Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Going with my gut

One of the negatives of living as an expat means that your extended family usually isn't close. Some people might actually view this as a positive, but they tend to be wrong. If for no other reason that we can't take advantage of Lena's grandparents for babysitting opportunities. It's hardly like we are total socialites with a busy events calendar, but there are occasions when it is an adults-only affair, or we would simply like a couple hours together without having to include a near 2-year old in the conversations.

The first time we used a babysitter it was on a recommendation from a random person on a local parents' email group. We've ended up using her many times since, but the first time it was really a case of her showing up, us spending 10 minutes talking with her, then walking out the door to leave our small sleeping child in the hands of an unknown person. This didn't bother me that much actually, for a couple of reasons. One, we were only a 5 minute walk away, so could be home easily in case of emergency. Two, I think I'm a fairly good judge of character and don't need that long to make a decision about someone. I have made mistakes in the past, but these are rare.

I think for lots of parents, this must be something really hard, to be able to leave your child in basically a stranger's hands. Of course you don't have to live in a foreign country to face this situation, but it does make it more likely. I can only hope my judgement remains accurate in the future for any new babysitters.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First of the Culture Clashes

Lena is starting to talk quite a bit nowadays and this is great. But is presenting me with an interesting question to ponder.

She spends most of her time with me, so she is learning most of her language from me. And I don't say things always the way the Brits do. I've mentioned before about bilingual baby vocabulary, and now I have a bit of toddler vocabulary. When Lena gets dressed, she wears socks, a shirt, panties and pants. Least she does when I dress her, which is at least 5 out of 7 mornings. G puts socks, a shirt, pants and trousers on her. So Lena says panties and pants.

My word for her outer clothing is G's word for her undergarments which is also what the Brits say. Pants. Not a big deal, but knowing how kids (and adults) are, it will be noticed that Lena talks about pants rather than trousers. And I'm wondering if I should start calling them trousers, just so she doesn't have problems with this later on. Don't misunderstand me, I am more than happy for her to pronounce tomatoes "to-MAY-toes", but I don't want her to be the butt of any toilet humour over pants. I know that it could be an issue, as I've had 1st-hand experience.

On our trip last year to Scotland, I got drawn into a conversation with an eight-year old girl on the ferry back to Oban. She was chatting quite happily to me, telling me that she was off with her parents to buy new clothes. I asked her what she was buying, "Are you getting new pants?" Upon the fit of giggles that burst out of her, I realised my faux pas. Despite saying with much more emphasis, "I mean trousers. TROUSERS," it more or less brought the end to our conversation. God forbid I was a man and someone had happened to overhear that tidbit of conversation; I would have been locked up.

I don't want Lena to have to face teasing over saying that one word differently. Kids can be cruel, and I also know that children can get picked on for any reason, or lack of reason. But I don't think she needs to hand it to them on a platter either.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Beer, Glorious Beer!

We were in Munich a couple of weekends ago for another visit. G had to go for work, which he does on occasion. It just happened that this occasion was also during Oktoberfest. Last year was the first year time I missed it after 14 years in a row. Last year I didn't mind, but this year I really was pining for it. Oktoberfest is not for the faint-hearted, or is it for a quiet tete-a-tete with a friend. But neither is it only about the beer. Sure, that's the image most people have of it, but it's also a fun fest where families can have fun on some rides. I will be honest though, and admit that it wasn't the fun fest carnival rides that I was pining for. So when G said he was going to be there for the Munich Hash House Harriers Oktoberfest weekend bash, I decided I should go along too.

Munich always has a great atmosphere during the 2 weeks of Oktoberfest. There seems to be a sense of anticipation in the air, people are walking around wearing traditional Bavarian clothing of Dirndls for the women and Lederhosen for the men. There are lots of tourists and they are pretty excited. Well, when they aren't already drunk or nursing hangovers, haha. Actually, if you only do Oktoberfest, you have to work really hard to get a hangover, as they stop serving beer at 10:30pm and close the tents at 11pm. If you are sensible, you go home at that point, get a decent night's sleep and don't feel too bad the next day. Of course, not everyone is sensible.

