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July 2015


I love love love Montreal. I love it like a first boyfriend. But there were a couple of moments today when I began to worry that Montreal might be out to get me.

First, Edward's Kindle got shattered and if you have ever spent five seconds with Edward you know just how grievous a blow this was to him. While the other two suffered through my music selections Edward sat in the backseat with his headphones and the Terry Pratchett he is listening to on his Kindle (Diggers.) Sorry. Was listening to. So that sucked.

Then, I could not get into the city.

I could see the city. It was right there. I was on a major highway that one might reasonably assume has multiple arteries that could get me... there... but an exit was closed so there was a detour and then the car navigation system freaked out and pulled us into some (very nice just not the old port) first-tier suburb and kept us there; literally driving in circles. For an hour. I'm not a good driver. I am unused to driving in cities and Montreal is especially busy and - forgive me - the drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians here are all stark staring mad. I watched a woman on her cell phone step blithely off the sidewalk into moving traffic, chatting away as cars swerved around her or screeched to a halt.

It was all incredibly unnerving and Patrick became increasingly urgent in pointing out WE JUST COMPLETED ANOTHER SQUARE so I finally switched to google maps, which had no problem getting us to the hotel in a remarkably straightforward fashion (take note, Toyota navigation.) We had a very late lunch, checked in and then went off to buy some maple sugar candy, which is when I discovered that my wallet was missing. I almost had an apoplexy. Now, in the cool of the evening, I can see that it would not have been that big of a deal. It would have been inconvenient but the credit card company could have overnighted me a new card and in the interim we could have subsisted on room service charged to our eventual hotel bill. In the moment, however, all I could think was that I had zero cash, no credit cards and therefore no way to buy food or gas. Ever again. Alarming.

Fortunately Patrick remembered that I had tipped the guy who carried our fifty bags up three flights of stairs so we retraced our steps and found the wallet on the floor in the room. Patrick suggested I might want to keep better track of it going forward as I had seemed very distressed by its potential loss. Thanks, Patrick.

Never did get the maple sugar candy but decided to take the ferry over to the island with the Biosphere et al. We didn't have time to do much at the park but I like a good boat ride and the children seemed pleased with the novelty of it. We got off the ferry, started walking around and then the skies opened up and poured rain down upon us. It felt just like the Grand Prix when Steve and I accidentally walked eight miles trying to get off of that same island in the rain. Oh, and the Biosphere closed as we got there.

Reading over it sounds sort of dismal but - apart from getting lost and worrying about being destitute in a foreign country - it was awesome. We took a cab to the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood for dinner, I felt very grownup in the process and during the course  of the day I had two TWO (2) conversations with francophones who did not switch to English. Granted, I only understood a third of what that guy on the boat was telling me but I nodded a lot and waved my hands around murmured ah and bon and merci and he seemed satisfied; and the cab driver took us to where I wanted to go and accepted the money I handed him so I guess that was ok too.


Now that I look at it, maybe those gathering clouds should have given me a hint.


Edward, like the Thomas Haynes Bayly hero hurried from sport to sport, momentarily putting a brave face on his grief.


Today I drove from one side of Ontario to the other. We are now in Pembroke and I am so tired. But along the way we spent a couple of hours at Science North, the science museum in Sudbury, and it was really, really great. Far and away the most interactive of the science centers we have ever visited. Well worth the drive.

I let Patrick have my phone to take pictures; he was most interested in the architecture.





As far as we could tell they built directly into the rock and in Sudbury that is saying something - so. much. rock - and I can see why Patrick would be fascinated but the rest of us preferred all of the animate, tactile things: bins of rocks in which you could find your own fossils, a race track for the cars you could build, an orphaned porcupine, and an honest to god Blanding's turtle swimming in a tank. A Blanding's turtle! Right there! I could have stolen him, if I were that sort of person - which I am not - and if I had any links to the rare reptilian underground; which ditto.

