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

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding a fiver in my pocket is always a good surprise too

Do you like surprises? Why or why not? (from plinky.com)

I have had one surprise party thrown for me in my adult life and this was on a sunny afternoon in July when I spent six weeks in Canada during my first year living in Britain. I went home to sort out arrangements for my wedding as well as spend time with everyone. Unbeknownst to me, my co-workers, friends and family had planned a ‘money-tree’ shower for me. I blogged about it here, wherein I explained that I didn’t want a shower yet I couldn’t help but be delighted at the time and effort people went to for me.

In the whole scheme of things the idea of surprise parties are great and I certainly like helping to plan them; but only for people that I know will be legitimately thrilled. When it comes to surprise parties for myself I’m more like my mom in the fact that they are definitely not for me. I prefer to have a date to look forward to, something I can get excited over and even better, decide what to wear.

Andy lovingly took me away to Barcelona for a surprise birthday present a few years back. It was fun to hold discussions with my friends as we pondered where my husband could possibly be taking me and it definitely felt like an adventure in the early morning hours when we were on our way to the airport. I love that my husband went to such an effort to bring me joy, however as I said to him afterwards, its often a good idea to have a close female friend involved when planning surprise trips as they have a better idea of what a girl might need for the surprise destination. I didn’t exactly have the right clothes for January in Spain, although we had one hell of a good time just the same.

My husband has tried to surprise me numerous times over the years and sometimes I’m thrilled at the result, like the time he planned a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt that resulted in my arriving at a Greek restaurant to find him waiting all suited up with a beautiful bracelet I had been coveting for months. (He was working away at the time so the effort was even more meaningful.) I’m a lucky girl, I know. Sometimes though his ideas backfire on him and I think he wonders why he even bothers; See the problem is I like to be involved in the hunt for most major purchases or DIY decisions. I have a bit of a control issue that way. (No way am I admitting to being a control freak, I’m not that bad yet.) I also don’t think I’m alone in this; most women do want to be involved in decisions that will affect the appearance of their home. Don’t they?

The little ‘surprise’ moments are always sweet too; for instance coming downstairs to a tidy kitchen when it didn’t look that way the night before, or getting breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning. These things happen more often than not so I’m not sure if they could be deemed surprises. (I told you I lucked out in the husband department; I’m not just with him because he’s hung like a horse you know.)

When it comes to Christmas I was never a child that snooped to see what mom and dad had hidden away. I’m still the same – happy to wait until Christmas morning to see what ‘surprises’ await me (I often do a wish list but it’s still a surprise to see what may or may not be there). Some surprises are good surprises but the best surprises for me are the ones when you get to see and spend time with someone you never expected to; like the time I traveled to Ontario to wedding dress shop with my sister Tawny and after we’d hugged each other I saw our little sister Stacy (who lives in another province) pop out from behind a corner. Now who wouldn’t like that kind of surprise?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Risotto me this...

It’s that time of year when the leaves are all burnt oranges and gold (we don’t get a lot of trees in this region with red leaves) and pumpkins are being sold in the farm shops and grocery stores.

I think I’m going to stop this evening on the way home and buy a pumpkin. I wasn’t planning on carving it for Halloween as I have a pretty decent ceramic one in the window; what I’m planning is to chop it up and use it to try out a few new recipes (as well as toast the seeds - yummy). It seems that almost every food blog I visit these days boasts a gorgeous looking dish that features pumpkin and most call for canned pumpkin. Unfortunately canned pumpkin is not easily found here; the alternative is to use fresh pumpkin which is probably a better option anyway. Since pumpkins will only be found locally until the end of October, I'd better get a move on.

I’ve printed off a recipe for pumpkin risotto that I’m keen to try. I’ve had all the ingredients for a risotto for some time however I haven’t endeavoured to make it as I’m told risottos can be quite tricky. I thought I might as well give it a try with pumpkin as my sister-in-law raved about the one she’d had at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant. I’m not sure if it’s a flavour I will enjoy, and I know it won’t come close to Jamie’s, however if I don’t try I won’t know.

I’m going to freeze the left over pumpkin pieces I have so if any of you have any recipes you’d like to share I’m all ears.

Because pumpkin doesn’t seem to be an overly popular flavour and therefore not readily available in the UK, I have also been a bit envious of the variety in latte’s that are available in Canada at the moment. Pumpkin lattes don’t seem to be on the menu at the coffee houses here, yet I wish they were so I could give them a try. I don’t need the extra calories, and I’m not even sure I’d like it, yet the option to sample it would be nice. Saying that, I did try the crème brulee latte at Starbucks on the weekend and found it a bit too sweet, even skinny style. I think I’m better off sticking with my skinny vanilla latte’s from Café Nero. (It’s the next best thing to the Second Cup, trust me).

