Monday, January 29, 2007


A quick rant on something that bothered me:

I went to the grocery store this afternoon. At the end of my checkout, because it was near the exit, was a great conglomeration of 8 or 10 trolleys. I couldn't push mine out while I waited for the woman from the next till over to pick her bags out of her trolley. Predictably, she added another set of wheels to the mix. While I was waiting for her to leave, the woman behind me nodded her hijab at me and said "Excuse me, can I get out?". Well, I had nowhere to go; we still had to wait till the first lady left the store - that's how crowded it was.

I reached for my bags and thought, "I can't leave those trolleys in such a ridiculous state." I could barely reach the exit anyway, and the hijab lady wouldn't have a chance, specially with her baby stroller. So I pushed about 3 trolleys into each other to open a walkway, and as I was doing so, Mrs Hijab waggles at me again, "Excuse me, my baby is sleeping!"
I replied, "But I am trying to make some space here."
She said, "I see that."
And the cashier and the people in the queue looked over at me and shrugged their shoulders.
I would have like to see her try to get out with bags and a stroller if I hadn't done that.

Sometimes I hate being thoughtful. It would have been so EASY for me to pick up my bags and leave my trolley right where it stood. Of course, if I try that next time, some old lady is liable to look at me and shake her head and proclaim something about the youth of today. You cannot win...


OK, Blue tagged me with this a week ago and Leilouta did today.

Five Things About Me:

1) I am shy around other people's children, but not their dogs.
2) The only fruit I crave is apples, even if I enjoy others
3) When I was 3, I stole a toy from Nursery School. It was a small orange cube with no known function.
4) I used to hate my first name! I wanted my middle name first.
5) Sometimes I like to put condensed milk on my buttered toast, mmmm.


I also decided to do the Book Meme:

1. Find the nearest book.
2. Name the book & the author.
3. Turn to page 123.
4. Go to the fifth sentence on the page. Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.
5. Tag three more folks.

So it is the book I am reading at the moment:
Theatre of the Mind: Raising the Curtain on Consciousness by Jay Ingram
p. 123, sentences 6, 7 and 8 read:

Some even argue that this experiment doesn't explore free will at all, because the participants know they have to make several of these "spontaneous" movements over the course of the experiment and that the movement will be exactly the same (or essentially so) each time. In fact, when the experiment was first described to participants, they were conscious of the instructions and the procedure - somewhere in their minds they "knew" what they were doing. Yet to take the results at face value you'd have to believe that this background awareness was suspended each and every time they flicked their wrist.

No favouritism here - I tag YOU!

In the tradition of ending each post with a photo, I have discovered The Woodlands College Park High School, home of the Cavaliers. Oooh! I am so envious! I went to a big square brown school built in the 70s. McCullough was the first high school in the Woodlands, back when it was young. Home of the Highlanders.

Now look at this! A high school!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I watched The Ring last night. Most of the crucial scenes were viewed through the gap between my fingers. Thankfully, because of this, I didn't scream. Sometimes I get taken by surprise, though.

It was scary, but not as viscerally frightening as Ringu which I saw on TV last year. Shoot, that one scared the toenails off me. (This time, I knew when to cover my eyes, see.) Plus the original was shot in constant semi-darkness.

When it was over, the back of my neck felt uncomfortable and I was paralysed until I came across a link to this refreshing recut of The Ring as a family drama.

I also came across some hilarious answers on IMDB to the question, "If you knew she was going to come after you, what would you do?"

There were the predictable ones like: "I'd scream and run / I'd hit her with a chair / I'd shoot her". And anyway, she's dead and she can control electrical devices, so there's no stopping her, but still some great ones were:

  • I'd put my TV on top of the wardrobe so she would fall out and break a leg
  • When she was halfway out of the TV I'd turn it off so she would be stuck and I'd watch her squirm
  • Before she crawls out I'd change the channel to Jerry Springer or some soap so she would be forever trapped in awful TV land. [I vote we send her to Big Brother...]
  • I'd reason with her

However, assurances that "it is just a movie and they are just actors" soon pass, and when it came time to go to bed, I couldn't turn off my lights. Yes, I know that nothing will ever crawl through my TV screen...but I left it on the digital BBC classical station and turned on the blue light that illuminates the dome on my humidifier.