We easily could have spent another two or three hours there but for the sake of expediency we cut it short. The rest of the day was spent scanning the lakes for moose, listening to Bartimaeus and stopping at gas stations where I got the credit card system wrong every single time. As earnestly as I attempt to pass as a Canadian, my inability to master those little credit machines has been the undoing of me - I might as well be wrapped in an American flag with a bald eagle perched upon my shoulder.

Montreal tomorrow.

RoadTrip.1.2015 B

Oh how exceptionally annoying! I wrote a whole post last night. I swear I did. What happened to it?

Sum: Les Miserables, Gaelic music, mutiny, started Bartimaeus trilogy, drive drive drive, Ontario and so to sleep.

Back tonight and I will make certain that it doesn't disappear again.

Oh and if you missed it I am (possibly temporarily) on twitter @juliahippogriff.


A Single Step

I said I wanted to go to Nova Scotia, and you said how wonderful but be advised it is much farther away than you think it is, and I said hmmmmmmmm.

Based upon that discussion Steve and I decided that we would fly to Halifax, rent a car, drive around for a bit and then head off to Vermont for our usual August week. I read all of your suggestions and made copious plans and even booked a hotel in Cape Breton before Steve said something like, my sweet treasure, you have, of course, made sure that we can rent a car in Canada but return it in the States? And I said, hmmmmmmmmm.

Do you know what it turns out you cannot actually do? That.

I mean you could because one car place (not Hertz or Enterprise... Avis maybe?) was willing to tell us how much it would cost and I am only exaggerating very slightly when I say it would have been cheaper to buy a used car in Canada and abandon it in Vermont; including whatever fines I assume the proud descendents of Ethan Allen associate with that sort of profligate behavior.   

So that was not going to happen.

But I really wanted to go so I thought about it some more and finally said, "Road Trip!" meaning we would drive our own car to Nova Scotia through Montreal and Quebec and then scoot around The Maritimes before hitting Maine and Vermont.

Steve said he would see me in hell first. So we compromised on Halifax.

So tomorrow bright! and early! the children and I will be getting into the car and I will be driving us to Nova Scotia. Not all at once, of course, but gradually, over stages, no doubt stopping along the way to solve mysteries and soak up all that Canadian goodness. Oh and for the love of maple leaves would someone please tell me the name of that creamery restaurant on the Trans-Canada highway (who gently rebuked me all those years ago for calling it the Trans-Canadian; it makes me giggle) in Ontario. I think it was Ontario. It had the best blue cheese dressing I have ever tasted in my life and when we stopped there when Caroline and Edward were two (two? we must've been insane) one of the customers got up and went into the bus hole to get us some crayons, just because.

I will check in tomorrow night but in the meantime it occurred to me that I can also try Twitter. I got an account when we to the Grand Prix in June because I wanted to better follow le racing but I was going to close it because - quite frankly - I have never heard of a single person and or thing Twitter keeps urging me to follow (right now, hand to my heart, it is suggesting Mascotas Nutrecan which appears to be a dog food that advertises solely in Spanish, a language I do not speak. also, I don't have a dog) and on the flip side I honestly don't think I could write Happy Birthday Grandma in less than 140 words.

But - look how optimistic I am; in stark contrast to the UPS guy who greeted the news that I was driving the kids to Nova Scotia with a blank "Why on earth would you do that?" - I expect there will be all sorts of wonderful and amusing things that will happen tomorrow, on the nine hour drive, through Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, and then the next day with another delightful nine hours but this time through the vast expanse that is southern Ontario... why, it'll be like you're right there in the car with us, enjoying the uncluttered view, listening to Caroline and Edward as they struggle to smack each other from the confines of their booster seats, reveling in Patrick's thirteen year old ennui.

I am @juliahippogriff and why I didn't put an s on the end when there is an s everywhere else I have no idea. I expect I will find myself inspired to explain, among other things, how we figured out that the phantom of the rest area was really just Old Man McGillicuddy trying to scare tourists away from secret poppy fields and I expect I will have to use Patrick as my scribe; seeing as how my hands will be firmly clenched at 4 and 8.

