It’s been a long time and the thing that’s inspired me to write is not all of the exciting things I’ve been doing  (because obviously watching television in bed at 7:30pm is exciting), but rather, my thoughts on British cooking programs.

Actually, when I say program I am really just referring to Mary Berry. Coming to England from a world where I would happily watch 12 hour marathons of Ace of Cakes, I found a serious lack of the type of cooking program I would normally watch on North American television. Specifically, there were no high-pressure challenges requiring participants to create towering structures of sugar.

What I found instead was The Great British Bake Off, which is like survivor and baking mixed together. Except everyone is really polite and lovely and instead of an island the contestants get to bake in a lovely white marquee in the English countryside. And when someone goes home everyone cries. Oh, and there is cake! and cookies! and sweet buns!

In other words, it’s basically the best thing ever.

It was on bake-off that I first discovered Mary Berry, my personal hero. I could go on for ages about her background, etc. (I just finished reading her biography) but instead I’ll focus on what I like about her best (note: although close contenders it’s not her dizzying array of cardigans or her use of ‘soggy bottoms’ as a baking descriptor)

The best thing about Mary is how much she KNOWS about baking and cooking. Don’t get me wrong—I am certain you don’t wind up on television cooking and having no idea what you are doing (although I question some of the Master Chef contestants). The difference with Mary is that instead of a few vague instructions, a celebrity guest and an astonishingly perfect soufflé whipped out at the end, she actually EXPLAINS what she’s doing. If someone doesn’t turn out quite right, she explains why. If she does something that might seem unnecessarily fiddly she makes sure to tell us why we shouldn’t skip that step. Her programs are actually about cooking and not about producing the perfect dish every time. I’m actually re-watchng ‘Mary Berry Cooks’ in reruns because it’s so excellent.

I’m not sure where I am actually going with this. Perhaps just to note that if I ever did have a chance to bake for Mary the  miserable summer I spent sweating to death in a bakery when I was 15 would seem very worth it indeed!




I’ve been thinking a lot about travel lately. Possibly because today Gareth is off once again to New York and I realized that it’s been exactly 8 years since Katie and I went on our own Big Apple Adventure.

If you had asked me 8 years ago what I might be doing now I find it hard to image I would have said anything close to where I have ended up. I’ve never really had a ‘plan’ for myself, but I had always sort of assumed I would be one of the ‘lucky ones’ who would find a teaching job in Ontario, settle down, and live out the rest of my life wondering about ‘what if’

Or maybe I didn’t think that. I suppose if I really believed my life was meant to turn out like that i would have stayed put, stuck out supply teaching, and saved money like a responsible adult rather than packing up and moving off to Europe. 

Even when I made the move to London I never thought I would see as many places as I have, or that I would still be here nearly four years later. I also couldn’t imagine that I would find Gareth, the best fellow adventurer!

Luckily, Gareth is used to my ‘Kristen ways’ and when I suddenly decided a few weeks ago that I needed to get out of London for a few days he was on board with me booking a spontaneous trip to Barcelona for us. 

Despite travelling frequently during my first few years in London, it’s been more difficult the more settled I’ve become. As responsibilities increase so to does disposable income decrease and I’ve become more selective about where and when I go.

Spain was one of those places that was always on my ‘list’ but was never at the top. I don’t really know why—certainly everyone has always seemed surprise that among my list of travelled to places, random as it is sometimes (Tunisia, anyone?), I still had not been to Spain. So, when it came time to book a weekend away, I thought ‘why not? might as well go see what everyone is on about.’ 

I am a firm believer that it is not necessarily where you go in life, but who you go with. Gareth knows me well enough to put up with my airport stress (aka, yelling and crying at various point for no reason), and also when to tell me not to have another glass of sangria (both crucial for actually making it onto the flight). He’s also happy to take things as they come (i.e. sleeping in if we want to and skipping out on attractions if the line is too long), which turned out to be a good thing on our trip.

Impressions of Barcelona? Relaxed! Everything seemed very laid back, which is the kind of atmosphere I like when I’m travelling. It can be difficult exploring a city where you don’t know the language, particularly if everyone is rushing around trying to get to somewhere or something. 

The main ‘sights’ I wanted to see were examples of Gaudi’s architecture. For anyone not familiar with Gaudi’s work, I’d advise you to google him! Amazing, unique buildings. They remind me of what I think buildings would look like if the Flintstones went to the big city (again, google him, you’ll see what I mean). Unfortunately one of the main ones I wanted to visit was under construction and covered by scaffolding (and a Versace ad) and the line to get into the Sagrada Familia was MUCH too long to wait in, but we did have a great time exploring Park Guell. 