On another note, I was dismayed to find that the local Starbucks is no longer offering the falafel wrap. When I asked the reason behind this I was told that it’s not a popular choice in this backwater town but I could still get it in the major cities. Nice, except I don’t live in or near a major city.

Wish me luck with the risotto!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Paint It Red

The making of a kick-ass spin class (for me anyway):

1. Awesome music
2. A motivational instructor
3. A bike that works properly
Bonus:  a cute instructor

What doesn't work for me when it comes to spinning:

1.  Sometimes you get a bike whose gears are not 'right'

I can usually work through this by staying in a lower gear, however I was running late this morning and was told most of the leftover bikes were 'tricky' ones;  meaning those that are hard going even at level 4/5. It sucks, but you have to just try and forget it and work through it.

2.  An instructor without much 'drive':  Like today. He was cute, but that doesn't cut it.

3.  When the gym is being painted and you are allergic to paint.  I knew the spin room had been painted on Thursday but had hopes it would have dried by today.  It hadn't.

I could have stuck it out if my only issues were 1&2, but I was increasingly finding it hard to breath in that room and had to bail.  I hate having to bail... it looks like I can't cut it. However I quickly told the instructor why I was cutting out and hightailed it out of there.

By the time I made it home my breathing was back to normal but my head was beginning to throb.  I wasn't phoning it in today... I needed some healthy exercise;  because it's a gorgeous fall day I grabbed Molly and we went for a jog. I didn't hold any major expectations for myself but in the end I kicked ass.  For me anyway. 

I jogged 2.77 miles nonstop. It took me 30 minutes but I don't care.  I will work on my time and distance, slowly, just as I have been doing for a few weeks now. 

I think what kept me motivated was a combination of the sunshine, cool fall air and jogging through the field and orchards surrounding the village;  oh and I can't forget the app on my iPhone, Runkeeper. I think that really assisted in my quest to keep moving.  It's funny how a little animated voice coming from your pocket can keep you going!

I'm a hot, sweaty mess, but I'm proud of myself (and Molly) just the same.  Note:  I didn't say Hot Mess:

Now I just need to go take my inhaler again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It feels like I'm all the way back where I come from

What does home mean to you?
(from Plinky.com)

Growing up I always thought the house you grew up in was your home and I wouldn’t have been wrong, not from a child's viewoint anyway because what child wouldn’t think the same? However over time it became apparent to me that home would always be wherever my mother was. My mother has always constituted what home means. I’m sure I’m not the only adult child who feels this way. Maybe I felt so strongly (and still do) because I resided at home with my mother for the first 30 years of my life, although from my twenties onward I didn’t sleep at home very much at all. I basically lived with my friend Shannon during the year her husband was away, and after that year I more or less lived with my ex-boyfriend for two years. Although he wanted the move to be permanent, I could never quite bring myself to make the move official. The reason behind my logic was that I didn’t want to move out of my parents house until I knew I wouldn’t have to move back. Ok, I will admit it… I was comfortable there with mom. I’m a mama’s girl and always will be. Either way, the choices I made were right because obviously my ex and I didn’t work out. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: my home in Nova Scotia wouldn’t feel so much like home without my mother in it. (And thanks to the amazing treatment she has received, as well as her own fighting spirit, we can gratefully continue to go home to our mom, hopefully for many years to come.)

When I moved to England the flat we lived in never had a chance to feel like home before we moved into a mews house (two up, two down). Our little house was cosy, though cramped and although we lived there two years, I still never really felt like I was living in my own home, nor could I seem to refer to England as home. Home was back in Nova Scotia. (I believe it took me a little longer to adapt because of the closeness I have with my mom and siblings, as well as the fondness I will always hold for Nova Scotia.) It wasn’t until we moved into the house we currently live in that it started to feel like a home of my own, however even that has taken some time. It’s not the fact that we have made it ours by putting our own personal touches on it (although it helps), I think it’s the fact that mine and Andy’s relationship has grown and evolved so much in recent years that I wouldn’t want to live anyplace else if he wasn’t there with me. Other factors would be the closeness I have with his children and family; My relationship with my friend Dawn, my sister from another mister, and her family has grown much deeper in recent years; I love how her son can just pop around to our house when he feels like it, how the dogs know the way to each other’s door and ultimately, how we all look out for each other. They have become family.

