Friday, 28 January 2011


i had to learn a new vocabulary when i moved here. there are still times when i am utterly lost in a conversation because of a turn of phrase or an unfamiliar word. and now that i'm engaged to a kiwi, there's just no hope. i probably ask at least once a week for clarification. but that's been good, because of course, it means that we try not to jump to conclusions about what the other is saying - although we've had a few close calls! and don't even start me on the peculiarities of differently-accented english. all i really can do is to pray that our future children aren't too confused...

what do you call the last meal of the day? growing up it was always either dinner or supper, usually used interchangeably, but dinner was always the more formal of the two.  i've learned from the oracle of knowledge (aka wikipedia) that 'supper' is related to the french-canadian term 'souper.' perhaps this explains why for me, the words are synonyms? the english tend to refer to supper as 'tea' - particularly those from the north of england, wales and scotland. can i please tell you this caused all sorts of confusion for me - previously 'tea,' had only ever referred to a hot beverage. and just to keep things ultimately confusing, british children have "school-dinners" - meaning lunch!

this is what i love about living abroad - these are small cultural differences you only really start to appreciate over years. and i am beginning to think there is a lack of appreciation for the very real cultural differences that exist between english-speaking nations - le boy and i can attest that a common language, does not mean a common culture. learning this lesson has been incredibly important to our relationship!

so whether you call this tea or supper or dinner - this particular 'evening meal' will be a winner regardless!

broccoli raab with sausage and grapes
(adapted from how to cook everything - mark bittman)

described as a simple italian dish, i was initially sceptical of the grapes - and completely unsure of how they'd fare with my dinner companion. but the grapes add a slightly sweet-tart, cleansing quality to the dish, and balance the potential heaviness of the pork - much like apples can.

1 1/2 lb broccoli raab (or any substituted green vegetable - i used tenderstem broccoli)
1 lb sweet garlicky sausage
2 cloves garlic - slivered
1/2 lb seedless grapes
salt and freshly ground pepper

  • over medium heat, in a deep frying pan, brown sausages on all sides (10-15 min), piecing with a knife to release juices
  • remove from pan, slice into bite sized chunks and return to pan to continue cooking (5 min)
    • steam broccoli (i used a microwave steamer for 3 min) until just 'under-done' 
  • add broccoli and slivered garlic to pan, continue cooking for 3-4 minutes
  • add grapes and heat through, check for seasoning 
  • serve immediately
this went nicely with a freshly baked loaf of crusty bread, but would be equally good with a salad or served over mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

engaged thoughts.

i read a blog called a holy experience. written by a woman who has a way with words, it inspires my walk with god and reminds me of the key aspects of my relationship with him and with others. ironically, this woman lives very near to where i spent my childhood summers, and it gives me simple pleasure to read about her life in ontario, a life that is not all that dissimilar from lives i have known, my grandmother's, my mother's childhood, and even pieces of mine.

on wednesdays she invites bloggers to join a discussion on a topic related to faith. for the next three weeks the topic of marriage is being explored. i thought i'd take this time to journal my reflections of preparing for remember what this sacred time feels like.

my fiance and i are currently spending thursday nights at church in central london surrounded by 150 couples. all of us are preparing for marriage. the course is aptly named 'the marriage preparation course.' the night begins with dinner and conversation with other couples on your table, the sessions mainly consist of teaching from the front by two really wonderful marriage pastors, and then time for each couple to discuss the topic at hand. and while each of us are really excellent at communicating our thoughts and feelings on a wide range of topics - this course has provided a framework of topics for us to consider. our first session was on communication, the second was about commitment - specifically how we would be creating a new family, and how we would make our marriage our very first priority.

it's a daunting thing, if i'm honest, to think about serving another's needs before myself. to consider what my husband thinks before making a decision, to coordinate our diaries and our lives, our morning schedules and dinner preferences. thinking through our roles and responsibilities within the marriage, and remembering that really there are more sociological conventions in terms of gender roles associated with marriage than biblical conventions. and that it is up to us to walk our own path, develop our own marriage and find our own ways of serving god together.

in our last session we were asked to read over the marriage vows and consider which words were most striking for each of us. for me the most striking was the phrase 'i will.' contrary to popular thought, the marriage vows ask us to promise for now and for the future. 'i do' is present tense - 'i will' is future tense. and so i've been thinking this week about what i am willing to do in marriage. when we say 'i will' this august, we are saying 'i will' to everything that will come next. to everything that we cannot imagine. to everything that we hope will happen. i am not sure what that looks like - but i am sure that i will face it with a man of faith at my side, and that together we will figure it out. because we believe that god wills.

