Petite Bourgogne

Petite Bourgogne

Monday, December 24, 2012

And Autumn Passes Into Winter...

Autumn is spectacular in Quebec.  Fortunately, I was able to get out and enjoy it in between work and attending a conference in Vancouver.  Since pictures speak a thousand words, I'll share a few of the photos I took over the past three months.

Anyone know what these are?
I concluded my monthly visits to the Montreal Botanical Gardens in late September, catching the last of the vegetable gardens and the Dahlias.  It was also the start of the Chinese lantern festival and one of the best displays in the past five years. Unfortunately, I forgot my bike light so I could not stay until it was dark.

Thanksgiving weekend, we did a roadtrip up to Bois Franc for the annual Balade Gourmande during which local farms open their doors and sell their harvest goodies.  We visited a cranberry farm, a game fowl (pheasants, quail, guinea fowl, etc.) farm, Fromagerie du Presbyt√®re, a coffee roaster (for D, of course), a flour mill and concluded with a deer farm.

Colourful pheasant at Faisanderie St. Albert

Right before leaving for Vancouver, I participated in Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk.  I joined a group that walked around Atwater Market early Saturday morning.  It was a beautiful day, but it was too early for me to feel particularly creative. 

Autumn at Atwater Market
That evening, I participated in my third Light the Night Walk. Our team raised over $2000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and we agreed it was the best walk out of the three years.

Although it's not Quebec, I thought I may as well share a Fall photo from my week in Vancouver:

View of North Vancouver from the Conference Centre
For the past three years, I have had perfect weather for a photo walk on the first weekend of November.  This year... it was freezing cold!  However, the light was perfect for shooting reflections in the glass skyscrapers downtown.  It was one of the most creative photo walks I've had in a long time.

Place Ville-Marie
As the Christmas lights came out, I started to carry my camera in my work backpack so I could snap pictures of the lights as I walked around work and home.  The display along St. Catherine in the neighbourhood where I work is particularly festive:

Christmas Lights leading into The Village
I hope to get some photos with both lights and snow between Christmas and New Year. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Bloggiesta Burrito (Wrap-up)

I was SO looking forward to this edition of Bloggiesta.  When I first signed up, I had grand plans to do all sorts of writing and blog improvements over the three days.  I viewed that weekend as sacred - I would have nothing else on my agenda, except for blogging.  Unfortunately, as the weekend arrived other important and urgent items crept into my weekend plans and my Bloggiesta goals dwindled. Considering how little I have been blogging lately, I am happy that I was able to find a little dedicated time for Bloggiesta.

So how did I do with the remaining goals?
  • WRITE! I haven't written a post for my business blog all month.  I have a couple of posts in draft and another forming in my head. In addition, I have been asked to guest post on two other websites.  I need to spend the weekend writing.
    • Yeah, well, that didn't go as planned. I got derailed by some bad news regarding a conference presentation proposal, followed by some Treasurer work for my building taking longer than expected.  The guest posts did not get done.  I did get a post up on my business blog, which is more than I have done in a month.  It's progress, but not as much as I would like.
  • Clean up my categories on my business blog. 
    • That got done the first night.  WordPress made it really easy to get it done quickly.
  • Participate in a mini-challenge.  In particular, I want to check out the WordPress v. Blogger mini-challenge hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.  
  • Improve the visual appearance of both blogs.  
    • Sadly, didn't get to this at all.  Next time... or it's something I'll do over Christmas.
  • Ramp-up new editors for the PMI-Agile Community of Practice blog I edit and schedule a few more posts.
    • I got the ramp-up part done just before midnight on Sunday.  Whew!  Just under the wire.
  • Added during the weekend: Put "Popular Posts" on my sidebar, thanks to 6 Techniques To Revitalize Old Content mini-challenge.
    • Didn't get to this.  However, I did revitalize a couple of really old posts in the new blog post written for my business blog.  So, I still put that mini-challenge toward my original goals.  I consider that a win.
In the end, it was a productive weekend, even if it wasn't as productive (for blogging) as I had hoped.  This was my 3rd Bloggiesta.  I still find it fun and helpful to virtually hang out with a cool group of book bloggers and write, improve my blogs or just swap tips and tricks.  I would highly recommend the experience to any blogger.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Bloggiesta Time!

