Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas on the Road

Our Christmas week started out with a children's parade right outside our windows. Dressed in their finery and strewing rose petals as they walked, the parade was led by a manger scene on a float. Many of the youngsters were dressed like Biblical characters from the nativity. This was a 8 o'clock in the morning!

Brian & Shelley went out grocery shopping while Jan stayed at home waiting for the workmen to fix the leak in the ceiling. On return, Brian & Jan went out to pick up some coffee and see Jan's travel agent while Shelley stayed at home waiting for the workmen to fix the leak in the ceiling. Finally, when we were all at home and both the boys were down for an afternoon nap the workmen arrived (around 3:00). They stayed until around 6:00 melting pipes & strewing ceiling tiles & cement chips everywhere. When Shelley first asked the English speaker workman if this would take care of the leak, his response was: "I don't know!?" and a shrug of his shoulders.

"At least he's honest" Shelley told Brian later on.

We've still got a 2 foot hole in the ceiling but it does seem the leak is gone. One bright spot was that our neighbour, who owns the apartment upstairs (which was the source of the problem), came down to see if everything was OK. Through discussing it with her, we finally had a pretty clear understanding of what the problem was. Somehow knowing is easier than a mystery leak.

That evening we went to a Christmas concert at Eglesia Corazon de Jesus, which is only a few blocks from our place. It was put on by the Orquesta Sin Fonica de Cuenca and they played everything from Irving Berlin's White Christmas to several pieces we had never heard before but which were obviously big favourites with Ecuadorians. The concert also featured a terrific tenor (Juan Carlos Cerna) and an outstanding soprano (Vanesa Freire). Ms. Freire wore her hair in pigtails and was about 4 1/2 feet tall but she had a voice 5 times bigger than she was! We sat with a couple of other ExPats who we just happened to run into there and when the orchestra played a medley of traditional North American and European carols we finally felt like it was really Christmas.

Bright & early the next morning (8 a.m.) we were out the door heading to the bus station for our trip to Loja and then on to Vilcabamba. We arrived in Vilcabamba at 4:30 and proceeded directly to our hostal (Jardin Escondido) where we were immediately escorted to our rooms, unpacked in like 5 seconds, and rushed down to have their wonderful (!) tortilla soup. The concrete road between Cuenca & Loja, which they were just starting last February/March when we last took this trip, was well on its way. There were certainly rough patches on the road but they'd made great progress. We wondered out loud how the progress would be going now that the price of crude oil was way down.

After supper our first night, we set the pace for the rest of our trip by taking a wander through town, sitting in the square people watching for awhile and then going to bed early and sleeping 12 hours! Somewhat groggy Christmas Eve morning, we headed down for a breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs, Vilcabamba's hearty specialty bread, coffee & fresh squeezed juice. After breakfast we took another tour around town and discovered one of their major bridges had been washed out since last we'd been there.

We continued in our arduous undertakings by valiantly trying to get a picture of the hummingbirds who flocked to Jardin Escondido (without success) as well as the little yellow birds with the big voices (with success). Shelley went for a swim in the pool (very refreshing) and the boys, totally exhausted from our busy schedule, had a good long afternoon nap.

We're sorry to report that the only cappuccino place in Vilcabamba is no longer in business. The first thing we did upon arrival back at home in Cuenca was brew up a good cup of coffee. Every night we were alternatively awakened by chickens in panic, roosters crowing just because they can, dogs braying at the moon or doing their job barking at people walking past and motorcycles roaring up the street. We'd take turns turning on the light and reading for an hour and then going back to sleep.

We were lucky enough to catch a Santa event for the children of Vilcabamba. Santa (who'd lost an awful lot of weight) and his helper (a rather rotund clown) danced to salsa music and gave the children small presents.