Anyways, we had a great time at Oktoberfest, seeing the Hashers and seeing our friends Dee and Martin, who kindly put us up despite jet lag from their own very recent trip. I took Lena on Friday morning to the Fest, meeting up with some other new moms I know. It was funny being there as a parent, you certainly see the thing through different eyes. Lena was very keen to go on the rides, which I indulged her in, as it's not like we will be there every year.

Speaking of beer, I just baked Beer Bread tonight. A very simple recipe actually. 3 cups of self-raising flour, 340ml of beer and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Mix enough to wet everything, whack it in a loaf tin and bake at 190°C for close on an hour. This recipe will obvious vary in taste depending on which beer you use. I used Carlsberg because that's what we have (reasons given below) and found it okay, but in need of tweaking. With this mild beer, the 3 tbsps of sugar made it a bit too sweet. It's a nice quick bread, but to me it didn't really taste or feel like yeasted bread, which was what I was craving. But again, as a quick bread, it was okay. If you make this, I'd like to hear how it turned out and which beer you used.

The reason I used Carlsberg is we *still* have several cartons of it after having 2 big events back in May and June this year. The last one was G's 30th birthday party. The problem we have is that we keep estimating alcohol amounts based on the parties we had in Munich. Now, that doesn't mean all our friends in Munich were lushes who drank like fish. Okay, they are, but that's not why we overestimated here (just kidding folks, you aren't really lushes. Well, not ALL of you). Living out in the countryside, at least half the people came by car to the party, which cuts out a drinker. A lot of the people we invited were also from our NCT group, so with a little toddler to look after, no one is going to drink as much as they might otherwise, simply from lack of time and opportunity to get a new beer! Plus I think that women in the UK drink more wine than beer than the women in Germany (I noticed the same in Australia too), so yet even fewer beers drunk. With so much beer left over, G has being doing his best to finish it off and I've been helping him on occasion too. But there's enough to try out any other lager-based recipes I might come across or any recipes someone reading this blog might care to share.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Blog about Town

For anyone who would like to know more of the history of Cookham, a fellow blogger, James Hatch, has set up an interesting blog called Historical Cookham. James is a bit of a windbag on the Cookham forum (sorry James), but the posts on his blog are worth a read. A good perspective into Cookham 60-120 years ago. Oooh, I correct myself, there's a new post from yesterday that talks about the area 300,000 years ago! Heh heh heh. Anyways, certainly worth a look.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Missed the Grand Prix Race

I'm very annoyed that I missed the Cookham Gravity Grand Prix today. Lena had a long nap, which she very much needed, but it meant that by the time she woke up, it was nearly over. G was playing cricket, so I couldn't go without her. What made me very annoyed is the fact that I missed it last year too! I was very ill on the day and couldn't go. G managed to go and take some photos, so a couple of pictures from last year's Grand Prix to give you a feeling for the event and for me to console myself with.

Next year to make sure I make it, I might just have to get a team together and enter the damn thing!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: The Royal Oak, Paley Street near Maidenhead

We went to dinner at The Royal Oak earlier this week. The Royal Oak is partly known for being run by Nick, the son of Michael Parkinson. In case you can't be bothered to click, Michael Parkinson used to be a famous TV interviewer. I never saw any of his shows, other than his final goodbye program. I've seen more of him doing ads for some sort of retirement scheme on TV than anything else. Still, according to Wiki, he's a keen beekeeper, something I really admire, so he must be alright. But I digress - back to the restaurant.

The restaurant is what I would consider to be your typical old style English pub, but more restaurant than pub nowadays. It's nicely decorated with original artwork and photos on the walls and has nice clean lines to everything. The bathrooms were very very nice, a spot in restaurants that is often overlooked. No table cloths on the modern tables, which makes for an interesting change.

