Thursday, April 9, 2020

Chai, a revelation

OK, I drink tea, love the stuff.  I simply adore chai though, tea like you get it in India.  Sincerely, the first time this gorgeous nectar passed my lips in India in the 80s it was one of those moments in your life that was so astonishing and so delicious.  Ahhhh

I have tried the chai you get at Starf*cks, and meh to say the least.  It's mostly just sweet.  Meh.  I have occasionally bought chai teabags, which are honestly pretty good if you basically cook them straight up in milk with a lot of sugar, no water at all.  Not the same thing, but definitely tasty!  But then you have a pot that you've cooked milk in and all the resulting tidying up that has to happen, and that is simply not something I can see myself doing every single day.  Though I do have some very distinct and happy memories of drinking this. It is very good.

One day a couple of years ago a student brought me in some of the chai she makes every morning for her family, and lord above, I was transported back to those utterly insanely delicious moments in India. 


Then, as we are all here with covid, well, hopefully without it, but you know what I mean, and I have plenty to do every day, indeed, I rarely accomplish all I'm aiming at, but we all do need some more brainless moments of distraction, and I have been watching the Bon Appetit youtube videos.  (like that run on sentence?  It's a good one.  Glad my English students can't read this!!!)  Highly recommended!  (not the run on sentence, the Bon Appetit youtube channel)  The presenters are great and often laugh out loud funny and it's fun to see all the food I'm never going to make. 

One of the presenters is Priya Krishna, who has a new cook book out, Indianish, which I haven't read, but I am wildly tempted by.  I had actually heard her interviewed last Spring on a podcast and I was impressed.  ANYWAY, there was a video that got posted about her mom's chai.  It was so easy.  Her mom boils water, crushes a cardamom seed, drops it into the mug with the tea bag, pours in the hot water, lets it steep then adds milk and (maybe) sugar. 

*******MIND BLOWN*********

I can get close to the taste without all the boiling and straining and dirty pots??????

But just cardamom?  That seems a little distant from my memory.  So I looked up the recipe on Bon Appetit, and on that one, the full on make it in the boiling pot of milk and water version, it uses four spices:  pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.  Now we're talking my language, I adoooooore ginger!

So, today at the store?  Picked up the cardamom and ginger root.  (Imagine me rubbing my hands together gleefully!!!!!)  OK, and any British tea purists?  I don't want to hear your shade, I don't care, I am a colonial I can make my damn tea anyway I want.

So, I drink Yorkshire Gold decaf tea by preference, cause holy geez, it is so good.  But, I have to buy it in quantity in the UK and bring it with me, so it is a Precious. Commodity!!!  It is very hard to get decaf tea at all outside of anglo countries and to get good tasting decaf tea is like a miracle.  Please remember also that I live on a boat, so an electric kettle is just not a thing.  The man, the darling darling man, gets up in the morning and puts about 2 cups of water on to boil in a small pot, that is almost always used exclusively for my tea.  He then drops 1 tea bag in and it steeps for a long long time cause I like my tea strong.  Eventually I get out of bed, add milk and sugar (no haters you Brits) and I am a happy camper.  There is usually about a half to a third of a cup of tea left in the pot at the end of breakfast.  To this I add another cup of water, and put it away for afternoon tea, when it gets reheated and sugar and milk are added.  (LA LA LA LA I'M NOT LISTENING!!!)  (SPEAK TO THE HAND!!!)  And I am very very happy.  Since we got on the boat, we are also channeling Peggy and having a cookie (yes a cookie, I'm Canadian, live with it!) with afternoon tea, and I give a silent greeting and salute to Peggy with my cookie and tea every day.

But now, and this is when true greatness happens.  So, in the morning after drinking my tea I'm adding a pinch of cinnamon, a smashed cardamom seed, a slice of ginger and a grinding of pepper to the tea, and putting it away till the afternoon.  Reheat, milk, sugar.

OH my goodness.

Oh oh oh oh oh

Now, I have to admit, it still isn't as good as the boiled milk version, but it is, without a shadow of a doubt, completely and utterly worth it.  SOOOooooooo delicious.

If I come to stay with you in future, I may have brought a ginger root, cardamom seeds and cinnamon with me.  I'm assuming you'll have pepper. Not saying you should try it, but, if you aren't completely rigid and fixed in your ideas of what tea should be, this is a damn fine drink.

Love ya!  Byeeeeee.

Friday, April 3, 2020

This ride is making me sca-a-a-a-attered!