Even after watching Ringu I turned off my lights, so what happened???

And what is the big deal about the dark? Some of the deaths happened in broad daylight.


In much lighter topics, I've restarted the application I mentioned a few days ago. I was working on it on my old laptop, which is so mangled it takes 5 minutes to notice you've actually hit a button. Slow going. Today I spent the entire afternoon running System Mechanic on it in an attempt to speed it up a bit, but it's a lost case I would say. Surprised it didn't cut itself off or give me the Blue Screen of Death today.

I haven't been able to work on it on my new laptop because it came preloaded with MS Works, which, in short, is crap. Plus the world and its uncle send attachments as .doc or .ppt or .xls. So it was only a matter of time before I had to relent and buy an Office Suite. And SWEET indeed it is -- I am on the Office 2007 free trial. It is a-mazing.

It comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a new program called OneNote. With a few clicks and drags you can assemble anything, all sort of notes, predicts what you want and before you know it you have pages of bullet lists, tables, boxes, sidenotes, and so on.

All the programs have an intuitive Ribbon that replaces the clumsy old toolbars. And so much more I have not yet discovered.

So anyway, I have restarted the application...well, when I get through playing with everything :)

Here is a picture to please your eyes, taken from the breakfast table one morning in Canada:

Pretty little Mourning Doves. So shy and gentle.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oops Tea

Grr! I had nearly finished writing a blog about J-J last night when it ALL disappeared! I blame it on my Touchpad. It selects and deletes anything if my palm accidentally touches the top corners.

So keep an eye out for my second attempt sometime today or tonight, but first I have to complete an application for an interesting job. No doubt there will be an essay to write.

Also wanted to share with you the jasmine tea experience that my housemate brought me from China:


It starts as a tight bundle - I don't know how anyone can make that.

Put it in hot water for about half an hour and watch it expand, unfurl, and blossom.

Voila! A pretty result and some tasty tea.


P.S. It snowed in London last night. Melted now, of course.

I think this was at about 5.45am, after I heard the salt truck.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Dufferin History

On the way to the Dufferin museum.

VAST ONTARIO COUNTRY, criss-crossed by endless lonely roads.

After Christmas, no snow, warm breezes and temps over 10C (50F).

THE DUFFERIN COUNTY MUSEUM, built in 1994 but designed to resemble a barn and silo to blend with the surrounding farms and built with new materials.

My cousin Pierre brought me here, remembering he had mentioned it a couple of Christmasses back. He grew up in the area and has never been there himself. He is friends with both Wayne the curator and Darrel the director. Wayne wasn't there, but Darrel came down to meet us, and kindly gave us an insider's tour before letting us loose to wander about.

The interior was open to the ceiling beams, with a mezzanine on one side that houses changing exhibitions. Being so vast, the ground floor space contained a large pioneer log house with 4, yes 4, bedrooms. Three snug ones upstairs and the master bedroom downstairs with a parlour and the rest- Pierre and I went in 5 minutes before closing so I only glanced round.

Then there was a clapboard meeting hall for the Orangemen, a social organisation somewhat similar to the Rotary Club or more outgoing Masonic Lodge. The Orangemen are loyal to Protestant William III (hence the suppression of their parades in Northern Ireland).

And beside that stood a signal house. Living out in the sticks like the area was and still is even though only an hour from Toronto, if you wanted to catch the steam train, you would have to go to the signal house and hoist the flag so that it would stop for you. How quaint. It was quite snug inside, a shelter from the weather.

Around the edges of the space were glass cases with artefacts of local history that illustrate how southern Ontarians lived from the 19th century to the early show ribbons, local tailoring, dental instruments, hotel guest books and bills, undertaker's equipment, shopkeepers' signs, furniture from the prison warden's wife's name it.

In the centre was a tape outline on the floor of a First People's Longboat for school groups to get into as it is so BIG.

The mezzanine's charming wrought iron railing came from a large church that I think was destroyed in a fire, and the equally charming iron spiral staircase was once used by female prisoners to descend to the exercise yard behind the Court House, which area is now covered by new extensions and a parking lot.

THE DUFFERIN COUNTY COURTHOUSE, built in the 1890s, I think.

