I’m back!

Just a quick post to say, that thanks to WordPress’ rewind process and their helpful, helpline my site is back to working order, with only two posts missing, which I can soon re-do.

I will continue to post as much as I can, however I am working on tidying this site up and also biggest news, I am returning to Canada in March, in order to take on grandmother babysitting duties and then try to do more travelling around which will be exciting. Life is going to be busy, exciting, challenging and a most excellent adventure!

Thought for the day: Challenges arrive and they bring the chance to grow.

Word for the day: Excel

Quote of the day:

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.”

― Tupac Shakur, The Rose That Grew from Concrete

“One to grow on”: What are some of the challenges you have recently grown on and how has it had effect on your life?

For all the tea in China…

As a self confessed tea-aholic this announcement on FB events was not to be missed.

It was an amazing experience. Held in a well chosen venue of Toronto Reference Library, the event was organised, informative and a tea person’s delight.

Upon entering we were able to check in our coats for convenience, which was a thoughtful touch by the organisers.

We were also handed a ‘goody bag’ which included a small tasting glass; improving the tasting experience over paper cups whilst reducing waste.

Each vendor had ample space to set out their stalls, and all looked tempting. An advantage to attending on the Friday rather than the busy weekend was the ability to slowly make our way around the stalls and converse with the vendors, who were knowledgeable and passionate about their products and delighted to share both in conversation and samples.

As a true Brit. my experience with tea has mainly been just deciding which brand of traditional black tea to use. However with the rise in popularity of healthier versions and use of tea to soothe, detox, aid sleep and combat all sorts of aches and pains more varieties of tea are now available. Similarly, coffee and tea shops, both independent and well known chains have expanded from the good ol’ builder’s brew to more sophisticated teas and lattes, even using non-dairy products to ençourage me to expand my horizons.

In summary, I tasted with enjoyment, flavoured teas, green, white and black teas. I was able to discern the difference between tea grown in the at 6,400ft above sea level, producing a light delicate flavour, from tea grown on the eastern slopes of Sri Lanka’s central mountains, producing the more traditional blends, to that grown in areas ranging from sea level to 2,000 ft. of southern Sri Lanka, with soil conditions right to produce a stronger, blacker tea, perfect for a thicker, stronger cup served with or without milk. ( Make mine with double milk, warmed for special occasions, an acquired taste when visiting Mexico.)

At present I will not bore you, dear reader, with details about every tea I tasted, there may well be follow up posts, but here are listings of my favourites in sort of a reverse order, allowing for the fact that tea is taken for different tastes and reasons throughout the day.

1.Green and white teas, served with small pieces of dried fruit in the cup. Interesting experience and an idea I will experiment with at home.

2. Chocolate tea. Now available in England by commercial brands. I’ve often thought to try it. I enjoyed the samples on offer which might inspire me to buy some to have at home. Perfect accompaniment to an early afternoon snack.

3. Zhen tea. Very calming smooth taste as you would expect.

4. Matcha green teas. A recently acquired new taste discovered in various tea/coffee shops during this trip, served as a latte. Here it was nice to taste in natural form as well as prepared powder form. I enjoyed tasting it black, but preference would be with milk and latte.

5. Chai tea in authentic form. Without all the added spices of cinnamon, nutmeg etc. Far superior, natural taste, warm and soothing.

But the winner for the day, was actually voted overall winner for this year, an improvement for them from last year’s 3rd place, as the most versatile, smooth flavoured and new taste, Espirita Tea, High Mountain milk oolong from Taiwan.

Best in show!

Couldn’t resist this gold tin even though it was last year’s. I’m sure it will still be good.

Here follows a photo summary of the amazing adventure.

I trust I have been able to do justice to this festival of tea deliciousness, maybe see you next year and look forward to other events

Now, I’ll just go and pop the kettle on….

Bookshelf: An interlude

Long, hazy days of summer were replaced with unpredictable fall. Mornings would break with mists hovering over water and the sun was reluctant to shake off the cloudy covers and rise and shine.

In one certain household much packing was being done. This was not just the casual packing of a short trip but a considered process of determining what was definitely, what was maybe and what was sadly, no.

Finally boxes were piled against the bedroom door, clothes neatly placed in suitcases, the bed was stripped and linen washed and folded neatly and the room given a farewell clean.