The place was very busy when we arrived, we had to wait for our table, but were given the menus and a chance to order a drink while we waited in seats in the front. They were a bit slow in taking our drinks order, but the drinks themselves came quickly enough. We were shown to our table a little while after placing our orders and getting our drinks. I had scallops with celeriac cream and a hazelnut dressing as a starter and my companion had duck, chicken liver and pistachio terrine. Both starters were good, the scallops were very well cooked, very tender from their light cooking. The terrine was also very good, but unfortunately the grill-toasted bread that was served with it was burnt on the grill marks, which totally overpowered the terrine. Eating it without the bread was much nicer. The grill unfortunately proved to be a problem with my main as well as I had ordered the Angus steak. After a few bites and tasting nothing but the charred marks of the grill from one side of the steak, I knew that something was amiss. Somehow, the grill must have been overheated or something, because both the bread and the steak tasted burnt from being on it. They didn't look burnt, but they certainly tasted it. G. had ordered sea bass and it was extremely good. As I wasn't enjoying the steak, he kindly offered to trade with me. After he took a bite of the steak, he also said it tasted burnt. At this point I finally knew it wasn't just me being a bit fussy, the steak was burnt. We sent it back, with which the waitress apologised profusely and did seem honestly concerned. She offered to bring another main or some more side dishes. We had enough to eat from the mains and decided to leave a bit of room for dessert instead. Desserts were burnt raspberry cream (G had his tongue firmly in his cheek when ordering that I tell you) and blackberry trifle. Once again, delicious. It was a real shame about the steak, because the rest of the food was very good.

So my rating (see here for my personal ratings guide):

Ambiance: 2.5 The atmosphere was good as I said, and the bathrooms knocked it up a notch.
Service: 2.5 Everyone who served us was friendly and efficient. I did think we waited a while to place our first drink order while waiting for our table. But the problem with the steak was dealt with professionally and an offer of a complimentary dessert and coffee was immediately put forth.
Food: 1.5 This is the sad bit. The Royal Oak deserves a better food rating than this. And although I can accept it was an anomaly, especially considering how good the rest of the food was, I can't ignore that I had to send my meal back.

So despite the problems, a good rating of 6.5 out of 9. I feel that another visit would cause the rating to go up, so I will link if I go again. For a special evening out, but with a casual atmosphere, I certainly would consider The Royal Oak.

The Royal Oak, Paley Street website:

P.S. I have been to more than the few restaurants I've reviewed here. But due to unusual circumstances of our visit or more likely, lack of time to post, I've not put any others here. I will try to do more though in the future.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Littlewick Show

So I've finally made it to another show, after being at the Thame Country show last year. We went to the Littlewick Show yesterday. My favourite bit there was the traditional gardening and baking competitions. Some of the baked products looked very nice, but to be honest the vegetables on display were nicer. I was very impressed with some of the carrots, onions and leeks that were there. The size and quality were very good. Even if I got myself organised next year, I doubt I would even place, nevermind win in some categories. But it might be good for a laugh next year, so we'll see. The baking competition should be easy enough to enter. I mean, they even give you the recipe to follow for 2 of them. I'm not saying I would have any chance of winning, but I could at least probably produce something that looked edible with just a couple of days of work. Something I can't always say even after months in the allotment!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grand European Tour - with child

Once again, we have been on holidays. This may seem rather excessive to some, but I always say everyone makes their own choices in life. We live in a small house, only have one car and live well within our means. We choose to spend our money on travel. Others make other choices and that's their choice. Plus, if we didn't travel, we'd hardly ever see any of our family or friends. So this trip was a trip around Europe to see friends scattered around the continent. We were in France, Switzerland, Germany and The Netherlands. Only Italy was missing for the classic Grand Tour. We took our car and did around 3720 km or 2310 miles. We were gone 16 days in total. Sounds a bit insane to most people, but the trip went exceedingly well. No major meltdowns along the way, we saw and did lots. Some tips if you think you are crazy enough to try it yourself.

Our daughter was 19 months old for this trip and still takes a long nap every day. So we tried to plan most of the driving to happen over this nap so that she didn't get too bored. Children nowadays are so strapped down into their seats, it's hardly a wonder they get bored, despite all the distractions. When I was a kid, I could move around, change position, fight with my sister and stretch out for a nap which helped make long journeys easier. As we went through the trip, we saw that so much driving would never have worked without these naps. So if your kids are past napping, I'd reconsider so much driving. Maybe some things like DVD players or such would help keep them occupied, I couldn't say at this stage.

We tried to break up 2 days driving with at least 2 overnights in the same spot. That way there wasn't a constant packing and unpacking of stuff, plus some consistency in location. The longer you can stay in one spot, the better. And other than one major drive of 6.5 hours (which took 10 hours with breaks), the most driving we did on any one day was 3.5 hours.

Accept the fact that you are going to explore a new town via its playgrounds and parks.