The reason we'd decided to go to Vilcabamba for Christmas was that the winter manager of Jardin Escondido puts on a full meal deal Canadian Christmas dinner for all who are around. It was a lovely evening, where we stuffed ourselves on canap├ęs and bubbly wine & red wine & nut dressing, turkey, cranberry sauce (which the manager was very proud to have been able to find), gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, ice cream, chocolate sauce and strawberries. Jan ate 2 plates! Shelley's stomach hurt. Brian got happy as a result of being able to drink for the first time in several weeks.

One of the resident ExPats advised us that the Valley of Longevity rumour about Vilcabamba was a conspiracy designed by a real estate agent who has since been banished from Ecuador. Apparently the agent would talk the local people into adding 20 or so years to their age and: "The guy whose picture is on all the T-shirts, he's dead!" We don't know ~ just reporting what we heard.

Boxing day was spent strenuously sitting in the square admiring the local parrot & of course, eating. Shelley stepped on the scale upon arrival home and immediately instructed Brian: "Don't ask!"

Bussing home between Loja and San Lucas we took a different lower road (all dirt) along a river. When we'd taken that route in February/March we'd assumed it was because the upper road had been washed out, but now figured out that this particular bus serviced this lower road. It was a fascinating drive through rural Ecuador picking up and dropping indigenous people and their baskets of fruit & corn & what have you; very scenic and a part of Ecuador most folks don't get to see.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Strangers in a Strange Land

Anarchy continued to reign in our house until we all had a sit down and figured out guide lines. Jan was not to bad mouth our Mac and Shelley would continue to accommodate Jan's need to have his salad on a separate plate. Brian would carry on standing in the middle buffeted by varying loyalties and not complain about his stress levels.

That straightened out, we took Jan downtown to the 4 level artisan shop on Gran Colombia and to Laura's CasaMuseo on La Condamine. In between we stopped at the people's market and both the boys had a large plate of roast pig. Laura's is run by an ExPat Dutch fellow & his lovely Ecuadorian bride (they're both in their 70's). Jan & Jan had a wonderful time speaking Dutch to each other and trading stories. While we were there a tour of Canadians (the eastern side) came through and we all traded experiences for awhile.

We took Jan to ExPat night so he got a chance to mingle with the usual mix of long-term & short-term residents and visitors. Later on we went for pizza at Monday Blue and returned home suitably exhausted.

Up in the morning we were greeted by a plugged toilet so the boys went off Kywi (out near the airport) to find a plunger (what's that called in Spanish?). Brian had gone on line and printed off a picture of a plunger at Jan's suggestion and that seemed to do the trick. They came back home with an absolutely marvelous plunger complete with instructions in English (how difficult can operating a plunger be?) and the toilet is now gurgling happily as it should.

After his 3rd visit to the travel agency and his on-going arrangements for his trip to Peru, Jan proceeded to make his "world famous chicken wings" for a small Christmas party we were attending that evening. Shelley left the room during preparations and Brian was called in several times for consultations. At the party Jan was gratified everybody enjoyed his wings.

It truly was a wonderful evening; all these strangers in a strange land brought together in a warm lively home. At this particular gathering Canadians almost out numbered the Americans and we threatened to talk Canadian politics all night but, with typical Canadian reserve, we resisted. Our hosts were wonderful and made us feel like we were back home. The hit of the night were the homemade Nanaimo bars; a West Coast Canadian delicacy (see Planet Irony Recipes & Note: As Bird Eye Custard powder is not available in Ecuador our hostess, on the advice of her mother, used custard pudding mix).

The next day the boys bussed off to Gualaceo to see what there is to see while Shelley remained at home quietly basking in the sun on their balcony. The bus trip to Gualaceo was lovely; Jan commented on the beautiful scenery & countryside. For some inexplicable reason the bus stopped 4 blocks short of the depot while the driver had lunch. The boys didn't realize the depot was so close or they would have walked there. "So we sat on the bus like idiots and waited the 20 minutes" Jan said. "The bus driver returned and within 3 minutes we were at the bus depot where we disembarked."