Well well,

Covid 19 is certainly taking all of us on a ride.  We're more or less stranded in the Netherlands on our boat waiting.  We're hoping that maybe we can spend a bit of time outside of the marina, and further from other people, but no one seems to know if the canals are going to be open or if they will be letting people tie up at the docks.

What is bugging me a little more is that I am finding myself constantly going to do something and not remember what I was going to do.  I am teaching two different courses, one with a university in Catalunya, with a bit less than 50 students, on tight police controlled lock down, with Covid running horribly amuck in their communities, and in some cases, their families; the other are student teachers ( a little fewer than 24)  in Canada where most of my students have been laid off work, and have been home for weeks, with increasing tension as Covid girds its loins there.  On top of that the course in Canada has some very very strict limitations put on it by the Government of Ontario and our industry specific governing body, so we're trying to tiptoe through these regulations and negotiate with those groups to try to create a situation wherein they can complete their practicums and complete the course.   Each and every student in both places, is struggling, and I am doing my very best to help them all get through their course work and pass, if they want to try.  But man o man, each and every one of them has their own challenges, which they don't have to and often are not explaining to me.  So every time I sit down to try and get some work done, I end up putting out fires, and everything I open, every classroom page, or forum or email sends me down a different rabbit hole, and then I come back and find a half-finished email from something I was working on 4 students ago.  I have so many tabs open on my window I cannot find them, and the little counter on the *four* email accounts I have to keep open for this keeps going up and up and up.  Then there is trying to plan for work this coming summer.  I currently have four separate potential schedules created, plan A, B, C, D and E. Plan A is pretty much written off, but not for sure.  I figure that the chance that any of those plans will come together is about 10%.  That feels optimistic.

So I am feeling scattered.  In fact that is running through my head to the tune of Bowie's 'Changes'. 'Sca-a-a-a-t-er-er-er-ed'

It's all good, and we are healthy, in a country that seems to be managing the illness reasonably well all things considered.  We can still go out for walks,  our family is doing well.  Chatting with lots of friends.  But focus is a thing of the past at the moment.

I am getting some painting done though, and it does let me sink in and focus, I am really enjoying that, even if I do have to force myself a bit sometimes.

Hope you're all doing well.

PS.  Just got a message from the marina that they're closing the bathroom and shower down.  Gonna shower tomorrow and that'll be the last hot shower, no the last shower whatsoever, till who knows when.

Ho hum.

PPS. And that also means we cannot get water!  Ho double hum.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Covid 19

Well, like everyone else on the planet, we've been overrun by this pandemic.  All is well, but uncertain at this point. Instead of leaving the marina in Weesp as we had planned on April 1st, heading to Paris, we've paid for a dock for the 2020 summer season.  We've just completed what may prove to be the longest sail of 2020!  We moved about 100 meters to a new dock!!!

Hopefully we'll be able to manage a little more than that, but I am doubtful.  I am also doubtful we'll be able to travel to Canada this summer, and doubtful that I'll have work with TMI this summer.  Ho hum.

If that doesn't pan out, I will have to think of a big project I'd like to complete while we wait in Weesp for a year. I have to confess there is a degree of shudder when I write that. If it comes to that, maybe we leave the boat in the fall and go to Catalunya.  But that of course assumes that we can and that the pandemic there has receded.  Both two big ifs.

Eldest is self-isolating in Ggow, and will be into the future.  Also is hoping to go to Canada this summer, and will likely start a masters at Edinburgh Universityin History in the fall.  In the meantime, they're hanging out in their apartment, morbidly tracking deaths (as am I to a degree) and crafting.  They may get a computer from work and will be able to work from home, which would honestly be a good thing, a little focus and structure to the day as well as money money money. 

Youngest is locked in her apt in Catalunya and is pointedly not looking at the news, figuring it doesn't change anything and is depressing and frightening.  A good point.  She says she spends most of her time sitting on the balcony drinking coffee watching not much at all happening.  She made an (illegal) escape yesterday with Spit and went up to climb a local peak all by herself.  Much needed sanity break for youngest and exercise for Spit and Youngest.

My folks are locked down into their house, possibly for a year.  Thank god they've got the garden and a terrace, and a nice big house.  And that my Dad's still working, again, it brings focus and activity to the day to day.

My sister has it and is recovering very very slowly.  Hopefully her husband won't get it as he's asthmatic.  