Packing was tough, but we went as light as possible. G and I shared one suitcase and laundry had to be done along the way. Having a super-light and small travel tent for Lena was good for packing. Everything we packed, we used, but even so, the back of our little hatchback was full. In fact, G was the only one who could properly pack it. Anytime I tried to do it, it was piled too high to see out of the back window.

We took a cool bag that we kept stocked with both things Lena liked for snacks and things for lunch for all of us. This saved us both time and money by not stopping in a cafe or restaurant to eat or being forced to buy expensive food from the highway gas stations.

For goodness sake, don't forget whatever blankets, lovies, teddies or dollies makes your child feel secure. Lena is pretty easygoing, but with all the changes in location and new people, she was very attached to her blanket and her "nu-nu" (dummy/soother as she calls it) during the time. I was a bit worried at first with her having them so much, I thought she would become too dependant on them even after the trip. However the day we came back, she hardly needed them at all. Having them at her beck and call during the trip offered her a good deal comfort.

If you are interested in a rough picture of what we drove, check out this link of our driving route.

Once again, thanks to everyone we stayed with and good to see all of you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The (Semi-)Local Cusine

I made a Yorkshire pudding today. It was the first time I ever made one and it was a great success, if I do say so myself. I was a bit worried about it, having tried to make popovers before and failed. As it was my first attempt, i just made it on its own, rather than putting sausages in it to make the very amusingly-named Toad-in-a-Hole meal. They were good sausages from Maceys, so I didn't want to ruin them with my inexperience. I think next time we have sausages for dinner, I will go for it. Just look for yourself:

My pride swelled nearly as much as the pudding when it came out so nice and fluffy.

Keen North American observers will notice that the object in the pictures looks nothing like a pudding. You are correct. The British usually use the term "pudding" as a general term for dessert. This isn't a dessert though. It's more of a simple bread that you eat normally with gravy and roast meat or sausages. So why is it called a pudding when it isn't dessert? Ask those wacky Yorkshire people, because I don't know. What I do know is that the leftovers are pretty nice with honey as a late-night dessert. Yorkshire pudding as pudding.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Comparing Homes

I'm back in Canada at the moment and have been noticing some of the little differences between where we live in England to where my parents live in Canada. Just a few things I've noticed this past week.

  • Rounded curbs, rather than straight edge ones, are the norm here in the suburbs.
  • Bigger parking spaces everywhere, but not much reserved parking for parents with little kids.
  • Cheaper gas. It's $1.30CDN/litre (£0.65GBP) here compared to £1.20GBP/litre ($2.42CDN) in England.
  • My elementary school no longer has school patrol in the mornings or afternoons because hardly anyone walks to school anymore. I will post more on this another day. Stay tuned.
  • There is just starting to be organic products in the grocery stores, but it is still a young market. This was similar when we were in Australia too.
  • 30°C is more scorching here as there is no cloud cover with that kind of temperature, so you get no breaks from it. However England tends to be more humid and therefore feels stickier at that temperature.
  • As in Australia, there are lots of garage sales around. In England there is very rarely garage or yard sales. I've never seen one at least. It seems most people take the stuff to boot sales, where you sell your stuff out of the back of your car.

That's a short list of small differences. It's funny what you notice and what you don't. I'm sure there are other obvious things that I just don't notice because I'm too used to both the English and the Canadian ways.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Boring Gardening Post

I know that gardening isn't everyone's idea of a fun activity, and even fewer find reading about it to be stimulating. Hence the warning in the post title today. My husband could be considered one of those who don't find gardening that thrilling, which is part of the reason I went to the Open Gardens Day in Cookham Dean on Sunday without him. I made it to 4 out of the 5 gardens and it looked like the day was a big success, as there was loads and loads of people around with programs in hand. I paid extra for good weather on the weekend (we had a BBQ to celebrate someone's 30th birthday) and it was well worth the expense, plus the open gardens benefited as well from the mild good weather. As all the money was going to charity, Thames Hospicecare, so I'm glad so many people came.