A young girl stood in the room and took a final look. The room that had been her shelter and work place her favourite environment for growing and becoming had performed its duty well and she felt ready to take on the new world that awaited. Sadly she could not take all her belongings with her at this time but she was sure she would return for them at some time. Taking one last look around she focused on her beloved. Opening the bereau one last time she took out the items she needed and whispered, “goodbye”.

Closing the bedroom door felt like the end of one life; opening the car door and taking her seat next to her father was the beginning of a new life. Her place at college in Liverpool promised new adventures, new people and new challenges. Yet she would always remember that her room and her belongings would await her return.

As the car drove away, the dust mites danced in the early morning sun, then settled familiarly on the contents of the room. It seemed that the bookshelf empty of all but a couple of books and the inner sanctuary of the bureau containing a few letters and notepads settled too, patiently waiting for the young girl who would return as a woman.

The American Way

Having been in this great country, with family for over a week, I had to confess that I was needing another donut fix. Sadly, no Timmies in this neck of the woods, so headed for a Dunkin Donuts.

I took my time to order and finally decided on the medium Chai tea, and opted for the ‘go to’ donut of choice: Old Fashioned.

Looking for a place to sit, we chose a table close to a group of men enjoying coffee and a chat.

Maybe they noticed my daughter in laws polite hesitancy to sit there, not wanting to disturb them. They graciously accepted our presence and informed us we were welcome to seat ourselves. Pleasantries exchanged we sat down to enjoy our snacks. Unperturbed, they carried on with their chat, exchanging stories, sharing ideas, some politics, some humour, and a lot of remembering the good ol’ days.

Half jokingly I said, “maybe they will let me take a photograph when we leave”.

Evidently, this is what it means to have coffee with a writer abroad!

The tea and donut were great, but better still was the participation in this part of American life. After introducing myself and asking permission to capture the moment, we chatted briefly. We surmised that this was the equivalent of the British pub, groups of friends meeting for companionship, sharing food and connecting.

Let us hold on to and cherish these moments and traditions for upon such are societies built.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 |

Any thoughts?

Rock: the boy and the rule

There was a boy. Seven years old, loving and kind he had the gift of sensitivity. This gift allowed him to take walks with his family to make them happy even though at first it was not what he wanted to do.

Then he realised that actually he did like being out in the woods. He looked up to the sky and noticed the trees reaching up to heaven and providing shelter to birds and animals and tiny insects. Closing his eyes he connected with the spirit of the place and found comfort and joy in the silence.

Following the path he picked up a stick for navigation and protection and a rock for power and strength. These were his only weapons against the wild animals of the forest but he knew he could rely on them. They were all he needed. With these he could be stronger, faster and better able to protect those he loved.

There was a rock. A dull small piece of black cinder that nobody noticed until the sun glinted in just the right way to catch the light of the rocks anthracite. It happened many times but it would take a small person, walking slowly and deliberately head down to notice how beautiful the rock really was. It was a case of being the right person, in the right place at the most opportune time for the magic to work.

It was on this special, magical, New Year’s Day that moment arrived. The boy, thinking of nothing in particular but carrying the thoughts of all his seven year existence on his mind, noticed the glitter and peculiarity of the rock and without conscious thought picked it up and shared the moment of connection with his grandmother, “Look at my rock. It is my rock and it is special.”

Lighter on his feet, he used the small hill to quickly catch up with his family. He was a boy but a Knight of the forest realm and Lord of the pathways.

They continued on facing dangerous swamps, scrambling along treacherous paths and having to cross bridges and walk narrow branches to pass from one hidden path to the other. Sometimes it was nice to chat and share ideas and feelings as they walked. Other times it was better to be quiet and listen to the spirit of the forest and the voices of natural things. In contrast, being content and overwhelmed with the huge expanse and depth of feeling, it was a release to sing and shout aloud even if they were made-up on the spot nonsense songs. The repetition seemed important, rather like casting out a line into the deep waters of the place so to be anchored or to catch hold of time and space.

All this time the boy, and his stick and his rock were a trio of comrades. Ready to take on the world, fight the doubts and uncertainties and learn to be brave as well as good and kind.

Then, there was the rule. The rule was strong and right, made for the protection of all. Although the boy heard the rule he did not want to listen with understanding. The rule became stronger and firmer, “NOTHING SHOULD BE TAKEN FROM THIS PLACE. DO NOT TAKE STICKS, PLANTS, DIRT AND ESPECIALLY ROCKS. PLEASE LEAVE FOR EVERYONE TO ENJOY. BY ORDER OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE!!