Dufferin county is surprisingly new. I found that in the mid-19th century, the first white child to be born there played with the children of natives, or First People.

The exhibition on the mezzanine was called Traces of our Heritage and showcased mundane and ceremonial artefacts from the local First Peoples. We had no time to return here after Darrel's tour.

Next he took us up into the silo which houses the elevator shafts and the air-conditioning and heating equipment, so as to keep the ceilings free in the main exhibition spaces. At the top of the silo is a circular viewing room giving amazing views over the fields and meadows, and also showing Airport Road stretching like a rollercoaster to a dot on the horizon. Darrel, who is actually an urban planner, has an interest in art and so is using the walls of the viewing room as a mini art gallery to show off local talent.

Finally he took us down to the basement which contains the County Archives. The highlight of the tour, in my opinion, was when he took out his keys and showed us into the off-limits storage vault, the warehouse, and the offices!

We had an excellent time looking at all the things, stuffed to the rafters. They have to turn down new donations, even, so they don't need a large acquisition budget at all! So many houses have attics full of granny's things, you see. There were turn of the century dresses, coats, shoes, handbags, biscuit tins, old municipal fire pumps, an undertaker's cart with a wicker coffin - apparently, the deceased were buried in wicker coffins because the water table is so high that when it rained, they would not float!

Dressing tables, stained glass windows, silver tea sets, carriages of all quality, size, and class; all sorts of inventive farming equipment; an Orangemen poster that was so full of symbology it would take days to decipher; and so on. I could have spent a week browsing.

He showed us his office. All the offices are stuffed with artefacts too. We saw some ongoing conservation done by a conservator who comes in once a week.

I kind of wished I could work there. Funny how the importance of London's gilded art scene fades when you are not in the midst of it. Nineteenth century barber chairs and equestrian hoof files and beaded Iroquois purses don't seem so insignificant when you're living in the middle of a province...

Something else I wanted to show you:

Orangeville has recently established a pleasant tradition of creating tree trunk art. If the family are willing to pay about $3,000, rather than completely remove old trees in the front yard, the municipal authorities leave a few feet of stump to be carved into a design.

Although...some of the humanoid faces really creeped me out at night.


I like this eagle. OK, One More!

/>I kept forgetting my camera when I drove past these, so here they are courtesy of loneprimate.

I know! Someone would actually take pics of Orangeville???

I must admit, I have spent years laughing at the expense of this small town. I remember when there were only 15,000 people living there, but it's huge now, a commuter town booming and expanding at a blinding rate and becoming one of the main towns in the county. At the outskirts are all the big new subdivisions for people who work in Toronto and make little sentimental connections to the town, but in the old part where my relatives live, it remains very much a small town. I couldn't go anywhere with my cousins without them bumping into someone they know.

Despite the fact that I have been visiting Orangeville since 1979 and yet feeling out of place as a Londoner in small town Ontario, I really really grew to appreciate the place after visiting the museum.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I'm Baaaaack

Guess who's back in town? Yes, moi.

We flew out of Toronto, leaving behind the long-awaited snow dump and very wintry temps. It was -12C (10F) with a wind chill of -20C (-4F), and fortunately dazzlingly sunny. If it was still snowing on Tuesday more flights would have been delayed. As it is, nature produced a most amazingly crisp sunset over Toronto as I waited at the gate. It went from shades of gold near the horizon to shades of blue towards the depths of space.

[Tooners, as I looked, I thought about what you said about North American sunsets and could only agree.]


The flight was only 5 hours long! That is not long enough to cause bad jet lag, while the 8-9 hour flight from Houston really wipes me out. Good thing, too, because although the flight was not full, the people sitting near me were annoying. There was only one seat between me and the guy who sneezed 100 times after take-off. The guy behind me coughed an equal amount at landing.

And there was nothing I wanted to watch. This plane didn't have a CD or
movie library in addition to the radio and TV channels as did the flight out of the UK. So I played
21, Trivia, and a crossword; watched Frasier, Hidden London, and listened to the
radio. For the first time ever, the movies on offer did not tempt me. In another first, I did not like the BA food and did not finish it, but did my best so as not to go hungry.

[Jia Li, we flew right over St Johns, Nfld!]