It was a good mix of gardens, from some small ones about the size of our back yard to a big acre and a half plot which I didn't make it to sadly. I guess it makes sense to show a variety, rather than just the same type. I liked the two that also had vegetable plots the most. Partly because I liked the vegetables, but also because they felt like gardens people actually use and enjoy, rather than something created for a look or maintained to keep up the good surroundings of the house. But it was interesting see all of them. I'm sure lots of people were like me and were checking out the houses as much as the gardens. Cookham Dean is considered to be the rich part of Cookham, and there are some mansions about the place that would help you confirm it (not that the Rise or the village don't have them, but the Dean has more). So it's fun to have a gawk about and see how the better off live.

On my own allotment, I was getting a bit disheartened with the slugs eating my squashes, the grass growing better and faster than any of my plants, etc etc. But there is one thing that is keeping me going - I've had some absolutely fabulous strawberries this past week. They are one part of my plot where I've managed to keep the weeds in check and there were giant, sweet and flavoursome red jewels for me to pick as a reward for my vigilance. Lena likes them too. In fact, she currently doesn't make too much fuss leaving the playground and the swings to head over to the allotment, because she knows that the strawberries can be found there. G. has had very few of the strawberries, as between Lena and I, we usually manage to eat all the berries right there and then. Perhaps it will be encouragement for him to go up to the plot and do a bit of watering and maintenance for me while I'm away with Lena in Canada the next 2 weeks. A girl can hope.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Getting Done

So I have another check on my list of British experiences. My bank card details have been stolen. There was a call yesterday from my bank's fraud department, asking to call back urgently. I only got the message this morning and dutifully called. After doing a few security check questions, it seems that someone has been trying to use a fake copy of my debit card in Canada and the U.S. They managed to get out around 150 pounds on the card. Apparently we won't have to pay it back after filling out the requisite forms (stay tuned if that isn't the case), but it's still a bit upsetting to have it happen in the first place. After reading the front page of the weekly local newspaper, Maidenhead Advertiser, it seems that the gas station (aka petrol garage) that I filled up the car earlier this month is the likely culprit. Well to be fair, they aren't the culprit, they are victims too, as it's likely the station was targeted by a gang of criminals. What annoys me is that I never fill up there, this was the only time. Argh. Ah well, it's not the end of the world, but for some people whose accounts have been cleaned out, it might feel like it. And it comes on top of our phone not working yesterday because someone had stolen the copper wiring from the local exchange overnight. (See the story What NO Phone, NO Internet? for more details.) So right now, this week, I'm not really enjoying the local British life that much.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Grand Prix of Singing

The Eurovision Song Contest is tonight. My North American and Australian readers might be saying, "The what?" to that announcement. That was certainly my reaction when I first heard people in Munich talking about the Grand Prix. I assumed they were talking about car racing at first, as that's the name by which I knew Formula 1. But with all the talk of costumes, voting and oh yeah, singing; I realised it couldn't quite be Michael Schumacher they were talking about.

If you are that interested in it, you can read about it in my first link. If you're not that interested, just a few quick facts for you to take to your next trivia quiz. ABBA won Eurovision contest in 1974, which basically paved their way to fame. 1988 was the year Celine Dion won the contest (performing for Switzerland, not Canada). And Riverdance, the Irish dance show sensation, started as a 7 minute filler during the 1994 Eurovision. Funny that the filler became more famous than the act that won.

This will be my first time watching it with the BBC coverage, and only my 2nd or 3rd time over all. Apparently half the reason my British friends watch the show is simply for the dry witty comments from Terry Wogan, so that is something to look forward to. Everyone in Munich always complained, "It just wasn't the same" without Terry covering it. So tonight is my chance to see if it's even close to worth the cheesy hype it's given.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Turning British or just Odd

First of all, an apology for the lack of posts for so long. We were away for a few weeks and I've fallen out of the habit. Hopefully this will be the start of a revival.

So, the idea of this blog is that we are the colonials infiltrating the Brits. However, I think the Brits are infiltrating me. I found myself watching coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show last night. Okay, I admit it, I watched an hour of it on Monday too, that's how bad it's getting. My interest in gardening is normally limited to vegetables, but for some reason, I was attracted to watch a show about show gardens. Not really anything much I can take back to my own Garden of Weeden; these are pretty fancy and expensive gardens. Rightly or wrongly, I felt like an old woman watching the show.