Actually, it didn’t say that last bit, but the boy felt as if it did. He did not like the rule, and what he did not like, he made big in his mind, so that he could try to stand up against it. It became a power struggle, boy against the rule and those who made the rule. He did not want to leave the stick. But most of all, he did not want to leave his rock. It was his special rock. It was his companion and his trophy. The thought of leaving it, abandoned on the pathway was too much to bear. He did not cry, he would not give them that made the rule that power over him, but he felt weighted down by loss and confusion.

“This is not good, or right, or fair!” he shouted.

He walked on because he had to do so. Grandmother walked quietly beside him and when she thought it was time, she squeezed his shoulder, or rubbed his back, or gently whispered, “I love you”. His family walked with him, and slowly and surely, the rule did not seem as big any more. The boy used all of his seven years of doing right, of being generous and kind, and gathered all of his wisdom into one huge warm feeling in his heart and knew it was okay.

The rock glistens in the sunshine.

There is a rock that glistens and shines in the sunshine. It lies on the pathway to the forest of adventure and stories, for all to find and carry just for a time, and then leave behind until you should come and find it. When you do, listen to the story of the seven year old boy, who walked and talked and sang songs but most of all learned to be brave and follow the rule.

New Year

After a rumpus scrumptious New Year’s Eve, January 1st provided a beautiful day to be out and about in the fresh air.

The perfect spot was close by Northwest Park.

Monkey bars

Bookshelf: Romance

My owner loves me. This is a fact best revealed in the way she caresses my frame and lovingly oils and polishes me. I appreciate the care she takes to keep me looking good which suits my purpose. Books and magazines are stored in order. Her favourite poetry and novels, story books she cannot relinquish even though they are now from childhood and her carefully stacked collection of Geographical magazines which she reads thoroughly both for study and pleasure.

Inside my bureau, carefully locked, are her treasured items. One day she surprised me with a present. She had returned from holiday and placed my key onto a keyring in the shape of a horseshoe. She told me the story of how they had visited a forge and she had bought the small horseshoe keyring to remember the holiday and because she thought the rustic looking horseshoe contrasted with my refinement. It was her quirky sense of style and romance and I loved it.

Other reminders of holidays were also kept within the cubbies of my bureau. Postcards, photographs, bookmarks or small books. All tokens of her varied interests and hobbies.

Then came the letters. Sometimes, short ones written on blue paper with special airmail postage. Then others, longer and sometimes including pictures or other items, perhaps a faded leaf or flower.

I could sense changes of mood in my owner. Sometimes she would be happy and would hum and sing whilst she worked. Other times she would seem anxious and perhaps a bit petulant.

However the letters kept coming quite regularly. There were so many of them they had to be stored in other places, only the most recent ones kept to hand until she had replied. Oh yes, she was kept just as busy writing similar letters. Usually a couple of short blue ones during the week, and then longer ones at the weekend. I hoped she was not forgetting her studies.

Other changes were also happening. Holidays were now taken at different times. The family were growing up and becoming more independent. Suddenly a very new and important document appeared in my bureau for safe keeping. It was a passport. Also there seemed to be many forms to be filled out, and different booklets to be looked at. I found out that they were to do with college.

Then I began to get worried. Was I going to be left alone? Was I even needed any more? Would I be abandoned for a larger, more important desk?

As the year turned from late spring, to summer, I noticed more studying being done. Late nights, early mornings. Books were hardly put away but left untidily on the shelf. Sometimes I was even left open, unlocked overnight with papers and scribbled notes left scattered around. Words such as exams, reports, college and interviews were all part of my owner’s vocabulary which seemed to make her stressed. But then there would be exciting talk of holidays, the passport again, travel tickets and aeroplanes.

Then my owner would be happy again and would laugh and read one of the letters, her eyes sparkling and her face glowing. These were the best times.

Then on one day, it all seemed to end. I was lovingly restored to order. My owner carefully polished me and tidied me. I also noticed that clothes from the wardrobe were packed into suitcases. The passport and tickets were taken out of their places and placed on the top shelf with a purse and small bag ready for the next day.

I felt sad that my owner was going away again. This time for the whole summer. She was going to Canada, and I had a feeling it was something to do with those letters both sent and received. I began to realise that many things were going to change but I was happy for my owner.