Do you ever think about how amazing landing is? "Here" we are, in a pressurised metal tube flying at 30,000 ft in nearly -70C temperatures and we need to go down "there". Descent is as thrilling as take-off because I really like the process. Coming down from cruising speed the engines become a bit quieter. Raising the flaps to cause drag, reduction in speed, that grinding sound as the metal fights the air, and thus we eventually approach the earth in a controlled fall with a little roller coaster effect and a bit of cross wind turbulence. (I sat directly over the wings so could hear not just the landing gear but the hydraulics too.) Then we touch down and brake so hard with the flaps and spoilers up that sleepers can fall forward in their seats. Thrusters in reverse and we roarrrr to a slowdown. I have been flying since 1979 and cannot count how many times I have enjoyed this most dangerous manoeuvre!

Ever since I can remember, I have thought planes were beautiful.


We landed in London at around 6am to grey skies and rain...surprise, surprise...even though it doesn't even rain that much here, it continues the stereotype. Having a bigger suitcase than when I went over, I decided to forego the Heathrow Express and the Tube at rush hour, and got a taxi home instead. It felt good to be back. (Shhh, none of that "I told you so." I still think about going back to the US every day, yes, every day, for over a year now. And now I even imagine going to Canada, snow or not - those of you who know me enough have heard me complaining bitterly about the winters!)

My room here is spacious with high ceilings, but I still had that sense I always do when returning from North America...of everything here being on a smaller, more compact scale. In fact, all day I couldn't judge the distances between anything in my small cupboards, or the stairs.

I sorted my mail - got 21 cards!!! Popped out to the local shops for milk and bread, etc. and by midday couldn't focus anymore, as I only caught half an hour of sleep on the plane despite my inflight boredom. I figured a one hour nap would be fine, but ended up taking 3 hours and then fell asleep again for an hour after dinner!

I talked to my mother, whose heart is aching. My aunt ran off to the gym before I left for the airport because she didn't want to see my Mum's face. J-J (upcoming blog) the dog missed me terribly. He'd got so used to the three of us sitting on the sofa together watching TV after dinner.

Yes, I fell in love on holiday, and the sentiment was returned. Mum says that after dinner the first night J-J looked for me - no Livia to rub his belly, or tell him how pretty he is; no Livia to make him sit and give him treats. He was so sad, he didn't even bark at people through the window. He looked for me the next morning too, and whenever anyone mentioned "Livia" he wagged his tail, bless his little cotton socks...


Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the blogs I promised :)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

To Do List

I have blogged 3 times in one month. My lowest rate ever. I haven't forgotten that I will tell you about:

1) Dufferin museum

2) my cousin's baby shower

3) the adorable Jay-Jay

Back in London on Wednesday ...

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Monday, January 08, 2007

near the end

I have only a week left in Canada. Being back in North America was much easier than I had expected it would be, even in this small town...but I know that when I return to the UK, London will put her claws into me again and I will stay...


One day last week it got all the way up to 10C (50F) in southern Ontario. I see it will be in the mid 50s C in London this week. Well, here winter has returned and it has been snowing for a day and a night now. It is actually blowing snow out there, so I opted to stay home and blog rather than go out with my mother for her hair appointment and to "walk about" with her. "Walk about" is her escape from going stir crazy in her room after she does the housework, and consists of messing about in the shops before going to the gym.


My dad flew in from Calgary to see mum and me for the first time in a year and a half. He was nicer and more civil - warmer, even - than he ever had been since the divorce and we spent a rather happy weekend together, though it was a bit like rubbing our noses in it when he would keep coming up with talk of his "destiny" and his "simplified" life.

We went to the mall, which took all of 15 minutes because it is a small one, then a further 15 minutes in the bookshop where Dad bought 3 things for $66 CDN. Bloody heck, I just looked at the back of my book and see that it is $29.95. *speechless*

Stuff costs a lot of numbers in this country.

It is called Theatre of the Mind: raising the curtain on consciousness by Jay Ingram, a Canadian national bestseller. Dad got that for me, and for himself he got Hyperspace the latest book by Michio Kaku, the fascinating Japanese-American theoretical physicist from California - he is the co-creator of String Theory. (Did anyone see Stephen Greene's documentary about that and the Theory of Everything last year? I blogged about it.) Some of Kaku's documentaries about Time and Parallel Worlds have been on the BBC lately and as soon as I saw his book I raved about him so, as Dad likes that kind of thing too, he got the book. Dad is heavily into sudoku, so he bought a mini set of those...a very expensive shopping trip if you ask me.

