Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm Mrs Loudshoes.

I'm not graceful. There is a reason I call myself "Mrs. Loudshoes".....I'm heavy on my feet, I make a LOT of noise, and I fall down a lot.
I've been known to drop apples I'm actually in the process of eating, and watch them bounce across the floor of the salon.
I once burned my hip with a curling iron. (I was a teenager, doing my hair in the bathroom and wearing only my underwear. I dropped the hot iron and it bounced off my hip before falling into the toilet. Luckily the momentum of the drop pulled the plug out of the outlet, or I'd have never figured out how to grab the sizzling iron out of the water. I looked like I'd been branded by a very unimaginative cowboy.)
One winter's night, I was crossing the street down near the salon, and there were huge snowbanks on the sides of the road. I had to scramble up the side of one snowbank, to reach the sidewalk, and managed to loose my footing so that I slid back onto the road and underneath a parked car.

Within the past few weeks, I have managed to surpass even my own, lowest expectations of clumsiness.

  • While walking through the hospital parking building, I was leaving the car and tossed my purse onto my shoulder, so that it hung crossed over my body. Somehow, I managed to fling it entirely over my head and it landed on the ground in front of me. And then I tripped over it.
  • While also leaving the same hospital, I thought the doors closest to the parking lot were automatic. Turns out they weren't and I walked solidly and loudly right into the doors. The guy behind me was trying to be polite, and he asked if I was ok, but I knew he was desperately trying to hold in his laughter.
  • Today at work, I licked an envelope and got a paper cut on my tongue.
  • While opening a can of tuna for Toby the other morning, I carefully dumped the contents into a tupperware container, only to drop it on my slippers. Now they smell like "Eau du Thon", and Toby LOVES them with an unseemly passion.
I dont' think I'll ever dance for the Bolshoi.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Putting the "Hospital" in "Hospitality"

I've been hanging out around hospitals a LOT lately. It really is a whole new world to me; I've never been sick enough to have to spend much time in one, and thankfully, no one else I know has, either. And thank goodness, because hospitals are not places you want to spend much time in.

Luckily, we have health care in Canada, and we don't have to worry about the cost of my father's six-week hospital stay. At least once a week, one of us exclaims "Thank GOD for Tommy Douglas!" (Tommy Douglas is the father of universal health care in Canada, and in case you didn't know, Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather, either one of which would qualify him as a bad-ass.) And believe me, I'm sincerely grateful to enjoy state-supplied health insurance, but I wish I had been able to take out some sort of "parking insurance", because the parking fees at the hospital are going to be the death of me. We live sort of close to the hospital, so I can walk there, or take the bus. Otherwise, I'd be having to have a chat with my bank manager about our Line of Credit and the hospital parking.

Hospitals are no place for sick people. They are noisy and smelly and bright and generally not a good place to try to get some rest. Not to mention the fact that they are, ironically, full of sick people, so it's a good place to get even more crap to make you feel worse.

Whatever they pay nurses, it's not nearly enough. They work incredibly hard, and with a lot of good humor and upbeat attitudes. Everyone of them has been phenomenal; I can't credit them enough.

There is one doctor there who's dealing with my dad that is, very possibly, the most good looking man I've ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on. He's Iranian, and he has awesome hair, and it's very difficult to focus on what he's actually saying, because he is so delicious. Even my father, in the ICU, said as he left, "that is one handsome man". If they guy in the bed fighting to stay alive notices how attractive you are, I'd say you're in the top 1%, easily.

I'm not sure how hospitals in the US or any other country, functions without Tim Horton's. There are two in dad's hospital alone. And there are line ups at both of them, all the time. You can tell if the one in the lobby is closed, even before you come around the corner from the parking lot, because of all the people staggering around the main floor, holding their heads and sobbing. They weep with gratitude when you tell them there's another one on the third floor in the cafeteria.

The cafeteria is the strangest place....it's hidden away, first of all; you practially need a GPS and a Sherpa guide to find the place. And it's oddly empty and unpopulated, except for the line up of thirty people trying to pay. There never seems to be any but just the one cashier, and she either started today, without any training whatsoever, or she has brain damage and cannot give you change from a 10 without a calculator and consulting  most of her fingers. It takes a glacial age to get out of there, and then you find out your coffee is actually tea.

The elevators at the hospital are very slow...there are four of them, but only two work.  This means that you wait quite a while in the lobby for one to come down, and there's a crowd by then. I've smartened up and get on when it's going down to the basement, and then I ride back up and people look at me in astonishment when they realize I'd been waiting with them just a minute ago or so, and I'm already on the elevator. It freaks them out every time. You can fit a lot of people on an elevator, especially when no one's in a wheel chair. I had no idea elevators can double as clown cars.

They are moving my dad to another hospital soon, a re-hab place where he can get up and on his feet a bit better. I hope the parking lot is good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 11 (Finale)

That was, possibly, the most boring finale we've ever had. Once Jeremy and Sandy got to the wrong "Dump", it was all over. Not that I mind Cindy and Ernie winning it, particularly, but it was far from interesting, no matter how suspenseful they edited the taxi rides.

Having said all that, I'm perfectly happy with Ernie winning, but I'm not too crazy about Cindy. I hope her "Foundation to Help A Students Continue to Beat the Snot Out of C Students" is wildly successful, and they erect a statue in her honor of her standing on Ernie's broken and battered body.

Amani is still my favorite racer ever ever. How she stayed calm and patient through twelve freaking attempts at landing that fake plane, I'll never know. I'd have lost my shit altogether by try #7.
Speaking of which, Thing 1 and I would have lost the whole race right there, too. We'd still be there, trying to land that plane. I can't even play "Candy Train" on my phone for 5 minutes without crashing it....the pressure of killing all those thousands of fake people would be too much for me.
We both remarked, however, that The Mister would have have rocked it; he's spent a million hours flying fake planes in video games....finally that would have paid off.

Can you imagine Lawrence doing that challenge? He'd have made Zac do it, and then tell him how he would have been so much better at it.

I can understand Jeremy and Sandy running around that store for a while, I mean, it's called "The Dump" and it would be hard to leave without investigating it thoroughly. However,it's hard to beleive that that place was a former residence.....do people ususally live in industrial spaces the size of airplane hangars?

I thought for sure there'd be some sort of final task involving all the weird clue-boxes. Maybe they thought that map would be more difficult. It didn't even look like old Ernie even got in a word edgewise.

Too bad Cathi and Bill didn't get a crack at that typewriter task; they'd have nailed it! I knew from typing papers on an ancient typewriter that the lower case "l" can be used as a "1", and that an exclamation point can be manufactured by using an apostrophe and a period. They should have made them re-thread the ribbon in that thing, without getting ink all over the carpet and walls, for a real challenge.

I'm disappointed that the "Gone With the Wind" challenge didnt' have to do with making a hoop skirt out of of the draperies.

I think that was mean to make them run up-hill towards the Amazing Bathmat. July in  Atlanta is pretty hot and muggy, I imagine. Everyone at the finish line looked pretty sweaty, even the ones that didn't run as decoys at the end.

The new race is being filmed right now, and will air in February.
Until next season!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Sickness and In Health

I've been neglecting my blog lately; I've been neglecting almost everything, lately. My father has been seriously ill, and I have come to realize that having a sick family member is a full-time job.

My 76 year old dad has been having some heart trouble over the past few years, which eventually meant that he required by-pass surgery, or risk having a heart attack. He had the surgery, which went well, but the ensuing complications, including two more surgeries and four stints in the ICU has meant that he's been in the hospital just over a month. The initial surgery, the triple by-pass, seems to have been successful, and he's getting better....slowly.

It's been a roller coaster, for all of us. (For example, when the ICU calls at 1 in the morning and says "you should probably come down here", you don't just roll over and go back to sleep.) And whatever it's taken out of me to be dealing with the time and the emotions and the stress of it all,or my brother travelling down here on the weekends,  it's been way harder on my mother. And whatever we are going through, my father has to deal with it ten times more and then some.

And over the past month, the phrase "in sickness and in health" has flitted through my mind more than once. Every step of the way, my mother has been in that hospital, at my dad's bedside, holding his hand. Every day. For hours at a time. Without complaint. And it's not because she "has" to be there, it's because she wants to. Because she couldn't let him go through any of this alone, and because she knows he would do the same for her. She's had her good days, and her bad, and my mother is no martyr, she's perfectly capable of saying "these are my limitations and I'm at them". But after 53 years of marriage, she and my dad know that there is nothing they have to deal that isn't made better with the other one there.

We hope he can come home shortly, and that his recovery is steady and smooth. And whatever we've gone through in the past month has been worth it; because he's still here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 10

Holy Elimination, Batman! I thought Andy and Tommy were a shoe-in for the Final Three. What do you know. I didn't love them or hate them, but they've been so dominant, I thought for sure they'd win the whole thing. It was bad luck for the Snowboarders that this leg was all about the mental tasks; that is their Kriptonite. (Did they really not know who Charlie Chaplin is?)

The good thing is, now the Final Leg is up for grabs; any one of these three teams could win, and I'd be happy if any one of them did.

On thing I love about this Race is that your performance on every leg matters more than how well you've done all the way along. Other than mess with your head, not coming in first every time doesn't have an impact on your chances of winning the million bucks.

