Thursday, April 23, 2015

Home is where the crazy is!

Trips home are so valuable, creating memories which I hold very dear to my heart. They are also very enlightening. My family has always told me that I was the drama queen of the family…turns out they lied. My family is totally and completely insane. I am not even remotely unique in my ability to ‘stretch the truth’ for dramatic effect. You may question me, wonder if I am yet again making something more exciting than it truly is. I will let you decide, using our 2015 family photo shoot as your evidence.

Trying out the new Christmas presents.

Playing the classic family game of Monopoly.

Attempting to take a nice family photo while Mom adorns my hair with branches.

A regular cross-Atlantic Skype chat.

And if you were still questioning the insanity levels of my family...
this should clear up any and all doubts.

Ps. I love every last one of my totally insane family members!! After all, normal is just boring!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Let's fly away! (And arrive in one half-decent piece).

I’m currently sat on the plane, somewhere over the Atlantic. My guess is just past where the Titanic sank. Anyways, these plane rides are usually consist of trying to force myself to sleep, failing miserably. Now, because I fly this route fairly frequently I have a few ways of dealing with this. Rules, if you will.
  1. Book an aisle seat. This way you don’t have to awkwardly crawl over the sleeping people when you inevitably hold your pee just long enough for you to be able to taste it. 
  2. Sit at the back of the plane, where it goes to rows of two on the sides (if possible). Yes, you will probably get forced to eat the lovely plasticky food that everyone else has wonderfully denied however there are usually no children instead travelling business men. They like silence. This is key to travelling bliss.
  3. Always take a drink when they offer it. That drink needs to be water. No more headaches, no more feeling like your brain is oddly smaller than your skull and therefore rattles around whenever you move. You may need to pee more often, but if you have followed rule #1 you’ll be fine!
  4. When putting your luggage into the overhead compartment do so quickly and somehow without showing the immense pain it calls you when attempting to lift 25kg above your head. Otherwise the wonderful air stewardesses may insist that you put your suitcase under the seat in front of you. Hello zero leg room!
  5. Look comfy but decent. Joggers, nikes, sweat shirts, headbands and ponytails may be mega comfy; however, upon your arrival you will be proudly walking into airport, excitement building, and you look like a mix of someone who travelled in a dog kennel and someone who rode on the wings. Just the impression everyone wants to make!

Now these rules have been carefully made. Through experience. Very embarrassing experience. Following the order above, these are the all to real experiences which caused my to write my groundbreaking rules.

  1. I always booked a window seat…lovely views and the ability to lean across the wall seemed the best way to travel. Wrong. Almost peeing yourself because the massive couple sitting next to you refuses to wake for hours on end was not a good feeling. 
  2. I began my trans-atlantic travels by trying to book the seats just past business class, so I could be off the plane about 2 milliseconds faster. Wrong. One trip in a row of 4, sat next to (of course in the window seat) a ‘lovely’ family with 2 children under 4 quickly impressed upon me the importance of avoiding all children at all costs.
  3. One of my largest fears has always been bathrooms (all stemming from a infortunate event involving a Mandarin restaurant and my inability to find my table after using the toilet). So to avoid having to use the plane toilet I used to just not drink. For the entire day of my flight. Wrong again! This was very clearly a mistake. Using a plane bathroom is MUCH less painful than having a migraine. 
  4. Due to my desire to take EVERYTHING possible back from Canada I usually stuff, cram and ram my carry-on as full of my worldly treasures as much as humanly possible. Only slightly wrong. I did this until a lovely air stewardess watched me obviously struggle to fit my bulging case into the overhead locker. When attempting to life the suitcase she glared at me and told me to place it under the seat ahead. Now I have very long legs. For 8 straight hours I could not move. NOT. HAPPY.
  5. As many of you know when travelling solo I am being met at my destination by either my family or husband. I used to travel wearing all items mentioned in rule #5. Which was…you guessed it…WRONGO! Now while my parents are used to my less than glamorous side I would like my husband to live under the delusion for as long as humanly possible that I do have a naturally feminine side. I would like him to believe that I do not possess the ability to smell as horrendous as a farm-yard pig, have enough oil in my hair to help the North Sea keep up their production levels and have pores so large you can lose small children in them. 

Learn from my mistakes. Do not arrive at your destination with a bladder infection, migraine, legs with pulled muscles and looking like a prisoner of war. 

