Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Retro Travel Tuesday: The Great British Seaside with the Grandparents (Sutton on Sea)

When my brother Edward and I were 5 or so, our Grandparents took us to the seaside. We went to Sutton-on-Sea, to be precise, which is a real seaside resort! Our Grandparents were very young. My Gran, in particular, was something of a sixties knock out with the smallest waist known to man and silver-blonde hair!

Gran riding on Ed's bicycle!
I think of this time at the moment because I have just received a postcard from my Gran who is there. She has said it is exactly the same. She also said that she fell up a step going into her hotel room and banged her head on the wardrobe whilst holding a bottle of wine in one hand and the glass in the other. I guess other things don't change either!! 

Every time I have ever been to one of these British seaside resorts, they are always the same. They never change and you can expect certain things. Some might consider the British seaside resort dated. I consider it timeless!

And where there will always be buckets and spades, there will always be large sand constructions like this racing car my little brother seems to be astounded by!

Back in the day air travel was expensive and our Great British Grandparents wouldn't have been so mobile as we are now. As such there will always be that old couple (As seen in the background of this pic) sitting on fold up chairs reliving their salad days. 

There will always be children because, let's face it, travel is still expensive if you have children!! This is Edward and I with our new toys. I remember that baby in my right hand because it was a baby boy complete with genitalia, which amused us immensely!

Grandpa bought us both a wooden boat and took us to the Mapleleaf Pool to practice floating them! It was really an enduring memory of mine. Everything about this photo is so retro! I doubt you will find many of those amazing 80s shell suits anymore?!

And there will always be decor like this. So outdated it is now termed retro and I am actually starting to like it again!! See how interested in that baby doll I was?! Genitalia? On a baby doll?? Crazy times in the 80s.

Just ensure that the donkeys are well cared for! They should be affiliated with The Donkey Sanctuary. In this photo Ed and I are toddling along on our donkeys. It was perhaps these early donkey rides that sparked a lifelong love of horses and horse riding!

Here is Ed beating me in his go kart. Alas, I was not very good. I probably wouldn't be very good now either. Still, who cares, I am not bitter - who carries grudges against their brothers from the 80s?!

What did I miss?

Fish and chips
Cream Tea
Mystic Megs
Bad weather
Ice cream and candy floss
Sun cream
Sticks of rock
Rock pools

Q: Does anyone else have any good memories from the Great British Seaside?

Travel Tuesday

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Silent Sunday

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Sugar and Spice (and all things nice) Tuna Steak Recipe

What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice, that's what little girls made of. Accordingly, this sugar and spice tuna fillet recipe is perfect for us girls. We can leave the boys to their frogs and snails and puppy tails while we snack on this!

2 tuna steaks
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 heaped tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1) Preheat oven to 450
2) Mix oil and lemon. Drizzle over tuna steaks and allow to marinade for 5 mins or so.
3) In the meantime, combine all dry ingrediencts and salt to taste and sprinkle onto tuna, using the back of the spoon to rub into tuna to coat. 
4) Bake for 10-15 minutes (or however long you like - I like my tuna steak fairly well done!) on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.
5) Eat!!! Garnish with yummy lemon and serve with some colourful vegetables. I always like green beans with fish!
 If you aren't keen on tuna steak, this recipe also works for salmon and other fish. 

Oh...and save those leftover lemons, because I have been perfecting my spicy lemonade for a while now and it is almost ready to share!
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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Expat Experience: My top three foods in Hamilton (or more accurately Canada)!!

Good morning!! It is Saturday morning and Luke is still sleeping after a busy night in which I forced him to take me out to play pool and then get poutine for this post! Today I am once more linking up with Molly at The Move to America to write a 'top three' for food where I live. Technically, this is more a top three Canadian foods thing and even then it is the top three things that I enjoy!

Three - Johnnycakes and maple syrup
When the first settlers came to Canada, of course there were financial struggles and struggles through the harsh winters. One way to get by was to bake these frugal pancake-like cakes, using cornmeal as a staple ingredient. 
Of course, I couldn't wait to give them a go and they are so quick and easy to make! Add maple syrup or fruit or jams or even egg and you have a savoury breakfast. 
Click on this picture for the recipe!!

Two - Pacific Salmon

Again - this is not specific to Hamilton. We are so far away from the sea it would be hard to get salmon freshly fished. In fact, the pacific salmon has just been named British Columbia's 'national fish'. Salmon certainly is more popular here though. I bought everyone pacific salmon pate for Christmas and when my brother's girlfriend came to stay with us in England from BC a few years back, her Dad sent her a salmon for her birthday!

