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….

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?

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

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.

Waking up in Toronto the sequel

Toronto greeted me with milder weather than I was expecting, however the promise of colder weather to come delights.  We had a day full of seasonal promise that I was eagerly awaiting. 

Business first, the best way to get around the city.  After research I opted for the new presto card: buy the card, put funds on it and set it up for senior rates (easily done at a local Shoppers Drug Mart) and I was good to go.  This provides easy switching from all TTC transport and includes free transfers if used within 2 hours.   I was impressed with the service and recommend it for all visitors to the city.

That done we set off for priority event, choral eucharist at St James Cathedral.  As always a beautiful service, music filling the spacious sanctuary with glorious praise, worshipful canticle and celebratory postlude. The Advent candle lit by a family from the congregation reflected the inclusivity of the services and the homily encouraged us to be purposeful in our many activities during these next few days leading up to Christmas and to remember to always place our relationship with God at the top of all our ‘to do’ lists.

Leaving the church inspired and blessed with spiritual food we could not ignore the bodies desire for nourishment and called in at a local coffee shop for refreshments for our walk to the annual Toronto Christmas fair. My delicious chai latte made with coconut milk was delicious and hit the spot nicely. 

Arriving at the fair my daughter was quickly able to purchase tickets online which enabled us to join the shorter entry queue, assisted by friendly cheery elves of course!

Immediately on entry we were swept into the fun, excitement and joy of this festive season.  I recalled some of the basic layout and stalls and displays from my previous visit in 2016, especially the pink Christmas trees. 

A photo summary of our visit

What a beautiful start to my Christmas trip home.  Feeling loved, welcomed and excited to enjoy everything and everyone God provides: would love you to join me. 

Upwardly mobile

So I’m putting the Huawei to another test, out and about in the middle of Ipswich. On the agenda today: senior movie at

Empire, spot of shopping last minute bits and pieces before my trip, indulge in Christmas tray at the favourite coffee and muffin place whilst enjoying the use of their WiFi as my home service is down. If I stay long enough it will be dusk on the way home so the drear weather will be made brighter by the Christmas lights.

I wonder how many houses will already be festive?

Now to this post worth your reading, here are the reviews

Senior movie time gets another thumbs up this week. Not so much for the movie but the service I noticed for other people. Everyone who arrived on time received a great cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit, nice to drink the tea still hot in the movie, just like home. I had taken my seat when a member of staff assisted someone to find her seat, which happened to be the one next to me. The lady then apologised for “being a nuisance” which of I assured her she was not at all a nuisance. Although a further explanation was not necessary, she went on to say that she had recently been diagnosed with early dementia and sometimes struggled with finding her way and forgetting things. We had a few minutes before the film started to chat, and she told me bits about her amazing life and travels throughout the world. I thanked her for sharing these memories with me and hoped that it would be these memories that she could treasure as she struggled to make sense of a world that sometimes would seem to be unfamiliar and difficult.

The film A Simple Favour, was probably not one I would have chosen to see at prime rate; however I did find it enjoyable, even though it did seem to trip into the ridiculous towards the end.

Directed by Paul Feig, it was the acting of stars Anna Kendrick as Stephanie and especially, Blake Lively as Emily that undoubtedly saved this from being a dark failure. Oh and the kids were cute too.

Well I think I have out stayed my legitimate time here without buying another tea. Too be continued…

Although the weather was still typical November grey and damp the lit up streets and store fronts gave the approaching twilight a sense of wonder and delight. A feeling I will always associate with the anticipation of seasonal festivity. There should be carol singers and music and market sellers barking their last of the day sales. Walking on past the newly developed town hall centre complete with Christmas tree, I paused to enjoy a quiet moment and capture the moment before heading to my next shop. It was then I heard the music; a capable violin playing Christmas carols. I was captivated and stood to enjoy the sound. Others too were standing and listening and many more dropped coins into the buckets as she was playing for cancer research. Perhaps you would like to share this experience?

An old family recipe

For as long as I can remember, and I’m told as long as my mother knew, Christmas cakes, wedding cakes, special birthday cakes and other celebration cakes in our family  were made using an old recipe we knew as Cuddleston Cake.  I have tried to look it up but not had much success, a typical return is “coddleston pie” but this of course relates to Pooh’s song. (Chapter 10 Winnie-the-Pooh)

As this was a good fruit cake, it would last, in fact would improve with age, and so it was a perfect cake to take with us on our long summer holidays spent at a caravan in Ingoldmells 

Family holiday at Ingoldmells
Dad, your’s truly, my brother, Robert, Mum and baby brother Rowan
Best holidays ever!

In keeping with this tradition, I made it for my wedding cake, and have made it for most Christmases.   This year, it seemed timely for me to pass the recipe on should you feel like making a good old fashioned fruit cake.  As a side note, for any Yorkshire readers, it also goes well with cheese.

Cuddleston Cake

24 ounces plain flour

12 ounces brown sugar

12 ounces butter

4 ounces of glace cherries ( chopped)

4 ounces of citron peel (mixed peel if you can’t get citron)

4 ounces of almonds (chopped) plus 2 ounces for the top if the cake is not going to be iced

6 eggs

48 ounces of mixed fruit

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tbsp treacle

1/2 tsp bicarb soda

1 tsp citric acid (or fresh lemon juice added to milk)

1/2 pt milk (approx)


Cream  butter and sugar

Add syrup and treacle and the eggs

Mix together and gradually beat in the flour and bicarb.

Add all the fruit and nuts and stir in the milk.

Place mix into a lined 10 in square or 11 in round cake tin

If the cake is not going to be iced use 2 ounces of whole almonds placed evenly on the top of the cake

Bake at 180 for about an hour.  Test with knife or cake tester.

Cool on wire rack.  This cake will last and does improve with some age.  

I traditionally kept the top layer of my wedding cake for 1st anniversary, and it was fine.  

Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of the cake.  If you want use this recipe and would like to post I would enjoy seeing your cake.  

Happy baking and happy Christmas.

Better late than never

With apologies for the lateness, however you may have fun catching up.

Wishing everyone blessings, hope and love during this festive season.

Advent Calendar