Tag Archives: Spring

Taking Stock No.4

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Enjoying a walk through some of Old Quebec’s beautiful, narrow streets.

Hi folks,

As you have probably noticed, I’ve been out of the look since I last wrote to you about our woes with our new downstairs neighbors. They have not gone away and neither has the mental exhaustion caused by the situation. Many times over the pas few months I have found myself dreaming of packing up and moving to an isolated corner of anywhere but here. It would be quite easy to do and no one would ever find me. My name is so common that I wouldn’t even have to change it in order to never be found, even by the aforementioned pesky neighbors should they decide to attempt to hunt me down. That would be a cowardly thing to do though and highly inconvenient for My Darling who is quite attached to his job and his family (it’s not that I’m not attached to my folks, we’re just not even nearly as tight-knit as My Darling’s family is). He did, however, manage to whisk me away to Quebec City with him for a few days when he went there to attend a conference at the beginning of the month, which did me a great deal of good and allowed me to get my creative juices flowing. Then, when we got back, miracle of miracles, Spring appeared and I have been able to spend increasing amounts of time outside. The leaves are all out, the flowers are blooming, I planted my flowers and bought our strawberry plant and I am looking slightly less pasty. Phew…the work downstairs should finally be done next week, which is an excellent thing because I am becoming less and less tolerant of the group of loud, cigarette smoking, belching, cursing men who show up every morning at 7:00 and are present until the end of the afternoon. I want my quiet home back, I to not have to worry about parking in my own driveway for fear of puncturing my tires on a nail or being trapped in my parking space by a delivery of sheet rock or some worker’s pickup truck. For crying out loud, we found a worker’s discarded t-shirt in our parking space this morning! Ugh…Anyhow, I thought one of my ‘Taking Stock’ posts would be a good way for us to catch up and hopefully I will be able to get my creative juices flowing freely enough once things calm down to come back with another post soon. In the mean time though, you can head over to my photography blog Old Orchard Photography for more about my trip to Quebec and to see a few more of the photos I took there.

Enjoying: being able to walk out the door without having to pile on more layers than an onion.
Listening: to The Merry Widow on CBC Radio 2.
Wearing: my GAP striped sundress. I bought it at an outlet store in Las Vegas last Spring and it is my go-to dress as soon as the warm weather rolls around. It is just as comfy as a pair of pajamas, but completely appropriate to wear out around town as well!

Making: time for myself.

Cooking: Korean burgers for My Darling and his friend when they get back from their bike ride.
Drinking: Iced tea made with our Fortnum and Mason teas. We just emptied our jug of Irish Breakfast and I’m going to ice some Countess Grey next.
Feeling: relieved that the renovations downstairs are finally almost finished.
Reading: ‘Her Majesty: 60 Regal Years’ by Brian Hoey, the first biography of The Queen I have ever read and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I have also recently torn through Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ as I mentioned in my previous post and Camilla Gibb’s ‘This is Happy’ which I highly recommend.

Looking: forward to my vacation in Poland with My Darling next month.
Wishing: we still had a deaf lady in her 70s for a downstairs neighbor. Boy, do we ever miss Mrs. L.
Liking: eating breakfast with My Darling on the back terrace under our red parasol on weekends.
Waiting: for the next bunch of strawberries growing on our plant to ripen.

Snacking: on dark chocolate raspberry Lärabars
Coveting: some Prince Edward Island therapy. I would wish for August to come quickly, but I want Summer to drag on for ages!
Hearing: no construction noise, praise God.
Learning: to not let myself be intimidated by bullies.

Loving: how My Darling has been perking up since he has been able to take his bike out for long rides again.
Watching: not much, really! It’s been far too nice out to watch TV.
Admiring: nature, it’s amazing how quickly things start growing and blooming when the warm weather finally settles in!
Getting: ready to make my first batch of homemade ice cream of the season! It’s going to be matcha, made with this recipe

Wondering: when I’ll have time to go shopping before our vacation.
Playing: piano when I can, which is not often. Racket downstairs = not conducive to learning a new instrument.
Noticing: how badly I needed my week off two weeks ago to ground myself.
Giggling: over My Darling’s waddle when he walks around in his cycling shoes.