One - Poutine

The other day I read that one sure way to upset a Canadian is to say, 'poutine? That's just chips and gravy isn't it?' because it is so much more than that! Yes, the basics are chips, gravy and cheese curds. But the toppings after that? Pulled pork, chicken, beef, steak. My personal favourite is nacho poutine from Smoke's Poutinerie in Hamilton. A delicious combination of guacomole, salsa and jalapeño peppers.

The Move to America
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Thursday, 17 July 2014

My Expat Family

Hi folks - today I am linking up with Seychelles Mama to write about 'my expat family'. I have to warn those of you who are prone to tears, it is a tear jerker and if you happen to be my sister, you may wish to skip the first few paragraphs!

Seychelles Mama

I remember when I first came to Canada and I heard a small child in Toronto talking to his parents. His feet were wet because of the snow and he said 'Mommy, my feet don't feel so good'. I will never forget it because I had worked with children my whole life, but had never heard one who had a Canadian accent before. It was all different - Mommy, not Mummy, the words, such slang used. I would have insisted 'No, sweetheart, you mean 'my feet are wet''. I realised then that if I have children here, they will have accents. I don't know how I feel about that. 

After working with children here, the accent is now commonplace. When I speak to my nephews in England, their little British accents seem so quaint and adorable. They use such proper words and such long sentences. Their vocabulary seems so advanced. Although I know that it isn't that it is advanced, it is just different, it sounds that way to my ears now.

Ahhh my nephews. The photo to the left is of me holding one of my nephews when he was a couple of months old. Who knew it was possible to fall so quickly in love with another human being? If there were anything that would have stopped me from leaving England, it would have been the two little men in my life. There is honestly nobody that I miss more than them. 

I have put off writing much about them, because the worst part about life here is not having them near to me all of the time. It is difficult to think of. 

The last time I saw my eldest nephew was at Christmas time. I love that we have such a very close bond, although it does make life here harder. The last time I saw him, he didn't want to come downstairs at my parents' house, unless I went up to see him. When I did he whispered that he didn't want to go because he didn't know when he would see me again. Even now that is the most traumatic memory that I have about expatriation. 

Ai ai ai - are you crying yet? I just had to take a quick break from writing this - that is as bad as it gets, I promise!!

The photo to the right is of my nephew and I when he picked me up from the airport at Christmas - can you see the joy?!

All this is harder at the moment as I am living in limbo, unable to go home to see them, with no answers as to when I might be able to go home. Although, I am pretty sure it won't be until the end of summer 2015. At least. How awful. How cruel is the Canadian system that can keep loved ones separated like this. I hate it. I try not to be bitter, though it is hard.

Recently, I had a letter from a friend/stranger (as we have never actually met) and she addressed what I had said had happened with my nephew. She wrote about her Uncle, who was an expat in Australia. He used to visit her every year and when she was little she would always hide his passport. She said she loved him so much and these little protests are really signs of having a fantastic relationship. I know a couple of stories like these. I so hope it is true.

I realised that if I stayed in England that I might not have a family of my own. I moved to Canada to be with the love of my life. There is no equal to him for me and without him, I will never have children of my own.

Children of my own bring about complications also!  I don't want children who don't know about their heritage or about their family in England!

I will remedy this. My plan is to take them home for the summer (the whole summer) every year. 

Best laid plans and all that...who knows what will happen in real life. I like to have a plan in place that I could live with, but moreso I like to remind myself that everything is temporary and to live for today. I find that thought comforting.

I just morphed the faces of Luke and me to see what our babies would look like. Is that a weird thing to do? Perhaps, but look..


Yeah...that was definitely a weird thing to do.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Yarn Along - various WIPs and a book review of 'Eloise' by Judy Finnigan.

Happy Hump Day! It is almost the weekend :) I hope everyone is having a good week so far? I have had a crazy productive week knitting and reading wise. I have started a fair few new projects (although I have finished none of them).

I went to the library last week, for the first time in ages, and I am so glad I did as I had forgotten just how much I enjoy going! As such, the house is a beautiful mess of yarn and books lying around everywhere, driving everyone mad! Apart from the cat. She, of course, loves yarn lying around everywhere!

Knitting can be a pretty messy job! All of the little tiny pieces of yarn that the cat sheds all over the floor and all of the needles that go missing down the back of the couch. 

I use the arm of the sofa as a pin cushion for my needles, which Luke hates!
I was going to write up the pattern for my knitted scarf this week, but because I have started so many new projects I haven't had time to weave in the ends. I hate finishing and weaving in ends! I am sure I can't be the only one?

