Month: April 2012


The Coffee House is not going to get posted about tonight because I am TOO TIRED! I’ve done my first full, 40 hour week this week, I got my first pay packet too, (which sadly ALL has to go on rent and/or Miri’s daycare!) and although I am completely exhausted, I am enjoying it! I think I am slowly getting the hang of the place, and familiarising myself with it. It’s just difficult getting to grips with my role there because I don’t feel yet like I can really take charge, just because I don’t know the place, or the staff well enough to do so confidently. The staff are fun and friendly though, and the customers are chatty and generous with the tips!! (A Canadian phenomenon I just cannot get used to!!) So it’s all good, and I know it will get there.

I have been having a few mini adventures with coffee though, over on my other blog:

I may be “looking for patterns” slightly here, but the number 13 keeps popping up at the moment. I live on 13th Avenue, I work at 13th Avenue Coffee House (and of course it was them that finally got us out here), I found a range of gothy clothes here called Lucky 13, Miri was born on 13th June, and Carl and I have been together 13 years this year – the year we finally emigrated. And today I made a tower of 13 coffee pucks before it fell over!! 🙂 Not so unlucky for me I reckon!!


30th April (Rohan Day)

I got the tattoo!

I should probably go to bed….

…because it is nearly midnight.

But I don’t want to go to bed alone! (Even if I have got my new, comfy bed back again. This is a long story but in brief, Carl does not like The New Bed because he claims it gives him a bad back. Because I am a nice person, I agreed to let him reinflate the airbed for the past two nights to help his back recover, and my arse has sunk into the airbed both nights and I’ve been waking up with numb legs. This does not a happy Bel make. But aaaaaaaaaanyway…)

My lovely Carly-Warly has had to fly back home – well, to our old home. This is Not Right and Not Fair and shouldn’t have happened. I am sure my Mum would happily post us the ferrets!! He should be coming back at some point over the summer, and then moving out here permanently in September, but until then Miranda and I are on our own here, and Carl has to go back to Dreary Darlington without either of us! Waaaaaaaaaa!!!

So I sat downstairs in the Coffee House tonight with a few beers and the award-winning and Mahoosive “burrito grande” – and Miranda, who ate a small mountain of pita bread and plaintain chips and then started finger painting with salsa and sour cream and charming the couple next to us. It is official: I  live there, work there and even voluntarily hang around there in the evenings. Yep, I am that weird loner in the corner that you’re never sure whether to talk to or back away from…..

Apart from the lack of hectic social life however, I am really enjoying it all. I’ve survived three full shifts at the Coffee House and it’s been fun. The others there are daft as brushes (a phrase I had to explain to them!), they’ve all helped a lot and they agree that our lives would be immeasurably easier if it weren’t for those pesky customers; I’ve quickly learned that, similar to other coffee shops I’ve worked in, most of the gadgets used in the kitchen work far better if you sing at them, the POS system at the till has a mind of its own, emptying the dishwasher gives you a free facial sauna, and ‘Lime’ is the best flavoured syrup bottle with which to prop open the window. I do get a lot of comments on my accent too- on the positive side, it gets me a lot of tips, but on the otherhand, no one seems to understand me when I answer the phone for deliveries!!

Exciting Coffee Adventures should begin on Monday, and next week I will actually be doing the coffee-hours I wanted to do (more mornings and less evenings, so I get more “cafe” customers and don’t have to worry so much about the restaurant food). There is a lot to do, and I have a lot of ideas to begin putting in to place, from the simple improvements to madly over-ambitious schemes that I will need to run past The Bosses first. It is exciting!! This weekend is going to be tough as it is the first one without Carl – and I am not looking forward to when Miri realises that Daddy isn’t coming back for aaaaaaaaages (he’s gone to live in the computer!!) I just hope that the new job and all the new projects are enough to stop me missing him too much!

Generally glorious!

Where to start??

Well, the highly depressing news is that Carl has to fly back to the UK on Friday.  I am not looking forward to this one little bit. Miranda has started to form basic sentences now, and even when Carl disappears for a few minutes (running to the late-opening Safeway across the street for instance,) she asks “Where Daddy gone?” plaintively. This is going to be heartbreaking when she does this after he’s actually left the country!