Monday, 24 January 2011

heart. warming.

this is one of those stories that warms your heart, brightens your soul and makes you think we all can 'do better.'

click here.

Friday, 21 January 2011


so i thought i should make an effort to document the final parts of the trip. being engaged is bring all sorts of distractions, and planning a wedding in six months definitely means that we are in full swing!

but back to the travelogue...

warning - it's quite possible that only marvellous will want to read this, and perhaps my grandparents, the rest of you, this is long - but i want to remember the entire exceptionally fun experience we had while travelling!

we parted ways with le boy's parents in queenstown, picked up ever kiwi man's dream car - something about a powerful engine, built for driving....and took to the open (winding) road. our first stop was in te anau. i will pause to say that i encountered some very confused canadian geese - that migration pattern is impressive - and felt nostalgic for the 'v' pattern geese make while flying.

we spent the day hiking, the ground is covered in thick undergrowth - tons of ferns and intense green. but i suppose that's what happens in a rainforest.

after working up such an appetite we finished the day with an excellent meal from an incredibly friendly proprietor at the redcliffe cafe.

we woke up and found our way into fiordland national park. we were spending two nights in one of the most remote places in the world - milford sound. named after a town in wales, it is responsible for the famous 'come to new zealand' photos you see in advertisements. the mountains really do soar up out of the sea - and it is simply one of the most stunning places i've ever visited.

the first evening was on a boat. there are very few ways to stay overnight in milford, we found a way to do it twice, and it was absolutely one of my most favourite parts of the trip.we boarded in the late afternoon and shortly after we set off we were joined by a pod of dolphins!

we were lucky with weather and saw the sound in both its states of glory: heavy rain and beautiful sunshine! evening activities on the boat included seeing the spontaneous waterfalls created by the deluge of rain, sea kayaking in a quiet bay and then braving the FRIGID water for a before-dinner dip.

after a very necessary hot shower we ate dinner and enjoyed a very informative nature talk. seriously, if you ever go to nz, find a way to milford sound and get yourself on an overnight cruise. it was absolutely brilliant!

we woke to sunshine and sailed out into the tasman sea - what a day!

my happy fiancé!

looking a little fresh.

this post has gotten out of control so i'll finish up the nz experience later!

links: redcliffe cafe : milford sound cruise

Thursday, 13 January 2011


after a jam-packed christmas/boxing day bonanza it was back on the road, this time with le boy's parents. we travelled across the mountains to the west coast. the west coast is known to be wet and the weather did not disappoint! the intent of the trip was to visit fox glacier, which is unique for continuing right down to sea-level. however after hours on windy mountain roads, we arrived to find the access road to the glacier closed. this was understandable since more than 300 mm of rain (over 1 ft!) had fallen in 24 and the mountains were covered in spontaneous waterfalls, the rivers swollen and rushing fast.

you lookin' at me?
the rain began to abate as we neared queenstown. and we were able to go to the 'home of bungy jumping.' now, i've always thought that hurling oneself off a bridge toward rushing water while being tied up by the ankles seemed a little strange. turns out that the kiwi spirit for adventure and the slightly insane look of most people based in this adventure capital would clarify the impulse to seek after such a thrill. i preferred to watch:

after an absolutely stunning dinner in queenstown at gantleys, (and by stunning i mean, if you find yourself in queenstown it is your responsibility to seek out this restaurant and have one of the best meals you'll ever have...) le boy and i set off the next morning sans parents for a bit of adventuring of our own.

links : gantleys

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


taking a break in recounting the epic trip to nz - and all the hilarities that ensued on our extraordinary roadtrip to announce: we're engaged!