Bookmarking: by folding the corners of the pages of the books I read. I don’t spend enough time online to bookmark sites lol
Deciding: on where we’re going to stay in Warsaw.
Hoping: for less drama in my life
Contemplating: jogging with a group of our local Running Room store when we get back from vacation.

Wanting: a new pair of running capris, I noticed several holes in my favorite pair when I got in from my jog on Thursday…
Thinking: about my dad a lot recently and how happy I am that the lupins I planted in front of his grave three years ago are finally going to flower!
Knowing: that my father would be proud of how I’ve handled the difficult situation with our new neighbors so far.
Opening: my heart to as much kindness from others as I can in order to heal myself from the unkindness I have suffered recently.

Feeling: energized and positive for the first time in months.
Marveling: at how warm, sunny weather can help turn peoples moods around within a matter of days.

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Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Our Lady of Victories) church in Old Quebec

Spring and everything that came with it

As you have no doubt noticed, I have been quiet for a while. That’s because life has been quite busy and complicated here lately. We have known for quite a while that we might be in for a bit of a rocky ride, but let me start at the beginning:

I bought my home about three years ago, as I have mentioned before. It is a beautiful, rambling old upper duplex in NDG and as with most of these properties, it is an undivided co-property, meaning that when you buy one of these places, you are essentially entering into an unofficial marriage with the folks living either above or below you. You therefore would do well to figure out who the nosy neighbor in the area is and get all the information you can about the people you are going to be sharing your duplex with before you decide to buy, because if you end up in this type of ownership with the wrong sort of people, you are in for a very bumpy ride. The lady who lived below me when I bought was everybody’s dream in this type of situation. She was a very kind, deaf, elderly lady. She never caused me a moment’s worry (well, except for that one time when she set her oven on fire…), handed over a year’s worth of post-dated cheques for her half of the monthly insurance premiums and was delighted when I offered to take over the care of our front garden and bring it back to life by planting things in it. Unfortunately, her health got a bit iffy in the Winter of 2014-15 and she and her family decided that it would be best to move her into assisted living. My Darling and I were devastated and concerned about who would end up living downstairs, especially when it took months for the unit to sell, a phenomenon that is pretty much unheard of in our area. The longer the home was on the market, the more nervous my darling and I became because we knew our nightmare scenario was getting closer to becoming reality: people who were waiting for a bargain price before snapping the place up in order to tear it apart and put us through months of renovation Hell and then move in and not want to spend another penny on the building for years. Or worse still, these same people trying to flip the house and not know what they were getting into, running out of money and then abandoning it or try to sell it half renovated.We ended up with scenario number one. A couple our age had been watching the unit’s price drop for months and bought it so they could customize the heck out of it. Since our new downstairs neighbors have started their renovations, all Hell has broken lose. First off, we are dealing with the usual inconvenience of work going on downstairs: infernal racket from 8:00 A.M. to anywhere between 4:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. (although on Good Friday it was really bad and we had a plumber in and out of our place and theirs cutting pipes etc. from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. who was unable to get his job done due to complications and left us without heat for 32 hours), dust, noisy workers, debris piling up in front of the neighbors garage and as often happens when the ceilings are torn down, a few minor issues have been found with our place which meant some unplanned spending. Plus, with the ceilings down and all the soundproofing gone, we feel like we have unwanted guests in our house who just keep coming back day after day. When these guys are talking and drilling and hammering away, it feels as though they are working in our own house and not downstairs. In the first three weeks of work, I had three separate meltdowns over the fact that I felt like my home was no longer my own.