Playing "Tombliboo Music"

! This is our home now, Carl ought to be here too. It’s Not Right otherwise.

I am also feeling a little bereft of Miranda. On the positive side, she is thoroughly enjoying her new Daycare. This Reggio Emilio daycare place (still sounds like a type of hard, grated cheese to me) is run by a lovely woman called Carolina, and Miri has taken to her, and the daycare environment very happily indeed. Carolina adopts a kind of ‘structured play’ where there is always some educational motive behind the activities they get up, and Miri seems to be getting on very well with it, even in just two days! No problems whatsoever with strange people, other children she doesn’t recognise, strange house, toys that aren’t hers, an unfamilar cot for naptime or neither Mummy nor Daddy being there in the afternoons. She is the eldest there at the moment (if only by a few months) and didn’t want to go home at all tonight!! She did yell “MAMEEE!” when she saw me, but she doesn’t seem at all bothered  when we leave her there in the mornings. Maybe unsurprisingly, it has been far harder on me than her. Carl had to pack her up her little lunchbox and everything… My beautiful baby is getting Big and Independent and goes off for the day without me!! This is HARD. Although I am very relieved that she’s settling in so well, and I am incredibly proud of my Moomin. “Her world is getting bigger.” says Carl.

Daycare is now a necessity though, because I have more-or-less started work. Sensibly, Emma has got me doing a little bit of everything. So on Monday I was cleaning the place (with a lot of expert help!) so at least now I know where everything lives – including the elusive blank for the coffee machine! Then today I got sent on another food safety course (remarkably similar to the ones I did in the UK, which, of course, aren’t recognised here,) and now my head is full of “hot holding temperatures” and the difference between pathogens, parasites and protozoa in food. For the rest of the week I am being a temporary line-cook, doing a bit of prep and assembling some of the dishes since they are short staffed at the moment. I hope I am actually some use – it’s been a looooong while since I was cooking to order! But it does allow me to get to know the other staff (there are a lot of them and I’ve only had the briefest of conversations with most!) and hopefully even familiarise myself with the menu, tofu and all!

Tamara at her first ever coffee cupping evening - ahem.

We also had a Big Chat the other day – about practical things to start off with, like sorting my hours around picking Miri up from daycare whilst keeping as near 40 hours a week as I can, and then more worrying things like paying the rent! And then we got on to the fun stuff – the coffee. They really want to develop the coffee side of the business since the place is called 13th Avenue Coffee House, but at the moment, they make the vast majority of their money from the excellent food they serve here. There is the added threat of Starschmucks opening up across the street too (aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh), but fortunately they like the idea of teaming up with Roca Jacks and with me designing a coffee blend unique to 13th Avenue, but having Roca Jacks roast it for us. Tamara is also happy with all this, and she and I decided (admittedly after quite a bit of champagne) that we were single-handedly going to create the Cafe Culture Revolution in Regina. We got talking about doing Coffee Classes in the evenings, tasting events, and so on, Carl dropped me in it by telling them about the coffee festival I organised, and then we mentioned getting my Ugly Cake Company going as well… and basically I got carried away and my inner Geek got loose in public again and had to be restrained forcibly with talk of “long term plans, right Bel?”

So it’s all exciting!!! And I’ve been meeting so many friendly people. I treated myself to a quick trip to the Wonderful Designer Stationery Shop this afternoon and the woman who runs it, Theresa, first liked my bag, then my accent, then my tales of my Pretty Notebook fetish, then my coffee obsession and then suggested I do a public talk about coffee at the Artesian arts venue opposite…. possibly because I must have come across as a complete freak, admittedly.  There is always entertainment value to be found when Inner Geeks are allowed off the leash, right?

Lots of plans afoot. I’ve just got to pace it all, start slowly, prioritise and settle myself in properly first. But I am quite ridiculously happy at the moment. WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Is the Zombie Apocalypse coming???

Several suspicious coincidences have caught my attention recently. Although Friday 13th was yesterday, and Nothing Bad Happened (in fact, the worst disaster this week was on Thursday 12th when the Cooperative Bank back in the UK completely and utterly ballsed up my account – but that is a different story), it seems that the general environment here in Regina is giving us little hints of impending doom.