Best parts of Barcelona?

1. Architecture (Gaudi’s buildings are definitely unlike anything I had seen before) 

2. Sangria (it came in punch bowl sized glasses and I probably could have stayed at a cafe on Las Ramblas making my way though them and not doing ANYTHING else and still would have had a good trip) 

3. Paella (So nice I had it twice! Spanish McDonalds was also an interesting experience….)

4. Sun! (Ok, so it wasn’t *that* hot—only about 25 degrees at hottest, but felt like the tropics when coming off the heels of the wettest winter in many years) 

Of course, now that we’ve returned all I can think about is where we will go next. I’ve realized that by not shopping (which was what I gave up for lent) I actually am not as broke as I always think I am. Does this mean I will give up shopping? Probably not (after all, I will need a new wardrobe for our summer holiday) but it is a good incentive not to walk through the shopping mall in Canary Wharf every day after work. 


I love purses (note: the English refer to a purse as a handbag and a ladies’ wallet as a purse—in this context I will be using the Canadian terms). 

I fully believe that, much like a good pair of boots, a quality purse is a good investment. A well-made leather bag will last for years if properly cared for and doesn’t really go out of style. To me, buying one good-quality bag that I can use year-round and that will last for years is more important than buying a dozen trendy bags at a lower cost. 

My current bag is the Cedar Street Maise, from Kate Spade. I first saw this bag online and lusted after it for weeks until I finally caved (and by caved, I mean got paid) and bought it as a Christmas present…for myself. I was a bit apprehensive about spending so much on such a brightly coloured bag, but being that I already had a trusty brown leather cross-body I convinced myself to go for it. 

The verdict? Absolutely worth it. The leather is coated and cleans easily (important for a light coloured bag) and I haven’t had any dye transfer. It’s big enough to fit all of my ‘essentials’ (many of which, I suspect, are not actually very essential) and I’ve had strangers stop me to ask where I got it (worth the price). 

The only down-side I can really think of is that my tablet won’t fit, and any books I cram in need to be on the slim side. That being said, I think I fall into the category of ‘typical female’ (and being that I am female, I defend my right to stereotype myself) in that the bigger the bag, the more crap I will cram into it. But how much of it do I really need?

In preparation for our wee holiday this weekend I decided to do my bi-monthly bag clean-out, anticipating the treasures (many lip glosses!) and horrors (many receipts and half-eaten lockets packs!) that awaited. 

Not as bad as I thought, actually (the pile of crumpled and coffee stained receipts are not pictured)

So, I’ll start on the top left with my keys and work my way through, probably in an order only logical to myself and which I won’t really bother to explain now (hint: I’ll be making it up as I go along!)

1. Keys

My keys are notable for 2 reasons: a) they let me into the flat and b) they have lots of fancy keychains courtesy mostly of Gareth, who has excellent key ring-buying taste (light up lego Darth Vader?! yes, please!)

2. Foldable shopping bag

A must for carrying heavy bottles of champagne for ‘drink in the afternoon Sundays’

3. Lipglosses

As alluded to earlier, I have a bit of a problem when it comes to lipgloss. The irony here is that my lips are constantly dry and chapped because I never remember to wear any of it, and when I do the kids question why I am so ‘fancy.’ And yes, you counted correctly, there are 6 (one of which I bought earlier today). 

4. Royal Mail delivery card

My second card in as many days. I am usually really excited to get these, but as I had been at the delivery office this morning when this one arrived I can’t help but feel a tad irate. I could alway go back, but there is always a chance it won’t be back at the office yet (the helpful delivery man didn’t leave a time to go collect). 

5. Medicines

If you know me, you know I am constantly complaining about some sort of ailment. The most common ones are blocked nose, sore throat and tummy ache so I’ve usually got some spare meds buried away in all my bags (the nose spray being the most important)

6. Candy & Tampons

Because if I have to have my period, I want to use it as an excuse to eat candy for lunch.

7. Hand cream

Sometimes when people smell really badly on public transport I put a bunch of this on and then spend the ride smelling my hands. I’d rather be the ‘weird girl sniffing her hands that smell overpoweringly of floral scents’ than a smelly person.

8. Travelcard holders

Don’t let my criticism of smelly strangers fool you—I may hate people but I love the tube and London transport network. The tube-map patterned holder is for my Oyster (thanks Gareth) and the butterfly-patterned holder is for my train tickets (thanks Emma!). 

9. Pens and nail files

This way when I end up in a meeting I forgot was happening I can pretend to be at least semi-prepared. The nail files are also critical—if I get a chip or tear in a nail it NEEDS to be smoothed—or else I will rip the entire nail off. I’ve accepted it. 

