A Canadian gal living in Britain with 3 men and a dog. Wine helps.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jupiter's Cock

Most of you know that when we have family or friends visiting us here in England we love to take them touring around, showing them some of our favourite places.

On Friday I will be taking John to see Lincoln, a city that has yet to leave any of my guests unimpressed. It’s not a big city, but it’s big on personality and history as well as breathtaking beauty. Being from a small city myself gives me an appreciation for such places.

We also like to throw a party or two, and as previously mentioned. I love the fact that the biggest party we throw each year for Canada Day will be attended by my brother. I had debated making this year’s party a themed party; a gladiator theme to be exact. (Not to be confused with a toga party.) I discussed the idea with a few friends and although a few were keen I decided to forgo it as not everyone likes to dress in costume. So Saturday will be the usual Canadian theme minus the Canadian Beer (I wasn’t willing to pay £48 for a case of 24 Moosehead.) Can’t blame me for that eh?

Besides, I should probably save the Gladiator Theme for a night when my in-laws aren’t going to be around, or Tasha. Andy’s daughter (as most daughters) is uncomfortable at the thought of her parents as sexy beings. And I can’t promise that if I saw my hubby in a Gladiator skirt, walking around our garden with those long legs of his bared, I would be able to stop myself from jumping on him then and there. (After Andy reads this he will probably turn up dressed like a Gladiator on Friday in the hopes that I will do just that… a man can dream eh?)

Ironically, I had taped a series called Spartacus Blood and Sand a few months back. I hadn’t watched it yet and it turned out that John was up for watching it with me. Initially neither of us were sure about the graphic scenes that mimicked a gory video game, nor the acting ability. However by the third show, we were both gripped. We finished the series on Monday night, watching four shows into the early hours of the morning. It was a very dark, sexy program that sometimes even had us laughing out loud. A common phrase used was ‘Jupiter’s cock’, used in the way we would say Judas Priest, or holy shit. John thought they were using the term incorrectly as he was sure the god Jupiter was a woman. Obiously not! I did laugh every time they said it though, and have to refrain from saying it myself; at least at work. Besides, it’s an inside joke between my brother and I that other people probably wouldn’t understand.

So, back to the reason behind this post… when we have company, we love to show our guests a great time, visiting scenic places and enjoying pub lunches; however one of the best things about having my siblings with me are the moments when we kick back on the couch and watch old movies, or a whole series of a program over the span of a few nights. It’s definitely one thing we all have in common and I love nothing better than those nights where we pass the time lost in a show, but sat there together.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Keep the good times rolling

Yesterday was a roasting hot day here in the north east of England… Driving home yesterday the temperature was at 30 degrees. I don’t remember the last time it was that hot here. And the humidity was crazy; the kind of humidity where you just know a thunder storm will follow. And follow it has. Today at work we watched lightening, heavy rains and even hail crash down outside; the thunder was louder than I have heard in a long, long time. I rang home today to make sure Molly was alright. I knew John would have his hands full keeping my little pup calm. Like fireworks, she abhors thunder. It frightens the heck out of her.

Of course she was alright with her new best friend. Since my brother has arrived he has taken great joy in walking her every day. He even took her for a walk after everyone had eaten at Tasha’s 21st Birthday BBQ on Saturday.

It’s not just Molly that is enjoying having John to stay; we all are. I’ve been seeing Connor more than usual as a result; Most of my friends who have met John have taken a shine to him, and of course the family and he are getting along famously. But why wouldn’t they? They, as well as my brother are an easy going bunch. I was pleased that John got to see Alex for coffee on Saturday morning and is hoping to see him again before he leaves for Europe in a few weeks.

We have been keeping fairly busy and I’ve picked a few of my favourite pictures from the last ten days to share with you:

John and Connor on the London Eye:

At Cafe Rouge:

 On Tower Bridge:

We celebrated Tasha's 21st Birthday on Saturday:

John and Archie riding the train Archie constructed:

Champagne and a hottub:

On Sunday John and I headed out to York...
it was a fantastic day:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's recommended you do this with a friend...

My friend Alison received a cook book for Mother’s Day; it’s not written by any of the well known chef’s like Nigella or Delia and it has a lot of non-typical recipes. One of them involved cooking sirloin of beef wrapped in a dishcloth in a fire pit. WTF? How is this supposed to work? Although as soon as she showed me the recipe, the same thing popped into my head that she had been thinking… we have a fire pit, and both Alison and our husband’s are big beef eaters, so we decided to give it a try.

