Life in the pursuit of Happiness

Saw a wonderful commercial this morning on TV. It was done for the Cheese marketing board here in Canada – and it argued that doing things that give you Pleasure makes life worth living. I think the actual caption was “Cheese – an Excellent Source of Pleasure”.

I was intrigued – not so much by the cheese – it looked like Brie wins hands down – probably because it’s so easy to cut – but by the concept.

Life lived in the pursuit of Happiness.

I guess it intrigued me because I just did a series of personality questionnaires for a study at my local hospital on how certain personality types handle stress – and the questions generally asked for me rate a series of statements from Totally Disagree to Totally Agree.

The questions were not generally upbeat. I feel like Killing myself appeared at least 3 times – and there was an entire series devoted to issues related to handling overwhelming emotions. As my daughter-in-law quipped – I’m probably a huge outlier in their study. But hey – they invited me to continue for 3 years. I don’t think they would have done that if my results wouldn’t be included.

Back to the pursuit of Happiness.

So what makes you happy is the first question. If you know what gives you personally pleasure – it’s much easier to figure out what to do to get more of the same.

For me – travel (well not the TRAVEL part – but the being somewhere new and different part) is hugely enjoyable. I love seeing new places, visiting new museums (or even old ones with new exhibits). And you know what totally makes my day – exploring new transit systems.

I loved it when we were learning how to use the metro system in South Korea – it was a hoot to see the different stations, to observe how people in South Korea behave when doing their normal getting from here to there routines. Particularly fun – sitting with the older citizens in the reserved seats – and seeing how they knew each other. And watching them compete for least infirm. You take the seat – no you take the seat – no, I’m clearly in better shape then you – it’s yours. Too funny!

All of which leads me to the subject of my next big trip.

I’m going to Bali – Indonesia. And I’m already loving it – because in Indonesia – I’m a millionaire – a 5 millionaire to be exact. And it only cost me $500 Canadian. But my friend says it’s easy come, easy go.

Well – I’m going to revel in my new status for at least a few days, thank you.

Signing off – The newly minted millionaire – The Soup Lady

A Woman’s Guide to Packing for Indonesia

Featured Image -- 2096


Handy – I’m heading to Bali very soon – so knowing what to bring – and more importantly not to bring is essential. Don’t bring a towel, eh? Ok you – out of my bags!

Originally posted on International Andrea:

How to pack for Indonesia largely depends on which of its 17,000+ islands you’ll be visiting. With that many islands and countless more cultures each adhering to a very set collection of fashion faux-paus, packing for this country can be a little overwhelming. And as a woman, when packing gets tough, the tough get over-packing. I brought way too much with me, leaving me in quite a predicament as I now try to pack all my souvenirs, gifts, and clothes to take home.

Here’s a packing list I’ve constructed by learning from my mistakes:


It’s important to note that although Indonesia is located in the tropics of South East Asia and is as hot and humid as primordial soup, it isn’t all tanks, bikinis, and shorts. In fact, on most islands those items would be considered very offensive to wear in public. On the most popular islands of Bali

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News from the Bird House

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal dropped by today to say hi – and grab a quick snack at my bird feeder. Officially part of the Grosbeak family – named such for their large beaks (Gross Beak – get it!) – they look amazing silhouetted against the literally tons of snow in my back yard.

It’s been a long hard winter here in Canada – and while we should really be used to this – it does happen every year people – somehow as I get older, winter seems to get longer and longer.

But today – sitting as I am in my warm house admiring the glistening white snow and startling red birds at my feeder – it’s a tad hard to work up to a good complaint.

Ok – minus anything on a thermometer is probably not wonderful for outdoor activities, but when the snow glistens and every animal track is highlighted by it’s shadows – well – its so stunningly beautiful I really can’t imagine wanting to live somewhere else.

Enough about the weather already – I did want to update my loyal readers on the happenings around my bird feeder!

My daughter accuses me of favoring beauty over brains – because I bought a fab squirrel baffle – the first in my long search for squirrel proof that actually works. It’s actually a Raccoon Baffle – and that should immediately tell you that my squirrels are the hard core type. Even though it’s been defeating them for months – they still occasionally get inspired to check it out. The Baffle is a long (about 2.5 foot) empty cylinder that is about 10″ in diameter. In balances on a disk that is screwed tight to the pole that holds the feeders – and hangs down. It is sufficiently large to keep animals from climbing up the outside – and of course there is nothing inside to do or see or eat. So several times a day a brave squirrel will scramble up the pole – peek into the cylinder – then slide down and give me a dirty look. Fortunately for me – and the squirrels – birds aren’t really neat eaters – so there’s plenty of seeds scattered on the ground around the pole – so no one is really going that hungry.