Our big accomplishments today were moving the boat to the new summer slip, without dinging anything in a very unfavourable wind for backing into a slip!  And I paid our Canadian taxes.  Online!


Like everyone, its a waiting game.  I'm starting to think about what I would like to do if we're here at the dock for another year.  Jeez.  A whole year of our lives, waiting in Weesp.  I thought three weeks to cross the gulf stream was a lot.  I'll have to figure out what I want to do with this time.

Anyway, there we all are at this moment. 


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Prologue and introductions

Honestly, these drive me nuts.  Hate 'em.

Alright, I'll allow a short, as in 3 page max, introduction if there are mitigating circumstances that it is important that the reader should know, OK.  But 50 pages of prologue and introduction? No.  I am not that interested in your thoughts on the book.  Write the fricking book and have the balls to send it out in the world without your endless maundering on about it. For the sake of all that is good in this world.

Rant done.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Van life, or anchoring problems?

Well, as there are massive strikes all over France today our train tickets to go down to Catalunya were worthless. Fortunately we get a full refund.  Also fortunately, my amazing sister who we just spent a couple of wonderful days with in Paris, knew about an app that let's you hook up with cars that need to be moved, so we're in a campervan for the night!!!!

It has not been entirely flawless, in part because we aren't properly renting the van anf in part cause its not really fully equipped.  But still very cool, and as it costs 1 euro to rent it (plus gas and any tolls), it's pretty cheap, and you can cook, which is very nice.  Difficulties? We couldn't grt into a parking lot to get the man a coffee cause we're too tall - I can stand up inside which is sweet sweet sweet, so we had to park down the road and walk back 20yards.  No biggie. 

The man has saved the day twice over, first we had some trouble getting the stove to light, but he got it going!!!!!! Pasta with Canned cassoulet as a sauce.  Very tasty.  The other problem he solved was potentially more serious.  We're in a municipale campground, which asks you to pay 10cents an hour.  Not exorbitant, but as a result you need to check in and out.  We dutifully check in, get the little ticket with the code to get out and it tells us to put it in the front window. Ok!!! I tuck it up there and it disappears, like it's been sucked down vlby some kind of sea creature, into a finger wide gap between the glass of the windscreen and the top of the dash.

I mean, what the absolute f#ck.  Who on earth désignés That into a car. Well, we now know how to open up the hood, and we've closely examined inside the glove compartment, we've inspected the entire passenger side footwell and unscrewed part of the panel on the top.  Finally, in desperation, cause we can't leave tomorrow without this ticket, the man just randomly blew down the gap in the hopes that something might happen, when low and behold, out it pops!!!!!!

What we couldn't figure out is how to make the Lower bunk into a proper bunk.  So, it's kinda pulled up one side and I'll have to sleep on it diagonally, but the man's driving tomorrow, so he gets the better long enough, flatter upper bunk.  I'm just the Google interpreter.

Its an adventure!!!!

Monday, January 6, 2020

*Phew* sometimes it's complicated!

Well well well.

I love to travel, but sometimes, man o man, it gets complicated.  We're supposed to be leaving tomorrow to go down to Paris and then on to Catalunya, the original plan was a train to Paris, then a couple of days later, a train to Perpignan - cause the train that goes right to BCN doesn't accept dogs (????).  Then a rental car for 2 days from Perpignan to drive down into Catalunya, leave the dog and me behind the man returns the car and comes back on the train.  Complicated enough, you'd have thought...but

The first train, they automatically - as in they told me after I had purchased it and I had not choice - the mailed the ticket to my address in Canada.  Not convenient as I am not in Canada. 

Then the french went on strike.  But it seems that train is travelling!  YIPEE!!!

But, the next train is on a day they are declaring a massive national strike, and so my darling sister got me onto an organization called driiveme, which links people who want a one way rental to car companies who need their cars repositioned and if it lines up, you get a car for a Euro.  Yesterday we waffled around, do we book it or do we reserve it and hope for the best, you see as it is a car rental agency, it is a little risky as all the cars may be needed that day and they cancel on you.  Well, we figured that as it was a national strike there would be a good chance that every rental (I keep typing 'renal' car - something completely different!!!)  anyway, there would be a good chance that every rental car in the city would be rented and we'd be stranded.  So we sucked it up and booked a camper van, on a 48 hour trip Paris to BCN.  Fingers crossed this works out or my sister will be singing that old line that 'guests and fish start to smell bad after three days' except her apt is a little small, so two will likely do it!!!