We went to Tim Horton's for coffee. You know how Starbucks is popular all over the world, but people still choose to go elsewhere? Well, apologies to any Canadians reading this, but I think Tim's is a mind-control conspiracy. They flock there like it is the only destination on the planet. Must be something the government puts in the double shot coffee or the trans-fat-free donuts.

After that we wanted to see Casino Royale so we could pass judgement on Daniel Craig's Bond and enjoy a bit of 007 action in an Aston Martin. But the only showing was at 9.40PM, and the only thing we could see was Happy Feet. I enjoyed it so much more than I had expected I would. If you don't care about penguins now, you will after that. I just wanted to hug Mumble, and the banter of his amigos was priceless.

For dinner we headed straight to One99 again, where the staff remember my mother and me from the New Year's bash. Dad enjoyed the food. We had starters (premiers) and mains (secondaries), but no room for dessert.

Dad's organic venison tenderloins on a bed of mashed potato, with a giant prawn and a lobster tail and claws, and winter veggies.

His starter was Woolwich goat cheese wrapped in phyllo, with curried squash chutney, sumac syrup and plantain chips.

Mum's seafood platter with scallops, coconut poached giant prawns, a sweet potato stack, and seafood paella.

Her starter was cedar-smoked and maple-cured salmon on confit potatoes, french beans, creme fraiche and candied garlic.

I had the special: Sea bass on a bed of cilantro polenta, white asparagus and green beans.

My starter had been BBQ breast of quail with grilled fennel, pomegranate, scallops, and mango sauce. Mmmmm BBQ quail is the tops!!!

Oh yea, and we had started with an Amuse of 3 goat's cheese and trout balls rolled in black and white sesame seeds...

Seriously, One99 comes up with the most interesting combinations of flavours. I found out they have a weekly streaming video of cooking tips on their website. I've just been there and discovered their specialty coffees and hot chocolates with amaretto and frangelico and Bailey's, etc.

I drank a Cosmopolitan cocktail in a fancy glass, though there was no burnt orange peel in it this time:


I don't want to confuse you all with too many subjects, but I don't have many opportunities for blogging and have to just stick it all down here when I can.

I can't blog about the BBQ that my aunt Eve and uncle Tom did for dinner before taking my dad to the airport because I am waiting for Dad to email the pics from his camera.

Here are a couple of pics outside of town when my cousin Pierre took me to the Dufferin County Museum Archives, which was bigger and more interesting than I had expected. There were three buildings on the ground floor - a railway signal house (you hoist the flag if you want it to stop and pick you up), an Orangemen's meeting house (a society founded on the name of William of Orange, same as the ones in Ireland), and a settler's 3-bedroom log cabin. He knows the curator (who wasn't there) and the manager, Darrel, who was really nice and gave us the grand tour and more, with sneak peeks into the vaults and the offices!

There are endless artefacts related to local history, and donations still coming in from people's attics. From biscuit tins to old fire engines. I learned so many things, like ... well, would you like me to write another post about this in the next few days?

If so, I will save the pics for that, and meantime here are two sunset photos from last week when we were walking around with our coats in our hands:

The view from the front yard.

The firs in the back yard.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

One99 Broadway

Suffice to say I had an enjoyable Christmas week with family and eating yummy food. I hope yours was also agreeable.

And...Happy 2007! Where 2006 got to is beyond me... *looks under the bed*


For New Year's Eve, Aunt Rita and her friend Leslie, Aunt Eve and Uncle Tom, and Mum and I all went to One99 Broadway for a 7-Course dinner. None of my cousins would come because at $100 per head you don't want a picky eater...

We had expected my Dad to be here but he's coming at the end of the week instead, so Leslie jumped at the chance to join us. Apparently, One99 is the type of restaurant that many of the town's residents aspire to visit one day and others avoid at all costs (Orangeville, despite its suburbanite boom, retains its modest farming town roots.) The interesting name basically comes from the address, as Broadway is this town's Main Street.

