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Winter

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Here in Montréal, we are digging ourselves out of yesterday’s snow storm that closed down schools and caused traffic chaos. The storm caused $17 million in clean up to remove the 20 centimetres of snow, but today it is bright and relatively mild. The Onion, of course, had an article two days ago with the title, “Punxsutawney Phil Beheaded For Inaccurate Prediction On Annual Groundhog Slaughtering Day” — are we not glad this is an Onion article?

Happy first day of spring!

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Ranch Chez Cowboy
1125, chemin Sainte-Marie
Mascouche, Québec J7K 3C2
(514) 754-7492
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Not everyone thinks about driving up to Mascouche, north of the islands of Montréal and Laval, just to go horseback riding. But that is precisely what we did after my boyfriend told stories about this ranch that he visited in the past called Ranch Chez Cowboy. I was curious; as a city girl I rarely deal with horses though I admire the horse-drawn carriages in the Old Port neighbourhood of Montréal. And I love animals, that is for sure. So we thought we would go visit the ranch in the old, sleepy town of Mascouche as a fun and different activity.

When drove through the rural town, passing the developed downtown area, an old cemetery, a tiny church, and finally into the driveway of the ranch. We were greeted by gaggle of geese and their token turkey friend who huddled beneath a trailer adjacent to the barn. A pen of outdoor dogs barked furiously at us and did not seem subdued by my waving and smiling. They acted tough but I still liked meeting the clowns.

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Montréal had yet another snow fall in the last couple of days, meaning winter is still making itself comfortably languid in this part of the world. All these months of winter weather has changed my skin into a dysfunctional and irritable mess. I usually have the oily, shiny type and moisturizing lotion was something I used strictly below the chin. But come December, I was digging through my medicine cabinet for something to control my flaky, peeling visage. This winter I even started to experience frequent rashes and other forms of skin irritation from exposing myself to -40°C temperature. My skin demanded attention; it became red, taut, and even sported a matte texture for once. My usual grooming regimen needed an overhaul.

I admit that I already am a skincare junkie. I read news and articles concerning skincare like the way you hope your broker keeps tabs on your mutual funds. My Internet bookmark is set to various beauty sites and I peruse Sephora almost like the way Terry Richardson picks his young models — ravenous and wide-eyed though perhaps I am more restrained. I regularly scan the flyers for my local drugstores so that I know when there are sales and deals for my usual lotions and serums, leaving me no excuse for ever running low on eye cream.

This may seem odd to some people since I keep my makeup to a minimum and seem accepting of many so-called imperfections on my skin: freckles, acne, and pores so huge I could probably stock an emergency supply of water jugs for the apocalypse. I accept that I do not have “perfect” skin and even dismiss such an objective though yes, I do drink the Kool Aid of the beauty myth. That said, I do enjoy many grooming rituals, even the artistic nature of makeup, and I want to feel confident and look presentable. However, that is hard to do when my face has been invaded by an army of red bumps and blisters that the wonders of makeup can only partially address.

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Hence, this winter, I stored away my soaps and scrubs, and looked for something mild and soothing. I had a couple of thoughts on how to go about restoring my skin to a less angry state, which included some measures by two of my friends involving products meant for nursing mothers and their babies (i.e. slathering on nipple cream and lotion for eczema on baby skin — they swear by it!). Well, those options were at the back of my mind, but I decided to try some alternative options first while being as economical as possible.

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Since I came back to Montréal from a holiday break in Toronto, it has been snowing pretty much non-stop. The precipitation plus the frosty weather — it has dipped as low as -28ºC (or about -18ºF) without the wind chill — means digging out snow from the road to park the car while shivering under several layers of clothing.

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I call these parking spots on snowy streets “car graves” for a good reason: Many cars get stuck in their spots from the snow, and many drivers absolve to leave their cars buried in the massive snow so that the vehicles remain barely visible. It is only in the last two days that the city-owned snow removal trucks made their way into the Plateau neighbourhood of Montréal to completely clear the residential streets and exhume the parked cars out of their graves. The snow may be removed but the cold temperature stays with Sunday dipping down to a low of -20ºC (or about -4ºF) once again. Brrrr!

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I was stomping around a good portion of the island today, and Montréal had beautiful weather. After a day of snow then freezing rain, today was bright, sunny, crisp and cool but with sun flooding the city. So I took a few photos of the different neighbourhoods I was meandering through before darkness fell, which at this time of year is around 4 pm.

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The photo above is of the Outremont/Mile End area along Laurier street. This area is lined with shops that are a bit more upscale, as well as some great restaurants including a failed venture with British chef Gordon Ramsay. That restaurant is the first building on the left of the photo, and was a long-standing but faltering establishment called Rotisserie BBQ. Gordon Ramsay came in all Hell’s Kitchen-style, revamping the place and renaming it Rotisserie Gordon Ramsay before abruptly pulling out of the business relationship four months later. The restaurant is still up and running but is now named Rotisserie Laurier.

This neighbourhood is still a great place for shopping and eating. Juliette et Chocolat is a great dessert café, and Gourmet Laurier stocks all the hard to find ingredients for cooking and baking. I was so grateful they had meringue powder so that I can whip up so Christmas desserts tonight.

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