The last meltdown was on Good Friday when I had spent all day cleaning a ton of dust that had come up from downstairs through undetected and therefore unprotected gaps between our unit and the lower one to make our home presentable for my in-laws who were coming over for Easter-even lunch the next day only to be informed at 10:00 P.M. that my guests would be eating in a cold, unheated house to the sound of plumbing work being done downstairs. My poor Darling scooped me up and comforted me as best he could before counselling me to spend more time outside the house and away from all the racket, which I have been doing. It has helped, as has the fact that we have been having one of my father’s good friends put the finishing touches on our house so that it finally feels like it is all ours. We had 85% of the house painted last year, so this year all that needed doing was the living room and our main staircase. My dad’s friend is an extremely talented painter and has worked in a lot of homes in our neighborhood restoring them to their former glory. Ours has a lot of its original features, but its beautiful oak beams had been painted over twice in the home’s 89 year history including once in, God help me,  red, and again in beige. See?

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So my dad’s friend stripped them for us and painted our living room in two different shades of my favorite color, purple! We chose purple because it compliments the red we have in the office next door and the paler of the two shades fits in very well with the pale, buttery yellow we have in our main hallway and kitchen. The oak beams though, my goodness! Who in the heck would ever want to paint over such beautiful beams?

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So, finally having our house the way we want it has perked me up quite a bit, as did a seriously healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine last week, part of it taken in during a vigorous 10km run. I also spent quite a bit of time cuddling our cats in the evening once all the noise was over for the day. As you can see, Quinn and Magique have not been nearly as bothered by all the noise as I am. All they need is the couch and some sunshine and they’re all set.

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Quinn soaking up the sunshine
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Magique has a different approach to sunbathing from Quinn’s.

Before we had the painting done, I also cheered myself up by putting some cheerful Spring flowers in the living room.

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Beautiful Spring blooms from Westmount Florist

Also, we enjoyed a lovely Easter Vigil at the Oratory, like we do every year. If you are ever in Montreal over the Easter weekend, I cannot recommend this service highly enough. It is filled with candle light, music and hope. Plus, nothing beats the view of the Oratory lit up at night.

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St.Joseph’s Oratory after Easter Vigil.

I also got seriously excited when I saw that the buds on our Maple tree were opening up. This, if memory serves me, is happening much earlier than last year which wouldn’t be surprising since our Winter this year has been a lot milder. I’ll have a better idea of the time frame later in the season though, because I know that our Maple didn’t have full-sized leaves when we left for Vegas and the Grand Canyon last year and that was in early May.

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Buds on our Maple tree!

So there you have it, my life lately has not been very conducive to creativity, but I think I’m back on track, especially since I took the initiative of purchasing a keyboard for my iPad. I will now be able to write posts away from home and since the neighbors plan to be renovating until at least June 30th, I will be spending a lot of times in Montreal’s many cafes and will therefore more than likely have a lot of time to write and read and take pictures. I will not hide the fact that I would much rather be spending time in my beautiful purple living room though.

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I’m back!

Well, hello there!

Sorry about the long dry spell between posts, but we were on vacation for a week at the beginning of the month (my last post actually went up the day before we left!) in Las Vegas and at the Grand Canyon and things have been nuts here since we got back! I just finally got through all of my vacation pictures and will write a separate post for them. The Grand Canyon was absolutely stunning and it would be a crime not to give it all the attention it deserves. As for Vegas, it was fun, but we are not gamblers (we spent all of 6$ in the casino at the last hotel we were in lol) so we had our fill of being in a heavy gambling environment by the time we left, but the shopping was great and the hotels there are seriously impressive in terms of size and amenities. It was also very easy to get some good food there and coming from me, that means a lot since I am a serious food and am known for not enjoying American food at all any place south of Massachusetts. I apologize to any Americans reading this, but I am not big on fried food at all and  there is also the fact that high fructose corn syrup makes me break out in itchy hives and you guys put a ton of the stuff in your food.

More about our vacation in another post though,  I’m here to update you on what I’ve been up to since we got home, which has been gardening and cooking!

I have also been keeping up with the growth of the buds on our maple tree and as I suspected, by the time we were back from our vacation two weeks ago, there were miniature leaves on the branches!