Yay! Bloggiesta is finally here!  I am SO looking forward to this weekend.  I'm posting my to-do list a little early because this weekend is starting to fill with activities not related to blogging.  I'm hoping that a written to-do list will keep me focussed on what I really need to get accomplished on my blogs.

What I hope to get done this weekend:

  1. WRITE! I haven't written a post for my business blog all month.  I have a couple of posts in draft and another forming in my head. In addition, I have been asked to guest post on two other websites.  I need to spend the weekend writing.
  2. Clean up my categories on my business blog.  Done!
  3. Participate in a mini-challenge.  In particular, I want to check out the WordPress v. Blogger mini-challenge hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.  It may help me decide what to do with this blog.  If I do migrate, I will leave that for the next Bloggiesta.  Done! Plus, I'm checking out other mini-challenges.
  4. Improve the visual appearance of both blogs.  They are both looking a little stale to me, so I would like to give them a fresh coat of paint.  Creating a more professional looking header is top of my list for my business blog.
  5. Ramp-up new editors for the PMI-Agile Community of Practice blog I edit and schedule a few more posts.
  6. NEW! Put "Popular Posts" on my sidebar, thanks to 6 Techniques To Revitalize Old Content mini-challenge. But, I will only get to this if #1 and #5 get done.
I think that's it for now. We'll see how I did at the end of the weekend.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I'll Be Joining The Bloggiesta Party!

Yay! Bloggiesta is back for the second time this year! Now everyone knows what I will be doing the weekend of Sept 28 to 30!  I first participated in the event in January 2011 and again in March of this year.  Both times I had a fun and productive blogging weekend and I'm always excited when it returns. In past Bloggiestas, I wrote posts related to the event on my professional blog.  This time I'll write my updates on this blog to keep my other blog focussed on management topics.

What is Bloggiesta, you ask?  From There's A Book blog (one of this year's hosts): it’s a blogging marathon devoted to ticking off items on your to-do list and improving your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing.   Started by Natasha of Maw Books Blog, I discovered it when WordPress featured a blog about the event on the Freshly Pressed page.  Even though the event is open to all bloggers, many of the participants are book bloggers who I discovered are a wonderful community to learn and share ideas about writing and blogging.   The event even has it's own mascot, Pedro (Plan. Edit. Develop. Review. Organize).  Mexican-themed food and drinks are optional but can be an added bonus to the event :)

Mini-challenges are part of the event and a great way to building your blogging know-how.

If you want to join in the fun, you can sign up here.

I have already started thinking about my to-do list for the weekend.  There are quite a number of improvements to my professional blog that need to be done and I have to decide what I want to do with this blog.  Stay tuned!

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wish This Was A Summer Vacation Report

Yesterday, a friend posted "It smells like autumn."  NOoooo! It can't be!  I'm not ready for the summer to be over yet.  Where did it go?

My friends and family already know the answer.  Yes, once again, I spent too much time at work.  Once I am able to talk about the project I'm working on, that statement won't seem so sad.  It's an important project, so the effort is worth it and the results are good so far.

In my free time I did manage to enjoy the summer somewhat.  So far, I've kept my promise to myself and visited my favorite place in the city once a month: Montreal Botanical Gardens.  I am particularly delighted with my July visit when I decided to photograph lilies in the evening.  I had never visited during lily season and the flowering brook garden was in full blooming glory.  Below are a few of my favorite shots.

A couple week later, I bought my new toy: a Canon S100.  I've been frustrated with my old point-and-shoot camera for quite awhile and I don't always want to carry my DSLR with me.  So, as a reward for successfully passing an important milestone on my project at work, I invested in my photo habit.  I'm carrying that camera with me everywhere and I'm gradually figuring out all the features.  It's almost as good as my DSLR but WAY more compact.  It can also do HDR, but I haven't had an appropriate subject to try it out yet.  Of all the creative modes, I'm enjoying the toy camera and the spot color modes the most.  

