Friday, June 20, 2014

Paris is Always a Good Idea

For awhile, I've had it stuck in my head that I want to see Paris. Of course, I'd also like to see Barcelona with the Gaudi cathedral, and Venice with its canals, and Rome with...well, everything art, history and culture. Paris though, has been near the top of my European sites list ever since I discovered that it's only three hours from most places where I would likely be in Germany.

I can't say that Harrison Ford didn't have something to do with it. Although I never saw the original "Sabrina", I loved the remake of the movie. As Sabrina says, "Paris is always a good idea". In fact, I have a friend who gave me a mug with that slogan written on it.  And so it began.

It's interesting how some things stick in your head to the point of obsession. Or perhaps, I had a little help from my environment. Suddenly, everywhere I went, everything I saw reminded me of Paris. From the eiffel tower trinket box in the dollar store, to the radio broadcast about champagne, the music "I love Paris" and the always delicious french macaron cookies at the bakery.

Then there are the naysayers who try to influence your thoughts. The folks who tell you that crime is rampant, you'll get mugged by gypsies and so on. Yes, it's a big city. Yes, there are pickpockets and gangs just as in any other big city. Obviously precautions must be taken. On the other hand, statistically, Paris is one of the safest metropolitan cities in Europe. So there!

When my cousin visited last October, I once again mentioned Paris. Or perhaps I whined a little. After all, isn't complaining part of growing old and grumpy? I told them that they're so fortunate to be able to hop on an inexpensive commuter flight and go to any major European city and back home on the same day. Or, they could take a train. His response was, "Next time you visit, we'll take you to Paris."

Who says grumbling doesn't work?

Although I thought it might eventually occur, I didn't believe it would happen this soon.  I am currently in Paris. From today, to Sunday, I am there.

My wonderful relatives booked a bus tour from Germany to Paris for three nights and since I was going to visit Germany, they took me to Paris. When I come back home, I hope to write about my adventures, give reviews, and have photos like this one, with one difference. There'll be me, standing prominently in front of the tower.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cloaked in Guilt?

I'm not certain what prompted this memory. I'm not even sure where I am going with this blog. It may not have an ending. It's just a memory with some thoughts. Perhaps this is just another "life was simpler then" kind of a blog.

When I was attending elementary school a hundred years ago, we had cloakrooms. These were small areas for coats and other belongings. They were separate from the classroom, but attached behind the chalkboard where the teacher usually lurked. I believe there were doors or openings of some description at each end. Those were the days when boys had one side and girls the other.

Every now and again, something would disappear from the cloakroom...a toy, food, money. Fortunately, there was not the vast array of electronic devices back then. I'm not sure where teachers received their training, but it was severely lacking in almost every area of tact, acceptable discipline, and psychology. They did the best they could with what they knew.

The violated party was always believed, and when something presumably disappeared, the interrogation began.

Teacher:  Johnny had a $2 bill in his coat pocket and it's not there now. Has anyone seen it?

Students: (Staring innocently at one another, looking around the room and at the ceiling as if $2 might magically fall from the sky.)

Teacher:  If you took it bring it up here now, or put it on my desk before the end of the day and nothing further will happen. (Usually there was more lecturing about honesty being the best policy and a future life of crime and imprisonment if this money wasn't immediately returned)

As far as I know, nobody ever confessed. Sometimes, the whole class was kept after school because of the dishonesty of either the thief or the accuser. We had to think about what had happened and the consequences of "our" actions. Baffling. Punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty. I feel a religious blog developing...perhaps another time.

What I remember and hated most about these events was not the incensed rant by the teacher. It wasn't the staying after school or sitting with our heads down for what seemed like an eternity. What I hated most was that I always felt horrible. Part of it was empathy for the person who suffered the loss. Part of it was the shock that someone in our class could do such a thing. And finally, some of it was fear. I remember sitting there unable to look up, as if I had done something wrong and no, it was never me. But I wondered. I was so afraid that the teacher, as he/she looked around the room would think it was me. What if they thought I was capable of such a heinous act of thievery? I imagine my face reddened a few times, giving my fear even more credibility.

A similar incident occurred one time in a secondary school class. The difference was that someone actually confessed. He hadn't done it. Everyone knew he hadn't, because the explanation for the lack of the missing item on his person was something like "I threw it away" or "I gave it to a guy in the hallway". The thing was, he was the class clown, someone who was always getting into trouble anyhow. He figured he had nothing to lose. The class was released on time at the end of the day and he was a hero.  Is that called, "taking one for the team"?

Odd though, it never occurred to me or bothered me that anyone other than the teacher might think me guilty. I guess peers were not a concern of mine. I was more worried about what the authority figure thought whereas the student who confessed, was just the opposite.