Speaking of weeds, I decided to put some of those weeds to good use and make nettle soup. Surprisingly, there wasn't as many nettles as I thought on the plot - the couch grass much be beating it. But I got enough to make the soup. It was a lovely green colour and the taste was alright too. But the texture was yuck. Even pureed, it still felt like I was eating a bowl of chewy grass. I'm pretty sure I let it wilt enough, so I don't know how it could have been a smoother texture. And rightly or wrongly, I felt like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall eating the soup.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Celeb Spotting and Market Hopping

I saw my first famous person this week. Well, other than the Queen, but that was hardly an unexpected siting, driving down to Ascot. This week, I almost literally bumped into Michel Roux as I was walking down Maidenhead High Street. This is the elder Michel Roux, not his nephew. It took me nearly until I had passed him to recognise him, as obviously I wasn't really on the lookout. All I really noted was that he was wearing bright orange cords and is a bit shorter than I expected. I don't know what I expected to be honest. I think living with G, who is pretty tall, makes me think the average is taller than it is. No, I didn't ask him for a free lunch at Le Gavroche or The Waterside Inn, but it did cross my mind.
I had to laugh that the first British celebrity I spot is a chef. That speaks volumes of what I watch on TV. Apparently there was some actress whose path we always used to cross when we walked the the Long Walk but I never actually noticed her nor knew her name when I was told. Chefs are much more my cup of tea.

In a food related tangent, the Cookham Country Market will be closing down in April, according to the Cookham website (this is not a permanent link). I'm really a bit sad about this. I didn't go to it super regularly or anything, but I did go several times and it was always nice to go there and pick up a pie, or some jam or chutney or what have you. They will continue, but once a month in Bourne End. I really don't know why it's going to Bourne End rather than staying in Cookham. If it's only going to be once a month, wouldn't there be enough custom in Cookham for it? The market was one of those pros on a very long list of why I like living in Cookham and it's sad to cross something off that list.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A couple of updates

Lena is coming on in leaps and bounds in every way. She has a small vocabulary of about five words (mama, dada, more, slide, up) and a few signs to communicate with. She is walking quite well and really enjoys singing nursery rhymes now. So below you can see a few videos of her in action.

This first one is her doing the actions to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. You'll notice that she's ahead of the song since she knows it so well.

And this video is of her walking a circuit in the living room. Facebook viewers will have seen this one already.

In other updates, the leak in the roof above our bathroom has reappeared. We got a cheap and simple fix to the problem, as we are looking at putting on an extension on top of it, so it seemed a bit silly to spend several hundred pounds on something that would be ripped out in a few months. And admittedly, the leak isn't where it was repaired, but a different location nearby. It's only because it's been raining quite a bit recently compared to our dry and sunny February that I've noticed it. So action will again have to be taken. Sigh.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A dirty story

The weather has been quite nice lately. It was apparently the sunniest February on record for the UK. It's gotten me itchy to plant things and get things growing in our backyard and in my allotment. I started off some pepper plant seeds a few weeks ago and was very pleased to find that all of them had sprouted. My secret? A wet paper towel in a plastic tray, covered with plastic wrap and put into our boiler cupboard. A steady 25-30°C and hey presto! Seeds grew. So obviously paper towel isn't the best nutrient base for seeds, so I transferred them today to some pots with soil. Along with them, I planted 4 different types of tomato seeds in soil as well. They were all sitting on our bed, catching a few rays before being put to bed in the cupboard.

Off I went to take a bath after potting the seeds and planting a few other things like sage in the backyard. Before I went to the bath, I got Lena up out of her crib from her nap. She enjoys standing on her chair and looking out to the street, especially after napping. So I left her there and told G. where she was before going off to my bath. G. was downstairs playing a computer game. As I got into the bath, I had a passing thought that it was awfully quiet in the rest of the house. But I decided that I had passed on the baton and wasn't going to interfere.

About 20 minutes later, I heard G. go upstairs and several exclamations from him. Soon he came down and brought Lena into the bathroom. Her hands, feet and mouth were covered with soil, along with a light dusting on all her clothes. She had crossed from her room to our and gotten into the pots, tracking dirt all over our bedroom. I was 5% sad about the plant setback, but 95% amused by what had happened. Lena joined me in the bath while G. worked on cleaning up the mess. He commented that she had been really quiet all the time she was upstairs. I told him that whenever she is quiet for too long, I always go up to see why she's being quiet. Not really the way I'd choose to get that message across, but hopefully effective for the future.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Earl J. Woods, Liberal Candidate for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville

This post is off my normal subject of life in the UK. This is a post about a good friend of mine who is running in the Alberta provincial election on March 3rd. Earl J. Woods is running in the riding of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, which just happens to be the same riding as Ed Stelmach, the current premiere of Alberta. The current premiere is a member of the Conservative Party, who have been in power in Alberta for over 30 years. So, considering this, Earl needs all the help he can get to have a chance in this election.