If I have one phobia, it involves being in the water in the dark. That boat ride in the pitch dark on the river would have freaked me out, and if I'd have had to get out of the boat into the water? There would have been a Mrs. Loudshoes-sized hole in the universe, as I tried to escape this dimension altogether. Sandy was remarkaby calm when their boat went aground.

Those mosquito nets looked more like they were the gauzy decoration in a Madonna video than actual protection against mosquitos. I hope they were packing some major DEET with them.

Favorite Line of the Night: Marcus said "that music makes me think we are getting a crash course in head-shrinking!
And also, from Cindy, later: "HOLY BALLS!" That is my new band name.

Sandy said that it didn't matter if they came in first, just that they avoid being last. She needs to sit down and have that talk with Cindy.

Oh my, that tightrope challenge looked scary. Thing 1 and I both said we'd hate it, but we could do it. We'd be crying all the way, but we'd do it.
Sandy looked really scared, but man, did she buck up and do it. I was very impressed! Even with Andy yelling at her, which was a dick move because he was already done and there was no advantage to him.

I want a pair of those sandals! They looked very nice. (Well, not the ones the racers made, those looke like ass. But the ones the locals made were really nice.)

So, Marcus's Magic Bad Luck Rocks that he threw out the window really did work on the Snowboarders? He should maybe go back and find those; he might be on to something there.

Next week: Atlanta! I hope they have some "Gone With the Wind" themed task, and someone has to burn down the city, or wear a hoop skirt. Marcus, in particular, would look fetching in a hoop skirt.

Until next week!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Best Books of 2011

These were some of the books that kept me in very good company this past year. Some of them were funny and some of them were sad, some of them made me think and some of them entertained me entirely. They may not be "the best" books of 2011, but they were the best books I read this year.

The Boy In the Moon by Ian Brown
Toronto writier Ian Brown's memoir about being a father to his severely disabled son, Walker. Sweet and poignant and honest, this is book is beautifully written and well worth reading.

2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese The story of twin brothers who grow up in Ethiopia during the '70s and become doctors. This is a story about family and siblings and love, and even though I had a hard time getting into it, I'm glad I persisted.

3. The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis  Who in their right mind said "I know, a novel about Canadian politics and Parlaimentary procedures! Why hasnt' anyone done that before?" But it works, and really well. This novel was funny and dry and really quite entertaining. Really, who knew?

4. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley This is the third book in the "Flavia de Luce" series, a series which I am enjoying very much. A murder mystery set in England shortly after the war, which kept me highly entertained. The fourth one just came out, so expect to see it on next year's list.

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey This sort-of-memoir was sharp and funny and very good. I laughed out loud a number of times, and it also made me think. A winning combination, always.

6. At Home by Bill Bryson I'd read almost anything by Bill Bryson, and this history of the home did not disappoint. From telling me about how people treated their servants to how wallpaper was invented to why we call big houses a "Hall" to the important ratio of rise to stair, this book was fascinating and delightful. My mother was reading it at the same time when we were in Florida on vacation, and we'd both say things like "did you get to the part about the bathrooms yet? OOOO, wait 'til he talks about indoor plumbing!", like we were reading a juicy novel.

7. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein The narrator is a Golden Lab who tells the story of his owner and their life together. I really enjoyed this book, and I've never looked at any dog the same way again.

8 One Day by David Nicholl  This story visits two friends on the same day, every year, for twenty years, and explores the ups and downs of two people who grow up, grow apart and grow together. And you would not believe the day I started this book! Friday July 15th, the day the book starts! It was meant to be!!

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell One of my clients gave me this book for Christmas, and I felt duty-bound to give it a try. And I was glad I did; it was good. Dutch merchants and Japanese citzens try to co-exist in 18th Century Nagasaki, and the societies of both are never quite the same because of that contact. This time and place really came to life.

10. Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle Switching back and forth between Italy during the war and the present day, this historical mystery was very compelling.

11 A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg My father has been quite sick in hospital for the past few weeks, and I've been too preoccupied to read much. Big Liver Girl gave me this memoir/cookbook to read, and I fell head over heels into it. Sitting in the ICU waiting room, drooling over the recipes, I also enjoyed the stories and memories that went with each one. I wanted to eat this book, she made everything sound so, so good. It was exactly the right book that I needed, and I enjoyed it very, very much. The only problem I had with it is that I have to wait until the summer to make the Cherry, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad that I will crave every day until cherry season.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Amazing Race 17, Episode 10

Cathi and Bill were very nice, I really liked them but they lacked hustle. (Exhibit A: the first episode where they wandered around Taipei for hours and make me very shouty.) I think they were pretty tired, too. Killer Fatigue must be brutal by this point in the race. But anyone who can rock a bikini and speedo in their sixties like those two did totally get kudos from me.

It's about this time watching the opening credits when I find myself saying "hey, remember them? I forgot they were even on this thing!"

When that band was playing in the little pavilion at the Non-Pit-Stop, were they all playing the same tune?

I would have loved that Roadblock; I thought it looked like so much fun! (Thing 2: "That's because you drive like that every frigging day.") Any legit reason to do donuts is fine by me. And just to tell you, doing donuts in a K-Mark parking lot at 1 am in January is ridiculously easy and not for the faint of heart...you whip around really fast on icy ground, and that will make you puke faster than a tea-cup ride at Legoland.

There is a tv show here called "Canada's Worst Driver", and which is fabulous by the way, it will make you feel incredibly and vastly superior to almost every person on it. They make people do slaloms all the time, and you wouldn't believe the number of people who cannot, cannot do it. They take 20, 30 tries at it and still carreen wildly out of control or hit every single pylon. I love that show.

Why was Cindy wearing a helmet while she waited for Ernie to do the Roadblock. Is there a danger of head injuries while sitting in a tire that I'm not aware of?

I loved the teams snarking on Lawrence while they built those rafts. He must have been a real pleasure to be around.

You know, I spend two weeks travelling around three countries in Europe with my family this summer, and there were several times when I was so tired and overwhelmed and weary that I wanted to curl up in a subway station and cry. I can't imagine how exhausted and pooped these guys must be. I liked Marcus's little pep talk to himself; that was cute. And even cuter was Amani's little smile while he was doing it. I have a major girl-crush on that woman.

I don't think anyone was more relieved when Jeremy and Sandy got that waffle thing right than that 14 year old judge. He was practically crying when they said they might do the other task. I would have been very hard pressed not to take a few waffles with me, for a snack later.

Atomium! I was hoping they would go there!

The greeter looked like maybe she was Jimmy Neutron's older sister who ran off to become a stewardess.

Until next week!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 9

Man, of all the tasks they've had in 19 seasons of this race, I think the bodybuilding task will go down as the most soul-destroying. That is the first time Thing 1 and I have ever looked at each other and said "maybe we aren't cut out to be racers".
I'm just glad Lawrence wasn't there.
Apart from the idea of Lawrence in a speedo making me queasier than doing a puzzle on a tea-cup ride, I can just hear him going on and on about how his being the front man in a rock and roll band prepared him for posing semi-nude, and how Zac sucks at it.

Note to self: on "List of Preparations to Particpate in the Amazing Race", add "full body wax" to "know how to drive a manual transmission", "be able to read a map" and "learn Chinese".

I now have a full-fledged girl crush on Amani. I lurve that woman. Not only is she competent, calm and capable of anything, she does it all without any drama or whining. She kicks all kinds of ass, and I want to be her when I grow up.
And she puts up with Marcus relating every. single. damn. experience to being in the NFL without losing her shit and beating the snot out of him.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that riding a bike on cobblestones is really very unpleasant. Not only is it freaking hard work, it will rattle the fillings right out of your teeth, and your eyeballs are bouncing around in your head so much it's hard to see where you are going.

Nice to see Willie Wonka getting some work after Charlie took over the Chocolate Factory.

I want to go to Legoland!!

I'm a little disappointed that Sandy didn't throw up after all that talk about it. She kept promising.

Who knew that the Snowboarders' Achilles heels would be drama and speedos?

Until next week!

full body wax in preparaton cath's former students
i want to look like cathi
amani really does kick all kinds of ass

Monday, November 14, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 8

First of all, Ernie, first place was NOT STOLEN from you last week, you LOST it. Someone else got to the mat first. That's how a race works. Secondly, it was not yours to begin with, so no one can "steal" that from you. Maybe if you were an "A" student you would have got that.

Thing 1 and I were all "I've been to that airport in Amsterdam!!", even though all airports look pretty much alike, and we didn't see anything remotely familiar in that footage. But we were there! About a month after this was shot! (I wonder if Marcus and Amani got any cute windmill fridge magnets, like we did.)

Man, I love Marcus and Amani, I really do, but they are making it very hard for me to keep loving them when they make such freaking stupid mistakes. When the clue says "you may search for other flights" it means "get off your ass and look for a better flight because there is one! Or two! Maybe even three!! Seriously, get moving!!"
And dude, if you are lost, you have already lost control of the situation. Suck it up and ask.

God, I'm glad Lawrence is out, only because I got tired of that egotistical blowhard tooting his own horn. If he's so freaking good at everything, why did he let Zac do most of the Roadblocks? And somehow, fronting a rock and roll band (I'll bet it was the Beatles!!) has very little to do with Renaissance Danish dancing, methinks.
Also, I'm glad Lawrence is out because it will spare us the sight of him in a Speedo next week.