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Maple tree leaves first week of May
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Maple tree leaves first week of May

And this is what our lovely Sugar Maple looks like now, with its pretty much full-grown leaves, just one week later:

Maple tree leaves second week of may
Maple tree leaves the second week of may

This picture was taken from the same angle as the previous one, so you can see just what a difference a week can make, especially when a perfect combination of drop dead gorgeous weather and Spring showers are thrown into the mix.

The aforementioned perfect Spring weather also allowed me to get some gardening done! I am not an experienced gardener since our rambling old duplex is my first non-rental home. I have never before had any type of garden that I have had a free rein with, so I have been going at the gardening thing slow and steady. The first summer I was here I planted some lupine seeds that I brought home from a vacation to Prince Edward Island and courageously planted a lavender plant that I tried to keep in the house, but that Quinn kept eating. I squealed with excitement last Spring when the lavender survived the winter and the lupines grew. The lavender did wonderfully throughout the Summer, but a local cat began using the scraggly little cedar shrubs in our front garden as a urinal. The sturdiest lupines were unfortunately growing right in front of the shrubs and eventually lost their battle with the cat pee and I nearly cried. Before we left on vacation I yanked out the yucky, partially dead cedar shrubs (they liked the cat pee about as much as the lupines did, but had the advantage of being far less tiny, so were not completely dead) to make it clear to the cat that he would have to go and pee in someone else’s front garden and crossed my fingers hoping that the lupines would come back. Just like last year, the lavender woke up from its Winter hibernation and shortly thereafter, the lupines miraculously poked their way out of the ground. More gleeful hopping around ensued and my Darling gave me a goofy grin and shook his head at my enthusiasm.

Since I managed to keep my first plants alive for two seasons, I decided that it would be safe for me to spend some real money on more plants. I therefore headed out to Pépinière Jasmin, where my mother has been purchasing more of her gardening fare for years. It is also where the stunning St.Joseph’s Oratory buy their flowers, gardening tools and earth. I decided to plant all of my own flowers in my pots this year instead of buying the pépinière’s arrangements and I also bought a bleeding heart which I planted in our front garden where the cedars used to be. It was quite a job digging the hole for the bleeding heart and cutting through all the old cedar roots, but I did it on my own and was darn proud of myself for pulling it off! I did all of my shopping and planting last Thursday. There is no sign of last year’s offending feline as of yet.

One of my flower pots for the front of our house.
One of my flower pots for the front of our house.
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The bleeding heart in our front garden.
The flower pot for our front balcony.
The flower-pot for our front balcony.

I’ll post some more pictures of our flowers pots once they have grown in a bit, maybe in about a month.

Now, for my current favorites! As usual most of them are food related!

1- I tried my hand at making pickles the weekend we got back from vacation since they had some eight packs of Canadian greenhouse grown pickling cucumbers on sale at Provigo and Loblaws. I used this recipe from The Creekside Cook and they turned out pretty good, however I would suggest cutting the quantity of salt by a quarter to one half as my batch turned out a bit too salty. I poured some of the brine out and replaced it with water and the pickles tasted much better afterwards. They are still nice and crispy after a week in their jar.

2- I also decided to try making my own ice cream last Friday since my Darling owns an ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt machine and naturally brought it with him when we moved in together last year. I made a batch of this chocolate gelato as a surprise for him and oh, my goodness did we both ever gobble it up! We will never be buying ice cream at the grocery store again. You do not need to change a thing in this recipe, it is absolutely perfect. the only thing I will be doing any time I make it will be adding some cinnamon or cardamom to it for my own tasting pleasure.

3- Fortnum and Mason’s Chai tea made the traditional way with milk and one cube of raw cane sugar. You will never see Chai tea the same way again, I swear.

4-My LK Bennett Marlene Fitted Dress, which I splurged on in Las Vegas. We do not have LK Bennett stores, so I took the opportunity to shop at the one in Las Vegas and bought my first piece of their clothing. I am so, so glad I splurged. The dress fits my curves like a glove and I wore it for nearly twelve hours last Saturday to my future sister in law’s bridal shower and the ensuing drinks and dinner evening and still didn’t want to take it off. LK Bennett’s clothing is a bit on the pricey side, but they often have sales which are worth keeping an eye out for. Forget their shoes unless you have very narrow feet though. I can’t even fit my toes into most of their footwear.