On to the birds – I know – I’m not much of a birder. Ok – actually – I’m a terrible birder. I can see the color (red – cardinal, blue – blue jay), but little brown birds with white chests – they all kinda look the same to me. And that’s using my binoculars. I’m bad.

But I have good friends – and they bought me a book. Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds of North America. And it has lots of pictures. While what I’d really like is someone to go – look – see that and that and that – that’s how you know that bird is a Nuthatch – at least with the Kaufman, I can flip thru the pictures and say – well – that looks right.

And I’m not so dumb that I don’t know to check if it even comes into my area. Good thing they have maps in the book, eh?

Ok – so birds I have spotted:

1. Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal – who apparently live near by and visit daily
2. The Chickadee extended family – who dip and dive their way in and out constantly
3. The Blue Jays – sometime visitors – and right now notable in their lengthly absence
4. White Breasted Nuthatch. I for sure saw one – looked just like his picture! I think I might have seen a Red Breasted Nuthatch – but I’m not 100% sure.
5. Yellow Throated Vireo – hey – it’s yellow. I’m so happy. Doesn’t look like the brown guys – works for me.
6. Warblers – I’m pretty sure these are what I’ve seen – but this is a huge family – so it’s a safe bet that at least one or two or a dozen have ventured by
7. European Starling – only slightly smaller than the Cardinals – and not nearly as regular a visitor – I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’m sure that the bird I saw was a Starling. (No joking about the huge population of these either – I’m new to the game of ID’ing birds – and a positive ID is a positive ID
8. And Juncos – Dark Eye’d and very pretty.

I have one more observation to share with you – it turns out that the birds are more interested apparently in sunshine than thermometer readings. No matter how cold it is (and we’ve had days in the minus 30 and worse range), if the sun’s out – the birds come. On the grey days – even when it’s much warmer – there are fewer birds.

Ok – that’s it for news from the feeder. I’ll keep everyone posted if I spot something new and different – or if the squirrels defeat the Baffle. I think my daughter is definitely on their side.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Another Icon gone forever – And I’ll miss Spock forever

Spock died. Ok – I know – it’s not Spock – it’s Leonard Nimoy – but to me he was Spock. He was a visitor from another galaxy with issues related to his birthright that made him both intriguing and sometimes – lets admit it – annoying.

He was the torn in Captain Kirk’s side, the nemesis of Bones, and often the brilliant problem solver that saved the day for the Enterprise.

He took chances – both as himself, and as Spock – and challenged me at least to consider the benefits of not just doing the same old over and over again.

Getting scared isn’t a bad thing if it also means getting ahead. And one of my favorite posters has always been of a turtle with the slogan – a Turtle never gets ahead if he doesn’t stick his neck out.

And you are never too old, too set in your ways to ignore the pleasure of doing something that makes you happy.

So in honor of Leonard – in honor of Spock – in honor of growing up but not growing ‘old’ in the sense of same old, same old – let’s all go out and do something unique today. Something just a bit challenging – walk a little further, say hi to a stranger, make a plan to do something you’ve always wanted to do, try a new exercise, drive down a different road.

It’s in honor of Spock and Leonard!

Signing off so she too can go do something fun – and different – and challenging – The Soup Lady

Thanksgiving Boot Camp

What is it about Thankgiving that gets us so excited, so filled with antipipation? I’m sure it’s partly the heady lead up to the Christmas season and all the parties, gatherings, and over-doing that entalls. But in my family’s case – I think it’s more than that.

My sisters and I have made it a tradition to gather from the far corners of the Eastern US coastline somewhere to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ve done it in Duck, NC, Stowe, VT – and most often on Edisto Beach in South Carolina. This location is a favorite because it is easy driving distance for 2 of the 3 of us, and while the house my one sister owns isn’t quite large enough for everyone (we number from 11 to 17 to more depending on how many of the kids and grand kids join us), it’s a start in getting housing for all.

But back to the boot camp atmosphere. We’re a heavy eating, heavy drinking, and mostly heavy exercising family. And I emphasise the exercising! My sisters are keen walkers – 2 – 3 – 5 miles – no sweat. Well, actually – a lot of sweat, but no problem. I’m less keen on doing these scheduled exercise based jaunts – I prefer a purpose to my exercise – talking a hiking trail, doing a 5K Gobble Wobble – those are my prefered ways of getting out and working off the heavy eating portions of the holiday. But then I think nothing of 6 hours of Downhill skiing – every day for a month. So who am I to judge? Just do what suits you I guess.