The major festivals came and went.  Now that I no longer work beside Place des Arts, I didn't even walk through the festival area and take in the free concerts/activities.  At least D and I went to see one of the fireworks shows from La Ronde.  It was our anniversary, so we got the gold seats and it was worth it!  We also had a great afternoon at La Ronde... it didn't (really) rain! 

Finally, just this weekend, I got out on my bike!  I hosted a MEETin event to cycle along the Lachine Canal.  It turned out to be a bigger adventure, resulting in a tour of Verdun.  The weather was amazing! Since I was the only person with a camera, I did not take any scenic pictures along the way.  Still, it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Every time I go cycling, I wonder why I don't do it more often.  Montreal is a great city for cycling, especially when the weather is like it was yesterday.  

Hmmmm... maybe I should start a photo blog instead?  I would probably post more often!

Friday, June 15, 2012

In Search of the Best Cupcakes

I happen to live near two cupcake shops, one of which I walk by practically every day and the other happens to also sell their treats at the Jean Coutu near my work.  The one I walk by has proven to be much more of a temptation - I stop by about once a month and pick up a little reward after delivering a project milestone at work.  Still, I wondered how the two shops compared. So, for my birthday, I set up an "In Search of the Best Cupcake" Event on MEETin and a few of my MEETin friends helped me find out!

Our first stop was D Liche Cupcakes on St. Denis.  Co-owner Robert greeted us warmly and graciously gave us the run-down on the source of the deliciousness.  Their cupcakes are made with 90% organic ingredients and contain no bad stuff like Crisco.  The result is a moist, rich cake that is not too sweet.  We each bought two minis of different flavours.  I chose the chocolate raspberry almond (above, on the left) and the chili chocolate (above, on the right).  When I peeled the wrapper off the first, I licked off the cake left behind.  I couldn't help myself!  I love the chili and chocolate combination and this cupcake did not disappoint!  The first bite was rich dark chocolate with a little bit of spice in the after taste.  The second bite had the chili kick!  Sneaky spice... love it!  The chocolate raspberry almond is like a mini black forest cake, but with raspberry.  A friend had a vanilla cupcake that tasted like a little bit of vanilla heaven.  With very happy taste buds, we set off to the second shop.

The next stop was Petits Gateaux on Mont Royal.  As soon as we walked into the shop, it was a completely different experience.  Unlike D Liche, the show cases seemed quite bare.  Being Grand Prix weekend, the street fair on Mont Royal likely kept the shop very busy that day.  As we selected our treats, we realized the cupcakes did not look as enticing.  To do an honest head-to-head comparison, I selected two minis: Chocolate Passionfruit (above, on the left) and Irish Coffee (above, on the right).  As soon as I peeled off the wrapper, I knew the competition was over.  There was nothing on the wrapper even to tempt me to lick it.  Both cupcakes were disappointing.  They were dry, too sweet and  the flavours were non-specific.  I could barely taste the passionfruit, but it was not masked by the chocolate.  The irish coffee had a hint of mocha, but there was nothing particularly Irish about it.  One friend complained about the presentation - it had looked like someone had started to peel off the wrapper, changed their mind and returned the cupcake.  It wasn't the case, but the wrapper coming off of the cupcake is a clear signal that the cake is too dry.  We couldn't even bring ourselves to discuss the cupcakes in the shop - the girls behind the counter looked like their day was tough enough.

So, the clear winner of the best cupcakes in the Plateau is D Liche Cupcakes on St. Denis.  The picture above is only a small section of their tempting showcase.  Robert and Ken will graciously tempt you with their flavours-of-the-week. If you have never tried their cupcakes, I recommend getting a box of six different minis so you can decide what flavours will be your favorite!
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Friday, June 1, 2012

Nature and Museums

Montreal is one of the best cities for museums.  We have a wide variety of museums, covering almost every aspect of history, art, science and nature and stuff in between.  The exhibits are always excellent quality and the entrance fees are quite reasonable compared to other cities in which I have lived.  The best part has got to be the annual Museums Day on the last Sunday of May.  From 9am to 5pm, all the museums and exhibits are free and fleet of city buses are set up to shuttle us around.  Finally, after living in Montreal for four years, I was finally available to participate in Museums Day, which also kept a resolution to visit more museums.  I am so glad I did!

