literally.

January 26, 2011

the daily Duke 1.26

Let's just say it's been very cold here in Montreal and Duke has spent about a week on the sofa. He has a lot of energy and he enjoyed every minute of a walk in the woods. If you could only see his tail wag in a still photo. He was so happy, he gets two Daily Dukes today.

January 25, 2011

A cross-border kerfuffle

From the news in Canada...

A cross-border kerfuffle over a popular chocolate treat nearly cost a Winnipeg woman a $300 fine and saddled her with a bureaucratic headache.

Lind Bird was recently stopped at the U.S. border and selected for a random search of her vehicle. She was warned she could have faced a fine after the customs official found — and seized — her $2 Kinder Surprise egg as illegal contraband. Bird learned U.S. authorities have banned the candy because they come with a plastic toy inside that could, if eaten, choke a small child.

"It's just a chocolate egg," Bird said. "And they were making a big deal. They said 'if you were caught with this across the border you would get charged a $300 fine,'" she said.

"It's ridiculous. It's so ridiculous," she added.
The U.S. takes catching illegal Kinder candy seriously, judging by the number of them they've confiscated in the last year. Officials said they've seized more than 25,000 of the treats in 2,000 separate seizures.

"They have been determined to present … a choking hazard to young children," said Mike Milne, a spokesman for the U.S. department of customs and border protection. Milne said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supports the Kinder Surprise ban.

As trivial as the border seizure may seem, Bird said the U.S. government has sent her a seven-page letter asking her to formally authorize the destruction of her seized Kinder egg.

"I thought it was a joke. I had to read it twice. But they are serious," she said.

The letter states if Bird wishes to contest the seizure, she'll have to pay $250 for it to be stored as the two sides wrangle over it.

Wow! Thankfully this didn't happen to me over the past weekend when I crossed the border in Vermont on my way to Maine to meet some friends for a scrap booking weekend. I got to the U.S. border stop, blasting the Oldies station, which was playing R.E.M. and David Bowie (since when is that Oldies?) and I got the golden ticket...the random border check and was asked to pull into the parking lot and go into the office...all while the U.S. border dude had my passport, which any traveler will concur, is un-nerving.

So I go in and am asked several questions and after I answered that I was not a diabetic and therefore they would not find random needles in my car, I was told to sit down that they needed to search my vehicle. After looking up and seeing a rather nice and large photo of Janet Napalatano and another of Barack Obama, I wanted to say "Oh for the love of...of.... something," but I noticed the border dude's gun and big ego and simply said "all righty then, I'll just have a seat." And they searched my car. And they didn't find anything of interest as I expected.

Coming back into Canada is usually more of an experience. Not because I'm not hiding printer cartridges or one or four bottles of wine or anything. This time though I was prepared. I had my receipt and was under the duty total and was ready to show it off and answer all of the questions with the confidence of an innocent tourist. I had a few items from Target and of course three, I mean one bottle of California wine. I like the over-priced European wine we get here in Quebec, but come on, sometimes a girl just wants a cheap bottle of California wine. For the first time in over two years the only question the Canadian guy asked me was where I lived and how long I have been out of the country. That's it.

"Don't you want to see my receipt?" I asked.

"No, have a nice day," he said.

And for once I was prepared.

I turned up the Oldies station again and listened to my favorite Fleetwood Mac song.

January 14, 2011

Good news for Canada's economy

I'm just sayin'. It's about damn time. Although, we have to wait until 2013. But...YAY! Basically, Target is acquiring a local discount-type retailer here called Zellers. This is really good news for the Canadian economy as the Pisani family will certainly help out with that.

January 13, 2011

"It" happens in Canada too

Just two days ago I wrote about gun violence. I wrote about how what's foremost on the minds of Canadians is why people in the United States have and use guns. Little did I know two days ago. Just this morning I got word that a fellow American Women's Club board member lost her 22-year-old son last night. He was murdered outside of his duplex apartment. He was shot. With a gun. This was the first homicide for Montreal in 2011.

The area of town he lived is Westmount, the same area where Danielle's school is located. Having someone murdered at gun point in Westmount would be like the same thing happening in downtown Naperville, for those Illinois friends. Other than petty crime, it's just not a crime-ridden area. While they don't know the circumstances just yet, it's devastating for this city and of course my fellow board member.

How are the guns getting into this country where the laws are so strict? Likely from our neighbors down south and via the borders somehow. Come to think of it, I've never been asked if I'm bringing firearms across the border; not that anyone carrying them would say anything. It always seems to me that the Customs agents are more concerned with whether or not I'm bringing a new iPad across, or God forbid, a bottle of tequila. And then of course collecting duties and taxes.

Certainly there is crime all over the world. It's just that this doesn't happen all that often here, and when you know the mother of the victim, it's a different story.

January 11, 2011

the Daily Duke 1.11

It was New Year's Day. In Quebec. In Canada. And this dog went for a swim.

January 10, 2011

Oh Arizona

This editorial cartoon is from Canada's Globe and Mail. I sincerely hope I'm not violating any copyright laws. 
If I am, like a Canadian, I say "I'm sorry."

Arizona is in the news here in Canada. What happened in my home town of Tucson, at the Safeway we have frequented, is on the minds of Canadians today. It's hard to get away from it. I would say that the debate on whether or not political rhetoric influenced the shooter has been surprisingly equal. I've heard talk show hosts go on and on about how the guy was just crazy. I've heard (and read) others go on about how the nasty political climate had to affect this deranged "kid." However, what's on the mind of most Canadians? Guns. They don't get why on earth people to the south need to carry weapons. If someone has a gun around here, it's for hunting or because they live in the far north woods and need when they go chop firewood for protection against a bear...not a neighbor or an immigrant.

We own guns. I inherited a .357 magnum (think Dirty Harry) from my dad. Paul has hunting guns. But, we left them in the States. We have no use for them here in Canada, nor did we want to deal with the paperwork. (We were more interested in having the movers pack and hide a year's worth of Bombay Sapphire and Patron Tequila. That's more important).

The gun thing...that's a bit foreign to Canadians. After watching the horrible news from my home state over and over again, I'm starting to think more like a Canadian.

January 4, 2011

Bonne Année

Happy New Year! A few days late. We've spent the last week or so at a rental cottage near our ski hill enjoying a wood stove, being somewhat unplugged, watching movies, playing games (the kids actually played Monopoly!) and skiing of course. Danielle and Paul spent four days in a class to become certified ski instructors. They spent the four days, seven hours a day, in ski boots. After the four days of instruction, skiing and testing, they are both Certified Canadian Ski Instructors! It's a huge accomplishment. Both will use their new skills this winter in the Special Olympics ski program and they can both earn some extra cash if they want teaching lessons down the road. Always good to have a back-up plan, eh?

Paul's new word of the year is "Peeee-vot" as in pivot which is what his French instructor kept saying about his skiing..."Peeee-vot."

In the middle of all that, we celebrated our 20th anniversary...it's been a wild ride.

the Daily Duke 12.4

Duke is looking for a lame-duck. No, not really. He's watching Louis and Paul leave our little rental cottage and he's a bit concerned. Who is going to feed him table scraps now?
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