Anyway – Thanksgiving serves as an opportunity for me to do it all. Under the heavy eating category, there’s my sister’s Pecan Pie. I spend the weeks up to Thanksgiving thinking about how many slices I shall enjoy this year. 1, 2, maybe more? In some years she has seriously splurged and made 2 pies – so I can safely eat just one slice at the Thanksgiving feast proper, and be assured that there will be left overs for the weekend. This year there was just 1 pie – so I ate 1.5 slices on Thanksgiving. Good thing too – never had another.

And then there’s the Sea Cow. Actually – fried oysters at the Sea Cow. I adore fried oysters – but in Montreal our oysters are the thin lifeless kind that even fried just don’t burst into flavor in your mouth. But on Edisto – where oysters are harvested in great abundance year round – and the Sea Cow gets fresh oysters daily- the resulting fried oysters are the stuff of legend. Only place I’ve been where the oysters might have been better (and I’m not so sure they were) was New Orleans. Oh yes, the fried Oysters at the Sea Cow are that delicious. Now if only they made Double Chocolate Bread Pudding.

To add insult to heavy eating insult – there’s Charleston. Oh yes – Charleston does it right for restaurants. This year we feasted at the Charleston Grill – Fried Catfish and grits. Oh make my southern roots sing for joy!

And of course – let’s not forget the thanksgiving feast proper. My sisters and their families divide up the cooking chores – everyone cooking their favorite thing- My brother-in-law’s Turkey, my neices pumpkin muffins, my son’s Cranberry Sauce, my sister’s Chili, the stuffing, the casseroles, the pies, the freshly baked corn bread – and the wine. Boy am I glad someone always figures a salad would be a good idea!

And of course – there’s just getting together. There’s never enough time on a long weekend to indulge in much serious contemplation and consultation – but we do get to at least hear the breaking news, to admire how everyone has lost weight, gained weight, done their hair, bought a new shirt. And it avoids the – I haven’t seen them in ages – comment when you dutifully gather at least once a year.

Enough basking in Thanksgiving heaven – Does your family have Thanksgiving Traditions? What makes your memories sigh for the next opportunity to indulge. Come on – share your thoughts and pleasures – it’s too short a life to keep the joy of getting together for some later day!

Signing off (and Yes – I know posting Thanksgiving thoughts in Feb is silly – so no comments on that score) – The seriously late posting Soup Lady.

A Tale of 2 Ski Hills – Deer Valley and Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole – wild, wooly, in your face, hard-core, deep powder, tight trees, lousy grooming – VS – Deer Valley – elegant, fashionable, respectfully, friendly, warm, happy, sunny, clear skies, awesome grooming.

A Tale of 2 Cities – Jackson, Wyoming and Park City, Utah

It’s odd how cities with so much in common can be so fundamentally different. So lets start with what they share.

Is Travel Broadening?

Travel plans – or is it true that Travel is Broadening?

I love travel – I hate flying. Too bad teleportation is still in the future. I had hopes when I was younger that by the time I reached the impossibly OLD age of 65 – someone would have figured out the technology.

But no. You can send information around the world in seconds – but yourself – 35 hours of travel time from Montreal to Bali – going either way around the globe. You have got to be kidding me.

Speaking of Bali – I officially blew it. I could have done a round the world trip – flown Montreal, Paris, Singapore, Bali, Toyko, Vancouver, Montreal – but I lost focus when I saw I could get first class for only $1000 more – and opted to go and come via Paris. Missed opportunities.

So – is Travel Broadening? I think the answer depends on your definition of broad. If you mean fattening – I think that depends on who you travel with. When I travel with the Intrepid Traveler – we live cheap and simple – and we walk everywhere, eat little. So nope – that kind of travel is not that kind of broadening.

When I travel with my husband, it’s a bit trickier. I don’t generally put on weight – but I do have to watch how much I’m eating because the meals tend to be more elaborate, longer, and often fattening just because they last so long! But still – in general – I’d say that for me – travel isn’t that kind of broadening. I have friends who complain that a trip = 5 extra pounds, but I don’t think that’s the way it has to be.