So my answer for what home means to me would be wherever the people I love most are; a house is just a building. Sure it can be full of beautiful memories and lovely items but it’s not what makes it ‘home’, not quite. Home is wherever you can go to feel the warmth, love and acceptance of those that you care about most in the world.

I guess that means I’m doubly blessed because I have more than one place that I call home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It took me as no surprise...

Well it’s Wednesday and I’ve been sitting on this one since the 16th August so I’m just going to spit it out:

Alex is expecting a baby with his girlfriend in April. There. I’ve said it and I can’t take it back.

I never got to be a mom, other than to my fur girl. I only became a mother figure to the kids later in their lives, although Connor was still quite little, only seven, and although he asked if he could call me mum I didn’t think it a great idea for a multitude of reasons. So we settled on Jojo (a name given to me by my now 15 year old godson) and I liked it. (It was quite a shock when he was 13 and started calling me Jods, like his older brother. I likened it to how a mom must feel when she’s traded up from Mommy to Mom.) I’ve always been content to be their friend and confidant. With Alex and Connor it’s been that little bit extra at times, especially since Alex lived with us for six years.

Here’s the thing… I was kind of looking forward to one day being a Nanny or even Gramma to the boy’s children; and when Tasha recently said that of course I’d be a grandparent to all of their children it made me smile. It really did. Most stepparents I know are referred to as Nana or Grandad, especially if they’d been around for a long time before the grandkids were born. As I have, if eight years count for anything. I just thought I’d have at least another five or six years. You know, be a bit closer to 50. Not 39 for crying out loud. Bah… what can you do?

It is what it is.

I’m not going to talk about the stress, fallouts (not mine), emotional turmoil, or ‘I told you so’s’ that have been going down around these parts. Bottom line: there is a baby coming whether anyone is ready for it or not.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how we feel as the parents of a teenaged father-to-be as you can probably figure that out on your own. (I’m also only sharing this with you now that the whole family is in the know, and the kids have made it public.)

I’ve told Alex that I’m kind of looking forward to the day when I can talk to him as the parent of an 18 year old child and get his take on things; however, since he will be 37 and I will be in my 50’s I’m content to wait it out. Father time is having a laugh and going too fast as it is. I don’t need to speed things up, as I said, I can wait.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Whirlwind Weekend

This weekend passed in a blur due to a variety of factors:

Meal planning and cooking for an extra three adults – two of whom don’t eat meat. This is usually not an issue as I enjoy the opportunity to cook fish as Andy isn’t a big fan. However I can only expect him to eat fish one out of the two evenings so Saturday found me making a fish curry as well as a chicken korma. (Unfortunately Andy’s was from a jar as I didn’t have the ambition to cook more than one meal from scratch). He seemed to enjoy it all the same so I think I’m forgiven. Usually I get round this by cooking a vegetarian chilli or lasagne, which Andy doesn’t mind but I chose instead to make a curry so two separate meals it was. I wouldn’t want to do it every day as making sure the utensils from the meat dish stays far away from the fish dish, etc. is a feat in itself and the amount of washing up is doubled. Thank goodness for a dishwasher.

I opted to get up with Daisy on Saturday morning so her parents could lay-in; this kid gets up between 5:30 and 6:00 am, a fact that leaves one fairly tired by lunch time. However I think I did alright and enjoyed my 1-1 time with the little munchkin. The only problem was that because I was on baby watch and had the monitor in our room, Andy didn’t get much sleep either because Daisy Doo is a noisy baby. No one got much sleep either on Saturday night as Daisy wasn’t happy and because she is a loud baby, in both laughter and tears, the whole house was well aware that she wasn’t sleeping well. Sunday morning found one groggy bunch of adults in the house, especially her mama who was up with her nearly every hour.

I had a touch of sore throat, and added to the tiredness and very achy body I had due to my monthly visitor (some months really hit me harder than others and my legs ache something fierce – do any of you experience this?), I spent most of yesterday sleeping. Not my favourite way to spend a Sunday but sometimes it just needs to be done. Especially when the house seems extra quiet after the departure of visitors.

It was a great weekend all the same and the baby is really a joy to have around. She has one of the best smiles ever. However when I’m with Daisy I sometimes can’t help but think of my other niece who is so far away and the sad fact that I won’t be seeing her anytime soon. It was this time last year that Andy and I spent a few weeks with Clara when she was the same age as Daisy is now and although the difference in both girls at the same age is obvious, i.e. size/personality, at the same time there are such clear similarities… both have sweet dispositions and are ready with an adorable grin the very moment you look at them.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to the gym or for a run as planned but I’m not being too hard on myself because this is a new week and I can start fresh.