When we came over, the strict and impractical luggage allowances meant that I only took a handful of paperback books with me. The first that came to hand was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I have been reading it in the bath here. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” With this in mind, the following discoveries should not be dismissed too easily.

First, I found these critters outside City Hall.

Definitely Undead in my opinion.

I don’t know who they were before they were stricken, but they’re pretty scary now!

This morning, we joined the library. Our local branch, Connaught, has a good selection, but the first thing I found, and thus, the first book I ever borrowed from a Canadian library, is “Zombie Cupcakes“.

Some great inspiration for The Ugly Cake Company in here.

Picking up the library’s ‘What’s On’ guide, I then discovered there is a “Zombie Apocalyse” evening on 30th April to kick off “Zombie Awareness Month” in Regina. And the panel includes “Cassie Ozog: University of Regina Masters Student and resident zombie expert” and even someone from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention!! We are advised to attend in our “best zombie hunter costumes.” If that were not enough, on 28th April there is also an event for children 9yrs old and up, where they can attend a workshop and learn to make “zombie felties”. Should this sort of thing be encouraged?!

Click here for more on The Zombie Apocalypse Evening
Finally, I got home and checked my google+ page, only to find someone had sent me this:


I’m telling you, Something Is Afoot. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

The Never-Ending To Do List….!

… is very nearly done!

We have here exactly one week. What a weird, weird thought!!

We both have a mental To Do list which gets added to more often than we achieve anything from it, it seems. However, having a pause, a good coffee and a natter with friendly people and a ‘check-in’ with the Parents on Skype gave us the opportunity to take stock of what we have managed to do in such a short, insane week. We’ve actually done very well.

I have a Canadian bank account. I also have a SIN – social insurance number. Both these were up there in the High Priority list, as with them, I can now get paid!! Both were alarmingly simple to achieve as well, considering the hassles getting the work permit!

We have an almost-fully furnished apartment. That is, we bought a new bed and a new dining table, bought second hand bedding, a rug and toys for Miri, and acquired a sofa and a coffee table from our new friend Tamara. The kitchen still needs crockery and utensils and a microwave, but otherwise we can sleep, sit, cook and eat relatively comfortably.

Almost sophisticated!
Untidy already - my work here is done.

Carl is comfortable with driving Humunga-Cars on the wrong side of the road now.

Miranda has a place at day care! That took a bit of finding and didn’t end up being as cheap as we’d hoped. However, it is a special Reggio Emilia (sounds like a cheese to me??) – approach nursery, and the owner seems lovely and very enthusiastic. It is also located less than a minute’s walk away from here and Miri didn’t want to leave when we took her there this morning for a visit!! This isn’t the same one as I mentioned in the last post – sadly that one didn’t have any spaces available. But this one is equally nearby and had places available for Miri’s age group, so it’s all worked out rather well! I am NOT looking forward to her starting there though – think she’ll love it, but I am going to miss her and worry about her like crazy!

Miranda and I made the first Canadian UglyCake the other day. It was very successful considering the total lack of bakeware and equipment.

All this, I feel, is not bad for a week’s adventuring.

We are also slowly exploring more of the neighbourhood, and the more we find, the more we like it here. The wonderful, positive things include SUNSHINE. It seems like it’s always sunny, even when there’s snow. Everyday is clear and (at the moment) crisp and beautiful, and there is none of that depressing, constant greyness that pervades the UK for at least 9 months of the year. Grey, miserable weather makes me feel grey and miserable too. Here, I can be achingly cold but still irrepressibly cheerful, just because it’s sunny and it’s not Darlington.

I do just feel far better in myself in terms of general well-being. I have not had any problems getting to sleep at night since we got here. I am not anxious, I don’t feel tired during the day much, and my hair has stopped getting greasy a mere two hours after I wash it. I am able to grow my fingernails. I have noticed a bit of a change in Carl too – he seems more confident and a bit more outgoing than usual. Miranda has just taken everything in her stride as usual, and doesn’t appear to be missing “home” at all – everything is new and exciting to explore!

Everyone here is very friendly too. We are a bit of an oddity with our “weird but cute” accents, and I’ve been asked several times “why Regina?”! But random strangers strike up conversations in the coffee shop, people say hello when they pass you in the street, and the humunga-cars stop to let you cross, even if you are no where near a pedestrian crossing sign. It is, at times, unnerving for British sensibilities. Least ways, it is not going to be too difficult to find friends here I think.