Saturday night I picked Ali and Dave up (with a multitude of supplies and alcohol). Ali informed me that the recipe called for a lot of salt (both table and rock) which had me concerned as I don’t normally use very much salt at all, often never, even if a recipe calls for it. I told her not to worry about it as I had a few boxes of both on hand. I had no idea that we would need nearly one whole box of table salt and 1 ½ boxes of rock salt. But I’m digressing here… We got back to my house, cracked a few beers and set to following the recipe. I captured it in photos to share with you because I think you have to see it to believe it (sorry in advance to all my vegetarian readers).

The initial prep:
(The limes weren’t part of the recipe they were just garnish for the beer. The beef was the best you could buy, trust me on this, it was not cheap but we went splits.)

We had to use a lot of table salt to boil the dishcloth in for ten minutes. I believe this was key to the dishcloth not catching fire later. We then had to wait for the dishcloth to cool before completely coating it in table salt.

I could feel my arteries hardening just watching all that salt being poured…

We then covered the salt in plenty of roughly chopped garlic and a ton of fresh picked rosemary and thyme before rubbing the beef with pepper:

This is one big hunk of meat... (I think it was over a kilo):

It was time to cover the beef completely before wrapping it and tying it with string that had also been boiled in very salty water. (We also added a few safety pins just in case the rope burned – which some of it did!)

Then we just had to place it in the embers and let it cook for 15 minutes each side (we left it in for 20 minutes each side just to be on the safe side):

The discloth was mostly charred, but the beef was safe:

The result was absolutely amazing!
It was so tender and juicy, infused with the flavours of the herbs and garlic. Not one bit salty. It was cooked perfectly, medium rare in the middle, perfect for those who liked it that way, and the outer edges were medium well.

I missed the unwrapping of it as I was busy getting the grilled vegetables sorted, however it was easy to see (and taste) that it wasn’t infused with salt, as most of it was brushed off after it was unwrapped. Again, we believe that the truckload of salt is vital to the dishtowel not burning.

I don’t eat a lot of red meat so this was definitely a treat. Not only was the meat scrumptious, we had a fantastic time preparing it, and then eating it with grilled veg and fresh bread washed down with wine;  later on, after eating by the fire, we chilled out in the hot tub.

Not bad for a Saturday night eh?
It might not be something you want do on a regular basis due to the cost, (and maybe the salt and beef overload) but we did agree that we will have to do it again before the summer is over.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

I wish I could say that yesterday I set out to complete all that I had on my list of ‘things to do’. Although my only real plans had been to go on a long walk with Molly, make sure all the bedding was washed and hung out to dry, followed by the gym at tea time while Andy watched the Montreal Grand Pre. (I know, I have a rough life!) Well the rainfall put a stop to the bed linen getting sorted and it discouraged both Molly and myself from venturing out (my water loving lab abhors the rain… go figure). I’ve pulled a muscle in my hamstring so that put me off the gym (it doesn’t take much on some days). Excuses you might say? And I might agree in full. Eventually I might find some of the conviction that my sisters have; they are working so hard to ‘reinvent’ themselves and succeeding; I wish I could be the girl who doesn’t let any excuse get in the way of achieving all I set out to do. I often set out with the very best of intentions at the beginning of each week and sometimes I manage to do everything… and then some weeks I don’t.

Yesterday I could say I let myself down in a big way, yet I didn’t. I chose to snuggle in bed all day with Molly  as I caught up on some TV, snoozed and had a long, hot bath all the while a steady rain was falling. Andy wasn’t up for much either, but he at least he got dressed and did some yard work in the morning.

Maybe this is one of the reasons I don’t become super stressed, am what a lot of people refer to as ‘laid-back’; many of my friends say they wish they could be as relaxed as me. I won’t lie, I know how to do ‘nothing’ well, but try not to do it too much. I also like keeping busy and I think the gym is great, I love nothing more than an awesome work out. Nothing makes me feel better… but sometimes a lazy Sunday afternoon in your pj’s is required, especially when you have a few busy weekends coming up. Molly didn’t seem to mind either, if the constant stream of snoring coming from her all afternoon was anything to go by.