New flying tip JUST learned through experience:

6. If living in a country you are not a citizen of always bring your work visa with you when you wish to travel back home. They don’t like it when you leave it at home. It is also incredibly embarrassing when they put you in the holding area full of the other people not being let into the country. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Rose-tinted memories

Do you ever wonder what you were like as a child? Like REALLY like, not what you think you were like.  Well this trip home as done a good job at showing me just that. Every time I come home my Mom tries to convince me to go through all of the random boxes in the attic I filled when forced to clean my room as a child. So my sister and I braved the mouse poo and dived head-first into our childhoods. These are the things I learned:

  1. I used to read. A LOT. I had over a hundred Baby-Sitter Club books. I blame these prematurely responsible characters and their all too successful business for my life-long random get-rich-quick schemes. 
  2. I used to journal. A LOT.  These journals could now by used by Mindy Kaling as examples for how to portray the emotional rollercoaster of adolescence and beyond. Reading these aloud had myself, sister and mother crying in fits of laughter. This was an opening line (I hate to admit it but from university), “I am so proud of myself! Today I went from lunch till supper without having a snack!”. Clearly I have led a rather simple life.
  3. I have always enjoyed crafting. A LOT. We found so many insane “creative” examples of my ingenuity glued to the back of cupboard doors, under beds and inside boxes. All in varying degrees of completion. I think this was my favourite example, made after our family trip to the Big Apple. 

By the way….I thought this was completely amazing. This work of art was created before the advent of Pintrest so I am taking 100% ownership!

4. I have always had control issues.  A LOT of them. This became clear when my 
     parents were regaling for us of the tales of family camping trips. On one said trip my 
    Mom was in the back of the van so I could sit in the front and ‘read’ the map (a skill I 
    have yet to master). I was overcome by the desire to smell the fresh ocean air and  
    opened the van window, consequently sending our only map out the window for the 
    cars behind us to dodge while it blew across the highway. My bad. I also 
    remember budgeting my parents spending money this trip. I was ten. 

All in all I am so thankful I have such an amazingly patient family as it turns out although I may think I was a quiet, calm child I may have been more like Ramona Quimby than I wish to admit!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tradddddddddition, tradition!

A new family tradition has evolved over the past year or so. It involves the passing of a hideously pink flower planter, creatively filled with various carefully chosen yet ridiculously ugly items. This little gem travels between my Mom and her sister. Past planters have been filled with pink flamingos, neon fake flowers, fake spiders, solar lights, halloween decorations and anything ridiculous from the dollar store. Now this isn’t as simple as gifting the newly adorned pot back and forth. No, this pot always appears to the new owner as if by magic, often hidden in a crafty location. Locations have included being hidden deep into a backyard (actually across a river, this Canadian backyard is slightly more spacious than our ‘yard’ in London), high atop a dirt pile (which was taller than the house), adorning the entrance to my parent’s school or left at the cottage awaiting the owners return. This time I was roped in to take part. My aunt was out for the day, leaving her house unprotected from the stealthy pink pot.


This particular edition to the passing of the pink pot was seasonly themed, a ‘nest’ for the Easter bunny! Please note the dog barking inside the patio doors. Jazz was less than excited that I was outside ‘playing’ without him.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

To Cheese or not to Cheese, that is NEVER the question!

The latest of my culinary creations in my war against unknown ingredients has been cheese. Now cheese holds a very special part of my heart. In our household a crusty loaf of bread accompanied by a perfectly ripe tomato and  melt in your mouth cheese is the ultimate meal.  Simple yet delicious. Therefore, being able to make our own cheese has been a desire for quite some time. And if I do say so myself, this is one goal I can say I totally and completely conquered! 

Cheese turned out to be easier to make than yogurt. There is only one step that takes careful precision, which of course I completely messed up while attempting to take pictures. However the ricotta still turned out smooth and deliciously creamy. 

I used this blog for my recipe, as always, changing to suit my current mood (and patience level).

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

2L of whole milk
80 ml lemon juice
1tsp salt (Admittedly I forgot to add this, pressures from my Mother and her hatred of salt have subconsciously taken effect).

1. Pour the milk into a pot, placing on the stove. You want to warm the milk until just before the boiling point, around 190 F. Now this is where I messed up...while stood on a chair attempting to take photos, balancing my phone on my shoulder discussing which 90’s American show to next devour on Netflix, my milk boiled. Oops.  No need to worry, my Netflix choice was carefully and correctly made! (3rd Rock from the Sun)
2. Turning off the stove (and removing from the element if you are using an electric stove), add your lemon juice, carefully stirring it in. This is where is starts to go a bit nasty. The lemon juice curdles the milk, helping you may your curds and whey! I spent the rest of my cooking time singing nursery rhymes in my head.

3. While your milk is, well, souring, take a large bowl, place a strainer over it (there should be plenty of space between the bottom of the bowl and the strainer) and then place a cheese cloth over that. 

4. Use a slotted spoon to check that your milk has finished separating into white lumps  (curds) and a yellowish liquid (your whey). When this is done, from 10 - 50 minutes, carefully pour it into the cheese cloth. Mine took about 15 minutes to fully drain, leaving me with a nice, creamy cheese.

This will definitely become a family favourite! Now to make it for my Canadian family...I will pry them from the evil grasp of the processed food industry! Okay, let’s be honest. I won’t. A better goal is for my Grandma to see that I am actually eating what she deems is ‘normal’ food.