A second short bus ride got the boys to Chordeleg which is famous throughout Ecuador for very fine filagree gold jewelry. All in all a highly successful trip; they arrived home exhausted and settled in to a great meal of left-over chicken cacciatore.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chaos, Dentists, Company & Miracle Whip

OMG! Chaos reigns as we all get in the kitchen to attempt a nice dinner. Shelley's theory of minimal dirty dishes clashes with Jan's tried and true method designed to sully every dish in the house.

"Are you going to wash the dishes?" Shelley squeaks.

"I'm stressed" Brian mumbles.

Despite the "cultural" differences dinner finally makes the table and all are satisfied.

"But who's washing the dishes?" Shelley inquires.
Brian did.

Later on we discussed the merits of Mac vs PC. This, it turns out, is like discussing religion or politics. No resolution was forthcoming. Shelley left the room to commiserate with her Mac and Jan remained satisfied with the superiority of PC's.

Brian went to the dentist to see how his abscessed tooth was doing and came home with the bad news that the periodontist feels it's going to have to be pulled. "I just spent $250 having a root canal done on that tooth!" Brian wailed. But apparently the abscess is just too deep and too extensive. He goes tomorrow to have it pulled and then the dentist and the periodontist will sit down with Brian and between the 3 of them decide what should happen next. Brian's down to 3 teeth. These are not enough to anchor his bottom plate. They're reluctant to pull his last 3 teeth but they are going to discuss this option together with putting in implants to act as an anchor.

We're aware this is getting to be a very old joke, but have we mentioned Shelley hates (!) Brian's teeth.

That night we put on a dinner for the Planet Irony reader that was currently in Cuenca. We had chicken catchatori (Brian's new specialty) and microwave cheese cake (Shelley's specialty). Shelley'd made microwave cheese cake any number of times while living on the boat, but had tried the recipe twice here in Cuenca and both times, despite halfing the cooking length the second time, it was over baked. This time she cooked it for five minutes, one minute at a time, resting one minute between sessions. It worked! We had lovely, light, yummy cheese cake. The four of us talked and ate and talked and ate some more and talked some more, and it was a very pleasant evening.

The next day Brian was off to the dentist to get his $250 root canal tooth pulled. Both the dentist and the periodontist urged Brian to try and save his remaining 3 teeth; something is needed to anchor his bottom plate. Apparently, the bottom gum is not as thick as the top gum and putting implants in, especially with someone who is already having infection problems, can cause even more infection. Another round of antibiotics was prescribed and the deep cleaning of his remaining teeth was again put off until the New Year. Brian however, is on a soft food diet for 7 days and can have no alcohol because of the antibiotics. We all, Brian, Jan & Shelley, counted 7 days on our fingers and came up with December 24th. There is salvation! Brian will be able to eat and be merry on Christmas day!

Jan & Shelley spent the rest of the day quietly reading, computering & watching TV as Brian slept the sleep of the happy pilled.

Back to the dentist the next day, just to make sure everything was going well, proved satisfactory. The infection was well under control, the healing process was going along as it should be. Jan & Shelley were sitting on the balcony eating breakfast when Brian came back from his appointment. Watching him walk down the street, Shelley commented to Jan: "He looks happy." Later on we decided he was happy because it'd be 2 weeks before he'd go see the dentist again!

Travelling on the city buses we went to Mall del Rio. Jan wanted cooking paper (to make his world famous chicken wings) and we had some gag gifts to buy for a party this weekend. Despite Jan's bad back, we still stopped and goggled at every little thing. A $7 shirt was purchased, the gag gifts were obtained & both the boys had a Burger King burger (just because) at the food fair. We of course forgot to buy eggs (Brian's been eating a lot of scrambled eggs) and neglected to look for Miracle Whip (our SuperMaxi didn't have any last time we shopped). How can a grocery store be out of Miracle Whip?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Dutchman Cometh

Without visits to the dentist looming over him (and his stomach feeling much better) Brian perked up considerably. We resumed our daily outings and Shelley's cabin fever disappeared. Still awaiting word from Vilcabamba, our Christmas plans remained up in the air except for the anticipation of our friend arriving from Holland.