What about the other kind of broadening – learning about new places, new cultures, learning new things. Again – this can depend. I’ve chatted up fellow travelers and discovered that they are accidental tourists – not travelers. They came armed with a certain point of view – and are determined to leave with the same. Been there – done that – don’t need to do it again seems the dominating characteristic. And they don’t give places enough time. I’ve been guilty of skimping on time too – so I know what I’m talking about. It takes time to experience a place, to get past the running around – need to see that museum today – headset and start just being there.

Sometimes people can’t help but limit their exposure to a new place. In South Korea we ran into a delightful Indonesian family that had very severe diet restrictions – so they had to cook all their food at the hostel. And they couldn’t even use the pots and pans provided – they brought their own. Trust me – they missed out on a lot of what South Korea has to offer – the food there was amazing. But I get the need for restrictions – it’s a tough choice.

What can you see in a city like St. Petersburg or Rome in just 2 days? It takes a day just to figure out how to get back to your hotel. 2 days is enough to say been there – but not enough to say – BEEN there. Which is why the Intrepid Traveler and I generally try to a lot a whole week per city.

It’s still not enough – but it’s a gesture in the right direction.

And then there’s preparation. I always want to read up on a place before I arrive – in case there’s something that needs to be organized prior to travel, in order to give myself a chance to get more comfortable with what I’ll see, and to map out the must do vs the can do options.

My preferences for planning are a combination of Tripadvisor (if 1000 people love it – you should at least check it out) and print media. I find on-line sources are too often about selling you something (their services, their bus company, their tour plan), and less about reporting what is and is not great about a particular activity. Guide books are quickly out-dated – we have all carefully followed a suggested route to discover that the thing we most wanted to see changed it hours, closed, is under re-construction – what ever. So checking on-line (watch those last updated dates!) and a guide-book and tripadvisor – and common sense – all of these play a part in organizing the perfect trip.

All of this muttering is leading up to my next blog – clearly another trip!

Keep eyes peeled.

Signing off – The Soup Lady!

Cooking Confessions – Tohu Scores Again

I adore the Tohu – it’s a specially built building for Circus arts built on the campus of the Cirque du Soleil here in Montreal. It houses – along with a variety of circus performances throughout the year – a school for Circus arts. So it’s a multipurpose building – with very cool seating options, super high ceilings to allow for the kinds of high performances we expect from acrobats and the like, plus great sight lines. Not a bad seat in a very big house.

We have season tickets – which means that we picked out 3 of their 6 different performances to see this year. For us – this is a minimum – normally we opt for 5 or even 6 of their offerings, but our travel plans this year cut out a lot of the options.

But on to the review of Cooking Confessions – or in French – Cuisine & confessions

Clearly the theme of the night was going to be food – but since the performers are the highly talented, multi-lingual Sept Doigt a la main – 7 fingers on a hand – one can expect that food isn’t going to be the only thing being tossed around. And the set – a multi-level kitchen with a working stove, a sink,  a fridge, and of course rolling tables, hidden furniture, and hooks descending from the ceiling was quite the sight.

We sat down – and were immediately approached by one of the performers – a young lady from Argentina who invited me up on stage to visit her kitchen and help fold wash clothes. Victor was invited up by a young man with rasta hair – who confided in him that Basket Ball was his favorite sport. Other members of the audience were also invited to visit the stage – with its surprisingly springy floor. Despite the paint job that made it look like hardwood – in fact it was padded to give the performers extra spring! Very neat – and quite surprising.

Our guides escorted us back to our seats – and went on to find other members of the audience willing to walk up on stage.

Cool part – since we’d ‘chatted’ with the performers – we felt more part of the action – and this lent an added layer of personal interest to the later tossing and jumping around that was bound to happen.

The party begins when the audience is assembled – and starts with food confessions – performer after performer talking about their food memories – or listing their favorite foods – from the sublime to the desert! One incredibly thin gal, who one can guess never actually swallows anything, listed nothing but deserts – each with more love in her voice than the last.

While the confessions are going on – each performer takes center stage in their turn. There is a remarkable juggler – juggling kitchen tools of course. He does a wonderful turn with stainless steel bowls – and ends his act juggling over-sized wire whips – 7 at a time. Stunning.

The pole dancer/climber/acrobat was probably my personal favorite. He’d come over to chat with us in the lead-up section – so we knew that he’d been injured and has a wrap on one hand. To say he worked thru the pain would be obvious. He ran up and down the 50 foot pole with a grace and a style that the squirrels in my back yard would envy. Several times he climbed to the top – and then apparently let go – dropping down to inches from the ground before grabbing hold to stop. Once he even did it head first. Man – that guy was outstanding.