10. Purse (also known as a wallet)

Gareth got me this little beauty for Valentines Day and I adore it. It fits another hole cornucopia of wonders (like my library card and random Canadian change) and is the first really nice wallet I’ve ever owned.

11. Panda!!!

This is actually a coin purse that my little brothers sent me for Christmas. It’s pretty radical and fits (or hides?) yet another tube of lipgloss. Actually, this time it’s a Chanel lipstick that I don’t really wear because it’s bright red and I’m afraid it makes me look like a pirate hooker. 

12. Piles of tickets, cards, etc.

I carefully edited this pile before the picture and removed all the crumpled, useless bits. Remaining are things like ticket stubs from the play Gareth and I went to last weekend when Cheryl was visiting and my loyalty card to the ceramic painting place. 

13. Headphones

Since I needed it to take the photos (despite the fact that there is an actual camera not 30cms away) one of the most important elements of my purse contents is not pictured—my beloved iPhone, which I use mainly as an instagramming/tapped out playing machine. As you can see I have never opened the headphones, which is mainly down to me being too technologically inept to figure out how to sync my itunes to my phone. 

It’s at this point on our tour (the end) that I feel obliged to mention that I am on my Easter break and my daily activities are obviously really exciting. In the end it was this or do two weeks worth of ironing (ha!) 


I started off today feeling optimistic. It was sunny(ish), my bleaching experiment successfully(ish) whitened my previously disgusting white Toms and I was well prepared for the day.

And then it was one of those days—you know the ones. A day where nothing in particular goes wrong (discounting the GIANT spider that decided to visit my desk this afternoon) but nothing really goes that right either. A day where you start off smiling and end up on the brink of tears…..and the worst part is that there is no real reason—at least no sensible one.

I hate these days and I am the worst for dealing with them— I find myself in what one might call ‘the downward spiral.’ One minor thing doesn’t go my way because I realize that my reaction of being unreasonably upset is disproportionate to the actual situation I start to think about all the other ‘horrible things’ to rationalize how I am feeling. This of course just makes me more upset and the cycle repeats. 

Usually the only thing to do when I am feeling this way is to go to bed. Some people prefer kind words and hugs and while I welcome these they are pretty much guaranteed to make me cry (again, for no reason). If I go to sleep I can forget my troubles for a little while and hope that tomorrow things will be set right again. 

Today I’ve decided to do something different—force myself to think about  good things rather than wallow in the bad. I know that left to my own devices I won’t do this—but maybe my committing to writing this and publishing it I’ll have more resolve.

Kristen’s Good Things

1. Tomorrow is Friday

2. 2 more sleeps until Gareth is back

3. Cheryl arrives Monday for a visit 

4. Ten years from now this bad day will not matter and I probably won’t even remember it. 

There. Four good things to look forward to. I don’t necessarily feel better, but more importantly, I don’t feel worse. 


Considering that I have an excellent travel mug and fancy coffee maker (thanks Gareth!) I still spend an embarrassing amount of mornings and money at my local Starbucks. Actually, even without the benefit of the cup and krupps, I probably would have a problem.

It all started last July. It was the last day of school and I got up earlier than I ever had done in my intense excitement. I decided I would head into work early and revel in my last few hours as a responsible professional before sweet, sweet freedom. Part of this decision came from my concurrent decision to stop at the Starbucks (located in the DLR station in Canary Wharf) and treat myself to a breakfast latte. 

The Starbucks in the DLR station was my Starbucks of choice; convenient and on my way, it served me many a sleepy morning as I stumbled down the escalator on my way to the tube. It also had a built in ‘control’—if it looked too busy or there were more than two people in line I knew I wouldn’t have time (they were notoriously slow) and I would have to carry on my way without my morning injection of caffeine. 

That all changed the moment I tried to visit said Starbucks at 6.15 in the morning (who knew it didn’t open until 6.30?) and, not noticing that the usually entirely open front was covered by two massive (and hard) plate glass doors, smashed face first into them (note: just because they don’t open at 6.15 doesn’t mean there aren’t staff inside watching you make an idiot of yourself). 

Supremely mortified I responded to my situation with a clever “oh” before hurrying on my way. I consoled myself with the knowledge that although I could never, ever go back there, there was a smaller, generally less busy Starbucks in Canada Square (also on my way). 

This was the beginning of the end. From the first time the American barista spelled my name correctly on my cup I was sold. Unfortunately, being a smaller Starbucks and one tucked away inside a massive office building it tended to be far less busy in the mornings—as in, there was never a reason not to stop (except maybe my own will-power—so again, no reason). 