The only negatives so far have just been money-related. Food seems to cost several times more than it does at home, and I really resent it. Everything seems to come in bulk quantities, with no option but to buy Big and shop infrequently. I did not really need to buy 12 loo rolls at once, (for nearly $10!!!) and I really do not appreciate paying over $6.50 for a small block of pretty non-interesting cheese!! Food prices were a bit of an unpleasant shock, it has to be said.

Taxes are driving me up the wall too – we’ve made plenty of visits to the “Dollar-and-twelves-cents-arama” store, where everything costs one dollar – plus tax. WHY cannot they just add in to the price they display? Why does a $9.99 coat for Miranda actually cost $10.41? And why do I have to spend $22 to get a $20 top up for my phone?!

Finally, (WOE is ME!) Beer is also pricey, buit worst of all, they are very, very strict about it. You cannot buy alcohol in supermarkets; instead we had to traipse up to an off license. I did this epic mission yesterday, spent just under $30 and pulled a muscle carting 6 beers in bottles and a bottle of wine all the way home. Even more annoyingly, a lot of bars wont let Miranda in – I suppose so we don’t try and feed her booze??? Daft, and anti-social!!  Bring back the UK’s badly planned, pathetic excuse for alcohol regulations!! please!

Otherwise, all is glorious. And now I am sooooooo tired, I can’t keep my eyes open. So, night night folks!



We are finally actually here, all legitimate with work permits stapled in to our passports, an apartment to call our own and even a Canadian ‘cell phone’ number. Tis Official!!


This post may be a little incoherant because I am still so tired. This is Day 3 and it is still MANIC. Carl is lying on the floor SNORING which is slowly driving me nuts but at least he’s not doing it actually in the bed!

This time, the 7hr time difference really did take it out of us. Our second (internal) flight was delayed for a while at Calgary, so we actually arrived at the Regina youth hostel at 1am rather than the 11pm we were hoping for. 1am of course felt like 8am UK time, and we hadn’t really slept all that ‘night’. Miri was very good on the plane though, and despite waking up enough to help us eat nachos and a steak sandwich at around 2am UK time, she slept the whole way. So when we got to the hostel, she woke us up at 4am thinking it was lunchtime! This meant we had to endure the First Day Madness with little more than 3 hours sleep!!

We were very fortunate that the apartment we were hoping for was actually available for our second night here. It is above the coffee house, so perfect for Miri and I as there is no commute to work!! The flat – sorry, ‘apartment’ is lovely – only one bedroom, but it is far bigger than I was imagining. All open plan with solid wood flooring, a massive bathroom with a bath with feet on it, a good sized newish kitchen and plenty of built in shelves. It also has steps up the back and a balcony, so we don’t have to traipse through the cafe to get ‘home’. The only thing it really lacks is furniture!! We couldn’t bring anything with us, so Emma and Dalton had to lend us an airbed and since then, we’ve had to frantically go buy furniture!

Buying furniture has been the general occupation so far though. Despite Carl’s total lack of sleep the first day, Emma insisted that he drive her home in her car – this huge 4 x4 automatic hybrid thing, with a computerised dashboard and keyless ignition, built in sat nav and even a camera out the back that automatically appears on the screen when you put it in reverse!! It took a good ten minutes to figure out even how to start the engine!! Carl survived the experience, even driving this thing on the wrong side of the road, in a city he didn’t know, in the dark, whilst jet lagged. As a reward almost, Emma has handed over her keys to him so we have her car for the week! This has already proved very useful because the idea of lugging a new sofa to the apartment on a bus was not very appealing… We are definitely being Looked After, and (if you are reading this, Emma!) we are eternally grateful! Despite having a car big enough to buy Big Things though, the incentive is not enough to outweigh the desire to spoil Miranda senseless. We went out looking for a sofa and/or a bed. We came back with a ride-on zebra for Miri and a food mixer for The Ugly Cake Company (it was $8!).