5- This beautiful rendition of This is The Day the Lord Has Made by John Rutter. The most beautiful recording of it is by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011. It is totally worth a listen and a watch, I am often moved to tears and goosebumps by it This is the day John Rutter – YouTube.

There, I’m all caught up on the regular stuff! I’ll be back soon with my vacation post, including some favorites for anyone wanting to visit Vegas and the Grand Canyon!

Maple tree buds week three…and some more favorite recipes!

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Wow…I wasn’t sure I was going to make it on here this week, things have been so busy! I’m actually really impressed that I have the energy to put a post together today with all the running around I did, but here I am!

As you can see, there’s not too much difference between the buds on our tree this week compared to last week. That’s because there has really not been that much sun for the past week and a half, but I’m pretty much convinced that the next time I’m able to get a picture up, there will be some miniature leaves on our tree!

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On another note, no matter how busy I am I always make sure I have some time to cook and I therefore have two recipes to share with you this week!

I had one of my best friends over for brunch on Saturday and I made some very tasty waffles for us. It was my second time whipping up some waffles (my Darling is usually the waffle chef in this house) and I now have the recipe down pat! The waffles come out incredibly light and fluffy and never, ever stick to the iron without my having to put any kind of cooking spray in it, which is essential! Kudos to Stephanie at Somewhat Simple for the recipe 🙂

On Sunday I finally got around to making the cream of spinach soup I had been meaning to make since Thursday with some leftover spinach from another meal. It was my first time making any kind of soup with pureed potatoes being the main ingredient for thickening and oh my goodness, let me tell you it will not be the last! The result is wonderful and was undoubtedly particularly tasty in this case because I threw in some leftover barbecued potatoes from Tuesday night’s dinner and we could easily taste the hint of chipotle chili powder I had seasoned them with! The recipe I used is can be found here, but do note that I also added two small yellow onions into my soup to give it a bit more zing, I was afraid it might have tasted a bit bland otherwise. I also did not peel my potatoes and definitely do not hesitate to throw a dash of chipotle chili powder in, you will not regret it!

Some of my favorites from this week

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Quinn sunbathing.

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve all had a nice week and that your weekend is off to a nice, relaxing start, like Quinn’s here! We had quite the busy week, but I managed to get all the Winter clothes put away and the garden tidied up, which included yanking out three scraggly little cedar shrubs that seemed to have been planted there by the previous owners of our place because they purchased too few boxwood shrubs! I pulled out the cedars on my own without the help of any garden tools and am quite pleased with myself for having pulled it off as two of them were not too keen on vacating my garden! I’m now going to wait to see if my lupins return before deciding what to do with the empty space where the cedars were. Hopefully the cat that had been using one of the shrubs as a place to pee won’t be back…

In other Spring news, the buds on our maple tree are coming along quite nicely as you can see below, I can’t wait for the leaves to appear!

Buds on our maple tree this week
Buds on our maple tree this week

As for cooking this week, I made a huge pot of Bolognese sauce on Thursday! I got the recipe from Aimée Winbush Bourque’s cook book Brown Eggs and Jam Jars. My mom got me her book for my birthday and I cannot recommend it highly enough! I have made four of her recipes so far, including her maple and pumpkin chili and the results are always mouth wateringly good. I also love that she is local to Montreal! Check out her blog and her book, you will not be sorry!

Now, while I do love to cook, I also like a day off from the kitchen every once in a while, so we went out to dinner last night. We are very fortunate to live near the vibrant and restaurant filled Monkland VIllage area of NDG, so we popped over yesterday evening for some wonderful seafood at Lucilles Oyster Dive. It was my second visit there and my Darling’s first and we had a lovely time. Their fish is always fresh and the service is lovely, plus their terrace is heated so we were able to eat outside for the first time since early last Fall! I will say that the first time I went the music on the terrace was far too loud, but they seem to have heeded the comments of their diners and the speakers were off this time which made the ambiance much more agreeable. The place can get loud and boisterous though, so don’t go there if you are looking for a quiet evening, it’s much more suited to a TGIF outing!