"Jan must be going nuts by now. He's been working 80 hour weeks to get everything under control for his month's holiday."

Brian Skyped with Jan and got the final itinerary information. From wheels up in Amsterdam to wheels down in Cuenca at 9:00 a.m., it'd be 16 hours. Add to that 3 hours to get to the airport & mess around in the terminal in Amsterdam. Not one of those lucky ones who sleeps easily while travelling, we all figured Jan'd need a nap upon arrival.

The day before Jan was due to arrive we finally got the money the bank machine hadn't given us re-deposited back into our account. We're not sure at this point, but think it's been about 6 weeks. We'd almost mentally written the money off but were very pleased to see it back where it belonged in our account. Never, never, never again will we take money from the bank machine after hours!

Some More Things we have yet to see in Ecuador:

• Cooking Cocoa
• Graham Crackers or Crumbs
• Cast Iron Frying Pans
• A Wok

Up bright and early to get our chores done, the phone rang and it was Jan advising he was sitting in the airport in Guayaquil. He'd arrived with 85 minutes to spare between flights but it had taken 55 minutes to get through customs. "It was like watching paint dry" he told Brian. He was relieved he was sitting in the waiting room awaiting his TAME flight.

When it was time to leave to pick Jan up, Brian came into the den to say goodbye to Shelley who was doing her morning ablutions on the computer. "You know our whole reality is going to change for the next 2 weeks, don't you?" he asked.

"I love you too" she replied.

Brian & Jan were back before Shelley had finished her chores. We gabbed for 2 or 3 hours and then both the guys had a nap. Then we gabbed some more. Then we went for a walk. Then we gabbed and ate supper and then we gabbed some more and finally we went to bed. By that time we'd straightened out most world affairs and were working on the cure for cancer.

Enthusing over the Sunday morning concerts in the main square downtown, we took Jan to the Park and sat around until they announced the act would not go on. "It's an Ecuador thing." By that time we'd run into several people we knew and after introductions all around, again we gabbed for awhile. As we're under obligation to take Jan on all the high tourist points, off we went to the main People's market downtown to look at fruits & vegetables. Next we ventured to Doce de Abril to wander through the high end artisan mini-mall and enjoyed an upscale cappuccino sitting in the open courtyard under an umberella. The weather was great until late afternoon when we'd set out for a bite to eat. Coming home after dinner we talked about taking a cab instead of the bus to avoid the rain, but a bus came by before a cab did.

Up earlier than usual the next day, we took Jan to SuperMaxi & Sukasa to get a bit of a taste of Ecuadorian shopping. He wore us both out. This was wonderful, that was terrible, why do they do it this way, why don't they do it that way, and on and on. Brian told Jan he was stressing him out and Jan smiled his sweetest smile and told us, "I'm having fun!"

What can you say?

We've been invited to a bit of a pre-Christmas do (potluck) and Jan volunteered to make his world famous chicken wings. All necessary ingredients were, of course, not available, so much time was spent seeking equivalencies. He also offered to make his gourmet spaghetti (have we mentioned that Jan & Brian have a life long competitive thing going?) so fresh ingredients were bought for that delicacy as well.

Arriving home 2 Ecuadorian workmen asked if they could come in and look at the ceiling problem that's been ongoing since we moved into the apartment. There's a leak in the kitchen ceiling whenever we have biblical rain. Their work today entailed cutting a 3 foot hole in the ceiling, making a disgusting mess throughout the kitchen, and peering up between floors seeking the leak. Shelley encouraged Brian & Jan to go out for awhile while the workmen peered and she cleaned up the revolting mess. After the workmen were gone & the mess was cleaned up, she put her feet up and had a good long sigh.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm Dreaming Of