I chose to visit the museums on the purple bus route.  Two of the museums were out of the way, so having a shuttle take me directly there was exactly the incentive I needed to visit.  The first two stops were on Parc Jean-Drapeau, which is a short metro ride from home.  With the plan set, I set out on my museum adventure Sunday morning.

The first stop was the Stewart Museum.  It had closed in 2007 for a massive renovation and just reopened in 2011.  I had decided to walk to the museum from the metro.  It was a beautiful day, so I stopped along the way to take photos in the park... and then promptly got lost.  Oh, well, the results were photos like this one:

I eventually found the museum, which is housed in an old fort/military prison near Jacques-Cartier bridge:

Stewart Museum was a pleasant surprise.  Being the site of an old fort, the views of Montreal, the port and the bridge were fantastic.  Inside, the museum was beautifully renovated and the comprehensive exhibit covered the story of Montreal from the age of exploration through to the 20th century.  The story covered the life and technology of the times, not just the historical facts of conquests and battles.  I would highly recommend the Stewart Museum to history buffs.

So not to get lost again, I took the shuttle to the next stop: the environmental museum at the Biosphere.
I'll be honest.  I expected a museum run by Environment Canada to be a bit dull.  It was just the opposite!  It rivalled the Science Centre with respect to being an interactive, fun museum.  All the exhibits, focused on environment and ecology, had something for everyone.  There was an interactive section for kids to play while they learn about the wonders of water.  Kids and water is serious fun! There was also a fascinating exhibit of 16 dresses made from "garbage", such as used batteries, plastic containers, books, electronics, and much more.  The creations were more artistic than practical, but the creativity was impressive.  I could go on and on, but the Biosphere website will give all the details.

My final stop was Maison Saint-Gabriel, which preserves and reenacts 17th century life in Montreal.  I had missed a MEETin Montreal event to visit the museum a couple of years ago, so I had intended to go see it on my own since then.
By this point, though, it was 2pm and there was a long line outside the museum.  I decided just to explore the garden and watch the demonstrations on 17th century weaving, snowshoe making, and blacksmithing.  There was also a surprising side exhibit on shoes from the 17th century to present day.

For a bit more nature, my weekend started with my first visit to the Botanical Gardens this year, which was also a photo walk event I hosted for MEETin.  The gardens are one of my favorite places in Montreal.  Now that I have my Access Montreal card, entrance to the outdoor gardens is free, so I will be trying to go monthly to photograph the various flowers as they come into season.  Since we had a mild winter and an early, exceptionally warm spring, a lot of the May blooms were already finished.  Still, we were able to catch the Leslie-Hancock garden in its final glory of colourful azaleas and rhododendrons.

The gardens and Museums Day were a great start to the summer season.  Looking forward to my adventures in June!

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Marriage Advice

As I am preparing to attend the first wedding I have attended in quite a few years, I've been thinking about marriage and what it really is to be in one.  I am fortunate.   Contrary to statistics, almost all of my married friends are still together, in their first marriage, and starting to reach 40.  Even after a one-year separation, my own marriage somehow is still going after nearly nine years.  What have I learned from the experience?  If I could go back in time, what advice would I give my younger self?

First, I still appreciate and value the advice two friends I consider my marriage mentors gave us before our wedding.  They married when they were barely 20 years old and were still together nearly 10 years, and three children, later.  With all that experience at such a young age, I figured they would have some wise words for us.  The advice: "When you start to have problems, and you will, don't be afraid to get counselling." Not what I expected, but still very insightful.  When that time came, I reached out to the same friends who still gave the same advice.  Even though my husband and I did not get counselling together, I still got it for myself and it helped.