On that note, I hope you all have a great weekend and I’ll be back with more soon!

The miracle of Spring!

Crocuses!
Crocuses!

I know, I know, I’ve done a ‘OMG, Spring is here!’ post before, but this time Spring really has Sprung! Because yes, in Canada anywhere East of British Columbia, the official first day of Spring is a farce. It always, always snows and gets cold later than mid-March except the odd year which is a fluke. I can remember very clearly standing outside at work at the end of March three years ago and it was 27 degrees and sunny and nary a flake of snow fell again until the following year. But that must have been the one year where we could have all sworn we had been transported to British Columbia because there had pretty much been no Winter at all!

This year, however, was very different from that. It was freezing cold, like -10 celsius and colder, and snowy from early December right until late February (minus a few brief reprieves). Then it ‘warmed up’ a bit until temperatures finally inched above freezing in early March before dipping down again for a bit and now finally we’re seeing temperatures above 10 degrees! That, naturally, means all sorts of wonderful things, like no more snow, birds singing at the tops of their voices and most of all, things are growing!!! The crocuses are  out, the tulips and daffodils are coming and if you take a good look at the picture of the Maple tree in front of our house, you will be able to see that the buds are starting to open! My current photo project is to take a picture of that tree once a week to show you its progress until the leaves are fully open 🙂

Spring is always so amazing to me, but especially so now that I have my own place and my own little garden. It isn’t much yet, but I’ve already planted some lavender and lupins in front. My little lupin seeds grew last year, even though they were rather timid little plants. I’m hoping they’ll come back this year and be a bit more confident. Time will tell!

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Buds on our Maple tree!

Spring, finally!

Red and yellow tulips from Westmount Florist
Red and yellow tulips from Westmount Florist

So, Spring finally arrived on Sunday night…or so they say! We had some absolutely gorgeous Spring weather two weeks ago when I was able to go jogging outside for the first time in months, but since then it has gotten chilly again. Now don’t get me wrong, compared to the weather we had from late December right through mid February, it is lovely out. The sun is nice and strong and there is melting going on even when it is below freezing, but I think I can speak for everyone West of Vancouver and particularly for those living in the Maritime Provinces of Canada when I say that we are over Winter, even those like me who enjoy skiing! We want the snow to stop falling, for what there is on the ground to melt, for birds to sing and flowers and buds to grow, preferably overnight. In the absence of such a miracle though, I am attempting to trick myself into not believing Météo Média (Quebec’s version of The Weather Network) when they tell me it is -10 outside today by buying myself bouquets of Tulips. I’m on my third one since January. I’ve pictured of two of my bouquets here, the first and third ones I bought. The middle bouquet didn’t get photographed because I bought it from a florist beside my office after work one day and was sorely disappointed when the tulips were already dying the next day. Back to my local Westmount Florist I went for my next tulips and they’re doing very well. I bought them on Friday and took this picture the same day. They’ve now opened up and have grown quite a bit. If you enjoy buying cut flowers like I do, the best tips I can give you to have them last longer is to trim their ends before putting them in water when you get them home and then keep trimming their ends regularly and change their water every time you do. My tulip bouquets tend to last about a week or a bit longer when I do this.

So, if you live someplace warm or if you’re fortunate enough to have been able to get away from Old Man Winter, please send warm thoughts up to us here in Canada. If you’re Canadian like me and are ready to go stir crazy from this never-ending cold and snow, take heart, Spring does always come in the end. Also, if you are in the Montreal area would like your own lovely bouquets from Westmount Florist, you can visit their website here. They have two locations, one on Victoria Avenue in Westmount and the other on Lakeshore Road in Point-Claire.

Purple tulips from Westmount Florist
Purple tulips from Westmount Florist