Friday, June 10, 2011

BBQ's, beer (and nudity is not an option, sorry)

Hugh Grant said it well in the opening lines of Love Actually: "Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed - but I don't see that - seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, none of the phone calls from people on board were messages of hate or revenge; they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love, actually, is all around.”

This time next week, my brother will be landing in London and I will be waiting in Heathrow Airport for him to come through arrivals. This time next week, it will be a sister and a brother reuniting.

We are fortunate to have a lot of great moments from each year, even the few incredibly crappy years. Andy and I are strong enough to be able to remain smiling through some of the hard times; grey hairs and frown lines might be in abundance but boy do we know how to carry on through a bad situation. We are a great team that way, one of us often bolstering the other up when the need is required. Despite the crappy times, and let's face it, who goes through life without sh*t hitting the fan occasionally, we have a great life;  We just wipe the sh*t off and carry on. We are unlucky enough to be surrounded by his children, and his family; we have lovely friends and the most awesome dog in the world (we do, it’s true). We are comfortable enough to be able to travel and although we don’t have all that we want in life, we have enough.

Aside from my first year living here, at least one member of my family (including extended) has come to visit each year. Some years have brought more than just a solo traveller. I don’t think any trip I take gives me more excitement than the morning I stand in the airport waiting for my loved one to come through arrivals. That first hug feels better than almost anything.

We have a number of events on the agenda during my brother’s stay (between the sight seeing trips). Almost every Saturday is going to be taken up with BBQ’s, as Andy’s daughter Tasha has decided to have her 21st birthday at our house. When it comes to Tash, we have definitely come full circle and are so thrilled she has chosen to come to ours for the party that will launch her into world-wide legality. I think Ursala (the hot tub) just might being playing a small role in this ;) Either way it should be a great night. I don’t think my brother will complain too much about having a group of young folk in their early 20's in the house. There has to be some balance as most of my friends are in their 40’s.

Of course we will be throwing our annual Canada BBQ on the 2nd.  I love nothing more than when I have another Candadian on site. Mom and John are already helping me out with the party planning and this year I will actually have a bit more Canadian themed party supplies. Now if there was only a way I could order a big stash of Canadian Beer like Alexander Keith’s (Lite). Hmmm I would even settle for Molson Canadian. Apparently there are a number of fellow Canucks that have moved into town to teach at Connor’s school. I wonder what they will be up to on our nation’s birthday? I don’t think I will send out the banners to them though, as I seem to have enough people invited and my conservative gorgeous husband had a hard enough time getting his head around the fact I agreed to a colleague pitching a tent in the back yard. (Although I must say, if you're willing to host your daughter's 21st, I think you should be up for anything).  I think it’s shaping up to be one of our best yet.

Like my mom reiterated during one of our phone calls: it’s the one night of the year I like to celebrate and really get my party on (not her words exactly, but you get the gist I’m sure.) I’ve learned to be a mature adult for all other fun occasions like birthdays and Christmas; Besides, my older and much more mature friends love the opportunity to let their hair down at our annual BBQ as well. It’s not just me and Connor that love a dance around the fire pit.

Here are a few pictures from previous years (I noticed from looking back over my blog for pictures, that the words ‘get our party on’ resounds quite frequently):

July 2007 - we had Longbottom (aka Dawn M) with us that summer:

Last year, July 2010:

Giving the kids a little fun!

I'm not sure what direction this year's party will go in;  let's just hope everyone leaves their clothes on! 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Get me off this bumpy ride...

It seems that my emotions have been scattered in every direction this last week; they are all over the place which in itself is making me moody and I’m not really someone I like to be in the company of. The problem is, I can’t get away from myself. It’s a shame I can’t develop a drug that could achieve this. Wait a moment, that’s already been done; I’m just not willing to develop an addiction for Heroin. I’m sure most of the mood swings can be attributed to the fact that I had my period last week (yes I just said that, propriety is not high on my agenda at the moment) or perhaps because there has been an awful lot of unrest in the house due to various situations with the kids.

Either way, I’m up and down, and every which way mood wise and I have decided to share my various feelings with you and the reasons why I think I might be experiencing them. Tons of fun for you, I’m sure, but here I go just the same:

Melancholy: because the beautiful, listed Inn that Andy and I got married in burnt down on Saturday. Luckily no one was hurt, but it’s such an awful feeling and I know I’m not the only past bride/guest feeling this way. It’s a good thing I don’t believe in bad omens.