It was in December when I realized that my earl grey tea with milk was already ready when I got there in the morning and that I had started to have inside jokes with and know personal details about the baristas that I realized I had a problem. I was doomed to a life of earl grey tea—I couldn’t not stop in the mornings and I couldn’t not accept my tea—after all, they’d made it for ME!

Luckily this was about the time of my Christmas break from school and two weeks in Scotland provided a cooling off period and time for me to consider my next move. 

The obvious solution, I suppose, would be to treat this as a wake-up call and make some sort of ill-fated new year’s resolution to stop going to Starbucks. But let’s be serious. I just decided to change my drink order.

The first time I stopped in the new term (aka the first day of the new term) I ordered a black americano. I felt triumphant! I was free! I could now order whatever I liked because I had broken my pattern!

This freedom turned into a two month cycle of ordering the same three drinks in no discernible pattern: black americano, earl grey with milk, or (if I was feeling really adventurous/ sad about the the day to day monotony of life, a skinny caramel macchiatto).

This week, it was more of the same. I confidently ordered what I thought was an impressive variety of drinks, varying my choice each day. In my mind, I had successfully broken any sort of pattern and kept everyone guessing about my coffee preferences.

And then this conversation happened. 

Kristen:”I’ll have a black americano please.”

Barista:”Can you please just start ordering the same thing again? You always get the same three things and I never know! Will it be earl grey tea, like on monday? caramel macchiatto, like on tuesday? or americano?”

K:”Ah well, variety is the spice of life!”

B:”Not to us! We like our patterns! Like tomorrow—will it re-start? Will you get tea again and then caramel macchiatto friday?”

K:”Well, only time will tell!”

So it’s come to this. In my efforts to become less tied to my Starbucks family I have now reached the point where they feel comfortable berating me in a joking manner and I start to spend time thinking (and writing) about coffee patterns. 

Oh god, I need a hobby. 


Gareth is away for the weekend, which usually means sad times for me. I have no one to prattle onto about my nonsense (which usually includes videos of pandas, an airing of my daily grievances and discussion of what crisp flavour is best) and the amount of times I skype my parents in a weekend increases exponentially.

But not when the Olympics are on! 

Well actually…I suppose I still assume there is an intruder every time I hear a sound…and I still have called my Mom every day for the past 3….but on this weekend I also have the benefit of becoming overly invested in things I don’t normally care about, like luge and slopestyle (I would say figure skating, but to be honest, that’s pretty rad regardless of the Olympics).

You see, winter Olympics is where Canada DOMINATES. As a country usually known for maple syrup, igloos and politeness, we don’t have a lot of opportunities to outshine (for better or for worse) our neighbours to the south (the title of most appalling local mayor not included). 

But then, once every four years, comes a magical time when Canada takes centre stage and I feel justified not leaving the flat for two weeks. The summer Olympics aren’t just the same. Probably because we don’t tend to do as well, but also because the winter Olympics are where everyone seems to EXPECT Canada will do well. Others have merely adopted the snow. Canadians were born in it, moulded by it….most of us didn’t see the grass until…well, you know the rest. 

So, despite being abroad this year, I look forward to the next two weeks of covering my eyes during ski jumps, yelling during hockey and laughing at how hilariously marvellous a sport biathlon is. That, and obsessively checking the medal standings at every interval. 


Well, not quite.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. If I were some suitable choices might be “I will write in my blog more” or “I will try and drink less wine.” So I won’t call my plan to read 50 books in a year a resolution, lest it be doomed to failure. I’d like to think of it as ‘a long-term goal I can achieve.’

My whole plan formulated while on the train back to London from Edinburgh, over the Christmas holidays. I’d selected 2 books for my journey from the admittedly meagre selection at WHSmith in the train station: Philomena (a true story about a woman who goes looking for the long-lost son she was forced to give up as a child) and The Brightest Star in the Sky (a Marion Keyes offering I hadn’t heard much about). 

Figuring both would probably make me feel feelings, I went for the more obvious tear jerker. Luckily, G was engrossed in his movie and didn’t get to see me ugly-cry myself through Philomena, though he was impressed I finished the book before Kings Cross. 

Not to brag (ok, I’m bragging a little bit), but I can read pretty fast. Faster than I can speak, certainly (is that fast? I’m not sure if that’s a good measure of comparison. Oh well.)  In university this skill came in rather useful as a student of history who liked a number of things (shopping, sweet berry wine, guitar hero) more than she liked to do assigned readings. Luckily I could usually knock a few hundred pages off the evening before a seminar without any trouble. 

As an avid reader, this also comes in handy. I can get through a book pretty quickly. Fantastic when you are in the middle of something good and can’t wait to get to the end, annoying when you are dragging heavy bags of books to and from the library every few days. 