For lunch I’m going to enjoy a bowl of the delicious ‘holiday soup for the soul’ I made (the recipe can be found here) and read one of my favourite blogs, the Curvy Girl Guide. It’s not just for curvy women, trust me. The articles and recipes are designed for everyone.

Hope you all had a great weekend and that your Monday isn’t too dreadful.

Friday, October 14, 2011

That Friday Feeling

How can I not be happy when this is what greets me on a sunny, Friday morning :)

(This is of course after she crawled off my bed and onto her own)

A few other things that are making me smile today:

Andy will be home at tea time (5ish)
Daisy is coming to stay the weekend with her mum and dad; they will arrive at approximately the same time as Andy.
The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend.
The large skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks and gorgeous home-made chocolate muffin with a melting centre (made by my colleague) that I'm enjoying.
The thought of a post-work run in the sunshine with my fur-girl pictured above.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's only taken me eight years to get round to it...

Each year when Autumn arrives, I keep telling myself that I’m going to deck the house out in Autumnal theme, have a Thanksgiving Dinner, and of course plan a rocking Halloween Party. And it never happens.

This year, I made sure it did. Well most of it.

Last weekend I bought a few supplies and with a little extra help from a box of supplies left in my shed by my pal who relocated back to Canada, we decorated. (Thanks CA ;). I cooked a turkey and all the fixin’s for Andy’s parents, his brother and his family and two of our kids. (I wish I’d taken a photo of the table setting because it looked pretty awesome. Andy and I make a great team, we really do.) The parsnip and ginger soup topped with bacon bits was a great starter and Andy’s mum brought the dessert. It was so cute listening to my 2 year old nephew refer to Andy’s dad as Grandad Dog (my in-laws have a heap of small dogs in their house at any given time).

I’m a little dismayed that we aren’t going to be having a Halloween Party this year (not enough takers to make it worthwhile – people just aren’t into the ghoulish spirit over here, well except for me, Tasha and Cameron), so I added a couple of Halloween decorations and will hope for more next year:

The living room is a mix between fall and Halloween and that’s ok… even if I’m not having a party, I can still get into the swing of things though right?

What I’m thankful for this year:

We are all healthy, even if we aren’t together…

My mom finishes her very last treatment today. From here on out its checkups with her oncologist to make sure all is well – YAY!!!

That I’m doing better again at living a healthier lifestyle.

We aren’t the only ones that struggle to understand why our children make the choices they do, and that dysfunction really is the norm.

That even though Monday marked the 15th Anniversary of the day we lost our beloved Nan, her memory is still alive and well within the hearts of those she left behind.

Andy and I celebrated seven years of a strong and healthy marriage on Sunday, despite all the obstacles that have been thrown in our path.

Look how young and stunned intoxicated with love we look…

I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had your fill of turkey amongst family and friends.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Maybe the answer is a suntan (spray on of course)

This photo has been making the rounds all over facebook. 

(French Model - Tara Lynn)

My initial reaction:  What a beautiful woman. 
My second reaction hmmm pretty much what my bod would look like in that position, other than the fact I have pasty white skin and my legs are smaller. 
My third reaction:  Why can I look at her and think she is beautiful but if it were me in the photo I'd be tearing it apart.

A lot of heavy ladies will look at this photo and wish that they could look like this naked...

I don't know how many times I will receive a compliment from someone telling me how good I look in a certain top, or skirt and my initial response is to say I think it makes me look fat.  I don't know why I do this.  I'm not fat; I'm slightly overweight and I'm in pretty great shape... so I wonder just what my problem is.  (ok, don't answer that, it could take forever.)

I continuously find myself comparing my body size to other women and it's exhausting.  I don't think I'm alone in this and I have to ask the question:

Why aren't we ever really content with the way we look (unless of course, we are slightly drunk on wine)?

One day I tell myself that I'm happy, healthy and at peace with myself and how I look and there is so much more to life than fitting into a size 8, yet the next day I'm beating myself up again. Let me tell you, it's rough being in an abusive relationship with myself. 

There are so many females out there who are slender, yet have no muscle tone or real strength.  They are what my sister refers to as skinny-fat.  I think it is much more important to follow a healthy diet and exercise than it is to be a certain size or shape, be that slender or curvy.  I know I will never let myself go to the point where I become hugely overweight or obese because no matter how many excuses people make, it is just not healthy.  The pressure that you exert on your knees, back and heart speak for themselves.  After she lost a 100 lbs I can remember my friend saying that she never realized how bad she felt when she was heavy.  She thought she'd felt pretty ok until she dropped the weight and realized how much better she could feel.  