Despondent: Work is piling up and my get up and go is so gone. Because I’m feeling the way I have been, I seem to have no drive and lack the motivation to do anything. Not good at all, especially when I look at the huge pile of work that needs to be done and all my procrastinating is doing nothing to speed the process up.

Annoyed: because blogger won’t let me comment on any of your blogs that require word verification. Trying to be supportive is hard when you lose your ability to comment.

Enthralled: because of a program that has captivated me from the beginning, Game of Thrones. I can’t believe it’s not a movie or mini-series that hasn’t come to an end yet. Better yet, it’s a program that Andy and I both love, a rare event in itself. If you haven’t checked it out, I suggest you give it a go.

Aggrivated: My head seems to constantly hurt and I think this could be due in part to the excess of caffeine I have been ingesting. I know copious amounts of this drug are bad for me but at the minute I don’t seem to care. I’ve just always been proud of how I’m not addicted to caffeine and I don’t want this to change. I don’t know why I even started drinking the stuff after 37 years of avoidance.

Disappointed: this is because I haven’t been going to the gym nearly enough. When I don’t go to the gym I feel worse, both physically and emotionally. I reckon my headaches will improve when I get myself back to the gym. Which I plan on doing tonight, enough excuses already. If I’m going to continue eating the way I have been, I need to move a lot more or else I won’t fit into my jeans. And then I will be even more moody, something that really doesn’t need to happen.

Expectant: I’m thrilled my brother is coming next Friday morning and I think that he is going to be the tonic this family needs. I’m not going to let the stress that has been affecting us all this last month and a half put a negative spin on the trip my brother has spent the last two years saving up for. Next Friday morning can’t come soon enough.

Proud: because the youngest of our family, Connor is 15 today and I’m so impressed by how laid-back and downright amusing our young man is. I hope he has a brilliant day and that he continues to remain the ray of sunshine he has always been. 

It would seem the more ‘negative’ emotions are outnumbering the more light hearted feelings; I am putting a lot of stock in the fact that after I force myself back to the gym today I should start feeling more optimistic. I usually do after I’ve burned a few hundred calories.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

I wanna go far away...

With everything that has been happening at home I don’t know who is spending more time thinking of a holiday somewhere hot and warm, Andy or me.

Myrtos Beach - Kefalonia

I was perusing cheap holidays yesterday on the internet when Andy emailed me wondering if I was interested in going back to Kefalonia in September.

We are so often on the same page with each other you would think we write with the same pen.

Of course I would love to head out to Kefalonia in September. It’s one of our favourite Greek Islands. We know the location, we love the accommodation and it’s very comfortable. I don’t even want to think about the food or I will be drooling all over my keyboard.

Garbis Villas - where we love to stay...

There is a part of me though, that wants to try somewhere new, maybe add another country to the checklist on my map. However I don’t know if this is the year to do that or not due to time, expense, etc. I like the fact that I don’t have to use up a huge chunk of my leave on travelling, even if it means I won’t get home again this year. It’s nice to have the time to just take a day here and there when required.

As I might have mentioned more than once, my brother is coming and that will be like a holiday in itself. We could definitely incorporate a mini trip in with him as I know he is thinking of heading to Ireland this summer before heading off to Europe. I love the thought of exploring the Irish countryside as we’ve only ever visited once, and that was only Dublin for a few days (not nearly long enough). Andy and I had also been toying with the idea of visiting our friends in Italy… Italy is expensive though and I’m not sure if we can fit it into our budget this year.

We have a decision to make though and it’s a tricky one because we’d decided when we agreed to buy a hot tub that we wouldn’t need a holiday this year; this was before the teenager that used to live with us turned our hair a lighter shade of grey.

We have already determined that we will take some time off to explore the UK with John, but I also think a little beach break might be in order. We are mentally exhausted and quite frankly want to get away. If we do go in September it gives us something to look forward to, if nothing else.

In all seriousness, I would board a plane tomorrow for a week if we could find the right deal.

What I am focusing on though, is that John will be with us in just over two weeks. It will awesome to have him here, for him to meet my friends, Molly and the rest of the family. To show him this beautiful country and know that because we live here he had the added incentive to plan his tour of Europe. It’s been a long time coming, but finally, my baby brother is coming to the UK. Oh yeah!