Armed with only her purse & camera, Shelley set out Saturday morning to meet with one of the people who read the blog and got in touch with us. Normally Brian would have gone with her on this minor adventure, but he was still suffering with stomach cramps and that desire not to be too far away from a toilet. We figure we've met close to a dozen people who have read the blog and eventually made it to Cuenca. A couple of them have moved here permanently, several are in the process of selling assets in order to make the move, others are still testing the waters trying to make up their minds between Ecuador and for example Mexico, and yet others were either down here just for a vacation or are hoping to make it back here within a year or so. Shelley had a lovely lunch with a lady from Florida and chatted about Ecuador & Cuenca & kids & husbands & food & politics & such. After lunch we walked to the CB Carolina Bookstore, past the ExPat restaurant & we gabbed with the nice people in the bookstore for awhile. Psychic twinges about poor Brian started to eat at the edges of Shelley's mind so she headed on home.

"I was just starting to get worried about you" Brian told her. "Did you have a good time?"
"Yes, yes I did."

Brian's stomach problems continued to keep us at home for several days. Shelley began to grow a bit stir crazy and discovered "StumbleUpon" on the net. Deep into cat jokes, political satire, art, stunning pictures & writing sites, she began to bother her daughter, son-in-law & others with all her new discoveries. "Just let me know if what I'm sending becomes too much" she wrote.

"I'm a better sufferer than you are" Shelley told Brian on day 4, having had just about enough.
"Yes, yes you are."

Eight e-mails to all and sundry later, Shelley turned to other avenues and discovered a friend from high school that she hasn't had contact with for over 30 years.


"I think I've only got 5 days worth of real sympathy in me" Shelley confessed to Brian "and between your teeth and the food poisoning it's pretty much all gone."

"You're being wonderful!" Brian told her.

As fortunes would have it, Brian's dental surgery forced him out of the house and away from the commode. He'd thought about canceling the appointment but reasoned if he didn't eat before hand he'd be OK, and afterward he'd only be able to eat soft comfort food anyway. Once again he took his happy pills but this time, because he had no food in his stomach, the effect was quite profound. Upon arriving at the dentist, he was advised that work could not take place because he'd abscessed in the area where he'd had the tooth pulled and the root canal.

The periodontist told him it was likely he'd had such a long reaction to the food poisoning because of the abscess; his immune system was compromised. He prescribed antibiotics and made another appointment for Brian in a week to check on him. They both agreed to put off the rest of the work until the new year so it didn't interfere with our friend visiting and Christmas. When the dental surgery is done, Brian'll have stitches in his mouth for 8 days and be restricted to soft food.

Walking home, Shelley's arm through Brian's to keep him from wide tracking, she told him she'd get him home and then she'd like to go down town. "Just to get out for a bit more!" Hand on his stomach, heavily medicated, Brian told her he wouldn't mind going downtown too. "I'm very mellow" he told her. Downtown we went; Shelley shopped for a shawl and we stopped so Brian could have a bowl of the local soup. Upon arriving home, Brian had yet another one of his marathon naps. (Will this dental session never end?)

We'd been planning on going to Vilcabamba to spend Christmas there as the French Canadian manager of Jardin Escondido puts on a traditional Canadian Christmas turkey feast. However, when we emailed to make reservations we were advised that the rates were almost double what we'd paid in February/March of 2008. We wrote back trying to figure out if it was Christmas rates or a mistake but in typical Ecuadorian fashion we received no reply. It seems in Ecuador if the answer to a question is not what the questioner probably wants to hear, then no answer is given. This has happened to us several times here. Our friend from Holland is due to arrive in 2 days. We were planning on spending several days in Cuenca showing him our new home town and then busing to Vilcabamba for the Christmas feast. Now we're rethinking our agenda.

Warm weather, artificial Christmas trees everywhere, blown up snowmen & poinsettia plants big enough to climb; whatever we do for Christmas it'll be different than what we're used to.

PS:- Shortly after publishing this blog we got an email from the manager of Jardin Escondido saying he'd check with the owner and get back to us. I guess we'll find out what our Christmas plans are in due course.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

And on and on...