And speaking of Patrick, he returned from camp today looking bronzed and fit. Actually it was an engineering program so he returned looking pale and slightly pompous but the point is that he returned. I asked him what his favorite tour was (they were taken to a number of different places; including a guided tour by boat around the pilings of a partially constructed bridge) and he said he liked the creamery. So I said, oh, do you think you might be interested in going into food science and he said, "No, I have decided that I am going to grow up to become an ice cream cone."

He's in that sort of post-camp mood. He also said, "I think individually we were all smart enough but collectively we were idiots."

And when I asked what he meant he explained that out of the thirty of them there were three really tall guys and three really short guys and they invented a game called Titan which involved the tall guys shouting, "Suit up!" whereupon the short guys would hop onto their backs and then they would race toward each other.

"And then?" I asked, not really wanting to know.

"Well, and then they would try to kick each other in the nuts."


"Like I said, idiots."

I think he had a GREAT time. 


Oh, sure. I've been felled by stomach bugs many a time but to me that's more like when your head hurts because someone hit you with a brick. Cause, effect. Yesterday I just had a stomachache (how can that possibly be one word- which reminds me of my beloved former boss who once said "Julia! Can you have alittle? Then you cannot have alot." I miss him.)

I realized after I told you that I was going to a birthday pool party (a fancy costume pool party - Mo Willems anyone? genius) it was reasonable to assume that it involved children but no. It was my friend's birthday and she invited a bunch of women over to her house to eat nibble-y things and swim. Also, she made hurricanes which were very refreshing but reminded me of...

can I tell this story? Should I ask him first? Nah. I'm sure it's fine. Besides, I've probably already told you at some point.

One Christmas - before we had children - my brother planned to celebrate the holidays with his inlaws so it was just going to be me and Steve and mom and Papa Stan at our house. I said something like, hey, instead of spending four December days in Minnesota eating our weight in butter, why don't we go somewhere... fun?

Thus began the Great Debauched New Orleanian Christmas of Aught-Whatever.



It was a veritable baccahnal. We ate so much and drank, you know, alittle, and had so much fun and we were so silly and I only have to mention New Orleans for all four of us to start laughing.

And yet, strangely, none of us have the same memories of any of it.

In my version I know that we went to dinner at the same restaurant twice in one night and the second time Mom poked Stan with her finger and he fell off his chair and everyone in the entire place turned to stare except Steve who just sat there placidly eating oysters. I know that we went to tour an old convent that Anne Rice had purchased and filled with dolls and it was just as unbelievably creepy as it sounds - now closed; more's the pity. I know that I have a photograph (somewhere) of Stan in a Valkyrie helmet complete with long blonde braids, smoking a cigar. And I do know that we somehow managed to convince my mother that we should all go see a burlesque show (ahem) on Bourbon Street and when Stan asked if there was a cover charge the guy looked at us and said, "You're in luck. It's Family Night."


Whew. Sorry.

Right. Hurricanes.

At some point we went to Pat O'Brien's to hang out at the piano bar. Steve tried one of their World Famous Hurricane Cocktails. Then he tried another. I am pretty sure he had a third because eventually he turned to me and said, "Hey, honey, this guy," and he jerked a thumb in the direction of the person next to him at the bar, "is in the Navy and he's just here for a night and he needs a place to stay... ."

I smiled and excused ourselves and hustled my charges out before my husband in his sweet, generous, entirely befuddled way misunderstood the intentions of anyone else at the bar.

This has become an enduring standard of measurement: intoxicated? excessively? I mean, accidentally-picked-up-by-a-sailor drunk or just a little well to go?

Good heavens. How I do ramble on, to be sure.

I went to a party and I just had the one hurricane and it was very fruity and refreshing but my point was before the party I found a pair of swim shorts which were fuschia but otherwise unexceptionable and I wore those with a bikini top under a t-shirt. It was fine - a little casual but fine - but I noticed the rest of the women came with their swim gear in a tote bag or something.