Speckles for the win! How cute was that bunny? (I guess all bunnies are inherently cute; they're bunnies!) But Speckles really seemed to turn it on for the racers.
And how cute was Marcus cheering on the bunny and giving him a pep talk? When he came up to the cages and said "is that a rabbit", when it clearly wasn't an elephant, Thing 1 remarked "he's been travelling a lot, and had a rough day".
And I really got a kick out of Phil and the bunny steeplechase....he seemed to really be enjoying himself. Phil, not the bunny.

I think I know why Cindy U-Turned Bill and Cathi, and not the more obvious choice of the snowboarders: because Bill and Cathi were the biggest threat to her getting a first place finish, and nothing in the world is more important than a first place finish! I'm still glad Cathi and Bill came in second, not bad for being U-Turned.

How the hell did Zac get himself all around the world in a yacht by himself when he can't get around Copenhagen with a map and signposts?

I kept expecting the guy at the Pitstop to bust out into the "Spongebob" theme.

Until next week!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Heart to Heart

No one ever hangs around a hospital for fun, but somehow, everyone seems to have to spend some time there,whether they like it or not.

My father has been having heart trouble for the last few years, and it finally got bad enough that he had to have surgery. He's never had surgery in his life before, and for his first one, he sure picked a doozy, a triple by-pass. He came through the initial surgery just fine, and then they had to go back in and repair something else the next day. Two heart surgeries in twenty-four hours is hard on any body, but particularly tough on a 76 year-old body.
He did spend a night in the hospital a few years ago, to shock his heart into normal rhythm when it was rattling away like a roller coaster. He didn't like it much, and has spent a great deal of time avoiding going to a hospital ever since.

I find hospitals endlessly fascinating, mostly because I'm rarely in one, and am dying to know what's going on in all the other rooms.
Also, I suspect I watch too many medical tv shows, and have an idea that wildly interesting things are going on in other rooms.
I am always wanting to know what that machine is for and what does that number mean and what does that noise mena and where did the nurse grow up and what is she getting her boyfriend for Christmas. I went up to sit with my dad for the afternoon, so my mom could go and do a few things, and just as I got there, they took dad up for some x-rays. So I chatted to the man in the next bed and his wife, and I learned all about them. (And they had a dog! In the hospital! She was a lovely little dog and very well behaved, but I've never seen a dog in a hospital before. I'm not even sure they do that in France.)

It's hard to see someone you love vulnerable and diminished in a hospital bed. Especially someone you've never seen in a hospital bed before. (And why does everyone look so small in a hospital bed? )But he's doing well and coming along just fine.

We are hoping he will be home next week sometime. My friend Kelly, who's own father was in and out of the hospital a lot the last year of his life, says that when someone you love first comes home from major surgery, you're so happy to have them there you'd do anything for them, and then within a couple of days, you're back to treating them like you always have. In her words, "things go quickly from "Yes, of course, I will happily drive an hour out of my way to go get those imported kumquats from the Congo that you like" to "you'll eat the damn apples from No-Frills I bought the other day and you'll like it."" I'll be sure to treasure the honeymoon while it lasts.

If the heart surgery doesn't kill him, the hospital food might.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 7

I officially LOVE Marcus. And I'm pretty hot on Amani, too. But he totally won me over with his appreciation of that two hour bus ride, being able to take it all in and enjoying it so much. Plus, no one else could have carried 8 people through the water without getting them wet.

Man, I was hoping Marcus and Amani didn't get U-Turned....that would have broken my heart. In the end, they did get U-Turned, but it was moo. (Joey, "Friends": " "Moo", it's like, a cow's opinion. It doesn't matter. It's "moo". ") Colour me confused, but HOW did Lawrence think that Marcus and Amani were behind them? He saw them five seconds earlier going away from the U-Turn station.

Speaking of Lawrence, I wouldn't have blamed Zac one bit if he had hauled off and beaned his dad in the head with that paddle. If Lawrence knew how to steer the canoe, then why wasn't he in the back? Oh, that's right, because Lawrence knows how to do everything, and no one else is as awesome as he is. Zac is a saint.

Those slidey puzzles are my Kriptonite; I cannot do them. And after a bad night's sleep, a crowded two-hour bus ride and with 40 people hanging over my shoulder, plus the pressure of keeping out of last place? I would have laid down and wept. And they did it without cussing or bitching or losing their shit altogether.
I especially loved Amani when Marcus was giving his "NFL" pep talk to the cab driver, which I'm sure she's heard like a million times, and she still thought it was hilarious.

Poor Jennifer, that killer fatigue really did a number on her...."I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do so I'll stand around with my thumb up my ass for a very long time." I've had that brain seizure from time to time, and I'm pretty thankful no one else has to put up with me but me when it happens. And I'm ususally not on television, either.

I don't blame Cindy and Ernie for using the Express Pass this leg of the race; it expires next leg and they may as well use it to get out of doing something they thought they couldn't handle. But the whining about not being first? They get no sympathy from me....it doesn't matter if you're first, you just have to not be last. Besides, the snowboarders were right, Cindy and Ernie wouldn't have first place away, either. AND Tommy and Andy won after completing the canoe task and beating them in a foot race....they rocked this leg.
You just know all the people back home who have to deal with Cindy's over-acheiving, hyper-prefectionism every single day are whooping and hollering with glee.

If anyone had been U-Turned (and it had mattered) they'd have been out for sure. That hauling stuff from the boat task would have been impossible for anyone else but Marcus....can you imagine the Grandparents doing that?

Just to tell you, Justin pinged my gaydar right from Day One. Just sayin'.

Next week: Bunny show jumping in Denmark! How weirdly awesome is that!?!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Halloween used to be a MUCH bigger deal when I had kids out trick-or-treating....now it's just a couple of hours of hanging out in the kitchen and answering the door every now and again.

The girls are too old to go out getting candy anymore....Thing 1 stayed home and answered the door with me, and Thing 2 went to a friend's house. (Where they watched scary movies and screamed themselves hoarse. I'm so glad they were at the friend's house.) Last year they went out together; Thing 2 had the brilliant idea of dressing up as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World", and Thing 1 had to go because what is Wayne without Garth? They said a couple of 40 year old dads were thrilled at their get-ups, but a couple of cranky old ladies snarked "is that even a costume?". (Thing 1 was offended...."like I'd ever be caught dead in real life dressed like this!")

They both dressed up for school; Thing 1 went as a flapper (and a very pretty one, at that) and Thing 2 went as a fairy princess, a good excuse to wear her grad dress and high heels again, just add a tiara and wings and, voila!

Thing 1's best friend is VERY into her Halloween costumes, and makes magnificent ones. One year she went as Pac-Man ("no more costumes with no arms!") and last year, she was a Lego man, and THIS year, she went as a dragon:

40 pieces of bristol board, 4 rolls of tape, 4 metal frames and one very, very focused teenage girl. Note that the horns are touching the cafeteria ceiling. Also note the considerably shorter door she has to exit the cafeteria from on the right of the picture.

We had the usual 3 and 4 year olds, looking particularly adorable, at around 6 pm, and then the kids getting older and older as the night wore on. One little guy, a toddler, was way more interested in Toby than the treats, and another kid declared "I LOVE this house" after we gave her a large handful of Starburst Fruit Chews and Skittles.
At around 8 pm, I heard someone say "hey, there's Toby!", so I knew it had to be one of the girls' friends. Sure enough, three rather large young men, wearing hoodies as costumes, came to to the door. They were careful to pull down their hoods to hide their faces, but Mrs. Loudshoes is a hard-ass (as they should well know from many years of pizza days at school) and demanded full disclosure. "How do I know who I'm doling out to, if I don't know who you are?" I said. "What if I was unwittingly giving out Halloween candy to Al-Quida?" They all gave in pretty fast; who knew their price was a handful of Starburst Fruit Chews and Skittles?

We got about 30 kids altogether, which means that we have lots of candy left over. So I had Starburst Fruit Chews for dinner. How come it doesn't feel so bad to eat your weight in candy when you have to unwrap 72 little portions?

Bring on Christmas!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 6

They've really front-loaded the Non-Elimination Legs this time, huh? But I like Marcus and Amani, so I'm not going to get too snarky about it. I figured it was a Non-Elimination Leg when I found out they would be sleeping in the remote African village....it would be hard to get that team to Sequesterville.

Jennifer and Justin have redeemed themselves a bit....after the first couple of episodes, I thought they'd be bickering and arguing their way around the world, but they seem to have calmed down and get the job done.

Jeremy mentioned at the beginning of the episode that he and Sandy went on this show to "figure out what their (8 month) relationship is all about". Good God, man, give your head a shake. I've been with the Mister for over 20 years, and we've been through all kinds of travelling and babies and re-decorating and shit together, and we STILL don't know what our relationship is all about. Good luck with that.

Definition of Irony: There was a "No Smoking" sign in the tobacco warehouse.

Best Line of the Night: from Bill: "When it's time to cut the hay, it's time to cut the hay". I have no idea what that means, but it sure sounded deep.
Also, Cathy said "I hoped I could go a whole day without bruises."

Did anyone else notice the similarities between the racers' warehouse uniforms and prison jumpsuits?

Thing 1 and I were joyously shouting about the sewing task; we'd rock that. And who knew Marcus's grandmother's skills would help him out so much?