I got the cute Cath Kidston knitting needle roll as a gift for a birthday a long time ago. The knitting needles were wooden and they have, for the most part long since split or broken or been munched up by the dog, but I love the roll and I keep most of my smaller needles in it.

I started this project this week - I am making a VW campervan part toy - part stuffy for my nephew, whose parents have a campervan and who has always loved them. I will probably buy some little plastic toys to go inside it or something? Thoughts? I will have to post this pattern too when it is done. At the moment it looks more like a train carriage or something! It will look better when I have added the embellishments etc.

I got this book about knitted lace shawls from the library and I have started knitting a lace shawl! It is a relatively simple pattern. I didn't have any lace yarn, but the yarn I am using is not much thicker. It is looking pretty good so far.

As for reading, I have just finished 'Eloise' by Judy Finnigan. I was less than enthralled. This is my review of the book:

Eloise by Judy Finnigan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I chose to read this book because it is about a lady named Eloise (my cousin's name) and it is set in Cornwall (where I grew up). It is a story about a lady named Eloise who died tragically from breast cancer, leaving behind her family. Cathy, the main character, who has suffered from depression for a long time, begins to 'channel' the spirit of Eloise and fights to find the truth about Eloise's life and death.

It was an easy page turner, I had finished it in just a couple of days but I gave it 2 stars because I found the grasp on the plot line quite tenuous at times. The ghost of Eloise quite conveniently hasn't got the strength to tell Cathy, the main character who is channeling Eloise's ghost, who killed her, leaving the reader guessing. I just found this both transparent in its attempt to keep you reading and rather weak as far as writing goes. Although, it worked because I definitely kept reading!

I disliked the relationship between Cathy and her husband Chris. I couldn't understand why she would want to be with such a cretin. I disliked the way in which Cathy was portrayed - as some weak silly girl. There wasn't a character in this story that I really enjoyed. The story was slow moving and the plot was weak.

Judy Finnigan, the author, is one half of the TV show Richard and Judy. I hadn't realised this to begin with, but now that I do, I can tell it was she that wrote it. The way in which she writes is condescending - it is as though she hates all of her characters and is judging them as she writes about them. Accordingly, I too disliked her characters!

View all my reviews

Oh yeah..I have also been knitting lots of little flowers and sticking them to a wreath! This is a long term working project though. I keep it on the door downstairs and just add to it as/when.


International Money Transfers - How do you do it?

Good morning folks! The weather is terrible here this morning. The sky is not so much grey as black! The rain is running down the road like a river. This weather reminds me of that saying 'saving for a rainy day' and now that I am unable to work for a spell, it certainly seems like everyday is a rainy one financially! I have never had to be better or wiser with my money. 

Making wise financial choices as an expat is paramount - there are always hidden costs along the road and you need to be clever with your money.

In an ideal World, you won't take any debts with you to your new country - no student loans, no overdrafts, no credit cards or outstanding payments on store cards. That said, this isn't an ideal World and, if necessary, you will need to consider how you will make international money transfers so that you won't get stung!

When I first started working in Canada, I relied on being able to make quick and easy international money transfers to my English bank accounts from my Canadian bank account. 

I got my first bank account with BMO (Bank of Montreal) and had to pay a princely sum of $15 a month for the privilege of having a bank account - which was a new thing for me! To pay for a money transfer from BMO to my English HSBC account would have cost $100. Clearly, if you are making monthly payments to an English account $100 is far too high a charge, unless you are making large one-time deposits and you don't want to pay a high exchange rate.
www.paypal.comThe way I negotiated this large fee was to transfer my money through PayPal monthly - from a Canadian PayPal account to an English PayPal account. You do lose money through their exchange rate, but there are no large fees to pay every month, so it works out more economically.
There are many companies dealing with international money transfers. Your bank, if asked, may deal with international money transfers but your best bet is to deal with a company that deals solely with international money transfers as they will offer the most competitive rates.


Travelex is one such company. They enable you to transfer money from one bank account directly to another in two different countries. Their exchange rate is the same as the most competitive exchange rates when transferring CAD (Canadian Dollar) to GBP (Great British Pound). I am really excited to have found them.

I worked to match Western Union Transfer against Travelex and they just don't compare. Travelex offer the more competitive exchange rate, without a doubt.

Finally I won't be losing so much money through international transfer rates - it has only taken me a year and a half to work this out!!

My travel money from when I came here for my first summer - it seems so excessive now!

Q: Do you have any international money transfer tips?
What companies do you use?