we had planned a stopover in hong kong for rest purposes, feeling that it would be good ease back in gradually to london-time. we stayed in the fabulous renaissance harbour view by marriott. it was superb and was one of those occasions when a good hotel with the extra amenities is absolutely worth it. we took full advantage of the swanky health club and biggest buffet breakfast either of us have ever seen. we were seriously in breakfast heaven.

but on to the important stuff right?

we decided to head up to the peak on our first day - as it was clear in hong kong - and that is rare! taking a cable car up the hill we emerged above the city and promptly felt that lunch was a necessity - bubba gump shrimp to the rescue! it was filled with paraphenalia from the movie and seriously had probably every kind of shrimp dish listed by bubba. we had a tower of onion rings and an assortment of shrimp (prawns for you brits!) - delish!

then we went upwards - i honestly believe that neither of us knew we'd be engaged by the time we got back down! we wandered around the viewing deck, looking excitedly at the view, getting a few pictures and enjoying the glorious sunshine. we also laughed at one of the tackiest tourist signs that read 'say i love you on the peak' covered in neon pink hearts and sparkles.

the view.

completely unaware.

about five minutes later i was joking around with le boy and said, 'you were supposed to say 'i love you' on the peak!' to which he replied, 'i think i can do one better,' and pulled out a box of chocolates - which i honestly wasn't all that keen on, given our enormous lunch not even 20 minutes prior. he encouraged me to open it and inside was a note that asked if i would marry him! i was uncharacteristically rendered speechless, i was completely surprised and a little stunned, not really expecting it to come so quickly after the trip to nz! and then i thought about it, did i want to marry this man? and everything in my heart and my mind said YES - so i found that word - and managed to get it out of my mouth.

on the back of the card was a 'filler' ring and a request for me to join le boy in ring shopping when we returned to london! here's a picture of us immediately after we were engaged - the older gentleman who took it wryly told le boy that he still had time to change his mind! ummm, i don't think so!

so happy!

we basked in the sun and the glow of our new relationship status for a bit longer and then shamelessly called my parents in canada - never mind that it was 2 am - and really they didn't care! we were all so excited! in a typical move for us, we decided to 'walk' down from the peak - while this was paved and a clear walking track, it was also STEEP! but what would our engagement be without a little endurance training thrown in for good measure? the trail handily deposited us at a bus stop for a bus that would travel directly to our hotel! we then called le boy's family to let them know our joyous news! and i exercised incredible restraint in waiting until 7am toronto time to call my sister. filling the waiting time with a little of this:

a.b.barton was of course asleep when i finally got her on the phone - never mind that she hung up on me twice before she actually answered the phone! and so i said that i was sitting in my hotel room looking out on victoria harbour, admiring the 'symphony of lights' show held nightly, and thinking of her. 'oh that's nice,' she says, 'can you call me later?' 'well, i could but i have a question i'd like to ask you first.' 'can you ask later.' 'ok, but i just wanted to know if you would be my maid of honour?' well that got her attention! and there was whisper screaming and great excitement and i believe she accepted my offer!

we spent the next few days tooling around hk, enjoying the nice weather and revelling in our engagement. on our last night there we were looking to go to a favourite store - shanghai tang - and happened to pass tiffany & co. le boy suggested we pop in, just for a look. well i found the ring i've always loved from there and it fit perfectly. but we decided to leave it as we had dinner reservations at one of the top restaurants in the city and needed to get ready. about 45 minutes later we were dropped off for dinner, outside tiffany - the restaurant was completely coincidentally above tiffany! le boy worked a bit of magic, asked for our reservation to be pushed by half an hour and said that he really thought we should go back a second time and look at that ring again - who was i to argue? and so, 30 minutes later we were walking out the door with a ring on my hand and grins the size of canada! the evening was made absolutely perfect by the restaurant opening the terrace for us to have privately! it was such a perfect way to end a perfect engagement weekend!

i am so looking forward to wedding planning and preparing for our marriage! it is such an absolute blessing to love and be loved by someone so amazing! we are so incredibly thankful to god for his grace and mercy in our lives, for drawing us to one another and for knitting our hearts together - we genuinely believe that only he could have written our love story!