Since I’ve started teaching I have found myself reading less. I remember my head remarking on the length of my commute one day and trying to ease the pain by quipping ‘well, at least you must be getting a lot of reading done!’ I nodded along with her, but the truth was, I wasn’t.  I’m always encouraging my students to read more—organizing World Book Day events, setting up literacy programs, forcing my class to go on a weekly outing to the local library— and yet, apart from my daily newspapers, it was becoming more and more rare that I would pick up a book to read (a book that wasn’t The Very Hungry Caterpillar or James and the Giant Peach, that is). 

The thing is—there are a LOT of stories books out there. I tell my students about them enough, shouldn’t I start to experience them for myself again? (practicing what you preach and all that)

So, here I am! 4 weeks and 4 books in. I’m going to try and update as I go (keep my honest and committed and whatnot) and see if I can make it. Onward 2014!

1. The Lost Child of Philomena Lee - Martin Sixsmith 

2. The Brightest Star in the Sky- Marion Keyes

3. Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card

4. I’ve Got Your Number - Sophie Kinsella


It doesn’t seem like three years ago that I was sitting in a small, admittedly dark (and dingy and crowded and rather depressing) cube of a room wondering what I had gotten myself into. It was rather humble beginning to my latest quest for adventure. This time, instead of skipping fashion design to go eat nachos on the church steps or deciding to spend my post-secondary life in a remote city in the north I had never visited before, I had packed up my two 50lb (more like 60lb— the check-in ladies at yyz were kind that day) and flew across the ocean to a city I had never been to before to re-start my life. 

As I sat there, unable to hear particularly well (a succession of terrible landings had made the pressure in my ears nearly unbearable), with blood blisters on my feet (from battling the crowds to buy a mobile and some sheets) and an empty stomach (because for all of the splendour of living near Oxford Circus, it wasn’t actually that easy to find a grocery store), I seemed very far away from both everything I loved and from the glamorous life in Europe I had so optimistically imaged for myself.

Three years in and I am still far from many of the places and people I love. I am sitting in a lovely flat next to a wonderful guy drinking a cold glass of orange juice and waiting for some takeaway. I know better than to visit Oxford Street on a friday night and I can walk around my neighbourhood without huffing at tourists who stop in the middle of the sidewalk. My ears feel fine (although I just tripped over a doorstop about an hour ago and so my ankle hurts—some things never change) and today I got to go to a job that while far away and both physically and mentally exhausting, has also helped me to find something that I’d like to think I am good at. I’ve met so many new faces and visited new places and had more adventures than I thought possible. 

I still have hard days. i have an amazing partner, lovely friends and colleagues and a satisfying work life, but it can be very hard not to feel desperately homesick at times. Even on these days I try and remind myself how lucky I am—lucky to have had such a supportive family who encouraged me and pushed me to follow my dreams, ludicrous though they may have seemed at the time. Lucky to have chosen a career that allowed me the freedom to move to another country and work with so many amazing young people. Lucky to have met and remained close with so many wonderful and special Canadians who were on a similar path to me to share my adventures with. Lucky to have met a boy who makes me happy every single day just by being there. And most of all, lucky to have had such compelling reasons to want to stay in a city that I’ve now come to call home. 


Maybe some people aren’t suited to vacations. 

While this certainly isn’t the first summer I have found myself with 5-6 glorious weeks of ‘everyday is Sunday’ it is the first summer I have been paid to sit in the flat, give myself daily pedicures and eat too much cheez whiz toast. Plus London has been in ‘heat-wave’ mode for the past several weeks. It FEELS like summer.

The best part of British summer! Sunshine and a 99 :) 

The first day was purposeful. I finished 3 assignments for work, did about 4 weeks worth of ironing, read a book and actually followed something I read on pinterest (from a backlog of about 2500 pins I will never refer to again) about soaking your feet in vinegar and mouthwash to make them soft (worked!). By the end of the day, I was feeling pretty good!

On day two I awoke with plans already in place. I ordered some shoes online and decided on a dress to buy for an upcoming dinner. I took the bus to Barking Road and had a lovely lunch with some former coworkers (I also saw about 10 police cars and ambulances, and remembered why I am happy not to work in Newham anymore). Then I dip-dyed my hair on a whim and read another book (and took too many attempts at level 97 of Candy Crush, my arch nemesis). 

Which brings us to today. When you get up at 7 everyday and don’t go to work it becomes increasingly hard to find things to do all day that don’t make you feel like you’ve wasted it. Or rather, it becomes increasingly hard to find things that you *want* to do. I have lots of things I *should* do (pack for Canada, register at the doctor’s office, return my library books) but finding motivation seems to be easier said than done. Admittedly, although I complain about my journey and how tired I am on a daily basis, I found myself thinking this morning that it would be quite nice to go to work (I must be crazy). 