So to answer my question in much the same way you all did: when one is a grownup invited to a pool party it is probably best to wear clothes and bring your suit.    

PS I should state, categorically and for the eternal record, that my mother is, in general, abstemious and a pillar of rectitude. It's a large part of what makes it so funny. Imagine, oh, a younger Betty White interlaced with a bit of Doris Day.

Four Days And Four Hours

In case you were wondering how long it took me to miss Patrick terribly.

PS Thank you so much for helping with the discussion board. We'll keep it for a while at least, shall we, and if we get bored with it we can always ditch it later.

PPS And yes, absolutely, I'll keep the comments here. I was thinking the board would be an extra place for those rambling, everybody contributes conversations that come up every now and then.

PPPS I have the worst stomachacheand I cannot for the life of me figure out why. I don't think I've had one since I was a child.

PPPPS Oh and about the board, Queenie just mentioned that the organization of it is a problem and I agree completely but - this will shock you - I'm not very good at organizing ideas so I am MORE than open to suggestions.

Pre Pre Pre Alpha

So I had this idea as I was reading through your comments the other day. Namely, that you all are so friendly and helpful and wise; and my comment section is such a crummy place for you to continue delightful - not to mention useful - conversations about kitchen appliances. Or books. Or whom to see for personal waxing when you live in Colorado (you know who you are.)

But then I gave a Gallic shrug (I am practicing for my return to Quebec) because, really, what do I know about anything outside the typepad idiot-proof control panel? Nothing, that's what. I'm just a begonia. The comment section is what it is. Quel dommage.

But THEN my mother said she just bought a... a thing. An all-in-one kind of miracle crockpot pressure cooker yogurt maker (I'm not making this up) based upon something one of you said and I thought oh to hell with it and googled discussion boards and learned it could be done. Not seamlessly but that it was possible.

Still, nothing might have come of it except for the fact that I found myself waiting for an hour and fifty minutes this morning while the car place rotated my tires. The choice was between availing myself of their free wifi or watching The Price Is Right at a decibel that would blind whales. I chose the former and created a message board that I thought we might use for, well, whatever (see: above.)

So I have a favor to ask. Would you mind checking it out and helping me decide if we might be able to use it or if I should scrap it?

For example, could you see if it will let you login without sacrificing your privacy [like, can you give a fake email - because if you haven't noticed you can totally give a fake email here; I don't care] and all that other important online stuff that you might be more familiar with than I am? Also, I created a couple of currently empty forums into  which I hope to put some actual suggestions tonight (I ran out of time when my tires were done and now I am going to a friend's birthday) but in the meantime do you want to try? And are you able to create forums yourself if you wanted to do so?

Any feedback would be appreciated. I genuinely just thought it would be nice for there to be a better place to store and organize all the great advice that you guys offer but if it's a dumb idea or intrusive or impractical feel free to let me know.

Speaking of advice. And birthdays. When you are a person of an age at which views of one's thighs are allowed only on an as-needed basis and you get invited to a pool party: do you show up in your bathing suit or do you expect to change there or what?

PS HA! I forgot to include a link to the possible board. How funny.


I don't even know if you can get into it. That might be a good first thing to know.

PPS Oh and I added a link up top to the old food blog. I need to add new recipes.


Our guests departed this morning (and very good guests they were too - apart from a couple loads of towels I had almost nothing to do today; plus they left me some peaches) so after essentially abandoning each other all week in favor of the novelty of cousins; Caroline and Edward threw themselves back together with enthusiasm.

I had gotten Edward a pair of second-hand cleats for the little soccer camp they're in this week and when I asked if he thought they fit him, Caroline promptly replied, "Yes. They feel fine."

I laughed and said, "Is this a twin thing? You are able to mystically sense whether his shoes fit?"

Edward said, "Yes" and Caroline said, "Of course" and I said, "OK but don't start doing that creepy, speak at the same time thing."