Uncle Tom had driven us there as he did two years ago, but this time he stayed and it was clear this is not his milieu. He divvied up his courses between us ladies and when we got to the meat course, we donated 3 rare steaks to him and shared the rest, as by this time most of us were full. Mum was in charge of wines so she started us off with a zinfandel and then by the meat course and to finish off, we had a shiraz.

We were seated at the best table, a big round one that took up the wine room, surrounded by glass and overlooking the main restaurant below. And, we were mostly served by the owner. Swapping between upstairs and downstairs were a guitarist and an accordionist, playing softly pleasant tunes and singing some classic old songs and Italian ones too. Most of us knew them all and by the time the guitarist got to "Edelweiss" our table started humming, so he came over and we sang it together.

The courses were as follows:

1) Amuse: butternut squash mousse on a savoury shortbread topped with saffron - just a tiny morsel to amuse the mouth

2) Soup: morel mushroom puree garnished with truffles and foie gras - I found tiny pieces of diced apple in the puree, an interesting touch. And the most succulent slices of foccacia bread in a basket, with butter and a dash of pink salt.

3) Fish 1: wish I had taken a pic of this as it was the most artfully composed plate of them all. Sugar-cured and smoked salmon on confit potatoes, french beans, yuzu, creme fraiche, and caviar. The base layer was a slice of sugar-cured salmon which has the most interesting and indescribable flavour. I could taste the freshwater-ness of it; it was slightly chewy, and the end note is a hint of sweetness. On top of the salmon perpendicular was the small half potato of very creamy texture. Laid beside this were a few crispy green beans in a tangy creamy dressing, and propped against these was the slice of home-smoked salmon. I don't know where the yuzu was, possibly they used the powder for an unusual flavour in the bean dressing. And on either side of the whole ensemble, a little dollop of red and black caviar.

4) Fish 2: Champagne poached lobster tail on brioche toast with a blood orange hollandaise sauce and chervil jus. I may never want hollandaise sauce without orange in it again. And then I was full and the waitress caught me stifling a yawn and waggled her finger at me with an eyebrow raised.

5) Palate cleanser: fresh grape juice - pressed and unrefined, it tasted just like we were eating those sweet blush red grapes.

Then they brought a slab of slate on top of which was a smaller section, red hot, with a sizzling head of garlic on it just out of the oven and a few sprigs of rosemary. This was just for the aroma, but I sooooo wanted to eat it with bread and olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Presumably to open our appetites for the next course:

6) Meat: Roasted organic beef tenderloin with potato and leek pie, baby rainbow carrots with sarawak pepper jus. Leslie (being Irish) kept asking where the pie was. It was the stacked "leaves" made up of potato and leek, like a tower of cards...

7) Dessert: Tiramisu - here I protest. It was all mascarpone and sponge, the lady fingers at the bottom were dry, there was no coffee or liqueur on them or anywhere else...all wrong.

Finished off with optional coffee.

For the toast we had Freixenet champagne, gold and silver noisemakers and hats or tiaras.

Most amazingly, when the owner brought us our bill, he said that two of the tabs had been taken care of earlier in the day - someone had paid for "the two babysitters". Aunty Eve runs a daycare. They were shocked because one of the parents had quit his job to become a student and as a result she reduced their fee.

Although Uncle Tom was the designated driver, he had been uncharacteristic and drank 3 tumblers of rum and coke. He put Aunty Eve, on 2-ish glasses of wine and two champagnes, in the driver's seat. Of the three sisters she holds the least alcohol and we had ribbed her a few times during dinner about what silly things she said to Uncle Tom on the drive home last time while calling him "shweedie"! Mum and I are affected the least, but there was no discussion of a subsitute driver and Uncle Tom took us home via the residential streets, all the while reminding her that she was about 10 feet from the curb. Mum and Aunty Rita alternated between laughter and exclamations.

Thankfully, during the day the ice had melted, the rainshowers had come and washed away the heavy fog, and the streets were drying by the time we left the restaurant. Uncle Tom said Dallas, Texas was colder than Toronto, Ontario that night.

When I woke up on the first morning of 2007 and stuck my head out into the backyard, I called Mum over and we enjoyed the watery sort of smell that reminded us of a cold winter morning in Houston.

More photos, regularly updated, are available on my Flickr pages.

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