What I am very grateful for is this:

1) I have a job that is exhausting. It can be frustrating and enraging and make me feel like crying some days, but it’s wonderful. I love it, and I love having something that I want to go back to in the Autum.

2) Today is Gareth’s ‘last day’ before he starts vacation as well! Now instead of talking to the roomba (and yelling at him for chewing up my laptop cord and moving my shoes around) I can pester him all day long with my inane chatter about zonkeys and cute internet stories. 

3) On Monday, we get to go to Canada! It’s been a year since I was home and I am so looking forward to showing Gareth all of the things I love about it (like peanut butter cup ice cream and Honey Boo Boo and daily swimming opportunities that are NOT a glorified pond in the middle of a public park). 

Things I am not very grateful for:

1) The people in the flat downstairs seem to be listening to some sort of Lilith-fair-esque type music rather loudly. I wonder if this is how they feel when I listen to Robin Thicke songs on repeat? 


They are not the same!

Exhibit A: Delicious, delicious Jif. A good, nearly half and half ratio of peanuts and sugar, just the way I like it. It’s the Canadian way!

Exhibit B: Sun-pat. 92% peanuts = tastes like a mouthful of salt. It made me want to cry and I had to drown it in cherry jam (which I usually use as macaroon filling) to eat it on my toast. And it still didn’t taste good. The British way is the sad way :( 


This post is very much dedicated to Miss Mary Land, who reminded me that she would like an update. To be fair, she reminded me of that a month ago, but I make no excuses for my laziness. 

Lots of things have happened in 4 months! And by lots of things, I mean sleeping and doing school work (and complaining about doing too much school work and not sleeping enough).

I also went to Greece!

I’d like to say I put off going to Greece for so long because I was afraid I would never want to leave (and not because I am financially irresponsible with money and buy too many scarves), but actually, despite various mishaps with my partner in crime Dawn ( is crashing a car in Santorini a crime?), I really did want to live there forever. 

 Athens wasn’t quite the picture painted in the Chipmunk Adventure (I don’t remember packs of stray dogs, a million orange trees or graffiti from that film) but I still loved everything about the Acropolis. The rest of the city was perhaps a different story…but hey, it was worth the day trip!

Santorini (and especially Oia) was beautiful. It was also the place where we were tricked into climbing up a volcano, swimming 500metres in 10 degree water and renting a car with no insurance. Oh, and I was chased by a donkey. 

Within 20 minutes of arriving on cloudy Ios Dawn had stepped in cement and I had an allergic reaction to a local plant. But things soon cheered up! The sun came out, we stayed in the amazing ‘Skala Hotel’ and enjoyed the beautiful beaches of Ios (which we had all to ourselves and where I made the poor life choice of forgoing suncream). I have decided I will live on Ios one day. 

Our last stop before returning to Athens was Naxos. Here we enjoyed a giant door, many slices of deep fried cheese, and napping. We did not enjoy the litre of wine we purchased for 2 euro. It tasted of whisky of paint thinner. 

The months since returning to Greece have been good, but busy. Our school is in the ‘Ofsted window’ which means my usual strategy of doing too much work and being stressed out all the time has pretty much stayed as is. I’ve also found out that I am going to be teaching English, Art and Drama in September, which is SO exciting. Art teacher = lots of peasant skirts and feather earrings. 

Through it all, G and I have found lots of time for laziness and luxuries. We went sailing around the Isle of Wight,  took a lovely wee holiday in the Peak District and went to Claridges for birthday celebrations on the 24th. We’ve also become ‘making cocktails with things we randomly have in the flat’ aficionados and started making our way through Dexter (SO stressful and we’ve only finished the first season). 

Practicing my sailing knots

There’s always money in the banana stand!

150 Years of the Tube immortalized in legos (as Gareth pointed out, Canada is nearly as old as the underground…yay!)

Stumbling upon a random cheese and wine festival, the best kind of stumble upon

Clover Clubs in Langdon Park

As I learned the hard way, the lambs in the Peak District don’t want to be pet.

Visiting the appropriately named ‘Monkey Forest’

I went away with my students for a week to a performing arts camp in Suffolk—here is the old ruins of ‘Leiston Abbey,’ our home for 4 nights

Birthday Celebrations :) 

Now we are in to July and I am infinitely jealous of my Canadian counterparts who are already on summer holiday. Only 12 more get-ups! The best part is, in just over 3 weeks we will be in Canada! I can’t wait to curl up in my feather duvet directly under the AC and watch 10 hours of food network a day. 


