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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Winter; A Guide

Well, judging from the current temperature in Montreal, WINTER IS COMING! As much as some of us would like to cling to fall (which has actually been quite temperate and pleasant), we all know that fall is pretty much over and soon it will start snowing. So this is my survival guide to Montreal winters:

1) If you walk outside for more than a few steps per day (basically if you don't have a car or parking is scarce) DO NOT buy winter boots that you actually like. Do not expect to wear your boots for more than one or two winters at best unless you take care and wash them very frequently. In Montreal, instead of plowing and removing the snow, they simply throw salt at it. Throughout the day, salty snow melts into small salty slush oceans at every street corner and your boots will inevitably look like this at the end of the season:

2) For god's sake if you take the metro dress in layers. The metro is maintained at a constant temperature of about 35 degrees (celsius!) year round and you will literally die if you don't have layers of clothing that you can peel off your already sweat-drenched body and try to cool yourself off by standing under the ceiling vents that blow hot air at your head.

3) If you live in an apartment with hot water heating that you DO NOT CONTROL (as is, thank god, no longer the case for me), it might help to put a thermometer in your apartment so that when you complain to your landlord that it's time to switch on the heat and that you've been sleeping in your snowsuit, you can give them a precise measurement of just how inappropriately cold it is in your apartment. This gives greater credibility to your claims. I don't make any promises as to the effectiveness of this technique however, since it is a well-known fact that most Montreal landlords are either sub-retarded or evil minions of Satan.

4) Keep your expectations low. I know we all get excited for the first snowfall, but try not to. Any snow that falls will turn brownish-grey not long after hitting the ground. This can lead to feeling dispirited. If you spend up all your winter-happiness at the beginning of the season, you will have a hard life in February. Try to keep some of that excitement for March, or even April, when you can't see the sense in life anymore after we've had ANOTHER late-season snowstorm.

Basically, it is scarily cold today (already, sigh) and I just wanted to wish you all good luck, and remember, in only 9 months we will all be complaining about how damn hot and humid it is in this city! YAY!

P.S. Do you want to see snow that doesn't become brownish-grey almost instantly? I recommend the Eastern Townships (it's my favorite place to look at virginal, WHITE snow) :)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Help Review

So, I've recently read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

         I already know that you guys are thinking that I have succumbed to the media pressure that always ensues when a movie adaptation of a book is released. However, I have NOT seen the film and know little to nothing about it (only that Emma Stone was in it). In any case, I found this book to be absolutely excellent. I was enthralled by the story and often had a lot of trouble putting the book down (even when I had to leave for school or start doing homework). 
          In case you don't already know, the story is about black maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960's. Basically, a young white woman with a flair for journalism takes an interest in the experience of being a black maid in that time and place. She starts secretly compiling a book full of their stories and from that the story unfolds. I will stop there since I hope that you will want to read it for yourself and I don't want to spoil it. 

        The characters were so relatable. They were realistic as people and I could understand and empathize with their points of view. The character development was very good and I felt that we knew each of the characters well; from their flaws to their positive traits and all their nuances. The book was also deeply affecting and appealed to the anger that arises in me when I hear of inequality and discrimination. The Help really uses the stories of the main characters to get you thinking and that's what characterizes a good book in my opinion. 

       If you are still not convinced that The Help is worth it, then let me add that the ending made me cry in public, AT SCHOOL. So there. 