Lawrence is fast becoming my least favorite racer....what an ass. You know, for someone so pompous and full of himself, he's not exactly the most stellar performer here; to hear him talk, he's Indiana Jones. He can't even read the clues right, and he doesn't seem to let his son at them, either.
And don't even get me started on the "you're a woman, why aren't you sewing" schtick. Ass.
I also liked the bit where he was at the truck-building task and said something like "I'd love to spend more time with these children" and then the next shot saw him snatching the clue out of that kid's hands.

Speaking of trucks-building, I know what every kid on my Christmas list is getting this year.

The bed falling on top of Cindy and her laughing about it was certainly the episode's highlight for me....I thought she'd whine about it, but she took it pretty well.

Seriously, not ONE Madonna joke at that school? No one said anything about picking up a kid and taking him or her home? Thing 1 and I couldn't stop ourselves, once we got started.

There wasn't much of a chance for anyone to change their position, once they got off that plane. I wonder if Tommy and Andy will win this whole thing because someone else made a mistake.

Until next week!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Slip Sliding Away

Way back when, when I was in University, I caught the bus to campus one very rainy day. It was about this time of year, and it had been a wet autumn.

It was the middle of the morning, and there weren't too many people on the bus. There was a row of single seats on one side of the bus, some doubles on the other side, and some benches at the back. I was at the very back, facing forward, and a middle-aged woman sitting in the singles near the middle. There was only one or two other people on board, all ahead of her and I, up near the driver.

As I said, it was a really rainy day, and everything was pretty wet. The woman sitting in the single seats was wearing a longish yellow rain slicker.

At one point, the bus made a hard, fast right turn, and the rain on her jacket must have made the seat very slippery, because she shot right off that seat and onto the floor; she didn't even have time to catch herself. It was like she'd been shoved off by invisible hands. She landed right on her bum, and pretty solidly, too, and she made an impressive noise, sort of like an "ooof", but deep and low, like someone had punched a bagpipe in the stomach. One second she was sitting on that bus seat, minding her own business, and the next she was sitting on the floor of the bus in a puddle of water, wondering how the hell that happened.

And the only one to see it all happen....was me. I quickly made like I was looking out the window and didn't see her, because I figured her day was going to go a lot better from here on in if she thought no one was looking. Meanwhile, I was practically herniating myself trying not to laugh. Not only did she shoot off that seat like a cartoon coyote off a cliff, but the noise she made was unlike anything I've ever heard before or since.
I got off a few stops later and couldn't hold it in one more second. I was laughing so hard and so long I gave myself the hiccups. And then I giggled about it every ten minutes for the rest of the day.

You know, that was almost 30 years ago, and I still laugh whenever I think about it.

I'm sure someone else has their own hilarious story that day, about seeing a young woman laughing her fool head off in the pouring rain, all by herself.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 5

Man, Lawrence is a tool, isn't he? He's not Ron, but still. Maybe that kid sailed around the world by himself to get away from his dad for a while.

The Twins bugged the living shit out of me last week with their whining and bitching with the beach umbrellas, but they totally won me over with their enthuisasm and excitement at the elephant Speed Bump.....they were pretty thrilled at shovelling elephant shit. Of course, I did have to turn the sound down there for a bit, since their screeching and squealing was bothering the cat. There's a couple of deaf elephants in Thailand, now.
The way the leg was set up, they had very little chance to catch up, though. I'm glad they at least got to scrub down a baby elephant, since it meant so much to them.

Seriously, how cute are baby elephants? Those little punk hair-dos are bad ass.

I felt a bit sorry for Ernie when he said that he couldn't believe Cindy loved him, because she's and A student and he's not. Because, really, nothing defines partner suitability like your mark in Grade 11 calculus.
And then he was such a dick-wad to that cab driver, and I didn't feel so sorry for him anymore. I think Mr. Phuket Taxi Driver had every right to demand correct payment in the currency of his country, no matter what Cindy and Ernie chose to pay him. And I know U.S. dollars are often accepted in many countries around the world, but no one has to take them, they're not magical beans. And then telling him he was a terrible driver? WTF? I loved the lady who got all up in their faces and offered to call the cops. You go, Anonymous Avenging Transportation Fairy!

Speaking of cab drivers, what was with the guy wearing the wooly purple gloves? Did you notice they matched his cab? I think I would love Thailand.

My snowboarder love dropped a notch this week. I get that you are devoutly Christian, and you can believe anything you want, but saying "it's okay that I'm here because I dont' get any creepy vibes from this psudo-religion, and I know my God is the real one so neener-neener-neener" was a bit hard to listen to. On the other hand, Jennifer impressed me a lot. She showed some actual respect for another religion, while Andy and Tommy gave themselves a pat on the back for being so tolerant of others. But actions speak louder than words, and the snowboarders have given me no other reason to think they are narrow-minded jerks, so I'll give them a pass. They're no Lawrence.

What was with that teacher? "Okay, let me look this up for you, I'll be back in a minute" actually meant "You are of no interest to me, I might be back in an hour or so"? She was the worst helper ever.

No detour this week? And I notice the regular clue boxes are not around this time either....maybe the last task will be to remember what your clues came in? Poor Ernie, if they get to that point; he's going to suck at that.

I loved that nobody (except Smug Justin) thought they were safe this week; they all thought they were fighting to stay in the game. Makes it way more fun to watch when there's no clear front-runner. And seeing everyone's glee when they found out they were at the front of the pack was a riot.

Is this the Amazing Race Around Asia?

Until next week!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Got The Power

We've had a dull couple of days here, not in terms of the goings-on, but in terms of weather. Autumn in Ontario looks a lot like summer in western Ireland, by the way. It has been cool and wet and grey.
Last night things turned nasty; the wind picked up and the rain came down. It looked a bit like we might start gathering the animals two by two.

We had our two trees in the back yard trimmed last week. Our neighbour to the north asked us (very politely, I might add) back in the summer if we would take a look at the branch that hung over her backyard and threatened her kitchen roof. You know, you live with things for so long, you don't even notice them anymore? When we took a look at that tree, we were surprised at how much it had grown, and readily agreed that it was time we trimmed it. Then we realized that another limb from the second tree hovered right over our bedroom, and would render us paste if it ever fell down. We called the tree guy and paid him a shitload of money so that I could sleep better at night.

Let me tell you, I must told the Mister a dozen times last night that I was so glad we had trimmed those trees. I would have lain in bed all night waiting for the inevitable crash that signalled my untimely death. Most likely, I would have been writing the news story for the next days paper in my head all night, too...."A local woman and her husband were killed last night after a tree limb fell directly through their roof and onto their bed. Neighbours say they had begged the couple to trim the tree for weeks before the storm. The couple's two daughters say their parents were too busy fighting over who would call the tree guy to actually call the tree guy."

We've had the power go off now and again here, no big deal. I remember once the power went off when the girls were about 3 and 5, and they were in the bathtub. As luck would have it, I had just left the bathroom to go grab some towels when the lights went out. The wail and splashing that came from that bathtub would have raised the dead....it sounded like bagpipes on the Titanic.
I remember another time being in a movie theater when a thunderstorm turned the lights out. Man, movie theatres are dark. I know they are supposed to be dark, but still, the darkest dark that ever darked was in that theater. And about 100 people just sat there in silence for about 10 seconds wondering if they had just had a stroke and died.
Another time, the power went off when I was in the staff room in the basement at the salon. I was eating lunch and one of the little assistants was doing the laundry in the next room. When it all went black, I heard the most pitiful little whimper from her, and I was able to keep her from losing her shit altogether by calmly talking to her and producing a cigarette lighter. I don't know what she'd have done if she'd been down there by herself. She quit shortly thereafter; I don't know if it was because she was afraid to go down into the basement by herself after that.

It's funny how, when you know the lights are out, you still keep trying to turn them on anyway. I went into our bathroom to brush my teeth and flipped the switch. And then tried it again. And one more time for good measure. All the while pointing my flashlight at it. And then I tried it in the bedroom. Right after I went looking for the tv remote. Some habits are hard to break.

At around 11:15 the lights all came back on, the microwave beeped and the fridge hummed to life again. And the cat that was sleeping on my hip jumped about 10 feet in the air and let out a squawk that made sure I was wide awake too. I went around the house fixing all the clocks that were flashing, and turned off all the lights that were on. And tried to calm down the cat that had burst into flames in my bedroom.

All was fine this morning, no tree limbs down, the power back to normal and a slightly twitchy cat. I keep my phone handy, though, just in case.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 4

I never did get to see last week's episode. Thank God for the internet; at least I got an idea of what happened.

Who knew it was so difficult to pronounce "Phuket"? At least if you are not in th e 6th grade? I'll bet the censors were tearing their hair out...."you're sending them to where??? You have the whole freaking world to choose from and you send them there? What the hell are you doing to us??".

We never did see the fall out from the Twins not having any Thai money. I wonder if that explains their taxi driver's glum expression when they hugged him; that guy looked like his dog just died.

I loved that wobbly pier! I could have bounced around on that all day! I'm kind of surprised nobody fell off it, though.

So, the Twins thought that setting up beach chairs was MORE like lifeguarding than setting up a coral nursery? Hmmmm. And apparently they had a guy that did that anyway. It would appear that neither one had anything to do with hauling lifeless bodies out of a pool. Few things do, really.