My politics don't play a part in this really. I haven't lived in Alberta for a long time now. What plays a part is the fact that I know Earl is a sincere fellow who believes in what he says and follows through on his convictions. More praise for a politician would be difficult for me to give. Earl's reasons for why he wants change in Alberta are personal, yet experiences that many have shared as well.

If you live in the Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville riding, I urge you to vote for Earl J. Woods on March 3, 2008.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fat Tuesday

Today, in case the less religious amongst you doesn't know, is Shrove Tuesday. Also known as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake Day in the UK; Mardi Gras in New Orleans and most of South America; Fasching, Fastnacht or Karneval in Germany. Basically, it's the last day before Lent, the last day you can really party and eat up before setting down to 40 days of fasting. The reason for the pancakes is to use up all your eggs, one of the foods traditionally avoided during Lent. The Germans don't have pancakes, they eat Krapfen, which are basically jelly doughnuts. The Germans also have Krapfen on offer for several weeks to months before Shrove Tuesday, which can be a killer if you have a sweet tooth and are trying to watch your weight.

Other than making pancakes and there usually being a pancake race in some towns, nothing really happens in the UK for this day. On the other hand, in Germany people dress up in costumes (fancy-dress for the Brits) and in parts of the country it's an official holiday. Cologne and Mannheim, to name two of the more famous places. In Munich, it is sort of a semi-holiday. Lots of businesses and shops close for the day, or close at noon, but many others stay open. It's simply a matter of chance, as far as I can tell. Along with eating up their eggs in the Krapfen, the Germans also like to do a fair amount of drinking at Fasching. I have many memories, some strong, some very vague, of partying and drinking from around noon until late at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich. Really, considering the enormity of the hangovers, the Wednesday after should be the holiday, not the Tuesday.

We combined a bit of both German and British culture for Shrove Tuesday. We had the pancakes, in the form of crêpes. And we had the alcohol, in the form of a healthy dose of Grand Marnier in the Crêpes Suzette sauce. Lena just had scrambled eggs, no Grand Marnier. Just in case you were worried.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Joys of Home Ownership

We have a leak in the roof over our bathroom. This was discovered during some of the monsoon weather earlier this month. Who knew that January was the rainy season in England? Anyways, this will hopefully be fixed soon. But it does lead to a topic of great interest to Brits.

DIY. Do It Yourself. It was years ago when I first heard the term, but I do remember not having a clue what the person was talking about when they said they had spent the weekend "doing some DIY". And of course, not realising that the term DIY isn't universal among English speakers, the person I was talking to didn't understand where the confusion was about their weekend activities. DIY refers to anything someone might attempt to do to improve their home without calling in professionals. Which could be anything from fixing a blocked drain, to hanging a picture, to putting up an extension on your house. Usually slightly closer to my first two examples, but not always. For some Brits, it's a national sport.

For our leaky roof, we are NOT DIYing it. A couple of reasons. One, if we get it wrong and it still leaks, we'll definitely have to call in professionals. It's not something like a slightly misaligned picture on the wall that you can either live with or take down until you are ready to try again. Two, I don't have the resources to call on here that I would if we lived closer to family. Because if we did, my first port of call in such a case would be to phone up my dad or father-in-law and ask them. I think that's what fathers are for a good percentage of the time - fixing stuff. Especially once you leave home and find you don't own everything you need to do something. Which they probably do own, having spent a lifetime collecting ladders, nails, screws, extra shingles, generators, old skis, odd bits of wire, random sturdy boxes, receptacles made out of pop cans, radios, band saws, 4 types of glue and a claw hammer. Without this big collection of materials (plus their experience) to draw on, calling in the professionals will probably be the quicker and more efficient option. And with something like a leak, it can't really wait until one our dads visits again.