Walking down the street Shelley had yet another tumble. Sitting on the sidewalk with bystanders asking Brian if she was alright, she dove into her purse looking for the camera.

"Get up Shelley!" Brian commanded somewhat embarrassed by her staying on the sidewalk.
"I could have landed on my purse in 32 different places. I could have not even landed on my purse! I felt the camera. I want to make sure the camera is OK."

It wasn't.

"What is it with Ecuador?" Brian asked. "We been together what now, 13 years (?) and you broke your finger that one time but you've fallen like 3 or 5 times since we've been here."

Shelley pointed down at the crumbling sidewalk. "I'm a look around person. I'm not used to having to watch my feet when I walk" she explained.

We bought yet another camera. Brian pointed out that if we were developing film it'd cost us about the same per year as what we're currently spending on cameras. Shelley didn't think much of that justification; she preferred to feel bad about breaking the camera and having to spend the money.

She was also (she admits irrationally) somewhat testy with Brian for the next couple of hours.
Brian was quiet.

And on and on.... Back to the dentist for Brian, this time to a periodontist to have his teeth cleaned. The periodontist and Brian discussed options and finally decided to try (as usual) to keep the few remaining teeth he has. This will entail Brian returning to the periodontist and have the gums around his teeth sliced so the dentist can deep clean below the gum level, then having stitches put in where the gums were sliced and returning several days later to have the stitches removed. Doesn't this sound like just the perfect procedure for someone who is deathly afraid of dentists? We figure we're now up to about $500 - $600 to have everything done whereas in Canada it would likely be over $2000. At this point for poor Brian it's not much consolation but Shelley finds solace in it at least.

Working at the computer Shelley looked up when Brian entered the room she was in a couple of hours after leaving the dentist. "I guess I shouldn't have eaten that sandwich while my mouth was still frozen" Brian told her.

He'd bitten the inside of his mouth and it was swollen and bleeding. "You poor thing!" Shelley commiserated.

That evening we finally went to Zoe's on Calle Borrero for dinner accompanied by another Canadian couple. We all commented it was nice to sit with a North American and not have to talk about the U.S. election. We did, however, speak to the overthrow :-) of the Canadian government. Expat night had been moved to Zoe's for one occasion but we hadn't attended that evening. Several people have remarked to us about Zoe so we were curious. We spent 4 hours there and at one point the chef (who is from Cuba) came out of the kitchen to talk to us. Brian tried to tell him in his pigeon Spanish about how one of our Prime Ministers (Pierre Trudeau) was friends with Castro. The chef seemed to know all about it. Brian had a lobster dish with an exquisite sauce and Shelley had a wonderful chicken salad. (She's still trying to lose that recently quit smoking weight.) Dinner ended up costing the 2 of us $35 (including tip) and we also had a couple of glasses of wine and a cappuccino each. Wonderful company, a superb meal; it was a good night.

That night, however, was relatively awful for both Brian and Shelley. Shelley blamed it on the cappuccino they'd had too late as she didn't get to sleep until after 2:00 a.m. Brian was up at 4:00 a.m. wide awake and had a thick cup of coffee that set him off with stomach pains and hot flashes etc. When Shelley got up the next morning around 8, Brian lay back down on the bed cross-wize quietly moaning and reiterating his woes. He curled up under a blanket and proceeded to doze the morning away (unheard of for Brian who's usually up and about by at least 6:30). Lonely by noon, Shelley forced Brian from the bed. We spent the day being very quiet and sensitive to our stomaches. Just one of those things?