You know, if you are "kicking the tires" of your relationship, as Jeremy so charmingly puts it, I think barking at your girlfriend like she's a bad dog is one way to burn out the clutch, so to speak. I'm not sure there are many relationships in which "come here now" is an appropriate phrase, unless, of course, you do happen to be a bad dog, in which case you can go pee in someone's shoes to get your own back.

Tommy and Andy seem to be having a whole lot of fun on this race, which is more than I can say for most of them. Cindy does not appear to have ever had any fun in her entire life (unless, of course, it was scheduled into her Blackberry a couple of weeks ago, and she's allotted exactly 17.3 minutes for it.) Ernie isn't allowed to have any fun; maybe when he has earned it by mastering Portugese and can do his own dental work. Jennifer is too busy whining to have any fun. Justin is with Jennifer, so fun is out altogther. Maybe if Zac and Lawrence smoke a bit of Andy and Tommy's dope they could have some fun.

That greeter looked like a little Thai hillbilly! Did you see the size of him? Phil could have scooped him up and put him in his pocket! Actually, on second viewing, he looked a lot like the Travelocity Travel Gnome....Jerome the Gnome!

If Jennifer ever gave me that look I would punch her in the throat, no questions asked.

Until next week!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The A-Blazing Pace.

We just finished our Thanksgiving weekend here, and I was way too busy stuffing my face and talking to relatives to be able to watch "The Amazing Race" yet. (Fingers crossed that the PVR actually recorded it...that thing can be a bit of a bitch sometimes.)
After work tonight, I have to go to the girls' school and attend an "information session" about trip their drama department is taking to DisneyWorld in the spring. Both girls want to go, so I think it's only fitting that I find out the where, the whens and the how muches. If it sounds like fun, I may volunteer as a chaperone....wouldn't they like that??

I will post about the Race as soon as I can!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Too Bad, So Sad.

Last week was a bit hectic here at Chez Loudshoes; the Mister was bulldozed by another kidney stone attack, which resulted in two trips to the hospital, there was a skunk lurking around our front door all week, which made me very twitchy, and the weather got cold really fast, which meant I had to scramble to find shoes and socks that actually covered my entire foot, something I have not needed in almost 6 months.

While at work last Wednesday, I plugged in the kettle to make my co-worker a cup of tea, and set the Tassimo machine to make myself a cup of coffee. About half way through both processes, the coffee machine sighed heavily and stopped dead, and the kettle swooned and fainted altogether. The ventilation fan stopped, leaving the room in an ominous silence, and the lights went out. I'm no electrical engineer, but I was pretty sure we'd popped a circuit somewhere. I went down into the bowels of the basement to suss out the fuse box (and I do mean bowels...the building the salon is in is about a hundred years old, and the back room in the basement has a dirt floor and has a single naked light bulb and looks like Tiny Tim and his family might have lived there. It's pretty grim.)
Nothing looked out of place.

Normally, I'd have gone home and told the Mister (who wasn't working that day) and had him sort it out the next morning. But he had spent the day in the hospital writhing in pain (they actually gave him morphine, if you can believe it.) and had lost two night's sleep. I made an executive decision and called the electrician we usually deal with.

Our electrician's name is Steve, and he is possibly the most morose, despondent, world-weary man I've ever met. He's about 60 or so, and gives the impression of having been disappointed and disillusioned more times than you could ever count. Until, of course, you call with an electrical problem, wherein he sighs heavily and says he will be right there, and you know you have just added one more stone to the Everest of despair that he has to climb every day. He's like Eeyore.

Steve showed up, disheartened and let down by our electrical system, and indeed, the world at large. He poked around and sighed and stifled a sob once or twice, and quickly got the fan, the lights and the outlet working again. Except, there was a set of lights over the shampoo basins that he could not get to work. He tried this and that, he flicked switches on and off, he had a little cry, and finally gave me a look of deeply wounded disappointment and said he couldn't figure it out. I was afraid he would leave and slit his wrists in his truck.

Just then, the Mister came in. He had been at the hospital again that morning, getting an ultrasound (so that they could tell him he definitely had kidney stones.) and he was able to tell Steve/Eeyore that those lights didn't work because the bulbs had burned out and had not been replaced; people complained that they shone in their eyes when they were getting shampooed.

Poor Steve. He looked at me as though I had drowned his boyhood puppy while eating all his birthday cake. I've never felt so totally responsible for one person's happiness as I did at that moment.

He eventually packed up his stuff and left. I couldn't bear to tell him about the switch we have that nobody knows what it does. Or the light fixture that goes on and off according to it's own whims. (Sometimes we come in in the mornings and it's on for the first time in months. Or it just goes off for no reason at all.) Or the outlet that hates the straight iron. I'm afraid he'd lie down and weep.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 2

Colour me surprised! I thought Ethan and Jenna would go way further than the second leg. I guess starving in the jungle does not train you to read signs.

I would have done just fine last night, because I am physically incapable of NOT reading every. single. sign that comes in front of me. I read them all. In Ontario, they have these blue, historical plaques up all over the place that tell you of some significant event or person that is relevent to that location. My kids groan with dispair every time they see one, because they know I am going to have to go up and read it. In London England, they have plaques on houses where famous people lived. I stopped and read every one, and there are hundreds of them....."Oh, look...Lord Kelvin patented his mirror galvanometer while living here!" You can only imagine how enthusiastically my little quirk was recieved by my family. Anyway, I'd have read that damn sign.

That last twist was excellent! It really changed up the order of the teams. And who knew the Snowboarders and the Showgirls would be the first ones to get it right! See? Reading really IS fundamental!
They all seemed to take the return to the orphanage pretty calmly. I know I'd be cursing up a storm and my head would burst into flames.

You know what's worse than seeing dating couples bicker? Siblings. Because listening to people have the same arguement over and over again that they've been having since they were three is so not entertaining.
Christmas dinner at their house must be a riot.

Did you know Cindy is Asian? That was brand new information for me.

Line of the Night: From Pa undoing the knotted rope: "Like Christmas lights from hell!"

Did anyone else think the drumming at the dancing task sounded a lot like the theme from The Twilight Zone?

Ron and Bill looked more like siblings than any of the siblings do, including the twins. I was never going to be able to tell those two apart.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amazing Race 19, Episode 1

I only found out last week that the Amazing Race was starting up again...how happy was I? I didn't even have to count down the weeks or anything.

I'm glad they had a Non-Elimination for the first leg; it must take a few days to get your racing mojo on. But man, Bill and Cathi took their sweet time getting to that Pit Stop....I heard they wandered around for four hours looking for that clue. Four hours! I would have lost my shit altogether around hour two, so good on em for holding it together. I did turn to Thing 1 when they were introduced and said "The label "grandparents" is the kiss of death; they will be the first ones out".

Personally, I have obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to my passport....I keep in in a zippered pocket of my purse and check it every twelve minutes to make sure it's closed. Then I open it to make sure the passports are there, zip it, and then check to make sure it's closed. Lather, rinse, repeat. There is no freaking way my passport would be in any danger of falling out of my purse, because if I was on this race, I would carry it in my teeth.

At first I called foul on the passport just "happening" to find it's owner at LAX, but then I remembered this was in LA and the place must be seething with attention-whores dying to get a few minutes on tv. I guess it was that guy's lucky day! I can't help wondering if he'd have gone all the way to the airport if it had been one of the snowboarders pictures inside.

That monk had the funniest expressions ever; he managed to have entire conversations just with his eyebrows. He rolled his eyes at the snowboarder, and gave a total "dude, dial it back" to Ethan. I'm pretty sure that sort of behaviour is not condoned in the "Buddist Monk Handbook of Public Relations".

Had I known that "Dragon Boat Racer" was a legit profession, I'd have changed my major at University 30 years ago.

How come the Twins get no label other than "twins"....they could have "sisters" or "siblings" or even "Shouty McWhinersons".

I wonder if everyone else knows about the double elimination, or just the Farmer Grandparents. Because if I were them, I would totally keep that to myself and make sure the other teams melt into a puddle of dejection at the Pit Start.

After having travelled a bit myself this summer, I really do have a bit more appreciation for the racers and the difficulty in dealing with the tasks. We are just watching them wander around in Taipei, but they've just come off a 14 hour flight, possibly with very little sleep, and have to jump right in, and very quickly, too. After a long flight, I'm basically functioning on a purely molecular level; I think I'd be having trouble with that "look up" clue, too. I really, really hoped Jenna would ask that guy to give her a clue out of his "racing boxers" underpants.

When do we see an "Amazing Race" contestant on "Survivor"?

Until next week!

Busy Days

Busy days.

I always find that September is a bit of a whirlwind; everything starts up again after a summer break. I grew up in a house of teachers; I remember my brother and I learned very early not to ask for one extra thing until October. It's bad enough how September occupies my normal existence, and I don't even go to school.

We went to the fair a few weeks ago, sorted out a bazillion forms for school, my book club met for the first time since June and we've been renovating the colour room at work.

My cousin from Australia just left this morning; he and his wife and three kids were here for a few days, before heading off to Niagara Falls. My cousin grew up in Ireland, but met and married a very nice Australian woman, and since he wanted to live with her, moved to Brisbane.
I very recently got my husband and two teenage children to Europe for two weeks and then home; I cannot imagine the incredible effort involved in herding three children (10, 8 and 6) half way across the globe for three weeks, and then face a 26 hour trip home. And they seemed to do it without batting an eyelash.