We got an official notice that the train from Paris south is cancelled, so we had to go through the process of getting our money back for that, and cancelling the rental car from Perpignan.  The car was easy, the train a little trickier, because with so many strikes, there are about six different places to cancel tickets, but I think we did it right in the end. 

Hopefully the actual travel will be easier than this part has been!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Visitors and what we do all day

Went into Amsterdam yesterday to meet up with some friends from Catalunya, he's Dutch, but has lived in Catalunya for decades, and prefers it there.  She lived her for five years with him, so speaks quite good Dutch as well.   He wasn't from anywhere near Amsterdam either, so I ended up being tour guide for them, which was very odd for me, but also shows that we've been here a while as I can find my way around the city without much of a problem, at least the more or less central parts of it. 

It was fabulous to see them, we've been luck this year with more people coming to visit.  One of the things we talked about was that if you're the one who buggers off into the blue, you are also the one who has to make the effort to maintain friendships, part of why we go back to Catalunya (also it's Catalunya, and as an added bonus, it's warmer and doesn't rain so much) and Canada. It's important to put that work in, it is also fabulous when they come and visit though!!!  They also asked what we do all day, and honestly, the same stuff everyone does, except we don't go into work.  Like many people who work at home, I spend part of my time working online, we take the dog for long walks, we buy groceries, get some exercise, read.  I still can't get everything done in a day that I'd like to.  I've got to take the dog for a vaccine tomorrow, normal stuff. 

Today I walked the dog for a shorter walk as she still seems to be recovering from whatever she got in Glasgow and her sleepless night on the ferry with the endlessly barking dog, so long walks are off for a bit.  I had an unfun errand to run in town, I bought some mushrooms and buns for the man's first birthday celebration, I'd found a perfect book for him, entirely by accident, while we were in Glasgow, and as we're heading off with only knapsacks on our backs again, it didn't make a lot of sense to carry it off with us, only to have him carry it back again, so, TA-DAAAA, and excuse for a birthday dinner!!!

Greek yogurt with sugar and Ikea ginger cookies for dessert.  mmmmmmmm.

Then I did some yoga, some more work, dealt with more life irritants online, made dinner, read a bit, walked the dog, rescued a tennis ball she found after she dropped it in the lake - she was very careful thereafter when she put it down - and played a short game of fetch with her.  Finished my book, which was great!  My sister in law had told us about a series of crime novels that were set in Medieval Girona with Catalan characters, the principal character being a Jewish physician, and Eldest found a used copy and got it for me for Xmas, it was really good!  An auspicious start to 2020 reading!!!

Now a quick right up and to bed.  Zzzzzzzzz

A day, pretty normal.  Tomorrow will likely be similar, but different. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Years Eve in the Netherlands

Well, we're back from our trip to Glasgow for Christmas which was wonderful, and I have to say that Kelvingrove park is the best dog park I have ever ever been to, and I already miss it.  It was great to get to hang out with the kids, although youngest could only be there for three days, and the dog got sick for part of it.  We got some lovely walks in as well as touring around Glasgow, though nothing is open over Xmas, so we didn't get to the tenement museum, and the man didn't make it to Govan Church, the coolest thing to see in Glasgow, hands down.

Anyway, we made it back to the Netherlands in time for New Years Eve.  Now we'd heard that the Dutch go over the top with fireworks, and kids have been banging some off for a month now, this was like nothing we'd ever seen before, and the Catalans love fireworks.  This, however, was a whole new level.

The fireworks were going off all evening, fortunately Stella is completely unafraid. Chuck would have been a mess.  And it was pretty loud, but you honestly got used to it.  Then it was midnight.  Allow me to try and describe.  Imagine it is hailing heavily and you are under a canvas tarp, that is the base sound.  Now, at the same time, there are a large number of horses running back and forth over wooden bridges.  In addition, many many people, lets say at least a hundred, are shooting off hunting guns continuously, and added to that, at least once a minute, someone shoots off a cannon, near you. 

And we are in a remote area on a boat, not in a big city.  I cannot imagine what it was like in Amsterdam.  I gather that many people go off to Belgium in the summer to stock up on hundreds of Euros worth of fireworks that have to be stored in a special safe for half a year.  They can only, legally, buy them for three days before new years.  But it seems that lots have an at home store of them.

They are utterly bonkers. Apparently in some parts of the Netherlands, the tradition includes setting cars on fire!  Nice.

The firework litter this morning was impressive.