My husbands favorite performer was the young man with rastas. His specialty – jumping thru hoops. But this is a ‘cooking’ show – so he starts off jumping thru the kitchen cabinets – and graduates to jumping thru people posing with legs and arms forming the hoops. My top favorite jump – hands and feet first – bum in back – thru the looped leg of one of the other female performers. How does he do that.

During the cooking demonstration – they toss eggs – the ones that got thrown to the audience were fake – the ones that got thrown around the stage were real, and got cracked into the stainless bowls for future cooking. They even made banana bread – and had everyone in the massive audience set their iphone alarms for 36 minutes. When they went off – the bread was baked to be sliced and served to lucky members of the audience.

Standing ovation – of course.

On until November 6th at Tohu. But not to worry. If you miss this one – these ober-talented performers will be back next year with a new show – and there is still an entire Tohu season to enjoy.

Tohu – one of the Great places in Montreal – don’t miss it.


Belles Soeurs – Sisters-in-law – Just Friends

The distinct advantage of living in a big city like Montreal is the amount of Theatre one can choose – or not choose – to see.

I choose yes. I love to see ‘live’ theatre – give me some actors, a stage, and a story – I’m a happy camper.

So this week was pretty well amazing. 3 great pieces of theatre in 7 days. It just doesn’t get much better – well except that it’s going to be 4 in 8 days tonight. Again – advantages of living in a big city.

Belles Soeurs – that’s a french title – but what we saw was the English version – done as a musical. So it was actually a premiere – if you ignore the fact that the play itself is 50 years old.

First – a bit about the story line and history of the play. Written by Michel Tremblay when he was just 23, this play was quite the stunner in 1965. It portrays French Canadian Women of the lower class in a hyper realistic way – from their dress, to their language and their concerns about religion, family, friends, and their lives. To the staid society of 1965 Quebec, that these women had a voice was considered shocking. To say that it’s a great piece of theatre is an understatement. Belles Soeurs is the most frequently performed play in the French Canadian repertoire. So I suppose an English language Musical adaptation was just going to have to happen.

And I loved it! While no song is particularly memorable – you aren’t going to go around singing Somewhere over the Rainbow, although I love Bingo has a certain catchy lilt – the ensemble is stronger than the sum of the parts. I was particularly impressed with the gal that sings the role of Pierrette – the much maligned ‘bad’ sister who got sucked in and spat out of the ‘club’ scene on St. Laurent.

As a musical – the flow of the play starts and stops as the performers break apart or gather to sing. I rather enjoyed this ebb and flow – it made great use of the Segal Center stage – it’s very shallow and quite wide – and definitely kept my eyes moving. Nice use of the space, I’d say.

But back to the story line – in brief, Germaine has finally won something – a million trading stamps. For those of us of certain age – we remember these stamps. You got them for shopping in stores, pasted them into books – and then in the words of the play – traded them in for worthless junk. But nifty junk – like toasters, and dresses, and wooden carving boards. All the things that today you shop for on the net – in those days they were only available thru these catalogs – and because you didn’t pay for the stamps – they seemed ‘free’. An early loyalty program like Sky Miles, but without the electronic tracking!

To suddenly have a million stamps – or once pasted into books – over 800 books – would be a god-send. And that’s exactly what Germaine thinks it is – a gift from her favorite saint.

But the stamps have to be pasted into the books or they are worthless – so Germaine gets the brilliant idea of inviting her friends from her parish (hence the title – Belles Soeurs – officially Sisters in Law – but in this case – sisters as in unrelated female friends) to come and help her paste. Their reward will be a few cokes and the company. Germaine plans to keep her winnings to herself.

This party sets up the rest of the musical. The ladies gather, they paste stamps and they complain about their lives, tellingly miserable stories of bored husbands, ungrateful kids, or the loneliness of the single woman who sees in a traveling Fuller Brush salesman her one chance at happiness – once a month.

These are not witty women, these are women stuck with the fuzzy end of the lollipop – and they know it. But despite the challenges of their lives, the play and the musical keep you tuned in. All is not hopeless – as Germaine’s teen-aged daughter gets to remind us.

I left feeling that I’d had a chance to meet some people I wouldn’t normally get to know. The Walmart greeters, the cashiers, the cleaners – who want the best for themselves, but lack the education and finances to pull it off. So a million trading stamps looks like a good way out.

Great theatre if it makes you want to tell others – go. It’s worth it.

On until November 19th at the Segal Center in Montreal – but coming soon to a musical theatre house near you. And definitely worth it.