I have to say, Aussies are the travellingest people I have ever met....maybe it's the result of living on an isolated continent with NOTHING but ferocious sharks and lethal jelly fish within a couple of thousand miles that makes them so impressively blase about flying for days to get where they want to go. Every Australian I have ever met appears to be an enthusiastic explorer, full of boundless energy and almost manic interest in their surroundings. Of course, the only Australians I've ever met are also the ones who have made it to North America.....I suppose the whiny pantywaists stay firmly put.

My cousins children were absolutley delightful; bright and interested and polite and funny. I was smitten.
We took everyone apple picking yesterday, because they don't have much in the way of apple orchards in north-eastern Australia. Or eastern Ireland, for that matter. We got some apples and saw the pumpking patch and saw a few baby pigs.....everything's exotic if you're from somewhere else. (Personally, one of my favorite things to do in other countries is go into the grocery stores.....it's all wildly interesting when it's new to you.)

My mother fed them heaps of pancakes with maple syrup (another novelty) and I took the 8 year old boy to see an ice rink. (There was nobody there; I told him he could stand on the ice and slide around a bit, just to see what it was like. I'd take the heat if we got in trouble.)
The 6 year old wanted to see a bear. They are a bit thin in the ground here, we don't get many grizzlies in our subdivision. But he did manage to see a squirrel, and he was pretty excited about that.
The 10 year old girl really wanted to see our house, I suppose because of Thing 1 and Thing 2. We brought her over last night, and she was deliciously horrified at the state of their rooms. (Both of my children have bedrooms that look like they have been the scene of a particularly enthusiastic ransacking by gay thieves who only wanted to try everything on.) She also liked our cat, and the fact that we keep soda pop in the house at all times.

We had dinner with everyone last night, and later on, the Mister had another kidney stone attack. (He had one last month when we were in England, staying with another cousin of mine.) He has concluded that eating dinner with my cousins wreaks havoc with his kidneys, and from now he will only chance breakfast and lunch with any of them.

As October approaches, I think things will settle down a bit and a routine will find itself. At least we have plenty of apples.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 9: The Trip Home

I've been to hell and lived to tell the tale....it's crowded and noisy and food is so expensive it will make you hyperventilate: it's Terminal 4 at JFK Airport.

On our way home from Europe, we had to fly to New York City to make a connection to Toronto. We could have flown directly from Heathrow to Pearson, but that cost an extra thousand dollars for the four of us, and we figured we could do a LOT with a thousand bucks on our holiday. (This becomes relevant later.)

The flight from Heathrow to JFK was fine, but when we got into New York the airport was in chaos; there had been some terrible thunderstorms in the area, with them getting more rain in one day than they'd ever had since they'd been keeping records. Every flight in the place was cancelled, including ours. And, the young woman behind the counter, who clearly thought I was being unreasonble and a total downer for harshing her buzz, said that she couldn't find us another flight for 24 hours. I wanted to kill myself, except at JFK, they would charge you something for that.

After chasing a hotel room, fruitlessly, for an hour or so (including a $30 round trip taxi ride for nothing) we looked at each other and concluded we were going to have to sleep in the airport. Thing 1 was a bit upset at this prospect ("It's like we're homeless!") and Thing 2 thought it would give her some serious street cred for having slept in public in New York City.
But then I realized were were going to have to spend another whole freaking day in that same stupid airport, and nearly lost my shit altogether. That's when I bought a bottle of water for 5 dollars and realized that waiting for this flight would cost us as much at 2 weeks in Europe.

We did find a place to settle down, at least; a bench with some padding meant that we weren't sleeping on marble floors. (50 year old backs + rock hard surfaces = cripples for days.) There were plenty of other people sleeping in the airport too, so it wasn't like we were the only ones there. But it did feel a little creepy, sleeping out in the open where anyone could come and go, and the homeless guys scratching their genitals and talking to themselves.

Airports are fairly noisy places, what with the flight announcements and the security check points. Oh, and the airport personnell who have to shout to their friends on the other end of the concourse to see who gets their break next. Yes, I could not get enough of that.
I eventually gave up on sleep and took out my book to read; between my 20's and having young children, it certainly wouldn't be the first night I'd lost out on sleep; I'd live.
Around 4 o'clock in the morning, the Mister and looked at each other and figured that thousand bucks on that direct flight would have been very well spent.

Around 6 in the morning, the Mister and I decided to move over to the terminal we would be flying out of, and at least see if they would check in our luggage for us; we were tired of dragging it around.
You know, the people at JFK are just so pleasant, and nice and helpful. Just kidding. They are horrible; mean and surly and shouty. The woman at the check-in counter looked at me like I was an idiot and asked why I was waiting for the 8 pm flight and not trying to get stand-by seats for the 8:20 A.M flight. "Because the snot-bag I talked to last night didn't even tell me there was an 8:20 a.m flight" I replied, except I substituted "woman" for "snot-bag". She sighed deeply, and shook her head at me, like she was sorry I was such a loser and she had to deal with me, and told me she would book us standby seats for the 8:20. I thanked her, and I was so happy to find out there was a possibility that I might get out of that hell-hole 12 hours earlier than anticipated, I even smiled at her and thanked her. (Which is forbidden at JFK Airport, just to tell you.)

We got to the gate, which was crowded and noisy, because approximately every single person in there was trying to get out. I asked the woman behind the counter at the gate how this stand-by thing worked, since I'd never done it before. She laconically said "we call your name". Now, I think I'd made it clear I'm new here, I haven't done this before and by the way, I had to sleep in an airport and watch a homeless guy scratch his genitals for the past 10 hours. You're going to have to put the dots real close together for me: "So, if you don't call my name?" I say, and she gets her eyes all wide and toggles her head from side to side and says in a sing-song voice: "Then you don't. Get on. The flight." I tell you, if I hadn't really, really needed her co-operation to get me the hell out of New York City, I'd have leapt over that counter and choked the living shit out of her. But I restrained myself.

I was pretty sure we'd never get on that flight: four seats that morning? No way. But, because I have good karma and I did not choke the shit out of that woman, she announced "all stand-by seats are confirmed, all stand-by passengers can board now." (So you don't call my name, you lying little shit!)

You have never seen four people dance onto a plane like the Loudshoes did that morning.

And when we arrived in Toronto, I wanted to lay down and kiss the ground. Except I was too busy finding the nearest Tim Hortons with my phone app. After loading up on cheap coffee and bottles of water that cost $1.35, we got in the van, and drove home.

We had a wonderful trip, truly a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. But walking in the door of my own house was one of the sweetest feelings ever. Ever.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 9: Kent

After our exciting time in London (Riots! Kidney stones! Indian food!) we headed south-east to Kent, where my aunt and uncle live. It was their 50th anniversary, and the ensuing party was mostly the reason we were in Europe in the first place.

We took the train from Victoria station, in London, to Sittingbourne in Kent. Let me tell you, the public transportation systems in London are fabulous: easy to navigate, reliable, clean and reasonably priced, and they get you where you want to go. Coming from a country that has decimated it's rail system to the point where there is really only route from one end of the country to the other, the British system is wildly accomodating. (In Canada, there's no train service in Newfoundland at all. And if you want to go to, say, Saskatchewan, you only have one place to get on and off. And that place is Saskatoon, and come on, who wants to go there? 22 hours on a train and then you're in Saskatoon? Please. )

We stayed at one of the strangest little hotels I've ever been in....they didn't even have phones in the room. But it was clean and accomodating and close to where we wanted to be, even if it was inexplicably 100°F in that room. Seriously, it's in England....why was it hot enough to grow bananas in there?We went to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner, and they were so welcoming and generous; it was wonderful. I hadn't seen this family for almost 20 years, and they could not have been more congenial. My cousins are lively, funny, delightful people, and I don't get to see them nearly enough

The next day Mister slept in while the girls and I went to McDonald's for breakfast. He's not a big breakfast eater (and I love him anyway) and he was still jet-lagged from the kidney stone.

They had a breakfast buffet at the hotel, but since it cost a lot and we decided that we were too spoiled by our breakfast buffet in France, we'd take a pass. Besides, we were more thirsty than hungry, what with sweating out 10% of our body weight overnight.
Breakfast in McDonald's is never going to be the highlight of anyone's day, but I have to say, it was one of the oddest breakfasts I've ever had. I ordered bacon and egg on a bagel, which you'd think would be pretty straight-forward, but no....the bagels in the McDonalds in England are really just bread shaped like a bagel: round bread with a hole in the middle. I could fold it in half and eat it. The girls got pancakes which came with no syrup. When we asked for syrup, any kind of syrup, the pimply youth behind the counter looked at me like I had asked him to calculate the square root of time or I'd shoot him, and offered up some jam. I didn't want him to wet his pants, so we took it. The coffee was a very pleasant, warm, brown liquid, but it bore no relation to coffee. We did like the British nomenclature for "no-pulp" orange juice; it said "no bits", which we used for the rest of the day to express delight or pleasure. ("How is your cake?" "NO BITS!")
(We also liked the signs for the fire doors: "This door is alarmed!". Seriously? Did it just hear about J.Lo's divorce?)