I’ve been sick lately. Like, really sick.

Well no. Not REALLY sick, but sicker than I have been in a very, very long time (like, I’m thinking primary school).

First was a week of cold/laryngitis (the laryngitis seems to be an unfortunate by-product of every cold I’ve gotten since moving to London). Then, on the first day of half term I contracted stomach flu which literally lasted 11 days. I finally saw a pharmacist and he fixed me right up.

Unfortunately, 2 days after that I woke up with a fever so high I literally imagined things (i.e. calling into work, when I in fact hadn’t). Absolute nightmare.

The only good thing that came of all this illness (depending on perspective) is that I had a lot of time spent on the couch (when able to make it to the couch) watching rubbish telly (when lucid). This meant that I watched 3 different complete series of Heston Blumenthal programs over the course of 2-3 days.

One such program was ‘Heston’s Fantastical Feasts.’ In the 1980s episode he brought out his usual kitchen trickery (using liquid nitrogen and adding popping candy to everything) BUT he also demonstrated the most glorious invention I had ever seen: sodastream. 

I had never heard of a sodastream before last week, but Gareth assures me they were pretty common in the 1980s. Essentially it’s a machine that adds Co2 to water….or at least, you are supposed to use water in them (it carries specific warnings to do so, in fact) and then add flavourings afterward. 

Heston, of course, was not to be held back by these silly rules! He carbonated a bottle of Blue Nun (incredibly cheap grocery store wine) and went to the financial district of London with a class of his homemade concoction and a glass of actual champagne. Surprise! All the fancy banker types couldn’t tell the difference.

Intrigued, I shared my findings with Gareth who informed me that not only were sodastream’s still being manufactured, but that the kitchen gadget shop (Robert Dyas) in Canary Wharf (10 minutes away) was selling them. Huzzah!

It only took us about 3 days to decide we definitely needed to buy a soda stream and then never leave the flat again. And so, yesterday afternoon, we became the proud owners of the most glorious kitchen appliance ever invented.

After several ‘tests’ (first making an extremely flat batch of ‘Sprite,’ then reading the instructions and making a remarkably delicious batch) we thew caution to the wind and filled up our provided plastic bottle with the bottle of wine we got free from Marks and Spencer.

Success! The process was scary (apparently the bottles can explode if you put anything but water in them, although this could just be urban legend) and it was a bit of a learning curve (you need to wait between carbonation bursts to avoid overflowing the bottle), but 5 bursts of cO2 later and we had delicious, delicious sparkling wine. Huzzah!

Needless to say, today’s mission was to go buy a box of wine and some root beer flavouring (though not to use them together). And, as predicted, we now never need to leave the flat again. 


Every year bitter people all around the world gripe and complain about Valentine’s Day. The best part is, it’s not like anyone even asked them their opinion—all it usually takes is for February to approach and the same people start their usually rumblings of “Hallmark holiday” and “commercialism” and “insipid crap” and it drives me slowly insane. Because, you see, I am in a relationship—therefore, if I accuse people of being just a little bit bitter, heck, if I even gently suggest that maybe Valentine’s isn’t so bad after all, they give their little smirk and usual “well you have a boyfriend, so of course YOU would say that.”

And I think that’s unfair. First of all, no one is forcing anyone to celebrate Valentine’s Day, just like no one forces anyone to celebrate Christmas, Halloween or President’s Day. In fact, we are usually very sensitive to people who DON’T celebrate these holidays, but in a way that strikes a balance with people who do enjoy it.

 But  Valentine’s Day (like Christmas and Halloween and President’s Day)  IS a day that SOME people do enjoy celebrating. If we can get annoyed with people who constantly put down Christmas (or the various other ‘cherished’ holidays) why is it ok to rain all over the happiness of this holiday because you disagree with it?

In fact, some of the same people who disregard Valentine’s as being a “Hallmark holiday” still celebrate Christmas, which, if you don’t happen to be religious (and sometimes even if you do profess to be) is even more of a commercially driven holiday. Of course, there is still the “Christmas is about family, and goodwill towards others” sentiment—and that’s fine. But isn’t Valentine’s, despite all of its flowery (and candy) overtones, also about what’s meant to be the most important? Celebrating love and friendship? 

True, for some people, it’s not. For some people, Valentine’s is about begrudgingly spending too much money on roses and a card for your true love because society dictates that you should. For others it is about expecting those flowers and card because…well….because it’s Valentine’s! But for some (dare I say, many?) Valentine’s is just another way that you can remind someone special that they are just that—special.

Which brings me to my second point: people in relationships.

