No picture, thank goodness

Yesterday, we randomly discovered Whitlow’s/Tigger’s secret litterbox. It was behind the fishtank on the carpet remnant that covers the floor. We’ve smelled cat urine in that room for a year and a half and even bought a black light to hunt down the location of this cat pee. It didn’t help. The secret litterbox revealed itself when it was ready. 4 logs of dried poop and who knows how many puddles of pee. After removing said poop, the carpet was given the vinegar, boiling water, dish detergent, baking soda treatment. Holy moly the room smelled like a litterbox when boiling water hit the carpet. I’m going to have to rethink this getting another cat idea.

Pinto & Adzuki

It’s official. We’ve introduced two new members into the family.

Meet Pinto (on the left) and Adzuki (on the right). We’ve had them for a few days now. They are Banggai Cardinalfish. I’m sorry to report, they are an endangered species. Keeping aquariums is totally not a good hobby to get into if you care about the planet in general but we selfishly and irresponsibly do it anyway. I picked fish that were captive bred versus wild caught and had no idea they were endangered. How complicated this hobby is. We were going to get more fish, but hopefully not. Maybe if we don’t crowd the tank these two will reproduce. That would be interesting to observe.

Camera Lens Cap

It was bound to happen eventually. After having my Canon T1i for 5 years and trekking it to various locales, my lens cap was just asking to get lost. Why they designed it with no tether confounds me. It’s such an easy solution. I had previously purchased a little tether on it that used double sided tape to stick to the cap, so that didn’t work out too well since the tape wasn’t super sticky. By the time we got to Canada, I was being quite the risk-taker having it off leash. I lost it on the 4th day there walking along the fortress wall. We even backpedaled for a bit.

After we came back from our trip, I ordered a replacement cap and look, it comes attached with a tether!

Genius. Even better than the old one.

Fall is here

Actually, Fall’s been here. Our Summer was relatively mild this year so the transition into Fall hasn’t really been too noticeable. I’ve been trekking out to work in the dark in the mornings and the evenings are cool enough to warrant a light jacket. I’m ready to do my annual Summer-Winter clothing swap. Bring on pumpkin everything!


Last week, our kitchen faucet started leaking. Not like a little drip drip but like full stream of water was going down the cabinet under the sink whenever we turned on the faucet. At over 15 years old, I took this as time to replace the faucet. Plus the kitchen sink, for as long as I remember, has been rusting on a corner of the rim. It’s not leaking or unusable, but it’s flakey and unsightly. So I wanted the whole set replaced if we were going to get a handyman in. The handyman recommended we consider gutting the whole kitchen, counters, cabinets and all redone if we were going to replace those and after 5 minutes of careful thought, we decided, nah. Re-doing the kitchen means I’d have to be more diligent about keeping it nice and clean and taking care of it. Having old crap means I can use and abuse my kitchen to my hearts content. Plus, landfills! Anyway, we spent all last weekend shopping for a new sink and faucet. Online. At the hardware stores. Everywhere! After driving to 3 different shops, I finally picked out my sink/faucet combo, made the appointment with the handyman and lo, the very next day, after random futzing and tightening of some nut or whatever, it stopped leaking. I canceled the whole thing. Because landfill and because I wasn’t really digging either the new sink or faucet. It was more out of a rushed need that I settled on them. So after running around in circles, we’re right back to where we started. I’m kind of relieved at not having to go through the trouble of having it replaced, but also disappointed because the rusty sink is garbage-looking.

Dining in Quebec

In summary, the Quebec City dining scene is so-so. That’s not even taking into consideration any dietary options and what nots. That’s just overall. So tacking on no-animal-stuffs to an already limited number of choices really made finding food a bit of a frustrating challenge. We had bananas every day and I ate a lot of mediocre salads.
We spent much of our time walking around the city looking for decent places to eat that had animal-product-free options. It was a struggle and I ended up eating some dairy and eggs just because sometimes they didn’t call it out on the menu and I didn’t want to waste food or be that difficult customer.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. There were a few winners.
Hosaka-Ya - Vegan Ramen
Vegan ramen. I can always count on the Asians to give me vegan food.

The au Sahara
This was a Moroccan place that served hummus and falafel. Another good meal.

The other places I mostly settled on side dishes.
Chez l'Autre
This French restaurant accommodated me by making side vegetable dishes using olive oil. Their food was pretty good. The other dish is a lobster pastry. They also had good beef tartar, cornish hen, and escargot.

This being a French-influenced city, crepes were pretty popular here.
Le Billig - Duck ConfitThis is a duck confit crepe. I think it was popular because every table I saw ordered at least one.

Oh Poutine!
Fries. Cheese curds. Gravy. I’m going to guess this was good, but not that good because we only got it once.

Maple syrup (Sirop d’Erable) was a big item here too. The tourist shops and the airport all sold maple syrup cookies, syrup, ice cream, and candies. In the Basse Ville area within Vieux Quebec, we saw this stand where the lady poured the syrup over ice and rolled it up in a stick.
Tirer - Pulling maple syrup on ice
It was good and very sweet.

So there weren’t many choices and a lot of the touristy places seemed to jack up their menu prices by about an extra $5. Poutine at a bar for the locals is $5, and in the tourist district is $10 for instance.

They really do speak French

Going to Quebec City this time of year felt like Fall came early. The temps there were in the 70s during the day and 50s at night. We had a week there and stayed in Old Quebec (Vieux Quebec) which is within the fortified city walls. It looks like Europe a little bit but for the most part, it feels like the New World.