The party was that day, and it was lovely, real English garden party. (Like in a book!) The weather was wonderful (always a bit of a gamble in England) and the food plentiful and delicious and the company was utterly fabulous. I had such a great time seeing my extended family, and they made us feel like rock stars, just for showing up.

We made our way back to our hotel and then, naturally, to the pub for a drink or two. And then it was Sunday, and time to go home.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 8: London

Because my cousin Eilish had so generously put us up (and put up with us) while we were in London, the least we could do was take her out to dinner. The girls stayed at her place and had watched British television (which, curiously, seems to consist of lots of "Friends" re-runs and show like "Pregnant and Impaled!". I wish I was making that up, but I'm not.) while we went out for some Indian food.

We walked to a restaurant Eilish knew of, and while we were on our way we detoured past site of the nearby riot a few nights before. It was terrible; an entire 3-storey building reduced to ruins, and all the homes and businesses around it destroyed as well.

While at dinner, my cousin and I yipped and yapped about all sorts of things...sharing some DNA meant that neither one of us had any trouble filling a silence. The Mister was pretty quiet during dinner, but I'm used to that when I'm in the room. But I also noticed that he didn't very much, not as much as he ususally would when faced with excellent chicken tikka masala and naan that was so puffy and warm you could curl up and go to sleep on it, and dal with coconut and gobi aloo that we would ususally have a fierce tussle over.
And then I noticed he didn't say one word on the walk home; I mean, he's a quiet guy but that was quiet, even for him.

When we got home I came up to our bedroom with a glass of water to find him hunched over on the bed, breathing hard between his teeth and rocking back and forth slightly. I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but even I could tell, something was up, and I had a pretty good idea of what, too. "Kidney stones" he hissed. Yup, just what I thought.

The Mister has had kidney stones before, and they are so painfully agonizing that I make sure the big knives are out of his reach, lest he try to go in after them himself. It's been about 6 years since he last had one, and they don't really give him any notice, the kidney stones just show up and attack, like terrorists.

At least he knew what it was, and it wasn't going to kill him, just mostly kill him, until it passed. And it would pass, eventually. (The one good thing about a kidney stone is that when you've peed it out, it's all overwith, the pain is good and gone in an instant. ) I asked if he wanted to go to a hospital to get some painkillers, but he declined and said he'd make do with the Tylenol I had in my bag.

Poor man, he had a long and miserable night. In the morning, I finally convinced him to go to the hospital; although he was feeling a bit better (he though he might have passed something), we were due to fly home in two days, and I really wanted him to have something to take care of the pain in case the tiny renal terrorists decided to strike at thirty thousand feet.

My cousin drove us to the nearest hospital, and thankfully, the waiting room was blissfully empty. (It had rained the night before, so the rioters took the night off.) He was seen fairly quickly, by a disturbingly young doctor....seriously, this guy looked like he still needed a babysitter and wore pull-ups to bed. But he had the authorization to order painkillers and x-rays, so I wasn't going get fussy about having canned goods older than him at home. I explained that we were here on vacation from Canada, that we had a 15 hour trip home in a couple of days and that all we really wanted was to get the Mister home without me having to bulldoze him through Heathrow on a luggage cart. ("Does it really take 15 hours to get to Canada?" he asked. "When you're as cheap as us, it does." I said.)

After an x-ray and examination, The Little Boy Who Went To Medical School determined that the Mister had probably passed a stone, and that there was another one in the kidney, but for the moment, it wasn't causing a problem, and he gave us some painkillers (just in case) and told us to take care of it when we got home.
We had traveller's medical insurance, and after calling them and determining that we were to pay the hospital and we'd be reimbursed later, I asked how much we owed them and where did I pay and hoped that the $9,000 remaining credit on my Visa card would cover it. And he answered "nothing, you don't owe a thing". At which point, I asked if they did hearing exams, as well.
It turns out the UK has a reciprocal agreement with Canada (among other countries) for emergency care; we were in the clear.
The Mister and I looked at each other, thanked the Boy Wonder and high-tailed it out of there before they could change their minds. How lucky were we??

The Mister has been fine ever since; his kidney hasn't bothered him at all since that night. And guess what? He hasn't done a thing about it since we got back; I'm sure he's waiting for it to show it's nasty self again, like on Christmas Eve or on our way to a wedding. At least we still have the pain killers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 7: London

When we got back to my cousin's house, around 8 pm, my father called from Canada, with a worried tone to his voice: "Is everything okay? Are you all alright?" Now, you can accuse my dad of being a lot of things, but an unreasoning fusser, he is not.
We're fine, I said, why? "Because I'm watching the BBC World Service on television and there are riots in Croyden at the moment, and I know you're there. There's a huge fire and they've closed the train station." Okay, we had just come from the train station, and there had been nothing going on at all. (Turns out we were at the East Croyden station and they'd closed the West Croyden station.)
We stuck our heads out the front door and sure enough, a huge column of black smoke was rising over the houses across the street, and there must have been 5 helicopters hovering around and sirens blaring. The BBC World Service does not lie; there was a riot happening about a 15 minute walk away.
It turns out there were riots all over London that night, and a few other cities besides. There seemed to be no real reason or cause for the riots, other than hoodlums smashing and grabbing at retail stores, and criminals taking the opportunity to do whatever they wanted. The fire near to us was a furniture store...who robs a furniture store? Did the rioters plan on leaving with a sofa under their arms? And the pity is, that was a 150-year old, family run business, that had lasted through a couple of depressions and two world wars, and it was gone in one night because some twerp threw a Molotov cocktail through the window.
We were all fine though, and didn't feel like we were in any danger at all. We wouldn't have even known it was happening, had my dad not called from Canada to tell lus.
We walked down to see the damage a few days later, and it was awful. More heartening, though, was the reaction of Londoners; they were horrified and sickened, and assured us over and over that this was not the real London, and they hoped we understood that.

Before we left home, I bought us tickets to tour Buckingham Palace. Apparently, they only have the tours a couple of weeks a year, when the Queen is away, I assume to deter people from sneaking off and trying to find her and have a chat. Not that I would even dream of doing such a thing.
Buckingham Palace is huge, and we only got to see a small portion of it, and it is magnificent. The rooms are gorgeous, and I totally loved the place, even if it was, as my father reminded me, built on the backs of my ancestors. It is all red carpets and gold accents, and the artwork is incredible...I kept reminding myself that those paintings are real Rembrandts and original Vermeers right in front of me.
Kate Middleton's wedding dress was on display in the ballroom, and let me tell you, that thing is beautiful in real life, much more detailed and lovely than on tv. The veil looks like it's made out of cobwebs, it's so gossamer and light. They had a video about how it was constructed and the lace was made, which was even more interesting than the dress itself. And, the waist on it is tiny. I don't think I could fit my right leg into it.

The girls really wanted to go to Mme. Tussaud's wax museum, so we headed on up to there, to find another two hour line up. (I tell you, the Loudshoes family are expert liner-uppers by now.)
It was, again, incredibly crowded, but we had a good time looking around and taking pictures. Thing 2 was thrilled, thrilled, to be able to get her picture taken with Justin Bieber. (Ironic note: we had to go 3,000 miles to see Justin Bieber, and his hometown is only 4o miles from where we live.)
They had some statues that were uncannily like the person they were supposed to be (Helen Mirren and Russel Brand were so lifelike it was kind of creepy.) and then a few more that you suspected they let the new staff members have a go at them. I had to ask who James Dean and Drew Barrymore were supposed to be, and the Elvis looked more like Joan Collins.

It was a really beautiful, sunny summer evening, so we took another tour on the "hop-on, hop-off" bus and had a good look around. London is such a gorgeous city, and it never looks better than when the sun is low and the breeze is warm.

We decided to just grab a bite to eat at the train station, since it was getting late and we didn't want to sit very long. All along on this trip, the girls had been very good at eating whatever was there, and after 10 days of eating unfamiliar food, they fell upon the McDonald's at Victoria station like lions on a limping antelope. I went over to the Marks and Spencer food kiosk, which was only fabulous. They had all kinds of lovely sandwiches and salads and fresh fruit, all ready to go. They even had plastic glasses of wine (as well as bottles) all sealed up for you take away...wine to go! What a concept!

And the bathrooms still cost a few cents, but the attendants were a lot less intimidating than in Paris.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 6: London

I figured the next morning was one to sleep in...we were all sore and tired from the previous day's marathon and all we had to do today was get ourselves on a train to London. Sleeping in is one of my all-time favorite things to do, so that was easy.

We packed our bags up and headed down to the breakfast buffet, and again it was magnificent and the angels themselves sang us through the waffles, brioche and cheesey goodness. Plus, and I forgot to mention this in the previous post, they showed "Tom and Jerry" cartoons on a huge screen during breakfast, for the kids, you know. You should have seen the four of us, entranced by the cartoons and chewing our chocolate croissants open-mouthed and unblinking. We looked like we needed a babysitter.

We negotiated the Paris metro system one more time, with our luggage. ("God, have these people even heard of escalators??") We got ourselves to the Gare du Nord, which looks like something out of Harry Potter; it's really crowded with possibly the most interesting-looking people wandering around there. And it had crepes, so I was happy.