The next bit of wisdom I only truly understood when things fell apart. During that time, my friends and colleagues shared their wisdom from their own marriages.  All the conversations started with:  "Marriage is hard work."  I had likely heard that before, but it didn't really hit home until that time.  Marriage is hard work.  It is hard to constantly be mindful about our own actions and behaviours, make compromises but not sacrifice our needs, and show each other love, respect and appreciation, even when we don't always feel like it. These are only a few examples.  Marriage is even more work than that! Now that I understand that,  I am putting in a more conscious effort to work on the right things to keep our relationship going.

Finally, this last bit of advice is definitely directed at my younger self: remember to take time for myself.  During my first years of marriage, I tried so hard to do all the things I thought I should do.  Between running the household, running errands, and running my career (which involved a lot of business travel for awhile), I was allowing myself to be run into the ground.  I was exhausted.  Since moving to Montreal and the year of separation that came with it, I re-learned how to take take time for myself to do things that are just for me.  As a result, I have a bit more balance in my life and my husband he has more time for himself, making him happier.

What marriage advice would you give your younger self?
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Saturday, March 31, 2012

10,000 Steps A Day: What Does It Take?

Walking around my neighbourhood - March 2012

Living in Montreal means I walk... a lot.  I don't own a car and I'm lucky enough to live where I can easily walk to work.  So, when I heard that we need to walk 10,000 steps a day to maintain good health, I started to wonder what it would take for me to achieve that in my day-to-day routine.  How many steps was I walking? Earlier this month I borrowed a pedometer from a friend to find out. 

Every weekday, I try to walk both to and from work.  If I'm running late in the morning or it's a long day at the office, I only walk one way.  Unfortunately, that was not enough to achieve 10,000 steps.  Walking one way, plus normal walking around the office and to/from the metro only got me to around 7,000 steps.  Not walking to/from work at all was dismal - only around 3,500 steps.  I finally achieved the goal when I walked to and from work, plus took a short walk to have lunch with a friend.  According to Google maps, that's 5.7km (around 3.5 miles), plus whatever I walked around the office.  This is definitely inspiring me to take a break and go for a walk at lunch.

On the weekend,  I only measured my steps when I went somewhere.  Unfortunately, that usually involved taking the metro which did a great job of shaking the pedometer and inflating the count.  Still, I think a trip to Jean-Talon market was a respectable 1,500 steps because I love to wander around the entire market.  Going shopping in the underground city must be nearly double that, since I usually get lost down there.

I must say that Mother Nature was a great help with this experiment.  We had the most beautiful weather anyone could remember.  For about a week and a half we had sunshine and the temperatures rose up to 26C!  Even though it has cooled down, I am not complaining.  It was a mild winter and it's still an early Spring.  Now that I know what it takes to walk 10,000 steps a day, I will be sure to have my walking shoes/sandals on every day this summer!

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hula Hoop!

Shortly after starting a series of yoga classes at Studios Vert Prana back in November,  I wanted to try a hula hoop class.  How could I not be tempted?  Seeing the colorful hoops on the walls around the studio, I figured it would be a fun sport to try.  As soon as the Introduction to Hula Hoop class was announced, I signed up for what became my big Adventure in Montreal for February 2012.

First, this is not the hula hooping you remember as a kid.  It's more like what you would see a gymnast or an acrobat do... once we learn how to do those moves.  The hoops are weighted -- the heavier ones being better for beginners because the hoop turns slower.  Also, we aren't just hooping around our waists.  Already in the first class, we were hooping around our necks and hands!

I must confess - I loved to hula hoop when I was a little kid.  I remember participating in a "rodeo" event in gym class in Grade 1 or 2.  One of the events was hula hooping, but it had some "rodeo" name instead.  I practiced for weeks in advance of the big event and, if I remember correctly, it paid off.  I won a ribbon!  Still, I was a bit nervous at the start of the first class.  It's been over 30 years, would I still remember how to hula hoop?  My body is quite a bit curvier than when I was six or seven and it certainly doesn't move the same way. 