Whereupon they looked at each other and I thought, oh great, now they are going to spend the rest of the day trying to talk in unison. Well done, me.

Fortunately, they gave up on that when they realized that they are terrible at it. Unfortunately, they then settled on a variation in which they spoke alternate words, like:









But since neither of them had the slightest ability to anticipate what the original speaker had intended, every attempt at this immediately degenerated into a bitter quarrel.

"What? Thank you for working?! That's not what we were going to say..." Yap Yap Yap. Et cetera.

It was like Rogers and Hammerstein reconnected after a morning apart and felt pretty good about the work, until, "Hey! What's with Oklahoma? I scored it for Iowa. Iowa, you fool!" 

Followed by fisticuffs and - probably - biting.

Email Hack

Hi. It appears that the email associated with my blog has been hacked. If you receive a message purporting to be from me and linking to some sort of google document delete it without opening it.

Sorry. So vexing.


In Passing

It is logical but regrettable that whenever I have the most to convey I have the least time in which to do so.

So this will be quick.

In answer to the questions re. grandparents, ours go to eleven: My mom and her gentleman friend, Papa Stan, make two. My father and my stepmother take us to four. The mother who raised Steve died when he was 19 but of course we talk about her so she is five. His father and stepmother are six and seven. Then his birth mother and her husband, and his birth father and his wife, and there we are: eleven. With the obvious exception of Grandma Jane who is no longer with us, we see all of them at least once a year and it is just nice. Steve's birth father was a little slower to come around to the idea of having a relationship with him and it has been both sweet and amusing to watch that grandparent instinct kick in when he's with the children - he is shameless in finding ways that our offspring are the brightest, nicest, cleanest... whatever. The mostest. Caroline could fling himself down on the ground howling in rage (not that she would. at least, not in front of her public) and he would just smile proudly and say something about the lissomeness of her kicking and the operatic quality of her range.

I've said it before and I will no doubt say it again: we are very very very lucky to have met them all. And I do mean lucky. Did I ever tell you how Steve found his birth mother? Probably, so I won't go into it all again in detail but it hinged on two tiny things:

1. the adoption agency mentioned in passing to Steve's parents that the birth mother had attended a specific women's college


2. the lawyer who handled the adoption was a close friend of his parents who kept (kindly but no doubt illegally) a copy of the original birth certificate which listed the birth mother's last name

It still wasn't the easiest search, but it would have been absolutely impossible otherwise. Baby born in 1967 to unwed woman in New York City with an Irish last name. Yeah. Good luck with that!


In other news, I dropped Patrick off at the dorm today for his engineering camp and I think he'll have a really good time. To his surprise and my amusement, Patrick not only knows one of the other 30 kids in attendance but was assigned to be his roommate.

"Oh Patrick!" I said. "Please don't drive E crazy!"

We know E from Patrick's old school (and new school, actually) and he is the quietest, most laid-back person I have ever met. Oh! He's the karate bacon guy. Remember? A black belt keeps his bacon? Yes. Him. He's Patrick's roommate and in the four years I have known him I have only ever heard him utter perhaps half a dozen words.

He let himself into their room as Patrick was rejecting my suggestion that he should make his bed and nodded gravely in response to my cheerful, "Hi!" and Patrick's "You cannot get away from me, can you?"

Patrick asked what the plan was and if the group was meeting somewhere and if they were going to go to dinner soon and did he notice there was a section on mining engineering and if E was surprised to see him.

"Outside," he replied, laconically, and turned, taking Patrick with him.

It took me a moment to realize that that was my goodbye (from both of them) and I assessed my emotions over the fact that my first-born was about to be away from me for an entire week and he was so unconcerned that he just walked away:


I decided I felt good about it.

Then I pondered making his bed for him in a loving maternal gesture of farewell and thought, nah, eff that.

So I left and it's possible I might be feeling a little bereft right now (I like Patrick and he watches my shows with me) but I still have six kids left in the house and one of them is a very smiley baby.