It used to take days to get from Paris to London, and now it's only a few hours...that? is a miracle. I was pretty excited about taking the high-speed train from Paris to London; I thought it would be really impressive and momentous. Turns out I was wrong; it was pretty much like any other two hour train ride, except it had about 20 minutes when it was dark outside,right in the middle. I was happy enough to have a non-eventful ride, especially considering a few years ago 4 trains got stuck inside the tunnels for hours, with thousands of people on board. I'll admit I don't like tunnels that go underwater (One leak, just ONE LEAK and we're all dead!!), but I decided not to think too much about it while I was on the Eurostar.

We got into St. Pancras station (which is also the King's Cross underground station, if you are a Harry Potter fan....there really is a Platform 9 3/4, too! They've embedded a little cart into a brick wall where you can take your photo; very cool.) Then we had to negotiate another subway system and then another train ride to get to my cousin's house in Croyden, just south of London.
This time, we spoke the language, though, and the Mister and I had dealt with the Tube before, so we knew what we had to do. Still a lack of escalators, though; they really should look into that.

The train and tube system in London is pretty terrific, I think. I know the residents think it's expensive and inefficient and not so great, but I was impressed with how easy it was to figure out, and get where you wanted to go with a minimum of fuss. And beleive me, taking one look at the traffic on the roads, I was really, really happy to not be driving in that city; that would make my head explode. (I have NO idea how they are going to manage during the Olympics next year...London is already chock-a-block crowded with the most insane traffic I have ever seen. I don't know who's idea it was to drop another million or so people into that.)

My cousin, Eilish, had very generously and graciously offered to put the four of us up for the week, despite not having laid eyes on me for almost 20 years. She has a lovely, comfortable little house that is so English...it is one of those narrow, semi-detached, early 20th century houses that you can imagine men with handle-bar mustaches and corseted women in, or having and Anderson shelter in the backyard during the war. I loved it. She was very accomodating and welcoming to the four large, loud, messy Canadians invading her space.

The next morning we got up to explore London. I love London, it's a fabulous city, full of stuff you already know about. There's the museums and the galleries, but it's also got all sorts of stuff you've seen on tv and the movies for ever, and you didn't even realize. When we went to St. Paul's cathedral, the girls were impressed that not only was this where Princess Diana got married, it's also the place where the lady feeds the birds in "Mary Poppins"! And there's Harrods' and Big Ben and Trafalgar Square and Tower Bridge. It's like seeing a book come to life.

We took a boat tour along the Thames with the best, most-deadpan tour guide I ever heard. "That is Millenium Bridge, a footbridge built in the year 2000, to commorate the millenium. A few years ago, I saw a 10 year old boy unload a strawberry McDonald's milkshake onto a tour boat much like this one. Funniest thing I ever saw." "Next year London will host the Olympics, which will cost the UK taxpayer over £9 billion, but you cannot put a price on two bronze medals" We loved him.

Dinner was at an English pub (in a basement, for some real atmosphere!) where Thing 2 had her third order of fish and chips in as many days, and the Mister had bangers and mash. You can't say the Loudshoes do not embrace the culture.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 5: Paris

Our first morning in Paris, we got up bright and early and went down to the hotel's breakfast buffet....I LOVE good breakfast buffet, and this one did not disappoint: crepes and eggs and bacon and cheese! Oh the cheese! And the bread! Baguettes and brioche and chocolate croissants! I could have stayed there all day and been perfectly happy.

We headed back to the Eiffel Tower because we wanted to go up to the top of it, and we arrived 10 minutes after it opened to find an hour and a half wait for the elevators. (This, as it turned out, was to be a theme for the rest of our vacation.) When we finally got to the base of the tower, we had to go through the usual bag searches and other security. I managed to set off the metal detector, because I had on a heavy necklace on under my scarf. When I pulled the scarf off to show the security guard he gave the most dramatic sigh and rolled his eyes so far back into his head I thought he might lose them altogether, like he could not believe he had to put up with idiots like me day after freaking day! He must be fun to work with....can you imagine him at the Eiffel Tower Staff Christmas Party?

The view from the top was spectacular; we were lucky enough to get a clear and windy day that made it easy to see for miles in all directions. Then we lined up for another half hour to get back down.

We decided beforehand that we wouldn't go into any museums or churches, our time was just too tight; better to see a lot of things briefly than one or two things in depth. Judging from the lines at the Louvre and Notre Dame we made the right choice....I'm not exaggerating when I say there were a couple of hundred people in lines for both.

We took a boat tour along the Seine and saw all the famous buildings and some of the not so famous ones and we ate....boy, did we eat. I think we ate our way from one end of Paris to the other. Thing 1 and I particularly liked the crepes; they had these stands where they made your crepe to order every twenty feet or so and I think we stopped at every one....who knew bananas and Nutella was a combination I have been missing out on all my life??

One thing I liked about Paris and London is that there are plenty of public washrooms everywhere, and for the members of the Tiny Bladder Club, of which I am a charter member, this is a very welcome policy. You usually have to pay a little bit to use the bathrooms, but that's okay, it pays for a staff that keeps the bathrooms clean and supervised. And let me tell you, the ladies staffing the women's bathroom underneath Notre Dame take their job very seriously. These two North African women running this place did not put up with fools; you had to be right smart about doing your business, no lolllygagging, and they parceled out toilet paper like it was made of gold. And they kept yellling "Flush! FLUSH!!" every time anyone left a cubicle. But they kept that line moving and got a LOT of people in and out of there very efficiently. There wasn't a sign with the fee on it, and I was afraid of getting kicked out, so I gave them 2€ for the three of us and they beamed at me, so I guess it was enough.

I had read about a place on Ile St Louis that serves fabulous ice cream, and since I still had not quite eaten my total body weight yet, we went in search of it. And we found it! Here are Thing 1 and Thing 2 and I perusing the flavours at Berthillon, and drooling.

They had flavors like apricot and rhubarb and dark chocolate. Thing 1 had peach and Thing 2 had lime and I had salted caramel, which was out of this world and so intensely delicious that it was hard not to eat it too fast.

I have to say, the people in Paris were wonderful, friendly and helpful and very kind when I butchered their language beyond all recognition. I speak enough French to ask a question, but not enough to understand the answer. Everyone I tried my French on was very encouraging, but answered me in English, for which I was grateful. I had heard that Parisiennes were snotty and cold, but that was not our experience at all. When we were trying to find the entrance to a subway station (they hide them!) I asked at a gas station (in French) if they could tell me, and when one of the customers found out I was Canadian, he bellowed "J'adore! J'adore les Canadiennes!!" and hugged me and babbled on for a while (which I did not get at all....I thinkI heard something about being polite and then something else about Afghanistan.) and told us where the entrance to the subway was, and for a moment I thought he was about to come home with us. And then as we stumbled about for another bit finding the entrance (seriously, they hide them, they do NOT want you taking the subway in Paris!) an older couple walking down the street asked if they could help us. They could not have been lovelier.

After twelve hours of walking and eating, we were all grateful to crawl into bed and get some sleep. Because we knew that breakfast buffet would be there in the morning!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 4: Paris

You know how you've always heard that Paris is spectacular and wonderful and the be-all and end-all in vacation experiences? Well, it's all true. It's fabulous.
We flew to Paris from Ireland and had to get ourselves from the airport to our hotel on the train and the metro; luckily, the Mister and I have enough French to be able to read signs and get ourselves on the right train and not to Poland or something.

Our daughters were a bit taken aback at a European hotel room, even one in a modern hotel...it was very....compact. No ice machine, no ironing board, no free wireless. It ain't Disney World, let me tell you. But it did have a dazzling view of Paris from it's rather large window, and that was good enough for me.

We went out straight away to see the Eiffel Tower, which was #1 on our agenda, and as we strolled beside the Seine on a beautiful summer evening, we just kept turning to each other and saying "do you believe we're in Paris??"

The Eiffel Tower was way bigger than I thought it would be (I'm not sure how big I did think it was going to be, but I was surprised.) The Mister thought it was smaller than he thought it would be. Go figure. It is far more delicate and lacier than I thought it would be, too. It's really very lovely.
We wandered around a bit (and got asked 50 bazillion times if we would like to buy a cheap, plastic souvenier of the Eiffel Tower, by dozens of interchangable, sketchy looking guys who were so clearly used to being told "no" that they'd have fallen over with surprise if we had said "yes".)
Everyone was getting hungry, so we found a sidewalk cafe that looked like it would not cost all the money we possessed and we got a decent dinner from the most stereotypical snotty French waiter. Seriously, if I hadn't thought he would spit in my food, I'd have asked to take his picture. He was so full of contempt for us pitiful, non-French tourists that he'd have had to add a few inches to his nose to look down on us properly.

On the way back to the hotel, by way of the Eiffel Tower again, the heavens opened and we got full-on thunderstorm. We ducked into some phone booths nearby, Thing 1 and I in one and Thing 2 and the Mister in another. And Thing 1 and I found a cell phone in our booth! We tried to figure out if there was a number in the contacts that said "home" or some such thing, but the fact that neither of us speak French hindered us somewhat. And then it rang! It scared the bejesus out of us! We probably should have answered it to find out who it belonged to and to tell them where it was, but, again, we don't speak French and we couldn't tell them where it was anyway, we didn't even know were we were. ("Allo! Je have your phone! Here in the booth du telephone! Near la tour Eiffel! But I have no idea what street we are on or where the hell your phone is! Adieu!")

Even though I had said that there would be no sleeping on our trip to Paris, we did make our way back to the teensy hotel room and settle down for the night.