And I'm sorry, no curvy woman could ever admit to me that it isn't an amazing feeling when you fit into a size that is smaller than you normally wear.  Or when you try a dress on that clings in all the right places and looks great, without the use of spanks.  It's an awesome feeling. Or even better, when you can lift that 50lb sack of dog food by yourself.

I also know it works the opposite way for underweight women too - many women who are skinny stress about body image, boob size, etc. It's not just the heavy girls who do this.  I just happen to be on the other side of the spectrum, so that's the angle I'm coming from.

The photo above was accompanied by some blurb about whales and mermaids and then goes on to talk about how wonderful wales are and lists a bunch of reasons why one should wish be a whale rather than a mermaid.  Sorry, I just think this is a shield to hide behind.  The slogan was meant for a fitness campaign, not personal attributes that relate to your nature.
That slogan is not the best slogan in the world, not by a long shot. It's pretty terrible actually.  And Tara Lynn is no whale.  Yet I'd be lying if I said I'd rather have her body then Jennifer Aniston's.  So yeah... I'd rather  look like a mermaid over a whale even though mermaids are mythical and wales are awesome.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Lily Feet

I've just started reading a book titled 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan' by Lisa See.  It's the gripping story of a young Chinese girl and how her feet, if bound properly, could change the life of her family.

My impatience at what exactly this procedure involves sought me to search it out online, especially after reading that the arch of the foot is broken to achieve the appropriate size foot.   What I discovered disturbed me. 

"Binding the feet involved breaking the arch of the foot, which ultimately left a crevice approximately 5 cm (2 in) deep, which was considered most desirable. It took approximately two years for this process to achieve the desired effect; preferably a foot that measured 7–9 cm (3–3 12 in) from toe to heel".  Not only were the arches of feet broken, but so were the toes, over and over again, before being folded underneath the foot and tightly bound.

You can read it yourself, here.

To say I am horrified and appalled at this is an understatement.  I thought female circumcision, which is still practiced in some parts of the world was bad enough.  I've always known that the Chinese used to bind women's feet, as it was considered attractive and graceful, however I had no idea the extreme measures that were taken to make the feet so small.  How absolutely awful.  At least this ridiculous, abusive tradition has ceased. 

Below is a picture of 'lily feet'.  I'm sorry, I try to be open-minded when it comes to the traditions of other races and cultures, realizing that what constitutes beauty to one, may constitute ugliness and shame to others, however this is just shocking and takes the expression 'going one step too far' (no pun intended) to a whole new level. Again, I'm sorry but I just don't understand how this could be considered beautiful:

It's unnatural and wrong, on so many levels, even wrapped up in pretty, silken slippers. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Of Ghouls and Pimps

This weekend we took advantage of the beautiful weather and decided to do do a re-run of the sirloin beef wrapped in a dishtowel in the fire pit with Robert and Dawn.

It was just as gorgeous as the first time and if you have access to a fire pit I highly recommend it. Beef has never tasted so flavourful… ever. If you want to try it out, check out this post: (If any of you tried it over the summer I’m curious to see how you found the experience.) To celebrate the end of summer (especially with such an unexpected treat with the weather) we opened a bottle of Tattinger and toasted great friendships and sunshine. Naturally, we wrapped up the evening with a dip in the hot tub.

Although the weather is deferring any thought of winter boots and fall accessories, I have been thinking a lot about this upcoming Halloween. A few years ago when I was in Nova Scotia, I’d bought some decorations from Pumpkin Village as I’d intended to have a party that never came to fruition. I brought the subject of a party up on Saturday night, wondering if Robert and Dawn would be keen. I of course would want people to dress in costume, after all, what’s the point of a Halloween Party if no one dresses up? That’s where all the fun is… well besides the cocktails. All three were delighted when I said that the people in Canada dress in a variety of costume, not just horror/zombie themed, which makes the choice of costume much easier. At this, Cameron, who is 14, decided that this party was a must as it will be his opportunity to dress as a pimp; Huggy Bear to be exact. You’d have to know this kid for yourself to realise how out of character this is. Yet isn’t that what Halloween is all about; an opportunity to be someone else for an evening. So although we haven’t decided 100% if we will proceed, it’s looking very likely. Think of all the ghouls dancing around the fire pit eh?

I’m already seeking out punch recipes and thinking of costumes that Andy and I could wear.

A few years back we attended a Halloween Party and as I was getting ready, Alex asked if I intended on winning best costume. It hadn’t really entered my mind, but win I did.

Here is a picture of me and my pal Sharon dressed for the occasion:

If any of you have any great Halloween punch recipes I’d love it if you could share them (alcoholic of course – other than two teens, this will be an adult themed party).