Thursday, February 26, 2015

Success Can be Redefined

What is success when you are in your sixties?  Some ideas of success can be left behind--they were worthwhile at an earlier time.  Now success can be redefined, even in small ways: the morning smile from the trolley driver when I step up on that first high step with a little more effort.  I am going to work--part-time--and the sun is up, and the Monongahela River is frozen all but a narrow channel near the edge. The sky looks transparent and I am glad to be out in the cold.

Photograph courtesy of Dave Dicello Photography

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beyond Montreal

Montreal is a beautiful, sophisticated international city to delight a tourist. Cross the river, and discover a smaller gem of Quebec life--Longueuil. If you want to feel what it might be like to live there, check into one of the bed & breakfasts.

I stayed at the L'oasis du vieux Longueuil.  A gentle water garden beside the patio added to the ambiance, although in July it also added to the mosquito population. The proprietors live upstairs, and keep three guest rooms downstairs, each with its own color scheme.

The door on the left is for guests, and the door on the right for the proprietors, who speak both French and English. I am not the best of bed and breakfast guests because I do not talk much--mostly a room is a retreat. If you enjoy the conversational aspect of staying in a B&B, then the hosts will be good company over morning coffee and muffins.

 Longueuil in the early morning light invites a stroll. St. Charles is the main street where restaurants and small shops line the boulevard, ending in the Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua (Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue).

I soon discovered my hang-out, my quiet place for rest and revitalization--which every traveler needs--the Rolland Bakery.

Small tables and chairs in the front of the bakery make the perfect place to enjoy morning coffee and croissants.  If you want to choose your own coffee beans, insert a small metal tray beneath the blend of choice to measure out enough for one cup of coffee. Insert the tray into the coffee machine, and listen to it grind and brew a rich cup of coffee in a few seconds. Or, go to the counter and ask one of the girls for a cup of coffee. After saying "bonjour," I pretty much retreated into English.

A fan of jellies, preserves and confits can browse the shelves in the back of the store.

Food seems to be the center of life in Longueuil, the sustenance around which people gather. Lobster Pizza is a favorite:

Enjoy the neighborhood and see what you discover before heading back to the city of Montreal.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Steeler Nation

It's fun to live in Pittsburgh during the NFL Playoffs. Walking to work yesterday, I spotted a tribute to Troy Polamalu in front of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

To say it's a festive mood in town is an understatement. Walk into Potomac Bakery in Dormont or Bethel Bakery in Bethel Park--we have great bakeries in Pittsburgh--and the imagination of cake decorators is on display in black and gold.

People will line up Saturday morning at the bakeries, butchers and grocery stores to buy their provisions for the Sunday game. Family gatherings are one of the best parts of being a Steelers fan--pack up the babies and grab the old ladies, and everyone go.

A big thank you to the Art Institute for making my morning walk from the T-stop brighter by dressing up their dinosaur for whatever is going on in town. Lady Gaga-saur was a classic!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Civic Arena Opens

It is not called the Civic Arena anymore, and it does not even open anymore; but being a child of the sixties, I can remember when it was shiny and new and looked like a space ship had landed in downtown Pittsburgh. I was thirteen in 1961 when the Civic Arena opened, and one of the first events that I attended there was an Easter Sunrise Service.

Since I finished making my Easter suit at some ungodly hour Saturday night, burrowed in the walk-in closet where my mother kept our sewing machine, I was bleary-eyed but glad to be up early Sunday morning for the community service. The magnificent and unique steel lid opened slowly--panel sliding over panel--as the sun rose. The choir and all the congregation sang Easter songs to the open air.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It was a quarter to two in the morning and a Caterpillar front-loader was lifting mounds of snow and dropping them into a dump truck. This activity was going on across the street from my apartment, and since I was up anyway reading The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I didn't mind the noise.

 Image result for tonka truck clip art

I looked out the window--it was like watching Tonka Trucks. As soon as one truck was filled and spilling over, it pulled away and another arrived. It is February in Pittsburgh, and my municipality is efficiently removing 21" of snowfall.

This is what makes people dream of Marco Island. This is why residents of Pittsburgh take their two weeks of summer vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina or on a Delaware beach and bring back family portraits posing on the sand dunes to stack up on desk tops and office bookcases.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nothing Happened

Willa Cather wrote:

"I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin....The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy."

The plots of Cather's books are not what I remember.  I remember her sentences.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Turkey by Any Other Name


I drove to Michigan to spend Thanksgiving with my son and daughter-in-law. She was born in Chile and though she grew up in Canada, culinary traditions (like a mother tongue) seem to stay with us. So for Thanksgiving instead of the usual stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and after-dinner somnolence, we had delicious empanadas--stuffed with turkey. Empanadas are hand-made pastries (flour, butter, milk) filled with all manner of flavors--turkey, onion, raisins, hard-boiled eggs and spices such as cardamom.

The result is a light but filling treat, great with spinach salad and a Spanish red wine.

My contribution to the meal was cupcakes--yellow batter, chocolate icing made with Hershey's cocoa--like the ones I used to make for my son when he was a boy. Not fancy, but enjoyed by all.

There are pleasures and surprises when one is old enough to have children who are grown-ups, capable in their own right. I am a visitor now; but they are hospitable and endlessly interesting, opening new worlds to me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Over My Head

"The best way to graduate from beginner is to get in way over your head. Nothing makes you better faster."
--37 signals

I saw this quotation on a web site, The American Entrepreneur, and felt a spark of encouragement. I had recently jumped into a learning experience that was reminding me what it feels like to be a beginner again.

As a teacher at Point Park University, I can take an undergraduate course once in a while. On-line Journalism sounded like just what I wanted to learn--creating blogs, making web sites look nice, and writing for the web. We gather twice a week in a sunny computer classroom equipped with the latest and greatest Apples. I'm in heaven, because at home I have a computer that is so old HP won't support it anymore and no Internet. Here in the classroom, I can go anywhere in the world.

The "we" of this course is made up mostly of undergraduate students who are younger than my children. They are nice to me, very accepting of the gray-haired lady in their midst. I try to keep up, and I try not to ask too many questions; but at times they are many steps ahead of me following the directions of the professor, Heather Starr-Fiedler, while I am scribbling notes and wondering "what did she say?" In taking this course, I am learning not only new moves on the keyboard but also a new vocabulary.

On the first day, I learned what "RSS" stands for, where it is and what it can do for me! I was thrilled. Now I get daily updates from The Wall Street Journal, as well as local news outlets. I can embed an HTML code, add a slide show to my blog, play around however awkwardly with "Audacity," and create audio interviews. Our teacher is not only a professor but also a practitioner--the founder and managing director of the web site Pittsburgh Mom. I may be a beat or two behind the nimble minds of my classmates, but I am learning things that I never would have discovered if I had not gotten in way over my head.