As she left the next morning, she took one look at her clean and tidy room and whispered goodbye, sighed and then said, quietly, “I’ll be back after the Summer.”

I was left to wonder, what’s next?

Bookshelf: the beginning

The auction.

I was with my father, I was about 12 or 13 and we were at our favourite auction house. It was love at first sight. This bureau and I were meant to be together. My hands caressed the wood which felt warm to my touch. Slowly easing out the drawer revealed a former life with aged newspaper lining. I dared to turn the key and unlock the case to reveal the compartments for letters, pens, the tiny draw for those precious items that I would stow away. I loved the smell of the wood and the fragrance of the lingering memories of previous owners.

Thankfully my father recognised my longing for this exquisite piece of furniture and he did what only a father can do and opened the bidding. I don’t remember much about the sale, but I do remember the feeling of gratitude, recognising that this was a gift of love.

It took pride of place in my new bedroom and slowly began to hold my treasures. My first attempts at writing, short stories and fumbling verses I called poetry. Later, it held letters from special people, including the Canadian boyfriend, later to become fiancee and husband….

.. but that maybe another story.

Christmas Eve

I was up early to complete preparations for my contributions to the family dinner we were going to share at noon before separating for different parties and activities throughout the rest of the day. The custard layer added to the trifle, (non-vegetarian I’m afraid) cranberry sauce made, and a last minute addition, a flaky pastry crust for the pie.

As the family began to rise it was time for the last Advent calendar and then a casual breakfast.

The morning passed very quickly in achieving those last minute preparations, schedules also having to fit around the 8 month, active and inquisitive grandson.

Dinner was served on time and pleasant to all be able to sit down together instead of eating around work schedules and activities. The meat pie looked delicious and I enjoyed the roast vegetables, Brussels sprouts, peas and my special treat, charred endive (chicory) accompanied with the cranberry sauce which I had flavoured with chai tea to add a hint of spice.

I think everyone agreed that the trifle would be more enjoyed after a short break watching a movie, and it was then we noticed that it started to snow. Light flurries which did settle giving a beautiful frosting to the ground.

Then, one last shopping trip, to finish up those last minute items. Most successful was finding bars of the new green tea kit-kat which will be added to a certain fun parcel. We will publish our review later.

Now I am able to sit quietly watching the evening draw in, it has stopped snowing but some lingers on the ground and the sky slowly darkens in a last burst of colour and gradually as people return home in the neighbourhood houses and gardens are lit with cheerful lights and colourful trees.

The family are at various family gatherings and later I will attend Christmas Eve service and the joy, peace and love of Christmas will be amongst us.

This peace and blessing I wish for all, and may the wonder of this season be present for you and yours in whatever way you choose to celebrate.

Toronto… I’ll be back

An equally busy and exciting day was planned for my second day in my favourite city.  First on the agenda was a return to St James Cathedral for their exhibition of creche from around the world.  This is held in the education centre next to the cathedral itself.  It was interesting to see examples from around the world and spanning many years and using different media.  I will write a further a more detailed post later but here are pictures of some favourites.

Following this delightful display, yet wanting more Christmas tradition, it seemed natural to walk up to the Eaton centre to grab a coffee and watch others hustle and bustle their work days and holiday preparation.  Then over to Hudson Bay Company to admire the window displays. The theme this year seemed to be working models of toys with some fantastic displays.  Each window had its own guardian: a nutcracker soldier standing to attention in rank down the row. 

Having our inner child satisfied it was on to the grand finale, Bohemian Rhapsody shown at a nearby cinema. I had already seen it, as some readers will know, but it was going to be different sharing it with my daughter. I was not disappointed, and was actually surprised at the different atmosphere and how different aspects of the film created another view point. Before the show, I was given strict instruction not to sing, dance or laugh too loudly. (parents can be so embarrassing at times!). However the cinema was small, the audience even smaller so…

Well we didn’t actually sing out loud or dance but I think there was certainly some foot tapping, head nodding and discreet humming from the both of us. I am sure if we had been the only ones in the cinema we would have been dancing in the aisels.

Although this was the afternoon viewing, it was dark when we came out. Both of us enjoyed this feeling of the night drawing around us, allowing us time to reflectively make our way home as the city shifted from daytime business to night relaxation.

For me it signalled the end of my short visit as I was travelling to Niagara Falls to be with my other daughter and her family for Christmas. A short visit this time Toronto, but I will be back.