Yes, I have a boyfriend. Yes, I spent part of an absolutely wonderful February 14th with him. But I also spent part of that day sharing candy with my students, eating chocolates with my co-workers, and trying to find little ways to show people that I was thinking of them. 

At 27, I’ve spent many a Valentine’s day with someone special, and those people were not always boyfriends. They were the grade one classmates who I spent  all week making ‘mailboxes’ with to store all of our eagerly anticipated Tiny Toons and Power Rangers Valentines. They were the girlfriends I went to see ‘Guys and Dolls’ with and eat desserts. They were my family that year my Mom surprised us all with a heart shaped cake when we got home from school. Valentine’s Day is not just for people in relationships (at least, not to me) it’s for anyone who you care about, and who cares about someone else (and want’s to find  a way to let them know). It doesn’t have to be a fancy card or chocolates or anything of the sort—why can’t it just be that extra reminder that ‘hey, I haven’t talked to my mom lately, I should call her and tell her I love her’ or ‘I really appreciate my friends. I should let them know’? 

So yes, I think Valentine’s Day is wonderful. I think it’s wonderful to have a day set aside to remind people why they are special to you, and to have the opportunity to be reminded of that yourself (And yes, I do think it’s unfortunate that we live in a world where we need a day to remind us of this—but we do live in that world, and so why not make the most of it?)

Not everyone celebrates every holiday, or if they do, perhaps they don’t enjoy it. And I think that’s fine—to each their own, and so forth. But I don’t like the way it’s become ‘the thing’ to make fun of this particular holiday when to do so about others would almost certainly be expected to cause offence. Yes, I love Valentine’s Day. You don’t, and that’s cool. But if you really hate it that much, please do a solid to those of us who do and shut up about it? 

And now, just for fun (and to end on a happy note) some photos from my own Valentine’s celebrations :)

After my 2 days of migraine last week I returned to work on Friday. Or, I tried to. Since Friday was also the day it started snowing in London everyone (and especially the train network) lost their minds and school was cancelled and we all got to go home. It’s essentially been snowing all weekend but Gareth and I still managed to find time for the Transport Museum and some yummy cake yesterday. Today was less glorious initially(I tried to walk in the snow and remembered that I fall and hurt myself at least once a year due to snow in the most painful way), but lo and behold, we have a snow day again tomorrow! That means pink champagne today and despite my sore limbs I am eternally grateful that London has no means to cope with 2cm of snow. 

After my 2 days of migraine last week I returned to work on Friday. Or, I tried to. Since Friday was also the day it started snowing in London everyone (and especially the train network) lost their minds and school was cancelled and we all got to go home. It’s essentially been snowing all weekend but Gareth and I still managed to find time for the Transport Museum and some yummy cake yesterday. Today was less glorious initially(I tried to walk in the snow and remembered that I fall and hurt myself at least once a year due to snow in the most painful way), but lo and behold, we have a snow day again tomorrow! That means pink champagne today and despite my sore limbs I am eternally grateful that London has no means to cope with 2cm of snow. 



Obviously I sort of stagnated on the whole ‘Year in Review 2012’ project I had going on. And while we are being honest, I also broke my New Year’s Resolution of not shopping for clothes….several times (shoes don’t count). Still, if I were giving up smoking people would be applauding me for only slipping up a few times. So really, I think I’ve done rather well.

While I am on the topic of shopping, it has come to my attention that the Transport for London shop is incredible. I have to thank my ongoing migraine for this, as I have been feeling like death on the couch all day with very little do except dim the screen on my laptop and browse the internet until my eyes start to hurt too much and I go back to sleep (tough life). 

Anyway, January 9th marked the 150th anniversary of the tube and no one could be more excited than me. Despite my hatred for being in close proximity with sweaty (and non-sweaty) strangers, the tube has always been one of my favourite parts of London. It’s not very cheap, and rarely cheerful, but it gets me where I want to go when I want to go there (except on weekends when they are doing improvement works, and except when it snows and everything breaks…or when it’s too hot and everything breaks). 

To commemorate the anniversary, the Transport for London Museum (aka “The Greatest Museum in London”—as decided by a poll of one, including myself) has put out all sorts of new items to tempt my dollars away from me. I literally cannot think of a piece of furniture I would rather have than one covered in vintage tube-seat upholstery. Unfortunately, I do need the 1000 pounds it would cost me to buy a sofa in said upholstery, so for now I will just obsess over the website and try and convince myself that a 45pound cushion in the same fabric is just as good/not a ridiculous price to pay for a cushion. 

That said, if anyone wants to buy me a gift, I am happy to accept the chair and/or footstool as well: