Monday, July 30, 2012

Blog Interrupted

What happens when Blogger meets promotion?  No time to write.  No time to play.  No time to think about what to write or to play so I have something to write about.

Ok, I am probably exaggerating.  Slightly.  Maybe slightly more than slightly but it's certainly more than coincidence that my blog history abruptly stopped after my promotion in 2010.  Since my second promotion in 2011, I have barely had time to bemoan the fact that I have no time to write.

But after all this time, what have I missed?  Talking to all of you.  So today, on my day off (yay!!) I am taking a moment to say hello again old friends.  I hope time has treated you kindly, given you great adventures and blessed you with challenges to strengthen you.  I hope to talk to you all again soon (as I do have a couple of adventures to share, past and future) and as always, please do keep in touch too.

Ciao for now...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Y'all 'r not from 'round here, are ya?

Arriving in the Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport to a smooth-as-silk landing, I was a relieved camper. The weather reports for the area were not promising and the skies were unfriendly but our crew managed to stick a perfect landing... Always a good thing to have an equal number of landings as take-offs, many pilots have told me. It was still overcast and drizzling when we arrived but that could not dampen our spirits and they were lifted even further as we listened to the melodic drawl of everyone around us.

I love a southern accent. It makes me want to swoosh around in a big crinoline talking about iced tea and charming men. Anyway, we gathered our luggage, collected our rental car (the little red wagon as we affectionately referred to it) and then noticed something that gave us pause at the moment and another memorable moment in the adventure later on... There was no plate on the little red wagon, only a card that said Tag Applied For. Hmmm... What do you suppose that means? Now a more cautious person (or wiser, perhaps) would have marched back into the rental office and asked what it meant and if it would cause any problems down the road.

Not us. We were tired, we were anxious to get to our condo and we were throwing caution to the wind on this trip (in a very conservative way though, I have to say... we're not Thelma and Louis here).

We started the drive from Gulfport (the actual location of the Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport), through Biloxi, Ocean Springs to finally arrive in Gautier Mississippi. As far as I can tell, Gautier Mississippi is famous for its location on the Pascagoula River (or the Singing River as the locals call it, from either the sound the bees make on late summer evenings or the calls of the extinct Pascagoula Tribe Indians, depending on who you believe). It is a small town, population of about 18,000 and it immediately reminded me of the small town I grew up in, Woodstock Ontario. Why, you might ask, did we decide to stay in Gautier? Dave is a member of a travel club where you can rent condos anywhere in the world... This was the close to New Orleans but still centrally located on the Gulf and we thought, a great home base for the adventure. We were right on that one.

We finally pulled into our home-away-from-home at about eight at night, after stopping off at the local grocery store to grab the essentials.

US Travel Trip #2

Southern grocery stores have all manner of deep fried or pickled products

Back home, I do my best to follow the advice of dietary experts and "shop the outside isles of the grocery store... fresh produce, fresh dairy and fresh meats/seafood." I do venture down the forbidden middle isles of course, that's where all the cleaning products, sugar, flour, cereal, crackers & piddly stuff like that can be found after all. But I do try to keep it to the outside.

At the local Gautier grocery store, there was a produce section, about one third the size of what I'm used to back home but it was there. There was okra. I don't know what okra is or how to cook it but it was neat to find it.

I didn't buy the okra.

As we strolled the outside isles, the rest of the selection was fully processed, packaged and chemical-injected selections of meat and cheese. We did find some burgers and chicken and that was ok because we weren't planning on cooking at home all that much.

We decided to pass on the pickled pigs feet, pickled eggs, pickled ham hocks and "cracklin" which is delectably described on the label as "pig fat with attached skin." Mmmm.

Often, instead of a full meal I like to just nibble on cheese, crackers, maybe a nice chickpea dip and veggies. It's light and fills the void and can be pulled together in a matter of moments which at the end of a busy, long day is a blessing. I know it's probably not great when it comes to the nutritional value or fancy-shmancy departments, but I never claimed to be an epicurean... I just want to be one some day.

So, off we strolled to the "deli" department in search of some brie. I could find none in the refrigerated case amongst the pickled everything-under-the-sun, macaroni salad, potato salad and fried chicken so I decided to ask the young gal behind the counter. "Brie? Wha's that?" she responded. I explained as best I could (I always love the challenge of describing something you are completely familiar with to someone who has never heard of or seen it... it's not as easy as it seems at first thought and it's always a fun exchange).

"Um... no, I don't think we have any of that here. Where y'all from? You're not from 'round here are y'all?" I told her we were visiting from near Toronto Canada and her response was simple.

"Why?" I explained as much as I could of our unplanned trip and why we were in "these parts" and she smiled and said "I knew y'all wasn't from 'round here... y'all 'r dressed way too nice. Are y'all headin' to a special dinner or somethin'?"

We chatted for a while and I left feeling like I had made my first southern friend. She was sweet and charming and in her last year of high school and had no idea of how wonderful she was. These were traits that proved to be pretty common amongst the people we were lucky to meet along our journey (well, except the high school part).

Mark Twain was right.... Southerners really do speak music.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The adventure begins...

Early on a Friday morning (well, not that early, I'm used to getting up at 6-ish after all) two excited travelers gathered their bags from their "right across from the airport" hotel room and began the adventure they had planned and not planned, scheduled and left open to chance. We had decided to do lots but leave lots of flexibility to jump on opportunity, take chance out for a ride if the moment presented itself.

Without a doubt, we had solid on the agenda visiting New Orleans Heritage & Jazz Festival (or JazzFest as just about everyone we ever talked to called it), treasure hunting for a vintage Cadillac convertible and enjoying all that Southern cuisine has to offer. Less certain but certainly on the "would like to-do list" was exploring the Gulf Coast countryside, visiting some of the historic sites in the area and maybe, if chance works out and the stars are aligned, drive that newly acquired Cadillac convertible to the Kentucky Derby on the way home.

Well, since I am writing this as I watch the Run for the Roses from my home office, the Caddy/Derby dream did not materialize but I can't say I have an ounce of regret, disappointment or melancholy.

It was an amazing trip, largely for one reason. The people of our host states rose up to the legend of Southern Hospitality in a way that exceeded our expectations and gave me much to think about in regards to facing challenges with grace, kindness, hope and faith.

In stark contrast, as we headed down to the main lobby of our over-night host hotel in lovely Buffalo NY (hey, I'm trying), we were faced with a woman spending half her time chastising her active but sweet-as-they-come little boy and the other half filling and re-filling her plate with the slim pickings this "complimentary breakfast buffet" had to offer (and trust me, it wasn't much). There wasn't enough bad hotel coffee to make this experience palatable in any way at all. As we collectively departed the lobby to board the van to shuttle us off to the airport, she manage to completely knock the lad right off his feet (which flew up over his head as he fell) with the van door as she swung it open to get in. I wanted to scoop him up and tell him that he wasn't invisible or unwanted or bad or trouble or anything less than a fantastic little package of all good things to come. Give me strength.

Anyway, we arrived at the airport, boarded our flight, flew, arrived, rested, boarded our second flight, flew and arrived again. In the middle, in lovely Atlanta GA (really, I am trying) we found a restaurant to grab our lunch prior to flight number two. Since we were flying in coach (or peasant class as I like to call it) our only source of sustenance was the teeny-tiny pack of peanuts and a diet coke (or 7UP as Dave would order). Not what I would call filling. So, Chili's it was.

US Travel Tip #1...

Order one entry and split it between two.

I had ordered what I thought would be a sensible, light salad and Dave ordered what he thought would be a small appetizer wrap-thing (or something like that to be specific). What arrived was enough food to get me through what I would normally eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner in one day. What on earth is going on??? We were wondering the night before when we arrived in Buffalo and went out to grab, what else would you have in Buffalo but authentic Buffalo wings for a late dinner. Each of us ordered one serving which after we were done, half still remained on our plates. "No thank you, we would not like to take it to go." Can you imagine what the hotel room would have smelled like in the morning if we had? But this "lunch" which turned out to be equal to any dinner I've ever served for any major holiday (ok, I might be exaggerating just a bit with this one but you get my point) rendered me twice bitten. As we sat at our table and looked with regret at the heap of food that remained on our plates (and this was after the languished pleads of "no, you really have to help me eat this... I can't possibly") we agreed that for the remainder of our trip we would order one main course to split and decide from there if we wanted anything else. A plan that served us well as the trip carried on...

As we arrived at the Gulfport/Biloxi airport late in the day we faced clouds, a drizzle of rain and a not-too-promising outlook for the Saturday ahead of us.

But this is vacation... you never know what's just around the corner.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hello Friends

I wonder about myself sometimes... Seriously, I just plain wonder.

There are long periods where I feel like I should be writing something but for the life of me, I can't imagine what I have to write about. Short of trying to make my choice for breakfast seem interesting (large coffee... cream, double sugar; I know... I should eat... most important meal of the day... I know I know), really what's there to say?

But at this particular moment in time, I've got stuff.. Oh ya, baby; I've got stuff!

As I notice that this is just past the second anniversary of me creating this blog and just approaching the first anniversary of my move to the Hammer (that's Hamilton for those not nearby this town I call home), I find myself very excited about my latest upcoming adventure.

I am about to embark on a road trip. I love road trips!

I think my love for the open road and all the mystery and excitement and adventure it has to offer came from my Dad. I remember well when I was little and he would take me on drives in the country... Usually on Sunday afternoons... Sometimes he would even let me sit on his lap and steer, at least until I inevitably veered directly towards the ditch. But I did love the time... I loved gazing up to the sky watching the clouds change form and towards the homes we passed imagining the life stories that were taking place in their walls as we passed by and those are loves that I carry with me to this day. I owe my Dad a big thank you for that one.

Anyway, come Friday of this week, I'll be boarding a plane (the road trip part is coming up, don't worry) for beautiful Gulfport MS.


Not high up on the list of "places to visit in the US" I know, (sorry Gulfport but let's be realistic) but it all makes sense in the end. At least in my mind it does. My fella, Dave and I are going on an adventure, renting a car when we get there and cramming in as much New Orleans, JazzFest, creole, history, music, French Quarter, cajun, vintage cars, dogwood & azaleas, Degas, Buffett, food glorious food that we possibly can in seven days and seven nights. And the hope is we will, along our journey, find a 1967-ish Cadillac to bring on home to Canada. If that's not an adventure, I don't know what is.

Today, in the planning stages, I am at one of my favourite parts of vacationing... At this point you can pile as much of everything into your time away as your imagination allows. Today, everything goes. As time goes by and reality sets in, usually I find that activities drop off, sites get passed over and decisions are made... what would I regret missing more? The Athens on the Square Antique Car Show or the the Mississippi Craw-fish Festival? But now, all will be seen, experienced fully and tucked away in my memory bank for future enjoyment.

I'll keep you posted as we travel along; the laptop is joining us on the journey... Feel free to give suggestions of places to visit, things to do, people to see, if you've been to the area.

Right now, I have all the time in the world!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taking Inventory

I find that once in a while it's a worthwhile exercise to pause for a moment and take stock of where you are in life, where you want to be and what you want to change.

During my blog-cation (vacation from my blog) a lot changed in my life. My address and my relationship status, most notably. I have moved from my long-time home of Brantford to my new home of Hamilton. I was actually quite surprised how emotional I became at leaving the town I honestly felt no huge connection to other than, most importantly, my children and where they were born. But they are grown now (physically and in every other way) and on their own paths so that attachment, I thought, would be easier to severe.

Man, was I wrong. I would tear up at the thought of not being a "Brantfordite." I began to realize how much I had invested in that community and how much it had influenced who I had become and I was grateful for all of it. But time moves on, things change and off I went, away from the town I had called home longer than any other. One night before the big move I was out with my best girlfriends bemoaning that "I'm Sal from Brantford... I don't know how well I'll do being Sal from Hamilton" when my wise friend told me, "No, you're just Sal. Where you're from doesn't matter."

I have such smart girlfriends.

So I moved and moved on. And there is so much I love about my new home. And there is so much I miss about my old one. And all of that is ok by me.

As for that "relationship status" change... Well that's a blog and a half worth of what's new. But it, too, is all good. And there is a lot to consider there. I have my boys (I know... they're older but as I have always said and will always say, they are my boys and that, my friend, is that) and he has his clan of three girls and one boy (I refer to his children as girls and boys the same way as I refer to my boys... FYI) and two grandkids. Yup. You heard me. Oh my that's a whole new ballgame. It's not like it's "Yours, Mine & Ours" (the cool 1968 one with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball not the so un-cool one with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo) but it is a mix that I have no experience with and I find always interesting and sometimes challenging.

But what's life if not interesting and challenging?

As for work (although I'd like to, I can't ignore work), it has it's ups and downs like everything in life. But I'm on the upside right now for sure. I am preparing for a fantastic trip to Paris and London that I earned through a sales incentive. Excited? That doesn't even begin to cover it. So suffice to say, I'm totally ok with work right now.

So at this particular moment... all is all good. Inventory complete and abundant.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Change of Pace

So, one of the things that I like about being a real adult (as opposed to the adult I imagined myself as growing up to be, although I think that adult indulged in complete self-absorbtion totally absent of income, responsibility or consequence) is that on occasion, when required or requested, I can alter the pace of my life just a bit for just a while.

And that's what I did today.

Today, I did almost nothing... short of eating (naturally), making a list of items to pack for my upcoming trip (lots more about that in future correspondence) and enjoying a couple of glasses of wine (oh my... in the middle of the day, no less).

And this I love. Nothing special is sometimes just a special as something special, if that makes sense. Yesterday I spent the day hanging out with my best girlfriends, laughing and talking and reminiscning and enjoying each other and today I am extending that luxury to another day of out-of-the-ordinary behaviour. Tomorrow, I will get back to work and from what I can see coming so far, things will be a little crazy for a little while.

But today, there is none of that. Today, there is just the sound of music in the background, pages of my favourite magazine turning and the unusual sound of what... what could that be???

The sound of squirrels duelling (or chatting or flirting) on my balcony.

I kid you not... How's that for a change of pace?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Calling out...

Remember me? It's been a long time... a really long time and I have to say I've missed you. So much has happened in the past almost-year that it would take up too much time (and you'd probably nod off after only a few minutes) so I'll spare you the details. For now.

But why, you might be asking, am I back now? What brought me back?

Was it seeing Julie & Julia at the movies and thinking, "Hey, if I blog about meeting Brad Pitt, do you think he'd read it and call me up? Or at least comment about me to some random journalist? Or what if I wrote about Angelina Jolie? Or both... Now there's a win/win." No... that wasn't it.

Was it the remarkable, odd, you-had-to-be-there-to-believe-it, like-nothing-I've-ever-seen-before couple dancing at the jazz club I was at on Saturday... He dancing like some strange cross between a penguin and marionette and she like a 50+ cheerleader dancing to a song in her head that had nothing to do with the song the band was playing... No, not that either although that would make a great blog.

It was that I honestly, truly missed doing this. I missed sharing my experiences with all of you (or both of you... or just you and you know who you are) and hearing your thoughts come back to me.

I have so much to share with you my friends. I hope you're still out there and I hope we'll talk again soon.

Until then, good thoughts are going out from me to you.