So what's my point? I don't think I have one. Perhaps things had more value at one time.  Maybe teachers had more time? Were they trying to instill some kind of moral values into us, or, as in my case, did they just create a lifetime of guilt in some. Nowadays, if you bring something to school and it disappears, so be it. You take your chances. Shouldn't have brought it in the first place. There's no time for the lectures,or the drama.

As I ending. Just some thoughts.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Salmon, From Where Art Thou?

I really enjoy smoked salmon once in awhile. It's expensive, but sometimes worth the extra cost. So, recently, I tried to purchase Pacific or Alaskan wild smoked salmon. It's not as easy as one would think. It's even necessary to be careful of BC salmon now since they have developed fish farms along some areas of the coast....terrible. In fact, '60 Minutes'  recently had a special on farmed salmon off the BC coast...the environmental damage, the disease, the conditions, eating of feces, and so on.

There's also an excellent brochure by David Suzuki available on this site.

I don't eat Atlantic salmon, nor do I eat salmon that originates in or passes through China. Seventy percent of the fish in China is farmed. One package I perused in the store boasted that it was Norwegian steelhead salmon. I turned it over and read that it came from China, then instantly deposited it back in the freezer.

Many years ago I participated in an eco-adventure camp for women on Vancouver Island. Not only did I see a seal birth, I mountain climbed, kayaked, went snorkelling, wandered through tide pools, studied sea beds and so much more. It amazes me to look back at old photos and remember some of those activities. I did that!

One thing that sticks with me is a lecture we had on the wild Pacific types of salmon. I haven't touched Atlantic salmon or any other farmed fish since...well, not deliberately anyhow. The lecturer was a university professor who was adamant about the hazards of fish farming and spoke specifically about salmon. Without going into great detail, I was adequately grossed out. He made his point. He taught us the five kinds of wild Pacific salmon species; chum, sockeye, coho, chinook and pink and gave us a mneumonic using our fingers to help remember them. Fun really.

Today, my spouse came home with a surprise. It was a pound of smoked salmon. It says, imported from Norway". There's no sign of any other country's potential interference. There's also no indication that there was any acquaculture involved, even though Norway's fish are 33% farmed...a small concern. The label is impressive...

Our premium NORWEGIAN FJORD Smoked Steelhead Salmon delivers thin slices, smooth texture, and succulent smoked flavour—giving the world a deliciously authentic Scandinavian experience...a gift from the fjords.
NORWEGIAN FJORD is a Healthy Choice
  • Source of Omega-3
  • Excellent Source of Vitamin D
  • Low in Saturated Fat
  • Free of Trans Fat
  • No Nitrates or Preservatives
  • Kosher
Do fjords really produce wild salmon? Hmmm...I decided to email the company and ask my obvious questions. I hope the response comes back after I've eaten the fish. In the meantime, I'll try not to think about it too much.

*** Uh oh...I received an immediate response -

Dear Ms. Winter,
All our Steelhead Salmon products are produce from salmon farmed in Norway. The Norwegian Fjord 550g/500g packs are produced and packed in Norway.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

So Glad to Be a Cuke !

I found it in the newspaper a few weeks ago. I couldn't believe my eyes. I immediately clipped it out and marked it on my calendar. First Thursday of every month. I wanted to go so badly. Tonight was the night. I asked hubby to come along. His response, "Noooooo way."

Although I almost backed out a few times for various reasons....time constraints, nobody to go with me, it wasn't on my bucket list, and so on, I pushed through my anguish. I knew that I would only have regrets if I didn't attend. So, I went. I was tired, I didn't feel much like driving downtown, a full 2 kilometres away, and yet, I went.

I climbed the stairs apprehensively. I peered around the corner, then ducked into the restroom. My hands were perspiring. I washed and dried them, took a deep breath and entered the space.  About twenty five people sat, eager to participate. They were prepared. They'd been here before. I was a newbie. I was lacking the essential requirements. On the other hand, the newspaper clipping claimed it didn't matter.

So, as of tonight, I am a member of the Cukes. I also have the option of participating with the Port Hope group should I decide to do so. I have had my initial introduction. I have become hooked. From the minute I lifted my fingers to participate, I knew this would become more than a monthly ritual. It would become an important part of the rest of my life in this town. It was fun. I could relate. The participants weren't all ninety years old but varied in age from fortyish up....up to ninety. I can't believe this has been going on in town for a year and I just found out.

I left two hours later, satisfied. I had done it. I had gone and I had learned. I made helpful new friends. Of course, I had only acquired some of the necessary equipment when I went home. It will be necessary to get the rest, a minor problem which I can easily rectify. After all, ukeleles aren't that expensive. Yes, I've decided to join the Cobourg ukelele ensemble. They played and sang old familiar songs for two hours. Oh, and if the Cobourg group is called, Cuke, of course our neighbours to the west in Port Hope are affectionately known as Puke, although their official name is NukeO.