On Thrsday it was 18 degrees and we were sweating in the car. On Friday it rained all day. And today we woke up to snow and “lows of -13C”. Even despite this unnatural flux, Regina is still a pretty place to be, especially this neighbourhood. Within 3 blocks in either direction of the coffee shop are Groovy Mamas baby shop (full of slings and knitted booties and other funky Earth Mother type devices), a live music venue, a handmade shoe shop, a decent pub, ‘Retrovise’ vintage clothing, a secondhand book shop, a designer stationery shop, ‘Dessart Sweets’ Icecream parlour and a bakery that smells gorgeous. Even better, within spitting distance almost, is Cathedral Day Care where Miri could go to nursery, – brightly coloured signs outside, big playground and sandpit out the back, and evidence of Finger Painting indoors. C$540 a month! (£300?). Gotta go back on Tuesday when they reopen and see if there is a place for her.

All in all, it really is a world away from Darlington!! I spent all last week doing Sentimental Lasts – last swimming session, last lemon-top in Redcar, last trip to the park in Darlington etc. This week is all Exciting Firsts – first drive on the right, first Walmart trip (not sommat to be proud of!) first locally brewed beer, first latte made in the coffee shop, first meal cooked at (new) home with Dollarama kitchen utensils, and first bath for Miri in the new, huge tub.

It is all completely exhausting; things like getting my Social Insurance number sorted, trying to get my Canadian driving licence, opening a bank account here are all daunting, and I am nervous as hell about doing my first shift at the coffee house!!! But at the same time it is all mind bogglingly exciting. I am really happy for the first time in ages, and despite the obvious stresses and tiredness, just being here is an incredible relief. I am naively forming the opinion that the hard bit is over now. We’re here. It’s all good!!


I’ve been collecting bits for the Bel Bracelet for a while now. The collection first started many years ago when my adoptive family in Peru sent me the beginnings of it as a birthday gift. Then I found it again recently and have been adding to it. It may look like a pile of junk round my wrist, and actually it’s now a bit too heavy to wear for long periods of time and catches on things annoyingly. However, the idea is, every individual element in the Pile of Junk represents some important aspect of my life – and it is coming to Canada with me accordingly.

1: A bell. For Bel. Obviously.

2: A boot, representing Nicaragua. Where I wore highly inappropriate footwear for months until I found the handmade cowboy boot shop.

3: Bottle of wine, to represent all the drinking sessions with all my wonderful friends over the years, in particular the Chapmen/Bennetts with their “interesting homebrew”

4: Chilli pepper, for Carl who smothers everything in Encona sauce and tried to grow chillies on his window sill at work.

5: Cookbook: I haz writed one. It’s Ugly.

6: Comedy and tragedy masks: for my various thesbian dabblings, on stage, behind it, above it and writing for it. Also representing my favourite Techies, Hils and D.

7: Turtle representing Costa Rica, in particular our unsuccessful turtle spotting trip in Playa Tamarindo where La Andie and I drank a lot of rum and translated sweary insults into Spanish instead.

8: Spider, from Whitby Goth Weekend

9: The original alpaca silver Peruvian llama charm

10: Graduate mortar board – for the DECADE I’ve spent at university!

11: Giant Cake – one of many from The Ugly Cake Company

12: Moon – for Miranda, or “Miri-Miri-Moon-Moon-Moomin-Cheese”  (this is a long story)

13: Pig from Peru – I used to be obsessed with pigs, and collected them. I still have a soft spot for the critters.

14: Passport, representing all our travels, and of course, emigration.

15: Saturn, representing Carl’s astronomy and also Miranda’s middle name. Dione is a moon of Saturn.

16: Teapot, symbolising my parents and their addiction/love of tea.

17: Bike – well, I couldn’t find a trike! Carl and I both love cycling.

18: Lego brick – thanks to Hils and D for this. My brother Rohan always adored his lego so this is for him.

19: Book – for the 6 years I’ve done of Nanowrimo

20: Binky the bike – I had a scooter called Binky. He was a well-loved heap of crap. This also represents my cousin Ol who took it upon himself to try and get me through my motorbike test. I failed. Three times.

But what is this, no coffee?? I hear you cry! Well, when I wear this thing, it sits next to the coffee bean tattooed on my wrist. And I have coffee bean earrings and a coffee necklace. I hate to admit it, but there is more to life. Sometimes.

There’s not much room to add any more to this now, but I may need to get a Tim Horton’s doughnut charm in the future. Or a beaver. What would represent Regina?