Fortified walls

For this trip, I just had a list of major sites to see and we took our time hitting them since we had plenty of days. Here’s a few memorable sights.

This big castle looking building is the Chateau Frontenac which is a hotel.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Tourists are free to enter and look around. It looks like a regular hotel on the inside.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Outside the city walls, there’s the Parliament of Quebec Province.
The Parliament

The tourguide pointed out this painting located in the Legislative Council room.
Debating over setting an official language to use in Parliament It depicts a heated debate over establishing an official language for the Parliament. They ended up deciding to use any language.

Our first day there, I thought, no way they really speak French! They’re just playing for the tourists. We ended up getting lost further out somewhere in the city and stopped by a gas station to ask for directions. The lady there could barely speak English. She gestured and pieced together enough words for us to get us back on track but that’s when I realized, whoa, they really don’t speak English. And of course the TV shows had a lot of French speaking channels and the local news used French. I don’t know why that’s such a hard concept for me to comprehend but it just seems odd that they don’t teach both languages at least since the rest of the country uses English.

And of course, they had many Catholic churches from the French era.
Notre Dame des Victoires This is the Notre Dame des Victoires. Names thusly after the French thought they fought back the British. Of course, they later lost the city to the British.

One surprisingly cool place we checked out wasn’t even on my list: the Artillery Park.
Dauphine Redoubt - 1712Within the park is a few buildings and they sort of walk you through the history a little bit of how it was built, used by the French then taken over by the British.
Dauphine Redoubt

Overall, it was a fun trip but we probably didn’t need a full week to see everything. On the other hand having a full week gave us plenty of relaxation time to just wander around the city. Towards the end of the trip we’d found the local bar and had learned our way around much of the within-walking-distance areas of the city. It also gave me time to just chill in our hotel room and watch 18/19 Kids and Counting and Say Yes To the Dress and Undercover Boss and Long Island Medium.

The Barrio

Our previous neighbors up and moved this summer and took with them our favorite pup. I miss that prissy princessy french bulldog. And I miss their always keeping us apprised of the goings on around the barrio. And their pet and plant-sitting services when we vacationed. Good neighbors are good.
So to make more good neighbor-friends, we invited the new family over for dinner. And they’re great!! They love Taylor Swift! They’re vegans. They love cooking and food! One of them plays guitar. Another is into photography. They like books I like – Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver. (Well – granted, they’re books many people like, but still.) I think I said “Oh really?! Me too!” all night long.

Oh and bonus – we have a new Gina-sitter.

To the beach!

Just returned from a week at Outer Banks.
View from the balcony
It was my first time ever going to North Carolina. The place we stayed was right along the shoreline so even though I’m not a big beach person, we still managed to go out for a walk along the beach and play in the waves a little each night. And each night, we got a little wetter than the night before until on our last evening there, I got wiped out by a particularly strong wave and fell in the water. I consider that a full on beach experience. We found sand in our dryer when we did our laundry.

It rained the first day we were there so we mostly stayed in. The only excursion we went out for was to see the Wright Brothers Memorial National Park.
Model of the Wright Bros. Airplane
The park ranger lady here gave a great presentation about the Wright Brothers and how they came to Kitty Hawk to make their flying machine. (Some of the main considerations were the soft landing sand, windy conditions, and privacy in the middle of nowhere.)

This is the Nature Conservancy’s Nags Head Woods. We visited it on our second day.
Duck weed in the waters
It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. There were many trails to hike through and we saw frogs and mushrooms galore. The majority of this was nice and shady. While we walked, a park ranger and his faithful lab walked through the forest cutting down overgrowing tree branches and overgrowths to keep the trails clear.

After the hike through the woods, we drove past Jockey’s Ridge (sand dunes) to Roanoke Island. This is the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo.
Lighthouse in Manteo
It’s just a small building with a little light on it. I was expecting the traditional tall swirly building along a rocky cliff with rough waves breaking along the shore. Nope. It’s along a peaceful bay by Roanoke Sound. Not much to ooh and ahh over really.

Right next to it is the Roanoke Island Festival Park where they have a sort of Colonial Williamsburg type display of how the colonists lived, how the Croatan natives lived, and the rinky dink Queen Elizabeth II sailboat that brought the men over to Roanoke Island.
Elizabeth II Replica
This ship (boat) had some guides on it who described the living conditions of the 50 men on board. I can’t imagine how 50 clowns squeezed into that thing. Even the captains quarters was tiny. They drank short beer and did their business at the front of the ship through wooden slats. The trip took 100 days to cross the Atlantic. Clearly the Disney movie Pocahontas had one more thing wrong. The scale of that ship needed to be way smaller. It wasn’t the same ship, but back in the day, their ships were all pretty small.

Finally, we rounded out the Roanoke Island tour exploring the Elizabethan Gardens.
Elizabethan Gardens
Started the day with a hike and ended with a hike. A more groomed version of the Nags Head Woods.

Oh, and I couldn’t leave North Carolina without getting a full on Brew Thru experience.
Brew Thru
You drive your car into the car port, turn off your engine and shop for beers and wines as the staff loads up your car. I took a picture as we pulled in and the lady asked, “Let me guess, this is your first time here?” Ah-yup! And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just hope we enjoy the local Outer Banks beers too. We got some Weeping Radish beer.

a life