With the first spin of the hoop, it all came back.  I was happily hooping at my first attempt.  The weight on the hoop does help... and work the abs.  After a couple of minutes, I understood why it's a great workout for the mid-section.  In less than five minutes, our instructor started to challenge us:  do a 360 turn in the same direction as the hoop, do a 360 turn in the opposite direction, walk across the room while hooping, walk backwards across the room while hooping.  Fortunately, it's hard not to have fun, so everyone was smiling and laughing as we were trying to figure it all out.  We then progressed to spinning the hoop around our necks (that takes getting used to!), vertically around our hand, horizontally around our hand above our heads, and switching hands in both situations.  Finally, we wrapped up with a move I still haven't figured out completely: moving the hoop from spinning around my hand above my head to spinning around my neck (all while the hoop keeps spinning). 

Unfortunately, I missed the 2nd class due to a 24-hour bug and I certainly felt the missing week on my 3rd class.  By the end of the 4th class, I can spin the hoop around my knees, switch hands behind my back and raise the hoop from my waist to above my head and back to my waist all while keeping it spinning.  The last move is called the Corkscrew.  Didn't quite get good enough to do the Vortex, though.  We even learned how to step through a hoop vertically spinning on our hands, but I definitely need more practice with that move.

Oh, yeah, and all the instruction was in French :)

Some friends have been bugging me for a video of my hula hooping adventure.  Yeah, right.  Instead, I'll share this video I found on YouTube that shows what the Corkscrew is.  She makes it look easy.  It took me two classes to really figure it out.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Renewing My Love Affair With Montreal

Back in September, I finally got around to doing one of the items on my Montreal bucket list:  cycle along the Lachine canal from Old Montreal to Dorval.  I hadn't ridden my bike in years, so I was a bit shaky at the start, but as my confidence increased I remembered how much fun it was to feel the wind in my face as I passed through the Old Port to Griffintown and so on.  It was also the day I decided to renew my love affair with Montreal.

For most of 2011 I wasn't sure I would be staying in Montreal.  While I like living in Montreal, the work culture does not always align with my values.  At the end of September, though, it looked like I would be getting a new job in Montreal, so I knew I would be staying for while.  Plus,  a couple of friends were moving to the city and their excitement was already starting to rub off on me.  I remember how much fun I had when I first moved to Montreal.  There is so much to see, do and experience here and it's all easily accessible.  With respect to my social and personal life, this is the best city in which I have ever lived.  It's the only major city where I've lived where I can randomly run into someone I know (and don't work with) while walking down the street or riding the metro.

So, to renew my love affair with Montreal in 2012, I will do more of the following things I love to do here:
  • Embrace winter (if it ever comes).  Go skating, tobogganing, maybe even snowshoeing - at least once a week.  Find and enjoy more tea or hot chocolate.
  • Embrace summer (when it comes).  Find and enjoy new terrasses.  Eat outside on my own. Finally attend a show at the Just For Laughs festival.  Spend time at the Jazz Festival.  Have a picnic in a park.  Watch the fireworks from Jacques Cartier bridge.  Find and enjoy more shop-made ice cream.
  • Walk or ride my bike just for the fun of it.  I got a bike bell in Amsterdam.  I should use it :)
  • More solo street photography (outside of my monthly MEETin photo walks).
  • Go to Jean Talon or Atwater market every week.
  • Go to the Botanical Gardens (my favorite) or some other park once a month.
  • Visit museums.  We have A LOT of museums in Montreal and admission is inexpensive.  Hmmm... I really should get an Access Montreal card.
  • Explore more restaurants, especially in my own neighbourhood and around work.
  • Wear fashionable clothes.  Yes, I like living in a city where I can dress nicely.  Now if I only worked in an industry that didn't think I had a job interview or a hot date every time I dressed up...
With all these plans for adventures in Montreal, I really should revive this blog and share my stories again.  My professional blog will get more attention, so I'll try to update this one once a month.

Happy 2012 everyone!