Click here to check out or buy The Help

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Super Late STM outrage

Ok, So I know I am probably extremely late on this one, but my boyfriend just informed me that you now have to pay 3$ to come back from Longueuil metro even if you have an opus card. Sort of similar to how you have to have to pay if you want to come back from Laval on the metro even though you were able to get there using your opus card.
 I had no idea about this although my roommate told me it has been going on since the summer. In any case, this is absolutely ridiculous and preposterous. I already knew about the Laval thing, but this new limitation to the metro system is just so irritating. Especially since the STM already charges a lot for monthly opus card passes and the metro lines hardly cover every inch of Montreal.
Reasons this new STM Longueuil stuff is idiocy:
1) It is COMPLETELY ILLOGICAL that a person can get somewhere with a certain type of metro pass and not be able to get back from that place with the same type of metro pass USING THE SAME METRO AND THE SAME TRANSPORTATION SERVICE.
2) I also fail to understand how this is supposed to encourage people to use the metro! The STM runs all these annoying add campaigns about how using public transportation is so important and everyone should use it. It would seem like putting even more limitations on the metro system and forcing people who live on the South Shore to buy "special" monthly fares (by special I mean twice the price) in order to use the Montreal metro. This is completely counter-productive if they actually want people to abandon their cars and start using the smelly, expensive, thousand-degree metro.
3) Isn't public transportation supposed to be affordable to everyone? (especially poor people who can't afford cars, and students, like myself) It is already so expensive, I can't believe individual tickets are now up to 3$ each.  Ugghhh.
IN CONCLUSION: The STM, as is customary with most organizations in Montreal and Quebec in general, is a backwards, illogical, money-making enterprise that is hypocritical at best and cares little or nothing about the multitudes of Montrealers who are forced to use its "services" on a daily basis.
Just as an aside, now that I've gotten myself started about the metro. This is just a message to all the users of the metro (and especially those who use the BLUE LINE who seem to be the most clueless about this simple rule):
DO NOT stand directly in front of the doors when people are trying to get out and ABSOLUTELY DO NOT try to enter the metro car before the people who are trying to get off have done so! Come on, this is common sense and basic human decency. Please stop being ignorant and move your dumb self to the side to let others get off before you squash yourself into the metro car!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Happy Soup Time

Ok everybody, it's time to make soup. It's fall and it's so damn cold in Montreal and it's also frightfully damp, grey, and depressing. Therefore, it's Happy Soup Time. I will give you all a wonderful recipe for Black Bean Soup that I got ahold of when I worked at the Glen Sutton Outdoor Lodge.

Let me first preface this by clarifying that I am NOT A GOOD COOK IN ANY WAY and no less than nothing about food, but this soup has kept me fairly well nourished throughout CEGEP and now in University as well. It can also be vegetarian if you use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

1-Chop up two onions (regular white ones)
2-Put the onions in a frying pan with one tablespoon of olive oil (actually the quantity of olive oil isn't that important, just use what you need to lubricate your pan)
3-Put a tablespoon of chili powder (2 tablespoons if you like spicy things like I do) and sprinkle red pepper flakes, to your liking, on the onions.
4-Stir this mixture around in your frying pan with the heat on medium for 5-8 minutes.
5-Take out a pot and insert: a can of corn, a can of black beans (drain the juice and RINSE thoroughly), a can of diced tomatoes (drain the juice), a box of chicken stock, and finally your now-spicy onions.
6-Bring this mixture to a BOIL, then turn down the heat and simmer it for about 10-15 minutes. Don't forget to stir periodically.
7-Puree the entire thing for a lovely smooth texture. :)
Two people can survive on this for up to 3 days.

This soup can be spicy, so be aware of that if you don't like spicy food. I love it because it tastes like liquified tacos even though there's no meat involved. It's hearty, will help unplug your nose if you have a cold, and contains a lot of beans so you definitely won't be constipated after eating it ;)

Monday, 17 October 2011


I'm not sure what this French theme I have going on is all about but I'm just going to let it be for now. My good friend Hannah Mei who has a lovely blog called Sweets and Meats inspired me to make my own blog, although I hardly expect it to be cute and have delicious content the way hers does.
The entire concept of this is that I become fully obsessed by new things at fast rates, and since they are diverse and sometimes mildly interesting, I guess I will post them.

At this moment, I am fixated on RATS. I have pet rats. Before you recoil in disgust, consider the following facts on pet rats:
1) Pet rats DO NOT resemble sewer rats or other types of wild rats at all, they are actually so cute! (example above)
2) Rats are intelligent, can even be litter trained, and contrary to other common rodents **hamsters**, they neither shit in their own food bowls, nor bite the hand that feeds them. Like I said, they're smart.
3) THEY ARE NOT DISEASE-RIDDEN RODENTS OF DOOM. They're actually quite clean and not smelly, especially the females who I have found usually smell quite pleasant. Although their ancestors might have introduced the bubonic plague to Europe, they are not a threat in the modern world! Also, medieval history class would have been impossible to stay awake through without the exciting plague and crazy plague doctor stories your teacher told you. Thank you rats.
4) They are really loving and they totally get you as a person. I would also add that I am an extreme cat-lover living in a pet-repressive apartment situation (as is often the case), and being unable to own cats, rats are a perfect substitute that landlords tolerate. They are like small cats with long, hairless tails!

IN CONCLUSION: Do you want an intelligent, loving pet that costs next to nothing and you can keep in your apartment? RATS ARE THE ANSWER.

P.S. One of my rats tragically died yesterday and it's very sad. The above photo depicts her in her prime. Rest in peace Gretchen! :(