Once again, like with Brian's teeth, we received several comments on the blog "Do Over". Rather than incite further rioting, we didn't publishing any of these comments, but thank all of you for your input and some of you for your sympathy & good wishes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It used to be that "bill day" meant sitting down with a calculator & a cheque book & a bunch of envelopes and stamps and spending an hour or so juggling money and then mailing the bills off. Later on, bill day more or less disappeared, as chunks of money automatically came out of our account when bills were due. Now bill day lands on the last day of the month for us when we get up and do our ablutions and study Spanish and then head out into the world armed with copies of old bills. First we stop at the ETAPA place near where we live and pay our electricity and cold water bill, then we either walk downtown or hop a bus and go to the other ETAPA place where we pay our internet bill. We don't know why we have to go to 2 different ETAPA places; we just do. Then it's off to our landlord's bank where we deposit our rent money. A few days later we pay for our apartment's maintenance bill and our gas & hot water. No one sends us reminders to pay these bills. We just do it, as do the other residents of Ecuador. There's a mild satisfaction in the whole procedure that was missing when money just dripped into and out of our bank account with no real action taken by us. After we pay our very reasonable bills, we generally have a cappuccino somewhere and once again congratulate ourselves for being where we are.

Oh Happy Day! We've been searching for a hummingbird feeder for months. It took us 2 weeks just to figure out what to ask for: Alimentador o Dispensador para colibri. We've gone, on the advice of friends, to hardware stores and pet shops. We've had several people tell us their friends had hummingbird feeders and they'd find out where they were purchased and let us know. They never did. We've travelled far and wide searching and had no success...until today. Out near the airport there's a hardware store called Kiwi & a large SuperMaxi & another hardware store called Mega Hierro. We'd been to Kiwi searching but the time we'd gone there Mega Hierro was closed. Today it was open and joy oh joy, they not only had hummingbird feeders they had about 6 or 8 different kinds. We chose the traditional Canadian made, glass & fake flowers at the bottom, feeder. "It's tried and true" Brian told Shelley. "I've used them since the 60's. Finding a good hummingbird feeder after all this time is almost as good as getting cable or internet!" he said.

Shelley told him she was happy for him and rolled her eyes just a bit.

So now the hummingbird feeder is mounted just outside our den window. Brian swears that the nectar level has gone down half an inch just in the last day, however, we haven't seen any hummingbirds yet. Brian's friend Jan in Holland said the hummingbirds will definitely find it. He's usually right about such things.

As we do almost every week, we went to the main square downtown on Sunday to see what the 11:00 o'clock entertainment would be. We often sit on a tiny ledge, 4 inches high, just to the side and in front of the bandstand and listen and watch through the crowd. Usually we don't have to stand up as there are gaps through the standing crowd and most people are sitting around the park. Today, however, once the entertainment started dozens of people crowded up to the bandstand and stood listening and watching appreciatively. Brian and Shelley continued to sit on their little ledge and listened to the girl singers belt out their songs. After awhile, Brian got curious and stood up. His mouth agape Shelley began to notice he'd been standing for quite awhile.

"You should get a look at this" Brian told Shelley.

Up she got, creaky knees and all and looked out over the crowd to see 5 girl singers in brilliant blue skin tight costumes cut out at the waist and in the back.

"Ahhhhhh" she said.

Root canal day finally came, although the appointment wasn't until 4 in the afternoon. We kept Brian busy grocery shopping and helping to make a giant vat of Christmas Antipasto (see recipe in Recipe section). Shelley, who most would agree should not be allowed to handle sharp instruments, cut into the middle of one of her fingernails, chopped another's edge off and cut the tip of her computer/mouse finger. When she started to bleed copiously, Brian took over the chopping while Shelley attended to her wounds.

Three thirty finally rolled around. In the taxi going to the specialist, Shelley tried to jolly Brian who was sure his happy pills weren't working any more.

"Of course they are!" she told him, giant smile on her face. "You're in the taxi, you're going to the dentist, you're not shaking uncontrollably. You're just fine!"

"Am not!"

Sitting in the waiting room, Shelley heard no loud moans or screams. Ninety minutes later Brian emerged looking about 10 years older and holding the side of his face, but it was finally done. "Did you hear me?" Brian asked.

"Not a peep."

Coming Up: Getting teeth cleaned, filling the root canal & replacing the extracted tooth.